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With the exception of Gardaland, Italy is a relative unknown in the rollercoaster world. Despite the country containing two of the best rollercoasters in Europe, its relative distance from the UK and distance between parks always means Italy is a difficult nut to crack. Baring in mind, I last did a theme park road trip there in 2011 and the developments that have occurred in the last five years, there is now, no reason not to visit this fantastic country.
We started in Rome, back when Rainbow Magicland was a brand new theme park. Since then Cincecittá World has opened which you can explore in Ben C's Italy blog from 2015
This odd little park is a definite unknown. Despite the big promises and high expectations from when it initially opened, the park has never really set the continent alight. It has the space and some very intriguing attractions but it's never been able to grow beyond that. About an hour from Rome itself, it's one I would visit again thanks to Shock and Huntik.
Shock for example is a good ride to demonstrate the almost amateur approach of the park. It begins with very odd meandering before launching you off to the sky with some great aerial movements. It's loud, it's fast, its relatively intense, its photogenic and it leaves its best trick till last.
Whilst Shock is the parks signature ride, it's pretty much the only rollercoaster that genuinely impresses. The parks spinner is pretty terrible for example, a ride in a giant shed and suffers from the same problems that Winjas and Spinball suffer from; the turns counteract the spinning momentum meaning the ride never really gets going. Luckily the theming is fantastic so at least when walking past the ride, there is something to admire.
The surprise stand out was without a shadow of a doubt Huntik, a next generation shoot em up with fantastic effects. We really enjoyed.
I'd recommend a visit here to start a trip off with.
I really like Miribilandia. That is off course help by Katun which is undoubtedly my favourite B&M worldwide. The height of the thing, the fantastic intensity and the traditional B&M layout combination really works here and the ride whilst feels controlled (unlike say... enthusiast favourite Nemesis), it rides so well that can be forgiven for anything. I love it.
Next up, comes I-Speed a well loved Intamin launch rollercoaster. It's a good ride, solid, well paced and keeps its speed throughout. The only issue is those damn restraints which tend to cut into you on the fast corners. If it was able to get the new restraints, it would definitely fly up the rankings.
I have yet to ride Divertical but I've heard 'some' good things. The final real quality ride there is Reset, a dark ride themed to.. well I'll let the pictures do the talking. Worth riding and very separate from the rest of the park.
And finally, after driving across Italy, we come to Gardaland, at a time when people did generally seem to like Merlin. With Raptor, Krake and The Swarm all built in quick succession, it's amazing how Merlin haven't quite reached that lofty standard for a while. I really like Raptor, I personally think that despite it not really featuring large drops and big inversions, it has a much more original layout, more well paced then any of the others and I really love its industrial look.
Since my visit Oblivion: Black Hole has opened so another reason to visit Italy for you all. In terms of when I when I went, Raptor was only really the major ride that shone. Other rides like the awful S&S attraction, so awful I've forgotten its name and the Venom twosome aren't great back up coasters frankly.
Other rides really are terrible though, the Atlantis ride is tedious in the extreme. It looks pretty but no, not any good. The park does also suffer from similar Merlin issues to ours such as up-selling and very few support rides.
Just a shout out to Italy as a country. It's a fantastic place and my absolute favourite theme park trip memory is sitting on a balcony in our apartment overlooking the sun setting, with a couple of beers and just enjoying everything about the country. It's lovely and definitely worth a visit over.
Thanks for the reading and for Part 3, I shall be attacking the big egg that is Germany.. wish me luck.
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As it was my first time at Chessington, I thought I would write a review of my first impressions of the attractions we visited. So here goes…
I was surprised to learn it has exactly the same layout as the Flying Fish at Thorpe. Unlike the Flying Fish, the overall theming was very good. It has a very immersive queue which goes under and over the tracks in the middle of the ride area. The pyro and water effects also worked on cue for every run. To me it shows what can be done with a standard ride layout if they are consistent with the theming and maintenance of the effects.
The first thing I noticed about this ride was how small the cars were. I was struggling to get in so I definitely think the they were smaller than the cars on X for comparison. The ride very much felt like a classic wild mouse and was a lot of fun. The brakes on this though are way too strong, the cars come to a very sudden stop at the end. I say stop but it felt more like a controlled crash.
It instantly reminded me of the much loved and now quietly removed Ripsaw. The state of the ride does not look good, as if it’s on it’s last legs. A lot of the panelling was clearly removed underneath the seats with visible wiring and hydraulic lines. It’s all very dirty (But Merlin don’t seem to clean their flat rides in general) and the sound of grinding metal was not very reassuring. The ride was still very fun however and just like Ripsaw, still draws a crowd to watch as riders are drowned by the fountains.
The Gruffalo River Ride Adventure
I thought that the new theming was very well done. There aren't any signs of reused props from the old ride and it appears to have been almost gutted and redone entirely. The timing for each scene was out as each bit started just before we entered. The boats were getting stuck and bunching together, there must have been a low water level at the time we were on. It was good to see that some of the fountains were kept in the final scene and are still a great part of the ride. The mist projection at the end was a nice addition, similar to what Merlin have used before at Madame Tussaud’s. Overall it’s a great ride which with any new attraction, just needs a few tweaks.
The Adventure Tree
It’s a great centrepiece for Chessington and looks great. The ride is very short however so I wouldn’t recommend queuing a long time for it.
It’s great that Chessington still has a working log flume since the loss of two flumes within the space of a few seasons. The water on this ride was crystal clear and very clean which very much enhanced the ride for me. On the drops, being at the front I did not actually get too wet.
This is the best spinning coaster I’ve ever been on. The car I was on spun a lot! I like how the ride area is not enclosed and travels around the park. It was certainly fast and furious, definitely worth queuing for.
Definitely the best ride at Chessington by far. It felt very unusual seeing the train in-front swaying from side to side. A very unique rollercoaster in the UK. There was a great atmosphere in the station, however it was lacking more theming. This is a must go on if you visit Chessington.
The Temple Restaurant
Later on, we went to the Temple Restaurant for dinner...
The restaurant was nice and modern looking. I think it really sets the benchmark for all of Merlin’s new hotel restaurants. There’s a very impressive show including multiple elements such as lighting, wall mounted screens, the main fountain and black lights. The show does not happen too frequently as to not get too repetitive. It’s a very immersive experience which reminded me of the immersion found in the Rainforest Café. The food was only acceptable and there was not a huge variety of choice at the buffet. There wasn't any specially themed menu despite the great theming of the restaurant itself. Overall, the food could do with improving to reach the same level as most of Merlin’s other hotel restaurants. If it had better food, then it would definitely be on par with the Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
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I'm not one for creating huge blogs so...
Just got back from my second visit to Europa having been five years ago, and think I enjoyed it even more. This is truly a wonderful place and hope to be back sooner than five years.
As you'd expect, all rides working, no breakdowns, high capacity, friendly staff, good food (and too much choice).
Got on many rides and the longest queue was 25 mins for Matterhorn Blitz, everything else around the 10-15 mins mark. Sunday park open till 7:30 and Tuesday on our second day open until 9:00.
Was fantastic to twice see engineers working on animatronics, proving they truly do keep everything going, unlike some places we all know a bit too well
I really recommend visiting the Silver Lake Saloon for dinner if anyone visits the park and stays nearby. Great food and great surroundings. Just a few pics...
Sunday 4th September - Sunshine, Spinning & Midway Madness
The sun was out today, no rain at all!
In the morning, those of us who weren't doing Sandcastle waterpark returned to the Pleasure Beach with our rainy day tickets.
George was living up to his forum name of SmilerGeorge
First we did Avalanche (which we didn't have time for on the Saturday as it had a long queue all day), which was faster and more forceful than I remember! Then we re-rode Grand National, Big One and Skyforce - and this time, I managed to nail it! Tips for those who've yet to ride: you have to make sure you're rocking side to side fast enough (faster than in the queueline demonstration video), the first time you go upside down will probably be too slow to start the spinning momentum, so keep rocking until you do a full flip...then hold the wings in place and prepare for insanity! I couldn't believe how fast I was spinning, and I think the wind must have caught me a few times as I suddenly picked up speed at points! I felt a bit out of control at one point and a tiny bit scared (which rarely happens to me on rides!), even though I WAS in control I managed 71 spins on it, coming first place out of our ride
Not surprised that I felt a bit odd/tingly for a good 10 minutes afterwards!
And it was sunshine and blue skies, I got some good off-ride footage of it Look out for Marc, Alex and Liam on this one!
Had a cheeky browse in the gift shop before catching the tram up to the Tower At the 2014 meet, it still had some scaffolding around it, so this was the first time I'd seen it looking nice and restored to its fully glory!
Whilst some visited The Dungeons, the rest of us did the Tower Eye. This was more enjoyable than the previous meet, as the glass floor seemed clearer and less scratched It's a shame the stairs to the very top are closed off, and we also saw the new Bar 380 which looked rather small (but I guess they've only got so much room up there). The 4D experience was, of course, great entertainment Much better than the London Eye one!
Just chillin' on the glass floor:
Had lots of fun sitting on the floor!
After some lunch, it was time for the magnificent Tower Ballroom! It is truly stunning to be in, and breathtaking when you walk in. Even if you're not into dancing or that sort of thing, you can't deny its beauty. It was good to also see the Wurlitzer come up from under the floor too (unfortunately I'd just stopped filming)!
I was rather busy filming and eating lunch to dance this time, but Paige had a go and did well at learning to waltz with Peaj He returned to the floor later on (with a younger woman than last year, no old ladies this time!) to cha cha and then do the quickstep - one of my favourite dances to watch on Strictly
Our final attraction of the day was the Circus. I really enjoyed this last time and found the audience involvement hilarious, so was looking forward to it. Sadly I felt underwhelmed this time, in terms of comedy anyway - the stunts/tricks were awesome. Although it was funny when Alex was one of the people chosen to participate at one point - I was hoping someone from our group would get picked! We did get a sense that some performers were new and/or that there was a lot of nervousness, as there were a few mistakes. The fire alarm was going off in the background at one point too, which I don't think helped!
The fountains at the end were pretty though
Before heading back down to the distant land of the south, we went to Coral Island for a bit (for those unaware, it's essentially a large arcade place with some little dark rides and theming). Did the ghost train thingy which wasn't bad!
I think the staff member was a tad unimpressed by the swarm of adults coming on
Some of the theming:
So there you have it! Thanks y'all for reading, hopefully it's been entertaining!
For all the photos from the meet: Blackpool Weekend 2016
My compilation video from the meet
I know it’s been a silly amount of time since I started this, let's wrap it up. The wait has been because sadly my old laptop has died, taking my photos with it until I work out how to rescue them, so shiny new laptop is good for me and means I can finally write this, but a text only end to this is less good for you, dear reader...
My only other experience of a Mack spinner is Sierra Sidewinder at Knotts, which is such a pathetic sucky excuse for coaster I wasn't expecting anything from Euro Mir, but it's ace! The lifthill of forever gives some good fun rave times, the first half of the coaster section with the slow spinning I found strangely unnerving because of the height and feeling of hanging over the edge of the track, and the second half so unexpectedly intense it shocked me. I love spinners in general, and this is one of the best. 9/10.
The other big old coaster I was less of a fan of, it's just so uncomfortable in there. Euro Sat I can only assume is themed to replicate the inside of an oven, the slow climb steadily reaching into hotter and hotter air until just when I thought I could take it no more it slams you through its manoeuvres relentlessly until it smashes to an end on brakes, which feel like a lump of concrete has been left on the tracks. I don't know at what temperature steel melts, but I was fully expecting the track to fold away from underneath me like plasticine at any moment. I can appreciate the craziness, but it's just a little too chaotic for me. 7/10
Then we come to the two newest coasters at the back of the park in Blue Fire and Woodan, and they both blew me away. Woodan is rough enough to know it's wood, smooth enough to be enjoyable for everyone. It flies though the course throwing little nuggets of airtime at you over and over, doing nothing too extreme to offend, but never being dull for a moment. It is perfectly executed from the first step into the queueline until it slides back into the station. Except maybe that adverse camber turn into the lifthill - that freaked me the hell out. Blue Fire I'd probably rate as the best in the park. My first Mack launch, and they clearly should be everywhere. The launch smooth and powerful with the train seeming to crackle down the track and the layout fantastic; probably the best series of inversions on any coaster anywhere, especially the last one where the train seems to disappear from beneath you mid inversion. And it's all made so enjoyable by the comfort and freedom of the restraints. Both a solid 10/10.
The place is so huge I could write for pages and pages (I know, I already have!), even on just the outstanding bits, which are many. But I won’t, so just to cover a few bits which stand out in my memory…
- Arthur (or '**** ***** *****, the ride' as we called it owing to the slightly lively lyrics for a children's ride) is an odd one. We really enjoyed it and the theming is well done, but as an advert for the ride from Mack it seems to be a bit of a shocker with loads of downtime, seats out of action all over the place and a locker room of faff which just does not work. The queue was always slow, long, hot and tiresome, which obviously stands out a mile in a park so obsessed with efficiency. It’s decent enough when you’re on it though. They’ve also taken the two best kiddie rides from Holiday Park with the drop towers and bouncy roundabout thing, which is a nice support selection.
- Pirates of Somewhere other than the Caribbean was a blast, really well done, and the second visit to the Wicked Witches clamshells of my youth were vastly superior to the previous encounter on this trip, even if a hanging is a bit strong! Other than that though I think the other dark rides slightly let the park down, with the already mentioned Cassandra, the dinosaur ride being dull and tired, the shooter very forgettable, and the Bench Christmas thing sitting uncomfortably close to embarrassing even if it does just about manage a little hint of charming.
- You can really see and feel the quality in the upkeep and theming of Europa on rides with direct UK comparisons; the teacups glide fast and effortlessly, the pirate ship looks like it was built yesterday, the seastorm boats in a room of effects. It’s all like new.
- The rest of everything is pretty much all fantastic; I'm particularly fond of a bobsled and this ones great, the logflume/coaster diamond mine interaction, unexpected things to stumble upon like the crown jewels thing, the food being so authentic to the areas, food loop, beer everywhere, stunning extravagant shows, happy enthusiastic staff, wonderful hotel facilities open to all. I could go on for ever more.
Everyone said 2 days wouldn't be enough. They were right. I'm not sure two weeks would be enough, I don't think I could ever get enough. Nowhere is without its faults, but Europa has instantly become my favorite theme park in the world. I feel like I've visited at the right time too; the two newest coasters really round off a hell of a collection, and unfortunately I'm not particularly interested in project V. So for now I've had my fix. As we sat with our cocktails under the dancing fountains of Bell Rock on our last night we decided that we most certainly will be back...
TLDR - The message is Go to Europa Park!
Parks in the UK have been subject to much scrutiny over the past couple of years. In fairness, a lot of the scrutiny and negativity that the parks receive is justified; there are things which do happen which shouldn't happen. And when we compare to our European cousins or American brothers, it does seem like UK parks aren't up to scratch. But at the same time, there is an awful lot of nitpicking that goes on at times.
However, despite this overwhelming negativity, a large majority of us continue to visit our home parks multiple times year-in-year-out. Why that is will no doubt vary for every person. But one thing is almost certain - if we're visiting so often, they've got to be doing something right, surely?
So if you end up making multiple visits to a park this year, maybe even finding yourself in a rut, set yourself a little challenge: Try and notice some new-to-you positive each time you visit. I'm not saying this positive has to be a new thing the park have done, like painting or fixing something (though it can be!), but just a new thing you've personally noticed. Maybe you hear a piece of audio you never noticed before, see a subtle piece of theming tucked away, try something new to eat, some new foliage that's been planted. It could be the tiniest of things. But just try and notice something.
Then maybe, just maybe, you might find yourself enjoying the parks a bit more. You might realise that everything isn't as bad as you originally thought. You might remember what it was like to visit for the first time, and just how awesome some things are. And then you won't be blindly visiting the same park over and over again, but actually visiting because you want to go, want to explore and want to immerse yourself. And that might give the extra incentive to visit a new park, go exploring, go on an adventure, to truly recapture that buzz.
Of course, don't overlook the negatives. Don't be afraid to think 'This is naff' or 'Why have that changed this?' as well. Not everything is going to be perfect. Just don't forget to look out for the positives too, and if you really can't find any, then maybe you've finished exploring that park, and you truly have to wonder why you're visiting at all.
Now with added chocolate! Just in case I wasn't happy enough at this place
And a Hard Rock. And boats!
Let's start with the original
It's still an ugly entrance street.
And has the worst positioned ride ever. Not going to lie. This area needs work.
Do still like this ride
And Optimus is still warning us of something I'm sure
They'll keep us safe though!
The M.I.B will save us too
San Francisco currently home to ZERO attractions.
Do like this new viewpoint you can get too thanks to the Springfield expansion.
Whilst we ignore KidZone here's Krusty!
Home time already
But I haven't been on The Mummy yet
Ohh phew. It's the amazing Diagon Alley! New for my trip
I'm glad this land has scared Disney. It is stunning. You can't see anything other than DA from it. Hidden paths, shows, endless shops, food, half of it is covered. And when the dragon roars 90% of people stop to get this shot. It is amazing. All lands need this level of detail and depth.
Gringotts is stunning too. And the ride is great fun
But I don't want to ruin it with photos. So we'll get the train to Hogwarts
And at Hogwarts we are!
The key to Universal's current success.
And a hut to find them in
Plus a castle for good measure!
They also have this dinosaur place
But more importantly, this lovely view
It's such a beautiful park
And now has another gorgeous thing to ogle at.
It's so intimidating and awesome looking
The queue line is creepy, the gates are amazing. It is a very good all round attraction. Could do with some tweaks in places but another start to finish ride with a brilliant queue.
But again, don't want to ruin it with lots of photos. So here is Dudley Do Right.
Yes this still exists
And this looks awful. Especially now they've gone and done...
Hulk is back in a modern techno way
Here's some sexy dusk shots
Suess is still awesome for kids
The entrance is also lovely
Going to be interesting to see what the 3rd parks icon will be
CityWalk is cool too
And has a groovy mini golf
Studios looks lovely at night (as does Islands but it closed too early each day on our trip)
Universal just always feels so much more relaxed to Disney. Their current investments are great and show no sign of stopping. Yeah the parks have their faults, but are clearly being dealt with whilst the resort expands at rapid fire pace. To Disney, do compete. Competition makes this industry exciting, ride wars are what push the boundaries and it's great that Disney seem to be investing heavily with big new rides/lands again.
Till next time Universal!
As you'll have read in Part 1, my Canadian Caper involved a fairly crazy 2 days visiting 4 Theme Parks across the Canadian-US border in September, thanks to some ludicrously cheap flights from British Airways. And as Day 1 was fully taken up by the huge Canada's Wonderland with its 16 coasters, that left 3 Parks to cover on the 2nd day. With over 200km of driving to cover and a border crossing, the odds of me actually completing the planned itinerary weren't great - but Lady Luck was thankfully on my side.
Read on for Part 2 of my Canadian Caper!
So first to Marineland, a (you guessed it) marine-based Park just one mile away from the Falls at Niagara. The place has had more than it's fair share of controversy, with its 81-year-old owner John Holer appearing in the press for animal-abuse allegations with depressing regularity over the years. If you thought that SeaWorld looked bad after 2013's Blackfish, you ain't seen nothing yet. VICE have recently published an informative guide to the Park entitled: "Marineland is a Hellhole". Only last month, the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals charged Marineland with five counts of animal cruelty, with further charges pending.
In yet another example, in 2011 SeaWorld won a court battle against Marineland surrounding the return of Ikaika the Killer Whale (Tillikum's son). Ikaika was on loan to Marineland from SeaWorld but SeaWorld sought to bring the animal back under its care, citing concerns about deteriorating conditions at the Park. Marineland lost, appealed, and lost again. If SeaWorld - which (fairly or not) has been very publicly criticised for its animal welfare record - is claiming that standards aren't high enough, you have to worry there's a problem...Quote
“We maintain an abiding interest in the welfare of our animals and do not hesitate to act in their best interest if we feel that a partner institution is not meeting its obligations in veterinary care, husbandry or training" - Fred Jacobs, SeaWorld, 2011
These stories are undoubtedly absolutely shocking, but ultimately weren't enough to prevent my curiosity from getting the better of me, so I nonetheless duly handed over my cash at the entrance gates...
...and once inside, it's clear that Marineland is quite unique.
For starters, it's vast. Built for Disney World crowds, but in reality attracting Gulliver's World crowds... when I arrived at Park opening at 10am, the place was deserted. It has a very "rural" feel about it; essentially being over 1,000 acres of woodland peppered with fish tanks and amusement rides. Getting anywhere takes an age.
And what looks like it should be a service road is in fact the main guest thoroughfare in the Park. Look at it!
Unsurprisingly, the Park's headline attraction, Dragon Mountain, is quite a trek away - over 1.2km walking distance from the Park entrance.
Nestled deep in the woods, initial impressions however are that the hike is worth it, with the ride sporting a fabulous dragon-themed entrance.
And the rockwork and themeing continues throughout the queueline, which due to verging on the pitch black fostered quite an eery atmosphere - especially given there was no-one else around.
My trusty camera (the excellent Sony HX90V) even struggled to get a good shot of the station, below, which had a little more light in it - and, thankfully, another guest.
Dragon Mountain is, by most metrics, an unusual coaster. Conceived by Arrow's Ron Toomer, it was the tallest roller coaster in the world at the time of construction in 1983 (186ft), and at 5,500ft long, it's covers 30 acres of Marineland woodland; 90% of the track is hidden from guests before riding.
Ascending the lift hill for the first time, I really had no idea what lay ahead - which can't often be said for a large outdoor coaster!
The three and a half minute ride is a lot of fun, although not without a few painful moments along the way.
The trains are old-fashioned Arrow and don't allow for a huge amount of movement. The track doesn't handle transitions especially smoothly. But the ride does have a host of surprises up its sleeve, including two consecutive vertical loops, a large downwards helix inside a half-built volcano structure, two dives into tunnel sections (more tunnel than any other coaster in the world), and still the world's only bowtie element, the exit of which is shown below!
Oh, and a lot of completely straight track. So much straight track.
After a few rides on the Mountain, I strolled back over to the left hand side of the Park to take in the only other coaster, Lady Bug Coaster. Set in a charming kids area that also features a Zierer Kontiki (Viking Adventure), Zierer Ferris Wheel (Tivoli Wheel), and Zierer Flying Fish (Ocean Odyssey), Lady Bug is a simple Zierer Tivoli with manual brakes and had a longer queue than I ever saw for Dragon Mountain.
Having gone full circle back to the Park's entrance - and with energy levels already waning - I grabbed a very greasy chicken strips and chips meal from the Park's only restaurant and settled down to watch the King Waldorf Stadium Show.
This is essentially Shamu-lite, and I thought was pretty well done, with a variety of animals featured including beluga whales, dolphins, and a humongous walrus at the end.
The show aimed to put one half of the audience (red team) in competition with the other (blue team) via a variety of marine displays and tricks, but it didn't get the crowd (which had reached a respectable volume - I suspect the entire Park was there) especially excited. The speaker volume was also down very low, although I couldn't tell whether this was out of respect for the animals or whether it was simply a bit broken...
And last but not least, opening only at 12pm (cost saving?), the Park's most recognisable attraction by far is its S&S Combo Tower, Sky Screamer. This thing is huge, and looks even bigger because it is perched on top of a hill right at the centre of the Park (it's a 300m, 10 minute upward struggle to even get to the ride entrance from the base of the hill - painful in the now-midday sun).
The advertising of Sky Screamer as "the world's highest triple tower ride" is somewhat misleading. It is not the world's tallest triple tower ride - the tower itself is tall (100m), but 15m shorter than Madrid's S&S triple tower Venganza del Enigma (115m). What gives Marineland's tower the "highest" claim is the fact it's sat on that 46m hill; it's high by virtue of its location, not because it has the longest drop.
But I digress. It's still bloody big.
And that 450m total height is certainly put to good use, affording quite spectacular views over Niagara Falls itself from the top. Simply breathtaking, and pleasingly the ride itself is a typically thrilling S&S affair to boot (although still pales a little in comparison to the superlative Fabbri Megadrop IMO...).
In fact, I'd go as far to say that Sky Screamer is the best-located drop tower anywhere in the world, although Big Shot on top of the 921-foot Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas might have something to say about that... are there any other contenders?
So, Marineland - never far from controversy, and a pretty strange place to spend a few hours.
Its few rides, marine exhibits, and stadium are spread out over such a huge area that it makes a day there more effort than it should be; it desperately needs some form of Park-wide transportation system, and that walk up to Sky Screamer isn't fun for anyone - an escalator in the same vein as Liseberg's would do wonders. It also in general just needs more, especially for an entry price that's within range of Wonderland's.
But it does have some gems - Dragon Mountain and Sky Screamer make the visit worthwhile, and the Stadium show was well presented. I just hope that the stars of said show are properly looked after behind the scenes...
Martin's Fantasy Island
It was now nearly 1pm, and I'd taken longer at Marineland than originally planned (the 12pm opening of Sky Screamer being much to blame). Part of me considered skipping Martin's Fantasy Island, given that I'd heard of its reputation as just a glorified fairground, and the more-alluring Darien Lake was still over an hour's drive away, including a border crossing into the USA at Niagara.
An even larger part of me considered skipping it following an agonisingly long wait at said border, having been ordered into the Port of Entry building for further checks because my story ("I was last in the USA in June") didn't align with the US Customs and Border Protection computer systems, which had no record of this visit. Sigh.
All of this meant that I didn't reach Martin's until 2:30pm. But I'm very glad I kept it in the itinerary.
The Park is, essentially, a glorified fairground, albeit a well presented one. Everything was clean and tidy, and the setting around a small lake is really quite nice.
Martin's is a classic slice of Americana, with the place clearly targeting local families with a no-frills, great value day out. The place feels very rural and low-key; the closest Park in the UK in my opinion would be Oakwood.
Everything here is pretty standard - there's a Star Flyer, a Disko, a Gravitron, and a Teacups, all presented without a great deal of themeing, and mostly un-shaded tarmac connecting it all together. Excellent.
On the coaster front there's three to enjoy, starting with a standard Zamperla spinning Wild Mouse; Crazy Mouse.
Number two is a standard Wacky Worm from SBF Visa; Max's Doggy Dog Coaster.
And last but certainly not least is the very non-standard CCI Woodie, Silver Comet.
The ride, standing at the back of the Park, is the more unusual hybrid type with grey steel supports. Its stats suggest a perfectly average ride; 82ft height, 55mph top speed, 50° drop, 1:45 ride time.
Silver Comet definitely impressed, and is a brilliant example of how a ride doesn't have to break any records to be a thoroughly worthwhile attraction.
The layout is very peppy, never dull, and the above-average maintenance work over the years means a very smooth ride. Hugely re-rideable, and with good pops of airtime across the layout, a whole lot of fun.
This alone is the reason to come to Martin's Fantasy Island. It might look like an off-the-shelf model from Roller Coaster Tycoon, but its varied, compact layout is an absolute winner. Silver Comet is of the best large family attractions (with just a 1.2m height restriction) I've ridden in a long while. It'd fit into a Chessington or a Drayton wonderfully.
The only fly in the ointment is the operations on the ride. Mirroring much of the rest of the Park, loading and dispatch times on Silver Comet were painful. Having been assigned a row, riders get on the train and are told over the tannoy to do up seat belts only. 2 members of staff then start from the front of the train and check individual seat belts down the platform. Then the lap bars are unlocked, and riders are again loudly told to keep arms up: "do not touch the lap bars, we will put them down for you!" The 2 members of staff then go down the train again, lowering the lap bar. If any rider touches a lap bar, the process starts over.
Very tedious, and only serves to deter guests from marathoning an otherwise excellent coaster!
After 3 rides on the Comet, my watch (3:30pm) told me it was really time to move on.
I grabbed an obligatory (yet reasonably priced) Hot Dog and Pepsi, and made a beeline for the exit.
2016 is the last season that the Park will be operating under the Martin's moniker - local businessman Martin DiPietro, the owner since 1994, sold the Park earlier this year to Apex Parks Group who own small Parks, Waterparks and FECs across the US. This seems a good fit, and if the new owners keep the same solid standards and bring some new investment in the place, this would be no bad thing.
Commenting on the sale, Al Weber Jr, Apex CEO, said: “It’s a nice park, in nice condition, in a great market. We like that it’s family focused.”
I couldn't agree more.
40 miles away from Martin's Fantasy Island is Darien Lake, arguably the premier Park in the state of New York, and a former Six Flags property (1999 - 2006).
The place certainly makes an immediate impression on you with the towering 208ft Ride of Steel lining the entrance to the Park.
Little generates anticipation and excitement for a day out at a Theme Park better than a large red and blue hyper... more on this later.
At this point it had just turned 4:00pm, giving me 6 hours to get everything in before Park close, and the commencement of the daily show Ignite the Night.
The place was busy - it was a glorious Sunday afternoon - meaning that the task ahead was challenging, but not impossible. I grabbed my admissions ticket, stopping briefly to admire the attractive entrance plaza, and headed on in.
First up was Mind Eraser; an apt name for a ride that tries its level best to do your head in.
This was typical Vekoma SLC fare, made worse by having only one train in operation (the other train was in pieces to the side of the brake run).
On the plus side, at least it looks pretty on the lake.
Continuing the theme of ubiquitous Dutch pain-machines was Boomerang, a Vekoma, erm, Boomerang. At the time of writing, there are 34 operating Vekoma Boomerangs in the world; 16 of which are called Boomerang. This one tries to add a touch of originality by adding a suffix: Coast to Coaster. I'm not sure what exactly this means.
Regardless, this was one of the smoother Boomerangs I've ridden, and was well presented in attractive colours akin to our those of our own Colossus.
The Park's only Woodie comes in the form of Predator, a relatively rare Dinn Corporation ride from the same stable as the relatively rough Mean Streak at Cedar Point, relatively rough Timber Wolf at Worlds of Fun and relatively rough Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom.
Predator was, predictably, relatively rough. Actually, towards the back of the train where I was sitting, it verged on being extremely rough, which did nothing to add to its unmemorable layout. Zero to headache in 110 seconds.
Rarely do I come off a ride and tell myself I'm never doing it again. Predator was one of those times.
Unfortunately, the Park's 1982 Arrow Looper Viper did little to help ease the headache.
With both track and supports painted completely in black (is this a Merlin property?), and an extensive layout with 5 inversions, the ride certainly looks intense from the ground. Alas getting on board proved to be as slow as the SLC; the ride was similarly running only one train, and the station was a complete free-for-all, with no orderly queuing taking place whatsoever.
And whilst the ride was long and varied, the experience wasn't especially comfortable. On reflection I'd have taken another ride on Marineland's Dragon Mountain over another ride on Viper, Marineland's ride having opened just a year after Darien's.
Yet another long queue greeted me at the Park's newest coaster, Moto Coaster, although at this stage I was very nearly grateful that it would give my head a bit of a rest.
Thanks to the fairly appalling throughput on the 12-person trains, I had ample time to grab a drink and catch my breath - good news. The bad news was that this 2008 ride has literally been plonked down on a slab of concrete, with a queue line completely absent of foliage or shade. Even into the early evening, the sun was strong... and so the headache continued.
I'd been wanting to ride one of these for a while, but with the closest of the 10 operating models being in Särkänniemi, Finland, they'd evaded me thus far. So how was the ride? Not half bad, actually, although the limitations of the compact layout meant that the trains never gained any pace (a max speed of 40mph). The flywheel launch was a bit of a non-event as it lacked acceleration, but the twists and turns of the track were smoothly navigated, and the riding position was comfortable.
One of Zamperla's better creations, but still unfortunately inferior to Vekoma's bigger, faster, more substantial product.
The sun was starting to go down, so I checked out what else the Park had to offer whilst it was still light.
There's a HUSS Top Spin, Twister, although this was closed for maintenance on the day of my visit. The most recent thrill addition (in 2015) is a 22m Larson Loop by the name of Rolling Thunder, although I didn't go on this having enjoyed / endured the Loop at Six Flags St Louis, Fireball, earlier in the year.
Being fond of drop towers, I did have a go on the S&S-built Blast Off, a respectable 185ft effort that was garnering long queues. Pleasingly the lengthy wait was vindicated by some spectacular views over the Park.
There's also a moderately sized (60ft) Arrow Log Flume, Thunder Rapids, and a moderately sized (50ft) Intamin Shoot the Chutes, Shipwreck Falls. An decent length Intamin River Rapids, Grizzly Run, completes the solid water-ride lineup.
I even found time to enjoy American Rock, a jukebox show playing three times daily in the Grand Theatre. The venue couldn't have held more than a few hundred, but the show (with a cast of six) is professionally staged and performed; the audience seemed to lap it up.
The most unusual thing however is a baseball batting cage up-charge attraction that I'd not seen at a Theme Park before, allowing guests to pay for a few minutes of practice in a safely netted-off area. There were four pitches, and the speed at which the balls were being fired out of the machines increased as players went from left to right.
The kid below was hitting from the slowest firing machine... and let's just say it was still pretty fast!
Night was beginning to fall, and the only attraction left on the hit list was Ride of Steel. With an hour or two still to go before Park close, what better way than to spend the time getting as many rides in as possible...?
Unfortunately doing this was - as with the SLC and the Arrow Looper - a largely painful experience, due to slow loading and the disorganised melee in the station. Being a single rider, I did a lot of "making friends" with potential other single riders closer to the air gates to try to fill empty seats and get maximum rides in!
The ride itself is absolutely superb; easily for me on a par with similar Intamin creations such as Expedition GeForce at Holiday Park and Goliath at Walibi. Comfortable lap bar restraints and a long, airtime-filled ride; Ride of Steel benefits from a kick-ass first drop, colossal wide sweeping helices, and ejector-tastic bunny hops just before the brake run. It's a huge amount of fun; more rough and ready than an equivalent B&M, but more intense too.
One of the defining memories of the trip for me is sitting on Ride of Steel for the n-th time, climbing the lift hill in the warm breeze as the sun had just dropped below the horizon, and looking out over the beautiful lit up Park. Magic.
It's a real shame that there aren't more of these in the world; there are only 6 Intamin Hypers and 2 Intamin Gigas. Which is why it's really really good that Energylandia has bought the first new installation for 15 years. Set to open in 2018, the ride looks set to take the "fastest non-launched coaster in Europe" title with a max speed of 87mph, and even features a splashdown.
Having visited earlier this year, Energylandia is a really promising Park, and this on paper looks fantastic... colour me excited.
Following one final ride on Ride of Steel, I walked over to the grassy area by the Park's lake and took my place for the 10pm performance of Ignite the Night.
I have to be honest, I wasn't expecting anything especially impressive from this, a nightly show from a regional Theme Park, albeit the biggest one in the state (Darien's visitor numbers won't be topping much more than 1m; around half of what Alton Towers might achieve).
But it was absolutely fantastic. It blew me away. Darien's marketing is pretty accurate when it claims: "Music, Water, Fire, Video, and Pyrotechnics all come together for this laser light spectacular in the air, on the stage and all around." Lasers images are projected onto a central screen, whilst a myriad other lasers point out towards the crowd. This, plus the water and fire effects, are all synchronised to a booming soundtrack, which covered a wide variety of genres (everything from I'm Too Sexy to Wonderful World).
Clocking in at 25 minutes, audiences are certainly given value for money; there are many highlights, but Pitbull's Fireball, complete with liberal bursts of fire, certainly got the crowd going. You can get a quick flavour for the show from Darien's promo video here.
The show finishes with a genuinely patriotic and rousing rendition of Lee Greenwood's God Bless The USA, which didn't leave many dry eyes in the house. Superb.
Darien Lake seriously punches above its weight with it's nightly show, and it alone makes a visit to the Park worthwhile. Kudos to everyone involved. Why can't our Parks find the budgets to do this...?
And that brings Day 2 of my Canadian Caper to a close!
This is probably the longest trip report I've ever written, which reflects just how much I packed into this one day. Pleasingly, nothing spited me, I got everything I wanted to done, and had some really great new experiences; Marineland's Drop Tower, Martin's Woodie, and Darien's Hyper all spring to mind, alongside of course Ignite the Night.
I left the Darien Lake car park at around 10:45pm, thoroughly exhausted, but very content. There is a huge amount to see and do around Toronto - for the general tourist let alone the Theme Park enthusiast - and a fly-and-drive visit here comes highly recommended.
Thanks for reading! Comments very welcome below.
Liked this? More musings from my travels in recent years:
So after a really nice calm 40 minute drive from the airport we finally made it to a place to be fair I thought I'd never ever visit in my life! Six Flags Discovery kingdom is a surprisingly small and compact park like it is definitely the same size if not slightly smaller then Thorpe park so, finding everything wasn't too much of a hassle.
Medusa is the first thing you see when entering the park with a car park that is just burdenously far away but we arrived and we were really excited to try everything the park had to offer!
The rides opened at 10:30pm which was quite late when we are used to parks opening at 10am sometimes even earlier so it was a little annoying waiting but it was nice seeing the main plaza which for a six flags park is really pretty with a nice big fountain as a focal point.
Now I'm quite sure you know why we came here, we probably wouldn't have even come to San Francisco in the first place if it wasn't for this coaster. And as you know it was... THE JOKER!!
Once the rides opened we rushed so fast only to be greeted with burdenous bag faff as they don't allow bags in the station and they had to be put in lockers which is a pain in the ass, not to mention it was badly lit as well which made it even more annoying! This is the one thing I hated as all the big coasters were like this, so if you ever go to this park bare in mind you will need to spend a bit on lockers. So onto the ride itself!
This was probably my most anticipated coaster on the trip other then Twisted Colossus and X2(which I will get onto in another blog as it spited and I was not happy!), and well what can I say, this coaster blew it out of the water for me, its not that tall but it is incredibly relentless, with intense force in some places, amazing intense ejector airtime, 3 amazing inversions which are fast paced and feel great not to mention what has to be the greatest inversion ever created, the Zero G Stall, there is nothing like it and words cant describe the sensation when you go through it! Its a heavenly inversion of which I want on a lot more rides in the future. This ride is unfortunately incredibly unreliable due to a sensor fault which is six flags fault, which made it get stuck on the lift hill multiple times while we where here, like this ride is really really unreliable, but it is the second best coaster I have ever been on and therefore I give it a 10/10! Here are some more pics of it!
So the first of many spites on this trip was V2: Vertical velocity, which tested literally once in the morning but barely got up the first tower, it had only actually opened about 3 weeks prior due to renovations but it seems like it was absolutely screwed as they were picking the trains apart the whole time we went passed it, I don't know how long it stayed closed afterwards but that too sounds like a really unreliable ride! Shame.
The next coaster we got on which was early in the day and at that point has a really short queue at the time at least was superman. This was my first sky rocket 2 clone and to my recognition the original of these. We managed to ride it twice once with the Q-bot which was a life saver at points for the rides with the bigger queues. I actually quite liked it, the launches had a good enough punch to theme and getting flung up that track felt amazing! The inversion was a bit grim but I quite enjoyed the ride, although I can see why some don't like these models as they are a bit basic and don't actually do much but overall I liked it and I'd give it a good 7.5/10.
After this we headed to the other side of the park to ride Medusa and Kong! First up Medusa. The ride as a whole is good its got nice forces, the inversions are good and its got good pacing. But that's the thing with Medusa, its Good, not amazing, not special, just good, there isn't anything that stands out as something amazing on this ride other then its a big B&M looper, and while some will love that, I thought it was good but it wasn't anything to shout about so I'd give it a good 6.5/10.
This is one thing I'd say about this area is that it doesn't have much shade at all, other then occasional parts in queue lines, it was all open which on a summers day which was pushing 30c, was really bad but yeah they really should put some shade in that area. Onto Kong... Well I had ridden Infusion before and it wasn't too bad I thought, and I kind of thought this would be the same case... GOD I WAS SO WRONG!! What heinous thing did anyone do to deserve this piece of S**t! we were one from front row and it violently rattled and vibrated the whole way round not to mention the god awful tracking of this ride, I wish this was closed rather then V2! The worst thing was is that the day we went would be the last day it was open for a month and a half so they could put VR on it, like why......? Its bad enough without the headset... This ride really needs to be demolished but a +1 is a +1 but this is a 1/10 coaster...
The only photo of this POS!
So after this we had food at a chicken place which was a rip-off but it was really nice, the chicken actually tasted good and the chips were really nice, shame for the toxic waste they call Fanta they have over there though..
I have to say other then the area with Medusa and Kong this park is actually quite pretty with lots of foliage, pretty plants and surprisingly good themeing for what I have heard is the norm of Six Flags Parks.
Heading to the back of the park after lunch greeted us with this.
Now I had never done a Vekoma Boomerang before which is a little embarrassing, but nether the less, we hoped straight on this thing, As there was no queue. and boarded the ride. On first thoughts it wasn't too bad but I can see why they get a bad rep with some nasty forces and jolts in places, namely that cobra roll, but to be fair again this coaster isn't that enjoyable and a little boring so again just a +1. This is a 4.5/10 for me.
Now I already had a headache from the strong sun, as well as Kong and Boomerang so this probably wasn't the best thing to go on...
Anyway after this mistake, the rapids finally opened so we finally got on it as the head was so bad at this point.
Well I can happily say it was actually fab, got us soaked which was really needed at the time and was quite interesting as there was no dull moments at all while riding! Again we skipped the queue with the Q-bot as the queue got stupidly bad as soon as it opened so it was lucky we had it. For a rapids it is a good 8/10
Another +1 this was a little like treetops at Oakwood but without the trees so was quite enjoyable I suppose, but it was made better but the over enthusiastic ride op giving everyone high fives so that was fab haha . 5/10
Then on to this thing... I hated it... again this should be destroyed alongside Kong...
The final big flat we got on was the Sky screamer which I think is the smallest out of the Six Flags Sky Screamers due to SFDK's height limit, and I can say although these rides do scare me a little it was really enjoyable and it gave great views of all the coasters around the park, especially Medusa and Joker . A solid 7/10 for me as the ride cycle was quite short.
The Final New ride we went on was Monsoon Falls, as I couldn't bring myself to get the kids cred with so many families with young children around that area, that and the fact that their top spin was broken as well. And it like Tidal Wave on a warm day hit the sport perfectly getting us soaked! It was small but the massive wave it produced was great for us as well as the spectators, and also the people who wanted to get soaked on the bridge too. A good 8/10.
We managed to rerides on Medusa, Superman and the AMAZING The Joker, before we had to set off again, riding Joker again cemented it at my No.2 spot as it is just bliss and fab and just RMC for the Win!!
For those that don't know this has a small zoo as well although we only went around the bit that had the aquatic animals, which were still quite cool to see.
After this one more ride had to be had on Joker and we got Back row which was insane! Words can't describe how much I love this ride!
Overall this park reminds me a lot of Thorpe Park. This in the fact that it is all quite compact with all the rides quite close together. Unfortunately it has Thorpe Parks reliability issues as well which lots of rides down a lot of the time, although locker situation is just abhorrent and Merlin are just so much better then this park when it comes to bag storage. The throughput's are about the same too, but the rides that are good are just outstanding and I'd definitely recommend the place just to ride the Joker! But I'd say this is a one day park, if you planned 2 days for the park you'd probably get bored but other then that I really enjoyed SFDK and I think its a park that if I'm ever in the area I would happily go to again!
Next Blog will be short as it is about our small detour to Yosemite and Glacier Point!
Recent EntriesThank you for reading part 1 of my trip report. Here's part 2 of my annual review if you have not died of boredom where we will look into the wonders of the international parks.Europa ParkVisiting what is arguably the best European park (or even the world) is one thing, but doing it in a medium sized group that is TPM made things that extra bit more exciting.Situated within a small and charming German town makes for one beautiful location making it one of the most picturesque parks in Europe.Europa Park is not somewhere to visit just for the rides, but because it is Europa Park. A place despite its massive size is full to the brim of hidden attractions and details. It isn't uncommon to walk around the park and find something new all the time, whether that be an archway leading to a hidden dark ride or finding a random show or walk through.The park features countless themed areas to different European countries including Spain, England and Scandanavia. Not only do these areas feel strongly coherent, but also complement one another. Even the aspect of crossing the English area to the (then still not open) Ireland feels like something the park have though about.With Thirteen coasters (12 when I visited), it ranks as having the highest number of coasters in Europe (at least for now) featuring a great variety from the sleek and smooth Blue Fire to the classic Bobsled.Wodan was my favourite coaster for sure, not only down to its crazy amazing layout but it's themed queue. An added bonus making a fast moving queue even more pleasant to wait in. Though some coasters were better than others, none of them come across as weak with each one helping to complement the package.Europa though is more than coaster. As it boasts many shows, dark rides and smaller attractions. The shows come by the pair ranging from an Ice Show, jousting and even a Europa take on a Disney style parade. Whilst some are better than others, there are so many to see you could easily spend one park day watching all of them.Controversially, none of the dark rides are top 10 material (with the possible exception of Arthur), but before you get the pitchforks, there's a perfect explanation. None of them are trying to be. Each dark ride not only complements specific areas but shows off what different attractions Mack has to offer making Europa just as much a working a ride museum amongst a theme park resort.Despite the majority coming across as Disney style knock-offs, many of these attractions are highly enjoyable not only because of their charm but retaining a classic feel. The animatronic, setting and scenery styles are all highly reminiscent of the days when attractions like Bubbleworks, Phantom Phantasia and Terror Tomb existed.What's even more appeasing to see is how well looked after these attractions and seeing them looking refreshed and not stale and falling apart. Piccolo Mondo is an example of this. Although the attractions has existed since the early eighties, it received a major remodelling in 2011 that not only modernised the ride from looking dated but has retained fundamental features of the original.There's more than just the park though, with the resort's five hotels which are look amazing and retain superb quality about everywhere you look there. There's even a beautiful courtyard with fountains!Accommodation at Europa isn't difficult as you have a wide variety of places to stay. If you can't afford Europa hotels, stay in Rust. There is plenty of places to stay, the majority very friendly and reasonable priced and usually no more than 15 minutes walk too. There's even log cabins and camping facilities if you prefer and plenty of restaurants and a super market if you don't want to eat in the park.Europa as theme parks go is practically perfect except for one thing, getting there. Although far from impossible transportation from the airport to the park is more challenging compared to places like Disney and Liseberg. My group were rather lucky that we had enough drivers to warrant hire cars which is probably the easiest option.If you are driverless, you are limited to either expensive but convenience park shuttles or a long fiddly train commute.LisebergTwo weeks after Europa, I was blessed to be visiting another major European park with another amazing Mack. Yet it was a park that couldn't be anymore different.Unlike Europa Park, Liseberg is more of a traditional amusement park, although many of it's new additions have been themed rather well. A more sophisticated, hilly and picturesque Blackpool may be the best comparison here,although both parks are good in their own ways.The park boasts three stunning coasters (more on the fourth later). Helix is an absolutely phenomenal ride, from it's impressive launches, sudden corkscrew out of the station and combination of inversions, airtime and ground hugging elements. Helix is my new number 1 coaster and worth visiting for the park alone.Balder though is also a top quality Wooden coaster for the park. The drops and airtime are amazing although the styling feels comparatively dry to the rest of the park. Hopefully the area re-theme will resolve this. Lisebergbanen minus the brakes is another wonderful ride and it's Terran based layout and interaction almost make it a family thrill Helix without loops.Whilst I adored the others, Kanonen left me feeling disappointed as I found it rather rattly and the restraints uncomfortable. That said given it's tiny footprint, the layout is quite impressive to say the least. Whilst I won't miss the ride given it's now being removed, this coaster would do wonders for a smaller park. I'd certainly visit Drayton more if they brought this.Liseberg also boasts what may be the best selection of flats I've seen at a park. From the craziness of Steampunk themed star shape Mechanica to Uppswing, a swing ride that goes over a cliff. Rush eat your heart out! Atmosphere was even an acceptable drop tower (even just on height) and the Jukebox ride was great fun!Not only is there a decent Rapids and interesting 'working' log flume but Hotel Gasten, a scare maze with some richly themed rooms, scares and over 10 minutes in length. Worth the extra charge too.Amongst it's great attractions, stunning location and classic feel, the only thing this place lacks is a decent dark ride. Fairy Tale Castle is the only dark ride at the park, in the form of a dated schwartzkopf suspended track ride passing random fairy tale scenes to the Dream Flight theme. The ride is practically hilarious because it's so poor and dated.For those who struggle getting to and affording European parks Liseberg is a good starting point as it's very easy to get to. Norwegian British Airways and Ryanair all fly to Gothenburg from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stanstead with prices being under £30 each way if you choose the right time to visit.There's also a bus shuttle that runs from Gothenburg Landvetter to literally just outside the park entrance. Just remember pre-book your tickets or register your cards as they don't do cash payments!PhantasialandPhantasialand is a park I've been wanting to visit for many years and for 2016 I finally got to visit.The place is amazing and despite its smaller size (though definitely not tiny) it is packed with richly themed details everywhere, from the sophisticated Berlin street entrance to the creative details in Mexico. Imagine a fully decorated Chessington? Nope me neither.The rides themselves are immaculately themed (the newer ones at least). Chiapas is a stunning ride with rich theming, dark ride sections and a large drop which proof flumes still have a place at parks today (Towers take note). Black Mamba bar it's stunning theming is a beautiful coaster that surpasses Inferno but not Nemesis.Maus Au Chocolate, River Quest, Winjas and Colorado Adventure are also great rides that are worth a mention too.Klugheim is an exceptional area, from its vast rock work, medieval/Norsk theming and landscaping. Taron is sublime coaster that really works with the area and is just amazing all round and certainly a favourite for me amongst arguably being the park's main coaster now.Raik is also a loverly little ride that inkeeps with Klugheim and gives Phantasialand a much needed kids coaster. Everything in Klugheim is fab, even the eateries. Rutmoore's Tavern is a loverly place to visit for a hearty lunch and up there as one of my favourite theme park eateries.With some fantastic new attractions and areas having opened in recent years, the park is not holding back on progressing further even at the expense of older attractions. Race For Atlantis, the former simulator was ripped out earlier this year and construction for the next big thing has already begun.After that, Nighthawk, Hollywood and the Chinese Ghost Train will likely be cleared for expansions afterwards. The first two won't be too drastic given how dated and out of place they seem, but I will miss the ghost train as I think there's some charm in there and something I like about it too. I'm hoping more for a major update than replacement in all honesty.It may be without its flaws but Phantasialand may be my second favourite park now. That place has done wonders to me and certainly changed me for sure.Phantasialand is easy to get to if you know what you're doing. Fly to Cologne Bonn, then get the train from the airport to Koln HBF and then change the train to Brühl there. The hotel situation is slightly more complicated. If you can't stay onsite Ramada Koln is a good choice although you will need to drive or taxi to/from the park.Disneyland Paris2016 wasn't the year for DLRPAs a result of years of neglect (for Disney standards), the resort has undergoing a rigorous rehabilitation resulting in rides, theming, facades, walkways and buildings being extensively refurbished. In it's peak, Big Thunder, Thunder Mesa, Star Tours, Peter Pan's Flight, Adventure Isle and more were all closed alongside the main fountain being closed off.Despite this, I still returned to witness the magical Christmas season with my loverly girlfriend. though having no BIg Thunder, Star Tours and others, this did not dampen the magic in any way.This was also the first park Christmas visit for both of us and the resort-wide festive was amazing. From the decorated main Street with Christmas tree to the Christmas parades. Christmas Dreams was good but lacks the warmth and heartstring pull the normal Dreams delivers.Disney is still so magical, even in the middle of a major rehabilitation. It's also easy to get to regardless of your preferred choice. Walking might take a while though.Happy Christmas and happy new year everyone. Who knows whether I'll do this in 2017 but I hope you enjoyed.
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So, hey frens and fellow geeks.
2016 has been a pretty good year for me in terms of Theme Parks, so I thought I'd like to do a sarcastic recap of some of my major trips this season!
So even though you'd think this third world(ish) country would have nothing in terms of roller coasters..
In my cheap and tacky summer travels, I came across the best coaster I'd ever ridden, the best coaster in the world, a true beauty..
Why have that when you can have this..
Isn't it brilliant? Maybe Thorpe should install one next to their Aqua Trax?
Blackpool Pleasure Beach:
So obviously I needed something more ugly, something more tacky, so that's when I found BPB.
Anyways, it was worth the trip up north.
Skyforce was better than expected, the classic woodies where as fun as ever, and Wild Mouse was as brutally fun as ever!
Infusion though.. Was much more rough then I remembered, so much, its taken my place for my least favourite coaster of all time!
My main trip this year was to the poorly operated PortAventura!
Was it worth it yes? Why? SHAMBHALA!!! SHAMBHALA!
Sorry, anyway Shambhala was brill as always, Furius Baco was fun but brutal, and Dragons Khan was intense and fun like usual.
The only new thing for me at the park was the revamp of their 3D theatre in the Polynesia area.
The complete unnecessary revamp of the theatre has left the attraction looking out of place, and the show itself is extremely poor.
The show is just regurgitated scenes taken from a seven year old movie.. Alton's version completely blows it out of the water, good job Merlin..
Other than that there is some neat shows.. The Stunt Show in Far West, The Can Can Show, and Templo Del Fuego are all as brilliant as always.
Horror In Texas- Review:
Throughout the park they where advertising a scare attraction for a small up-charge fee of 5 euro.
So being the Scare Enthusiast that I am, I willingly payed as soon as I saw it advertised.
Horror In Texas is a Scare Attraction built in a marquee under Tomahawk/Stampidas mess of wood, and oh god was it worth them five euros!
The attraction had me on edge for nearly the entirety of it, and actors came out of nowhere, thick and fast!
The attraction was a bit generic and goofy with its theming attempts, but it worked in a weird way!
Even though being right next to two loud woodies, I didn't notice any noise bleed!
The attraction also felt quite long.. And the attraction had a constant tense atmosphere which startled everyone in our group!
Anyway that's all for today folks, good job to anyone who got to the end!
Have a good holiday season guys, and have a happy new year!
I'll leave you on this note.. SHAMBHALA!
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Hello all, Cian here. Little message below…
After an amazing year of fun, surprises and friendship making, the river of emotions that the closed season often delivers has begun settling within me, and has quite possibly hit the peak right now; currently, held in a rubber band, in my hand, is a collection of maps from the various parks I’ve visited this year. God. The feels are taking over..
I’ve met so many great people this year – mainly through theme parks and TPM. My impressions so far, after a year of being here? What a great community.
Words cannot explain how many wonderful faces have popped into my life and made a substantial difference to it; it’s been a very happy year for me. Life is moving rapidly! It’s so unnerving. I guess it shows the value of here and now.
Scrolling through my camera roll, viewing all the fantastic times and memories that have been experienced so far, and the fact that I know there is so much more to follow, is one of the greatest feelings. I thank everyone who’s assisted in such a great season wholeheartedly. Can’t wait till the next, will be the craziest one yet.
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In the great words once spoken by the ancient Prophet, John Felix Anthony Cena Jr, 'Your time is up, my time is now'. Your time is up meaning it's closed season and my time is now meaning it's my time to write a poorly-structured sarcastic post about theme parks.
I didn't go to many parks compared to most keeno's this year, but I did venture off to Europa Park for a long weekend away and I also had the privilege of flying off to Orlando for 2 weeks! I thought I'd write a lil' wrap up for this year (excluding Winter Wonderland of course) so I can delve into the good, the bad, and the ugly.
My top highlights for this year:
Europa Park - Blue Fire, Wodan, Arthur and Rust.
I had the pleasure of going to EP for the first time ever this year and it was everything I've ever wanted and more. Wodan and Blue Fire blue (ohohoho) me away, the theming itself, the ride experience and the soundtracks are fab. Hel in the Wodan queue was borderline terrifying but at the same time incredible and Blue Fire is just adorable; I want to cuddle it but I cannot cuddle it as it is a rollercoaster. Alongside this I got to go on Arthur several times and I cannot put into words how fabulous this experience is! I didn't have high hopes for it as I'm not a fan of the IP itself but oh my, it was amazing. The interactive element and the way it's set out is something I'll never forget, every time I rode it I got to experience different elements from different seats. Overall EP was 10/10 would bang with hammer (gently) and the surrounding area of Rust is just as beautiful. I feel truly complete after going to Europa.
Orlando - Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios.
I never thought in my insignificant life that I would have the chance to go to Florida, but I'm so glad I plucked up the courage to say yes to a 9 hour flight and horrible heat for this. I was blown away by everything here if I'm honest, but all of Universal's attractions really got to me on an emotional level. The Harry Potter themed areas are incredibly immersive and magical, it's also not too much which was good as sometimes places can go overboard. Alongside HP I was one of the first ever batches of guests to ride on a soft-opening of Reign of Kong! Standing out in the storm for an hour waiting a day prior to this was definitely worth it as it just made me want to ride it even more. In some ways I felt disappointed by Disney (but that was probably due to being locked in an Uber car at EPCOT...) but now reflecting back I really, really loved it. Magic Kingdom when the sun sets is phenomenal, such an amazing park and the atmosphere was busy but you could really feel the *~*magic*~*. Tower of Terror was everything I expected and MORE. And Haunted Mansion. Pretty much all the spooky things got me in the heart. <3
Now I go to Thorpe Park several times each year but this year helped me make lots more friends and become more confident in myself. Getting to do some work expirience for them for Fright Nights was incredible and I'm so grateful to be part of it. The real highlight this year was probably Fright Nights in general, I really loved the whole event and it's the one time of year I can be myself, covered in honey smelling fake blood and all! I also got sent to A&E from Thorpe Park so I feel like I have a real connection with the park now. Nemesis Inferno killed my kidneys rip.
This was short and sweet but I'd like to say thank you to everyone who put up with me over the past year and I am excited to bug you all in following years! you all smell thanks xoxo gossip goat
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Hi one and all, I am just a lurker here really so you probably haven't seen me around before.I've recently returned from a trip I took to Phantasialand and have alot to share.It doesn't take much to make an impression to me, and I feel like the impression Phantasialand makes is incomparable.I hope, that it pretty quickly displays why it's my favourite park in the world.I'm not one for just concrete and thrills. The immersion this place delivers is un matched by anything I've experienced or seen.Everything feels so genuine and real.I'm gonna stop blabbing on and let the pictures do the talking for a bit.
The park is breath taking. Unlike my home nations parks which seem to be descending steeply into decline, phantasia is maintained and propelled fantastically, with the recent addition of taron.The ride itself is very mediocre. The ride has some insane ejector, but that's it.It is one of the most unique steel's I've ridden, only comparable to woodies for me.I love Phantasialand because they openly admit they embody their rides into areas. They design the ride with the area in mind, not the other way round.There's no way the park would work if they worked the same way everyone else does. Their back to front attitude leads to some seriously immersive and breath taking theming.The reason why I love this park so much is because each area takes you 1000's of miles across the planet within the space of metres, and it does it convincingly too.This is my favourite theme park in the world, simply because it removes you from just that. It makes you a time & space traveller, like no where else can.
thanks for reading(PS, my photo's don't do it justice. YOU HAVE TO VISIT!)
So to start the blog off, here's a joke
The Conservative Party
Anyway its sadly nearly Halloween, meaning the parks close for off season!
So I guess its back to rocking back and forward in my room til march..
So I've reviewed a few events over Halloween, so I'm going to do some awards to recap my Halloween Season!
Anyway.. BRING ON THE AWARDS
Best Theming/Costume Design
Honourable Mentions- Dead And Breakfast, The Cellar, Altonville Mine Tours
Winner- The Final Cut
What haven't I said about The Final Cut?
The theming is fab throughout, and the Sci-Fi costumes felt very well done.
Especially if you're a film buff like me, its fun seeing all the references to classic Sci-Fi Movies.
Most Improved Maze
Honourable Mentions- The Colony
Winner- The Big Top
The Big Top last year was admittedly a plane crash. At first even I didn't want to admit it.
The maze just did not work, the open spaces made scares a tad awkward, and it felt half-finished as well.
This year the maze seems like a whole different attraction, with some changes the maze now sits as one of the best in Thorpe's offering.
The maze itself feels much more frenetic, with the intense strobe section, to the well themed rooms towards the end.
Dishonourable Mentions- Bloody Mirror, The Cabin In The Woods, Hellements,
Donald Trump's House Of Horrors
Winner/Loser- Platform 15
After doing some run throughs of it recently, I've came to the conclusion this is the worst of the year..
Whats the point of having a long attraction if nothing happens for 90% of it?
It just drags on, and unlike The Colony for example there's not much to see for most of it..
The ending tunnel takes the cake for being the worst scene, its long, and you'll probably not see a actor!
The theming is OK, but a lot of the attraction is just nothing.. Nothing..
Most Original Concept/Theme
Honourable Mentions- Coven Of 13, The Final Cut
Winner- The Paradise Foundation
I love originality in scare attractions, it really sets a attraction apart from the rest, which is what The Paradise Foundation did!
The Paradise Foundation is a gore infested theatrical journey through a controversial surgical clinic.
Basically the idea is that the rich pay for the 'bliss' treatment, which involves the poor being surgically operated on to give there happiness for the rich.
The maze throughout has a lot of gore, including disgustingly disfigured costumes that actors wear.
The maze overall is something quite different to anything else I've done this Halloween.
Most Intense Maze
Honourable Mentions- The Paradise Foundation, Altonville Mine Tours, Chop Shop
Winner- Sub Species: The End Games
Sub Species breaks the boundaries of what actors can do in a maze.
I was split up throughout, faced sections of the maze on my own, and was constantly manhandled and pushed by actors.
The maze has a intense crawling scene, periods of complete darkness, and had me on edge throughout.
Best Roaming Actors And Atmosphere
Winner- Tulleys Farm Shocktoberfest
The Atmosphere at Tulleys is unmatchable, with a range of brilliant roamers and two music stages, its really brilliant!
Best Scare/Halloween Event
Winner- Screamland Margate
This award was very tough to decide.
But I've decided Screamland was my favourite event of the season.
The great atmosphere, the four brilliant mazes, and the heavy load of creativity in the mazes is something special.
Anyway thanks for reading me ramble in this blog!
Have a spoopy halloween frens and fellow geeks
What events have you been to this Halloween?
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Six Flags Great Adventure - October:
This was a park I had on my mind since 2011 (when I became an enthusiast), since then I had always wanted to go to this park because of Kingda Ka (obviously). After my parents then made some ludicrous promise based on my GCSEs, which I then achieved, it was confirmed that I was going to go to this park. Believe it or not, I actually made it to Kingda Ka.
So lets start from the beginning...
When driving to the park, there were trees everywhere blocking my view so I didn't actually see Kingda Ka till I was about 2 miles away. But when I saw it, whoa! It's big, very big, just whoa! We eventually arrived at the park and headed straight to Kingda Ka first.
When we arrived at Kingda Ka, there was a very small number of people. So when the gates opened we went straight into the front row queue and only had to wait behind about 3 pairs. We then got onto the train and exited the station. We waited behind another train which launched (which is pretty cool watching a launch from behind) then it was our turn...
After the announcement "arms down, head back, hold on!" we launched. This launch is so incredibly fast, not as explosive as Stealth's but towards the end of the launch you feel yourself speed up further to a point where all you can hear is wind and nothing else which was great.
You then go over the top hat so fast that the height is not at all on your mind and before you realise, you're dropping through the 270 degree spiral (which is not at all as scary as it sounds). All you can think about after that is what you've just done which does stop you noticing the airtime hill afterwards. The overall experience will leave a mark on you, it's a ride every enthusiast must and will ride in their lifetime.
We then did the ride again as the queue was very short and this time at the back. People say it's rough there, and it is fairly rough but it'll only be noticeable if you're not holding on. It's very easy to support yourself on the ride and you can still enjoy yourself. The back itself feels faster and more intense when taking out the rough factor. In conclusion the back is rough, but not unbearably rough (like Saw or Colossus).
This ride was next up being directly attached to Kingda Ka. Like Kingda Ka there was no queue. One thing you'll notice about this ride is that there is no slight theme whatsoever, it's literally a drop tower plunked onto a coaster, but honestly I didn't really mind. In the station, I was glad to be put on the left car (the one that always drops faster), and the outside seat (next to the track)
The climb to the top is a long way up and it makes you realise how tall Kingda Ka really is. The actual drop of this ride is quite tame, you're just gradually falling; that is until you hit the brakes where the deceleration is huge to a point where my entire upper half bent down into my restraint (life lesson - don't lean forwards on Zumanjaro).
It's a fun drop tower, and the view is great. But it's not the best drop tower I've ridden (you cannot beat Tower of Terror or Falcon's Fury). I will say it's a good addition for the park and the delay on Kingda Ka isn't actually as bad as it sounds as the operations on Kingda Ka are brilliant, plus they had 3 trains.
I was really looking forward to riding my first B&M stand up, as it was a new experience (I had ridden shockwave, but this was so much different with looks and the experience itself). There was no queue so we went in the front row queue.
On the ride, going over the drop was so much fun and the inversions were great. However, the problem I had was being forced into my seat after the inversions which hurt my back. This didn't completely ruin the experience but it was something I could do without. Green lantern is a fun ride, but it's not worth waiting in a really long line for and it's not re-rideable.
I now see why people aren't fans of stand ups, but I don't think that should be the end. If they eliminated that problem (and made them all smooth like Green Lantern) then I think stand ups would be a blast. I'm not sure how they will eliminate it (they probably won't) but it can be done.
This was the biggest bummer of the day, not the ride, but the fact I didn't get to ride it. We had queued about 1hr and when we got to the airgate there was a power outage which took away 2hrs of coaster riding. I was so annoyed as you could imagine (and superman is supposed to be a blast apparently), but I just had to accept that I've ridden Manta which is probably better.
After the 2hr power outage, rides were eventually reopening and we joined the queue for Nitro just before it became probably about 2hrs long. We waited for the front as it was a larger ride at the park which was worth it. I also left quite a large gap between me and the lap bar which was a decision I should make more often.
The ride was a blast, there was airtime and speed which I loved! The setting of this ride was cool as well, going near the lake and in a grassy area where no one can enter. Comparing this to the other B&M hypers I've ridden, it's better than Mako and Silver Star. Better than Shambhala? Not at all, but it still made no.4 on my top 15.
This was a ride to look forward to as it is apparently one of the best wooden coasters out there if not the best. We waited in a line outside the ride queue (the ride wasn't open yet) whilst waiting for the ride to reopen. The ride then opened to our relief, and when we got to the station we decided to wait for back row.
On the ride itself, the cable lift goes so fast you feel like you're being launched up the lift hill. Then we went round to the drop which in the back row, felt like a launch, this was the most insane moment I have ever had on a roller coaster! The airtime on this was mad and the sheer speed was a thing to notice.
With regards to smoothness, the first half was very smooth (you expect your head to shatter in the dips, but it just doesn't!), the second half is fairly bumpy but it is completely bearable. The lap bar I think could be improved as it was slightly painful (not ruiningly painful) but apart from that, the ride was just brilliant and to sum it up: pure insanity.
(You can just about see my face)
This was to be our last ride of the day (due to my family getting rather tired). Again, we waited about 1hr but that was because the operations weren't great (the operator was playing about with the locking system and stacking was present). We decided to go back row as the front row queue was excessively long.
The ride experience was just simply fun, fairly smooth (very little headbanging) and the effects were good. Comparing it to Kraken, it wasn't as good of a ride as Kraken was smoother and went underground (the second vertical loop on Kraken was my favourite element of Kraken). Despite that, the ride is a worthy addition to the park and is a great B&M.
The Top 3:
My top 3 in this park are the following:
1. Kingda Ka
2. El Toro
You may ask why Kingda Ka is above El Toro, it's because exhilaration is what I've been living for this year, and that's exactly what Kingda Ka offers - pure exhileration.
Nitro is at 3, nevertheless, it is this my no.4 coaster so this ride isn't bad in any way, it's just not as good as El toro or Kingda Ka.
Being a coaster enthusiast, this was the perfect park for me. It gave me rides which took my no.2, 3 and 4 spot on my top 15. The problem was the organisation and there clearly is an issue with their power grid (I don't know much about it, but it's still an issue), it would've been better if we were asked to leave Superman the moment the power outage occurred rather than waiting 20mins for us to be told that.
Apart from that, I liked the atmosphere of the park and the rides were of great quality. The fact that the park is close to New York is convenient thus allowing us to have a trip to New York.
Even though we only got on 6 different rides, it still became my favourite theme park and will remain my favourite theme park until I visit somewhere like Cedar Point or Carowinds. But personally, I would recommend this park to anyone, there is lots to do aside the larger rides and it is a park everyone can enjoy.
If the opportunity comes to visit this park, take it with gratitude!
I tried my best to think of an exciting title but I really lack in creativity so it's simply 'Shocktoberfest Review'.
This year, I was lucky enough to visit Tulleys Farm's scare event Shocktoberfest. I had heard nothing but great reviews from the event, and after wanting to go since 2014, Cian and I managed to save enough cash for a ticket. Despite the horrible Friday evening traffic on the M25, we managed to get there in fairly good time, and once we were there, we managed to get all 8 attractions done within very little time, compared to are queuing times at Fright Nights the previous week.
First things first, the atmosphere and vibe of the event is the best I've ever experienced. From the second I walked into the main plaza after collecting our tickets I fell in love with it! I wished then that I lived more locally and the tickets were slightly cheaper so I could head back there again! The roamers that we saw throughout the night were excellent too! After a quick bite to eat and a drink, 6-30 had rolled around. It was time for our first attraction!
SPOILER WARNING - THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS A LOT OF SPOILERS
Hellements - 6/10
We started on Hellements, mainly because the majority of reviews had said that this was the weakest maze at the event. Whilst it was one of the weakest of the night, it wasn't as bad as a lot of people made out. It is a hooded maze, where similarly to Molly Crowe, you have to follow a guide rope for the duration of the maze. However, unlike Molly, the actors couldn't touch you in this, which was my main bug. In the other mazes touching wasn't really needed and therefore it isn't done, but in a maze with your sight gone, I feel that touching is key, and that's why Molly was a lot better than it would've been without touching. It does have it's good moments. Lots of physical effects, weird whispering in tongues, a very unexpected fire burst at the end! I did jump a fair few times throughout. The maze was nice and long to at around 10 minutes. Overall though, despite it's advantages, Hellements was one of the weaker mazes we experienced.
Coven of 13 - 8/10
Coven is one of two new horror mazes that Tulleys have to offer this year, and this one is (only just) the better out of the two. After being told off for talking when I wasn't talking during the health and safety announcement, we set out on a 6 minute journey through a wonderfully themed and very jumpy horror maze. The floating chair illusion at the start of the maze is a very good one, that could be improved with more fog to obscure the support it's on. The mixture of outdoor and indoor sections was perfect, and despite the outdoor parts being rather open they worked nicely. The cottage was the best part of the maze for me, mainly because of the quality theming and the insane scare I had during it. The finale was rather confusing; I didn't really know what was happening. I was initially more critical of this maze however after a lot more thought, I do really like this maze and it is one that I hope returns!
Creepy Cottage - 4/10
Creepy Cottage was never going to be a great maze, so we didn't really expect much from it. Our expectations were met, as it really wasn't much. It is a great introductory maze with some good scares and great theming. Actors seemed to be severely lacking throughout which was unfortunate, and the group in front of us refused to move for a solid 30 or so seconds. It was the shortest maze of the night at 4 minutes long, and we did leave thinking "was that it"? Overall, Creepy Cottage is a good first maze with some nice theming, but it's no more than that.
PanDEMONium's 3D Carnival - 8/10
Pandemonium's 3D Carnival is the second new maze that Tulleys have introduced this year, and despite me giving it the same rating is Coven, this is the weaker of the two. I say weaker, this maze is not weak at all. The curtains section at the start is very nice and at times jumpy. This was the only maze that I felt had ample actors in; It seemed to be teeming with them! The second half was the 3D half. You were given 3D glasses by a very boring host who just gave them to you with no comment, and then you're on your way. The 3D didn't really do much in my opinion, other than one part where an actress looked like a 3D illusion however was actually there hanging above the door. The theming was alright in this half, I didn't really like the black walls with a splash of UV paint. The ending was awful unfortunately. You simply walk out of the maze after a themed scene which had zero actors in, no finale of such. Overall, Pandemonium was great, and if it does return, the 3D should be removed
The Chop Shop - 9/10
I had heard all about the craziness of the Chop Shop, and before going in I was very scared for what I was about to experience. As it currently stands, Chop Shop is the best Halloween attraction I've done this year! Firstly, the facade is stunning! Easily the best I've seen on a maze; It is just perfect! The first half of the maze is beautifully themed to look like an old car garage and the hillbilly actors were spot on during this part. The second half is where the fun really begins! The strobes kick in as you walk into a freezer room with blood stained walls, and then you turn the corner to find the twisted corridors which lead to the way out... and then actors wielding chainsaws come from every direction!!! I was very nearly sprinting in this part, I was bloody terrified! There were a good 6-8 actors with chainsaws coming from out of nowhere! And just when you thought it was over, another actor would pop out swinging a chainsaw everywhere! The only problems I had which don't make it a 10/10 is that a. It is quite short at 4 and a half minutes and b. The chainsaw corridors should have been enclosed and not in the open air. Other than that, The Chop Shop was amazing, and it was the best maze of the night!
The Colony - 7.5/10
Many people had stated that The Colony was the best maze that Tulleys had to offer, so upon entering the queue we were very excited for what was to come. It was good, great even, but not as good as many had said it was. I'll start with the good parts: It was very long! We were in the maze for nearly 15 minutes and seemed to go on forever (in a good way)! The theming was brilliant and it had a great mixture of indoor and outdoor sections. The best scene for me was when we were submerged into total darkness for 1-2 minutes and had to navigate our way out whilst stumbling in pitch blackness. The actors did do a great job in here too with lots of excellent scares. Time for the cons: the finale was ridiculous. It was something that should've been in The Chop Shop; freezer walls and a chainsaw. It didn't fit the tribal theme at all! The actors were also lacking, especially during the first half. The group in front of us walked horribly slowly too, resulting in a huge build up of people which ruined it slightly. Overall, The Colony was good, but no where near as good as people have been saying.
The Cellar - 8.5/10
I was very excited for the Cellar, and I was not disappointed! Esmeralda wasn't in, however that still didn't fault the maze. The theming and scares were fantastic in here; the snake head scared the living daylights out of me. I did feel that actors were again slightly lacking but not as badly as some other mazes. We saw a familiar face working in this maze too which added to it slightly. Very claustrophobic throughout and the dim lighting meant it was fairly difficult to navigate; I did hit my head on a prop at one point! Overall, the Cellar is a very good maze and one I hope is still running in years to come.
Horrorwood Hayride - 9/10
The Horrorwood Hayride is something very different to most of the attractions that Tulleys have to offer, and it was clearly insanely popular due to the hour long queue it got.
The hayride is a fantastic attraction. Whilst not as scary as a horror maze, it still managed to get some scares out of the group. The actors throughout the attraction were top quality, however the part with the pig-people and the chainsaws felt rather out of place and would've been more suited to The Chop Shop. Combined with some great theming and a lot of fire, it led to the Hayride nearly beating Chop Shop as the best attraction of the night!
To conclude, Tulleys is a fantastic event, the best I have ever experienced! Each and every attraction offers something different, the atmosphere is fantastic, and pretty much everything about the place just screams "Amazing"!
That's the end of this blog entry. Hope you enjoyed
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Not sure if anyone has realised but wild wongs noodle bar has now vanished off the face of the earth, not that I ever ate at the bloody place but still I want answers! One of my favourite areas of the park is just slowly becoming and looking abandoned. Like some people say, yes it will probably look a lot more alive at fright nights but for the majority of this season it has looked very dead. People are also saying that now loggers is gone for good and if you are one of those saying this please hit me up or comment on this as I would like to know where you are getting this info from or whether its just a theory due to everyone not being able to see any maintenance being done on it the whole year. I would be sad if it was confirmed to never return as I did enjoy it (back when I was 13..) didn't enjoy it too much towards the end, having a face full of dirty river water was not my idea of a fun day out at Thorpe but still. I'm not sure whether wongs closed mid season this year or whether it hasn't even been open at all this season? I know the little hot dog stand they have there has been open this year and from what I can remember was still open last time I visited (last month). I just think that Thorpe is just slowly closing everything from this area one by one to eventually have it all demolished.. which I don't want! It is a good area and has been there for years. Hope wong returns one day love ya x
I first visited Paultons Park in the mid 80's (ish) although the only thing I really remember is feeling hugely travel sick from the coach journey there. Fast forward to 2010 when I took my next visit to the park - this was the year before Peppa Pig world opened and the park was heavily advertising it (understandably) - we actually queued for about 90 minutes to get a photo taken with Peppa Pig (or her annoying brother - not sure which) - I might add, this was because I was with my then 6 year old niece - I'm personally not a huge fan of Peppa Pig and find the programme highly irritating although it is massively popular with kids. I had a fab day but left feeling light the place could do with a bit more on the side of theming.
I next visited in 2013, Peppa Pig world was open and very popular and the previous year the park had installed Magma, a drop ride (which also spins) - I hate drop rides with a passion (thanks to Detonator) but can cope with ones such as Magma which are fun and give you a floating feeling rather than one where your butt flies out of the seat and you hold on for dear life (if you're anything like me)
The theming on Magma is pretty good - you enter a volcano which has rumbling sounds and smoke/mist that goes off as the ride starts - I really enjoyed it and thought it was a great addition to the park
A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Paultons Park for the first time in 3 years to check out the new area, Lost Kingdom which opened in May of this year. I wasn't disappointed. Paultons Park is a lovely place and you can see that they have invested a lot back into the park (take note CWOA). The first thing that struck me was how clean the place was - I mean - REALLY clean - no rubbish laying around, no overflowing bins and it was so refreshing.
You can tell that Paultons really do care about their guests - there is no shortage of toilets which is always handy and they have loads of benches (I love that they say Paultons Park on them aswell - so much so, I took a picture of one - yes I'm odd) There are also LOTS of play areas for kids - including a splash area with fountains which I'm sure gets busy during hot days
Unlike Merlin parks where it can sometimes feel that they are trying to squeeze every last penny out of you, you don't get that feeling at this park - yes, they have those games where you throw a ball in a bucket to win a prize but the people manning these stalls aren't very pushy which is nice. Food at drink are fairly reasonably priced as well. Oh and you don't get stung for parking your car either.
Not only do Paultons have a variety of rides, the gardens are lovely and you can tell that the people who work on them take great care and pride in what they do. They also have a variety of animals - including meerkats - and who doesn't love a meerkat?!
Just look at that face
OK - so if you are a hardcore adrenaline junkie who is looking for non stop thrills, this probably isn't the place for you - however I would recommend Paultons to anyone who is up for a chilled day with some decent rides - in my opinion a theme park doesn't have to be packed with inversion after inversion to be good. There are no rides at Paultons which have inversions but it is still worth a visit - they even have a nifty little train (Rio Grande) that takes you on a small journey around part of the park - perfect if you want a sit down and chill
I really enjoyed the Lost Kingdom area of the park - the theming is fantastic and I was really impressed with what they had done. The 2 main coasters, Velociraptor and Flight Of The Pterosaur are really enjoyable - more so than I thought they would be. Oh and there are lots and lots of animatronic dinosaurs -
Prior to riding Velociraptor, I had never ridden a Junior Boomerang coaster before - and embarrasing as this is, I did actually scream - mainly on the backwards part as I don't cope brilliantly with going backwards (I only ever rode x:/nwo once because I came extremely close to chundering my guts up)
Flight Of The Pterosaur was a nice surprise for me - I didn't expect much if I'm honest but I thoroughly enjoyed it - it's full of twists and turns and again, the theming is fab - the thing I absolutely love are the restraints on the trains - because it is just a lap bar that you pull down over you it allows for a lot more freedom - it would be awesome if Vampire got these sort of restraints. We rode on the back row, front row and in the middle - all give a great ride but I probably prefer front as I like to see where I am going
We also rode the dinosaur safari ride which was surprisingly good even if it did start to rain a bit mid-way through. We didn't go on Boulder Dash so I can't comment on that but the whole are is just really nice and fresh.
Because we visited on a really quiet day, everything was walk on and we were able to go on pretty much everything multiple times which was fab. As well as The Lost Kingdom, Critter Creek is another themed area which is really bright and happy (is that the right word?!)
I really do love Paultons Park and although my niece has moved onto scarier rides, she also loved it when she was younger. It is a true family park and I love that it is starting to get the recognition that it deserves. This place has well and truly over taken CWOA in terms of theming and overall presentation/care etc. Yes it would be nice if they were to add a couple of more thrilling rides but the way the park is going I think they are just going to get better and better.
Although I have a MAP, I for one reaaaaally hope that Merlin never buy this place out - would hate to see it run into the ground. To be honest, if I lived nearer I would consider getting a season pass but as I live over and hour away it isn't viable.
Another thing to mention is that the staff who I encountered during my visit were all extremely friendly and enthusiastic - which is nice to see. The only criticism of the place that I would have is that it took us a while to get into the park as not all the turnstiles were in use and the ones that were seemed to take a while to get people through.
My personal favourite rides at Paultons would be - Flight Of The Pterosaur, Velociraptor, Cobra and Magma - I also quite like Wave Runner - it's pretty much Depth Charge (although for some reason I prefer Wave Runner and have no idea why).
Another thing to add is that Paultons Park have 2 similar rides to CWOA - The Edge (a disco-coaster - similar to Kobra) and Kontiki (similar to Griffins Galleon) but for some reason, Paultons have these rides on a much better setting. I haven't actually ventured onto The Edge since my visit back in 2010 where my sister and her partner were taking bets on whether I was going to throw up (thankfully I didn't). I put off going on Kobra at CWOA for a long time, thinking that it would be as intense and was really surprised when I first rode it as it felt a LOT tamer. Kontiki is definitely a lot more intense than Griffins Galleon at Chessie - that also made me feel a bit queasy when I rode it a couple of years back (though I have to add that I have since discovered the wonders of anti-sickness meds)
Critter Creek theming
Cobra car (Gerslauer bob sled)
Great theming in Peppa Pig World
Double Decker Victorian carousel
Chair swing ride
Raging River log flume - there is zero theming on this but for its size it offers a decent splash
And finally - I saved the best for last.....
Mr Fish disembarking the crocodile ride thingy in Peppa Pig World
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Upon arriving at the park, we were both very impressed with the location of the park, all the rides around the lake
looked stunning as we were driving to the car park. Excited to see what this park had to offer, we head for the park
entrance. The park opens and 09:30 and the rides open at 10:30, we turned up around 09:15 and there were already loads
of staff at the ticket booths which was great to see, this meant we could buy our tickets ready to enter the park when
it opened. As it happens we were the first to enter the park! we took the first hour to explore the parks zoo which we
found to be hit and miss really, you could tell which were the new parts and which were the old. Some of the enclosures
were great and some were really dirty and small, but we loved the Tamarin trail!
Anyway, we didn't really come here for the animals (although we do love a good zoo!) the park was starting to fill up so
around 10:15 we joined the queue for Ben 10 as there was already a hefty queue waiting to enter the queue, we gathered
that this ride would probably get the biggest queues due to it's a popularity with the kids. when the queue opened however,
we must of only waited around 10 minutes, we skipped most of it as they were looking for groups of two :P. The queue for
this ride is very well themed and includes lots of good lighting and objects themed to the kids show. The ride itself is
good fun! the restraints are nice making you feel very open and exposed, it's quite fast and intense for a family coaster
and it is glass smooth! I'm not a fan of going backwards on coasters but these family vekoma boomerangs are proving popular
and I can see why! We both came off smiling 8/10.
Next up it was time for the Wild West shootout ride thing, now this ride wasn't very long and it had a very DIY feel about
it but we loved it! I'm not quite sure what is was, I just came off loving it, I think it's just more fun than other
shooters I have done. it was very interactive like when you hit a can it fell over etc and got to love them bonus'! In my
opinion I thought it was a fun little ride and we even did it again later in the day! 6.5/10
Already quite impressed with the park we wondered down to the Buffalo coaster. This coaster could be heard from a distance
as this thing is quite noisy, but the trains looked like the had been refurbished recently? and the layout seemed half
decent! It was just as I expected really, bit rough and jolty but there are a couple of Helix's and you get some good
views of the rest of the park! 6/10
Now we both had quite high expectations of this next ride as it has recently gone through a refurb and some of our friends
really rate it highly: it was time for the Haunting. all I knew of this ride is that it was a madhouse so I didn't really
know what to expect. The lighting was excellent, the ride had some great effects which weren't scary as such but this
attraction is aimed at the whole family so we took that into consideration. the scenes are great in the attraction
especially the big hall, I loved this part of the attraction as there is mist, projections, lights and floor movements -
it all seemed to work really well! The finale is the ride itself which I felt was good but nothing more really, all I all
it is a great attraction but hex is still my favourite madhouse I'm afraid. 8/10
We headed over to the other end of the park to try out the parks rapids 'Splash Canyon', probably my 2nd favourite rapids
in the country, not as good as Congo River Rapids at AT but much better than Thorpe's Rumba Rapids! The Queue line for this
is a horrible cattle-pen which is a shame, I can imagine it being horrible during a very busy day! and also they didn't seem
to have many boats on which didn't help the queue. Apart from that you get some good interaction with Shockwave and there are
some good water effects! 7/10
At this point is was gone Midday so we were getting quite hungry but as Shockwave had no queue we thought we would squeeze it
in before lunch, There was no queue for the front so we went straight on, unfortunately no Go Pros allowed which was a shame.
The restraints on this were not as comfortable as Riddler's Revenge over at SFMM but I understand that this was a Intamin and
B&M combo. The ride was surprisingly smooth at the front and I came off instantly thinking that it was my favourite coasters
in the UK, the loop is intense, the zero-g was a bit uncomfortable but I enjoyed getting thrown out of my seat. Yes the ride
is quite short but it packs a punch. Now on the front row I would put it in my top 5 in the UK but later on in the day I gave
it a ride near the back and boy was it rough! Gave me a headache for the rest of the day, but still I find it a good coaster so
I rate it a solid 7.5/10
Burger Kitchen was our choice of eatery, food was quite pricey as you can imagine but not too bad. Quality off food was okay,
nothing more than standard theme park food.
After lunch, we walked around Thomas Land for a bit, the theming in this area is great and has a lovely atmosphere! This area
had the longest queues of the park so unfortunately we didn't get to do much which was a shame but we could see why the kids
loved it! We took a ride on Toby's tram thing, never seen a flat ride like this before and it was good fun, quite intense for
little kids ride. To let our lunch digest we took a ride on the parks Ferris Wheel which seemed the same as Chessington's
version, we got some good views of Ben 10 from this. Yogi Bear was now about to start so we thought we would go and give it a
try, The film is just small clips of the actual film put together but it was alright I guess, we mainly went in to have a break
from the rides but it was okay, not as good as Angry Birds.
Next up was the other thrill coaster at the park 'G Force' there was only a 5 minute wait which was a bonus. I Wasn't expecting
much from this ride due to the amount of bad reviews it gets but I remained positive, but I was wrong. The restraints have got
to be the most painful restraints I have experienced! the lift hill is just horrible, not a fun experience, you are literally
just hanging upside down with your body being crushed by your restraint. The coaster section was meh, it was jolty, no speed
or flow to the ride and it is very short! Thank god it was a short ride though I don't think my body could endure any more pain! 3/10
Unfortunately Storm Force 10 was closed for the day so we didn't get to ride it oh well more reason to go back next year! As
Maelstrom was nearby we decided to give that a go next. Wow! this ride is really intense and is probably one of my favourite
flats in the UK! It delivers so much airtime, we loved it! 9/10
Pandemonium and The flying Dutchman were also closed but no biggie, I'm not too keen on flats anyway and Pandemonium didn't
interest me. The Flying Dutchman was in pieces and the was a crane on the Pandemonium site so whether they will be removed or
just being refurbished I'm not too sure. Anyway we headed to the barrels! The theming on this ride is great, yet so out of place
haha! Not complaining though as we loved the German theme and the ride was really fun too!
It was time for Apocalypse, now drop towers are the only type of ride where I get nervous due to the height of them and of
course, the anticipation of the drop. To date Atmosfear at Liseberg is the tallest drop tower I've done (around 400ft I think)
and is probably the scariest ride I've done due to the height! the sit down had a longer queue than stand up so I went straight
for the standup, now I would be lying if I told you I wasn't a tad nervous. I had never done a standup drop tower before so
this was new to me. At first it was too bad but then it tilted you, you don't tilt that much but you really notice it when all
of your body weight is pushing against the retraint, let's just say if that restraint failed you would be a gonner! At
the top you are only given a brief moment to appreciate the view and then you drop. The drop is so forceful it's amazing! by
far the best drop tower I have done and one of my favourite rides in the country! 10/10
We did a few other small flat rides then we headed for our last ride of the day - Troublesome Trucks! This had the longest queue
all day but the cred had to be done, I believe we waiting 30 minutes or something. It is a great little coaster though! the
theming is really nice and it has to be one of the best tiny coasters I have done, it's so smooth!
Oh yeah, The Bounty has to be the best Pirate Ship I have been on too!
To summarise then, Drayton Manor exceeded our expectations and is one of my favourite parks in the UK. The have some really
unique rides, including loads of family and kids rides! some of the theming is in need of refurb but the newer rides look great!
What this park really needs now is another thrill coaster, hopefully something will be announced in the next few years! Shame
about the staff though as rarely did we see a smile - very Grumpy! All in all it's a great park and look forward to returning
Woah Woah Woah there friends!
Put down your pitchforks! Extinguish your flaming torches and disband that mob!
That title is what we call in the industry as "clickbait". A very clever way of getting people into a boring article with something shocking at face value,
Now where as most people include an image of female speed bumps to get peoples attention, I thought I would offer a thought provoking question...
How do you solve a problem like enthusiasts?
We are a great burden / privilege to theme parks. We think we know best, If a park does something right, we commend them and cheer them on!
However, this is the real world and quite a lot of the time choices made by other people are wrong! Horribly Horribly Wrong!
Where was I...
This thought of how do we solve this problem became more prominent after the recent news of certain enthusiasts behaving atrociously at the Bubbleworks Goodbye Party.
Enthusiasts shouting at staff to be on the last ride before it closes forever.
Now at first glance this just seems like some people wanting the bragging rights, "Guess who was the last on Bubbleworks!" sort of how we do it for ride openings, (3rd Public train of The Smiler and first public train of Galactica... Just saying )
But unlike ride openings, we don't have to put in effort to be the last to ride something, just turn up last and on you go rather than ride openings where those committed enough will be at the park before the staff, run to the ride as soon as the gates open and be prepared to live with the blood on your hands from those who stood before you!
However, there is a more personal connection to being the last on something, people who have grown up with Bubbleworks will have a very strong bond with the attraction, it still doesn't accuse the behavior but that behavior comes as a side effect of passion... And we are not the only ones!
Take football fans, we constantly hear of fights starting against team fans due to one beating another, and again I don't condone these actions but this again comes out of passion, they obviously want the team they support to win and unfortunately when they don't they behave in unusual ways as some don't really know how to react.
So what is my point? Enthusiasts want to be the last to complete there special bond with the ride, the be the last to share a memory with something so special to them. Now a morbid warning... the closing of a ride is a bit like the passing of a family member or relative. (Where am I going with this...) Some people feel more comforted being there in that persons last moment as that then means that there last moment with them was the last moment they had with that person. As weird as it may sound with rides, some people don't feel as connected if there last ride was a month before it closed, as it would have given a lot more memories out after you. It's pretty petty... but it's human nature.
Conclusion: How do you solve a problem like enthusiasts? You don't as they are what make theme parks great, and terrible and... what was my point again?
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WARNING - This review has very STRONG spoilers
Choo Choo... No this isn't Runaway Mine Train, this is MY Ghost Train (Well actually it's Derren's, but I got to experience it last weekend).
Delayed for two months, a hype built higher than Kingda Ka and being the largest investment in Merlin HISTORY! I, of course, had low expectations.
I'll begin my review on the outside, we were greeted by a 90 minute queue in the baking heat, so I had lots of time to sink in the exterior, unfortunately, most of the poster theming had been destroyed by the guests'.
Apart from the huge red shed that Thorpe has proudly placed at the front of the area, the actual building itself is well themed and the music was loud, maybe a little too loud (is that possible?).
Apart from the AWFUL photo spots, the queue itself wasn’t that bad, the baggage room was well themed and the batching area kept the hype going… now it was time to go through to the pre-show.
The pre-show started, with the worlds lamest ‘jump scare’, Derren waffled on about fear (I did pay attention, honest!) and another lame jump scare, although I did appreciate the special effects, this pre show felt like it was actually him talking to me, not just a video.
We move onto the main room and I was taken aback, the train looked incredible and really looked like it was hanging! I have no idea how it’s done, the way the trains are hidden is actually the most mind bending thing about this attraction.
The VR headsets come on and the story begins, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... The scares begin and I was already screaming before the video started, the whole first VR section felt so realistic and I was immersed in what they was saying, I had the young man, old lady and old man so I got to experience a difference in the stories, my 3rd ride on DBGT 1st VR experience was the best VR I have ever experience, so crisp and clear.
So after my knees were attacked by Thorpe’s ride host, we moved into the second part of the attraction, after a lot of shouting and confusion, this huge train comes swinging towards us, the effect would work well if they had more smoke and less lights but I still jumped back in time.
Onto the second train and off we went, this time the story got confusing for me… why the explosions? Where’s Derren gone? Is Derren a member of the Green Party? But the demons did scare me, but the extremely long gas section made me loose interest and I could feel myself wanting to remove my headset, next thing I know, we’re falling to my second home, 5,4,3,2… an abrupt ending and back to reality.
We exit into the highly themed shop and I had experienced the ghost train.
- The physically train and underground theming.
- The first VR experience nearly made me fall off my seat
- The ride system works SO WELL.
- The whole ‘sub core’ story comes out of nowhere, it feels like they’re two different plot lines happening throughout the whole attraction, Derren Brown & Sub Core.
- Second VR section comes across very out there, making me confused to what was actually happening.
- Making me change my pants because it scared me THAT much.
The newest major UK theme park attraction, was certainly an experienced I’ve never had before, the plot line and lack of physically theming let it down for me, but it did what it was created for, to scare you.
I’m unsure how this will keep up in a few years’ time, the technology is far too underdeveloped for how much it gets used and was already straining when I visited, I have a strong opinion that VR is NOT the future of theme parks, but that’s a debate for another day.
I don't think I need to tell you how much I love Chessington.
We must be in double figures for visits this year by now and no plans of stopping yet.
Today was a fantastic day at my beloved, with no closed rides, only one breakdown (and a delay on Dragon's Fury while we were on that wasn't a breakdown), two fantastic rides on the bigger coasters, however the sad news that Bubbleworks would be closing in September.
First things first I went on Dragons Fury via Single Rider queue, the weight in the car was unbalanced and span loads, it was brilliant. So brilliant that it turned Dragon's Fury into my favourite ride for about an hour. I actually came off shaking with adrenaline for the first time since my first ride on it.
Next we got the ride access pass and headed to Trail of the Kings and Hocus Pocus Hall. I personally didn't go in (my mum said I wouldn't have liked it in there anyway) instead sitting outside checking the forums and listening to "Hocusssss Pocussssssss!" Over and over again coming from the exit, which was annoying. Then we headed for lunch at Pizza Pasta, where I didnt eat much for once. Over lunch we made the plan for Tomb Blaster, Dragon Falls, Bubbleworks and Vampire.
Now, Tomb Blaster was... interesting. A few effects I didn't know about were working including some jumpscares (I don't think they were intentional... but scared the living daylight out of me) and all the audio was a bit louder. By the end of my ride me and my sister where nearly fearing for our lives. Fair to say Bubbleworks was interesting too (get on to that in a minute). Can't remember the exact scores but my sister came first (embarrassing, especially as I got a heavy lead at the start) I came second and mum came miles behind. So yeah, my heart was... faster than usual.
Then we went on Dragon Falls which was normal. Thankfully no phones lost this time. We took a (not so short) detour because my sister wanted to ride Toadies, which I haven't been on for a year or two and it just worsens each year. The (possibly new) on board soundtrack was quite nice if a little annoying. Now, Bubbleworks. It's almost as if it's throwing a tantrum because it doesn't want to go. Broke down loads over the last few days being one of the only rides to do so today. It also really creaked at the start, and unless they have added a new sound effect creaked at the lift hill too, which scared me after the Tomb Blaster experience (I was a bit jumpy).
Now, onto Vampire. If you've read any one of my posts this season you'll know how much I adore this wonderful piece of machinery. After riding it on the fourth row, however, I began to lean towards Dragons Fury and after my first ride today Fury had well overtaken Vampy. This ride was set to undo that. Back left, seemed alot faster, alot more airtime on the second drop (my favourite part of Vampire), and apart from the usual jolts near the second lift hill and going into/inside the tunnel it was actually really smooth. I didn't hit my head once even if I hurt my shoulders somehow (think it was the way I pressed them up against the restraints, it went away as soon as I came off). Perfect and was enough to put it back on top again. After this we headed to Scorpion Express, YooHoo to pass the time before we could go on Rattlesnake via RAP, then Rattlesnake which my sister is somehow still not tall enough to ride! Loading was weird as they wouldn't put anyone on the back row unless they were in a group of 3 or 4. Overall it was normal. After this we headed to Dragon's Fury again, this time with mum, where the weight was unbalanced again meaning a great ride (we span loads on the bunny hop). We got stuck in the station for about 5 minutes, believe somebody wet themself...
After this came Griffins Galleon which has been reverted to its old soundtrack, then Black Bucaneer, my first ride on. Mum wouldn't come on with me so I queued. It was nearly walk on (got on the next ride) despite the board saying it was 45 minutes. I needed to join someone elses row so a nice family let me sit with them, they spoke to me (as did the woman on Dragons Fury the first time) asking if Id been on before and if I was scared. I was scared but loved it by the end and I'm dragging my dad on with me next time.
Overall a brilliant day.
MY RIDE COUNT
Dragon's Fury x2
Toadie's Crazy Cars
+Hocus Pocus Hall (just without me)
Dragon's Fury Keyring (for me)
New Yellow Map Pen (for me)
Millions Tube (does that even count?) (for sister)
Next blog post will be tommorow at Cadbury World, then on Sunday at Gulliver's, then Alton Towers Monday, again Friday, the July round up thing on the 30th and probably LL Discovery Centre/Trafford Centre inbetween.
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Fellow mortals. If you are reading this, it means I have literally just returned from a preposterous trek within the vicinity of the most dangerous place on Earth...Skull Island.
...but of course for the most technically-minded (and gullible) of readers, this is only my report from my recent trip to Orlando.
No sooner than I arrived had I had an unexpected encounter with a mysterious creature. One of Skull Island's deadly inhabitants?
Anyway, the call to adventure was nigh. But in order to get to Skull Island I had other adventures to attend to...
...such as requesting some backup at Skull Island from a childhood superhero (but in all seriousness, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman is quite spectacular).
...until finally...I FOUND IT! I knew I had struck gold and now it BECKONED me!
...Kong himself in particular
No other soul had DARED venture into this unforgiving realm...hence this very conveniently placed sign.
In case you haven't already guessed, Skull Island is HUGE!
Almost as huge as this rather innocent looking castle next door.
I heard Kong can fight a pack of dinosaurs. Does this include dragons???
Anyway, to cap this all off, here's my review on Skull Island: Reign of Kong
...This gets a 9/10 from me. Spectacular ride experience, incredible amounts of detail along with a pretty decent queueing experience. Definitely worth the queue time.
But that's not all! I leave you with my total ride count.
Islands of Adventure:
- The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: x5
- Dr Doom's Fear Fall: x2
- Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls: x1
- Jurassic Park River Adventure: x3
- Forbidden Journey: x4
- Flight of the Hippogriff: x1
- Dragon Challenge: x2 (Chinese Fireball: x1, Hungarian Horntail: x1)
- Hogwarts Express: x1
- Poseidon's Fury: x1
- Skull Island: Reign of Kong: x2
- Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit: x2
- Revenge of The Mummy: x2
- Transformers: The Ride: x2
- The Simpsons Ride: x2
- Men in Black: Alien Attack: x1
- Escape from Gringotts: x2
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On the 1st July 2016, Derren Brown's Ghost Train officially opened to the public for technical rehearsals and I was one of the lucky few to be able to experience it before it's official opening. What follows is an extremely long review and walkthrough of the attraction which will be summarised by bullet points in addition to long paragraphs to make it easier to read.
(I uploaded a previous review yesterday regarding the experience which some of you may have read. I deleted it because after reading it back, I thought I could re-write it a lot better so this is more of an updated review than a new one.)
PLEASE NOTE: There will be some spoilers ahead in this review with detailed explanations of what happens, so unless you would like to know what happens, please don't read ahead. I didn't need to sign an NDA or form when I rode this 3 times.
So to begin the review, I'll start with the exterior and queue-line:
1) Queue-line and exterior
The queue itself has two photo booths which you pass through before you begin your experience. The first one involves you looking through a glass window and focusing your eyes upon a red dot on a TV monitor screen which displays certain images related to the theme of the ghost train. During this stage, the dot moves up until it turns green telling you the picture is taken. You are given a "one way ticket" with a barcode which you must scan on the reader in both photo booths in order to get both types go photo at the end.
About 20 minutes down the queue later, you approach the second photo booth and there are signs giving the symptoms of an infected person such as white, bloodshot or dilated pupils which all relates to the vague fracking theme of the attraction. In this booth, using the tickets you were given earlier, you then individually place your heads onto these stands and look straight into a screen to align your eyes with the camera. Once it's aligned, 3 cameras (one at the front and two on each side) scan your head using LED's to light your face up from all angles which I presume is for a 3D rendered head in a jar souvenir you can buy at the end of the ride, as well as a regular additional on-ride photo with your head in a green jar. After you've been "disinfected", you proceed to the last section of the queue which is roughly another 20-30 minute wait if the line is full.
As for the queue speakers, the audio kept on cutting in and out constantly on an average time of 15 seconds and it happened all day through all the speakers. Not sure why this was happening but I can only guess it's a glitch with the audio system in the queue as they were testing the exterior audio all morning it seemed. Sure it will be fixed very soon, but the audio itself really did build up tension whilst waiting in the queue!
Lastly, you are then grouped together with about 55-60 other people outside the baggage booth. Here, you just simply wait outside whilst dropping off your bags until the green curtain slides back and you are then welcomed inside the building. Unlike the other indoor mazes which involve a staff member telling you all the safety instructions before you go inside, this didn't happen. Derren himself tells you this inside the building which leads to the next part of the experience.
After passing through the green curtain, you enter this very dark room which has a stand for you step up onto and you look upon a scene which involves a vacant empty chair under a spotlight, and a black chalkboard behind. Above you are a series of about 10-12 differently styled light bulbs all lit up dimly, all with an old-fashioned look and feel to them all. Above the scene in front of you are two projectors displaying text on the walls which are used for directional purposes to lead the audience in and out of the room before and after the show has finished.
When the show begins, Derren appears in front sitting in the chair and he discusses about what the meaning of fear is, how it links to enjoyment and what awaits ahead inside the Ghost Train. Amongst his speech, he subtly goes through the safety and recommendations for those who might find it a bit too much to handle. Before long, he finishes with "I'll see you on the other side" before disappearing from the room promoting you to proceed to the next star of your journey.
I found this pre-show very entertaining to watch as it was very well executed and convincing for the audience, plus it built up more tension for the other guests I noticed! So for the pre-show, great intro and build-up for what's to come!
3) The Ghost Train (Part 1)
As you leave the pre-show room, you are led up a few stairs round the back of the building and you then enter the warehouse with the victorian train carriage suspended by chains in the air. From first impressions, the carriage is a lot larger and longer in length than I was expecting and the platform you walk along is quite high up. Whilst you wait in the warehouse on the suspended platform for the next train, you can hear various sound effects coming from all angles inside the warehouse, such as bats flying above you, screams from the ghost train, and the sound of trains moving along the rails below the suspended carriage. I must admit, the sounds coming underneath the carriage on the gravel floor sounded identical to the real London Underground trains when they move along the rails so it was a very realistic sound effect also coupled with an echo effect just to make it more realistic.
Before long, the carriage doors open and the previous guests from the train carriage leave the platform and exit through another door whilst your group proceeds to board the train through the other set of doors. The train conductor and actors are there shouting "All aboard!" dressed in uniform and directing you inside the carriage. Once inside however, the atmosphere changes entirely. Gone is the dark, old-fashioned sound and feel to the red carriage you just boarded and instead, you are greeted by two London Underground staff instead inside a perfectly identical replica of a London Underground train (more specifically the ones used on the Northern and Jubilee lines). The detail inside is so close to the real ones that I begin to wonder if the creative team had the designers from the real tube train involved with this project. There isn't a seating arrangement or plan once inside, you just take any seat you can find and get your headsets ready.
TIP - even though there were a couple of headsets that weren't working, make sure the headset you put on has a green LED light lit up and NOT a red one, otherwise the content won't work. They don't make this obvious but please bear that in mind when you board.
It also became obvious why the number of seats recently went from 60 to 58. In each carriage(s) , two seats next to each other were stripped back room for wheelchair users, so there's no need for disabled passengers to leave their wheelchair, which also helps with the throughput.
TIP - when you put on your headset, the best and more comfortable way of doing it is to place in on the top of your head then before you place the goggles over your eyes, pull down the two speakers for the headphones instead. They are ergonomically shaped to fit your ears so you'll know if they are fitted on correctly. Once they're set, just pull down the headset and adjust the tightness of the headset with the velcro straps just like Galactica. Even though my vision was fine all 3 tries, I couldn't work out how to focus the image through a mechanical dial like Galactica has. Maybe I'm being stupid and missing it, but I couldn't feel or see anywhere to adjust it. Not that I needed to, but maybe someone else will.
I won't go into too much detail about what happens inside, but rest assured, there's a lot more to this ride than you would be lead to expect and it certainly makes the experience very thrilling and engaging. The first half is by far the best part of the entire experience!
On e this section is over and you've got off the train (as it does physically move into another section of the building) the next part of the journey begins.
4) The Evacuation
As the underground staff guide you out of the train, they lead you through to a room which stinks of this gas they mentioned telling you to cover your mouths. Once you've evacuated the station, you find yourselves inside the underground tunnels itself with various other underground trains parked stationary. There is also a giant leaking pipe which the construction workers inside are trying to fix. The whole feeling and atmosphere here made me quite nervous as it was very loud with the noises of train passing through the tunnels and the stench coming from the gas leak.
Here as a group, various effects happen which include of a moving train, shadow, light and sound effects and acting from the underground staff. Again, I won't say much here, but it certainly surprised me the first time!
I must say, some of the effects used in this section really had me for a few moments. This coupled with the smells and nosies really made this section a thrilling yet mildly scary section of the experience.
5) The Ghost Train (Part 2)
As before, you take your seats in the underground carriage with the VR headsets on (don't forget to find one with a green LED light on it) and the final section of the experience continues here. The underground train through the headset is empty again and the train moves virtually and physically again for a quick moment here. Then, out of nowhere, one of the creatures rips apart the entire side of the carriage you are sat in and you can see outside a street in London with lots of cars and vehicles congested and abandoned whilst your carriage is held upon a bridge.
What happens next is rather not say but it does involve more visual effects with the headsets as well as more physical movement from the train carriage, including a brief sensation of falling.
After this, the ride experience is over and you exit the carriage from where you started through the victorian carriage, you are then lead down some stairs to the baggage hold area and finally through the ride's shop.
Now, I'd like to quickly talk about the VR headsets as that had quite an important role in this experience.
6) VR Quality
Compared to Galactica's headsets, I can assure you that these ones used on Ghost Train are of far higher quality for the following reasons:
• Everything was much higher definition with more pixels and a wider viewing angle.
• Unlike Galactica, the VR content was a smooth 60fps film from start to finish making the quality much nicer.
• The headsets I find are much more comfy to wear and the speakers are louder than that of Galactica's.
• The headsets used two images for each eye but at slightly different perspectives. What this resulted in was all of the content being rendered in 3D making the experience even more immersive.
Overall, I would say that this is a solid investment for Thorpe and it certainly delivered in many areas I was hoping it would, some of which exceeded my expectations. The VR quality was great, the build-up worked effectively, the theming is some of the best we've seen yet at any theme park in the UK and it thrilled me with fear and excitement which is what the ride is designed to do.
The best thing about the experience is how all of the technology, mechanics, engineering and theatrical elements all bind together to create this very unique experience. If Thorpe can keep them all in sync together as it currently is and enhance the experience a little more with some slight alterations, this can in my opinion be one of the best ride experiences out there currently that I know of.
However, due to the fact it was a technical preview, there were a few bugs I experience the 2nd and 3rd time I rode it. At one point, the headset I wore in the final section forgot which direction I was looking and very quickly zoomed to the left, and the other bug was when I looked to far down the carriage on the left the 2nd go, the graphics seemed to shake and wobble slightly. But thankfully, for both of these glitches, they automatically fixed themselves both in less than a second after I noticed them, so the system involved detected the glitch and fixed them almost immediately.
Another little disappointment I had was the entire experience wasn't as scary as I was expecting it to be. Don't get me wrong, it still made me pretty nervous in some areas, but not terrifyingly so. Mind you, a lot of the other guests seemed pretty scared as a lot of them were screaming inside the carriage, so it might just be me being used to scares delivered at theme parks probably.
So even though there were a couple of downs, the rest of the experience was superb in my opinion and I will happily give it a high recommendation to any park guest to try and do. Bear in mind it was a rehearsal, so it wasn't 100% delivering, but as it stood when I rode it, it's fantastic and is in the top 3 rides for me at the park now.
Derren Brown's Ghost Train - 8/10
To finish, below are a series of images taken from the day in addition to the on-ride photos you get which are both included in the DigiPass. Enjoy!
Also, if you would like to ask me any questions about the experience, please feel free to ask.
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