The theme park might be closed, but there's still fun to be had at England's Alton Towers Theme Park during winter - without breaking the bank
Most people have heard of the Alton Tower's Theme Park located within the scenic Staffordshire Moorlands, but far fewer have discovered the winter delights of time on the resort away from the crowds. With the theme park closed from November 09 until 20 March 2010 (with the exception of February half term), there is still much to do both on and off resort during the winter season.
Where to stay
Of course there are the Alton Tower's resort hotels where you have the water park, spa and mini-golf at your finger tips. At the Alton Towers Resort, choose from the Alton Towers Hotel or the Splash Landings Hotel for basic family rooms or splash out on a themed room as an extra treat, (my favourite being the Chocolate Room that comes complete with an endless supply of hidden chocolate). There are many packages available, some of which include unlimited water park entry, that are worth looking out for.
Alternatively a more cost effective option is to stay off resort but still make use of all the facilities. Try the Premier Inn Uttoxeter, where a family room holds up to two adults and two children and is located off the A50 just eight miles from Alton Towers, (room only prices start at £58). Or the recently refurbished Ilam Youth Hostel based in the Peak District, (but only eight miles to resort), where a 4 bed room with ensuite starts at £61.95. There are also many bed and breakfasts available within the village of Alton with seasonal discounts to be had - try Chained Oak Farm located literally on the theme park's entrance, where a 4 bed family room is available from £80.
Things to do
You don't need to stay on site to use the Alton Towers Water Park as day tickets are available. Prices are very reasonable, (adults £14, children £10), and there is also a range of family tickets available with under fours free of charge. With a host of water slides, rapids, jacuzzi, interactive water features and no time limits, you can certainly wile away a good few hours here.
Again the Spa at Alton Towers Resort is open to non-residents and for under £20 per person you can indulge in four and a half hours of relaxation. The Aqua Relaxation Rooms comprise of a swimming pool, a hot tub, sauna and steam rooms, a whirl pool, a mediation room and even an effervescent foot bath. Robes are provided and refreshments are available upon request. You can combine this with a vast range of treatments if you should wish but best to book in advance to avoid disappointment.
There is an 18 hole outdoor mini-golf course in the resort themed around Alton Towers' rides and will keep the kids amused for an hour or two. There are often deals to be had, such as buy nine holes, get nine free, so keep an eye on the posters outside the golfing area.
Fancy getting some fresh air? There is some amazing countryside on your doorstep. Step into Dimmingsdale not half a mile from Alton Towers although it feels like you couldn't be further away from a theme park! Set in a beautiful valley, surrounded by woodland, lakes and rivers, Dimmingsdale is a delightful spot for ramblers, cyclists or horse-riders to enjoy the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Or stroll around the ancient village of Alton, dating back to 716AD. Within the village lies Pugin's Alton Castle (now used as a youth retreat), two churches: one built in the 12th century, the other built and designed by Pugin in 1840, a village school and even an old prison roundhouse. With five public houses and two village stores to boot, there's plenty to keep you busy.
Where to eat
Ramblers Retreat (Red Rd, Alton; 01538 702730; www.ramblersretreat.co.uk). Set in Dimmingsdale offering outstanding value for money in a delightful setting. Originally a gate house on the old Alton Towers estate, it's a beautiful location to indulge in afternoon tea or a light lunch. Open until dusk.
The Bulls Head, (High St, Alton; 01538 702307; www.thebullsheadalton.co.uk). Set in the village of Alton is an authentic rustic country pub doing better than your standard pub grub at very reasonable prices.
Try the pizza at the White Hart in Alton (18 High St, Alton; 01538 702249; www.altonbandb-whitehart.co.uk). Modern surroundings with the pizzas cooked within a wood burning stove to much acclaim from far and wide.
There's something for everybody around Alton Towers, whatever the season. Why not miss the crowds this winter and sample the delights of Staffordshire Moorlands?