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Bagatelle: The Road to 200!

It's been a while since I've done a trip report but here we go. Another road trip which for me meant I would hit 200 creds! WOO.   Where do we start? A French park with an inverted Vekoma boomerang cos why not.   We left Dover on a meh British weather Saturday arriving in Dunkirk the Sunday morning. Before heading to the park we went into Calais for a meander as this is where we were staying. Apparently asking for a pain au chocolat is difficult even though it's how we both say it. Language barriers are great. Calais had this And this. Cos culture is nice Much nicer than the first thing you essentially see at the park. Bagatelle was an odd park. I don't know if I liked it or not. They had two coasters made by a company no one knows off cos they basically only made these two coasters. A bright orange torture device (that wasn't awful) A one adult per boat log flume which shows you the border around the park with local basketball courts. A pirate themed area aka a pirate boat, orange ferris wheel and a chain with a no entry sticker on to stop you leaving the park border. An actually okay rapids with moments of decent theming. An Autopia type ride but with a really good layout. Best ride here. A brand new air race with themed surrounding buildings on lovely fresh tarmac A normal sized log flume with stupidly fast lift One of these but allowing adults to ride And the 2nd of the 2 random coaster manufactures coasters.   They also have; a monorail which leaves the park and shows you goats, a spinning wild mouse which was horrific, a single seater tea cups ride for kids, an awful simulator and I'm sure some more awful stuff.   Didn't take many photos as the park entertained me so much I ended up watching the F1. So definitely visit. This put me on 198 creds. Yay.   We did however have a nice evening in Calais I had alcohol There was this This stunning building And we played a few games of pool at the hotel with you guessed it... Alcohol. Woop.   I will try and do the rest of the trip when I get time but it might take a while




First trip to Blackpool Pleasure Beach

Second attempt at this  damn my phone!   Well as the title states, I recently took a trip oooop North with @Roodieto visit the famous pleasure beach.  Having never been that far up the country in my life I was a tad anxious as I don't go too far from home generally - however, stepping out of my comfort zone was worth it.     The sunset on the drive up was pretty lush so I took a fairly standard photo    We stayed over at The Big Blue Hotel which was really nice and meant that we didn't have to travel in the morning as the pleasure beach is next door - the staff there are really friendly and helped out with a few questions we had.   As it was half term when we visited and was a tad busy we decided to get the VIP speedy passes - unlike Merlin these things are more affordable at £45 - but because we stayed at their hotel we got them half price - definitely worth it as we were only there for one day. There are some rides not included in the speedy pass - Steeplechase, Skyforce, Wild Mouse (possibly others) and you only get one go on Grand National with it.   We kicked off the day on Blue Flyer which is a cute little coaster and neither myself nor Roodie had ever ridden a woodie before so it was a gentle introduction - although I thought my knee caps were going to smash as its a bit of a squeeze.   After that we headed to their dinky log flume (I forget the name) "yeah that looks tame" - wow I got drenched - a rather sizeable wave decided to pay me a visit as we splashed down so that was nice - thankfully it was hot so I dried off quick    Over the course of the day my ride count was as follows -   Log flume X 1 Valhalla X 5 Wild mouse X 1 Steeplechase X 1 Blue flyer X 1 Big Dipper X 2 Infusion X 1 Nick streak X 2 Big one X 1 Wallace and Gromit X 1 Avalanche X 1 Sky force X 1 Alice's wonderland X 1 Derby racer X 1 Grand National X 1   Big Dipper This is such an iconic ride at BPB and I was excited about riding it - first go on this thing and my butt was flying off the seat so much which was fun although I randomly began screaming which I have a habit of doing on rides I'm not familiar with - love this ride - the first drop is pretty good and I love the tight turns on it and the whole layout    Nickolodeon Streak This one surprised me as I thought it was going to be really tame considering it is in the Nickolodeon land area of the park - apart from a rather noticeable jolt at the top of the lift hill I loved it - the hills, the layout, the fact that embarrassingly I screamed .  The seats are so comfy - like mini sofas with a lap bar.  Not keen on the colour of the ride but then orange has never been my colour    Steeplechase Well....firstly I was worried about how I would get on the flaming horse (I once got stuck on a horse on a carousel which was awkward).  Managed to get my leg over ok then we got strapped in and I'm thinking "hmm what's to stop me falling off" - this was all before the ride even started.  And blimey when it started I screamed and continued to do so for pretty much the duration of the ride - every corner we went round the screams got louder- I don't have a great sense of balance and was convinced I was going to come a cropper.  The ride itself is pretty cool and I would love to try the other tracks as we only did one ride on it - as we came back into the station I got a few funny looks but was more worried that I'd done my throat damage from my sqwaking.   Avalanche Prior to visiting, this, along with The Big One were the 2 coasters I was a tad concerned about - The Big One because of the height and Avalanche because - IT HAS NO TRACK!  So I'm thinking "well what if this thing rolls over and and my life ends mangled on the floor" - NOT that I overthink things.  Stood and watched it for a bit but that annoying laughing man thing (what is that?!!) was beginning to grate so we headed up the exit to ride. Despite screaming the entire time I actually loved this thing - it's so twisty and actually moves a lot swifter than it looks.  My onride photo captured the terror on my face- actually I've never had such a look of fear on a coaster picture before - so I bought it.....   The Big One Ok so I hate heights - I can't even go on The London Eye because the one and only time I did go on it I had a bad panic attack.  I'm only ok with Stealth because I've ridden it so many times but I don't notice the height much on that thing because if you blink you miss it. I remember when this thing opened and watching a news article on it thinking "noooope" but back then I was a huge wuss. After taking an anxiety tablet and waiting for it to kick in I decided to just do it - Roodie has a much worse fear if heights than me so I went on my own.  Was actually fairly chilled on the lift hill going up though I was in the middle of the train so was focusing on the persons head in front of me - was feeling quite chuffed with myself until it went down the first drop - I screamed and some very fruity language emerged from my mouth.  I've watched POVs of this thing but that drop when you are on it is high...and steep.  Then I randomly screamed in other places - not because I was scared but because heck that thing is rough!  The ride length is decent and the track layout is pretty good but the roughness was a bit much at times.  I'm glad I rode it and I would ride it again if I ever go back but after that first drop its a bit anti-climactic. It's crazy to think this thing opened the same year as Nemesis though I shouldn't compare the 2 - I know which one has aged better  This is my ride pic which makes me look like I was chilled...which I wasnt      Infusion THIS has to be the worst pain I have ever encountered on a coaster - and I don't mind a bit of roughness (I've ridden Saw 9 times in the space of an hour before). They should have kept with its original name of Traumatizer because I felt like I had some sort of brain trauma after that experience.  We sat at the front and I dread to think how horrific it must be on the back row.  From when the ride left the lift hill to when it hit the brake run both myself and Roodie were screaming "owwww" "ouch" with the odd swear word chucked in on particularly horrific moments. I can only describe the experience as akin to having my head repeatedly bashed against a brick wall - in fact, I have had my head smashed against a brick wall and I can honestly say it was more pleasant than this thing. Ive read about Vekoma SLCs being rough but jeez I didn't think a coaster could be THAT rough.  They could really do with having mini air bags at the side of the restraints to cushion people's heads - I might pitch that idea to them. Its not all bad though - the good points of this coaster are that its a nice shade of blue - I also like the water features surrounding it which, to be fair you don't notice whilst riding because you're too busy having your brain bashed. Our on ride photo is very deceiving - it almost looks like we are enjoying the experience but when the pic was taken we were both mid-"OWW"   "what sort of cheese was that?"   Wild Mouse While queuing for this I was informed that it's mean to be pretty scary - ummm how? It just looks like a very small standard wild mouse - but no - this thing is a wooden wild mouse and the structure wobbles a tad which is fab for putting anxiety at ease! There were kids riding it, couldn't hear much screaming so I wasn't concerned.  How wrong was I?  As we headed up the lift hill I thought "well this ain't bad" then that quickly changed.  I don't think I've ever screamed so much on a ride as that one - I've also never been more terrified on a coaster than wild mouse.  Looks are so deceiving with this one - it's a small layout but it's full of very tight turns, drops, air time and (if you're me) seeing your life flash before your eyes.  I kept thinking this coaster is old and I genuinely thought the car was going to fly off the tracks. Where Infusion was the most painful coaster I've ridden, Wild Mouse is certainly the scariest - in terms of not feeling safe (you only have a seatbelt aswell) - of course it's safe but jeez it scared me so much that it is one of only a couple of rides I've done that I don't think I could re-ride.  The plus of our ride was the noises coming out of my mouth which got some funny looks and possibly entertained people queuing for all of 2 minutes. I think IF I ever rode this again I would need a few anxiety tablets as my nerves were shot to bits after. Yeah maybe I'm a wuss!   Grand National So upon arriving at Grand National there is a sign that warns that it can be intense. Ok no problem - this is a ride I've wanted to try for a long time. I can handle a bit of roughness.  I wanted to love this ride...but I didn't.  Now it may be that we rode it just after the hell that is Infusion so my head hadnt properly recovered and I had one epic headache brewing.  We sat at the front and headed up the lift hill - after the first drop that was it - I never thought it possible for my head to rattle quite so much on a ride that just has a lap bar but I felt like a nodding dog in a car doing 120mph. The layout is good, the fact you are racing the other train is good but it was a bit too much for my head to take. I would love to ride this again when my head is normal (well normal for me!) because I'm sure my brewing headache didn't help the situation.  This is another iconic ride at the pleasure beach and was very popular so I think it needs another chance before I can properly judge it   Thats the coasters covered - The only one we didn't do was Revolution but as it goes backwards that's probably good that we swerved it as I don't do particularly well on things that go the wrong way!   Wallace & Gromit ride I really enjoyed and they sell some interesting items in the gift shop - cheese stick of  rock anyone?!     Alice in Wonderland ride was ok for what it is - not something I would personally queue for though.   Derby Racers is adorable and thankfully I didn't get stuck getting off the horse at the end    Skyforce is ok - the indoor queue but was hotter than a sauna though so I wasn't able to pay lots of attention to the instructional video.  This thing surprised me because it actually goes higher than it looks - I did managed about 75% of one spin on it but freaked out - also it's hard work trying to manoeuvre so I gave up after a while - it's a nice ride but on really busy days it must be horrific to queue for due to its low throughput.     I saved my fave ride for last - VALHALLA!     I have so much love for Valhalla - we ended up riding it 5 times. The theming outside the ride is brilliant and I love the fact that you can't see any of the actual ride so you have no idea what to expect (unless you've seen a POV which I hadn't). Its hard to believe this ride has been at the park since 2000 because it is so impressive and unlike Tidal Wave which opened the same year offers so much more and shows just how good a water ride can be (just to add I've only so far done UK water rides so I'm sure there are better ones elsewhere in the world). Ive always found water rides fascinating - and back before I conquered my fear of coasters and anything really thrilling, Tidal Wave was my fave ride at Thorpe and I would ride it on my own while my sister went off to go on the coasters.   I know Valhalla and Tidal Wave are very different rides (and I enjoy both) but for me I love Valhalla for the theming, the audio, the length of the ride, the drops - everything.  Tidal Wave you go up, you come down and you get drenched which is fab on hot days.  Of course Valhalla will get you wet - soaked even (front row left hand side especially) but for the experience it's worth it. We didn't bother with ponchos as it was a warm day.  I was drenched - my feet were soggy but unlike rides like Storm Surge where your feet get crazy wet for what I think is a naff ride (putting it mildly) I didn't mind so much after Valhalla - later on in the evening the waft from my damp trainers was not pretty but that was the only down side.   I love the effects used in the ride - though has anyone noticed that the ice room has a hint of a vinegar aroma about it? ?   This is our ORP from the 4th of 5 rides we did on it - and where I got the most drenched     Summary (well done if you've got this far!)   The park was bigger than I thought it would be even though the coaster seem to be on top of each other (if that makes sense) The staff are really friendly as are people up North in general - seriously if some of those people came to where I live they'd think every Southerner is a miserable git.   It was great finally being able to ride some wooden coasters (and face my fear going on The Big One) Being away from home is hard for me at times with my anxiety but I coped fine with it and next big trip is further away   There are some rides we didn't get the time to go on and other rides I would love to do again.  Construction for ICON is coming along nicely and it would be fab to go back when it opens.   All in all a great day - we did Alton Towers the following day as it is en route back home so we took the chance to have a quick snooze on the RMT...as you do      Choo choo   Thanks for reading - this is the first blog entry I've done in ages so apologies if it is waffly - I'm on the caffeine and can't sleep!   Next blog will be in Sept/Oct after visiting Efteling and Phantasialand with @Roodie -I'll try to make the next one less waffly ?




Symbolica Review

To me, Symbolica was the biggest new European attraction for 2017 for theme parks. It's not exactly a difficult feat to achieve, with little of note actually happening this year. But I found the prospect of Efteling, a park known for creating highly detailed and love dark rides, investing their biggest sum in a ride ever, much more exciting than Port Aventura sticking Ferrari Land at the edge of their park and adding a taller and faster Stealth to their line up.   It's difficult to review a dark ride without giving spoilers, but I'm going to try my best to not spoil anything. Knowing as little about Symbolica will, of course, be advantageous if you come to ride it - though if spoilers are really your thing, just check out Efteling's YouTube...   For some context, the storyline of Symbolica is simple - you're have a feast with the King, but Pardoes, the King's jester, has other ideas and takes you on a behind the scenes tour of the 'Palace of Fantasy'. The pre show sets this story up brilliantly, is easily understood in any language, includes 2 incredible animatronics and a real piece of magic which bought a huge smile to my face.   After the pre show, you make your way down the cellars of the palace towards the station. Symbolica has 3 slightly different routes you can take (themed as 'tours' - Music, Knights and Treasure), and you choose these after the pre show but before you board. After doing all 3, they're all of equal standard, and don't differ THAT much, but each one has its own special little feature.   The ride itself is trackless, with 2 rows of 3. You go around the palace, exploring several different rooms, whilst Pardoes makes an appearance and does some magical stuff. Each scene is very Efteling, in that it's just whimsical, magical and doesn't quite make sense (in a good way!). Most importantly to me though, there are no dead spots and no wasted moments. Each transition between scenes is themed and makes sense. Each scene is themed 360 degrees. Everything flows in its own weird sort of way. This was a huge issue I had with all other Efteling dark rides (and indeed many dark rides in general) - they either have dead spots where nothing happens, other there's some part of the rooms which are unthemed and make no sense with what's going on. Symbolica, in that sense, is perfect to me.   An interesting feature is that the front row has 2 touchscreens. These screens allow the front row to choose their language (it doesn't affect any audio, it's just a message at the start and end of ride), make some of the animatronics do 'things' during the ride, and make your vehicle 'dance' during the finale. It's an interesting idea, but doesn't quite work - I found it more of a distraction during the ride, and it never really added much. Also, it leaves the back row a bit left out - why they couldn't have one screen per row confuses me.   So yeah, in short - Symbolica really is a fab attraction. It's clear to see where the 35 million euro budget went, it looks and feels great, it's interesting and immersive to be in and, most importantly, it is fun. Efteling are onto a winner of an attraction, and definitely worth a trip!




6 month break

Hello again, long time no see. It's been a quick six month break since I've been on here, since my 'emotional' breakdown a few months back. In that time, my love for rollercoasters has been reinvigorated without the related cynicism that forums can sometimes create. I thought I'd do a blog of somewhat of what I've been up to.    April 2017 - France/Germany road trip   Three months ago, (where has the time gone), myself along with Peaj, Dan and Fred went on a six park trip across Western Europe parks. The aim was for everyone to grab the odd new B&M, Intamin and new parks galore. For all of us, the only new park was Movie Park Germany. I have to admit our trip was oddly planned, we somehow missed all the new rides that were due to open in May, however I think in spite of this, we had a wonderful time. So to start off we went to Parc Asterix. I think of this is a very under-rated place. The rides are fun, enjoyable, interestingly themed and very re-rideable. The obvious highlight is Oz'Iris which, five years after my first ride is still an incredible ride. We managed a back row and front row ride and each was enjoyable. It managed to toe the line between modern and old school B&M and the custom layout works really well with the nearby theming. Tonnerre de Zeus has had some queue line work too but seemed rougher then I remember, presumably its starting to age and might need a little bit of work done. I was impressed with the parks newer additions such as the disk which features fire effects and the way the ride is designed into the lake. I love Goudurix. This may be controversial but it's an intense, raw experience which many newer rides could learn lessons from. Sure its still rated one of the worst rollercoasters in the world but I don't think it deserves the hatred it received.   Park 2 was Nigloland, a park celebrating its 30th anniversary. This park has a lot of Mack rides, in fact it almost comes across as a mini Europa Park. This was my biggest surprise of the trip frankly, it's a fantastic park that retains its family history and the obvious pride in the place is something you just don't get with company parks. The obvious star of Nigloland is Alpina-Blitz, an absolutely sublime rollercoaster and by a country mile my favourite ride of the trip. One of my favourite aspects of it is the little Mack touches, the way the ride has such forceful air time in the Blue Fire type trains, the little walkway that extends over the track in the station to allow disabled access, the way it borrows the best bits from Piraten (Djurs Sommerland) and improving on them massively. As I've got older, I don't re-ride rides more then 2/3 times but Alpina Blitz, we got ten rides out of. It is worth the trip to here alone. Other rides in Nigloland aren't 'quite' up the standard of Blitz, but they don't need to be. Euro-Sat has a little brother here for example and whilst not quite as good or as long, is a nice surprise. The log flume, I found very strange. It runs about nine boats in total and contains only one drop in a very short layout. Strange. I loved the powered coaster, I forced the others to ride a further two times. A few rides there were a bit dodgy such as the Jungle Cruise rip off or the Jurassic Park walkthrough which were a waste of time really, but in the context of the park are good fillers. The new drop tower which sticks out like a saw thumb was pretty terrifying if only for the sheer size of the tower. The drop had nothing on our Detonator, however its height was intimidating.   Park 3 - Holiday Park   The original intention was to visit Walygator for Monster and Anaconda. However when that decided to open three weeks later, we quickly diverted to Holiday Park in Germany. It's been eleven years since I last visited and I originally didn't really like Expedition Ge Force finding it over-rated and disappointing. My opinion on this has morphed slightly, however I think EGF is now severely outclassed by Shambhala, Alpina Blitz and Piraten. The ride was running one train and because of intamin related problems, it took ages to load. The restraints bite hard into taller people meaning the air time hills become more and more painful as it goes on. I'm 6 foot and was on the edge of pain. It was more enjoyable then I remembered but there's just no way that the ride is number one.   The new star of Holiday Park is Sky Scream. I liked it a lot. I'd been on Superman at Discovery Kingdom and it is pretty much exactly the same albeit, the theme is very different. Horror theme just doesn't work on this kind of rollercoaster, especially in glorious sunshine. Holiday Park suffers from a lack of family rollercoasters. It has two thrill machines and then everything else is slightly below par. An average omni-mover, a pretty good rapids and a stupidly wet log flume don't really make up for the lack of family support rides. The drop tower being themed to a teenager tv show was odd.   Phantasialand   Everyone knows this park is awesome, that goes without saying. I love the Baron hour extra ride time for guests at the end of the day, I love the hotel, I adore how cheap the ride photos and food are at at the park. I hate Winjas. The news of a launched flyer is welcome news. Kind of glad it isn't B&M as well.  Fantastic views of Mamba from the hotel room   Movie Park   This place is weird. You can tell that it's had a change in direction with one half of the park being movie themed and the rest rides just chucked at pathways. The highlight by far was Van Helsing which isn't just a good ride, is a stand out Gerstlauer wild mouse. Some really forceful hair pins and great dips in a ride that really showcases the best of the company. It's theme was pretty decent too, although admittedly the head peeking out of the ceiling on the exit platform was more comedic then scary. The rest of the park is pretty poor though. Star Trek was desperately needed but not ready to open on our visit. The Vekoma SLC was Dan's first of this type, well deserving of a front row seat. Wasn't that bad but after Oz'Iris and Black Mamba, it doesn't come across well. The only photo I have of the day is Oswald at Disneyland Paris so that will have to do.   And finally Efteling    When I was younger and in my theme park teenage years, there were three parks that I always wanted to visit because they sounded more magical then theme parky. They were Liseberg, Tivoli Gardens and Efteling. And I was finally ticking this off my list. The park was busy and queues for the big rides topped an hour. My obvious interest was Baron 1898 which I'll talk about later. Firstly, Flying Dutchman. What a great concept let down solely by the middling rollercoaster bit. The theming of Efteling is second to none and the atmosphere of the indoor bit is fantastic. I was slightly thrown off by the lift hill where I thought an obvious backwards bit was going to happen but didn't. Next, Volga Rock a rather extravagant Vekoma rollercoaster which I really enjoyed. My memory is hazy because of the sheer oddness of the trip. The fairy dark ride is fabulous. I was taken back by the sheer scale of the ride, the attention to detail of the sets is incredible. The Venom Madhouse requires you to know Dutch and well, we don't. Music was great though. Joris en de Draak, the parks racing woodies were both running one trains and to be honest, I didn't think it had anything on Wodan. I don't get the appeal of racing coasters to be honest, the rides motions get completely ignored by wanting to see where the other train has gone. And I hate losing. And finally, Baron. I thought this was a wonderful take on the dive machine concept. I like my rides to involve the people passing by so the little bell emanating from the lift hill when a train is about to descend is the kind of detail I love to see. The show rooms on this don't rely on a knowledge on the Dutch language enabling anyone to understand the story. The drop is rather nifty and whilst shorter then Oblivion has a similar impact. The zero g is good.The air time hill is terrible. There isn't a single bit of sensation as the train rises and falls over the track and fills like its there to increase ride length only. The ride also has a problem with capacity. It only has three trains and even with that there is massive stacking. Oblivion with its seven trains (in its heyday anyway) runs rings around Baron. In spite of this, 1898 is thematically far more interesting and engaging then Oblivion. The power of dive machines to grab attention is second to none.    And with that the trip was over. Some of the top parks in Europe are only a couple of hours away from the UK so there really is no excuse not to go.   Next up was Thorpe Park which was absolutely dead. Where was everyone? This was my first time on Derren Brown and I have to say it was relatively enjoyable. It suffers from the Merlin problem that acting = shouting at guests and ordering them around. I loved the train concept and even fell for the bit where a tube train is thundering down the tunnel. We were lucky that there was no queue and we got batched in straight away. It's not worth a long queue but it is interesting that the ride length of Derren Brown is probably longer then every other ride at Thorpe put together. This is Samurai which I haven't ridden for about three years.   Next up was Disneyland Paris where we were by chance around for the reopening of Space Mountain as the shameless cash in, Hyperspace Mountain. I didn't like this one bit and the main problem is the clashing of themes. Star Wars on the Californian version is fine, that has a rather charmless theme as it is. The Jules Verne mixed with X-Wings and Death Stars doesn't work at all. Sadly this ride will be a lot more popular with visitors, equalling longer queues, meaning the original version from 1995, may now never return. On the plus side, the new trains are excellent albeit, slightly more restrictive then the old ones.   Other new features for the 25th include a new parade (which was a massive upgrade from the old one), a new firework show (which is a massive downgrade from Dreams) and new day time shows celebrating the magic of DLP. I forgot to mention Europa Park, but lets face it that place is just insanely incredible. It was the quietest I've ever seen it with being able to stay on Blue Fire three times in a row or walk on front row Wodan. New area Ireland is fine, the rather odd choice of theming a rockin' tug around a Titanic life boat is an interesting choice for a ride..     Blue Fire remains as incredible as always, surely one of the best rides ever built. It's on its 9th season but you couldn't tell it as it has not aged one iota. The drops with that level of smoothness make it one of the most consistent rides out there.   I apologise for this blogs length and well done if you even got half way. It's been a breezy six months and I'm so glad that my passion for theme parks have been reinvigorated. Nothing is like our hobby, the sheer escapism and joy from theme parks is unrivalled. And to end this length trip report, here's Scenic Railway at Margate which gave me chills.  




LEGOLAND 2/07/2017

So I've abandoned the other blog, because it's embarrassing . "Monthly".   Today we visited LEGOLAND, to check out Ninjago and this post will be mainly about that. Firstly, though, OMG PIRATE FALLS. It was like having a bucket of water tipped over you from every angle. I didn't dry off properly until it was time to go home. I've actually got a cold on it every time I've been on it since last year. Also new smell pods in the Dragon (I think). The kitchen smells heavily like food, unless it was coming from the restaurant but I'd never smelt it before today.   Anyway, Ninjago. There will be spoilers. Be aware.   This ride is amazeballs. So amazeballs it may well be my favourite dark ride out there. Subject to change once I get to Europe.   Lets start with the queue. We used the RAP so I didn't experience the full queue, but the part I did experience was very quick moving (the trains move very quickly through the station), the videos that play are reminiscent of those weird news show cartoons, you know the sort (warning, very strange banner photo is quite NSFW), and it's very hot but it was quite well themed. You're given the 3D glasses (which I wasn't keen on as I don't really like 3D) and once seated the incredibly clunky lap bar which hosts the sensors and some sort of air conditioning which blows onto your arm. I think there are speakers in front of you too. So the ride starts and you are doing this training, the "shooting" system is quite frustrating, but what makes this ride amazing is that didn't affect my enjoyment at all. All of a sudden you're out of training and fighting some bad guys, it's quite confusing, but it may have been explained. Everyone was making alot of noise so I couldn't hear very well. At one point you're flying over lava and the room goes hot, then the room goes icy and you're blasted with air. It gets really immersive, when you fall on the screen it feels like you're actually falling, all of the effects match what's going on on the screen. There's a really nice smoke/mist effect, and some nice strobes too. At one point you go through what appears to be a mine, there's rockwork everywhere and wooden supports holding it up, as well as barrels, dynamite, and strangely fireworks. This was one of my favourite parts of the ride as this is where most of the physical theming is. The ride comes to an end and you see the ninjas celebrating before it's time to exit. You see the onride photo, which I didn't even know was taken, and then exit into the (very cramped) shop. The ride is almost perfect imo. The story could be a bit clearer and there's a bit of exposed warehouse from the front, but as others have said, when you come off you don't care about the score and you'd rather talk about the ride. At first, I wasn't keen. I thought it was too loud and too much going on, too realistic as it were. But once I got used to it, it instantly became my favourite ride at LEGOLAND. If you haven't already, get down there NOW! This >>>>>>>>> Gruffalo. 9.5/10 from me.




Towers Meet 2017

As always, it was good to see everyone again and be back at Towers  I can't believe the gorgeous weather we had for the whole weekend - I've never had that oop north before!   Saturday   This was a very chilled day, owing to the hot hot weather  Started off with Smiler and Oblivion, before going on Hex       Was really impressed by the TLC! The audio in the cinema is nice and loud, perhaps *slightly* too loud BUT it's better than being too quiet, especially when you have people talking over it (I always watch it properly every time). I've said this before, but I still always think of that electricBill YouTube video and expect it to say "Fifteenth Earl of S***e"   The Octagon looks sooo good now  I loved the dry ice rolling down the steps on the right-hand side! Also it was fun going on someone who's never been on before (Paige)!    We then had a lovely walk around the Towers, going up on the roof too. It never fails to amaze me how nice the Towers are and the beautiful views you get from the top               After lunch we did Nemesis which, of course, was as great as ever and looks gooooood.     We then chilled with some drinks at the Coffee Lounge, caught some sun...then headed to Duel to find it was broken  (No staff member out the front but the doors were locked shut). So some of us finished off with Th13teen, where the indoor section was nice and cool! Played some Extraordinary Golf afterwards which was good fun as always, and it's nice to see it's been spruced up.      Sunday   Another beautiful day!     Some of the fountains aren't quite lined up...snotty-nosed frog alert!      Started off with some ERT on Nemesis (twice in a row, obvs) then got GalacticAir out the way while the area was still quiet  Me, Mike, Peaj and Matt happened to get front row, which was just as well as we rode it without VR! I think that's the most I've enjoyed it as "Air"   Next up was Duel  I was pleased to see that the lighting changes last year (which made several scenes too bright) have been put back to how they were, or at least improved as it seems nice and dark again  It was good to bump into Stretchy afterwards, who joined us on a refreshing ride on Congo. There was quite a delay whilst queueing due to someone jumping in the water (apparently they weren't on the ride but climbed over a fence)  Despite the lack of waterfalls, it's still just as "rapidy" so we still got pretty wet, and Ryan got the brunt of the "KFC Mega Wave" in our boat   After RMT and lunch we went to Intamin Forest, which was all broken  Unfortunately Rita reopened so we jumped on that while the queue was short.     Rough as hell but at least it didn't destroy my back this time!   Then we did Hex again, went inside the chapel afterwards...even came across some Sanctuary theming           Spinball was down so we did X Sector...everything looks so nice with sunshine and blue skies!         Then it was time...for Battle Galleons! How could we not in such a heatwave?! In the end, it was just me, Peaj and Matt (Mike chickened out ), with some others at the guns around the ride. Was nice to have a cool down...but then, as we were near the station, the ride came to a stop. Right in front of some water guns Turns out someone in the station had got their hair caught in the handle (ouch!) so first aid had to come and help. I'm not sure how long we were actually stuck there, possibly about 15-20 minutes? Peaj and Matt were in the firing line so got drenched - I was actually disappointed out that nobody aimed at me (twas absolutely boiling being sat in direct sunlight)  Or maybe the gun just couldn't turn round far enough  Was the most entertaining ride I've had on Battle Galleons though!    And that was the end of the meet! Some of us chilled in the Splash Landings bar while waiting for the inevitable queue of cars to die down. Newly painted theming is looking good!     It was also Marc's birthday on the Saturday, so we surprised him with a card and cake! So I'll end this report with a photo of said surprised Marc:       Thanks for reading!   (Oh and if anyone's wondering if I will ever write that Europa trip report from the meet last year...I'm getting there )




Ninjago - The Brief Review

It's been a while since I dedicated a whole blog post to a ride review, but this seems like a suitable time to do one.   WARNING:  There will spoilers.  If you don't know what the ride system is, or want to completely avoid knowing what some of the effects used in the ride are, turn back now.       For those completely unaware, it is a 3D-screen based shooter ride, where you use hand motion to 'fire'.  Sitting in rows of four, with your 3D glasses, a lap bar comes down with a motion sensor.  In the queue line, a short (and badly presented!) video explains you must swipe your arm forward to fire, keeping it at least 8 inches above the sensor, and to aim high, point your hand / arm higher.  Vague, but simple enough I suppose.   The ride passes a variety of screens, some you stop at, some you don't, along with the odd bit of physical theming.  There is also some real theming in front of the screens that the animations did interact with which was awesome.  There was also a few special effect, include heat blasts, mist, wind and flashing lights (which cleverly disguises the ORP), all matching up with what's happening on screen.   During the first scene, you quickly realise that the fire and aim idea isn't very simple.  It is difficult to really know where you ball of energy that you're firing is going to land.  So you just have to resort to the 'fire as many times as physically possible' tactic, hoping for the best.  Towards the end of the ride, I got the hang of it a bit more, but that is a bit too late in the ride.  It's a shame that there isn't a more involved / detailed explanation in the queue line as to how the system works, as it does take a while for most to adjust to it - and judging from the low scores from families, it does seem to be a difficult one for many to grasp.     There is a vague story to the ride, but it's difficult to follow.  You start off in training, before having to take down various bad guys, which leads to the big finale of the defeating the Great Devourer; a giant snake.  But things happen so quickly that it's easy to get lost.  You also battle alongside different ninjas during the ride, all of whom have their own special power.  When they appear, you hear them say 'Use *insert their power there*', and I must admit I was confused as to whether I should be making different hand movements or if this was generic talk.  However, the ride is very fast-paced, and it doesn't really need a story beyond 'Beat the bad guys', so it works well.   After coming off, I was left surprised.  Most shooter rides I'm just keen to find out if I've got the best score, but this left with a big smile on my face, and actually wanting to talk about the ride itself.  It was a great ride, and I wanted to talk to others about how the cars moved, about the special effects, about what happened in terms of the story.  The score wasn't the forefront of my mind.  And the only other shooter to leave me feeling like that was Maus au Chocolat at Phantasialand.     And, I was also keen to do it again, so I could experience the ride again.  Not just so I could compete with people again, but so I could experience the fast-paced, crazy middle section, so I could get more interaction with the heat and wind effects.  So I could experience the ride again, and not just some game.   After a second time, I did understand things a bit more.  The hand motion system was easier to use (though I ended up with a worse score...somehow).  The story made more sense (when a different ninja with a different power appears, the shape of the balls you fire changes for example).  Things seemed much clearer.  And again, I loved the ride, not just the competitive element.   Ninjago really is a great investment for Windsor.  It feels very different to the rest of the park (in a good way), has a great throughput (full queue only takes about an hour!), themed uniforms, and offers something for the older end of the target market (and the adults!).  It's something that has major re-ride value, and feels like something which would only improve as you ride it more (since things make more sense / are easier to use).  




A Newbie's Trip to Liseberg

It's not often that I tend to have the persuasion and determination to visit theme parks outside of Britain, primarily due to the costs, travel and venturing into the unknown when visiting another country. But Liseberg is different. Liseberg drew my attention more than any other European theme park for 2017 because further research into what the place offered and the ease of travelling there entirely on public transport and not hiring a car got me seriously interested. Of course, Helix was the draw factor for me more than anything because I have found it almost impossible to find a single negative review about the ride since it's debut back in 2014. For too long Nemesis and Shambhala have both always been my top coasters and nothing since has ever managed to come close to them... until now!

This review will consist of my experience of the park over 2 days earlier last week, flying out on Friday 12th May until Monday 15th May and I will be detailing every little detail I noted, so please understand this is going to be a very long and precise review of travelling there, the park itself and it's attractions it has to offer. If you like to read quick and to-the-point reviews, this is not for you! The aim of this review is to familiarise readers who are considering visiting the park for the first time everything they should know and expect, especially considering a new dive coaster will be opening here in 2018 which is guaranteed to draw quite a few Brits to visit.

So let's start at the beginning and that's transport and travel to the park, including costs:


From what I understand, there are three airports in or around London which fly directly to Gothenburg Landvetter airport which are Ryanair from Stanstead, British Airways from Heathrow and Norwegian Air from Gatwick. I flew with Norwegian Air since Gatwick was the closest airport from my address (Pompey) and even though I admit the flights are cheaper with Ryanair from Stanstead, I was not willing to travel half way across the south to get on a plane, so Norwegian Air was my choice. My outgoing flight from Gatwick was at 19:35 which cost me about £30 single each way (8 weeks in advance booking, no reserved seat).

Once arriving at Gothenburg, follow the signs to the airport bus service called Flygbussarna which runs every 20 minutes right outside the entrance to the terminal and takes you directly to the city itself which is about a 25 minute drive. Price-wise, at the time of writing this review, tickets are 185 SEK, which equals to about £14 return approximately. There are 4 stops along the way, each getting closer and closer to the centre where the terminus train station is located. Since I was staying in a hotel just 10 minutes away from the park, I only needed to get the second stop, the first one being directly outside the park's entrance and the Gothic Towers.

So as you can see, it is perfectly manageable to get into the city through the use of public transport without the need to hire a car. A recommendation I make is try and get a flight to the airport which is not scheduled to land after 23:00, because the last bus service is at 00:50am and if there is any delay in your flight, you could risk missing the last one and having to spend about £34 at least with a taxi to get to the city instead, so bear that in mind.

Now that's out the way, now onto the park itself:

2) PARK ATMOSPHERE AND THEMING   If you were to ask me to compare the park to any other I know, I would find it very difficult because it's unlike any other theme park I have been to. The first and most obvious difference is that it's located right in the centre of a city with motorways, skyscraper buildings, housing and museums surrounding it everywhere. In some ways, similar to Alton Towers, it has a unique feel to it all because seeing a theme park in the middle of a large city/open countryside is the last thing you would expect!

Once inside, if you go through the main (north) entrance, you are greeted immediately by a long walkway surrounded by small buildings with gift shops, restaurants, ticket booths and in my case, market stalls (it was their green weekend where the whole of the plaza area and theatre was dominated by fresh plants and flowers). To the right you can see the dominating tower of AtmosFear and the Ferris wheel overshadowing you as walk along the pathway getting ever closer to the centre of the park. Through these alleyways, music played which mostly consisted of chart music, both modern and retro, giving the place a good and clam atmosphere for guests.

Presentation wise, this is something I will keep mentioning in the review further down, but the park have done a great job at keeping all the buildings, pathways, lighting and signage looking clean and well-maintained at all times which has really put a lot of our parks here in the UK to shame. Instead of having rotting roofs, mouldy walls and broken lights, it was great to see all the smaller details looked after such as all the lightbulbs for the street lighting working with none that have blown or the roofs and walls of the buildings looking like they have just been cleaned overnight and don't have mould or overgrown weeds everywhere and there was no trace of litter anywhere. Being used to the state of our parks today, this was a pleasant surprise for me, regardless of how small it might be.
    So overall, it might not be the Swedish version of Main Street or Towers Street, but initial impressions of the atmosphere and theming are good so far with everything being maintained and cleaned on a regular basis (from my perspective anyway).


Now being a tourist attraction in the middle of Sweden's biggest city, I was expecting much like every other theme park on the planet for the prices of food and drink to be high and it absolutely was. Being used to getting the 20% discount on all food and drink at Merlin's parks for many years, I had forgotten how expensive theme park food can be and some of the prices did seem too high for me. For instance, if you get their Max burger meal deal at one of the many stalls in the park, that will set you back about 89 SEK which is about £8 roughly. A cup of coffee (cappuccino) was about 45 SEK (£4) and a bottle of water about 19 SEK (£1.75), so in comparison to the food prices here in the UK, you are looking at about an average price increase of about 10-15%.

Despite however the prices for their food and drink being quite high, I will say that you definitely get a filling meal for what you pay for. On the second day for lunch, I went to the sandwich shop and had just a full salami and brie baguette which was about 65 SEK (£6.10) and it was pretty large and filled properly and was enough to keep me full until late that evening. So bear in mind even though you might be paying more for an average meal at Liseberg, you are getting bigger average portions as a result in comparison to other theme parks, so that might make up the extra cost for you.

Another great thing about the food and drink at Liseberg is the variety they provide. Here in the UK it's your typical burger stalls, pizza, pasta, donuts and hot dogs. Whilst Liseberg did offer all this, they also offer as mentioned above some alternative choices, such as the baguette shop, seafood, stir fry, Italian, Mediterranean and Austrian food just to name a few. So regardless of your preference, they are sure to have something to suite your taste and the variety offered was great.

4) OPERATIONS & RELIABILITY   The first thing that jumped out to me was how efficient the park was at running all of their rides. The staff were loading and dispatching guests as fast as they can on all coasters, one simple check of the restraint was all that done and the guests I noticed don't tend to carry a lot of bags with them when riding, so essentially, this massively sped up the process and reduced the amount of faff some guests can create to a minimum. Lisebergbanan for instance is a great example because not only were they running all trains on the track despite a 10 minute queue all day (take note, Thorpe Park), but the dispatch procedure was quick and simple - gates opening whilst guests were leaving the train, baggage taken onto the trains down by your legs so it doesn't fall out, one quick check of the handle bars with two staff on each side of the train, a simple thumbs up and they're good to go. All of this can take as little as 20 seconds and the queues as a result were moving especially fast, giving you the opportunity to manage more later in the day. If only our parks could run all their rides this efficiently, there wouldn't be the need for Fastrack most days anymore!

As for reliability, I don't know if I was extremely lucky, but I did not encounter a single break down or stoppage across the entire park on both days I visited. Not one. Every single ride was open, at full capacity and ready for guests, regardless of whether there was a queue or not. Perhaps our rides keep breaking down a lot because of the paranoia surrounding what happened with The Smiler where any little thing out of place involves calling an engineer over the rectify it now, but Liseberg could be a lot more relaxed over it or simply because their rides are purely more reliable machines. Part of me reckons it could be to do with the great amount of maintenance and work done to the rides every year which might have something to do with it, which will be mentioned in a moment.


This was perhaps one of the most surprising things for me about all of the rides at Liseberg - everything looked as though it was brand new. Things such as mould and rust on the coaster tracks was gone, or the queue lines being clean with almost no wear marks, or the trains on Helix looking spotlessly shiny and polished with no marks anywhere, or all of the lights working fine on Mechanica at night. Simply put, everything had a great presentation and didn't look like it was neglected and left to rot. This is what the standard should be at all theme parks - to keep your rides looking spotless and new as long as possible. You know something is wrong when Lisebergbanan, a 30-year old coaster looks better than The Smiler at just 4 years old...... pretty embarrassing if you ask me!
  Other smaller details visible across the park and its rides such as the queue line fencing everywhere being freshly painted, to all the queue TV screens working, to all the signage looking untouched & clean and the vegetation trimmed back so it's not overgrown on the rides are what I appreciate a lot with theme parks and it's great to see details as small and noticeable as this being looked after on a frequent basis. We need an attitude like this across all our UK parks where presentation is key because from a customer's perspective, it is.


And now onto the best part - my opinion of their 7 signature rides, including Loke being their new one (spoilers - it's awesome!). Here I'll rank them in the order I found to be best in ascending order and I'll being with AeroSpin:

• AeroSpin (6.5 / 10)
I wouldn't say this is a bad ride or anything as it definitely wasn't, but I just found it to be a little short and uncomfortable for what it offered. The seats are exactly the same ones you have on Saw and Smiler with the addition of a seatbelt (believe me, it was comforting to have that there for me!), so it wasn't the most comfortable seat for me since I find the restraint to crush my shoulders too much when inverting, and boy, it certainly did it to me on this.

When you spin in the air, the two mini wings you control are moderately easy to control and are smooth to tilt with your arms, although you might need to put a bit of effort into them as it can strain your arms a bit if you flip too much or too fast during your flight. Depending on the speed of the wind which you are flying in, getting yourself to spin upside down and tilt can really be hit or miss. My first ride I managed 46 flips and then the second only 16. If the wind speed is minimal, you are really going to have to put some effort into getting your plane to spin upside down and the best way to do this is to flip the wings quickly and in perfect sync with the tilt of your seat. If you can manage nice and smooth tilts, this will be easy enough for you to manage. But if you take quick and small tilts with the wings, you barely make it over the top unfortunately.

When flipping upside down, the first time actually scared me because once I got my wings into position to enable me to flip 46 times, it really goes fast and can make you feel quite dizzy very quickly. Plus, considering you are about 100ft above the ground or 200ft if you include the mountain it's on, flipping that fast feeling as though you are not in control did scare me, especially when the spins got faster and faster and you are sitting in isolation next to nobody else.

The problem I had most with it was the restraints used and as a result, I had bruise marks on my shoulders after riding it the second time (my own fault) since all the pressure can rest directly onto them if you are held upside down for too long. Also, the ride seemed very short too at only around 1 minute in the air and that's it. Wished it lasted a bit longer, especially considering it would cost the rider 3 tokens if they didn't have the wristband.

So whilst it's great fun for the views, the soundtrack by IMAscore and multiple flips you can manage, I just found it too uncomfortable and short for my liking unfortunately.     • AtmosFear (7 / 10) If there is any type of ride at a theme park I am still scared of to this day, it's a drop tower, and AtmosFear really was a struggle for me to get on the first time. Being the tallest in Europe, I almost chickened out on this as a result. But the way I saw it before riding is it cannot be any worse than Detonator which has the most horrible free-fall experience I know on any ride out there and considering I managed Hurakan Condor back in 2013 (yeah, the first ride didn't end well), this surely cannot be any worse. Thankfully, I was right.

The restraints are almost identical to the seats used on Stealth and Rita with the exception of the shoulder bars being a firm nylon material instead of the padded metal bars used on the coasters. As a result, I could close the restraint using the adjustable fastener to a perfect fit against my chest making sure I was securely strapped into me seat with no give anywhere. When you begin to rise, there's a mist at the top of the building you pass through before you are outside slowly rising to the top.

It takes a while to get up there which was a great opportunity to get some amazing views up there. The best viewing point is northwards in the direction of the Liseberg wheel when the river down the the harbour goes. Once at the top, there is no countdown or hint at when you are going to drop, so the first time you ride this, it could come as a shock to you.

When released, the initial release does have the proper free-fall feeling for a split second, but unfortunately, despite picking up more and more speed as you fall down, it doesn't get worse and instead, it feels as though the drop has been tamed to quickly due to the brakes reaching up the first 50% of the tower. I would say the first third of the tower you fall down is forceful, but after that, it doesn't feel as bad in all honesty, so the worst bit is the initial release but once you fall, it doesn't feel too bad.

I still rate this higher than AeroSpin for the fact it offers better views at the top, travels much faster and doesn't have uncomfortable seats. It might be the most forceless drop tower I've been on yet, but it's still great fun to go on, especially any sunset. In addition, due to the height, this is the first drop tower that has made my ears pop once you've fallen from the top to the bottom in just 3 seconds. That should give you an idea how fast and tall this really is!  

• Mechanica (7.5 / 10) Initial impressions of this ride from looking at videos of it online were Samurai meets Slammer, and after riding it, that opinion is pretty accurate!

The overall theme and look to this ride I loved. The queue line with all the carpentry tools and equipment and molten metal in the barrels, to the great soundtrack (also by IMAscore) and the overall look of the ride's support and pods really looked visually attractive. I'd go as far to say at night, this is one of the best looking themed flat rides I know with all the orange lights and flames lighting up the structure and seats in the dark.

Now as for the ride experience itself, the seats and restraints are far more comfortable compared to the ones used on Samurai (different manufacturers I know, but it reminded me too much of Samurai) and didn't crush your thighs or chest once closed. Plus, there's a good amount of gap between each of the 5 seats on the pods, making moving your arms a lot easier this time. The restraints when closed do not mould against your body unlike Samurai, they instead fix into place on the closest notch they can lock onto. So in my case, there was a bit of give between my stomach and the restraint, which made it easier for me to breathe and adjust thankfully.

Now onto the ride experience itself, the shocking thing for me was how differently the pods tilt in comparison to Samurai. These pods on Mechanica tilt a lot easier and in effect, you are tilting and flipping much faster and more violently as a result. Some may see this as a disadvantage as it makes the ride quite violent, but I didn't mind and thought it made the experience better.

The gondola spins quite slowly when it rotates both directions, but this was enough to not make you feel dizzy or to pin you against the side of the restraint either. Instead, it was slow enough to offer you some really good airtime when the arm flips you all the way over, especially if you get the right pod at the right time where you can be plummeting straight to the ground looking straight down whilst feeling weightless. Really good moments and a long ride too!

The only downside I can say about this is even though the pods flip you a lot more than Samurai's, the structure in my experience seemed to shake a little too much from side to side, probably due to the counterweight at the top being too light and as a result, my head lightly bashed from side to side a bit a couple of times. It's not like Colossus which violently tries to shake your brain out of your skull level, but instead, it's more Dragon Khan levels of head bashing instead. So if you are trying this, I recommend you rest your head against the right side of the restraint or to get a seat closer to the inside to reduce the amount of force on your head. Apart from that, great flat ride and looks very pretty!  
• Lisebergbanan (8 / 10) This was the first ride I went on in the park on my first day as I wanted to leave Helix until later and experience it properly for the first time with a queue instead of walking straight on. I must say, despite it being 30 years old, it kicked one hell of a punch for a family coaster, to the point where I begin to wonder how on earth can they get away with a height restriction this low for it?!

The train seats and restraints are very similar to Olympia Looping and Thunder Looper with just a lap bar in place and no divider in between the two seats, leaving you're entire upper body vulnerable to moving from side to side. It was comfortable enough and the seats were quite low down, so there wasn't any thought of losing your bags placed in-between you legs on the floor.

Once dispatched and getting to the top of the lift hill, the first helix down the hill and over the garden area is a lot, lot faster than any video online YouTube will show you. I had the very back of the train the first time on this and immediately after going down the first drop, I was shocked by how fast this thing goes when the train is full! It really is quite intense for a family coaster and you even get some great airtime at the back too!

Once the first bit is over and you go down and under Uppswinget three times, this is where it really gets fun as you are going what feels like almost 60mph under the tunnels several times over and over again and due to the design of the trains, you're upper body can shake side to side a fair bit when going down the drops and again, this is a family coaster? It seems very fast and intense to be one for me!
  After that, there's one last small helix around the tree and an airtime hill added before you enter the brakes and I must warn any new riders, if you ever rode the Black Hole when it was at Alton Towers, if you remember the brakes at the end of that, you'll know exactly what these ones are like! They are really very violent and sudden brakes which can lurch you forward in the break run and when you re-enter the station, so my suggestion is when you see the yellow sign saying "Broms" on it, hold the handle bar in front of you and brace you arms ready for impact to stop yourself lurching forwards.

Overall, for a family coaster, this was incredibly surprising for me as it goes a lot faster than it looks, it's long, the restraints are minimal and it has a classic feel to it which reminds me of Nemesis, so it get's a big thumbs up from me.  

• Balder (8.5 / 10)
Their wooden coaster Balder was another great coaster which reminded me a lot of Megafobia at Oakwood. The trains were comfortable with both a seatbelt and a lap bar restraint holding you in and thankfully unlike Gwazi and Stampida, this was lovely and smooth and didn't feel horribly jerky or rough anywhere on the train.

The lift hill is surprisingly steep for a wooden coaster and for seats like these ones with no back rests, it felt almost as if I was going to fall out backwards if it wasn't for the restraint. When you consider the small space this is located in, it makes sense to have it this steep.

Now onto the ride itself, the back of the train is by far the best place to sit. The number of times you are whipped over all the dozens of airtime hills on this thing is huge and from beginning to end, there is not a single moment to relax or take a breather since the hills get sharper and tighter making up for the loss in height and speed towards the end of the ride.

The addition of the tunnels also made the experience great as one of them was small enough to create a head chopper effect!

It's easy to see why many people regard this as the best wooden coaster they know and it certainly is. The face it's so smooth with airtime after airtime after airtime made this incredibly fun to ride, coupled with the length of the ride makes this a great wooden coaster. For me, it's not quite as good as Megafobia, but it comes close!  
• Loke (New for 2017) - (9 / 10)
I've always found flat rides which swing like Vortex and Rush to be fun to a certain point until they become repetitive and boring, so I wasn't building any huge expectations for this ride despite the advertising and delayed opening it received. But when seeing it in-person, oh my word, this thing is bloody massive!

Never ever ridden Maelstrom at Drayton Manor before so this was my first Intamin Gyroswing and what made this ride very special for me besides from the size, speed and theming was the design of the restraints and seats. They are very comfy to sit in and they are very similar to the ones you get on The Swarm. Just imagine Swarm's restraints but without the foam vest holding your chest. That's Loke's seats in a nutshell. The thin metal bars which are there to lower the restraint across your waist were widely spaced and positioned quite far back, so when you fasten the restraint using a seatbelt similar to Stealth/Rita, there is nothing in the field of view from where you are sitting. This in effect made you feel extremely vulnerable and reminded me a lot like Rush with just a lap bar holding you in, only this time, the seats are much comfier and aren't deep this time. Heck, they're similar seats to Nemesis to give you an idea, so imagine Nemesis' seats with just a lap bar. That's the best way I can describe them.

Once the floor lowers and the thumping bass from the soundtrack filling the ride starts up, it begins to swing higher and higher very quickly and the speed of the spinning gondola is not too fast to make you feel dizzy, it's just about right and it also gives you the chance to get multiple angles whilst in the air at maximum height too.

Once it picks up speed and reaches it's full height, it doesn't matter which direction or angle you are at, this ride is epic! The sheer speed you are travelling when it swings downwards is faster than Rush and the weightlessness feeling you get when falling back down again is forceful and offers some brilliant views when you're looking straight down. Plus, the close proximity between you and Balder makes this even better. When looking down, you are either staring directly over Balder's structure and the people below, or the nearby river directly over the water. In total, you get about 8-9 full swings before it begins to slow down and lower again.

It's quite a claim to make, but I consider this to be the best flat ride ever built that I have ridden. The size and speed of this monster is what sells it and the comfort and lack thereof of restraints holding you in makes you feel incredibly vulnerable and doesn't distract you when swinging. In addition, the paint work and theming of this ride looks very nice during the day and night and the soundtrack played with the thumping bass from the speakers really build up a huge anticipation when waiting.

Thorpe Park or Alton Towers seriously need one of these rides at their parks with the same restraints, capacity, height and speed, because this beats the living hell out of Vortex and Rush combined in my opinion. It truly is a superb flat ride and is my favourite one out there right now as a result!  
• Helix (9.5 / 10) And yes, as expected, Helix is my number one ride at the park and indeed as mentioned at the beginning of the review, my new personal favourite coaster. Never before have I been left speechless by a coaster after trying it the first time and Helix was the first to deliver. What a magnificent coaster Liseberg have here. 26 rides later in 2 days and it's still brilliant every time.

From the beginning of the experience to entering the queue line, you are instantly transported from the dull innards of the dome to a futuristic, modern and cool looking maze of stairs, platforms and metal walls and mechanics lying around everywhere in the queue line, all lit up in bright neon green lights on the walls, flooring, rock work and ceiling. This coupled with the soundtrack which was blasting though about 30 Bose speakers in all of the queue line in perfect synchronisation gave me goosebumps the first time entering this area. It sounds and looks visually impressive in the queue and the maze of stairs and platforms getting you ever closer to the station builds up some huge anticipation and excitement.

Whilst queueing, you can see various windows looking through the walls of the station and underneath, you are able to see a sneak of the brakes, wheels and trains passing over the track entering the station ready for the next batch of people to board the train. In addition, once directly underneath the platform, you can see how the platform gates work with the mechanics underneath the flooring where every minute or so, the bars move in perfect synchronisation which in effect opens and closes the gates. Nice thing to see whilst waiting (not that there was much of a queue!) as I've always wondered how they work.

When the queue got bigger during the day, I eventually stopped to watch the TV screens and noticed you can download an app on your smartphone which is a game for the ride where you in synchronisation with other guests can play these mini games to gain points and whichever player every 15 minutes get the highest score, they get a free Fastpass for Helix presumably. I tried multiple times to win but only managed to get as high as number 4 on the leaderboard, mostly due to the fact the app was all in Swedish with no English option making me guess how you play each game by improvising.

Once you go up the stairs into the station, you are free to choose any row of seats you want and you are not allocated them by a member of staff. I was so glad this was the case as I wanted front row on my first ride, which I did. The trains themselves look stunning, especially when it gets dark. The fact all the seats underneath are lit up in green and the front of all three trains and along both sides have these very bright white lights made it looks visually stunning at night as it whizzed round the track. Plus, they looked nice and fresh with a shiny gloss finish added, making them look as though they are still brand new.

The seats themselves are extremely comfortable to sit in. The lap bar that lowers down is nice and tight and moulds perfectly to your body. There are also grooves on either side if the bar allowing you to rest you arms on when grabbing the handles and the design of the back rest made it comfortable to rest my shoulders into. Plus, despite it being a floored train, the seats are high enough for your legs to dangle allowing you to move them freely as you wish. The difference these restraints make to this ride in comparison to a traditional shoulder restraint are huge and make everything so much more fun.

Now onto the ride experience itself, the experience offered is unparalleled to anything else I know. The experience is so smooth from beginning to end, the two launches are lovely and smooth too with no extreme forces exerted on you body and each and every element assembles beautifully together. This is a ride where it gets more and more extreme as you go round as each inversion become tighter, the speed of the trains get faster, the drops become larger and the twists and turns become more and more forceful.

The airtime on this thing can be shocking if you get the two very back seats and it's obvious to me now why there's a minimum height restriction of 1.5m for these seats. The airtime over the hill straight after the second launch and top hat at the back of the train is so strong and forceful that it pins your thighs to the restraint almost painfully for a brief second. It's that good!

The interaction the track has with it's surroundings is mastered perfectly and you can tell the designers of this ride have really thought this through and been clever at making the most of the surroundings they have. The fact it snugs so closely to the ground at various points makes the experience really quite intense, especially the helix just before the second launch which throws you straight into your seat thanks to the extreme forces.

One of the concerns I had been hearing from a few people was this ride was not fast enough and didn't have forces that were extreme enough. In my experience, the speed of this ride is perfectly fine and is fast enough for me to enjoy going on again and again and surprisingly, despite this having 7 inversions, I didn't feel sick or dizzy at all when riding it several times in a row unlike Colossus, Smiler and even Nemesis. Helix even reminded me a lot of Nemesis as it constantly has speed and force from beginning to end and never seems to slow down, and this certainly matched Nemesis in terms of the pacing.

If I were to find any criticism of Helix, that would be the lack of on-board speakers used in the trains because the grills have been installed but no audio is played through them. If they can add music similar to Blue Fire from what I've seen, this could make the experience even more exciting for guests. And another criticism I have is when you leave the station into the first inversion, I find the train vibrates a bit too much where you can feel and even hear it. That is literally all I can think of!  

I would usually supply lots of images of it in action, but I thought making a video would be better, so here it is:  
So to finalise my review of Liseberg and, if you are visiting for the first time and considering it, do it. The park has great opening times during summer between 11am -10/11pm at the weekends, all the other rides like Kallerado (better river rapids ride than Alton's one), FlumeRide, Hanghai are lots of fun and the atmosphere is very friendly and relaxed. For me, Helix alone is worth the journey and it will be a firm favourite if you ever get the chance to ride it, so make sure when you visit, you ride it.

I myself have have an awesome time visiting both Gothenburg city & Liseberg, and this park is certainly one to keep your eyes on for the future since every year they are currently relentlessly installing more and more exciting and great rides, which reminds me a lot of Thorpe's days in the mid-2000's. In particular, Valkyria looks to be an excellent dive coaster when planned to be opened in April 2018, which is a great reason to visit again. It's very likely I will be visiting this park on a frequent/yearly basis now as they have some truly kick-ass rides for a park that is not on the scale of other European theme parks, so my next visit will likely be April/May 2018.

Here's a full record of all the 230+ photos and videos I took whilst I was there if you're interested in having a look:


Liseberg - (8 / 10)




europa park is bad.

So if you have seen me around the forums, you'll probably know I have a slight obsession with Europa Park.
Today I'll be going over my sexual fetish over this theme park, and just why I love this place.
Get your drugs and your overpriced coffee ready, and enjoy! Operations:
Europa Park is pretty **** with its operations. 3 trains on a B&M, 3 on a GCI, 4-5ish on Euromir/Bluefire, and insanely quick dispatches. Like, 1 train operations is the way to go! Even worse, I didn't witness a single breakdown in my 3 days there.. Like I didn't even get to go to guest services to complain.
Okay sarcasm aside, Europa Park is quite well known for its insanely good theming.
The park really go above and beyond with theming.
Things like themed toliets, or that satellite thing-y near Euro-Mir really show how much effort goes into theming their rides
Now in terms of standouts, the French, Greek, and Arthur areas all standout for me, but quite honestly, the whole park is beautiful. The rides.. Yes, its a theme park:
So as well as Europa's flawless theming and operations, their ride collection is also obviously quite strong.
Standouts for me are obviously Blue Fire, Wodan, and Arthur, but their is so many little gems around the park that are worth mentioning.
Even some of the cookie cutter rides you see at every park standout at Europa- like Fjord Rafting, which is nicely themed and a near flawless rapids that left me lovely and wet.. Others worth noting is their Mine Train- which has a super awesome diamond cave section, and The Arena Of Football, which is a super fun twist on the super standard bumper cars.
Shows in Theme Parks are something that are IMO criminally underated.
Shows can really break up a day, and who doesn't like a bit of live entertainment?
The Standout to me had to be their Ice Show, which was incredibly fun and campy.
Also some male eye candy in there.. Not gonna lie. Overall: all in all- Europa Park remains a flawlessly ran park that also looks beautiful. As well as this, they also have a strong lineup of rides like Arthur, Blue Fire, and Wodan. The park is easily one of the best parks in the world. Anyway thanks for reading.. here's a orgasmic picture of Euro-Mir taken by a sexy friend of mine.. (his name is josh)




First Time At Chessington Review

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…   Ride Reviews Scorpion Express 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.   Rattlesnake 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. Rameses Revenge 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.   Dragon Falls 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.   Dragon’s Fury 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.   The Vampire 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.  




Europa Park April 2017

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...




Blackpool Meet 2016 - SUNday!

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!     Bar 380:   Just chillin' on the glass floor:   Had lots of fun sitting on the floor!   Great views...   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 And finally... My compilation video from the meet    




Blackpool Meet 2016 - Soggy Saturday!

Hello all!   I've been meaning to get round to various trip reports and things for a looooong time - I still have a ton of videos from 2015 that need uploading!  I just haven't found the time or been able to focus on it due to other things going on/various health issues over the past year. However, as I type this, my videos from the Europa meet last May are uploading to YouTube, so I'm getting there   I'm not doing reports for every meet/visit last year, just ones that I've not done them for at all yet. And they will be more condensed than my old ones     So...Blackpool 2016!   Aah, Blackpool. Such a wonderfully tacky, northern place! I'm not gonna lie, I do love it for many reasons, one of which being the unique things the Pleasure Beach has to offer!   Let's start with our first day of the meet:   Saturday 3rd September - An Extremely Soggy Day At The Pleasure Beach   People joke about the weather up north, but this was easily the worst weather I've ever experienced at a meet (and I think others could say the same too)! That 2013 Swarm photoshoot was pretty testing, but that was only a few hours...this was the whole day! Thankfully, Paige had her potentially-dangerous-hairdryer with her, so we used that in the evening to attempt to dry our selves and our clothes off! And no Great Fire of Blackpool happened (although we did have an electricity socket hanging out the wall in our room...but the hotel issues are a whole other story )   Brace yourselves for some TPM poncho sexiness...   The good thing was, they gave everyone tickets to return the next day due to the rain! The bad news was, Valhalla was advertised as being closed all day...for now!   So, what was our first ride of the day? Alice In Wonderland (Liam's first - and last - time riding a pussy)! A ride which I'd not been that fussed by before (probably because the first time I rode it was later on in the day after more exciting stuff, and just before Valhalla), and I enjoyed more this time. Gotta love that queueline music       Wild Mouse: If you've ever wanted to experience possible near-death on a coaster, this is probably the nearest you'll get to it in the UK. I mean that in a highly positive way though - it is insanity! You really do have to hold on for dear life  I could've happily gone on again at some point! Sadly no one else agreed (well except Peaj, I imagine )!     In a stark contrast to Wild Mouse, our next ride was the River Caves! The last and only time I rode this was in 2008, so it was great to go on it again  I couldn't remember much about the theming etc at all, and knew that it's one of the oldest rides there, so I was taken aback by how nice it looked! It is stunning  Some people are reluctant to call the Pleasure Beach a theme park when comparing it to others in the UK, but their dark ride theming is bloody good! Then you look at the state Bubbleworks ended up in, and how Tomb Blaster has been ruined... Oh, and seeing a group of people actually get out the boat at the top of the small drop, where the sign clearly tells them NOT to was rather amusing!   Uh oh...time for Infusion! "What sort of cheese was that?!" Cheese from hell, that's what. My poor little ears! I swear there is no escaping the ear-bashing on this thing, whether you put your head forwards or keep it back!    More cheesy action now - Wallce and Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic!  I do love this ride, it really feels like you're part of the scenes, and the comfy slipper cars were a nice change from Infusion and the wooden benches of the River Caves. Paige enjoyed herself too, especially during the part with the terrifying, giant were-rabbit     Big One - managed to get the second row on this with Liam, so it was quite fun! His reactions summed up the ride perfectly: main drop, "Woooah!", followed by the failed airtime hill, "Oh..."       Skyforce now, and for many of us, our first time on it. I didn't manage to spin, although I did get stuck upside down a few times! But as it was pretty certain that some of us would be returning the next day, I still had hope...   Steeplechase and Revolution were next, and both good fun as usual. Steeplechase is still one of my favourite rides there     Soggy Steeplechase selfie! Or as Liam called it, Staplecheese     After some lunch and some time in the arcade, we decided there was no better time to ride the woodies, starting with Grand National!  Whilst we were queueing for this, we saw Valhalla open, hurrah! I had the best ride ever on this - back row in the rain. It was absolutely brutal but SO GOOD! I was out of my seat on every drop and airtime hill!     Love this sign too...   Big Dipper front row with Mr Fish was fun, not as much as back row was at the last meet though - so little airtime!  Blue Flyer - erm, meh. Nickelodeon Streak - again, felt a bit meh compared to last time as I wasn't at the back. Starting to think I'm addicted to airtime...   Now, time for a proper Ghost Train  This was awesome as always and far better than any other...   Ice Blast was great fun as per, then we dashed over to Derby Racers and squeezed a ride in before the Valhalla queue shut. Aww, such a charming and grand ride! Aside from the uniqueness of this ride compared to a standard carousel, and the fast speed, I love the atmosphere it has, with the cheeriness of the organ music etc     Me and Liam rode many horses that day!   Our final ride of the day was of course Valhalla  Wow! At the last meet (2014), we unfortunately experienced a breakdown which completely ruined the flow of it all, and the lights were left on during the second drop...but this time was perfect! After much initial faffing and flapping with our spare "leg poncho" that is  Peaj had the right idea making a skirt out of his     Dean was rather excited too...!   There isn't much I can say about this ride, as it taps into so many senses and a written description could barely do it justice. But that second drop is ridiculous (the good kind!) - it looks short but you somehow keep going! How is that even possible?! Clever lighting I'm guessing! It's a shame that you get so drenched as it makes it less re-rideable for some people.   Here we are emerging from the ride, probably not much wetter than we already were from the day's rain! (Credit to Dean for this photo)   Later that evening, after we'd dried off and eaten at Wetherspoons, we did our usual walk along the promenade, going on the piers and seeing the Illuminations, which had been switched on on the Friday that we drove up   Dodgems fun!   The waltzers on the south pier are aptly-named Hell-Raiser! They spin you so fast! The only reason they stopped our ride was because the op thought Dean was ill/not OK as he'd ended up laying across the others  (Although I think he did say afterwards he was glad it stopped when it did, and it was a bloody long ride anyway!)     So that's all for now, but part 2 will be coming later. Will I manage to spin on Skyforce? Will Peaj pull any more old ladies in the ballroom? Will it finally stop raining?! Find out soon...  




Europa, again

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!      




The 2017 Challenge

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.  




Universal Orlando 2K16

Welcome indeed! 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 Woosh 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. Fantastic Beasts 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... THIS! Hulk is back in a modern techno way Sploosh 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!




Canadian Caper: Marineland, Fantasy Island & Darien Lake

Canadian Caper   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!     Marineland     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...     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.   Some CCIs impress: Megafobia, Raven, Tonnerre du Zeus. Some don't: Stampida.     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.   Darien Lake     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:   Vietnam Dubai Italy Germany




Six Flags Discovery Kingdom 2016

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. Sting Rays. 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!      




Florida 2K16

As its been a long time and I have some time over Christmas I thought I'd finally do this one, only got back like 4 months ago... This to me is a homing beacon. See this and boom, happiness! We had a lovely view of Hollywood Studios fireworks too. And as that's basically the only thing there, woo first park done. SeaWorld is a gorgeous park I love just walking around it Woosh A wanna be Manta I still love Kraken. Love the way it loops around the park corner... And has a new distant friend! And a new sealion show! Great fun, prefer pirates but probably just for the nostalgia But Mako is what draws you here It's a really good fun ride, looks great around the park And has some good theming in its plaza. Flippy Whales conjuring up a storm too... Time to leave I think! The tree of Intamin oddness? Oversized B&M Weird Mack cos that's the norm now More Intamin oddness Obligatory heat blurred Kumba pic A good Oblivion. And its red. A white tiger secluding himself from the orange ones. In this modern day politically correct world too. I'm sure PETA would have a fit And a Zierer. All about this one tbf. Look at it all green and that fence too. I liked this ornate structure too. Such a nice table We also did this, but it's Merlin so we won't go there. Oh, too late. This guy wants out That's better. Fun Spot is such a great bonus place. And we all had $25 to spend as a gift from our ticket supplier   Now it's somehow known that 'I don't like Disney' so I apologise now. Could be worse though. I could have gone to a Disney park. Hang on Seems familiar I mean it's nice but... Oh it's alright. They have two of these. No big player then Oh no I'm at a Disney Park. Must be Animal Kingdom Can't be, it's night and they're still open And a nightime show that sucks in every way... It was Animal Kingdom all along. Oh no. I can only apologise for this mistake and will ensure the next one is Disney free.   Coming later this week, a bumper Universal blog! Gotta balance the world out now you see.




San Francisco 2016

Well its only taken me about 4 months but I have finally decided to write this as I literally have nothing else to do this Christmas holiday  So It was a very early morning and we set off to Heathrow, mid way through the journey from Cardiff we picked up Dean Cox from a lay by just off the M4. After a miserably dull journey, we parked the car and got the shuttle to the airport!!    It finally started dawning on me that I was going to California, a place I have wanted to visit for SO long!! With theme parks I have wanted to go to since I became a big ol' goon for rides and stuff, After a relatively faff free experience, we got breakfast and then finally got on the plane ahead of the burdenous 11hr journey ahead of us. I was in reletively high spirits as I had got my results back for my A Levels, Which I did surprisingly well at! Well other then my maths but we wont speak about that XD.   The flight was burdenous though as trying to stay awake for that amount of time was hard, but I managed to watch 5 movies so I managed. The food though BA should be ashamed it was rank!! Deans makeshift headwrap thing seemed to be doing the trick for him although I can't say I'd be able to sleep like that if I'm honest lol. After 10 hours which felt more like 10 years we finally touched down in SFO, which despite being excited I wasn't in the est of moods as I was absolutely knackered but I was determined not to sleep!  Obligatory Arrival selfie! So after arriving was probably the most stressy and faffy time on the trip as we were greeted with an 1hr long customs queue... Yay... after that, we find out quickly afterwards that someone has taken Dean's case mistaking it for theirs, which was just the perfect way to start the holiday... Not!! After thinking the bag was lost we just decided to try and enjoy our first day in San Francisco .   Our hotel was right next to Union square, which was perfect for us as being right in the centre made it surprisingly easy for us to get around! I Really liked the look of San Francisco it still holds that vintage, oldy charm while still feeling kind of modern and I really liked the place. We did the trams once in the whole time we were at San Francisco and, they were certainly an experience! Really cramped at first but once we got to holding the edges it was really fun! Its mad how it goes up and down those hills as they are so steep!   We stayed in the Hotel Agadio just outside Union Square! Our Hotel Was really Nice, the beds were really comfy and the room was really clean and tidy! I have no complaints at all.   We made the room messy enough In no time XD     To Stop this post dragging on for eternity I will just do a few sub topics as We did quite a lot over the 4 days we where there!   Fisherman's Wharf   Fisherman's Wharf was a really nice area! It definitely has that authentic american harbour feel to it and there was quite a few Interesting sites around the area, there was also a few experiences we did as well which were really good that you could do from the Wharf.     This Rasta Dog looked really cute and cool at the same time, I'm not to sure he was pleased with his look though    We went to the Aquarium at Fishermans Wharf with our Go Card which we bought online, which I would recommend as it really help bring the cost down a little when we where there. The aquarium was decent, it was your like your standard aquarium at home really, its not really anything special but it killed time and some of the things in there was cool.           Once that was done we headed over to an area that stunk of fish which happened to also be where the Fisherman's Wharf Sea Lions (atleast I think it is that species anyway) which were really cool to see, two were having some major beef with each other then started having a bout of fisty cuffs which was quite fun to watch.     We also managed to do the San Francisco dungeons! ( Can't escape Merlin where ever I go...) And it was really good ! The sets in which they told the story of how San Francisco came to be was really fun. Also there was only 5 in our group so the actors picked on us a lot especially as they detected the foreign accent so that provided a lot of laughs especially the court scene as they really picked on us for being British  Overall it was a really good experience which I would very much recommend, its a bit short but I thought the acting was good, the sets were great and now they have a drop tower being installed so I have been told so even more the reason to go now! I'd give it a solid 8/10.     On our second Day we managed to do a Speed boat trip on the Go Pass too, which was fab and provided a really good view of the city and the Bay Bridge, which we flew under a lot! We got absolutely soaked which was quite nice as it was quite warm, very windy!! I can see why they call it the Windy City but it was a really fun experience. Again the experience was quite short but again I'd recommend doing it if you come to the area! 7.5/10  Would probably be more if they did a few more straights at full speed as they were one of the best parts!!       Overall Fisherman's Wharf was a really nice area, made even better by the fact that Pokemon Go was big at the time and I caught so many Magikarp for my Gyarados it was fab    Golden Gate Bridge We saw this land mark By Bus and Bike, The Bus was really good because we were able to cross the bridge to a vantage point where we could take some really nice photos but also the tour guides gave us loads of really interesting information about the bridge and how it came to be. I'd definitely recommend going on one of the bus tours as it provides a really easy way of getting a great view of the bridge so long as you go on a clear day.   We Also did it by bike, which I wasnt personally too pleased by as I hate riding and it was about 4 miles from the bike depot to the vantage point which just killed me! I was so glad to get off, although I fell off once as I am really clumsy... One of the reasons why I hate bikes in the first place. Although the view was fab when we got there!. Good ol' Family Photo, just smiling through the bike pain    From the bus tour we were able to see a view other sights and take the views in and I think San Francisco is really pretty, although it stunk of weed in many places which for some reason didn't surprise me at all. But here are some photos from the top of the bus. We didn't end up going to lombard street although we could see it from a distance, but it looked hella burdenous!! Really wanted to go to the Japanese Tea Gardens although we didn't have enough time so here is a photo of the entrance anyway lol.   I think all this sightseeing took its toll on us as we were knackered after 4 days but it was really nice seeing the sights around the city! The shopping centres were huge too not as big as New York Macy's but pretty darn close! Their Macy's we set up in 2 completely separate buildings for men and women which was a bit weird. The places were quite expensive but that was to be expected seeming it is such a large city but they are really big and airy which was different. The buildings that housed them were really grand too! I dont remember what it was called but I was surprised when I realised it was a shopping centre as it looked more like a museum and it was huge inside!   Alctraz The final big sight we went to before going on our little road trip was Alcatraz. It would have been wrong if we didn't go here although we had to book so far in advance to make sure as we got told it books up really quick.     I was surprised how big the buildings were as well as the island itself was up close as it looks so small from afar. The main talking point of the guided tour was about Al Capone, which was really interesting and I could have listened to them talking about him and the prison for hours as it was really interesting hearing about the insight into the prisoners lives as well as the numerous escape attempts that got foiled as well. From what I can remember some of those escape attempts were quite brutal too. Overal I'd 100% recommend visiting alcatraz as it is really enjoyable looking up on the history of the island as well as seeing everything for yourself! It is definitely a must visit in my view! Here are some more photos!!           Overall I'd very much recommend going to San Francisco if you are near as it is a really nice vintage feeling area, which is always bustling and definately has enough for anyone to get their teeth into for a good 4 days at least like we did! I'd recommend all of the places we visited but also explore around a bit too as I'm sure there are things that we missed that are fab too!!       On the last day in the morning we went back to the airport to collect our car to experience our first theme park of the trip!!   Guess where we went!! I'm sure its not hard      Thanks for reading!! I can promise the next one won't be so long!!      




Matt Creek's 2016 Part 2- Phantastic Abroad Adventures

Thank 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 Park Visiting 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.    Liseberg   Two 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!    Phantasialand  Phantasialand 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 Paris  2016 wasn't the year for DLRP As 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.

Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek


Matt Creek's 2016 Part 1-The UK

The Closed season is here, Christmas  music and decorations are around everywhere and the sight of new year  isn't far away.    This means one thing, time to review 2016. This year will be a two part edition, with part one focusing on the UK and part two on the wonders abroad.    The Merlin Machine/  Given the circumstances of 2015, it was fairly imminent this wasn't going to be the best year for them. With Park-wide budget cuts, ride closures and controversial decisions, there has been a fair share of negativity. However, not everything they've done has been unacceptable.    Alton Towers As expected, 2016 was not going to be Towers's year as a result of ruthless management operations to lessen the bleeding of 2015's unfortunate events. This resulted in budget cuts, leading to staff redundancies, closures of shops and food outlets , knee jerk safety precautions and the closure of seven attractions.    Whilst Hex is the only major casualty here, closing down a family park staple, sufficient flat ride and more has certainly left a big gap in the family market.   Galactica for me feels like an attempt at shoe horning a gimmick onto what was already a popular ride just so it can be marketed as a new major attraction.    The VR element leaves something to be desired, although I did find the audio descriptive version highly amusing. That being said, I do really like the new space styling, soundtrack and station enhancements.  However on the upside, the new Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic addition to the park, featuring much character and a flagship park restaurant. The Steak I had last time was remarkable.  The TLC scheme has certainly enhanced run down areas of the park such as Forbidden Valley and Towers Street which look noticeably better. Though some areas are still fairly run down it's a start and if this is the only way for Merlin to do upkeep, so be it. Fingers crossed they can keep a similar scheme in place Post 2018.   The Galactica fireworks were highly enjoyable too and made for a great end of a season. The park still has magic but it may be a little drier for the time being.    2017 seems to be another year CBeebies land add ons, with a round ride and indoor attraction being installed amongst it's own hotel.    None of the above is appealing to anyone over 6, however if it's successful let's see what happens. SW8 construction is where it all lies though.    Thorpe Park 2016 has been very divided for the park with lots of positives and negatives happening at the park this year.   The park has continued an acceptable level of  small improvements in places from updating the Amity toilet  block to refurbishing the main Burger King which is good to see. The Tidal Wave improvements also look nice.    That being said a major TLC scheme could really benefit the park as lots of park areas have been neglected for a while now, including Colossus, Rumba, Canada Creek and even Inferno (to a lesser extent).   Breakdowns have been inconsistent this year with some rides such as Stealth and Samurai suffering major lengths of downtime but other rides like Swarm, Slammer and Rush remaining generally reliable all season. Some rides of course are out of the park's control when it comes to issues, but it would be nice to see a better consistency on reliability though. Derren Brown's ghost train is where things become more complicated. The ride now offers the park with a much needed indoor/dark ride. The pre-show and live action elements (though without their faults) are the best elements of the attraction for me. Providing amusement and excitement that may controversially be the best we've seen at a UK park in the post Hex days.   The virtual reality (VR) element however I am not a massive fan of, the first section is okay but the second one feels disjointed and almost anticlimactic but that may just be the ride's reliability.  Speaking on reliability, the attraction hasn't been great, with the attraction constantly breaking down, headsets failing   and other issues. The state of the attraction last October was shocking to say the least and that's before I mention the two month plus delay. Let's hope 2017 does wonders to this ride and it can finally prove to be a solid addition instead of the embarrassing handful it seemed to be this year.    Losing Loggers this year feels like a massive blow for the park, which despite it's age was still a popular and firm favourite for people of all ages. 2017's confirmation has only dampened the doubtful reopening of this attraction further which is a shame.    Ending this on a positive, the street food and temporary outlets in Old Town were decent additions to the park's catering lineup. The chip place place proved to be great and a very quirky idea at the very least. The I'm A Celebrity improvements were also acceptable.    The kiddie rides in Old Town is a bizzare one but if they enhance the younger guest offering which the park lacks, it can't be all bad.    Chessington Right, remaining optimistic here may be a little more difficult but let's see what happens. Tomb Blaster (the park's veteran dark ride), was set for what was supposed to be a major refurbishment, giving the ride much needed TLC and restoring it into the best state in years. How wrong could we be?   The new lasers are blocky, tacky and ruin the look of the attraction and the scoring system makes no sense. And not only this but the new UV lighting (which was supposed to enhance the ride) has actually ruined this. As a result of exposing out of house areas and the metal warehouse the ride resides in.    The removal of ambient sound effects has only added insult to injury and goes to show what a shoddy refurbishment this was to begin with. The reduction in car stopping has only added to the rot as a result of the ride being less in sync.  In the contrary, the Bubbleworks was shut down forever to make way for the next revolving door IP attraction.    Whilst many will disagree here, I still had a liking for the attraction even to the end as it provided a fun ride for all ages and was an amusing experience. From the whirling fairground rides to the fountain finale.    The ride may be gone but it will always have a place in my heart. Especially my last ever ride. Where my girlfriend and I shared our first kiss in the fountain finale.  The rest of the park is still a mess. Bits of theming looking worn and neglected, Vampires station is still a mess, Falls is still naked and breakdowns seem to be happening more frequently.    Skyway was also  spited after barely surviving the last few seasons. Shame they didn't maintain or rebuild it as that would've been much better than an animatronic panda show. Glamping won't save the park either sadly.  Only good things I can say about Chessington this year are the small TLC bits were acceptable, the Smokehouse place is good and I met my girlfriend here.    2017 will be interesting to say the least with Gruffalo re-theme and new Market Square carousel. Let's see.    Legoland Windsor Despite turning 20 years old, 2016 has been a quiet one for the park, as a result of adding anything major or notable.    The Lego Movie 4D was the main new attraction this season and is a fantastic addition to the park and one of the most amusing 4D shows I've  seen. Featuring the return of many of the lovable original characters and more from the original film.  2016 also saw the Star Wars miniland extended,in the form of the Death Star occupying space previously part of the Star Wars store. The new addition is fantastic and the combination of  interactive features and vast models, makes for an excellent finale.    The Star Wars store has also been renovated as a result of the updates. The  model makers workshop has also been refurbished marking the return of the brick busts on the top floor which is really great to see again.  Whilst much of what the park has done this year, even with the opening show (it's location also resolving the terrible entrance bottleneck), one word. Farmer Joes Chicken Shack!    Theming aside this is one of the worst theme park eateries I've been too as the food tastes dull and barely edible; Was rather expensive too.   Change however is on the way for the park, with Dino safari and Loki's Labyrinth being demolished in the same year. A major Ninjago dark ride and area will replace the latter with the former becoming home to the park's second hotel featuring a castle theme.    Blackpool Pleasure Beach  The historic seaside amusement park turned 120 this year making it the oldest operating U.K. Park and one of the oldest in the world.    Apart from that, not much else really happened this year, although the new  bridge and ghost train scene are both highly acceptable additions.    The park still retains it's charm and character well amongst remaining one of the better kept UK parks.    That said, the operations over my two day visit did leave something to be desired as National and Avalanche were on one train operation over the weekend joined by the Big One on day two. However given circumstances and they're an independent park they are solely forgiven.    2018 will hopefully be the year to bring wonders here, but there's still a while yet.    Paultons Park  A place I've always wanted to visit  for a while and somewhere  I can safely say is the underdog of UK parks currently. It's not so much the big things that make paultons, but all the small touches from park tidiness, staff friendliness down to the organic feel of the place. No HB leisure or in your face upselling here.  The Lost Kingdom area has done wonders to this park and set the bar high for future investments on this upcoming park. The theming is of a high standard whilst the two coasters provide the perfect family thrill consistency amongst the other great attractions.  Paultons is definitely the park the watch in the coming years and once they bring in a decent water ride, woodie and dark ride, they will for sure be one of the best parks in the U.K. If they are not already.    Drayton Manor  Yet another place I've been longing to  tick off my check list, but past opportunities encountering misfortune resulting in me not able to visit. Maybe that's an omen? Drayton is the perhaps the blandest park I've ever visited. It lacks style, atmosphere and boasts the worst main coaster double act I've seen at a park.  With all that negativity said and done on to the positives. Thomas Land is a loverly charming park area and one of the parts with atmosphere. Their flats rides such as Apocalypse, Maelstrom and Air race are all enjoyable and the Haunting was actually an acceptable attraction too. So is Ben10. Still won't be rushing back there yet, until they add a major attraction or receive enough persuasion. Still it's been ticked off the checklist right?   Other not-so theme parky bits  Went heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath which consists of a cable car, numerous caves and ruins.The views are fantastic and the caves were intriguing to say the least, especially given one actually featured an animatronic figure (sort of).    Matlock bath is also pleasant enough with countless  fish and chip shops, independent stores and  a mediocre aquarium. It's almost like a Sea Side Town, away from the sea. With Bikers.   Thanks for reading part 1 if you managed to not get bored. Part 2 will follow shortly. Adios 

Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek


Closed Season Part 2

Italy   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 http://forum.maniahub.com/blogs/entry/714-roman-roaming-highlights-from-italy-part-1/   Rainbow Magicland   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.    Miribilandia   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.   Finally...   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.