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Tips for a day at a theme park

LeightonLeighton Member Posts: 6 Listener

Hi, I’m Leighton, I’m 29 and I’m from Port Talbot, a small industrial town in South Wales. Not a lot goes on around here, so I’ve always been on the search for some excitement and adventure.

I’ve always been a fan of Theme Parks, and a Roller Coaster Enthusiast (nerd!) for well over 15 years. Six Years ago I met the love of my life, Rob, a fellow theme park fan. He sometimes uses a wheelchair due to his condition, so we accept that he’ll probably never summit Mount Snowdon or Everest, but the one place we can get an adrenaline fix is at a Theme Park (well, most of them!).


I’ve found that disability and access policies vary wildly from Park to Park: bigger parks have lifts, ramps and access to all rides, including the roller coasters, and some small parks have a blanket ‘not able to walk, not able to ride anything’ rule. 

Two of my favourite theme parks, Alton Towers in Staffordshire, and Liseberg in Gothenburg, Sweden are some of the most accessible places I’ve been to.

Alton Towers covers around 500 acres of countryside with some of the best attractions the UK has to offer. There are some small hills that most mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs would handle with ease. There are also one or two steep hills which may prove difficult to negotiate in a chair but these can be avoided.

Disabled guests can park near the park entrance, you can park in the main car park and ride the monorail to the park entrance (trains are fully wheelchair accessible). Alton Towers charge for car parking, but just flash your blue badge to the car park attendant and they will direct you to the disabled car park. Keep your badge handy as you will need it in the park.

Alton Towers offers a Ride Access Pass system that allows guests with limited mobility or who are unable to queue to access rides via smaller flatter paths. These access points are normally well signposted via the ride exit. Staff member will mark your pass with a time that you can access the next ride. It’s like a virtual queue, but in reality the park is large enough that the time will be up before you’ve reached the next ride. 

The Ride Access Passes are collected from the park ‘Box Office’ just inside the park on the right hand side. 

The park use the same building for people to collect season passes, Ride Access Passes and priority passes and can attract a substantial queue within a few minutes of the park opening, it is offset by the overall slightly shorter ride queue time with the Ride Access Pass. You will need a Blue Badge or PIP letter to get the Ride Access Pass issued.

Alton Towers offer a wheelchair hire system (small deposits apply) they have a limited supply of manual wheelchairs, which I would highly recommend booking in advance. 

Park Tickets can be bought online cheaper than on the gate, and you avoid the need to queue twice, first to get a park ticket and once again to get into the park. Once you are inside you will queue again for the Ride Access Pass or Wheelchair collection.

Our normal visit to Alton Towers we’ll head straight to the queue for the park entrance gates, the earlier you get here the more chance you have of getting through the gates and into the Box Office before the queues. Once we have our pass we can either go round in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. All of Alton Towers rides are located around the park perimeter. 

I always tend to favour the Clockwise route as all of the park guests sprint for the bigger rides at the back of the park. This works well with the SkyRide which bypasses the new rides and takes you straight to the quiet areas first.

Rides we would recommend avoidingat the start of the day are The Wickerman, a brand new Wooden Roller Coaster with a very immersive storyline, fire and special effects. And Rita, a fast paced, intense launch coaster which launches you from 0-62mph in 2.5 seconds.These will get large queues from opening and will get quieter as the day goes on. 

Walk past these and go on them on Lap number 2, or come back to them once you’ve done everything else.By the time we get there, other guests have moved on to the rides we have already done. 

Most people don’t plan a route around a theme park, they run for the new ride and then move around the park quite randomly. This means you don’t get as on as many rides and you get to them when the queues are likely at their worst.

All rides will require you to transfer between a chair, scooter or walking aid and the ride vehicle and the park will normally insist on at least one helper in the event of a breakdown and ride evacuation.You can easily ride everything within a couple of hours, have a nice relaxed lunch break, and then head back out for more. 

Most people wouldn’t think of a theme park for day out for someone with a disability. With easy access and a great selection of attractions for all ages and abilities, there isn’t really a lot to stop you!

Have you been to any theme parks lately? We’d love to hear your own top tips too!

Replies

  • Sammyboyle20Sammyboyle20 Member Posts: 1 Listener
    im due to go to disney land next month and im terrified as i now walk with a stick and have sevre fstigue and pain. i have enwuired and takig my blue badge wilk allow us a priority pass and we can hire a wheelechair (1st come 1st served) which is a bit annoying. i am however not sure I even want the wheelchair even though i can push it and then use it when needed.Thats me jusy being stubborn though. Does anyone have any tips for disney? its my dream to go and i just want it to be amazing x
  • LeightonLeighton Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Disney have a similar pass system to the Alton Towers one mentioned above. They are collected from the guest services building inside the park.
    You will need some documentation like a blue badge or PIP letter.
    Disney require disabled guests ride with a helper over the age of 15 to assist in the case of ride evacuation. Ride attendants are legally not allowed to assist you on or off the ride vehicle.
    It is a big park so if you do have trouble waking long distances then you could call up and book a wheelchair. 
    Most rides have level access entrances so someone in a wheelchair or with crutches could avoid steps. 
    I’ve posted a link to the parks accessibility page.
    http://www.disneylandparis.co.uk/guest-services/guests-with-mobility-disabilities/

    https://brochure.disneylandparis.com/HCP/UK/catalogue/catalogs/dlp/index.html#page/1

    I can’t give a full breakdown as I haven’t been to the park in a few years. Hope that is of some use.
  • Pippa_ScopePippa_Scope Member Posts: 5,856 Disability Gamechanger
    Welcome to the community, @Sammyboyle20!

    I went to Disneyland Paris last year in my wheelchair (and blogged about it here!) and found it all really accessible- the access card mentioned above by @Leighton is great too.

    From a completely personal point of view, if using the wheelchair allows you to make the most of your time there and limits your pain/fatigue, it's 100% worth it! It really is a brilliant place- I hope you have a wonderful time! 
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Member Posts: 7,732 Disability Gamechanger
    I just came back from Universal and I really wish I'd thought about access before we went.  I thought I would be ok, but actually it was exhausting and I ended up in tears in pain as I couldnt walk or stand any longer.

    I think sometimes we need to think about how we could be on the worst day and plan for that rather than hoping for a good day!
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • LeightonLeighton Member Posts: 6 Listener
    Theme Parks can be very big places, Alton Towers is over 500 acres, Universal, for example is around 200 acres, even if you can walk short distances it may be worth hiring a chair, even disabled/accessible queues may have a bit of a wait to them. 
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