These are the rides and lands we enjoyed as a family, not for hardened thrill seekers but gentle and fun for all ages.
We started in Storybook Land. This is a nice introduction to the park and has rides for very young children. Squirrel Nutty is a ride inside a giant acorn which takes you high above the "tree-tops." You get a good view over this whole area from the ride. It is all very nicely themed.
Old McDonalds Farm is right next door. It is aimed at younger children, but our 9 year old also found plenty to keep him happy here. The Dungheap playgroud has lots of climbing frames, slides and a zip wire. There is a tractor ride around the farmyard and a carousel for very young children, and the River Bank Eye Spy ride is a nice boat ride for all ages. Berry Bish Bash was a real hit with our family. Inside the "barn" you get a bag of foam balls, "shoot" them at people through a range of cannons and different guns and dodge them as they literally fly around everywhere. Even the adults were having a great time here.
Cloud Cuckoo Land was another favourite of our 9 year old. Here they have the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ride - a lovely boat trip through Willy Wonka's factory, followed by a ride on the great glass elevator. There is also a Driving School - children can drive little cars around a well themed city area and get a driving license at the end. Unfortunately when we were there, most of the cars kept breaking down! One of the newest attractions of the park is here - Ice Age 4D Experience. It is a 3D film with bubbles, snow etc.. We enjoyed it, but found it a bit predictable and a little disappointing.
Mutiny Bay is a pirate themed area. There are a variety of boat rides, but our favourite was Sharkbait Reef. This is a little aquarium with all sorts of creatures from the deep - including sharks and a small area with a touch tank. Children loved it here, despite the girl who worked here being very grumpy and sullen. Don't miss the Pirate Show which takes place 4 times daily at Mutiny Bay. There are fireworks, lots of shiver-me-timbers and singing and dancing. Unfortunately on our first day it was cancelled due to illness, but we did see it on the second day.
Katanga Canyon was an area we went back to on our second day. Our son was a big fan of the Runaway Mine Train and the River Rapids ride. The mine train is a tame but reasonably fast roller-coaster. It is great if you don't like the big ones. It goes around the track twice - the second time much faster than the first. The river rapids is also fun - a few dips and splashes but you don't really get too wet.
We had a great day as a family enjoying all these attractions. There does though seem to be a bit of a problem at Alton Towers with rides breaking down. On our first day, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had only 1 elevator working so the queues were huge; the Pirate Show was completely cancelled; Ice Age had an alarm go off in the middle of the movie and we all had to leave and then join the back of the queue if you wanted to see it again; the river rapids ride broke down for 30 minutes but was repaired while we stood in line, the driving school cars kept breaking down (due the attendant said to the "hot weather") and a few other little mishaps. It did not spoil things for us, as we returned the next day, but had we paid £45 for a single day ticket, I would have been most unhappy with the experience.