On a cold Autumn morning in 2020, the thunder of a petrol engine signaled the return of TPG to the home of Scarefest, Alton Towers.
An event we weren’t sure would happen this year due to COVID-19 so when details about the event were revealed we were excited to return once again and enjoy all the event has to offer, as well as seeing what changes have been made to make the event COVID Secure.
As we entered the park at the top of Towers Street, all seemed familiar, hay bales and scarecrows litter Towers Street, all up to their usual antics, the sense of familiarity in this unusual year was very much welcome.
At the bottom of Towers Street, remnants of Oktoberfest remain, with some of the stalls revamped with eerie names, such as Spooky Sausages, Freaky Fries and Oozy Boozy. A stage also sat in the middle of the lawns, hosting the Freaky Five shows as well as the Alton Ancestors, who usually dance on Towers Street.
As well as the entertainment on the lawns, Cbeebies Land also has some entertainment, with the Cbeebies Monster Ball, where younger guests can see all their favorite characters all dressed up for the season.
One thing we were excited to see was how the mazes had changed, as Darkest Depths, The Attic and Altonville Mine Tours have returned for 2020, as well as a brand new maze. Freak Show: Toxic Junkyard.
In order to reduce crowds, the mazes run for shorter hours and tickets have been capped, allowing for better social distancing. When entering the maze, groups were sent in a maximum of 12, with groups being split into three lots of four, all of which enter the maze at the same time, but being told to maintain a two-meter distance from the group in front of them.
During our visit, we found this worked rather effectively, however, in some instances, we had groups coming closer than they should have been, due to reacting to the scares, and as some guests tend to do, pick up the pace to try and get out of there as quickly as possible!
Alton Towers’ family maze returns again this year, however, The Mutiny has docked at Dark Forest, to allow the maze to be wider to aid social distancing. Darkest Depths was one of our favorite mazes from last year, despite being the family maze, it was the one that had the biggest scares!
This year, the maze has dialed it back to help with the family-friendly audience but still was a maze with lots of scares, and featured some additional scenes, making the maze a bit longer. We really enjoyed Darkest Depths in its new location and it's still a lovely themed maze, very much enjoyed.
The Attic: Terror of the Towers
The Attic returns to Scarefest this year and remains mainly unchanged, however, with social distancing in place some areas have been adjusted to aid this. Due to groups being further spread apart in the first room, where the story of the maze is told, it was harder to hear the story, which means first-timers may not understand the maze fully.
The Attic is still a beautifully themed maze and very nice to look at, the scares were still rather impactful, however, we found it was easier to see the actors moving around the sets, getting into their positions as of course, they had to keep distance, but, overall, we enjoyed venturing our way through The Attic again.
Altonville Mine Tours: Legend of the Skin Snatchers
One maze we thought would be interesting to see the changes this year was Altonville Mine Tours, traditionally a very high touch maze where the actors were known to touch you, a lot, but not this year!
Another change was the lack of head torches, which would flicker and turn off at various points during the maze, which was very effective due to the maze being very dark, which meant this year, it was a bit harder to navigate around.
The impact of the scares was lost somewhat due to the lack of touching as it made the maze a rather unnerving experience with the inhabitants of the mines wanting to examine the “merchandise”, seeing which bits of skin they want from you, although, the actors within were doing a great job working with the changes and still managing to make us jump!
Altonville Mine Tours is still a great maze, however, we felt it lacked the fear factor of previous years so we hope COVID blows over as we want to experience the maze in its full frightening form once again!
Freak Show: Toxic Junkyard
Down in Barb Dwyers (Get it?) Reclaim Yard, a group of outcast clowns has set up camp, preparing for the next big show, dare to investigate? Get out quick, or it might be you have the last laugh!
New for 2020, this new maze is completely outdoors and has been built with social distancing in mind, we enjoyed the Freak Show scare zones at previous Scarefest events so we were looking forward to a maze fully dedicated to them.
First of all, the maze is well themed throughout and is a great maze filled with lots of props from previous mazes and the Freak Show scare zones so it was fun to walk around going “Oh, it’s this from that!”. There was an abundance of actors in this maze, all of them performing with really high energy which made this maze so much to go through. We found the scares effective and guests scared of clowns will find this maze terrifying!
It’s great to see this maze appear at the resort and it’s one of the good things about the pandemic as it allows creatives to work out new and innovative ways to scare, whilst keeping it safe too.
Scarefest 2020 is not quite the same as pre-COVID, however, what the resort has produced is fantastic, considering the circumstances, and will thrill guests of all ages, from those wanting a fright to those young guests.