2020 was Alton Towers' 40th anniversary year, and the park had planned a season full of celebrations culminating in a magnificent end of season Fireworks event.
However, the plans were scuppered by the Coronavirus pandemic and the park was forced to cancel their 2020 Fireworks.
Thankfully, the Fireworks were back for 2021 with a special show celebrating the milestone, albeit a year late.
Along with the spectacular fireworks, as this was my first and only visit to the park this year, the trip also gave the opportunity to have a look around the new World of David Walliams area and try out
the new Gangsta Granny dark ride, plus see the temporary "Retro Squad" fairground rides brought in for the season.
The park had decided to keep numbers down with a limited capacity for the event, and declared it "sold out" via their social media channels several days before it began.
In reality, Friday was fairly quiet with an estimated 11,000 guests in the park, but Saturday felt much busier although still manageable with 18,000 people attending.
More: Fireworks Review and Video
Friday 5th November 2021
We had a relaxed start to the day, and drove up to arrive at the park at midday
A brisk walk brought us to the main entrance with the sun shining ... for a change it wasn't icy cold for Alton Fireworks!
There was a range of event merchandise for sale in Towers Trading, including a new tshirt and hoody design.
The Fireworks 2021 Pin Badge (with flashing lights!) was not out on display, but available by asking at the tills.
A first look at this year's setup from the bottom of Towers Street
A new preshow lineup this year, with dancers and a live DJ preceding the main Fireworks show
Guys, there must be enough gunpowder there to blow up Parliament for Fawkes sake
Has anyone lost a golf ball?
The World of David Walliams was supposed to open in 2020, but was delayed until this year thanks to Covid-19
We were greeted by a couple of friendly Beefeaters
It uses some nice dark ride tech to take riders on an adventure with Ben and Granny to steal the Crown Jewels, loosely following the plot of David Walliams' children's book
While Gangsta Granny is a great ride, sadly the rest of The World of David Walliams feels rushed and unfinished
Next, we got in the queue for Th13teen.
Sadly the ride has got a lot of problems at the moment, and can't run in the rain.
Shortly after we got in the queue, everybody was turned away "because of the wet weather" ... it wasn't even drizzling :-/
To help ease problems caused by limited ride capacity due to the pandemic and social distancing, Alton has brought in some temporary fairground rides for the 2021 season under the "Retro Squad" banner
Roller Disco, a traditional waltzer, has been placed at the bottom end of Dark Forest
With Th13teen down, we instead headed over to X-Sector for a ride on the awesome Oblivion
It's the return of the apostrophe!
Beside Oblivion's brakerun is another of the Retro Squad rides, Mixtape
It makes for a very retro corner of the park, with Mixtape and Enterprise sitting next to each other
Alton don't appear to be giving out paper maps this year, but the old signboards are still going strong
It can be easy to forget about Spinball Whizzer which is a shame - we had a fantastic ride on it
The screens for the evening's show were being tested
The last of The Retro Squad trio is Funk'n'Fly on the old Ripsaw site in Forbidden Valley
There was a half hour wait to get into Rollercoaster Restaurant where we had a late lunch
A few more menu options have been added - I had a delicious Lamb Kofta
A 25 minute wait for Nemesis was the perfect length of time for our food to go down
As always, the rollercoaster was superb
Friday is definitely the day to come: we'd arrived at midday, had a long lunch, managed to get some rides in and there was still time for a turn on Wicker Man before the fireworks
What an honour to be burned in wicker
Time to make our way to the Front Lawns
This year's preshow music was provided by a Live DJ
A final safety check
Excitement builds as the start time draws near
We were taken on a time travelling adventure
The show was huge
Definitely one of the best Fireworks shows Alton Towers have put on in the last few years
The Towers were lit up after the show
Her audience had dispersed, but the DJ played on
We got some hot drinks to warm up from Corner Coffee. I ordered a decaf coffee ... when I was still awake at 3am I realised they had definitely not given me one!
The Towers looked magnificent, with the recently restored Banqueting Hall window taking centre stage
The bridge was lit up in alternating pink and green
A final night ride on Wicker Man
Saturday 6th November 2021
We stayed the night at the Holiday Inn Express Stoke-on-Trent.
Originally we were booked into the proper Holiday Inn down the road, but our booking got cancelled a few weeks ago.
As initially maddening as that was, it turns out that it was for good reason - it is currently home to refugees who had previously helped British Forces and were forced to flee Afghanistan earlier this year.
We made our way back to Alton Towers to meet up with the gang ... Of all the thousands of cars streaming into the car park, who did we end up parking right next to?
Now you can even get an Alton Towers Christmas jumper!
First stop of the day was The World of David Walliams so Paul could get his first ride on Gangsta Granny
The queue for Rita didn't look too bad so we joined it and prepared for a ride on the former queen
Unfortunately she wasn't having a good day and broke down a short time later
We waited it out, and eventually the old girl got moving
Eventually it was our turn and we lucked out with front row seats ... to be told it had broken down again
The mechanics were called, and had grumpy Rita back up and running again soon after
After all that, we had a good ride - the rollercoaster seems a bit smoother than it has been
We spotted two things from Rita's front seats: firstly Myk, Stacey, Tom and Emma waiting for us, and secondly that it looked like Th13teen was preparing to open.
We rushed over to Th13teen to get a ride, before they closed it because of rain (or the vague possibility that it might rain at some time in the future)
Haunted Hollow had been made less gloomy with lots of lights
A number of large props had been delivered ready for the forthcoming Christmas light festival
Lunch for a second day at Rollercoaster Restaurant
Food tastes better when delivered by rollercoaster
Duel is always a good post-lunch ride
It rained for a few minutes while we waited, but nothing too major
There are now five - count 'em - padlocks on the gate!
The haunted house's residents have had some building work done
The indoor queueline has been re-routed, with the dolls house being moved to the other side of the room
Everyone misses Nitrogenie
I want to runaway with you
We were going to ride Wicker Man but the queue had reached 2 hours which would put us in danger of missing the fireworks, so we took a re-ride on Gangsta Granny instead
The light up Fireworks 2021 pin badge
Back on the lawns waiting for the second night of fireworks
The show was just as spectacular watching it again
Dancing after the show
Man, that DJ was Relentless
I think the first aid tent is in need of some first aid
If it weren't for all the rubbish and empty cups, this would look beautiful
Night ride time
There's nothing quite like ending the Alton Towers season with a final ride on Nemesis
This year's Fireworks Spectacular was one of the best displays Alton Towers have ever put on, and a fitting way to celebrate the park's 40th anniversary, even if it was a year later than originally planned.
It's fair to say we had a fantastic weekend overall and really enjoyed the rides we got on, including the impressive Gangsta Granny dark ride.
However, the general ride availability was dreadful: I can't remember any previous fireworks event where so many major rides were out of action.
The Skyride and
Congo River Rapids
were down all weekend, and Th13teen's new-found inability to run in the rain did nothing to improve the situation.
Thankfully the park's decision to limit capacity helped a bit, but it was still not a brilliant way to end the forty(first) anniversary season.
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