Hi guys. Today was an exciting day; it was the day of my first post-lockdown theme park visit! The lucky park was Alton Towers; it just had to be! The very first theme park I visited and my comfortable favourite within the UK seemed like a pretty good place to welcome me back to theme parks after 4 months of being locked indoors; I couldn’t wait to get back into the park and get back on some of my favourite attractions! Before I get too rambly & sentimental, let’s start my report of the day right back at the start. We got to the park at about 10am and made our way to the entrance to get checked before entry. The social distancing measures worked very well at the entrance, and with you being organised into specific queue lines, I’d even say I found entry easier than under normal procedures; fantastic work, Alton Towers! It was already nice seeing this wonderful view again, and after a really positive entry experience under the new measures, I was starting to feel like today was going to be great: After entering, we headed down to our first ride. We were initially thinking Wicker Man, but everyone else was clearly thinking Wicker Man as well, because it had a 120 minute queue. So we instead headed to... Nemesis Nemesis was listed as a 0 minute queue, so naturally we were drawn to it. A perk of the social distancing era at Alton Towers is that you get some really cool views of rides from places you've never seen before; Nemesis was sending us up through sections of queue not used since the 1990s! I didn't have my phone on me, unfortunately, but it was certainly cool to look at! But how was the ride? Well, it was very good, as Nemesis always is, packing some very good forces within a unique layout! However, I didn't think it seemed quite as relentless as usual, and it did seem a little bit more rattly than usual as well; the headbashing through some of the inversions did seem quite prevalent today, unfortunately. I wouldn't have said Nemesis was rough by any means, and I still very much enjoyed it, but it did certainly take away from the experience a little for me, and I do think it's slipped down a bit in my personal rankings, unfortunately. It would seem I forgot to take a picture of Nemesis; sorry about that, guys! After our ride on Nemesis, we decided to try the other B&M in Forbidden Valley, which was on a 50 minute queue... Galactica Galactica was on a pretty short queue, and we were right next to it, so we thought we may as well join. I hadn't ridden Galactica since September 2018, and I have always enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to getting back on it. So, how was the ride? Well, I must say I really enjoyed Galactica, and I think it grows on me every time I ride it! It was blissfully smooth, and while not inherently intense, actually felt as though it packed fair pace through its course! The inversions were just lovely, and on the whole, while Galactica may not be the most intense coaster in the world, I just find it an utter joy to ride, and I thoroughly enjoyed it today; dare I say it, but I think I may actually have enjoyed it more than Nemesis: After our lovely ride on Galactica, we headed out of Forbidden Valley. I actually took a detour down the new path that Alton Towers have opened up due to the one-way system in place so that I could get some perspectives of Wicker Man that I haven't seen since the coaster was under construction in 2017: This detour was on the way to our next ride... Runaway Mine Train Runaway Mine Train did not have too long of a wait, so we decided to give it a go. The queue did admittedly look long, stretching just past the Pizza & Pasta sign, but it thankfully didn't end up being too bad. One difference on Runaway Mine Train compared to my usual rides on it is that they are now doing assigned seating, so bear this in mind if you usually like to rush for a preferred seat (we usually like the back!). So, how was it? Well, we were assigned a seat that was sort somewhere between the middle and the back of the train, and it was very good fun! It may seem quite odd that I have a Mack powered coaster aimed at young children in the back end of my top 30, but when I ride it, I can definitely see why. It actually has surprising whip in places, and feels deceptively fast and forceful for a 22mph coaster; the ride's two helices, especially the one down into the Congo River Rapids tunnel, have no business being on a family coaster! Overall, RMT is always a fun time, and it will always be a really special coaster for me given that it was one of my first ever roller coaster experiences: After our fun ride on RMT, we headed down to... Wicker Man It eventually dawned upon us that the queue for Wicker Man wasn't going to get much shorter, so we eventually decided to take the plunge and stomach the queue, which was listed at 100 minutes. I hadn't ridden Wicker Man since September 2018, and from my memories of it, it was my favourite ride at Alton Towers, so I was very much looking forward to getting back on it now that its newness from 2018 had worn off somewhat. I'll start my Wicker Man experience off by saying that we got a very positive surprise in the form of the queue's length; despite being an advertised 100 minutes, it moved very quickly, and we were on the ride within 35 minutes. We were assigned to row 8; not too far from the middle of the train, but also slightly towards the back. But how did the ride fare in comparison to my memories of it? Would it live up to my love of it from 2018, or would it disappoint? Well, I don't know what Alton Towers have done to Wicker Man since 2018, because it was absolutely phenomenal; somehow, it massively exceeded my already very positive memories of it from 2018! The pacing, while pretty great in 2018, felt like it had been taken up a notch today; that stretch from the first drop out of the tunnel right up to the second encounter with the Wicker Man in particular was absolutely insane, and it kept a simply incredible pace throughout its entire layout! However, the main element of Wicker Man that really surprised me was its airtime. My main bugbear with Wicker Man in 2018 was that I felt it lacked airtime; while it had 1 or 2 nice moments, you stayed in your seat for most of the ride, and it had far less airtime on offer than many of the other wooden coasters I'd ridden. However, today was completely different, as the ride felt like it was trying to get me out of my seat at every opportunity it had, and there were numerous moments of fairly strong ejector airtime; had the lap bar not been there, I would have likely been shot straight back towards Towers Street! Overall, I was in shock coming into the brake run; I didn't think Wicker Man could have surprised me any more after its opening season, but it's the coaster that keeps on giving, as it felt like it was on another level of fun today: After the immense surprise of Wicker Man, we decided to head to... The Smiler The Smiler was listed as being down to a 60 minute queue when we got off Wicker Man, so we decided to head over and give it a ride. However, once we had joined the queue, it moved a lot more slowly than we were expecting, and we eventually ended up waiting close to 2 hours for The Smiler. So, how was the ride? Well, we were batched into the front row, but despite this, it was probably my least favourite ride I've ever had on The Smiler. The Smiler will always be a special coaster for me, as it was the very ride that got me into this hobby, and it's a visual and technological marvel, but today's ride sadly made me come to the conclusion that I don't think I find it an enjoyable coaster at all these days, unfortunately. While the layout itself is a good one, in my opinion, I find it too rough in many areas these days; I may have had a minor moan about Nemesis above, but that comparatively felt quite smooth, I must admit! However, I may be being slightly harsh given the sheer amount of track within such a small area; I just don't really think it's my sort of coaster on the whole: After coming off The Smiler, we did consider heading to Rita, as I haven't actually ridden it since April 2016, but we instead opted for a reride on Wicker Man after how much we all enjoyed it earlier! I know Rita would have been a unique coaster for us to ride today, but given my huge enjoyment of Wicker Man and my less than stellar memories of Rita from the past, I thought it would probably be more enjoyable for me to have a reride on the Alton Towers coaster I really love: So, how was our reride? Well, this time we were batched into row 9, and it was just as enjoyable as it had been earlier in the day, if not more so! I was genuinely incredibly impressed with Wicker Man today; I haven't felt raw shock and wonder coming into a coaster brake run like that for quite some time! After the two rides we took today, it's definitely shot up a few spots; it's my favourite ride at Alton Towers by a considerable distance, it has grabbed back the title of my favourite wooden rollercoaster from Mine Blower at Fun Spot Kissimmee, and I was genuinely very undecided as to whether it or Icon at Blackpool Pleasure Beach was my favourite UK coaster. After mulling it over a little, I eventually decided to give Icon the edge as I think it's slightly more my usual style, leaving Wicker Man as my UK #2 and my overall #3, but there really isn't much in it at all for me, and the fact that I was even asking that question is quite a testament to how incredibly the coaster was running today! After that last Wicker Man ride, we left the park and headed home. Overall, I had an absolutely fantastic day at Alton Towers! It was so nice to get back to the park after nearly 4 months of lockdown, and I had a fantastic time getting back on some of my favourites from the park! In terms of the new COVID measures, I thought they worked very well; distancing was very well adhered to in most places, and face masks on the coasters was not a problem at all for me (although I was admittedly wearing a strap, which made my facemask more secure, but my parents weren't and they had no issues). In terms of the actual rides, Wicker Man was absolutely stunning, and such a huge surprise, and it was great to ride some of the others again after so long! I hope you enjoyed my report! The next time I'll be writing one of these will actually be fairly soon, as I'm visiting Thorpe Park on 30th July!