My husband and I have visited Alton Towers many times and it has always been our favourite theme park. However, this time it would be very different, as this time it was all about James’ enjoyment rather than our own. Going to a theme park with a toddler is a very different experience to going with a group of friends. We had a really good report from James’ playgroup last week saying that they couldn’t have asked for him to have made any more progress, so we decided to take him to CBeebies Land at Alton Towers as a treat. James is a fan of many CBeebies programs on TV so we thought it would be great for him to recognise the themed rides from the TV programs he watches.
We chose to go on a Monday during term time, in the hope that it would be less busy than in school holidays or at the weekend. We set off at 9 am, which would mean we would get there at around 11 am. We are lucky in that the majority of the time James seems to enjoy being in the car, fascinated by the other cars, lorries, vans etc on the motorway. He is probably the only person that seems to enjoy a traffic jam because it allows him to look at the lorries a bit more close up. Our sat nav took us a way neither of us had ever been before, down such a narrow single track road that it even had grass growing in the middle of it, I was just grateful that it wasn’t me driving. James fell asleep about 20 minutes before we arrived, and woke up just as we parked, probably to my husband proclaiming that he had never seen the car park so busy. I assured him it is usually a lot busier.
We decided to take the monorail rather than walk to the entrance, partly because we knew James would like going on the train, and secondly because we weren’t really sure on how long or the direction to go to walk. James seemed excited by the monorail and we joked that it would probably be his favourite ride. We soon got to the entrance and were greeted by a big queue to buy the tickets, again where my husband decided to tell me that he had never seen it so busy. I told him that usually we buy tickets online so can go straight through, but we were taking advantage of Carex handwash offering half price entry on their bottles. Although the queue was fast moving, it didn’t go down well with James, who decided he would kick his legs in the pushchair at anyone or any barrier near him, along with letting out screams, just so we knew he was thoroughly annoyed by this queuing malarky. It didn’t give me much faith as to what he would be like once we got inside and started queueing for rides. Alton Towers is certainly not cheap, so we wouldn’t have gone if we had to pay full price; myself and my husband got in for half price with the Carex bottles and as James is still two he got in for free. Although we got half price tickets, the entrance fee was still £62 including a £6 parking ticket, so it is definitely not a cheap day out.
As we finally entered we let James out of the pushchair and put the reins on him, he has a tendency to just run wherever he wants, without any care for where we are so we thought reins were a must in such a busy place. CBeebies Land is conveniently located fairly close to the entrance so we guided James in that direction, he just seemed excited that he was out of the pushchair and allowed to roam. As we approached CBeebies Land he actually went all shy and wanted picking up, where he nuzzled into my shoulder hiding his face. I think it was all quite overwhelming for him, as he began to recognise different characters and hear music from much loved TV shows.
The first ride we went on was the Peter Rabbit Hippity Hop ride. Prior to our arrival we downloaded the Alton Towers app, which gives you the queue times for each ride. The Peter Rabbit ride was one with the shortest queues so it made sense for us to go on it first as we only had time for one ride before lunch. James again went shy in the queue and clung onto me, but as he saw the other children on the ride he became interested and seemed to figure out that he would also be going on that ride. Surprisingly he behaved well in the queue and it really wasn’t a problem. I think we had to queue for about 15 minutes and as long as there were things for him to look at, mainly children on rides he seemed fairly happy. This ride has limited seats for adults so we decided I would go on with James and my husband would sit this one out. I was a little apprehensive as to whether James would cooperate with sitting on the ride, but to my delight he did. I did have visions of him screaming and only wanting to sit on my lap, but he seemed happy and excited to finally be sat on the ride. Children have to be over 0.90m to go on this ride and James is only just over that so he was definitely the smallest. Although he was secure I still felt the need to hold onto him myself for added protection. I could see his smiling face so was reassured that he was enjoying the ride, and so was I. It was far from the rides I would have gone on in the past, but this trip was all about getting enjoyment from seeing James happy.
CBeebies land is set up so well for children. There are buggy parks everywhere, themed rides, play areas, areas for shows by the characters from the TV programs, picnic areas and a sensory garden. You could easily spend all day in CBeebies land. We however had realised that James was tall enough to go on some of the rides outside of CBeebies land so we wanted to let him go on them too and not just stay in one area of the theme park.
After the Peter Rabbit ride we headed to another area of the park to find somewhere to eat lunch. We had read online about Alton Towers having a restaurant where your food gets delivered to you on a rollercoaster. We thought it would be a great way to keep James entertained while he was eating, and we had looked at their menu and it catered for all of our different food tastes. However, when we got to the rollercoaster restaurant there was a queue out of the door, with no indication of how long the wait was going to be. We decided to head to a pizza and pasta buffet place instead, which was ideally located by the Runaway Mine Train and the Rapids, the two rides we thought we would take James on. The pizza and pasta buffet cost £28 for two adults and James ate for free. It was basically the same as a Pizza Hut lunchtime buffet. The pizza was okay and the pasta was fairly decent too. I was impressed that on their drinks machine, they not only had the usually fizzy options, but had Oasis too. As I am a big fan of drinking squash I was more than happy with this. James was a superstar and sat and ate two slices of pizza and some garlic bread without any need for any form of entertainment.
Knowing the Runaway Mine train is quite a fast ride we discussed whether we should take James on it. He met the height requirements and there were plenty of other pushchairs that had been left at the entrance so we decided to go for it. He was fascinated looking at it wizz past us while we queued for 30 minutes and again he queued nicely. I had recently learnt that he was starting to queue nicely for the slide at playgroup, and I witnessed him actually doing this in the park. Previously he just didn’t understand the concept, so whenever he started to become restless in the queue for the Runaway Mine train I just told him that we had to queue like he does for the slide at playgroup.
We eventually got onto the ride and James seemed excited for it to start, whilst I worried that he would somehow slip through the safety bars, so hung onto him as tightly as I could. I have been on the Runaway Mine Train numerous times and I know that as you go into the tunnel you feel some small G Force, and this ride is fast. James didn’t seem bothered in the slightest and seemed to be fascinated by this really fast train he was on. His face flickered from looking happy to being fascinated by what was happening.
We then headed onto the Rapids, where James decided he would sit on my lap. I don’t know whether he was allowed to, but no one said anything and it made him happy. I am not a fan of getting wet on these rides, so naturally I got the most wet, and seemed to shield James from getting wet at all. He enjoyed himself and kept shouting “Splash” as we went around. We decided to get the ride photo, as for once it actually wasn’t too bad. My husband also decided we should pay £20 to get vouchers than would enable us to get another 2 ride photos later in the day. If you have been to a theme park before, you probably know that very few ride photos look any good.
Alton Towers has plenty of baby changing facilities but I know if I take James into a baby changing room he will kick off. His nappy was getting too wet so we stopped off at a grass area on our way back to CBeebies Land, as I thought would be the best place to change him. As he wears nappy pants I was able to do it quickly while he stood up, shocking my husband at how smoothly it went, with minimal fuss from James.
We then checked the Alton Towers app for queue times to see which rides were best to head to. The last three rides we went on were the Go Jetters ride, then the Octonauts ride and finally a calming In the Night Garden boat trip ride, just what James needed when we could see he was exhausted. He has always loved the Go Jetters theme tune so to watch the children on the ride while we were in the queue we could see he was excited, but also extremely tired as at times he was just resting his head on my husband. His poor little eyes had certainly seen a lot. The Octonauts ride was probably too much for him. Although the Runaway Mine train seemed a lot faster, James didn’t seem to enjoy the Octonauts ride, and he was definitely very keen to get off it. We also ended up getting this ride photo with one of our vouchers, where James looks scared and I have my eyes shut. Ending with the In the Night Garden ride was great because James sat on my lap and could just relax as the boat went around whilst you could see different characters from the show.
Just before we left Alton Towers, there was time for my husband to go on Oblivion as it was nearby and the queue was only 10 minutes. He also got the ride photo as we had one voucher left, of which we joked he was sat next to his new wife. James didn’t like watching Oblivion and looked scared watching people plummet into the ground from great height. He was however fascinated by the Smiler ride next to it and couldn’t take his eyes off it, now my husband wasn’t going to be going on that with an 85 minute queue. Throughout the day we did notice that James did seem to be in awe of the big rollercoasters, making us wonder if we have our very own thrill seeker in the making. We also wondered if after taking him on the Runaway Mine train, that the CBeebies rides just didn’t do it for him.
Within 5 minutes of him being back in the car he was fast asleep, he slept for 20 minutes and then happily chatted to himself the rest of the way home, with a stop off at the services for some McDonalds chicken nuggets for him. We were thoroughly impressed with how well he coped with the day, how well he queued and how he enjoyed himself. James definitely lets us know if he is not happy with some epic tantrums and we were pleased that other than queuing to get into the park we didn’t have to deal with one. We were really impressed with how well CBeebies Land, and the whole of Alton Towers is set up so well to cater for children of all ages. CBeebies Land has lots of interactive activities for children to look at whilst queuing, and being over 0.90m James was definitely able to take full advantage of the rides in CBeebies Land.