Alton Towers

Justin’s House

The Smiler, the world’s first 14-loop roller coaster

First published in Days out
Last updated

DAVE FLETT had to take a pass on Oblivion this time. But the trip was for his daughter’s birthday after all and he did find a ride to raise a smile – or was it a grimace?

IT’S an age-old dilemma at Alton Towers. You have ten minutes left before the gates close, which is only enough time to fit in one more ride.

Normally, I would opt for my favourite adrenalin attraction of all time – Oblivion. But as our trip was to celebrate my daughter Ruby’s fifth birthday, we ended the day waving goodbye to the likes of Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka during the In the Night Garden boat journey at the theme park’s new CBeebies Land area.

It was a fair compromise with the thrill of witnessing hip-wiggling children’s TV legend Makka Pakka strut his stuff pretty much matching that I have experienced in the past on the country’s best roller coasters.

CBeebies Land only opened in spring and has seen the famous Staffordshire venue broaden its appeal for primary school visitors.

It is an interactive area, aimed at inspiring learning through play and features some of the television channel’s best-loved characters and shows, such as Something Special, Tree Fu Tom and Mr Bloom’s Nursery.

The plan is also to add new content regularly and host a varied programme of events, ensuring that no visit to CBeebies Land will be the same.

Highlights for our little girl included – to her astonishment – Postman Pat stopping to wish her happy birthday in his electronic-powered mail van after his adult companion had thoughtfully observed the rosette she was wearing.

She was also delighted to assist as an “experimenter” during a live performance of Nina And The Neurons in the Big Fun Show Time Pavilion which, with its artificial grass, deck chairs and fairground games, proved a great place to picnic on a sunny day.

We watched two of the shows, which run throughout the day.

The first saw the Zingzillas perform their greatest hits during a concert which, let’s face it, is bigger than Woodstock or Oasis at Knebworth when you are under the age of seven.

Nina’s Science Lab, where tests on our five senses were conducted, also proved popular with Ruby, as did the chance to fire soft balls out of an air gun, mainly at Daddy, in Justin’s House.

CBeebies Land has really enhanced the Alton Towers experience for younger children, who are still catered for in other areas of the park too.

The excellent Ice Age 4D show will have them in hysterics, as part of an audience showered in snow and snot (from the nostrils of a dinosaur).

Old favourites like The Flume also still deliver for braver youngsters, while the Charlie & the Chocolate Factory ride is a must for kids who are familiar with the Roald Dahl classic, ending as it does with a trip in the Great Glass Elevator.

Despite missing out on Oblivion, with the help of a Fastrack pass, there was also time for me to sneak off and enjoy the world’s first 14-loop roller coaster which was unveiled last year.

It’s called The Smiler, although I was sporting what could best be described as a grimace in the DVD of my ride that every passenger can buy for £15 afterwards.

The additions of CBeebies Land and The Smiler will ensure the crowds continue to flock to the UK’s flagship theme park this summer and beyond.

A total of 63 attractions, including iconic rides such as the Corkscrew, Black Hole and The Beast, have now been and gone during the 34 years since it first opened and for me, therein lies the reason behind Alton Towers’ enduring appeal and success.

It never stands still or rests on its laurels.

To save up to 25 per cent on tickets, book online at altontowers.com, where prices start at £36 for adults and £30.60 for children with under four-year-olds free.

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