This bank holiday weekend we headed over to Alton Towers in Staffordshire to make the most of our Premium Merlin Passes while the sun was still shining. We set out early to make sure we weren’t trapped in any traffic jams or queues and arrived in good time to get a parking space near the monorail in the huge car park. What’s fab about the Premium Pass is that charges for parking are included so you don’t need to worry about sorting tickets and paying at the end of the day.
I won’t lie, there was a bit of queue to get onto the monorail over to the park. We could quite easily have walked but the Little Lady didn’t have her ‘walking legs on’ so we joined the line and planned out our adventures. It didn’t take long to get on board; we had a carriage with three adults, a three year old and a buggy and still had room. Tip: if you do have a buggy – it indicates that you need to fold these down so be prepared as you get to the front of the queue to save yourself some time and fiddling.
Another great feature of the Premium Pass is that you can take friends or family along for just £10, so after we had grabbed an extra ticket we headed straight for the gates and in we went. Now, although it was a busy day the park managed the entry smoothly and we were inside the park in no time. Another tip for anyone with a buggy – go to the side of the entry gates as there is a wider gate for you to enter there. A smiley attendant will let you in once you’ve shown your tickets or passes.
If you have a huge picnic with you or a bag of ponchos and spare clothes, there are lockers dotted around the park where you can leave you belongings. These are chargeable locally and are conveniently located near to the loos, which are a-plenty.
We’d promised the Little Lady that she could lead the way so we headed straight for the ultimate in child friendly zones: CBeebies Land. We were warmly welcomed by a CBeebies attendant who guided us into the fun zone. Immediately you are greeted by familiar tunes and you don’t have to take many steps before you can see Post Man Pat waiting to drive you around Green Dale. Some of the rides are more popular than others dependent upon the age of your little ones and so waiting times do vary. Your best bet is to suss out what your smalls want to go on and then judge the waiting times accordingly. Tip: even if a queue is quite long at the point you are about to join it, chances are that if you return to it later in the day, it will have lessened. We found this with the ‘In the Night Garden’ ride and ‘Postman Pat’. The Octonauts ride was a big draw for us on this visit as the Premium Merlin Pass seems to have turned our little adventurer into a thrill seeker – arms up in the air and everything so we donned our sun lotion and grabbed some snacks and joined the queue.
Now, there is no fun in waiting in a queue if you aren’t going to be able to join the ride, which was the experience for Mrs View From a Daddy who had our littlest adventurer in the buggy but I think she was secretly glad that she could go off and enjoy the grounds. Alton Towers have some absolutely beautiful gardens which can be explored but wouldn’t you know it? Mrs VFAD got distracted by the smell of coffee. Her excuse was the baby needed a feed. I’m not convinced. With your Premier Merlin Pass you can get 20% off the price of food and drink within the park so it’s worth remembering when you order to show your pass.
The baby changing facilities are great. Clean and checked regularly with changing mats. You won’t feel reluctant to use them as you often do when in public spaces. The baby feeding rooms are equally clean and comfortable. With spacious new chairs, changing mats and electric points, the rooms are somewhere that you can feel at ease while your baby feeds (I am told). With a buggy to hand, you do need to do some moving at angles to get everything positioned but it is manageable.
In the heart of CBeebies land is a break out area where live shows take place throughout the day. The Zingzillas hit the stage while we were there to enjoy an ice cream (also subject to the 20% discount) and I’ll admit we all had a dance along to their tunes. With a spacious area to sit and picnic or picnic benches to layout your lunch, you can relax in here from the hubbub of the theme park. There is also a great shaded area under which you can perch should you need to or of course take shelter from the r*in. A range of characters come out to meet and greet your little thrill seekers too. We met MimMim, Captain Barnacles and Upsy Daisy – all were guided by attendants who managed photo opportunities and even the littlest VFAD member got in on the action with a little stroke from MimMim. Circus games were also taking place while we were in there too.
One of my personal favourites is Mr Bloom’s Veggie Patch. This is an interactive experience where you can get involved in his story looking for compost and getting up close and personal with the veggies themselves (in hindsight that sounds a bit odd). I think it’s the accent that gets me.
Many of the rides outside of CBeebies Land are subject to height restrictions although some such as the Runaway Train is suitable for smaller riders. It’s worth grabbing a map which provides details or even better download an app in advance of your visit to plan exactly what you want to ride on before you even get there.
A great day was had by all. There really is something for everyone and the benefits you get with an annual pass add that bit extra to your visit too.
Discover more about the benefits of a Merlin Annual Pass at www.merlinannualpass.co.uk
This post is published as part of our role as Merlin Entertainment Ambassadors.
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