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Nemesis at Alton Towers

Alton Towers and Thorpe Park are no doubt two of the largest and finest theme parks in the world. Many people, myself included, would name these two as the top duo in the UK. The only question is - which is better?

Both parks are part of the Merlin Entertainments Group chain, the second largest operator of attractions worldwide. Despite this connection, the parks have significantly different histories.

Alton Towers began its life over 200 years ago as a neo-gothic country house with lavish gardens, home to the Earl of Shrewsbury. In the 1970s it began its transformation into the theme park we know today; over the last half century rides have been added at a steady pace building up what is now a fantastic collection of attractions.

Thorpe Park, on the other hand, began its life just 40 years ago as a gravel pit, eventually being reused as a small family amusement park and farm. In 1998 it was bought by Tussauds (since acquired by Merlin) and thus began a major conversion. In the past 14 years we have seen millions being invested almost every year, including the addition of five world class roller coasters, and the park can now compete with almost other theme park in the world.

Roller Coasters

Nemesis

Nemesis continues to be a big draw at Alton Towers.

The biggest draw for any theme park is often its collection of roller coasters, and so it is right that it is the major factor in determining just how good (or bad) a park is. The tricky thing here, though, is that there’s very little to separate Alton Towers and Thorpe Park.

If we include this year’s addition to Thorpe Park, The Swarm, both sides have five big roller coasters. Comparisons can be drawn between certain similar roller coasters; Nemesis and Nemesis Inferno, Rita and Stealth, but it makes more sense to look at them overall.

Personally, I feel that Alton Towers just edges it in this category, mainly because it is home to by far the best individual coaster - inverted Nemesis. The weakest coaster in the park's line-up, Thirteen, simply doesn’t stand up to any of Thorpe Park’s collection, while flying coaster Air doesn’t quite provide the thrills that the others deliver. Launch coaster Rita, however, packs a mighty punch; very little separates it from Thorpe Park's Stealth, while Oblivion is by far the most terrifying of any of them.

Despite the the consistency of Thorpe Park's line-up (with classics such as Nemesis Inferno, Stealth, Colossus and SAW - The Ride),it can't quite match the big-hitters over at its sister park. It must be considered, however, that The Swarm looks to be potentially Thorpe Park’s best creation yet, and this could swing the ball in its favour.

Winner: Alton Towers

Thrill Rides

Rush

Rush is just one of the impressive line-up of thrill rides at Thorpe Park.

It’s no surprise which parks wins this one, and there are good reasons why. Thorpe Park has very little land to play with, and as a result it makes the sense that it installs major thrill rides with small surface areas. In contrast, Alton Towers has masses of space to work, but suffers from severe planning restrictions, with many flat rides exceeding its ceiling height of 65 feet.

As of this year, with Enterprise and Submission closed for the construction of the SW7 roller coaster, Alton Towers has just two flat rides; Blade, a swinging ship, and Ripsaw, a Top Spin. Although the latter of the two is thrilling, it is rarely open, and Blade is enjoyable, but no better than most swinging ships.

At the other end of the spectrum, Thorpe Park hosts seven thrilling flat rides. Two of these, Quantum and Zodiac, are not up to much, one an Enterprise and the other a Flying Carpet, but the other five pack a hefty wallop. Detonator is a small drop tower at 115ft, but is one of the most intense I have experienced on account of pneumatic rams forcing the car down. Rush, the Screamin’ Swing, is forceful and fun. Samurai, a Top Scan, is brutally intense, as is the Sky Swat Slammer, and Vortex rounds up the group, providing "airtime" aplenty.

Winner: Thorpe Park

Family Rides and Shows

Alton Towers' Sharkbait Reef aquarium is popular with families.

If you have young children it becomes apparent quite quickly that Thorpe Park is not really the place to be; sure, there a few rides for the little ones, but the park is aimed primarily at teenagers and young adults. The 4-D cinema Time Voyagers is perfectly enjoyable, as are the Flying Fish coaster and Logger’s Leap water rides, but it ends there really. Rumba Rapids is quite poor, much weaker than Alton’s lengthy Congo River Rapids, and Storm Surge is hideously out of place and very short. The real shame is that X:\ No Way Out, Thorpe’s bizarre backwards in the dark coaster, has a height limit of 1. 40 metres; it is not at all scary and could’ve been a hit with younger children.

Alton Towers also hostsa flume ride, which is one of the longest of its kind, and the aforementioned rapids ride. Add on top of this a couple of great family coasters - Sonic Spinball (a brilliant Maurer spinner), and the Runaway Mine Train  (a fun powered Mack coaster). Blade, the swinging ship, has a height limit of just 0.9 metres and thus is a great ride for all the family and Hex, a Vekoma Madhouse, is one of the finest attractions worldwide with its entertaining backstory.

In terms of shows, there aren’t a huge number at either park. Thorpe Park’s arenais usually home to a stunt show, which is generally very fun, while Alton Towers usually offers a show or two for the little ones. The Staffordshire park also hoststhe Sealife Aquarium Sharkbait Reef, which is really very enjoyable and lets you get hands-on with the some of the animals. The sheer number of quality family attractions hands this category to Alton Towers.

Winner: Alton Towers

Atmosphere

Alton Towers'; gardens are often overlooked by visitors.

As a result of Alton Towers' grandiose history there is a wonderful air to the park; many of the rides are nestled within trees and there is none of the overcrowded feel that many major parks suffer from. On top of this, most of the attractions have brilliant theming, particularly Nemesis and Hex and this means that guestsare constantly submerged in a fantasy environment.

Thorpe Park also boasts some very good theming in places; Saw - The Ride and Nemesis Inferno have very extensive and detailed stations, but where it falls down is the general atmosphere of the park. You can’t blame it for being in a disused gravel pit, but it certainly puts it a step behind Alton Towers. Also, the hordes of youths that flock there are notorious for causing trouble; often smoking and jumping in the queues. Overall Thorpe Park is taking baby steps in the right direction, but Alton Towers is still far ahead in atmosphere.

Winner: Alton Towers

Extras

So far I have just taken into account the theme park side of each resort, but the truth of course is that whilst Thorpe Park offers no more than the park, its northern relative goes far beyond this as the home to two hotels and an indoor water park. Perhaps this is slightly unfair as there is very little room for expansion on Thorpe Park’s lake, but for anyone planning on visiting one of the two it is definitely a factor to consider. The entirety of the Alton Towers resort makes it at least a two day job, and with the recently improved restaurants in the main hotel and the innovative crazy golf course, the Towers can become a miniature holiday of sorts. Even without explanation it’s very obvious that Alton storms this category.

Winner: Alton Towers

The Verdict

Taking just the big roller coasters and rides into account, it is clear that Alton Towers and Thorpe Park both have a lot to offer. However, taking all the other factors into account, it becomes apparent that Alton Towers is the finer theme park currently. Thorpe Park simply can’t match that historical beauty of the Towers, and it really needs some tender loving care to create a more enjoyable, friendly tone.

What has taken these parks to the next level in recent times has been their willingness to invest; other top UK contenders such as Chessington World of Adventures (also a Merlin park) and Blackpool Pleasure Beach have spent very little in the last decade and as a result have fallen behind. Thorpe Park has been investing at a quicker rate than Alton Towers, and if it can keep that up over the next decade or so, I see no reason as to why Thorpe Park can’t eventually overtake its sister park, but for now Alton Towers' crown is safe.

Champion: Alton Towers

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Comments

I agree if you look at just the quality of the rides alton towers wins but i think you need to incorporate the price into your assessment.

defiantly alton towers! evn now with the smiler, it is much better

I think that Thorpe Park is for the thrill seekers of the family, Alton Towers is for an all round family trip and Chessington is for the younger families. Me being a thrill seeker, I just prefer the trill rides at Thorpe.

Personally, I have to disagree here, although I think it is down to personal taste. Plus, some of the things you have posted here are now outdated.

I just got back from an overnight stay at Thorpe Park today, and it was brilliant. The Crash Pad; Thorpe Park's accomodation; is small, but lives up to its expectations, and has up to date facilities, with a flatscreen tv, extremely comfortable beds, a wetroom, and enough items to make your stay comfortable. For the little extra money, it is definitely worth paying to stay in. As we arrived yesterday; they were testing the fire alarms as they do every monday, which meant that we couldnt stay in our room until 5. However, this was no problem to us, but to say sorry, they gave us a free fasttrack for any ride in the park! This we found incredibly good, and the level of care they gave us was fantastic - they were so friendly, and they definitely made us feel welcome.

X:// no way out has now been renamed X, and the height limit has been lowered to 1m, so now younger children can ride it. I rode it four times, and all the children that went on it before and after me looked like they'd had so much fun!

All of The Swarm's themeing now works, including fire balls exploding from the fire engine, which for me personally definitely added to the experience! For 2013, The Swarm have turned the two back rows around, so you can experience the entire ride backwards! I rode it backwards, and for me it just makes the ride that bit better, as it was so unique. Also for 2013, a new near-miss has been added - the billboard. Personally, I think this was one of the best parts about this ride, as first you go straight through it, and then you go underneath it. I find the billboard very clever, as on it was once a spot treatment advert, and the slogan was 'Don't Lose Your Head' - however now the hole has been put through it, thats all you can see, and since you really feel like on that part of the ride you will lose your head it is very clever! For me, the whole atmosphere of The Swarm is amazing, as they have put so much effort into making it feel like war really has evolved.

Also, I have to partly disagree with you on the themeing of everywhere else in the park. Yes, they could of done with impoving the feeling of the area where saw/colossus is, but in certain area's the theming is amazing - the best themeing has to be the Amity Boardwalk. Most of the rides fit together, and the way they've even made what looks like small houses is good. The outsides of the restaurants fit in perfectly, with KFC having a shark straight through the roof!

I understand what you mean about the family attractions, but then at the end of the day, Thorpe Park is less of a family day out, and more of a day out for a group of Adrenaline Junkies. Having said that, there is a few activities for children, but I say if you want a day where the whole family can have fun, go to Alton Towers or Legoland - unless your kids are into rollercoasters.

For me, Thorpe Park has to win it, but then thats my personal opinion.

at school we are having Curriculum Enrichment Day and i have many different choices but i decided i like two of them Alton Towers and Thorpe Park,I've been to Thorpe Park once before but didn't really get the chance to go on all the rides because we didn't really know what was about and what there was but i was asking for your advice what theme park would you suggest me going to

yours sincerely

Jade Shing

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