Part 1 – Day 1 (Saturday 13th October) So, after five long and exhausting hours travelling by car to get to Alton Towers, we finally arrived at around 2:30pm, and upon entering the theme park, as was expected, we were greeted by a heightened security presence due to it being the dreaded “traveller weekend”. The checks however were very swift, and before long we were out, looking over Towers Street, which was of course fantastically decorated with all the usual spooky seasonal decorations. Theme Park entrance The ride we decided to head to first was Wicker Man, which had only just reopened from a technical delay, and had an advertised queue time of 60 minutes. This however turned out to be inaccurate, maybe because of the downtime that the ride had experienced before we joined the queue. But the experience itself never ceases to amaze. The build up through the queue with the gradually changing tone of the music really builds the atmosphere in anticipation for the ride! The pre-show, as always, was highly enjoyable to watch, however there was a few issues where way too many people were sent into the pre-show room resulting in not everyone being able to fit into the station after the show. Rather annoyingly, this happened on multiple occasions during our visit. However, the only real complaints I had with Wicker Man was that the fire had seemingly not been restarted after the earlier downtime and that the pre-lift tunnel had almost no smoke inside, exposing the lovely concrete interior. Wicker Man After Wicker Man we deicided we would head for Duel since it would be an easy zero minute wait for the ride. Except when we arrived, there was a queue. But it wasn’t very long thankfully. All the effects in the queue were working, including those new obnoxiously bright portraits – why they don’t just turn the brightness down a tad is completely beyond me... it’s not that difficult is it!? Now about the ride. When I last visited at the beginning of September, I was bitterly disappointed with Duel. But in all honesty, whilst I don't think anything has actually changed since then, I didn’t find the experience quite so underwhelming as I did last time. The effects, in some places were timed well, whilst in others they were not. Lighting, again there are some areas where it works well, whilst there are still many other areas which seriously need looking at again. The major issues are when you can see walls and mechanisms that you are not supposed to which really ruins the atmosphere. And as expected, despite Alton Towers saying at the beginning of the season that they would have the trommel working at some point during the season, it was not. There is still time, technically, but I’m not exactly getting my hopes up that they will have it working any time soon, or at least not by the end of the season like they originally said. Duel: The Haunted House Strikes Back! After our ride on Duel, the rest of my family then got it into their heads that it would be a great idea to walk right across the entire park to eat at the hideously poor Fried Chicken Co., which isn’t the worst place you can choose to eat on park, at least (I’d probably award the Burger Kitchen that title). But it was still grim. The indoor seating area was unclean and the food was... just about edible, at the very best. The chicken pieces I had were fine (and I made a point of looking to make sure they weren’t pink on the inside), but were nothing particularly special. The fries were bad though. I think they might have been undercooked. After the rest of my family had finished eating their food, we headed to Spinball Whizzer, which my youngest brother really wanted to do as it is one of his favourite rides. I was actually a little reluctant to do Spinball as I would have rather spent the time doing something a bit more thrilling, however I think that might have been because I had forgotten just how fun Spinball can be! It’s a really enjoyable ride with some nice views of the park too. Spinball Whizzer We next ventured all the way over to Nemesis in Forbidden Valley, passing by Project 42 on the way there. Although there isn’t any scare zones in Forbidden Valley since Dark Apocalypse was last there in 2016, the audio around the new maze and and presence of a few costumed staff members in the area did add a nice atmosphere to the area. By time we arrived at Nemesis it was beginning to get darker, and the lighting had been turned on illuminating the coaster in a beautiful red hue. The queue for this was pretty long if I remember correctly, however we had Fastack tickets for this so we thankfully didn’t experience most of it, and the queue was moving fairly quickly as operations seemed pretty efficient. And what can I say, it is as amazing as ever! In fact, I actually noticed that it seemed slightly smoother than I remember, which is interesting – not sure wether that’s just me or if it really has gotten smoother since I last rode it at the beginning of the season? Nemesis After stopping off for another quick ride on Duel, we headed for our first ever night ride on Wicker Man! And wow, this thing is phenomenal in the dark. The lighting that has been set up around the ride is fantastic and to our amazement, the fire effects which had not been working for our earlier ride had been turned back on. (Yay! ) The ride is literally breathtaking at night. I actually can’t name a time before when I’ve been this amazed by a roller coaster (first time I rode Nemesis in the dark maybe comes close though). There really isn’t anything like hurtling around the twisted track towards the Wicker Man erupting with fire and surrounded by smoke in the dark! Wicker Man really comes alive after darkness has fallen, everything about it is just ten time better. Wicker Man The next ride we did didn’t quite give us the same amazing experience as we’d had on Wicker Man. Sure, The Smiler looks fantastic in the dark, the tangled ride structure illuminated by the huge circular screens on the Marmaliser. But queue was bad. And I’m not even talking about the main queue, we had Fastrack tickets and even that queue was not pleasant to wait in. The huge indoor stair way is a particular low light of the queueing experience, especially after all the walking you do around the park and the amount of time you stand around queuing up until that point. And the ride itself wasn’t much better. I said the last time I rode The Smiler earlier this year, that if felt much rougher than it did in pervious years, and this latest ride on it only confirmed my previous thoughts. It’s really dissappointing because it clearly has potential to be a brilliant ride (and it probably once was), but it’s now just so bloody rough that it can be a bit difficult to enjoy sometimes. Combine that with some of the worst queueing experiences to be had at any theme park I’ve ever been to and it just doesn’t poses any rerideability for me anymore sadly. So this would be the first and last time we rode The Smiler during our two day visit. The Smiler So after our ride on The Smiler, we headed over to the Dark Forest for what would be a considerably more enjoyable experience (so obviously not Rita ). We walked straight onto what I think might have been TH13TEEN’s second or third last train of the night (a stark contrast from our two hour long queuing nightmare on our previous visit in September). There’s something about TH13TEEN during the dark that is just so enjoyable, and I can’t quite put my finger on it. The ride has this kind of smooth floatyness as you travel through the pitch black woodland before reaching the crypt. And of course the free-fall and backwards section were as brilliant as they always are. By the time we had got off TH13TEEN it was just past 9:00pm, so it was our last ride of the day, and an amazing way to finish off our first day in the park! It had been an amazing day, with better weather than we had been expecting too (was really warm, surprisingly!), so we slowly walked back to Splash Landings for a well earned nights sleep to be ready for day two of our Alton Towers Scarefest adventure!