How to make sure you beat the queues and get on ALL the rides at Alton Towers in 1 visit

Last modified on Friday 27 October 2023

Alton Towers rides

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Joanna Lovell and family visited the UK's biggest theme park in Staffordshire and have all the insider tips for the getting on all the rides

The thing our family loves most about Alton Towers is the fact it caters for everyone, from toddlers to teens and even us parents!

I've been taking my children, now 12 and 9, to Alton Towers since CBeebies Land – the ultimate park for toddlers –first opened in 2014.

We've spent SO many happy hours there, driving Postman Pat's van, sailing on an In The Night Garden Boat and riding through the trees on the Set Go Tree Top Adventure.

The Octonauts was the first 'rollercoaster' my children ever went on and it wasn't long before we progressed to the mid-age rides, including the river rapids, Duel and runaway mine train.

And with Scarefest (until 31 October) AND the Ultimate Fireworks Spectacular coming this autumn, there are EVEN MORE reasons to head to Alton Towers this season.

Kids rollercoaster
The Octonauts is a child's rollercoaster

What's good at Alton Towers this autumn?

On October’s spookiest dates, tiptoe into my favourite theme park for all sorts of creepy scares and shocks as their Halloween spectacular, Scarefest returns with live entertainment for all ages and 'spooktacular' scare experiences for thrill-seeking fans. 

The park's open until 9pm from 13-31 October, meaning even more time to make the most of those thrilling rides; AND the chance to ride rollercoasters AFTER DARK!

There's also the brilliant Alton Towers Fireworks spectacular running between 3 and 5 November, which offers guests the chance to stay late in the park and enjoy late-night rides as well as the fireworks show.

Alton Towers is our 'happy place' with many memories made

But these days it's the big rollercoasters my children are most interested in, and on our latest trip, my 9-year-old daughter was straight on the Smiler – an 18-loop rollercoaster – making the 'baby rides' seem a distant memory.

So in a lot of ways Alton Towers has become our 'happy place' as our kids have grown up and graduated to bigger rides, providing endless memories along the way.

But the one thing that puts me off massive theme parks is the queues. There's nothing worse than paying for theme park tickets and not having enough time to get on all the rides in 1 day.

Thankfully, there are ways to ensure you don't miss out...

Ride at Alton Towers
Marauder's Mayham ride at Alton Towers

10 ways to avoid the queues at Alton Towers

Our family of 5 visited during the most recent school holidays and despite not getting into the park until 12noon (due to an M62 crash) – we got on absolutely everything with minimal queuing before it closed at 6pm.

So, what's the best way to make sure you get on everything you want to? Here are my top tips...

1. Get the fast passes

Yes, it's going to cost more, but try and see this as part of your park ticket cost, rather than an 'extra' cost.

If you're visiting on a weekend or during school holidays and you like the big rides, fast passes are more of an essential than a luxury – get yours here.

We got the Gold fast passes which gave us each 1 queue-jump pass on 14 attractions. You literally don't need anything else.

We got on every single one of the big rides during our 1-day visit.

And if when you arrive at a ride there isn't a big queue, don't waste a fast pass. Join the usual queue and save your fast pass for another go later on when it's busier.

Theme park train
The Runaway Minetrain is a family favourite

2. Beat the crowds

It might sound really obvious, but get there early!

The park opens (to everyone) an hour before the rides open, so take advantage of this and be an early bird.

Throughout the year the park has different opening times, so check what time the park opens on the day of your visit. Also find out what time the monorail from the car parks opens, and get there well in advance of that.

If there's a huge queue for the monorail, consider walking into the park instead. When we visited the wait time was 35 minutes, but the walk was 10-15 minutes, so it was a no-brainer to ditch the queue and get walking.

Check the Alton Towers park opening times.

3. Make a plan in advance

Before you go, look at the rides online – there are more than 40 rides and attractions in the park. Get the kids to choose the top 3 or 4 rides they each want to go on and have a look at the park map to work out how you'll get round them all. That way, you're not wasting time on the day going backwards and forwards.

It also means that you don't leave getting on all the rides you want to chance.

ride in a theme park
Fly face down on the Galactica ride

4. Don't follow the crowds

When most people arrive at a theme park, they will naturally walk around the park in a clockwise direction, which means there's always a crowd.

If you get there early, walk straight to the back of the park and start at the point many don't, then walk round anti-clockwise.

5. Download the app

Not only can you use the Alton Towers app as a map for getting around the park and looking at the rides, but it will give you the queue length in real time.

If you see that one of the rides you definitely want to go on has a 'good' queue time, then head over straight away.

Keep an eye on the app all day. Some of the bigger rides have to close for maintenance or due to weather conditions and the app will tell you which are open and which are closed.

We timed it just right with The Smiler after seeing it had just reopened on the app with a queue time of 5 minutes. We were just around the corner so we quickly went to it and pretty much got straight on it without using a fast pass.

Use the ‘My Plan’ within the free Alton Towers Resort App to help you build your ultimate day out.

Ride at theme park
We loved the Wickerman ride

6. Wear comfy shoes

Alton Towers is huge and you will do a lot of walking. Make sure you can maximise your time without getting tired out by wearing comfy clothes and shoes. Otherwise you'll want to leave early and miss valuable rider time!

7. Understand what the 'closing time' really means

Did you know that the advertised close time is the time the ride queue lines will typically close on many of the rides? It's not the time you have to leave!

So getting into a queue a few minutes before this time will ensure you get that all-important last ride of the day.

8. Stay overnight

One day simply isn't enough at a resort of this size, so we made a short break out of our trip.

If, for example, you're visiting the theme park for 1 day and the waterpark the next, I'd recommend doing the waterpark on the first day, then staying over, so you're already onsite bright and early the next morning to get into the theme park and make the most of the rides.

This way, you avoid travelling time and motorway delays. During our visit, the theme park closed at 6pm, but the water park was open until 8pm, so it wouldn't matter if we had arrived in the afternoon for the waterpark visit.

9. Eat outside the busiest times

Dining outside of the peak lunchtime hours of 12pm – 2pm can help you avoid a wait for food and mean more ride time. So you ride while most people eat!

For the ultimate theme park food experience, head to the Rollercoaster Restaurant in Forbidden Valley where your food is served via a series of twists and turns along the track above your head.

During busier times, such as school holidays, the restaurant is walk-up only – so no need to book!

10. Check the rainy day guarantee

Did you know you can get a FREE return trip to Alton Towers when the weather affects the ride offering during your visit?

A list of 'rainy dates' is added to the Alton Towers website, so if it rains during your trip, simply check if your date qualifies.

Then, re-book your tickets using this link, which will cost nothing. Simply arrive with your original booking confirmation and your new date will be authorised when you arrive!

Alton Towers hotel
Alton Towers Hotel

Advantages of staying over

If you stay over at an Alton Towers hotel, the fun continues with evening entertainment.

The Alton Towers resort has plenty of accommodation with 3 hotels, plus an Enchanted Village with a choice of woodland lodges or stargazing pods.

Each overnight break includes a free breakfast, which we used as brunch to save us splurging on lunch in the park. Plus there's free car parking which saves you £10 and a free round of extraordinary golf – which I can honestly say is the best mini golf course we've ever experienced!

Enchanted village

We stayed in a lodge in the Enchanted Village and I can't recommend it enough as an alternative to a hotel stay.

The lodges are so cute and quirky, all set in woodland, so the kids can play outside.

The village has such a nice holiday feel to it and makes a lovely change from checking into a big hotel where your bedroom always seems to be at the end of a long corridor!

The lodges are fairly basic, but they're clean, comfortable, warm and cosy and easily fit a family of 5.

Each lodge has a main bedroom, separate bathroom, and a kids' room which has a triple bunk bed.

There's Wifi, a TV, tea and coffee making facilities and towels are provided.

A bit like Center Parcs, you'll park your car near your lodge to unload, with no cars allowed directly outside the lodges to make it safer for the kids, then you'll take your car back to the main car park where it's parked overnight.

A woodland village
The Enchanted Village at the Alton Towers hotel

Where to eat?

The Crooked Spoon is the on-site restaurant for the Enchanted Village, but the accommodation is close enough to walk to either the Splash Landings or Alton Towers hotel if you prefer to eat there instead.

The choice is vast, the portions are large and we enjoyed a lovely family meal there. Expect hotel prices here, it's not cheap, but it is on site so you can walk to it without the need for taxis and it's good food.

Stay all day at Splash landings waterpark

A visit to Alton Towers isn't complete without visiting the Splash Landings waterpark. A ticket to Alton Towers Theme Park does not include Waterpark entry. Buy individual Waterpark tickets online to guarantee the best prices.

Firstly, you're going to need 20p for the lockers!

The best thing about Splash Landings is that there is NO time limit, so you can literally stay ALL DAY, for the same price. I can't think of anywhere else that allows that.

The waterpark has both indoor and outdoor pools and different areas for different ages of children.

Our kids loved the lazy river and the awesome Master Blaster water coaster which takes you – via a double rubber ring – around the whole Waterpark at speed.

My personal favourite was the interactive Rush and Rampage slide where you get to choose the music and colours, making it very different every time, despite being the same slide!

We actually found our fantastic 2-day mini break wasn't enough and my kids are already busy planning their next visit!

* Joanna Lovell was a guest of Alton Towers. All views are her own.

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