A mini break at the Splash Landings Hotel, Alton Towers
At the end of July, Martin turned
29 40 and I was at such a loss for what to do or how to celebrate the event. As there's 9.5 years between us, the beginning of the year saw my 30th too, so the pressure's been on for us both to outdo one another. I ran through all the obvious ideas—surprise parties, a dinner date or a mini break for the two of us—but as my parents were away and the school holidays would be upon us, I figured why not arrange something we can all do together as a family, something we'd not done before, visit somewhere we could let go of the stresses of everyday life and relax, so of course, I booked a night's stay and 2 day passes for Alton Towers Resort (including waterpark) and we stayed in the hubbub of the all the aqueous fun in the Splash Landings Hotel.
It was intended to be a big surprise for everyone but me, but in all the excitement I'd told Archie we'd be going to CBeebies Land that coming Summer and of course, one lazy evening whilst discussing Daddy's Summery birthday, Archie piped up with "Daddy, we're going to go to CBeebies Land for your birthday!" and that was the end of that. Martin is one of those people who knew Bruce was dead within the first fifteen minutes of the film, so I wasn't convinced I'd be able to pull it off anyway, but we at least managed to remain tight-lipped about the hotel stay and the incredible evening reservation at the Rollercoaster restaurant (a diner where your order leaves the kitchen and arrives at your table at speed via a series of twisted tracks (so much fun!).
We arrived later than we'd wanted to on the Tuesday morning (because organisation isn't our strong point), but after a short queue made our way to the hotel car park (that thankfully you don't have to pay £6 for) and checked into Splash Landings. We were amazed by the decoration of the hotel and the giant water structure out front featuring huge 'waste bins' and buckets pouring a torrential amount of water into each other until it hit the rocks beneath. The sound mimicked a miniature waterfall that left us in no doubt that we were in the right place (I mean, besides the whacking obvious sign of course) and as someone who finds rushing water one of the most relaxing sounds, I was happy to see the features are littered throughout the hotel.
On the ground floor, we found the reception area, a bar and seating, a giant deckchair complete with props as well as an aquarium of fish and endless bath time decor we couldn't tear our eyes from (the rubber ducky was a particular favourite). There's also an incredible view into the waterpark that the kid's loved and kept running back to look at, as well as cute area with tonnes of megabloks to keep them occupied whilst you check in. We weren't able to check in to our room until 3pm (don't even try, they lock the entire corridor until that time) so our bags were popped into a safe room to be carted up to the room for us once it had been cleaned. We'd planned ahead and seperated everything we'd need for the waterpark (Top tip: Do this! We would've ended up scouring through our cases to find towels and swimsuits otherwise) so we decided to make the most of the pools and slides whilst we waited for our room.
The entrance to the waterpark is downstairs in the hotel and stock up on your 20p pieces as the locker takes one each time you open it and you'll probably end up spending alot of time there. Take your towels in with you as there's tonnes of netting and hooks to hang them on whilst you're swimming and there's also a cafe for hot food too and lots of tables dotted around so you can eat in your swimwear (or you can get dressed and then have to take our shoes off to wade back through the water to get to the cafe, like we did).
There's absolutely loads to do in the waterpark; swimming pools, a lazy river and slides (indoors & out), a huge play park where you'll constantly be caught off guard by a water gun being sprayed in your face, buckets you can pour on unsuspecting individuals below, waterfalls you can wade through and be careful at the bottom, because every now & then a bell will sound and you'll be hit by a torrential downpour of water, probably when you're holding a toddler and trying to keep up with a 4 year old. We didn't manage to get on the master blaster (which looked awesome) as I'd read before our visit that the queue can be up to 45 minutes long and we knew it wouldn't be possible to wait with three kids in tow (two of which who would be too short for the ride).
After we'd dried off and eaten, we decided to venture into the theme park for a couple of hours to kill some time before our dinner reservation at the rollercoaster restaurant, something that we only just made it back for after getting stuck in a lengthy queue for the Go-Jetters treetop ride. It was an easy walk from the hotel to the back entrance of the park (where the restaurant is situated) but the gate is closed until 6pm when the park closes, so we were told to phone through so they could let us in.
I'd definitely reserve if you're thinking of going to the restaurant (I only knew this due to AT informing me via one of the countdown emails); it was fully booked whilst we were there and we often witnessed queues out of the door in our time at the park. It's totally gimmicky and overpriced but the experience is so much fun and
we the kids love it.
After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and sat in the bar whilst two out of three kids were sucked into the kid's magic show and disco and the other spent his time in the arcades downstairs. It was a lovely way to round off the day before we headed back to our room to grab some zzz's for the following day. Our room consisted of a double bed and bunk beds (plus an en-suite bathroom) so there were actually 5 of us in one room (two boys in bunks and the littlest in the double with us) but it wasn't long before they all fell asleep after such a busy day.Breakfast buffet↓
Breakfast was included with our stay (make sure you reserve before your stay and do some research to find which restaurant is in your hotel because it wasn't clear when I made our reservation - it's Flambo Jambo's at the Splash Landings hotel and as far as I'm aware, you have to book the one in the hotel you're staying in). The kid's loved the umpteen choices of cereal they got to choose from (Archie had his own concoction of coco pops and frosties) and there was also the option of a cooked breakfast, fruit, juice and hot drinks. We booked a 7:30am time slot so we could eat, grab our stuff and head straight to the park for 9am (it opens an hour earlier for hotel guests which was invaluable for us grown-ups getting to have some fun too).
We walked to the park as the monorail queue was huge but wished we'd waited as the walk was longer than expected and the kid's weren't too happy so bear this in mind if you're considering it. Only a small number of rides are open for hotel guests to begin with so we weren't sure what to do at first considering only a couple in CBeebies Land were open (the one's we'd already done the previous day) so we headed to the back of the park. We walked past the Wicker Man which already had a huge queue and were told there'd be a delay in opening, so we abandoned that and kept walking.
Cloud Cuckoo Land was empty so Archie jumped on the cars (great as there was no queues, not so great that he had no one to drive alongside) and frog hopper whilst I took Jesse on the carousel, and then we walked to Rita and Thirteen where there were absolutely no queues (bear in mind this was past 10am, but I think everyone started at the front and worked their way forwards, so definitely head straight to the back of the park when you arrive to get the benefit of no queues!) so I stayed with the little two whilst Martin and Fin jumped on and we swapped after so I could ride too.
The boys were happy to wait for a short 10 minutes and had ice-creams and all manner of slushies to keep them occupied (don't buy the £4 cup like I did, instead get the soft drink refill which is £7 and includes free refills all day, the slushies are charged at £3 a time). We then made our way over to Oblivion/The Smiler and a few other big rides and managed to hop on a few with only a 10 minute queue (though the park was a getting much busier now at around 11am).
We pottered about for the rest of the day after we'd managed to get on most of the big rides we'd wanted to, heading to the sea life centre for the boys in Mutiny Bay (which was a surprising delight) and stopping for food (which is extortionately overpriced). We wished we'd originally purchased fast track for the Wicker Man and Galactica as those were the two we hadn't had the chance to get on (I'd recommend purchasing fast track in advance, worth it unless you can race to the front of the queues dead on 9am; it's even harder when you don't know your way around the park like us!).
Just a quick one, if you have younger kids, perhaps skip Duel, the zombie battle. There are no restrictions as long as your little one will sit in their own seat, however I almost took Jesse on before he refused to sit alone, and Archie did go on with Martin and Fin and was a little frightened. He's not very easily scared by much at 4.5 and Martin said it was pretty spooky in there.
We had a fantastic time considering we were initially worried about how busy everything would be during the school holidays, but it wasn't as bad as we'd thought. We'd never commit to queuing for anything for longer than 30-40 minutes, and didn't have to (except for missing out on the two mentioned above where the queues were above that for most of the day). The weather was beautiful which always helps but we would've still had a great day if not, and the highlight was our stay at the hotel, the waterpark and the evening entertainment; it really made it feel like a getaway to us and not just a day out.