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Thorpe Park vs Alton Towers – comparing these 2 popular theme parks to see which is best

2 of the most popular theme parks in the UK are Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, and because one is in the North of England and one is in the South, people in central England often have to choose between one or the other. For this reason, we thought it would be useful to do a full comparison of these theme parks. We'll be looking at the positives and negatives of both Thorpe Park and Alton Towers, and we'll be comparing them based on factors such as price, quality of rides, and third-party reviews. Let's get into it:

Why compare Thorpe Park and Alton Towers?

We'll start by explaining why it is worth comparing Thorpe Park and Alton Towers - they're 2 of the biggest theme parks in the UK, and they're very similar in lots of ways. According to Statista, 1.7 million people visited Thorpe Park in 2021, whereas 1.8 million people visited Alton Towers in 2021, so they're very similar in terms of popularity.

Interestingly, the 2 theme parks opened within a year of each other too - Thorpe Park opened in May 1979, and Alton Towers opened in April 1980.

How do the rides compare?

The main reason that people head to a place like Alton Towers or Thorpe Park is because of the rides, so that's what we'll start by comparing. Let's take a look at each type of ride:

Rollercoasters

If you're a real adrenaline junkie then your main priority will be getting on the biggest and fastest rollercoasters possible, and both Thorpe Park and Alton Towers have plenty of rollercoasters which are excellent.

Alton Towers has 10 main rollercoasters, including some really groundbreaking concepts and track designs - The Smiler was the world's first 14-loop rollercoaster, and currently holds the world record for the most inversions of any rollercoaster in the world. TH13TEEN is the world's first vertical free fall drop rollercoaster and as you fall your body is put through 3.2G of force. The Nemesis rollercoaster puts your body through 3.5G of force and flings you along at 50mph. The tallest rollercoaster at Alton Towers is Oblivion which has a 180ft drop. But the rollercoaster which seems to stick with people the most is Rita - reaching a speed of 100kph in just 2.5 seconds, your body is put through 4.7G of force.

Thorpe Park is also excellent when it comes to rollercoasters, with 7 roller coasters currently available to ride, and another being added in 2024. The Swarm is a wing rollercoaster (the only rollercoaster like this in the UK) which flings you along at almost 100km/h. You'll experience the force of 4.5G and with nothing above or below you, it's a surreal and unforgettable experience. SAW- The Ride was actually the world's first horror movie themed rollercoaster and really paved the way for other theme parks to create similar rollercoasters. The standout part of this ride is the beyond vertical drop of 100 degrees, from a height of 100ft, where you can't really see what's ahead of you. We think it's genuinely scary! The Stealth rollercoaster is also pretty special, as it's actually the fastest rollercoaster in the UK at the moment. Stealth will take you from 0-80 miles per hour in less than 2 seconds, which feels incredible. However, what we'd say about Thorpe Park is that aside from these 3 rollercoasters, we think that the rest are a bit average. For example, Colossus was the world’s first ten-loop roller coaster when it opened, but you'll find a 14 loop roller coaster at Alton Towers (The Smiler). If you're looking to go really fast then Thorpe Park is probably a better option than Alton Towers, but if you're looking for a good variety of rollercoasters to choose from then we'd say Alton Towers is the better choice.

Water Rides

Alton Towers only has 2 proper water rides - Congo River Rapids and Battle Galleons. Both rides are suitable for all ages and are quite tame. Congo River Rapids has some good drops and Battle Galleons puts you on a pirate ship and lets you control and shoot pirate cannons.

Thorpe Park has 4 water rides, so twice as many as Alton Towers. And we'd also say that Thorpe Park has a much more interesting mix of water rides - for example, Tidal Wave is one of the tallest water rides in the whole of Europe and is properly fun. It drops you from a height of 85ft and you'll get drenched, something which you won't experience at all at Alton Towers. There is also Storm Surge, which takes a classic rapids ride and puts it 64ft in the air which adds a whole new dimension to this type of water ride. The other 2 rides are Depth Charge and Rumba Rapids, both of which are still fun but also suitable for all the family. So we'd say that Thorpe Park is much better for water rides compared to Alton Towers.

Other rides at Thorpe Park & Alton Towers

When it comes to rides which are really interesting and different, Alton Towers is really great. Rides such as The Alton Towers Dungeon and Nemesis Sub-Terra are genuinely quite frightening, and extremely well done. The Wicker Man ride is very inventive and is the UK’s first new wooden coaster built in the last 20 years.

Thorpe Park does have some interesting rides too, but we'd say Alton Towers is slightly better for scary rides, although The Walking Dead ride at Thorpe Park is pretty creepy and so is the new Ghost Train ride. Thorpe Park does have one kind of ride that Alton Towers doesn't which is Detonator, which takes you 100ft in the air and gives you a great view of the entire theme park (we'd love something like that at Alton Towers).

Thorpe Park does have some interesting rides too, but we'd say Alton Towers is slightly better for scary rides, although The Walking Dead ride at Thorpe Park is pretty creepy and so is the new Ghost Train ride.

Thorpe Park does have one kind of ride that Alton Towers doesn't which is Detonator, which takes you 100ft in the air and gives you a great view of the entire theme park (we'd love something like that at Alton Towers).

How do the prices of the 2 theme parks compare?

Both Thorpe Park and Alton Towers offer a day ticket option and an annual pass. As of 2023, the day ticket per person for the rides at Alton Towers costs £34 if you buy it in advance and £68 if you buy it on the day, whereas Thorpe Park costs £32 in advance or £64 if you buy it on the day. This is obviously similar in price, but it's worth keeping in mind that currently Alton Towers has more than 40 rides and attractions, whereas Thorpe Park has under 40 attractions and rides.

It's also worth mentioning that children under the height of 1.2m can visit Thorpe Park for free, and all under 3s go free to the theme park at Alton Towers (it doesn't matter how tall they are).

Also, both theme parks offer a rainy day guarantee, where if the weather is bad on the day you visit then you can get a free return visit. The 2 policies do differ slightly, as Alton Towers will offer a free return if there is any rain during your visit, whereas Thorpe Park will only offer a free return if there is rain continuously for more than 1 hour.

Third-party reviews of Thorpe Park and Alton Towers

We like to refer to third-party reviews as often as possible for our comparison guides as we feel it's a great way to get an idea of how people honestly feel. Our preferred third-party platform is Trustpilot, and we found a Trustpilot profile for both Thorpe Park and Alton Towers. Unfortunately, neither of the Trustpilot profiles for either of these theme parks are verified, which means there are no replies to any of the reviews on either profile. And we're sad to report that the reviews on both Trustpilot profiles are really bad - Thorpe Park has a 'Poor' rating from over 300 reviews, and Alton Towers has a 'Poor' rating from over 500 reviews.

Interestingly, the Tripadvisor profiles of the 2 theme parks are much more positive - Thorpe Park has a rating of 3.5 out of 5 from more than 12,000 reviews on Tripadvisor, and Alton Towers has a very impressive rating of 4 out of 5 from more than 21,000 reviews.

Thorpe Park Tripadvisor

Final thoughts - which is better, Thorpe Park or Alton Towers?

There isn't much to separate these 2 theme parks, but if we had to choose one then we'd go for Alton Towers. The rollercoasters at Alton Towers are better and there is more choice when it comes to high-octane rides.

However, if you're looking for water rides and the chance to get wet, then Thorpe Park is a much better choice.

What do you think of our comparison of these 2 theme parks? Let us know if you prefer Thorpe Park or Alton Towers and if you have any additional thoughts on our guide by leaving a comment below.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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