Alton Towers Resort re-opened to the public for the first time in 2020 on Saturday, 6th June with the historic Gardens available for guests to enjoy. TowersTimes was there to take in the beautiful scenery of the Gardens, as well as look at what changes the Resort are implementing as part of their preparations for a full re-opening of the theme park, which is expected to be from 4th July.

Upon arriving at the Resort, guests are directed to the Coach Park and are assigned a parking space by a member of staff. On the entrance plaza, signage is in place indicating where a queue should be formed, and spatial markers have been installed on the floor showing visitors where they should stand to maintain social distancing. A tent has also been erected on the plaza, where guests have their temperature and bags checked before heading through the turnstiles. All staff at the Resort have been provided with PPE, and while face coverings are not a requirement for guests, there were a number of visitors who chose to wear one for their own peace of mind.

Once in the theme park, guests are greeted by a vibrant looking Towers Street, which as a celebration of the Resort’s 40th birthday has been decorated with colourful bunting. The refill quencher unit adjacent to Towers Trading has been rebranded to Coke Freestyle, which has been introduced this year but is not yet available. Further health & safety signage has been installed along the length of Towers Street and on the information boards across the park.

In Mutiny Bay, the Pirate Treats kiosk is open, serving cold snacks as well as a range of hot and cold drinks, with card payments only being accepted, and contactless payment preferred. Social distancing markers have been placed on the floor in front of the unit, although these appear to be a temporary solution as the heavy rain, mixed with visitors walking over them, meant that by the end of the day they become faded. The toilets in the Mutiny Bay Courtyard are available, with social distancing markings and signage present once inside. The toilets at Admissions are unavailable, despite it being mentioned on the Resort website that they would be open. Opposite Wicker Man, a second Coke Freestyle unit has been installed named ‘Refresh & Refill’, advertising over 100 flavours and infinite combinations, Coke Freestyle will certainly be a popular addition to the Resort’s food & beverage options.

The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the decision to open the Gardens, has given fans of the Resort an opportunity to explore arguably the most beautiful area of the 550-acre site. Laid out by the 15th Earl of Shrewsbury, Charles Talbot, over 150 years ago, the Gardens are home to many hidden gems that are usually missed by visitors to the Resort. Perhaps the highlight of the Gardens is the Pagoda fountain, which following an extensive restoration in 2017 has recently been made operational again, shooting a spire of water high into the sky above the tranquil greenery.

Another key feature is the Grand Conservatory, which dates from approximately 1820. Designed for the Earl by Robert Abraham, the Conservatory is grade II listed and is widely considered to be one of, if not the most impressive feature of the Gardens. The Conservatory has also undergone major restoration works over recent years, with a total of £1.9m being spent on its renovation. Other key features of the Gardens include the recently restored Prospect Tower, the iconic Yew Arches and the Bath Fountain.

With the theme park expected to reopen from 4th July, work is well underway to prepare the rides and attractions to receive guests again. Dark Forest, Forbidden Valley, Fountain Square, Gloomy Wood, Katanga Canyon and X-Sector are all blocked off and unavailable to visitors. The 2020 park map is in place, and signage around the park has been updated to include both The World of David Walliams and Gangsta Granny: The Ride, both of which have had their opening delayed to Spring 2021.

Social distancing markers are in the process of being placed in queue lines, although these once again appear to be a temporary solution. It remains to be seen whether more permanent fixtures will be in place when the theme park re-opens. Numerous sanitising stations have been placed around the park, alongside additional hand-wash basins. Numerous vending machines have been upgraded to accept contactless payments, and a sign outside Towers Trading has been installed encouraging guests to ‘Shop together, pay at the till together’. In line with government guidance, the flagship store remains closed.

The Alton Towers Gardens are open on a limited capacity basis between 10am and 4pm each day, with last entry at 2pm. Those wishing to visit will need to pre-book their ticket online. Adult tickets cost £12, children £5, whilst those with a Merlin Annual Pass and Alton Towers Season Pass will just need to pay a £1 booking fee. Parking is free for all guests.

Will you be paying a visit to the Resort’s historic Gardens, or are you waiting until the Resort opens in full? Make sure to share your thoughts over on the Attraction Source Forum.

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