The closed season period is never a fun time for theme park enthusiasts and with the addition of lockdown it seemed like we would never be sat in a coaster seat again. But through the passing of winter and slight lifting of restrictions we were able to get ourselves back to The Alton Towers Resort for our first trip of the 2021 Season.
The most notable change when you enter the resort is that the Monorail is back in action. It was quite an alien sight to see the MOO-norail riding overhead and not something we have seen for some time. Another change is down on Towers Street where they have opened a building specifically for Guest Services which is now located near the entrance itself. Ride Access Passes (RAP) are no longer collected at the Box Office but rather at the new Guest Services. Also on Towers Street, although only more visible at night, is the work that has been done on the iconic frog fountains that for some reason always remind me of Roller Coaster Tycoon. These cosmetic upgrades don’t just go as far as Towers Street but also into Mutiny Bay with the central pirate ship of Battle Galleons receiving a fresh coat of paint.
Another welcome return is on the Wicker Man structure. For a while now there has only been lighting inside of the centrepiece but returning this year are the LED fire panels that give Wicker Man that little bit more believability in it being on fire. It also has to be mentioned that if you rode Wicker Man last year it was a far from a painless experience, but this time around the ride felt a lot smoother and less like riding down a cobblestone street in a shopping trolley. The fire on the shoulders can still be a bit hit or miss with the trains as they pass through the sculpture but it doesn’t ruin the overall experience. Also we want to give credit to the Wicker Man ride team as operations were quick to load and dispatch, which was great to see on such a busy day.
Back from last year’s Oktoberfest is a large array of seating on the grass outside the lake which was fantastic to see. Although the food options were slimmer, we believe these will increase when the Mardi Gras event begins, When you need a large space to sit in a time of Covid and social distancing, Alton Towers have hit this on the mark. I think I speak for many when I say I hope this feature will stay for a long time to come.
A new stage has been set up in the far bottom right of the lawns and if you time it right you might spot some new characters.
Next is the largest change to the park which is of course to the ride line up ‘The Retrosquad’ Three new flat ride additions in Forbidden Valley, X-Sector and Dark Forest, two of which share homes of past flat rides Ripsaw and Submission. The three flats in question are Funk’n’Fly, A Super Trooper ride, Mixtape, A Smashing Jump ride, and Roller Disco, a Waltzer.
Now before we start with the Retrosquad I would just like to say I do understand that these three rides are temporary and are there to fill a space, which is good due to the fact that the park is severely lacking any real flat rides as well as helping fill the void whilst Hex and Duel are absent from the family line up because of restrictions. With the exception of Funk’n’Fly, these flats do look garish and out of place in their respective areas. I will say that they did all seem popular with the guests. Due to the crowds though we was only able to experience Funk’n’Fly but from what we saw each of the three did seem to take longer to batch guests but this was also slightly expected due to them being fairground rides designed for travelling as opposed to permanent rides. Another downside we noticed, especially in X-Sector, is that the music played by The Retrosquad was very loud and the 80s music they played made the areas feel less immersive than usual.
What we can say is that all three attractions of The Retrosquad seem to provide a stepping-stone for younger guests before heading up to the likes of say Oblivion or Nemesis. What I hope for in the long run is that Alton Towers see that flat rides do have a strong reaction from park guests and do belong within the ride offering at the park. We can hope that when the Retrosquad take their leave that it paves the way for more interesting and imaginative permanent flat rides to take the place.
Other than the Retrosquad the other two new additions are the Alton Towers Garden Centre (Located in The Gardens) and the upcoming new area The World of David Walliams, which is due to open on the 17th May in what was Cloud Cuckoo Land. This newly themed area will feature a variety of rethemed rides as well as two new rides in Gangsta Granny The Ride, an indoor dark ride, and Flavio’s Fabulous Fandago, a Twist ride.
The final note we want to mention is that Woodcutters, the restaurant located opposite Hex, now has extended outdoor seating to comply with legal regulations.