Gone are the days when Alton Towers was best left to thrill-seeking teenagers.
While the theme park still boasts plenty of white-knuckle rides to test even the bravest of nerves, there is now plenty to get preschool pulses racing.
CBeebies Land, which opened in May, has put Alton Towers firmly on the map for the under-fives.
Bringing the children’s BBC TV channel to life in its own zone within the theme park, CBeebies Land features gentle rides and attractions based on some of the most popular shows and characters including In the Night Garden and Postman Pat.
Most of the rides are suitable for even the teeniest of tots and although the queues can sometimes be pretty long, they’ve tried their best to keep the kids interested by making sure there are puzzles and games for the little ones to complete while they wait.
While we were at CBeebies Land, the ride which always had the longest queues was the In the Night Garden Magical Boat Ride, where pre-schoolers can float their way around Iggle Piggle’s favourite haunts, checking out sights ranging from the Pontipines’ house to Upsy Daisy’s bed.
And if that means nothing to you then you’re probably not in the attraction’s target demographic.
Youngsters can also help Postman Pat deliver his parcels, ride a carousel with the Numtums and spot CBeebies bugs – those lovable looking yellow blobs – on the Get Set Go TreeTop Adventure.
There’s also more to CBeebies Land than rides – a major plus point if your child is less than keen on the usual moving attractions.
There’s a range of shows starring TV favourites including Mike the Knight, the ZingZillas and Nina and the Neurons and the Tree Fu Tom-themed outdoor playground is great for when your kids really need to just run around and let off some steam.
Mr Bloom’s Allotment gives youngsters a chance to play some games and meet the veggies and both Charlie and Lola’s Moonsquirters and Green Drops and Justin’s House Pie-o-matic factory are themed indoor play areas with a difference.
Science fans can learn as they play at Nina’s Science Lab and there’s even a sensory garden.
It’s nice to see an attraction firmly aimed at the under-fives, but, of course, there are plenty of things for the kids to do in the rest of Alton Towers too.
It would be impossible to do everything in a single day so if you’re not staying overnight, you’ll probably need to work out your priorities before you go.
Elsewhere in the park, there are plenty of rollercoasters to leave you terrified, but also plenty to tempt the families who have headed to Staffordshire purely for CBeebies Land.
The pirate-themed Mutiny Bay is sure to be a hit with its live pirate show, the Battle Galleons where you enter into a water cannon fight with everyone you can see, and Sharkbait Reef, where little ones can get up close to underwater creatures.
Cloud Cuckoo Land is also firmly aimed at children with a range of rides just for them, including a driving school, carousel and a ride that takes visitors through the surreal world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
There’s even a 4D cinema showing an Ice Age film and Wobble World, an indoor play area made up of bouncy castles.
Merlin, the company behind the attraction, has done its best to make the theme park a destination rather than a day out. With two hotels to choose from, a spa, a waterpark and an impressive crazy golf course, there is now much more to Alton Towers than the white-knuckle rides it is famous for.
Alton Towers can be found in the heart of the Staffordshire countryside, in the village of Alton, between Cheadle and Ashbourne. It is about 50 miles and 90 minutes from the centre of Sheffield – follow the brown signs from the M1 southbound, postcode ST10 4DB
Tickets cost £49.20 for adults and £43.20 for children on the gate – but buy more than a week in advance online for 25 per cent off. Look out for vouchers on cereal boxes and tourist information leaflets offering two-for-one tickets as well. Entry to CBeebies Land is included in the ticket price
For more information, including about rides, hotels and more, visit www.altontowers.com
Three things to do:
1. Little ones will love CBeebies Land, with a range of rides and attractions aimed at under-fives and themed around the characters they know and love from the BBC children’s channel
2. Face your fears and tackle some of the resort’s many white-knuckle rides, from the famous Nemesis, to the speed of Rita and the superb Th13teen. The newest white-knuckle ride is The Smiler, the world’s first 14 looping roller-coaster, guaranteed to leave the most seasoned thrill-seeker in a spin with a grin.
3. Get away from the crowds and take a stroll through the Alton Towers gardens. Look out for Her Ladyship’s Garden, a replica of China’s To Ho Pagoda and the Bath Fountain. Alton Towers says: “With lucscious stretching lawns, vibrant beds and conservatory areas, the Gardens are definitely worth a look.”