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Alton Towers (Scarefest | October 2018)

Robert.W

New Member
Part 1 – Day 1 (Saturday 13th October)

So, after five long and exhausting hours travelling by car to get to Alton Towers, we finally arrived at around 2:30pm, and upon entering the theme park, as was expected, we were greeted by a heightened security presence due to it being the dreaded “traveller weekend”. The checks however were very swift, and before long we were out, looking over Towers Street, which was of course fantastically decorated with all the usual spooky seasonal decorations. :)


Theme Park entrance​

The ride we decided to head to first was Wicker Man, which had only just reopened from a technical delay, and had an advertised queue time of 60 minutes. This however turned out to be inaccurate, maybe because of the downtime that the ride had experienced before we joined the queue.

But the experience itself never ceases to amaze. :D The build up through the queue with the gradually changing tone of the music really builds the atmosphere in anticipation for the ride! The pre-show, as always, was highly enjoyable to watch, however there was a few issues where way too many people were sent into the pre-show room resulting in not everyone being able to fit into the station after the show. Rather annoyingly, this happened on multiple occasions during our visit.

However, the only real complaints I had with Wicker Man was that the fire had seemingly not been restarted after the earlier downtime and that the pre-lift tunnel had almost no smoke inside, exposing the lovely concrete interior.


Wicker Man​

After Wicker Man we deicided we would head for Duel since it would be an easy zero minute wait for the ride. Except when we arrived, there was a queue. But it wasn’t very long thankfully. All the effects in the queue were working, including those new obnoxiously bright portraits – why they don’t just turn the brightness down a tad is completely beyond me... it’s not that difficult is it!? :rolleyes:

Now about the ride. When I last visited at the beginning of September, I was bitterly disappointed with Duel. But in all honesty, whilst I don't think anything has actually changed since then, I didn’t find the experience quite so underwhelming as I did last time. The effects, in some places were timed well, whilst in others they were not. Lighting, again there are some areas where it works well, whilst there are still many other areas which seriously need looking at again. The major issues are when you can see walls and mechanisms that you are not supposed to which really ruins the atmosphere.

And as expected, despite Alton Towers saying at the beginning of the season that they would have the trommel working at some point during the season, it was not. There is still time, technically, but I’m not exactly getting my hopes up that they will have it working any time soon, or at least not by the end of the season like they originally said.


Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back!​

After our ride on Duel, the rest of my family then got it into their heads that it would be a great idea to walk right across the entire park to eat at the hideously poor Fried Chicken Co., which isn’t the worst place you can choose to eat on park, at least (I’d probably award the Burger Kitchen that title). But it was still grim. The indoor seating area was unclean and the food was... just about edible, at the very best. The chicken pieces I had were fine (and I made a point of looking to make sure they weren’t pink on the inside), but were nothing particularly special. The fries were bad though. I think they might have been undercooked. :eek:


After the rest of my family had finished eating their food, we headed to Spinball Whizzer, which my youngest brother really wanted to do as it is one of his favourite rides. I was actually a little reluctant to do Spinball as I would have rather spent the time doing something a bit more thrilling, however I think that might have been because I had forgotten just how fun Spinball can be! It’s a really enjoyable ride with some nice views of the park too.


Spinball Whizzer​

We next ventured all the way over to Nemesis in Forbidden Valley, passing by Project 42 on the way there. Although there isn’t any scare zones in Forbidden Valley since Dark Apocalypse was last there in 2016, the audio around the new maze and and presence of a few costumed staff members in the area did add a nice atmosphere to the area.

By time we arrived at Nemesis it was beginning to get darker, and the lighting had been turned on illuminating the coaster in a beautiful red hue. :D The queue for this was pretty long if I remember correctly, however we had Fastack tickets for this so we thankfully didn’t experience most of it, and the queue was moving fairly quickly as operations seemed pretty efficient. And what can I say, it is as amazing as ever! In fact, I actually noticed that it seemed slightly smoother than I remember, which is interesting – not sure wether that’s just me or if it really has gotten smoother since I last rode it at the beginning of the season?


Nemesis​

After stopping off for another quick ride on Duel, we headed for our first ever night ride on Wicker Man! And wow, this thing is phenomenal in the dark. The lighting that has been set up around the ride is fantastic and to our amazement, the fire effects which had not been working for our earlier ride had been turned back on. (Yay! :D) The ride is literally breathtaking at night. I actually can’t name a time before when I’ve been this amazed by a roller coaster (first time I rode Nemesis in the dark maybe comes close though). There really isn’t anything like hurtling around the twisted track towards the Wicker Man erupting with fire and surrounded by smoke in the dark! Wicker Man really comes alive after darkness has fallen, everything about it is just ten time better.


Wicker Man​

The next ride we did didn’t quite give us the same amazing experience as we’d had on Wicker Man. Sure, The Smiler looks fantastic in the dark, the tangled ride structure illuminated by the huge circular screens on the Marmaliser. But queue was bad. And I’m not even talking about the main queue, we had Fastrack tickets and even that queue was not pleasant to wait in. The huge indoor stair way is a particular low light of the queueing experience, especially after all the walking you do around the park and the amount of time you stand around queuing up until that point.

And the ride itself wasn’t much better. I said the last time I rode The Smiler earlier this year, that if felt much rougher than it did in pervious years, and this latest ride on it only confirmed my previous thoughts. It’s really dissappointing because it clearly has potential to be a brilliant ride (and it probably once was), but it’s now just so bloody rough that it can be a bit difficult to enjoy sometimes. Combine that with some of the worst queueing experiences to be had at any theme park I’ve ever been to and it just doesn’t poses any rerideability for me anymore sadly. So this would be the first and last time we rode The Smiler during our two day visit. :(


The Smiler​

So after our ride on The Smiler, we headed over to the Dark Forest for what would be a considerably more enjoyable experience (so obviously not Rita :p). We walked straight onto what I think might have been TH13TEEN’s second or third last train of the night (a stark contrast from our two hour long queuing nightmare on our previous visit in September). There’s something about TH13TEEN during the dark that is just so enjoyable, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. The ride has this kind of smooth floatyness as you travel through the pitch black woodland before reaching the crypt. And of course the free-fall and backwards section were as brilliant as they always are.

By the time we had got off TH13TEEN it was just past 9:00pm, so it was our last ride of the day, and an amazing way to finish off our first day in the park! It had been an amazing day, with better weather than we had been expecting too (was really warm, surprisingly!), so we slowly walked back to Splash Landings for a well earned nights sleep to be ready for day two of our Alton Towers Scarefest adventure! :)
 

Robert.W

New Member
Part 2 – Day 2 (Sunday 14th October)

We awoke reasonably early in the morning after an unusually comfortable nights sleep in Splash Landings, only to find heavy rain pouring from the sky outside our hotel room window. Damn. So what do we do? There was absolutely no chance we were going to go to the park this early to get absolutely drenched in the rain. No way.

In fact, we ended up skipping breakfast as we weren’t really that hungry and checking out of the hotel and going for an aimless drive around the Staffordshire country roads before returning to Alton Towers at around 12:30pm. It was still raining, but not quite as heavily as it was before, so we decided to venture out into the theme park once again for our second day of Scarefest fun, taking in the wonderful decorations on Towers Street as we entered! :)


Towers Street​


Like the day before, we decided that our first ride of the day would be Wicker Man which in the hazy rainy weather looked amazing. I think the advertised queue time was 40 minutes, but we walked right through the entire queue right in to the batching room before the preshow, and after a short wait we were allowed to enter!

Unfortunately this was where our luck came to an end. The emergency lights came on inside the preshow and an announcement: Wicker Man was currently experiencing a temporary delay and the Beornen had ceased their ritual. After a while of waiting around inside the preshow room (which was actually pretty nice, better than waiting outside in the cold and wet weather for sure, and a great opportunity to get some photos!), a further announcement said that the ride had closed and asked us to leave. After a bit of confusion from one staff member who said we weren’t entitled to receive any sort of priority pass to make up for the time lost, we encountered another staff member actively giving out priority passes for us to use on Wicker Man later in the day. :D


Wicker Man lift hill evacuation​


After we left Wicker Man, we stopped by the Mutiny May Burger Kitchen so that the rest of my family could get their fast food fix. :eek: I opted for what at the time seemed like a safe option and chose to have a small portion of fries. It was then a quest to hunt out a suitable place to sit down in shelter of the weather so that we could actually eat our food. Eastern Express seating was full completely, as was the Welcome-Inn. So we decided to walk up to Fountain Squate to see if Woodcutters Bar and Grill was also full, which is was. We ended up managing to find a table in the Cloud Cuckoo Land Burger Kitchen. Again, the fries I had were absolutely disgusting that I hardly ate any of them. Food at Alton Towers is something that desperately needs looked at.


After finishing up (or in my case, throwing away) our food at the Burger Kitchen, we headed for X-Sector to take on Oblivion! The queue looked long, and pretty slow moving, and I won’t lie, it felt extremely good walking though the Fastrack queue past the spiralling stand by queue all the way up to the station building, where to our surprise, they were operation both stations! After a short wait, we were boarding our shuttle and off to the top of th ride ready to take the plunge! :D Not much to say about the ride. It’s short and sweet – you might say it’s the best at what it does. It does the drop very well. Quite possibly the best drop on any roller coaster I’ve ever been on.


Oblivion​


After we’d rode Obivion, we stopped by at Spinball Whizzer so that my younger brother could get another ride on it, as it is his favourite. It was running on half capacity as the weather was wet and due to there being no single rider queue, even though they could have accommodated a third rider in each vehicle. We did at least have a couple of Fastrack tickets which we used to reduce our wait to only ten or so minutes. The ride seems to spin a lot more in the wet weather and will one side of the car completely empty!


After our ride on Spinball Whizzer we headed over back to Wicker Man, which was still saying closed, so continued our way into Katanga Canyon for a ride on the Runway Mine Train. The queue was short and we were on the ride within a few trains. Managed to secure a spot on the very last row too, not that it really makes that much of a difference on a ride like this. Hilariously, after our second lap of the circuit, despite the train slowing down, it overran the station by a few metres and had to be sent around the track a third time before we finally disembarked!


Runaway Mine Train​


We next decided to venture over to Forbidden valley with the idea of doing both Nemesis and Galactica. We first headed over to Nemesis where I managed to get my favourite seat on the train: the far right hand side seat on the back row! :D And again, what an amazing ride – I love seeing the ground beneath you just disappear as you enter the first corkscrew element, as well as all the other interactions with the landscape.

Sadly, we were not quite as lucky with Galactica, which was closed and the staff didn’t seems to know when it would be reopening. Although the ride was testing empty, we decided it wasn’t really worth waiting around for, and my mum wanted to go and have a sit down and a rest (I swear that is all my family want to do half the time :eek:) in Corner Coffee of all places.


Galactica​


Before we walked all the way over to Corner Coffee on Towers Street, we checked to make sure there definitely wasn’t any space inside Forbidden Valleys own coffee shop, the Coffee Lounge, which dissappointingly, there was none. So we made the long walk all the way over to Corner Coffee to have a sit down and decide what to do next.


We decided that we would go and have a ride on Wicker Man, since the queue time didn’t seem too bad (saving our priority passes for a night ride). By the time we had queued for the ride, the weather had cleared up and the sun had begun to set, which allowed for some stunning views of the ride, both in the queue line and whilst riding the coaster itself! In fact, I’d go as far as saying there are three ways to experience Wicker Man; during the day, during the night and during sunset. If you can time it perfectly, it is stunning during sunset.


Wicker Man​


After a few more rerides on the likes of the Runaway Mine Train and Duel, we headed up to Forbidden Valley for another ride on Nemesis, followed by our second night ride on Wicker Man. Sadly, the fire wasn’t operational at all during the day or night on Sunday, which was a little bit dissappointing considering how brilliant our previous ride during the night had been when the fire effects had been working. It was still great fun, just not as much as when all the effects are in operation.


With the queue for Nemesis being zero minutes, we again headed back up to the valley for what would be our final two rides of not only the night, but most likely the entire year – two rides on Nemesis, because you can’t ever get enough of a good thing, especially when it is dark! :D Forbidden Valley was also absolutely deserted, which created a really unique atmosphere.


Nemesis​


Overall, we had a brilliant two days at Alton Towers Scarefest. Park operations were mostly efficient for the majority of our visit and the weather even turned out to be better than we were expecting too. Park lighting has greatly improved since last years Scarefest and that massively improves the atmosphere around the park as darkness falls, even without th scare zones, which if I’m being honest, we didn’t really feel the absecence of as much as I had expected. There were a few issues with audio on park, with some dead spots and issues with some of the speakers seemingly not able to cope very well (with some pretty awful sounds coming out of the ones on the path where Freak Show used to be located), however this was only a minor complaint really, which I can only hope they will address in the future.

I left Alton Towers feeling not only satisfied, but actually quite impressed. Alton Towers really know how to put on a show for Halloween. No, it hasn’t redeemed them from the absolute sh!tshow that they put on during the main season, however for me it has been a much needed reminder that despite everything that has happened in recent years, the park is still a very special place. The magic is very much still alive.

And it is on that thought that I’ll end my trip report. Thank you for reading – I really hope you’ve enjoyed my report! :)
 
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