Alton Towers Resort threw open the gates to the theme park on Saturday (23rd March) for the first day of the 2019 season. TowersTimes was there to look at what was new and discover all the changes.

The Alton Towers Dungeon
*The following section may contain minor spoilers*

New for 2019 is The Alton Towers Dungeon. Located in the former home of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Ride, The Alton Towers Dungeon promises ‘A hilariously hideous journey through Staffordshire’s darkest history’. Outside, the entrance area features a range of theming, including skeletons in cages, barrels, and a sign hanging from a hangman’s stocks which doubles as a photo opportunity. The façade has been completely transformed with it now being unrecognisable from its previous incarnation.

Entrance to the Dungeon is via timed ticket, meaning there is no need to queue, however it is advisable for guests to ensure they are at the Dungeon 10-15 minutes before their slot to make sure they do not miss their time. Upon entering The Alton Towers Dungeon, guests are first invited to have their photo taken, a digital copy of which is included as part of the ticket cost. Once batched, guests are welcomed by The Steward before being sent to face justice in the court of the Dishonourable Bishop of Stafford, the first of six shows.

Regulars to any of the other five Dungeon attractions in the UK will recognise many of the shows with The Judge, The Torturer, The Highwayman, and The Plague Doctor all being a feature in at least one other Dungeon within the UK. What makes them different to all the other Dungeon attractions however is the unique Alton Towers overlay which ensures the attraction can deliver something that is different to what guests may have experienced elsewhere.

Particular highlights include The Black River boat ride which sees guests journey along the Black River encountering a variety of projections and animatronics depicting scenes of torture. Actors greet you both prior to boarding and when disembarking, helping to ensure guests remain fully immersed in the Dungeon environment and showing that the Resort have given an impressive level of consideration to the guest experience at every point. The Haunting provides a chilling finale where guests encounter the Witch of Burslem, Molly Leigh. Special effects bring the local legend to life in one of the most impressive finales of any of the six UK Dungeons.

The Alton Towers Dungeon provides the perfect balance of laughs and scares, and makes the most of its well-dressed sets, special effects, music and smells to create a fully immersive attraction. Special mention though must go to the actors who all provided strong character performances which really brought The Alton Towers Dungeon to life.

Guest feedback on opening day was almost entirely positive, which is a testament to the hard work the Resort has put in to create this attraction. The only area of confusion arose surrounding the fact that Premium Merlin Annual Passholders are required to pay for entry, whereas Premium Alton Towers Season Pass, and VIP Merlin Annual Passholders can receive one free entry per visit.

CBeebies Land – Peter Rabbit Hippity Hop
CBeebies Land has also received a new addition for 2019 with the arrival of Peter Rabbit Hippity Hop. Based on the classic Beatrix Potter characters, the ride invites guests to ‘unleash their inner rabbit’ as they help Peter and friends find Benjamin Bunny who has hidden in Mr McGregor’s garden.

The ride features several lovely little details, including a baggage hold built in the style of a vegetable rack, various gardening tools dotted around the ride area, and activities in the queue-line to keep little guests occupied whilst they wait. The ride sits nicely next to Mr Bloom’s Allotment (which has seen its queue-line area reduced) and is set to be a charming new addition to CBeebies Land which is sure to be a hit with young families.

General Park Changes
Around the theme park there have been a number of changes and improvements. Single rider queues have returned to both Spinball Whizzer and The Smiler, however at the moment The Smiler’s single rider queue is not obvious with no external signage directing people where to enter.

Congo River Rapids was not open to guests for the first day of the season, however the ride was testing throughout the day with the new style boats which were briefly seen last season. The new boats feature locking doors at the boat boarding points, and new guard rails on top of the back rests. There was no sign of the waterfalls being tested, meaning it is still unknown if these will make a return.

Over in Forbidden Valley, The Blade has received some attention during the closed season with the ride being given a complete overhaul and the boat receiving a fresh coat of paint, making it much brighter and suggesting the ride will be remaining at the Resort for the near future. Galactica has now had its virtual reality element fully removed, as a result the B&M flying coaster was operating much more efficiently throughout opening day.

Cloud Cuckoo Land has had its entrance sign removed, with just a tallow swirl on the ground indicated where it once stood. Small walls now stand either side of the entrance to the land with small toadstools installed as small theming elements on either side. In CBeebies Land, Nina’s Science Lab has become the first attraction to be removed with a sign on the door of the former attraction indicating it is being transformed into a sensory room.

One of the best elements of the opening day of the season was the entertainment on Towers Street at both the start and end of the day. Sir Algenon, Alton Bear, and the Alton Towers Traffic Patrol welcomed guests to the 2019 season with a special opening ceremony at the turnstiles, something which was a great unexpected touch. The Alton Towers Traffic Patrol continued to entertain guests as they entered the park and again as they left the park at the end of the day. Alton Bear also bid farewell to guests as they departed the theme park. It was good to see additional characters make an appearance on Towers Street and is something that created numerous positive interactions with guests which enhanced their experience at the beginning and end of the day. It would be great to see these characters make appearances throughout the season and potentially lead to an expansion of the entertainment offering across the theme park outside of CBeebies Land.

Food and Beverage
There have also been several changes to the food and beverage offering across the theme park. In X-Sector, Fried Chicken Co. has been rebranded to Just Chicken and now features a new menu, including the Donut Chicken Burger. The unit at the base of the Rehydrator has been re-opened as a Donut Factory, offering a range of donuts with a variety of toppings which is similar to the Donut Factory located at Thorpe Park Resort.

Pizza and Pasta has also received some attention over closed season with new signage being added to the building exterior. Inside, guests now pay at a counter when they enter the restaurant and tables are already set with cutlery and napkins. There is a new dessert offering in the form of an ice cream machine with chocolate, butterscotch and strawberry sauce options.

The Burger Kitchen in Cloud Cuckoo Land has received an exterior repaint during the closed season with it now having a colour scheme more inkeeping with its new neighbour, The Alton Towers Dungeon.

Over by Wicker Man, the Costa Coffee hut has been demolished. Costa Coffee and Ice Creams are now available from what used to be the HB Leisure games stall which has been fully re-fitted as a food and beverage unit.

Merchandise
During the closed season the lower section of Towers Trading has been transformed, and now features a bright and cheerful décor for the wide selection of sweet treats on offer. With its bright colours and patterns, the area has an almost Willy Wonka theatrical feel which livens up the Resort’s main retail outlet.

Elsewhere in Towers Trading there is a wide selection of new merchandise. Guests can now design their own personalised souvenirs via a machine which offers a choice of keyrings, magnets, notebooks, frames and cups. New clothing has been introduced with a mixture of generic designs, some additions to the Wicker Man range of clothing, and a new range of ‘Vs’ t-shirts, each of which feature two of the Resort’s rollercoasters. There is a selection of new pin badges to choose from, including one for Nemesis’ 25th birthday and a Power of the Towers badge.

To tie in with the opening of The Alton Towers Dungeon, a range of Dungeons merchandise has arrived. At the moment most of the merchandise is generic across all of Merlin Entertainments’ Dungeon attractions, however hopefully we’ll see more merchandise specific to The Alton Towers Dungeon later in the season.

Operations throughout opening day were generally good, with the only ride experiencing significant downtime being Spinball Whizzer. Enterprise also remained closed for the entirety of the day, with there being no indication if the ride would be able to open in the near future. The good weather and reasonably busy crowds helped create a great atmosphere around the theme park, something which will hopefully indicate 2019 will be a successful one for Alton Towers Resort.

Did you visit Alton Towers Resort for the first weekend of the season? Make sure you share your experiences over on the TowersTimes and SouthParks Forum. With the new season now fully underway, TowersTimes will be sure to bring you all the latest news.

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