The 2021 theme park season is now underway at Alton Towers Resort! TowersTimes visited on Monday 12th April to see what changes have been made over the winter, and check out what’s in store for the rest of the season.

Following the circulation of rumours during the last few months, the Resort last week confirmed that The Retro Squad, a collection of three retro-inspired pop-up rides, were due to land in the theme park for the 2021 season. All three attractions opened with the theme park on Monday, providing some extra ride capacity that will no doubt be welcome this season, especially during this first month while indoor attractions remain closed. The first addition is Mixtape, a Smashing Jump located in X-Sector, on the former site of Submission. Next is Roller Disco, a traditional Waltzers, located at the far end of Dark Forest. Finally, there is Funk’n’Fly, a Super Trooper found on the former site of Ripsaw in Forbidden Valley. 80’s inspired overlays have been applied to the rides, so while they may not fit in to the theme of the surrounding area, they have been tied together by a consistent theme and backstory which it seems only Alton Towers could ever pull off. Queues on opening day suggest these rides are set to prove popular throughout the season, and while they do provide additional capacity, by their nature, their throughput is limited by the time taken between each cycle and they are vulnerable to extended periods of downtime. Therefore, we hope they will serve to make the case for the addition of permanent, fully-themed flat rides in the coming few years.

After having its 2020 opening postponed, The World of David Walliams and Gangsta Granny: The Ride are also new for 2021, and set to open to guests on 17th May, when indoor attractions are permitted to re-open. A surprise additional attraction can be seen in the area, which the 2021 theme park map confirms as being Flavio’s Fabulous Fandago. This Twist ride, of a similar pop-up nature to The Retro Squad, is seemingly inspired by a character from the Gangsta Granny book. Given its integration into the new area, this raises the possibility that it is intended to have a longer lifespan in the theme park than The Retro Squad, which are understood to be for this year only. TowersTimes will be back to check out the new area and its attractions when it opens in May.

On the Front Lawns, a large stage is in-situ, with scenery and lighting installed, while food and drink outlets continue to be set up around the area. Eric The Yeti, Darwin The Dodo and Fin The Shark were greeting guests in front of the new stage, alongside their new friend, Rusty The Robot – it is understood that they are set to feature in a new show that will run once the UK moves into Step 3 of the COVID roadmap from 17th May. Alton Towers Traffic Patrol are also back with their zany and energetic antics, and are now appearing across the theme park, with us spotting them in Forbidden Valley during our visit. With an exciting line-up of events in 2021, we’re looking forward to seeing what other entertainment the Resort have planned this season!

Alongside the new attractions, a number of the existing rides and areas have received enhancements and works to refresh them over the closed season. Congo River Rapids has received additional theming in its queue line, and new mask and paddle features have also been added in the bays of the waterfalls. Therefore, despite the ride’s minimum height restriction increasing from 0.9m to 1.1m, it seems the waterfalls have been permanently switched off.

In Mutiny Bay, refurbishment work has taken place on Battle Galleons. This has included the central ship (through which the queue line is routed) being freshly painted, the queue line fencing being replaced, and fresh new sails being added to the galleons. Elsewhere, the theming surrounding Feather McLaw’s perch has been freshened up, and the facade of Sharkbait Reef has been refreshed and enhanced with new backlighting.

The Resort also continue to take steps to further improve accessibility. A notable development is the addition of a slope up to the front entrance of Duel. A new accessible toilet block has also been installed in the Gloomy Wood. The Resort have also significantly increased the information that is available online with regards to accessibility, through the use of AccessAble.

A number of the theme park’s food outlets have received refreshes and menu updates. Furthermore, given the current restrictions on indoor dining, there is a focus on outdoor seating, including marquees around the Front Lawns and outside The Burger Kitchen, and a decking area being constructed at Woodcutters Bar & Grill. The new ‘Chocolate & Waffles’ unit located towards the bottom of Towers Street is also now open for business.

Elsewhere on Towers Street, with Guest Services relocating back to its own dedicated location, the Resort Box Office exterior has received a repaint and updated signage. The theme park’s 8pm close also gave a first look at the Frog Fountains’ new lighting package, which is sure to provide a final magical moment to many guests this season, with later openings expected as part of this season’s line-up of events.

Scarefest will of course feature as one of those events, and although this year’s seasonal attractions are yet to be confirmed, changes observed around the theme park may provide an indication of what to expect. Darkest Depths appears to remain fully constructed in its new location for last year, near to The Towers and Dark Forest, but with a fence now in place around its entrance. In Forbidden Valley, the scaffold structure that housed the finale of Project 42 has now been removed, although the initial exterior section of this maze (which did not return in 2020) remains in place.