The end of last year got away with me (with Christmas, and all our family birthdays crammed into December) so this piece is much later than I planned, but better late than never! At the end of December, we enjoyed a weekend away to Alton Towers for their Santa Sleepover event.
We absolutely loved the Christmas market that they had opened along Tower Street, the Santa experience was fab (and Santa had plenty of time to chat with the boys), all of the staff that we encountered were friendly and welcoming, and we just loved the theme park! Only certain areas of the park were open (CBeebies land, David Walliams land, some of the Pirate area, Hex, Pinball, and the Driving school) but it was plenty to fill a day and lots of fun.
Pro tip: If you can take the kids on a weekday then do! We went into the park on the Friday and Saturday of our stay and the difference was incredible. Whilst the Saturday was fairly crowded, on the Friday we queued for nothing, for most of the rides we were the only family riding, and it felt like we had the whole park to ourselves! In fact, the boys enjoyed ‘Raj’s Bottom Burp’ so much that the wonderful operator let them ride 4 times in a row without getting off! The following photos show just how magically empty everything was:
I try very hard to be positive, but there were some aspects of this break we didn’t enjoy: Covid compliance in the hotel was non-existent and the waterpark was crowded to the point of discomfort. We also had issues in a couple of the restaurants. For this reason, I won’t be mentioning these elements of the Santa Sleepover in my review.
With mask-wearing being required in December, we were a bit worried about the magic being ruined by Santa in a face mask: we needn’t have been concerned. The Santa experience was brilliant! Santa was warm and welcoming and had a real beard (very important to our boys!). He was sitting behind a desk and there was a glass screen on the desk for covid-reasons, but it had been set up in a way that felt really organic and natural. After being assured that the boys were good, they were directed to a stack of wooden parcels, where they opened the ‘magic doors’ to find their own gifts: a dated Alton Towers bear each.
Pro tip: If you can book the first slot of the day for Santa. We did this, and it meant we didn’t have to queue at all for this experience.
I have written a whole post about CBeebies land before: It is the perfect place for toddlers, pre-schoolers, and those in the early years of their school career. Boy5 is in year one and he is a huge Peter Rabbit fan, so he loved the Hippity Hop ride and seeing Peter’s paw prints on the walk of fame. Boy9 enjoyed riding alongside his brother, and his favourite ride was the Octonaughts coaster, but would be the first to admit he is far too old for CBeebies land now. Having said that, the land is clean, wonderfully themed, and the layout makes it easy to navigate. There are plenty of rides and attractions to enjoy, covering the whole spectrum of the CBeebies universe. Special mention to the Furchester hotel show, which is a lot of fun and which both boys genuinely enjoyed.
DAVID WALLIAMS LAND
This was our first visit to David Walliams land, and both boys really loved it! The theming is excellent and feels very true to the books(and films) and the rides are age-appropriate and a lot of fun for both the 5 year old and the 9 year old. There are four rides in total, and three of them were family rides that we could all enjoy together.
The four rides comprise of a carousel, a themed version of a twister, Raj’s bottom burp (a child-sized drop ride that farts as it goes up and down, to much small boy amusement), and Gangsta Granny ride, which is the jewel in the crown of the area, and a lot of fun. The shop is themed to Raj’s corner shop, and every detail of the mini-park has Walliams touches in it. Boy9 is a devotee of Walliams books, so visiting this area of the park was a dream come true for him, but Boy5 loved it too: would recommend it heartily for all primary school-aged children.
THE CHRISTMAS MARKET
Finally, how can I not mention the 60 stall Christmas market, which injected the whole experience with such a wonderful festive feel? We loved walking around it, and enjoyed a great lunch there too, eating Bratwurst and Churros, Hot chocolates, and an incredible venison burger. It was, without doubt, the best meal we have ever eaten in Alton Towers. Note: the prices weren’t cheap (in fact, they were eye wateringly expensive) but this is easier to tolerate when the food tastes so good.