Children’s television has changed much in the generation from when I watched Play School and the likes, and for pre-school children in the UK, CBeebies, the BBC’s dedicated channel for that age group, is filled with popular programmes from the under fives. Alton Towers, the theme park best known for its fast moving and frightening roller coasters, became the home to CBeebies Land in 2014, a theme park for those who watch CBeebies. Being not too far from home, we thought we should take a trip along to see what it was like.
Going on a week day in mid-September meant that both Alton Towers and CBeebies land were not that busy, but still busy enough to get the buzz that you would expect. We arrived just before 10am, when the park opens, and caught the monorail from the car park to the park itself. Once inside the park, CBeebies land is a short walk from the main entrance. If you find yourself there, go through the turnstiles, keep right, and you can’t miss it. We got to the entrance to CBeebies Land just as it opened, and there was a very small crowd waiting to get in.
Most of the favourite characters that you might expect are represented. Xander is a big fan of Postman Pat, and you can get in Pat’s van and help to deliver the mail. This was a big hit with us, and we did go on the ride more than once.
As well as that, we bumped into Pat on his rounds around the park, together with a friend who had Jess the Cat with her. You could stop to say hello to Pat and to give Jess a stroke, both of which we did.
In The Night Garden seems a firm favourite with many CBeebies watchers, particularly the younger ones. Xander had been to In The Night Garden Live earlier in the summer, and I suspect was hoping to see Makka Pakka at CBeebies Land. The In The Night Garden ride is a boat trip through the garden, where the characters that you might expect to see are all around, with Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, and the Haahoos making an appearance alongside Makka Pakka. The Pontipines were outside their house doing a little dance, but the Wottingers did not seem to be at home. Fans of the programme will probably not be too surprised by that…
We took a trip into Charlie and Lola’s house, where you could meet the characters – in electronic form – and even play in a ball pit. The electronic characters still had methods of interacting with those there to see them.
Mr Bloom’s Nursery was there, which took the form of a live participative show, and seemed to hold the attention of all those there to watch. It was definitely worth popping along to that.
For fans of Tree Fu Tom, there was a Tree Fu world, which was an appropriately sized adventure playground. This went down well with Xander, although it did take some effort to stop him playing on some of the activities that were a bit too big for someone who is not quite two yet.
The Num-Tums were represented in a themed merry go round, which was another big hit with us requiring multiple goes. Justin Fletcher makes two appearances, with Justin’s House providing great fun for those more than 90cm tall, and the Something Special sensory garden.
There were also live shows, with Mike the Knight, Nina and the Neurons and the Zingzillas all there when we visited. The Zingzillas were the biggest hit with us, and given their musical theme, it felt like a festival for children. Xander loved it, and it was quite an effort to stop him jumping on stage with the characters. We had seen the Zingzillas earlier in the day driving around the park in their bus, waving at the children.
There is also a tree top adventure, which is a ride above the park, allowing you to see down into CBeebies Land. There are the usual collection of shops and the like, and as well as the green screen photo option, there were a series of tents in the live arena which included bowling and other Mike the Knight themed activities, as well as the opportunity to meet a character. Upsy Daisy was there when we passed by, and we stopped to say hello. Everywhere we went, staff were only too happy to take our photo with our camera – they often offered without being asked – and we were not asked to buy any photos taken by the staff there, or for that matter, anything else, which was a pleasant surprise. There is a shop, which although easy to find, requires you to go in to it to see what is on offer, taking away some of the pester power that you might expect to take home a new toy.
We were fortunate that it was not so busy when we were there, so there were no queues more than a couple of minutes for any of the rides, although the queuing systems show that there is the facility to handle much longer queues, so a visit in school holidays might be a slightly different experience.
Given that the park is in Alton Towers, there are plenty of other things to do as well as CBeebies Land itself. There are shows that you can watch, and a few other activities that would be suitable even for pre-school children. It’s not all big scary roller coasters! We walked over to the pirate themed area, where Xander enjoyed watching the ships. There was a pirate show that went on whilst people were having lunch in one food area, whilst we headed off to the Mexican restaurant.
Leaving the park was no problem either, with a couple of minutes’ wait for a return monorail back to the car park, and no queues to get out.
We enjoyed the day, and I’m sure that we will make a return visit.