2018 was a great year for new things to see and do in Staffordshire, with highlights including the huge success of Alton Towers' brand new rollercoaster Wicker Man, and the Weeping Window poppies display, which attracted more than 100,000 visitors to Middleport Pottery.

A tough act to follow! So what has 2019 got to offer? Answer - plenty! Here are our 10 reasons to visit Staffordshire this year.

Four brand new rides at Waterworld

A huge expansion at Waterworld, the Stoke-on-Trent aqua park, will bring four brand new rides.

We're awaiting details of what will be joining legendary flumes like The Nucleus and Space Bowl, and exactly when they will be open, but we're expecting to hear something in the near future, so watch this space for more info.

The first Adventure Island Mini Golf centre in Staffordshire will also open on the site this year,  hopefully by the Autumn, as it becomes a leisure complex offering something for everyone, whatever the weather.

Not only that, but Waterworld will be celebrating its 30th birthday this year too, so it's a massive year all-round for one of Staffordshire's biggest attractions.

The Midlands Grand National turns 50!

This year sees the 50th anniversary of one of the biggest events on the UK's horse-racing calendar, the Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter Racecourse.

First held in 1969, the meeting draws a huge audience of punters, runners and riders from all over the country, with more than 11,000 tickets sold in 2018.

To mark this special occasion, the prize pot has been increased to £280,000, while there is sure to be plenty of live entertainment alongside seven thrilling jump races.

Tickets are available now at https://www.uttoxeter-racecourse.co.uk/whats-on/midlands-grand-national-16-march

Away from the Midlands Grand National, there will be 24 racedays throughout the year, as well as great live music from the legendary Madness, celebrating 40 years in the music business, on May 18th.

Image: Nigel Kirby Photography

See the stars at Alton Towers

The brand new Alton Towers Stargazing Pods will offer a great value for money option for staying at the UK's Number One theme park!

Ready in time for the theme park reopening after the winter shutdown, the pods can sleep up to four people, with packages including free entry to the theme park on your second day, a free round of Extraordinary Golf, and live evening entertainment.

Bookings are being taken now at https://www.altontowers.com/short-breaks/stargazing-pods/

Also new for 2019 is the Alton Towers Dungeon!

Brought to you by the operators of other Dungeons around the country, including at Warwick Castle and Blackpool Pleasure Beach, details are limited at present, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for details.

The return of the British Ceramics Biennial

Back for a sixth time in 2019, the British Ceramics Biennial is a huge celebration of ceramics, running from September 28th to November 10th.

Featuring exhibitions, talks and fun clay-based family activities, this six-week long event, held in venues across Stoke-on-Trent, focusses on the future of the global pottery industry, nurturing the potters of tomorrow and showcasing the UK's most talented ceramicists.

The AWARD competition sees up to 10 of the best up-and-coming artists shortlisted, with a prize of £10,000 up for grabs.

There will also be an exhibition of all the entries running alongside the competition.

The programme for 2019 hasn't been announced yet, so we'll let you know as soon as we hear anything.

Image: Albino Beast by Malene Hartmann Rasmussen (photo by Sylvain Deleu)

Celebrate our National Park

2019 is a big year for the UK's national parks as it will be 70 years since the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act became law.

This paved the way for Britain's most beautiful open spaces to be designated as national parks, and preserved for everyone to enjoy, with the very first being our own Peak District National Park in 1951.

Expect events at parks around the country to mark the occasion, including National Parks Week (actually a fortnight) from April 6th-21st.

FUN FACT: Staffordshire is the only county with a National Park, National Forest and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Classic Ibiza comes to Weston Park

Enjoy a vibrant evening of Balearic beats, with a twist, at Weston Park thanks to the first Classic Ibiza on July 13th.

Headliners The Urban Soul Orchestra will perform some of the biggest dance anthems, with the help of well-known vocalists and a live DJ.

Starting with a chill-out set to enjoy with the family and a picnic, DJ Goldierocks will crank it up as the night progresses, before a spectacular light and laser show, before the Orchestra bring proceedings to an unforgettable crescendo.

Tickets are available at https://www.weston-park.com/event/classic-ibiza/

Why not stay a bit longer with the Classic Ibiza House Party Package? Stay in one of the luxurious bedrooms in the stately home, enjoy a delicious English breakfast the morning after, and explore the stunning gardens before heading off.

Great acts at ForestLive

Paul Weller, Jess Glynne and one still-to-be-announced act are the headliners for these huge outdoor concerts at Cannock Chase.

Organised by the Forestry Commission, these popular gigs attract thousands of music-lovers to our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and this year promises to be no different, with tickets already in short supply.

All the money raised by the concerts, to be held this year from July 5th-7th, goes towards the conservation of the forest, ensuring Cannock Chase continues to be a great environment for visitors and wildlife alike.

Tickets are available now at https://www.forestryengland.uk/music

Wedgwood's 260th birthday

Perhaps Staffordshire's most iconic brand alongside JCB, Wedgwood celebrates its 260th birthday this year.

The world-famous ceramics manufacturer was established by Josiah Wedgwood on May 1st 1759, and much of its ware is still produced in Staffordshire today, at the company's headquarters in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent.

Why not take some time this year and explore Wedgwood's fascinating history at The Wedgwood Museum, home of one of the world's most important industrial collections?

Or witness some of the amazing skills and craftsmanship on show on a factory tour at World of Wedgwood?

There are sure to be a host of events to mark the occasion, so keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details.

The return of Staffordshire Day

May 1st will see the fourth annual Staffordshire Day, packed with things to do as we celebrate our marvellous county and all it has to offer!

Enjoy a local delicacy and help a Staffordshire charity in the World's Biggest Oatcake Morning, share your Mugshot on social media, and test your knowledge in The Great Big Staffordshire Quiz!

There will be loads to enjoy, including events, special offers and competitions, so watch this space for announcements in the coming months.

New exhibition at Tamworth Castle

A fascinating permanent exhibition is set to open at Tamworth Castle in 2019.

Dedicated to the town's Anglo-Saxon heritage as the Ancient Capital of Mercia, including the story of the warrior queen Aethelflaed, and showcasing pieces from the Staffordshire Hoard, the exhibition will open this Summer.

Also known as The Battle and Tribute Project, it will give you the chance to immerse yourself in history by trying replica weapons, armour and period costumes on for size, and explore the power struggles of Anglo-Saxon Britain, with its tales of battles and bloodshed!

Taking over a whole floor at the castle, the Heritage Lottery Fund project will give you a real idea of Tamworth's importance as the centre of Mercia, the dominant kingdom of England between the 7th and 10th centuries.

Other things to do in Staffordshire

So it promises to be another exciting year for Staffordshire!

For more information on these and other reasons to visit, head to our What's On section, where you can search for events by type, date and area, and our Things to Do section, which tells you everything you need to know about things to do in Staffordshire.

Related

Alton Towers Resort
Theme Park
Wooden coaster tech on Wicker Man

Winner - Bronze Award - Enjoy Staffordshire Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2018. Alton Towers Resort is Britain’s Greatest Escape and home to the UK’s favourite theme park with endless family fun and ground-breaking rollercoasters.

Tamworth Castle
Castle
Tamworth Castle

A visit to Tamworth Castle takes you back in time and offers a perfect blend of fascinating history, regular live events and a stunningly complete building.

British Ceramics Biennial
Arts & Crafts Event
British Ceramics Biennial

Celebrating it's 10 year anniversary, the British Ceramics Biennial is taking place betwen 7 September and 13 October 2019. The British Ceramics Biennial (BCB) is the UK’s premiere contemporary ceramics festival that takes place in Stoke-on-Trent.

Weston Park
Historic House
Weston Park

Weston Park is one of the most welcoming stately homes with as much character as any English castle and with as many stories as any royal home.

Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Forest or Woodland
Cannock Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Welcome to Cannock Chase - central England's woodland jewel, packed with things to see and do. Take time to explore, walk, ride, trek, run. Come on your own, bring the family but most of all bring an open mind and visit the real outdoors!

Waterworld
Aqua Park
Safely down the ride

Water World is an Aqua Park built around a wave pool with slides, rides, flumes and features available. There is plenty to do for all ages, weak and strong swimmers and open all year round

World of Wedgwood
Pottery Visitor Centre
World of Wedgwood exterior

Winner - Silver Award - Enjoy Staffordshire Guided Tour of the Year 2018. The World of Wedgwood, a unique visitor experience celebrating the very best of British industrial and design heritage. Experience Wedgwood for the day through shopping, food and visitor tours.

Uttoxeter Racecourse
Racecourse
Uttoxeter Racecourse hosts 25 race days each year.

Winner - Silver Award - Enjoy Staffordshire Business Tourism Award 2018. Uttoxeter Racecourse has something for everyone. Whether you are new to racing, like to enjoy a special day out or you are a loyal follower of the Sport of Kings, come along to Uttoxeter and you are guaranteed a day of fun and excitement.