What did we think of re-opening weekend 2020?!

What did we think of re-opening weekend and why was there such a difference between our two visits?!

It’s extremely safe to say that July 4th 2020 will go down in theme park enthusiast history as the day we all got our lives back!

On July 4th after nearly three and a half months of being closed theme parks across the UK were finally given the all clear by the UK government to re-open their doors to the public providing adequate measures had been taken to ensure the safety of both their guests and staff alike.

This therefore meant that like many other coaster and theme park enthusiasts out there we had already lined up an opening day visit (albeit a full open weekend schedule) across two of the UK’s top parks – Alton Towers Resort on the Saturday and Blackpool Pleasure Beach on the Sunday.

Believe us when we say we have never been more excited to get back to a theme park in our lives, however what we found was a vast difference between the two parks we visited both operational wise and capacity wise as well.

Saturday July 4th - Reopening Day!

Like many other theme park enthusiasts we decided that we would step back out into the big wide world and exercise our new found freedom with a visit to what we consider to be the UK’s top theme park resort – Alton Towers Resort!

We arrived on resort around 09:30 and as expected even with the park’s proposed reduced capacity the car park was still absolutely packed.

We parked up and walked up to the entrance plaza where we were then made to wait in line following the socially distanced markers on the floor below on our way to collect our tickets. Our queue time up to the plaza was around 15 minutes which we didn’t consider to be too bad, however that’s when the real fun began.

As we reached the entrance plaza we were directed to collect our tickets which again took around a further 20 minutes to do before finally entering through one of 5 temperature check and bag search stations and finally through the turn styles into the park.

We finally got into the park around 10:10 which to be honest we weren’t too bothered by and made our way to Wicker Man.

Throughout the day we found one common and recurring issue and this was ride availability. As much as we expect there to be some teething problems on opening day the problems that Alton Towers themselves actually faced (not only on the Saturday but also on the Sunday as well) we immense which meant that in the end we spent more time walking around the park than we actually spent on the rides.

The other issue we faced was the lack of consideration by other park goers for the social distancing measures which had been introduced.

It’s clear that Alton Towers had done everything they physically could do reduce the risk of infection and risk of spread, however the sheer lack of others visiting the park to follow the rules meant that what could have been a very safe visit turned into a real life game of dodgems!

It was also mandatory on most rides for a face covering to be worn which is something we had expected. This therefore didn’t bother us and although it wasn’t particularly comfortable we did find that masks did in fact stay on and not come off during the ride as per our previous expectations.

All this aside however we were just thrilled to finally be back at a UK park after being locked down for over three months and as such we didn’t let this spoil our day!

We were very impressed with the way that the park handled their constant challenges throughout the day, however what we weren’t impressed by was some fairly major unannounced ride closures.

To date the park has reopened with the indefinite closure of not only Hex, Duel and The Alton Towers Dungeon, however it also seems that the park have decided to close off the entirety of Dark Forest as well meaning the indefinite closure of Rita and Th13teen!

This we found greatly disappointing, and for us to have travelled over two and a half hours just to visit the park this in our opinion is something which should not have been allowed to happen.

We feel that the park should have been much more clear on their plans to close these attractions and as such this left us a little dismayed to say the least. 

We did however in the end have a fantastic time on resort despite this and managed to get back on our favourite UK coaster Nemesis not only once, but twice which we were very happy with indeed!

We also had the chance to meet up with our great friends over at Coaster Gen and our brand new team member Aaron as well which overall we really enjoyed too.

It may not have been the opening day we had expected, however despite the lack of rides issues we faced we are still happy we made the trip and therefore fully intend on returning again as soon as we possibly can to get back on a few more of our favourite rides including the Smiler, Oblivion, Wicker Man and hopefully Th13teen to name but a few!

We have also since been advised that the park are planning to reopen Rita as soon as possible as well as hopefully get their indoor rides reopen too within the month which we have to say impresses us greatly.

Overall although reopening day may not have been the day we expected we still had a fantastic time and would therefore give Alton Towers resort a solid 7/10 for their efforts throughout the day both operationally and with regards to adapting to the current measures in place.

Sunday July 5th - The Day After!

After a fairly chaotic and mixed bag of a day on Saturday we headed North to the Flyde coasts premier amusement park resort and destination Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Our experience in Blackpool however was very different to that of our previous day. This was due to the strict approach the park has taken to controlling how visitors are kept safe right from the point of entry into the resort to the moment they leave.

This has been achieved through the use of an e-ticket which ensures minimum contact between staff and visitors in the first instance, however it also means that due to this there is no need for the wristbands they previously used.

Blackpool have also taken the decision to place more stringent controls in place when it comes to entering the park as well.

As you can see from the above images you will now have to queue to get into the entrance plaza and this ensures that social distancing is followed at all times, right up until the point of entering the park.

The only difference here however is that there are no temperature checks prior to entering the park itself, however this it seems is something which we have seen happen at other parks such as Flamingo Land and other attractions as well.

Once in the park however there is a strict one way system in place and this is policed throughout the day by the resort’s in house security team. This again ensures that all guests and staff stay as safe as possible at all times.

Now, like Alton Towers it is also mandatory to wear face coverings on certain rides and attractions, however another difference to bear in mind here is the fact that Blackpool have chosen to open all indoor dark rides, as where Alton Towers have chosen to keep theirs closed.

We do therefore wonder if Alton Towers could have also opened theirs with the use of face coverings similar to that of Blackpool Pleasure Beach, however despite Tomb Blaster also been open at Chessington (another Merlin owned indoor dark ride) Alton Towers have made the decision to keep theirs closed for the immediate future.

The main positive to come out of the day at the Pleasure Beach was however the ride operations!

We found that teams seemed to be on form when it came to dispatching rides and despite the extra added difficulties of having to deep clean every 30 minutes teams at the park managed to keep a relatively normal operation going on many of the rides on the park.

This we found to be extremely impressive, and in our opinion was the main difference between our two days overall. That and ride availability which we also found to be far better at the Pleasure Beach as well on the whole. 

Overall we found day 2 to be a completely different day to day one and although the two parks had a very similar approach to combating the spread of the virus they also had some very stark differences in the way they operated overall as well.

We have to say that Blackpool Pleasure Beach came across as being far more prepared and equipped to deal with their reopening than Alton Tower did, and this was down to the almost ‘normal’ experience we had throughout our day there.

We also felt far more comfortable and with the introduction of the stricter control in place we have to say we felt far safer in Blackpool than we did at Alton Towers which we have to say is very surprising given the difference in size and space between the two parks.

Who came out on top?

In our opinion there was no competition whatsoever between the two.

Blackpool Pleasure Beach take the title hands down as the park we felt were the most prepared to reopen post lock down.

This as previously discussed is due to the stark differences between our experiences overall, both with regards to how the parks have adapted and how they coped with the reduced capacity and demand on their attractions as well.

Although the staff at Alton Towers had clearly been trained to deal with the constant demand for deep cleans it was clear that Blackpool had got this down to an art reducing ride down time to a minimum as much as possible when and where possible.

We do however hope that with time the experience we had at Alton Towers on opening day will change and that as the park continue to open with the measures in place they will adapt and learn as they go along to bring a much more consistent and reliable approach to their operation and guest experience as a whole.

We will be returning as soon as possible to Alton Towers, however for the time being we are unsure when this will be and this is due to the fact the park keep selling out on all the days we want to go which we have to say is a real shame given we Merlin Annual Pass holders.

All of the above aside however we (like many of the enthusiast community) are thrilled just to be able to get back to the parks again and as such we have quite a few trips and visits planned in the weeks ahead!

Be sure to check out our visits page in our about section to find out more about where we will be heading and what you can expect from Theme Park Insanity as we head back out on the road and into the remainder of the 2020 season!

We would however like to know how your opening weekend went? Which parks or park did you visit? And what were your experiences like? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!

For now however we’re back, and we can’t wait to bring even more fantastic content in the weeks and months ahead.