It’s the time of year when sleigh bells ring and Christmas cheer is in plentiful supply, which must mean that it’s once again time for Alton Towers Resort to host their magical Santa’s Sleepovers. Featuring a selection of Christmas experiences from festive activities, the Resort’s very own pantomime, a selection of attractions within the theme park, and of course a meet and greet with Santa himself, the Resort offers the full Christmas experience. TowersTimes were invited to take a look at 2018’s Christmas offering.

Guests visiting the Resort for a Santa’s Sleepover can enjoy one of three magical Christmas experiences depending on which accommodation they choose to stay in – Santa’s Woodland Grotto; Santa’s Festive Breakfast; or Christmas Party with Santa. Guests staying in the CBeebies Land Hotel or Alton Towers Hotel can experience Santa’s Woodland Grotto. Located in the heart of CBeebies Land, guests are greeted by Santa’s elves who guide them down Mistletoe Lane to discover Santa’s cosy grotto. There, they can meet the man himself in a personal and unique experience within a richly detailed grotto. Younger guests can also choose a toy from the grotto as well as having the opportunity to capture a memorable moment in a family photo ahead of Santa’s big day.

Families who opt to stay in Splash Landings Hotel can experience a Christmas Party with Santa. The experience begins with a festive family activity in the Splash Landings Hotel before guests are led out to the stunningly decorated Christmas Tipi. There, the fairies and elves host a special Christmas party which includes singing and dancing, as well as a visit from both Santa and Mrs. Claus. Adults can enjoy a cup of mulled wine, whilst younger guests can have a mug of hot chocolate.

Whilst last year the Tipi was located next to the Enchanted Village, as construction continues on Alton Tower’s latest accommodation offering; Stargazing Pods, this year sees it located on a section of the Splash Landings Hotel’s car-park. An effort has been made to retain the inviting outside appearance, with a set of planters helping to screen off the rest of the car-park. Whilst this year, starting the experience in the Pizza Cove area slightly lessens the immersion, this does help improve capacity and still retains the audible ‘wow’ from guests entering the Tipi. It is great to see the return of the Christmas Tipi with its unique festive offering and we look forward to seeing it return as part of the Stargazing Pods development in the new year. Once again the Resort has done a good job with both the decoration and entertainment to create a magical festive atmosphere.

Those choosing to stay in the Enchanted Village Luxury Treehouses or Alton Towers Hotel can enjoy Santa’s Festive Breakfast. Similar to the Explorer’s Santa Escape offered in 2017, guests can enjoy a breakfast feast with Mrs. Claus, songs from Santa’s elves, and a special visit from Father Christmas. There are also stories from Sir Algenon and his friends, Eric the Yeti and Darwin the Dodo, as they share tales of their adventures.

Of course it wouldn’t be Christmas without a pantomime and this year sees Alton Towers Resort take guests down the rabbit hole to Wonderland in a fun-filled production of Alice in Wonderland. With the classic story not often used as Pantomime, the Resort’s entertainment team have worked hard to put together the performance which boasts an impressive number of cast, with some strong performances from a range of familiar faces. With appearances from Alice, The Queen of Hearts, The Duchess, Lady Judie Helen Maggie Angela Julie III as the larger-than-life Dame, to classic characters Cheshire Puss, Mad Hatter and Caterpillar. The staging this year is also very impressive, especially with the constraints of the State Room, the set also provides a fantastic home for the cat, with some very creative ideas. The also provides a lovely backdrop for the Resort’s other seasonal offerings. Overall, whilst the story is a challenging choice, the panto has a good pace and some funny moments, which will entertain the whole family.

Towers Street has once again been decked out in all its festive glory, bringing the Christmas magic to the theme park. With December offering shorter days, guests also have the opportunity to see the decorations on Towers Street sparkle as hundreds of twinkling lights shine on the trees and decorations adding to the magical atmosphere. All guests who stay for a Santa’s Sleepover can enjoy a selection of rides and attractions, including CBeebies Land, Spinball Whizzer, Marauder’s Mayhem, Heave Ho!, Sharkbait Reef by SEA LIFE, Haunted Hollow and Duel – The Haunted House Strikes Back, a selection which is slightly expanded on 2017’s offering.

Whilst Haunted Hollow and Duel are located away from the rest of the winter ride offering within the theme park, both attractions have received a number of festive touches. With festive garlands added to each end of the walkthrough tunnels along Haunted Hollow, many of the gargoyles and ghouls that line the paths have gotten into the festive mood with their own Santa hats. One really nice touch is the brand new Christmas audio which has been added, with the motion triggered tomb providing a festive greeting as well as the talking gravestones of Bernard Grumblebum and Edwin Mutterson having 20 minutes of new dialogue. The zombies of Duel have also seen the appearance of Santa hats, with the internal queue line also receiving a number of festive additions. It’s really lovely to see this level of effort put into the presentation of these attractions and one that is likely to please enthusiasts and guests alike.

Although the event has received some days of bad weather and missed the stunning snowy scenes that we saw last year, the staff and teams have worked hard to ensure guests have a magical time. Overall families will be kept busy with a strong list of attractions and Christmas activities, both in the theme park and at the Resort hotels, with Alton Towers Resort putting together an action-packed stay. With CBeebies Land, Mutiny Bay, Adventure Land, Gloomy Wood and Haunted Hollow attractions available in the theme park and the inclusion of waterpark tickets also ensures there are things to do on both days at the Resort.

The hotels also offer the strongest set of entertainment of the year, with six films showing, 10 shows and meet-and-greets across Alton Towers Hotel and Splash Landings, the pantomine; Alice in Wonderland, and Sir Algenon’s Christmas Adventure Show, after Santa’s farewell, helping keep the festivities alive until late.

The pantomime, along with the rest of the festive entertainment, again highlights that whilst the Resort has the creative and technical talents to produce a strong range of shows, this is not something that guests are available to experience to the same level, either year-round or even during peak season. With many guests raising the limited range and capacity of evening entertainment, and a growing accommodation offering, how much longer can the Resort delay investment in more entertainment capacity aimed at older families and adults, both in venues and programme?

Whilst consideration would have been needed on which package to buy, the diverse range of attractions and entertainment available to all guests, does help make this a magical and complete Christmas stay and one that is sure to be memorable.

Have you visited Alton Towers Resort for a Santa’s Sleepover this year? Be sure to share your experience over on the TowersTimes and SouthParks Forum.

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