It’s that time of year again! As we near the end of the 2019 theme park season we’ve just about got time to squeeze in some spooky Halloween events before the parks close for Winter. To kick things off we visited Alton Towers on the opening day of Scarefest - perhaps one of the most popular Halloween theme park events in the UK. We’ve been going to Scarefest for the past couple of years and since we love it so much this year we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit on the first day and check out what was on offer!
Let’s start off with the actual rides. It’s always exciting to get to a Halloween event at a park you frequently visit as it gives you the opportunity to get on the rides you love in the dark. Riding in the dark transforms each coaster into a totally different experience. There’s just something about the nighttime atmosphere which makes rides so much more exciting! The majority of the coasters at Towers were lit up in their respective colours once the sun went down which we loved. We think more lighting like this would have created a much spookier atmosphere across the whole park and were a bit disappointed that Wicker Man’s lighting had not arrived yet. But we can’t deny, there is something very special about getting on the coasters at Towers and is one of our highlights of Scarefest.
We managed to fit in two night rides on our visit - The Smiler & Wicker Man. Both of them are, of course, amazing to ride in the dark! They are currently our two favourite rides at the park which is why we chose them for our dark rides and it was so great to experience them in a different way at night. It’s normally the only time of year that we ride anything at Towers in the dark, which makes it even more special. Night rides are definitely one of the highlights of Scarefest for us. If you haven’t experienced any dark rides at Towers you’re missing out!
the scare mazes
Perhaps the most compelling reason to visit Scarefest is the chance to experience some of the park’s scare mazes. This year saw the debut of two brand new mazes which we couldn’t wait to try out; The Attic and Darkest Depths. Last year we were really impressed with the quality of the mazes on offer so we couldn’t wait to get back to the park and check them out again this year!
Altonville Mine Tours
Altonville Mine Tours was back this year at Towers for its fourth year running. According to the park’s description, you enter a ‘damp, disused mine, which is believed to have once been home to a family of village outcasts’. Throughout the maze you meet members of the family, nicknamed the ‘Skin Snatchers’ by local residents. The theme is really unique and one we have been impressed with every year we have experienced the maze. We love the fact that some people are chosen to wear a flashlight helmet because it really immerses you in the ‘Skin Snatcher’s’ world.
In 2018 Project 42 made its debut at the park and we experienced it for the first time. It’s set in a compound of the Phalanx which ‘has been used for civilian tests on a unique virus’. The twist is that ‘the test subjects, now infected by the virus, have broken out’ and these are the spooky creatures you encounter throughout the maze. Having been back in the maze again this year, we are very happy that the quality of the theming, actor interaction and effects were all just as high as the previous year. Overall we are really impressed with this maze and hope it comes back to Scarefest next year!
The Attic: Terror of the Towers
Following the closure of Terror of the Towers in 2017, one of the longest running scare mazes, The Attic opened this year as a new take on this iconic maze. As you make your way through the spooky attic you’ll meet The Governess who ‘tries to avenge the death of her charges by taking the spirits of the living as penance’. We were really excited to try out this brand new maze and thought it was really great, but unfortunately it didn’t quite blow our minds as much as we had hoped it would. The sets and actors were amazing but we feel the theme itself was a bit generic and could have done with something to make it stand out like the rest of the mazes at Towers do. Nonetheless, it’s a solid new edition which we are sure many people will enjoy a lot!
The second brand new maze for 2019 was Darkest Depths - a pirate themed family friendly scare maze. The maze explores a wide variety of unique and exciting pirate themes; ‘the treacherous Sirens will try to lure you into the ocean as you dodge the swords of the mutinous ghost pirates and come face to face with the sea’s meanest legend of all … the Kraken!’ We went into Darkest Depths with relatively low expectations considering it was meant to be for families and not one of the most popular mazes for thrill seekers. BUT - the maze surpassed our expectations. Every single set has been designed and executed extremely well, the actor interaction is both scary and funny, the theme is really unique and the maze was surprisingly long! Once inside, you are transported into another world and can’t tell at all that you are simply inside a series of shipping containers. We were really impressed with the maze overall and highly recommend it to both thrill seekers and scare maze beginners. Entry is only £6 which we think is a bargain and it’s a great maze to start off with if you’ve never experienced something like this before. We’re a little surprised that the age rating is 10+ as we think it might be a bit too scary for children under 12. But everyone is different and we’re sure there are many adults who would be just as scared as young children! Overall we were extremely impressed with this new edition and really hope it returns next year.
Sub Species - The End Games
We’ve saved the best till last. Sub Species has GOT to be our favourite of all the mazes this year. In a post-apocalyptic world, you’re split up from your friends and must ‘choose your own route in an attempt to avoid a sewer dwelling community’. Despite the fairly generic alien theme, it really takes horror to a new level compared with the other mazes at the park because you WILL be touched by the actors, spilt up from other people and find dead ends throughout the maze. These elements make it a unique and terrifying experience. There’s something about being alone in a maze with multiple routes and passages to choose from, pitch black corridors and aliens running straight at you which is truly petrifying. We think Sub Species is the spookiest maze at Alton Towers and is definitely one you should check out if you’re looking for a good scare. It’s included in the £20 combined maze ticket (along with Mine Tours and Project 42) which is a bargain. We really hope this maze will return to Towers next year!
The visit really got us in the Halloween spirit and we had a great day trying out all 5 of the park’s scare mazes. The atmosphere during Scarefest is completely different to any other time of the year at Towers which was great to experience! We absolutely loved the Halloween decor and theming on Towers Street this year, especially the new pumpkins to represent each ride at the park. It’s a shame there wasn’t any more theming like that in other areas as that might have resulted in a more consistently strong Halloween atmosphere across the park. We were also saddened by the lack of Scare Zones this year. They would have really elevated the spooky atmosphere and given the actors roaming the park more of a central location to make sure people didn’t miss them - especially at nighttime. But despite all of that, the level of quality and the addition of a 5th scare maze this year really made our visit special. We were so blown away by the variety of mazes Towers has on offer.
If you’re looking for some spooky vibes, fantastic dark rides and a good scare then Alton Towers Scarefest is the place to be this October!
Thanks again to the park for gifting us with tickets and fast-tracks for our visit. We hope visit again soon…
You can find out more about our visit by checking out our podcast episode about the day!
- Zoe & Harry