Theme Parks Gear Up For Battle Of The Big Rides

With the school summer holidays just weeks away, the UK’s major theme parks are vying to attract their share of the crowds by promoting their latest big rides and dusting off the old favourites.

Weather permitting, 2012 could be a record year for UK park operators, with the promise of a massive influx of additional overseas tourists, drawn by the London Olympic Games, to potentially swell their visitor numbers.

Thorpe Park is best placed geographically to benefit from any Olympic spin-off, being situated just south of London, near Chertsey, Surrey. No surprise then that it has launched a major new ride this year to help draw in the visitors.

Claiming to be the UK’s first winged roller coaster, The Swarm boasts that riders will have nothing above or below them but air. Adrenalin junkies will travel at speeds up to 92 mph, pulling up to 4.5G’s of force, through five inversions and a 127-foot inverted drop. Just for good measure, the 2,543-foot long ride includes an extreme near miss experience.

Not to be outdone, Alton Towers, which is situated between the towns of Leek and Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, has also launched a major new ride. Nemesis Sub-Terra is based on the park’s original Nemesis ride that was popular from its opening in 1994, only this time the action takes place under ground, and in the dark. The result, claims Alton Towers, is a psychologically and physically thrilling experience.

Visitors to Alton Towers looking for a less testing attraction can find it in Sharkbait Reef, a pirate-themed aquarium tunnel that is also new for 2012.

With its seaside location as an added attraction, Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, Lancashire, never fails to draw big crowds. Also in its armoury is the Big One, a long-time favourite and still claiming to be the UK’s tallest and fastest roller coaster, peaking at 235 feet high, and with incline speeds of 87mph. It is also one of the longest roller coasters, with a track length of over a mile.

So the rides are ready and waiting to test the bold and the brave, and the theme park operators will be keeping their fingers crossed that their roller coaster investments will bring them more ups than downs this summer.


Skegness Accused of Fighting Dirty in Resorts War

As the UK’s beach resorts gear up for the main summer holidays, Skegness, a traditional seaside town on the Lincolnshire coast, has been accused of using dirty tricks to lure visitors away from its rivals.

The Daily Mail has reported that Skegness has released a series of adverts headed, ‘For sights you’ll want to remember, visit Skegness,’ and showing photographs of walls covered in graffiti that were taken at some of the towns rival UK resorts, Brighton and Blackpool. In a predictable response, the two towns that were targeted have criticised what they see as underhand tactics.

In their defence, the local council has described the adverts as nothing more than friendly rivalry, with James Gilbert, of East Lindsey Council, the body responsible for the posters, telling the Daily Mail, ‘We’re not trying to upset anyone, it’s a bit of friendly rivalry. We want to challenge people’s perceptions and showcase the amazing art, culture, dance, theatre and music that is staged in the town. Obviously, Brighton and Blackpool attract more visitors than Skegness and we are not seeking to insult anyone who lives there or visits there. We are not trying to upset anyone, it’s a bit of friendly rivalry.’

Each year, eight million holidaymakers visit Brighton, while Skegness receives half that number, at around four million. Blackpool comfortably outstrips them both, registering around thirteen million visitors per year.

In the report, Mary Mears, Brighton’s former city council leader, retorted, ‘There’s a big difference, people who visit Skegness maybe would not want to go again, whereas we get lots of repeat customers in Brighton.’

Verdict on Blackpool Tramway’s £100m Upgrade

Blackpool’s new trams have been opened to the public after a £100million revamp. 16 brand new computerised trams have replaced some of the old heritage vehicles, although plenty of these continue to run for tourists to the resort. In addition to this, 6 miles of track has been replaced and a new tram depot has been built.

Since the new trams opened last week, passengers have said that they love the new look vehicles. However, the launch has not been without teething problems. The first tram to carry paying passengers was derailed by sand in Fleetwood soon after the launch. Also, some stop request buttons have not been working, meaning that people have had to ask the conductor to stop the tram when they want to get off.

Despite these initial problems, the new trams have been very busy, with tourists flocking to ride on them. Whilst some are unhappy that the trams resemble ‘the London Underground in Rush Hour’, the chaos is expected to die down as the novelty of the new trams wears off.

Blackpool remains the UK’s most popular holiday destination, with millions of tourists travelling to the seaside resort to enjoy Blackpool holidays by coach, train, car and even by plane into Blackpool Airport.

Transport Minister Norman Baker said: “Blackpool has a long and proud history of tram use, indeed its tramway is among the oldest in the world. We want to ensure that the future of tram use in the town is even brighter and that is why I was happy to give £68m towards this fantastic project. Blackpool’s trams are absolutely on the right track.”

Blackpool Pleasure Beach stops packed lunches

Visitors are being stopped and searched as thy arrive at Blackpool Pleasure Beach… for the humble pack lunch. The park has decided to only allow visitors to eat food and drink brought inside the park.

Families will have already paid at least £80 just to get into the popular tourist attraction, packed lunches are one way to keep the cost down. But visitors are reportedly being told to consume packed lunches outside the park and being turned away.

Named ‘the sandwich police’, the gate staff search bags on entry and if they find any snacks they are confiscated for the duration of the visit, or visitors are told they must be eaten outside the park.

The policy is completely opposite to other top UK attractions including Alton Towers, Legoland Windsor and London Zoo all of which welcome visitors with their packed lunches.

Bosses are the park have blamed limited space, and said that is why the ‘picnic area’ has been created adjacent to the park.

The pleasure beach, which claims to be Britain’s most popular tourist attraction with 6million visitors a year, said the policy has been in place for years. However many tourists are likely to be deterred by this strict no food rule – almost forcing visitors to buy food within the park, the family day out turns into a very expensive trip.

A spokeswoman for Merlin theme parks – which operates Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington and Legoland Windsor – said: ‘While more and more people choose to eat in the park restaurants, we have always offered facilities for people to bring and eat their own picnics, and continue to do so.’



Blackpool’s Golden Mile is set to be renamed

Blackpool’s Golden Mile is famous for its illuminations, amusement arcades and fish and chips, but it is now set to be renamed in an attempt to rid the resort of its tacky reputation.

The seafront will soon be known as Queen Elizabeth Promenade, following a £100million project to improve the area.

Peter Callow, the leader of the council, said: “Our new promenade is going to be world class so we believe it deserves a new title.”

The project includes improved walkways, ‘Spanish-style’ steps from the promenade to the beach and a new open-air events space, the Tower Festival Headland.

A new wedding venue and tourist information centre will also open this autumn.

The council have also announced that the number of licences for lap dancing clubs will be cut from 12 to two to help improve Blackpool’s reputation.

The resort will also see American animation come to town as the Pleasure Beach is set to build a new zone based on the US entertainment channel Nickelodeon.

Nickelodeon Land will have 14 rides based on characters such as Dora The Explorer, The Rugrats, and SpongeBob Square Pants, who is set to be the star attraction.

Work on Nickelodeon Land will begin when the Pleasure Beach’s main summer season is finished this autumn.