LIKE many living in the area around Alton Towers, I know the park well, having worked there as a teenager and spent many hours being swung upside down and roundabout on rides and rollercoasters big and small, writes Nat Wakefield. While the kids have had season passes this summer, the most I've seen of the resort has been the pick-up point for the many times I've been parent taxi during the holidays. But this weekend, I got to join in the fun and scare myself silly for the first time in ages.
What a fantastic day.
Pumpkins and spooky stuff abound on entering the park, with a clever mix of friendly and creepy characters giving a Hallowe’en feel without being too scary for the tiny tots.
The discordant version of regular Alton Towers theme music lends a horror-movie air to the atmosphere and the guests in fancy dress add their own special sparkle to the day.
Fortunately for me, my two kids (aged 12 and 13) are too young for the full-on scare mazes, so instead we check out House of Monsters, which is billed as suitable for families with kids older than eight.
Set in a haunted house inhabited by a disparate group of monsters all living under a curse, our group are tasked with finding various bits of Frankie (the son of Frankenstein’s monster), so we can bring him back to life and escape.
Silly enough to off-set the scary, but with a couple of cheeky asides for the grown-ups, this combination of cheesy comedy and creepy characters is a definite winner.
Nicely staged and well played by the various actors, House of Monsters is great fun and well worth an extra £5.
Afterwards we chill out with a coffee and watch a bit of the Freaky Funk Squad, who can only communicate via song.
For us though, it is really all about the rides. You’d think after a summer of thrills and spills, the excitement would wear off, but in fact, I was reliably informed our trip to Scarefest was the best visit of the year.
Part of this was definitely to do with the fast-track passes. If you’ve already got a Merlin pass or season pass, it’s absolutely worth considering investing in one of the fast-track options, particularly if the day of your visit is expected to be busy.
We’re all used to dashing around the park to find the shortest queues, but the luxury of knowing we can get onto the big rides without rushing definitely makes a huge difference.
Old favourites including Nemesis and Oblivion still have the thrill power to leave me gasping and exhilarated, while my kids find great joy in watching me take on The Smiler for the first time.
I loved it. A full-on adrenaline rush, The Smiler was a brilliant start to the day – and was even better on the second time around at dusk.
Next on the agenda was this year’s big reveal The Wickerman. What a ride! After 24 years, Nemesis has been toppled from my top spot and Wickerman definitely takes its place.
We managed to ride it twice during the day and made it our mission – once the sun had finally set – to make it our last ride of a superb day.
Definitely more by luck than judgement, we’re on the front two rows and my little angels decide I get to go on the front as they’ve already bagsied that seat over the summer.
Whether it’s the flames in the dark or the smoke effect hiding what’s coming next, Wickerman at night is a whole other experience. I screamed and whooped until my throat hurt.
It’s been a good few years since I last visited the Towers, but Scarefest has definitely re-ignited a passion for great rides and fun attractions.
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