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Alton Towers vs Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Alton Towers vs Blackpool Pleasure Beach

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This is an interesting discussion to revisit.

20 years ago, this was a no-brainer. Alton Towers.

10 years ago, it would still be difficult to put together a solid argument for Blackpool - but it could be done.

Now? It's much tougher.

When I do these things, I try to do both a pragmatic and structured weighting, as well as what I'd now call the @Ian factor of "how do I feel at the end of a day there?"

How would I weight things to compare them?

Quality of rides, diversity of rides, setting/appearance/cleanliness and periphery stuff (like food, convenience, etc.). I'd also tag on the end there "harrumph". How much does the place irk me :)

In terms of quality of rides - This was always Alton's bag. As much as I have adored the Nash in the past, it's been brutal for years. There's very little "good" at Blackpool in objective terms. I adore Nemesis and I adore Oblivion. But that's it now. Look at the mediocre stuff that has gone into Alton over the last few years (Spinball, 13, Smiler and Wickerman). Nothing dreadful, but nothing that shines. Blackpool hasn't expanded the line-up much either - so Alton still gets the point for this, but...

Diversity of rides - Blackpool wins hands down. It's not just the coasters either, everything feels different. We're stepping into "setting" territory here, but everything at Alton just seems to be a dark path to a darkened ride that delivers a dark grey experience. Grey - the colour of the Towers. In Blackpool, one minute you're in the Norse underworld, the next at the Mad Hatter's tea party, then on a bright orange woody, then spinning in a Red Arrow. Every different ride is a minute's walk away from every other. It doesn't help that Alton has been removing rides too, reducing the selection (certainly of flat rides) to the point where I couldn't even tell you if there are any rides other than the gloomy coasters...

So, one all :)

Settings, etc. - Alton always had this. It's difficult to counter the argument of the sight of the ruins across the lawn and lake as you enter. That is still the centrepiece of Alton. But then you also had these wonderful, diverse, well themed little areas. Each a pocket of consistent joy. Katanga Canyon, Gloomy Wood, X-Sector, Ugland (LOL - I know, but I don't care :D ) and Forbidden Valley. Year after year these areas have become diluted and messy. Horrid clashing themes and nasty glass eateries that conflict with the feel of the area. I guess I'm still salty they removed the "Nemices" double decker bus :D

As Alton descends into a horrid mess of clashing styles, Blackpool doesn't give a stuff. Even better, where Blackpool was always a bit dirty, crowded and a little minging - the last 10 years has seen the park completely opened up. It's as much a pleasure to walk around The Beach as it has been for years at Alton. It's lost a little of the odd Blackpool charm along the way, but it's not for the detriment. I'm going to call this one a draw, but Blackpool is raising its game, while Alton slips slowly down the pan.

Two all then :)

Periphery - Alton always had this. There was the superbly themed McDonalds of old. Then BK, KFC and the Pizza hut buffet. Didn't want named brands? They had superb pie and mash, kebabs and Mexican. All alongside the traditional hot dogs and donuts. All actually really good quality. And now? Half the eateries are closed down. Those that remain open are the Merlin equivalent, for the same price (or more) as the branded version, at half the quality. It's been a consistent drain on quality for years. It's harsh to blame Alton for convenience entirely, the place is spread out and struggles with building regulations. Toilets are pretty frequent though and well looked after. My biggest gripe has always been - they do nothing for families. That sounds harsh, because they do have two areas for young children. However, if you go to Alton as a family unit, you want to stay together as a family. You don't want half of the family a 25-minute walk away while others are stuck in a 40-minute queue. I've been banging this drum for years, but put some play areas or smaller kid friendly attractions in the thrill heavy area like Forbidden Valley or Gloomy Wood.

Blackpool's fayre has always been a bit "meh". It's wilting fries in a plastic bucket with a sausage that has been in the warmer unit for 3 days and is now so tough, it was being considered as a replacement bolt for a ride - all for the bargain price of £9 - with a can of pop. I'm never going to say I'll be impressed with some of the serving times either. It's not unexpected though. It's no better anywhere in Blackpool unless you wander into the places the locals use - and they're not down by the Pleasure Beach (or not that I've found in my years of visiting, I always tend to head well away from the front). It fits, even if it isn't great. It's all convenient though you're never more than five minutes away from anything, and there's always something to do. No stress from little Bobby because they have to wait an hour for Mum to come off the big ride - they can go with Dad to Nickland, or down to the River Caves.

Again, Alton is losing while Blackpool gains here. Neither are great. So another draw for me.

Three all.

So, finally, "Harrumph" - I hate the manic queueing at Blackpool at the start of the day. I hate the bag checks and the Pleasure Police making everyone feel like a criminal. I hate Noah's Ark SBNO in your face. I hate the management attitude of "knock it down before somebody complains" and the empty spaces that leaves. None of it really leaves a bad taste in my mouth though. The day is enjoyable. I'm with Ian that it ends on a high (okay, I have to walk back to the car and then drive for two hours home - but it's never a bad walk or a bad drive). Any issues I have, are really my issues and my baggage.

Alton is tiring. Trying to hang onto my wallet so tightly all day is wearisome. From the "FastTrack ads as you queue (a queue, which let's face it, is pretty much as bad as Blackpool's), to the wandering photographer selling a snap of your wonderful day (and if you buy 4 pictures, you get a fifth free), to the all day bottomless drinks, the yells of the game stalls and finally, finally, forever - paying to leave. Pay to enter, pay to leave. It's the ****tiest system ever invented and it's the final reminder of the day. "What is your lasting memory of your day at Alton Towers?" "Paying to sit in a queue in the car park for an hour".

Blackpool gets this. I never feel annoyed by Blackpool. Some of this is expectations - I DO have lower expectations from Blackpool, and it always exceeds them. I've adjusted my expectations from Alton year-on-year downward, and they still disappoint - even if it's only that final payment for the car park.

There's a reason that after many years of either Merlin or Alton passes, we ditched them due to diminishing returns.

Four to Three to Blackpool then.

Personally, I always struggled with Blackpool. It was the place we went to several times a year. I knew the place so well, but it never really changed. You go one of two ways then - a fanboy, or it turns you off. I was turned off because it never really added anything new, and - as much as I love it - The River Caves gets boring after a few times :D Alton seemed to be exciting. New rides and new themes. Yet keeping the "magic" alive. Now, Alton are adding things, but nothing seems to change. Nothing seems new or exciting - or if it is, it's just something soulless. Blackpool has kept on with little changes, bringing it to a level of quality that makes it a great place to visit. It's retained charm, but offers something different - it's now more than the sum of its rides, while Alton is less than that.

Am I swayed to pick Blackpool now? I'd need to revisit both in the same year to compare them now (both have had a year to get houses in order without pesky guests). I'd also need to work out if it was rides that are more important or the overall visit (and how much of a weighting the rides impact on the visit). I have no doubt that a good day re-riding Nemesis and Oblivion would be a superb day and make me think Alton. But then, it's just a day riding two rides, not a "park visit". For that, maybe Blackpool is the destination...