Just two weeks before Covid-19 locked down the country, we took our last ‘normal world’ weekend away: We headed to the Alton Towers February half term offering for their Pirate and Princess takeover, and to celebrate our youngest’s last birthday out of lockdown. Sadly the Alton Towers February half term event was cancelled for 2021, but it’s back on for next year (if you’re type A and like to plan ahead as much as I do!)
We visited mid week (as it was half term) and paid £210 for a one night stay in the Alton Towers hotel: incredibly cheap for a stay at Alton Towers but it’s worth mentioning that during these off-season special weekends the theme park is CLOSED. You can’t go into Alton Towers for the rides or shows, but they do offer so much entertainment at the hotel, you’re definitely not bored.
Our ‘One Night and Two Day’ package included:
- One night in an Alton Towers hotel moon voyage room
- Half a day’s admission to the resort’s water park
- One round of extraoridinary golf per person
- Access to Sharkbait reef by SEALIFE
- Several pirate shows, meet and greets and evening entertainment options (the Pirates of Mutiny Bay was our favourite)
- A buffet-style breakfast
- Other activities included scavenger hunts around the hotel, cinema screenings and colouring competitions.
- We paid an extra £22 for a birthday package, which comprised of a birthday cake, balloons in the room, and an Alton Towers themed teddy bear.
First things, first: the room! We opted for a moon voyage room, which was a slight upgrade from the standard room, but for the nominal extra amount we paid (around £30) this was well worth it. The theming of the room was great: a steampunk, nautical vibe and there was a giant 4ft tall teddy bear in the middle of the bed that the kids went crazy for! The best thing though were the children’s bunk beds, which were in their own ‘zone’ away from the parent area, and which had small wall mounted and receded TVs at the foot of each bed: the boys thought all their birthdays had come at once! There was even a playstation and a couple of age-appropiate games, meaning the oldest didn’t actually want to leave the room: well played, Alton Towers, well placed.
Our room was centrally located, meaning that we could be back in the main atrium in just a couple of minutes, but despite this convenience the sound-proofed doors meant that the room was still very quite both day and night.
Pirate shows in a theme park hotel? Honestly, we weren’t expecting much, but we were very pleasantly surprised! But for parents of tiny buccaneers, the entertainment was definitely not to be missed. There were two huge theatre shows, focused on the crew of buccaneer bay, held in the conference centre and then smaller entertainment in the hotel bars and reception areas each evening too. On top of this there were various pirates and princesses dotted around both hotels at random intervals offering meet and greets throughout the day.
The shows were often interactive, with the children encourages to shout out (pantomime style), dance, and generally feel fully immersed in the fun. I’m not saying this was Broadway standard, or even Disney standard, entertainment but it was genuinely enjoyable for all of us – made even better for the grown-ups because we were allowed to take drinks from the bar into the auditorium with us.
On the first day of our stay (before we even checked into the hotel) we went into theme park and, despite being closed to guests, it was open to visitors with reservations for the roller coaster restaurant. I had seen pictures of this before, and always wanted to eat there: the concept it amazing!
You sit around large, family style tables, and each table is connected to the 3rd floor based kitchen by metal roller coaster tracks. You are given an iPad to order your food directly from your table (you can pay for it this way too) and then it arrives at your table in metal covered dishes on wheels, having ridden the full roller coaster gauntlet. Honestly, this was a dinner show in itself: we could have watched the food whizzing around all day, guessing which table each dish was going to!
And the food? It was OK! Nothing to write home about if i’m honest, but better than I was expecting and better than the average theme park food. Think TGI Fridays, but via rollercoaster. The desserts were excellent (I had a soft cookie dough) but the portions were so big that I didn’t finish all of any course. Would we recommend a visit? Yes, for the experience alone! But don’t expect Michelin starred dining.
We have visited the Alton Towers waterpark (officially called Cariba Creek) before, and I honestly think it is one of the better water parks in the UK. It offers something for everyone: water slides and water roller coasters for the thrill seekers and big kids, play areas with water features for families, a wave pool, rapids, heated outside water play area, and so much more. Our weekend package included half a day here, which we had pre-booked for the morning of the second day of our stay. The pool was quiet, so this felt like plenty of time for us, giving us time to ride all of the slides and enjoy every activity available before we were too wrinkled and ready to get back out the water!
At this point we headed to Sharkbait Reef, the Sealife centre in the Alton Towers resort. Again, a visit here was included in our package and whilst it was an interesting walk, it was very small and took us less than an hour to enjoy fully (twice)! Perhaps because we live close to a much larger aquarium, and we visit it regularly, the boys were less excited about this minature version: but it was still a nice added bonus.
Overall, this was one of the best value short weekend breaks we have taken to any UK theme park, and we were pleasantly surprised by the high-quality of entertainment on offer and the amount of fun we all had! Although the theme park was closed, even if it had been open, we wouldn’t have been able to fit it in: we already missed the free mini golf on offer because the boys decided they would rather go to (another) pirate show!
If you’re looking for a cheap family half term break, or your kids are as pirate mad as mine, then this is an experience that we would highly recommend.