One Chance

Edited: July 21, 2019, 10:16 PM

I stumbled across a roller coaster this evening that struck my attention while simply image searching roller coasters. Thirteen from Alton Towers. I have never been to another country other than a brief few hours in Cozumel as a result of being on a cruise. I have never desired to go anywhere internationally. If I had one chance to go to a park outside of North America where should I go? Just some of my preferences are more thrills and good theming. I really liked the looks of Alton Towers but I wasn't sure if there is something better. I am ruling out Disney and Universal parks because I have experienced those. I know the others are plenty different than ours but I want a new experience. Also, if Alton Towers is the best answer to my question, please tell me your thoughts on the park. Thank you.

Replies (10)

Edited: July 22, 2019, 12:43 AM

I suggest checking out Europa Park in Germany near the French border. The park is massive, has a ton of rides, several resorts to explore, and the maintenance/landscaping/operations are consistently very good. The property is owned by the Mach family (the same family that owns Mach Rides) and you can really feel the pride they take in its operation when you visit. I will say other than Arthur, which is family ride, there aren't really any standout best-in-the-world type coasters. But (maybe other than Nemesis) neither does Alton Towers, and Europa has so many solid rides in every category that it makes up for it.

That being said Alton Towers is very good as well, the park is massive and can fill a whole day. I'd put it as a solid #3 when it comes to my favorite European parks behind Europa and Disneyland Paris. However when it comes to big thrills AT has Nemesis which is classic, Wicker Man which is very good but not any better than most American GCIs, and Smiler which I don't ride because those things make me sick. Oblivion is pretty stupid just like it looks, I love Galactica's theme song and station but the ride is pretty meh when compared to the other B&M flyers, Rita is...ehh depends on who you talk to (I don't hate it but know plenty of people that do), Spinball Whizzer is...well, a spinning coaster. I enjoy Thirteen but by no means is it a great coaster. I think it's cool that they've managed to build some major rides considering they're not allowed to build anything above the trees (that's why rides like Rita and Galactica the high-points are painted green to blend in with the top of the trees), the park has a really unique atmosphere not replicated by any other parks and feels uniquely British which is cool. But traveling all the way to the UK just to do Alton (which it sounds like you plan on doing) is a lot of money just for that collection of mediocre coasters. At least do some other parks on the trip!

July 22, 2019, 7:49 AM

It really depends on your motivations for making the trip. If you're making a theme park trip, and don't care about other local sights, you could easily hit a half dozen solid amusement parks in central Europe (Efteling, Europa Park, Tivoli, Hyde Park, etc...). However, it really depends on whether a single day at a theme park would be a side trip to a larger vacation. In that case, you might want to consider parks closer to major metropolitan centers like Thorpe Park near London, Port Aventura near Barcelona, and Tivoli in downtown Copenhagen.

July 22, 2019, 8:25 AM

Alton Towers is a great resort, and the AT Hotel is well worth a couple of nights stay. The monorail takes you to the park entrance, and from there it can be a leisurely stroll around the beautiful gardens, or a thrill a minute on some unique 1 of a kind rides.

The park is set in the rolling hills of the Staffordshire countryside, and the drive to the park can be pretty hair raising if you’re not used to winding English country roads.

I usually stay for 2 days, and have always kept myself busy. The_man summed the rides up well, but for me The Smiler is one of my all-time favourite rides, and one, in my opinion, is worth a visit to the park just to ride. Although the theming on Nemesis is something else, and a definite must see. To walk down the steps and see the ride below you is something you don't get to experience here in the US.

13 is no Verbolten, but a solid ride all the same. Wicker Man was being built last time I was there, but from the videos I've seen, once again the theming seems to be the highlight.

Oblivion was the very first dive coaster and despite the shortness of the ride, that first drop into the steamy pit is a good enough reason to get on the ride and try it out.

Air, became Galatica which became VR, which is no longer VR !! …. but I think I was only a handful of riders that actually enjoyed the VR experience of flying thru space. It’s not a Manta by a long way, more of a family flyer than anything.

Close to Galatica is the roller coaster restaurant which is slightly better than average at best, but the unique concept of your food arriving on a track to your table made me at least think it was worth the visit …. just once.

AT is where my love for riding roller coasters all began. The corkscrew being the first “real” coaster I ever rode back in the early 80’s. It was the only one at the park until the black Hole opened in 1984, and from that point on I became a coaster enthusiast for life … :)

There are better rides in the UK, but they are an isolation in parks of mediocrity. The Swarm at Thorpe Park being one. For me it’s the best winged coaster I’ve ever ridden, and much better than Gatekeeper at CP.

I know a lot of the European parks are well liked and considered must-visits if you go across the pond, but I have never been to any of them, so I can only comment on those in the UK.

Good luck with your visit, if you decide to take that vacation.

July 22, 2019, 9:06 AM

No desire to travel outside North America? Holy cow, there's so much to see and do! Buy a ticket to, well, ANYWHERE, and go experience the world! The USA, while beautiful, is such a tiny part of the world. To travel is to see what the world really is, leaving our sheltered American mindset behind. Go do it!

Edited: July 22, 2019, 9:53 AM

I went to Alton towers before 13 and The Smiler. It's a great park to visit, especially for coasters; but it is in the middle of nowhere. Its also more spread out.

Some alternatives in the UK I'd suggest are Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and Thorpe Park.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach is something you should experience if only to see everything that Walt *didn't* want in a park. That said, it has some fine coasters, including some great classic woodies (including a mobius strip racing woodie) and other one of a kind (or just about one of a kind) experiences like Steeplechase. You can also buy parts of defunct coasters, or worn out parts of current rides. There's also plenty of other distractions out of the park.

Thorpe Park has Swarm, Saw, and Colossus amongst others. Colussus is hands down the best coaster I've been on, ever. It always has me giggling by the end, and I think Swarm is just about one of a kind. Its a lot smaller than Alton Towers, so you'll get less tired. Saw is also well themed and a great experience.

You definitely should go out of North America. Expand your horizons and learn other ways of doing things. Take the best of them home to improve your community.

July 22, 2019, 10:23 AM

I agree. Let a theme park visit be your motivation, but get a passport and go! Everyone is different, but you will have such a better understanding of, well...everything by leaving home behind and going off to experience other cultures.
I think we would all love to hear where you decide to go and how you enjoyed yourself after you return.
Good luck and have fun.

Edited: July 22, 2019, 4:49 PM

Loads of good points in the posts above. And very exciting that you're considering travelling further afield! As others have said, you can't really go wrong here if it's your first time abroad. A few thoughts as someone who travels a lot in Europe and has been to all the parks mentioned so far...

If you've never left North America, Alton Towers will definitely feel unique - as indeed will Blackpool, as Chad says. Both are quintessentially English in very different ways, with some excellent coasters in their line ups. Alton in particular has some "best in class" installations - Nemesis and Smiler are both world class rides, and I would argue that Oblivion's tunnel is so effective that it makes it the best dive machine I've been on, even if there is practically nothing else to the ride. And, as has been mentioned, the castle/gardens offer the kind of environment you might never have experienced before. (If you rent a car, it doesn't take too long to get between the two, either.)

13 is less impressive than it sounds - it is ultimately just a slightly above average family coaster through the woods with *that* twist. But a nice enough ride.

I would skip any other parks in the UK. Some good coasters in the mix, but none that you won't have been on better versions of elsewhere - which would make them kind of a waste of time in a country that has so much else to offer. Thorpe is a prime example of this. (Chad - Colossus was indeed once a standout, but has aged so horribly that it's a hard ride to recommend these days. Certainly not worth a trip for.)

If you were really focussed on parks, my vote would be for one of the following:
- The aforementioned Alton/Blackpool combo (with the chance to add in some wonderful cities like Sheffield, York and Manchester, along with any natural/historical sites of interest)
- A German road trip (Europa Park, Phantasialand and Holiday Park would offer an excellent mix of some of the best coasters and theming we have in the continent)
- A car-free trip to Barcelona & Port Aventura (where you could easily add on Warner Bros Madrid if you liked the look of it)

(A plus point of the UK for international visitors is that the pound is likely to drop in value by the end of the year - maybe only a little, but quite possibly pretty heavily. So it might start to become a more affordable destination in comparison to others.)

Frankly, no park is so exceptional in Europe that it should define a trip. As has been mentioned above, there is *so much* amazing stuff to explore here that you'd be far better served by picking a country you're most interested in and slotting some parks around that. You mention you're keen on good theming; if that's the case, you'll likely be far more captivated by the canals of Cambridge, the villages of the Netherlands, the backstreets of Paris and the architecture of Barcelona than anything in our parks. (And bear in mind I'm speaking as a lifelong theme park fanatic!)

A final thought: I know you said no Disney/Universal, but Tokyo DisneySea is frankly unlike any other park in the world. It absolutely fits the "new experience" criterion you've outlined - it's truly exceptional, and should be on any theme park fan's bucket list. (Their Disneyland is also great, but does feel much the same as Orlando's installation.) You could also take the opportunity to extend out across Japan - which has not just some excellent coasters scattered around, but a remarkable whole other culture to explore.

Please do ask us any other questions you have, and let us know what you decide. Bon voyage!

July 22, 2019, 9:10 PM

Thank you all so much for the information and tips. I don't know if it will ever happen. If so, likely after the kids leave the nest. We usually do one theme park trip a year. Maybe I'm overestimating the price of an international trip. I haven't looked into it seeing as it just popped into my mind yesterday on a lazy Sunday. I didn't mean to sound like I was against the rest of the world in my original post. I just have always wanted to go to all of the parks in the US and haven't thought about the rest. If I ever go I will tell it on TPI. Also, is it just me or doesn't Alton Towers and Thorpe park seem to have a very dark side almost like final destination type stuff? Definitely different than happiest place on Earth or an adventure begins. I'm enjoying searching all of these places you have mentioned. Can't thank you enough!

July 22, 2019, 10:36 PM

The only park outside North America that I've visited is Disneyland Paris, but if you're looking for international parks these are the ones I have at the top of my priority list (in no particular order):


-Alton Towers
-Blackpool Pleasure Beach
-Europa Park
-Grona Lund
-Heide Park Resort
-Oakwood Theme Park
-PortAventura Park
-Tivoli Gardens


-Chimelong Ocean Kingdom
-Chimelong Paradise
-Hong Kong Disneyland
-Lotte World
-Nagashima Spaland
-Shanghai Disneyland
-Tokyo DisneySea
-Tokyo Disneyland
-Universal Studios Japan

However, when it comes to international travel, I would start by deciding which destination(s) I would like to visit. Once that's decided, look at the region and see which park(s) fit within your itinerary and are worth a visit. Most countries are going to have at least one park that is worth visiting for an international tourist and that offers an experience unlike those found in the US. Lastly, don't pick a park for one attraction. Instead, do some research and look at everything they offer.

Side note: This is making me really want to start way early planning for a tentative UK trip I'm trying to do in 2021/2022.

Edited: July 23, 2019, 11:28 AM

Hello Tim !
I understand that whatever you want to visit, would be hunting for ... thrill.
As actually thrill is not my cup of tea, I could advise you into a totally different list of "real" theme parks in Europe. (Most of which have very few thrill rides, or even no thrill ride at all...)
I consider those THE reason to travel longer distances, as they are unique (in storytelling and theming), while of most coasters there are, you'll find the similar versions literally everywhere on earth...

Just let me know if you're interested in the alternative list... :-)

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