Thursday 5 August 2010

alton towers - user review

After trying endlessly to get a cheap last-minute deal for our summer holiday, we've decided to holiday in the UK this year. We realised that there's been loads of things that we've wanted to do at the weekends. So for two weeks, we're doing all the weekend-y things we've never got round to.

So far we've had a lovely day at Chatsworth in Derbyshire (best cream-teas around), next week we're going to see a show and various exhibitions in London, and yesterday we went to Alton Towers - we've been on about that since we got together, so that's been seven years coming!

We booked our tickets online the day before, so we got 20% discount off the on-the-door prices - and the disabled/carer ticket prices are pretty reasonable, anyway.

On the whole Alton Towers does try to do right by disabled people. Blue badge holders get free parking close to the entrance (I was shocked to realise that 'normals' have to pay £5 - shouldn't that be included in the ticket price??) and if you take your blue badge to the ticket booth, they give you a red wristband (blue for carers), enabling you to queue-jump.

This takes a bit of getting used to - it goes against the English obsession with queues and fair-play - but this was brilliant, especially if you're like me, and standing still for long periods brings on fatigue.

The signs for the disabled access points are sometimes a bit hidden. So there were a couple of times we were halfway to the front of a 'priority queue', only to be told to go back round a quicker route. NOTE - The disabled entrance for most rides is through the exit - so you have to get past disoriented people who have just come off!

I'd forgotten how bloody massive the park is - we eventually twigged that we could get around pretty well using the Cable Cars between sections. And it was often difficult to know where you were and where you were headed - a few extra signs here and there wouldn't go amiss!

The main issue I had was the lack of seated areas, other than the caf├ęs and eateries. I don't know if this because of an assumption that DISABLED means WHEELCHAIR and I know I'm lucky that (so far) this isn't an issue I've had to deal with.

But there is really NOWHERE to sit to have a rest for five minutes. Unless you're a smoker, in which case there are a few benches scattered around. And as I'm a typical ex-smoker (i.e. really intolerant of anyone smoking in my vicinity), that's not ideal.
And as an aside - if you see someone walking towards you using a walking stick, give 'em a bit of space! Jesus, the only place I've been where people made an obvious effort to give me some space was New York - in the UK it's almost like a homing-beacon for mouth-breathing idiot children. Phew, rant over.
So we had a really good day and Alton Towers has really tried to make itself nice and accessible for everyone. Without the queue-jumping wristbands, we probably wouldn't have gone at all - it would have been too much for me to stand for that long (some queues were 50 minutes!). They really did make it possible for us to have a great day - plus we managed to go on all of the most popular rides in a fairly short period of time.

I think we're going to send the park an email with just some gentle suggestions of how they can make it better for everyone.

This weekend we're going to the National Museum of Computing - let's see how they do!