Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Visiting Alton Towers with a Merlin Annual Family Pass

We were furnished with complimentary Merlin Annual Family Passes earlier this year, and have been determined to make the most of them.

With access to 31 top attractions around the UK it doesn’t take much effort to get your money’s worth, in fact I think you only have to make four visits for the passes to start representing a saving.

As we’ve already visited the Legoland Star Wars weekend, and also been to the the National Sea Life Centre twice, we were already well on our way to making the passes pay for us.

Our latest day out was to their Alton Towers resort.

And the benefits of having a Merlin Annual Pass were immediate.  The queues for people buying tickets, or collecting them were huge.  As were the queues to then validate your entry to the park.  If I’m going to waste time queuing I at least want to do it in the wait for an actually ride.

But there’s a dedicated Merlin Annual Pass turnstile, which means you avoid all the hefty queues, and the park is also open early for holders of the passes.  


Alton Towers was an absolute favourite of mine as a kid, somewhere my mother would generally take my sister and I as a top-notch treat.

We loved it then, and I’d say, it’s even better now.

Like I’m sure many theme parks do, it is constantly updating itself, and adding new rides and attractions, it is difficult to keep up.

It had been a few years since I’d been to the park, the headline ride was Air back then, and a good number of high-octane roller coasters have been added since.

However, as our merry band of three included an 8 year-old of 135cm in height, plus a lovely lady that sometimes finds the pirate ship a little too ‘scary’ I wasn’t entirely sure what rides we’d be heading for, or indeed if this was the right theme park for us as a collective.

I started with what I knew, and took the Sky Ride to the mid-station and near the entrance for Air.

Unfortunately at just under the 140cm height restriction Max wasn’t allowed to ride.  I was surprised how helpful the Alton Towers staff were, the girl manning the queue said she could offer us a parent pass, so we didn’t lose a space in the queue waiting with Max, as well as pointing out the rides around the park we could go on together.

Any fears of there not being anything for us were gone, and we have a list of rides to target.

Despite the park being busy I think the longest we queued was for 15 minutes.  It seems the vast majority of the visitors, as you may well expect, were there for the massive roller coasters, leaving our family group fairly free to ride The Blade, Runaway Mine Train, Hex, Duel, Twirling Toadstool, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Sky Ride, Congo River Rapids, Sonic Spinball, The Flume.

And whatever they called this:

And we’d done all that by mid-to-late afternoon.

There were food and drinks facilities all over the park, and plenty of spaces for you to set down for a packed lunch like we did.  Aside the lake in front of The Towers is nice.  You can relax, watch a load going on around you, and are also perfectly positioned to plan the rest of your visit.

I wasn’t 100% sure Alton Towers would be a hit with Max, given his age, but found that we are at the glorious point of not wanting to go on the bigger rides that the masses are there for, meaning whilst surrounded by people, the queues for the attractions we want to ride were relatively tiny.

Like an ex-Governor of California almost says.

We will be back.

Our tips for visiting the Alton Towers Resort

  1. Book in advance, or even better, get Merlin Annual Passes - This will save you so much time.  Any queuing will then be restricted to the wait for actual rides.  With a Merlin Premium Pass parking is also include

  2. Get there early - With a Merlin Pass you can actually get access to the park before the masses do, but even without the passes it is worth heading there early as the B roads around Alton Towers can get clogged up with traffic pretty quickly.

  3. Walk from the car park - The signs generally guide you to the monorail, but it is generally much quicker to walk to the entrance, as you may end up queuing a little while to ride the monorail.  If you're little ones really want to ride the monorail, use it as an incentive for leaving the park a little earlier and ride it back to your car.

  4. Use the Sky Ride effectively - The Sky Ride is a cable car system that goes through the park.  The middle station can get really busy and you can be waiting a long time to get the cable car there.  We rode it to the middle station, then did rides that naturally took us back to the empty base station, where we then rode the Sky Ride out to it's end station before walking and riding our way back through the resort.

  5. Take an early, or late, lunch - A tip I give for most theme parks.  Get on the most popular rides at lunch time rather than eat, the queues seem to be a little lower, and are usually at their peak after the traditional lunch time.