Alton Towers February Half-Term week

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Alton Towers opened its doors to the public for the first time in 2010 on Saturday (13th February 2010). Family_Furie was there to find out what's new, improved, different or worth visiting at this time of the year for.

To start with it has to be noted that this is a very early open for a UK theme park. There is a limited array of rides open, and those which are can be troubled with issues. Most often this is caused by the weather and is beyond the control of the park. You'll also find rides are running on "low throughput", so less trains trains on coasters than usual means that even if it's not busy - queues will still build. On top of that, it gets cold - so wrap up warm and pack a flask of hot chocolate.

New to Alton this year is their latest "trill coaster", Thirteen. The ride isn't open yet, and the entire area around it (the once "Ugland") is closed to the public. You can catch a glimpse of the construction though, and if you're lucky you may spot the new ride testing through the trees.

The other major update to the park is the re-theme of Spinball Whizzer (the spinning coaster near to the park entrance). Alton Towers have signed a sponsorship deal with Sega, and the coaster is now "Sonic Spinball". While the coaster remains the same, the area has been freshly plastered with Sonic the Hedgehog. There's also a Sonic character wandering around, much to the delight of the Family_Furie.

Sonic the Hedgehog is proud to meet the family_furie

Meeting Sonic is officially a pant wettingly exciting experience

The day started a little bit faffy due to the fact the Monorail service wasn't running due to "ice" on the track. This meant we were shoehorned onto a coach to take us from the car park to the main entrance. Still, it has to be better than either the ten minute walk, or the £15 express parking (the car park next to the entrance). Best mention here that car parking is £5 this year - so be warned (it is free to Annual Pass holders still though).

The park was pretty quiet for a Saturday, and queues remained "minimal" all day (under an hour for the big rides, and just a few minutes for the kid's rides). While we didn't see any ourselves, there were apparently a few issues with larger ride breakdowns. While it's of no help when you're stood bored in a cold queue, this is to be expected at this time of year as the rides overcome teething troubles. Hopefully as the week goes on the issues will be resolved. Both Hex and Duel are said to have had particular issues with audio, video and effects problems.

A happy return for 2010 are the live animals in the Farmyard area. The donkeys are full of character, the chickens suitable menacing (does nobody else find them a little evil?) and the giant bunnies are suitably huge.

Giant bunnies at Alton Towers

Giant bunnies are giant

The day very quickly got way from us, time passing at an inordinate pace. It seemed to be just a few minutes from finishing our picnic at the always quiet (because it's hidden out of the way) Dungheap area to it being time to get home (the park is open limited hours, 10:00 - 4:00).

For a chance to test the waters (if you've never been to Alton before), the half-term week is a good one. Booked in advance online, it's only £14 per adult, and £8 per child. Yes, you only get a limited selection of the adult rides, but pretty much all of the young kid's rides are available. It's actually surprising just how much there is for the youngsters to do there. You'll certainly struggle to fit it all in if you have under 8's with you and you want to enjoy the full day.

Just remember to wrap up warm, there aren't many opportunities to get inside. Also be aware that food outlets are limited as well as the rides, so you may have to put up with Burger King rather than something a little more substantial/healthy.

For more information on which rides are available over this time, and for booking details, click here:

Alton Tower's main season begins on 20th March.


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