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Are you looking for tips for visiting Alton Towers? Do you want to know how to make the most of Alton Towers?

You’re in the right place!

Below I’m sharing my Top 10 Tips for making the most of your day at Alton Towers if you’re visiting in 2024.

I’ve broken down exactly how much it cost us to book a trip to Alton Towers, how much money we spent on food and accommodation near Alton Towers, and the best time to visit Alton Towers.

If you’re looking for Alton Towers outfit inspiration, check out What To Wear To Alton Towers? Style Guide.

Note: this post contains affiliate links at no extra cost to you, which means I can make a tiny kickback and continue to write helpful guides like these for you!

The wooden roller coaster WickerMan at Alton Towers - Top tips for visiting alton towers theme park in the UK

One of my first trips after London’s lockdown lifted took me to Alton Towers, the UK’s biggest theme park. What’s life without a little thrill, am I right?!

A two-and-a-half hour drive from North London, we set out towards our B&B hotel in Cheadle, a small town in Greater Manchester, which is a short 15-minute drive from Alton Towers. We stayed from Wednesday 19 May until Saturday 22 May, and visited the park twice using a 2-day pass.

Despite the UK’s typical May weather (strong winds, cold, pouring with rain), we had an absolute blast. We virtually walked onto most of the rides on day one (Thursday), with zero waiting time or queueing. The atmosphere was more buzzing on day two (Friday), despite longer queues, but it meant we enjoyed the day even more. Never let British rain hold you back from riding roller coasters!

10 Top Tips for Visiting Alton Towers

  1. Shop around for local hotels in neighbouring towns or villages.

If you’re staying overnight, look for cheaper accommodation before committing to the Alton Towers resort hotels. They’re very expensive and the cheapest lodge option (Stargazing Pods) don’t actually have a toilet inside your room! This, on a rainy day, was a dealbreaker.

Plus we snagged a room at a lovely B&B hotel – The Manor Hotel Guest House in Cheadle – that included a full fry-up breakfast every morning for almost £100 less than the cost of Alton Towers’ Stargazing Pods, which are basic, claustrophobic and overpriced.

The Manor Hotel cost me around £60 per night. It was quiet, leafy, comfortable and clean. The hotel was only a 15-minute drive to Alton Towers and a 3-minute walk to Cheadle’s high street, which had a (limited) number of shops, restaurants and cafe options.

BOOK NOW: THE MANOR GUEST HOUSE CHEADLE (BOOKING.COM)

 

2. Bring a water bottle or collapsible drink pouch.

Bottled water is expensive at the park, so having a refillable container is ideal. If you’ve got big coat pockets, you can keep an empty water bottle in there (it won’t get crushed during rides), or just stash it in the ride cages before you buckle up. You’ll then be able to use the free water refill dispensers located all around the park whenever you get thirsty. It’s a nice sustainable alternative to buying plastic bottled drinks too. I love my Water-To-Go bottle which has a built-in filter that eliminates 99% of contaminants – perfect if you’re a bit of a germophobe!

3. Bring your own snacks or lunch.

Next time I go to Alton Towers I’ll be bringing my own sandwiches, cereal bars and fruit. There’s an Asda (cheap supermarket) about 10 minutes drive away which you can stock up at, including meal deals. Just bring a small backpack, bumbag or even a plastic bag if you want. We didn’t eat that much on the day because we had full English breakfasts in the morning at our hotel. Most rides have a compartment you can leave your bags or backpack in (at your own risk), so make sure you keep your phone and valuables with you on the rides, but you can leave the sandwiches and snacks safely in the ride cages. On that note…

4. Wear clothes with zip pockets to keep valuables safe.

Bonus points if it’s a secret inner lining zip pocket. This is super duper important! You don’t want your mobile phone, car keys, hotel keys or wallet falling out during a ride – and you don’t want to risk leaving them unattended in the ride cages or storage. There are storage lockers all around the park, but you don’t need them. I really recommend North Face jackets which are light and warm though pricey (I recommend this down jacket or this hooded one). I also wore a zip fleece with sturdy pockets that kept me warm and dry both days.

5. Bring a parka or poncho to deal with rain like a boss.

Unless it’s a baking hot day in summer, remember you’re in Northern England – so you’ve always got a 90% chance of getting wet! Whether it starts raining or you decide to go on the River Rapids ride, having a waterproof jacket will sort you out. I’m a big fan of these trusty colourful ponchos – cheap and cheerful for the whole gang, plus they have elasticated sleeves to avoid water drip. Make sure your parka or poncho is long enough to cover your butt, as there’s nothing worse than a damp soggy bottom. The heat drying machines cost £2 per minute – so stay dry!

6. Invest in Express Parking (£18) in advance.

If you’re going to invest in a day trip to Alton Towers you may as well make it as easy breezy as possible – I definitely recommend paying £12 extra for Express Parking compared to £6 on Standard Parking. On a busy day, the monorail (the free train from the Standard Car Park to the park entrance) will eat up at least 40 minutes of your time when entering and leaving. With Express Parking, we sailed into a bay and walked straight through the park entrance on our first day, taking a maximum of 5 minutes to get inside. On our second day, we had Standard Parking which is much further away. The monorail was heaving with people (no social distancing, though people wore masks) and we were stuck in a cold, rainy queue for 30 minutes. Boarding the monorail took ages because only one set of visitors were allowed into each carriage, as per COVID guidelines). Avoid the monorail at all costs!

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7. Get there as early as possible.

The rides open at 10am but they let us in at 9.15am. We went to Oblivion first and stood there ready to go, first in line, by 9.30am. This was down to staying at a hotel very close to the theme park, arriving at 9am and having Express Parking. A worthy investment!

BOOK NOW: ALTON TOWERS CAR PARKING

8. Head straight for the biggest rides (or rides you most want to experience) first.

Queues are still very short first thing in the morning. On our first day (which was an empty and rainy Thursday morning) we were able to ride 4 roller coasters by 11.30am (Oblivion, The Smiler, Rita, and Thirteen). The rides with the biggest hype were The Smiler (which made us feel ill), Wickerman (which was amazing) and Gangsta Granny (which was closed). Make sure you head to those rides first in case they randomly close.

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9. Invest in the Alton Towers digital photo app rather than buying printed photos vouchers.

We got royally mugged off at the park gates by investing in a £20 voucher for 4 printed photos, before swiftly finding out that firstly we had to wear our masks on every ride, and secondly, that they didn’t have keychains or fridge magnets on offer. The fact that the staff member who sold us the voucher didn’t disclose any of this felt shady. Whereas for £15 on the app, you have unlimited access to all your photos, so you can print them yourself.

10. Book your Alton Towers visit on a weekday outside of school holiday season (Monday-Thursday ideally).

You will 100% have the best time on a weekday, especially in the morning, as it’s far less likely to be busy, and you’ll have a better chance of walking straight onto rides without needing to queue for very long. Although we enjoyed the atmosphere on Friday, it felt very busy, whereas our day on Thursday was perfect. My iPhone Health app showed we did over 20,000 steps in 6 hours at the park, proving just how empty and easy it was to run around and do all the rides we wanted.

11. Bonus Tip: Download the Alton Towers app.

You’ll have all the ride queue times in the palm of your hand, and the location-based map tracker shows you all the routes you need to get to your next ride. It’s really handy and worth downloading!

If you have any other tips to add, or want to ask any questions, hit me up below.

For a detailed guide to Alton Towers, including how much we spent at the theme park and where we stayed, keep reading!

Girl smiling on a cable car Sky Ride at Alton Towers

A Travel Blogger’s Guide to Alton Towers: Pros & Cons, Budget, Accommodation

Covid-19: What’s Alton Towers like post-lockdown?

Alton Towers has put a number of different social distancing measures in place since opening up after lockdown. They make you wear masks on every ride (and have themed masks available for sale in their shops). There are also hand sanitiser dispensers available for use before and after every ride, and one way systems in place to help control the flow and direction of people.

Accommodation: Where should you stay if you’re visiting Alton Towers?

We opted to stay at The Manor Hotel Guest House in Cheadle, which was around £60 per night. It was quiet, leafy, comfortable and clean. The hotel was only a 15-minute drive to Alton Towers and a 3-minute walk to Cheadle’s high street, which had a (limited) number of shops, restaurants and cafe options.

BOOK NOW: THE MANOR GUEST HOUSE CHEADLE (BOOKING.COM)

If you’re vegan, the hotel caters to you with vegan breakfast options, but for dinner, Wetherspoons is probably your best bet if you’re going for a meal. We had “Curry Club” deals on Thursday night. On our second night (Friday), my companion ventured out into the rain and got us a set menu for 2 from the local Chinese takeaway shop, Hong Tai, which we ate in our room. Peter, the hotel owner, kindly gave us cutlery to use. The walls in the hotel were thin so we could hear people next door and above us talking loudly, but the bed was cozy, shower pressure was strong, and the rooms were well heated. I’d stay again!

 

Beautiful orange sunset on the M1 during the drive from London to Cheadle.JPG

Beautiful orange sunset on the M1 during the drive from London to Cheadle.JPG

Budget: How much did I spend on a trip to Alton Towers?

In total, split between two people, we spent £550.40 (£262.60 each), during our three-night, four-day trip to Alton Towers. For three nights, between two people, that feels reasonable. We could have cut costs significantly by packing sandwiches and bringing refillable water bottles, but decided that we wanted to go in and enjoy the park without carrying anything. We also managed to get a discount on a 2-day pass. See the full budget breakdown below.

Alton Towers Budget for May 2021 Road Trip from London to Cheadle.png

As mentioned before, we could have cut down food costs, but the last thing we wanted to do after a tiring day at the park was cook or prepare food – especially since our room didn’t have a mini fridge. We did however desperately fiend for salad, vegetables and fruit afterwards, so went to get strawberries at Asda!

The Pros and Cons of Alton Towers in 2024

The Pros: Fun and Fast Roller Coasters, Lovely Staff, Beautiful Forest Surroundings

I loved our trip to Alton Towers despite some of the hiccups. My favourite Alton Towers rides (as of 2022) were, in order: Wickerman, Galactica, Rita, Oblivion and Old Mine Train. We found Thirteen okay, but disappointing. Nemesis made me feel sick, it was very old school. The Smiler was overrated – mainly because it’s stuffed with twirling loops and spinning around didn’t make me feel good – same with the Spinball Whizzer – and we came off feeling nauseous. That’s probably suited to shorter people with a lower centre of gravity, i.e. 14 year old kids! If you’re above the age of 30, or above 5 foot 11, I’d steer clear.

Wickerman is amazing. We rode it three times. The quality of the wooden coaster and the thought behind the theming was solid. and it’s a real shame that COVID happened, because they had to remove a significant part of the VR storytelling beforehand where riders get locked in a room together beforehand. It would’ve added so much more atmosphere and emotion to the ride. But as far as wooden coasters go, it’s thrillingly fast, a wild ride, very smooth and electrifying, and we loved it. We definitely recommend that you ask to sit at the back, as it feels so much faster back there.

Galactica, the flying coaster, was super fun – it’s best when you’re at the front. Even though they removed the VR headsets component, which aren’t COVID-friendly, it feels like you’re flying, almost like you’re Harry Potter chasing the snitch. You go whizzing above trees and get flipped towards the sky. It’s a brilliant ride, even if it’s pouring with rain! Recommended. Same with Rita – going from 0 to 60mph within seconds meant that by the time the ride finished, our eyes were streaming with tears and our hair was blown back like Sonic the Hedgehog – but it was hilarious fun.

Another honourable mention is Old Mine Train, a small kids ride. We got on it as a laugh because there was no queue time, but ended up absolutely loving it. The staff member operating the ride was hilarious, shouting a friendly “choo choo!” everytime we set off. He ended up letting us ride three times in a row since it was quiet. Each time we thought the ride was about to end he’d shout “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” and send us off again. Great fun. I also recommend using the Sky Ride to get from one end of the park to the other. It’s a nice chilled moment to enjoy a birds-eye view of the park and see rollercoaster riders whizzing past.

The staff throughout Alton Towers were lovely. Very accommodating and full of smiles despite the weather. We’re really pleased that we managed to snag a 2-Day Park Pass at a discount too, because it meant we had one day to blitz through as many rides as possible, and another day to relax and revisit our favourite rides (cough, Wickerman) at a more leisurely pace.

Colourful book entrance to Gangsta Granny in Alton Towers Theme Park.JPG

Alton Towers Cons: Overpriced Food and Amenities, Outdated Rides, Limited Food Options

Does Alton Towers feel like a rip-off?

We had a good time overall, but there were definitely some moments where we felt that Alton Towers were trying to con us, or pull the wool over our eyes – something you never want to feel as a paying customer.

Firstly, the minute we walked into the park on day one, a friendly staff member encouraged us to buy a £20 voucher for 4 photos, promising that we could use it printed photos, fridge magnets or keychains. We decided to invest. Lo and behold, it turned out keychains and fridge magnets weren’t actually available – and because she didn’t disclose that to us, the transaction felt wildly unethical.

Do rides close at Alton Park when it’s rainy?

Rides also kept closing throughout the day, either because of the weather or technical issues. Nemesis and Gangsta Granny weren’t open on the Thursday, so we managed to try them out on Friday (although we needn’t have bothered.)

Is there anything problematic about the rides at Alton Towers?

The Gangsta Granny “ride” was a huge let down. Not to mention, the cultural appropriation here is real, plus the only Black noble is predictably called ‘Lady Blingdon’ (insert BAME eyeroll). Do better, guys.

Having watched the incredible Imagineering documentary on Disney+ and witnessed the creative storytelling and technology being put into Disneylands around the world, the Gangsta Granny ride technology felt like a relic of early 1960s Disneyland. The ride storyline didn’t resolve itself, we were shot in the face with a weak stream of bubbles for an ‘underwater scene’, and worst of all, they didn’t even bother to hide their Epson projectors overhead. There was no magic.

Halfway through the ride my companion and I looked at each other with extreme disappointment. We understand the target audience for the ride isn’t for a 20-something audience, but other theme parks like Disneyland offer this style of ride so much better. The staff in the general Gangsta Granny area, however, were fully committed to their roles as Beefeaters – including the tongue-in-cheek characters working in Raj’s Shop, who made us laugh.

The River Rapids ride was extremely boring, with no “Congolese” theming other than a few sad Tiki heads tacked onto the wall. We also wanted to visit the Dungeons but realised it would cost even more money to book into the attraction, around £8 extra. It should probably just be turned into a ride.

It was pouring with rain, so, against our better judgement and ethics, thought we’d check out the small SeaLife ‘Sharkbait Reef’ attraction. It was heart-breaking watching majestic sharks, baby whale sharks and huge pufferfish roam sadly and manically around a tiny tank all day under glaring fluorescent lights. We think the park should just get rid of this. It’s unethical. Fish have feelings, people. We got the feeling a lot of these crappier, smaller attractions were stuffed in so that people with young toddlers or kids had something to see.

Is there anything healthy to eat at Alton Towers?

Finally, my last complaint is that if you’re looking for healthy options or vegan food at Alton Towers, it’s hard to come by. It’s all overpriced fast food centered around meat and sugar – not even falafels were available at the kebab/wrap place. Food options are probably different and offer much more variety in summer, as we saw closed Greek Food and Jerk Wrap street food stands knocking around, but not much is open right now (Spring 2021).

A girl and boy showing peace signs with their hands on a roller coaster Rita at Alton Towers

Should you visit Alton Towers in 2024?

Even though some of the rides felt a little ‘tired’ and in much need of a spruce up – and although the amenities on offer were fairly overpriced – we had a great day out nonetheless. I highly recommend visiting, whether you’re going with friends, as a couple, or with family. There’s plenty to do for all ages.

Thanks for reading this guide to visiting Alton Towers – I hope you enjoyed my top 10 tips for visiting the theme park this spring/summer season!

Feel free to drop me a comment below if you have any question or share this post with friends and family. Until then, I’ll catch you on Instagram!

Mel Legarda

Melissa Legarda is the founder of illumelation. She has worked as a travel blogger, creator and writer since 2015, and has collaborated with well-known brands worldwide. She has helped over 1,100+ students improve their travel photography skills since launching her creative courses. Her mission is to encourage and empower others to travel and create more. Find her on Instagram.

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