Alton Towers, the UK's most popular theme park, boasts a huge line-up of rides and attractions. This includes a diverse selection of major roller coasters, several dark rides and a variety of child-friendly attractions. But which are the best?
Last year, we launched our extensive theme park guides. Since then, hundreds of readers have rated and reviewed attractions at Alton Towers, providing a unique glimpse into which are the most highly-regarded among theme park fans. As we're focusing on Alton Towers as our "Park of the Month" for June, in this article we run-down the top 5 rides at the park, as rated by Theme Park Tourist readers.
5. Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back!
In 2002, Alton Towers opted to revamp its ageing Haunted House ride. Retaining the spooky exterior and the people-mover ride system, it added a new laser gun system and renamed the attraction as Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back!. The backstory revolves around the disappearance of a genetic surgeon who once lived at the house, who appears to have left behind an army of gun-wielding zombies.
Guests are challenged to blast the undead back into the grave, by shooting at glowing green and orange targets. Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back! is one of the best family rides at Alton Towers, with the added bonus of having a high capacity that ensures long queues are rare. Kids and adults alike will have a great time blasting away at the targets, and the re-ride value is incredibly high due to the challenge of trying to top your best score (or that of your partner / sibling / children/ friends!). The main downside is the sheer number of targets, which detracts somewhat from the underlying plot of trying to shoot zombies.
Full details: Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back! guide
Installed in 2005 at a cost of £8 million, Rita sprawls across the Dark Forest area of Alton Towers. The Intamin accelerator coaster's opening launch section fires riders up to a top speed of 62 miles per hour in just 2.2 seconds, sending them careening around a series of high-speed corners and hills.
Rita is very similar in style to Stealth at Thorpe Park, which we rate as one of the UK’s best roller coasters. However, whereas part of the thrill of riding Stealth comes from being blasted up a 205-feet-tall tower and plummeting back to earth, Rita’s height is severely constrained by the planning restrictions applied to Alton Towers. A number of other twists and turns are designed to compensate for this, and do so to some degree. Despite the opening of Thirteen in 2010, readers rate Rita as the strongest coaster in the Dark Forest area, but a notch below classics such as Nemesis and Oblivion.
Full details: Rita guide
When it opened back in 2002, Air was the world's first Bolliger & Mabillard Flying Coaster. Guests board the ride in a seated position, but the seats rotate to leave them facing the ground before the ride enters its opening lift hill. After plunging down its first drop and a 180-degree bend, they then twist and turn around an undulating circuit featuring several inversions.
Air is still the only ride of its type in the UK, and its innovative ride system really does offer a spectacular feeling of flight. More than a decade after its debut, it still draws large crowds, although it hasn't attained the same legendary status as nearby Nemesis. The most disappointing aspect of Air is the dull second half of the circuit, which is exacerbated by the total absence of theming around the ride. Surely a ride that simulates flying should offer guests a flight "over" something more than blades of grass and the occasional patch of concrete? Nevertheless, Air is still one of the stand-out rides in the park’s line-up.
Full details: Air guide
Oblivion was another "world's first" roller coaster for Alton Towers back in 1998, in this case the world's first vertical drop roller coaster. It still dominates the futuristic X-Sector area of Alton Towers, with its steep lift hill and screaming riders. The ride hits a top speed of 68 miles per hour at the base of the drop, and then races around a wide bend before hitting the brakes at the end of a short 1,222-feet circuit.
The major criticism aimed at Oblivion is that its circuit is simply too short to rival other major coasters, including other B&M Dive Machines such as SheiKra at Busch Gardens Tampa. We don’t agree with this assessment – what Oblivion lacks in lengthy and variety, it makes up through the sheer strength of its terrifying, adrenaline-rush-inducing first drop. Anything that was added afterwards would simply be an anti-climax.
Full story: Oblivion
When it opened back in 1994, Nemesis was a statement of intent from Alton Towers. The popular family destination was determined to transform itself into a world-class theme park, and it started that process by installing the first B&M Inverted Coaster in Europe. It has since become one of the world's most highly-regarded coasters, regularly featuring in "top 10" lists put together by enthusiasts - and being rated as Alton Towers #1 attraction by Theme Park Tourist's readers.
Upon leaving the station, the train climbs to the top of Nemesis' lift hill, which peaks just below the tree line. It then turns 90 degrees and descends into the valley below, hitting a top speed of 50 miles per hour. Following the first drop are a barrel roll, downwards helix and inline twist, leading up to an intense vertical loop. The ride finishes with a further barrel roll before returning to the station.
The first of Alton Towers’ major roller coasters, Nemesis is still by far the best. The ride’s strength is its use of its setting, with riders able to see the ground rushing close beneath their feet. This makes the coaster seem much faster than it actually is, making perfect use of the inverted coaster format.
Full details: Nemesis guide
And one more...
With The Smiler only having opened last week, there hasn't been time yet for many of our readers to rate and review it. But rest assured, the 14-inversion beast looks set to be one of the park's headliners for many years to come.
Full details: The Smiler guide
What are your favourites?
Disagree with the rankings above? Let us know what your favourite Alton Towers rides and attractions are by adding your own ratings and reviews.