Woah Woah Woah there friends!
Put down your pitchforks! Extinguish your flaming torches and disband that mob!
That title is what we call in the industry as "clickbait". A very clever way of getting people into a boring article with something shocking at face value,
Now where as most people include an image of female speed bumps to get peoples attention, I thought I would offer a thought provoking question...
How do you solve a problem like enthusiasts?
We are a great burden / privilege to theme parks. We think we know best, If a park does something right, we commend them and cheer them on!
However, this is the real world and quite a lot of the time choices made by other people are wrong! Horribly Horribly Wrong!
Where was I...
This thought of how do we solve this problem became more prominent after the recent news of certain enthusiasts behaving atrociously at the Bubbleworks Goodbye Party.
Enthusiasts shouting at staff to be on the last ride before it closes forever.
Now at first glance this just seems like some people wanting the bragging rights, "Guess who was the last on Bubbleworks!" sort of how we do it for ride openings, (3rd Public train of The Smiler and first public train of Galactica... Just saying )
But unlike ride openings, we don't have to put in effort to be the last to ride something, just turn up last and on you go rather than ride openings where those committed enough will be at the park before the staff, run to the ride as soon as the gates open and be prepared to live with the blood on your hands from those who stood before you!
However, there is a more personal connection to being the last on something, people who have grown up with Bubbleworks will have a very strong bond with the attraction, it still doesn't accuse the behavior but that behavior comes as a side effect of passion... And we are not the only ones!
Take football fans, we constantly hear of fights starting against team fans due to one beating another, and again I don't condone these actions but this again comes out of passion, they obviously want the team they support to win and unfortunately when they don't they behave in unusual ways as some don't really know how to react.
So what is my point? Enthusiasts want to be the last to complete there special bond with the ride, the be the last to share a memory with something so special to them. Now a morbid warning... the closing of a ride is a bit like the passing of a family member or relative. (Where am I going with this...) Some people feel more comforted being there in that persons last moment as that then means that there last moment with them was the last moment they had with that person. As weird as it may sound with rides, some people don't feel as connected if there last ride was a month before it closed, as it would have given a lot more memories out after you. It's pretty petty... but it's human nature.
Conclusion: How do you solve a problem like enthusiasts? You don't as they are what make theme parks great, and terrible and... what was my point again?
Well, this has been a hell of a long time coming, hasn't it? Partly because it's been sunny and I've had better things to spend half hour on, and party because I didn't really know where to start what with the park being so huge, and also because it seems I'm the last enthusiast on earth to get round to visiting so I don't feel I've got much to add on to what I'm sure you already know. Again I had tried not to spoiler myself too much, so other than the inescapable adoration for Woodan and Blue Fire I didn't really know what to expect from other attractions. I also didn't take many photos, a sure sign that I was too busy getting on with enjoying myself, so apologies for text heavy dullness ahead...
And so after a hell of a trek around a whole mountain due to a closed road, we hit the finale of the trip for two days at Europa. We had initially booked Pension Yvonne Sigg based on recommendations, but then cancelled that and went for Gastehaus Brigitte Duri for half the price. Not expecting a palace, we didn't find one, but it was clean, comfortable and, most importantly, close to both the park and hotels which could both be reached within a 10 minute walk. In hindsight I'd have payed any amount extra for a place with aircon as it was sooo damn hot for our visit. Parking seems to be a bit of an issue with a lot of these smaller places, so rather than have to shunt the car in and out repeatedly as people came and went we abandoned ours on the street where it didn't come to any harm.
Refreshments were needed, and there are plenty of bars and eateries near the park entrance away from the resort hotels, which all seemed decent quality, I'd especially recommend Mythos Greek Taverna and Altus Rasthaus. Rust, like all of Germany it seems, is a neat tidy place which maybe feels a little bit crammed in as everyone tries to make their Euros off the back of the park. Maybe we were unlucky with the weather or time of year, but the one big problem the town has (which they can probably do nothing about) is with mosquitoes. I've never known anything like it; being outside around dusk is just impossible, we were ravaged by the damn things which made trying to sleep in the stifling heat even more difficult.
Anyway, the next morning with much excitement it was to the park.
Greek beer in Germany, why not?
We used the app to purchase electronic part tickets which all went smoothly, and the app is a godsend for show planning and queue avoiding. Thoroughly recommend its use. While the exterior is currently a building site, the entrance to the park is a delight and we were welcomed with live music and a buzzing atmosphere. It's immediately clear the theming, scale, cleanliness and general perfection of the presentation is like nothing else. We made our way round at a leisurely pace for two long wonderful days.
We started with Silver Star. I don't know if this view is controversial, but it was the second big disappointment of the trip. It's just dull. Forceless. Lumbering. I don't know how they get so much height and speed to do so little, but excitement and airtime there are none. We tried it front and back, early and late. Nothing. It's not really themed in the same way as the rest of the park either so feels a bit out of place, although Mercedes the exhibit in the ride building is pretty good, and it was our first experience of the lighting fast operations not hindered by fastrack which made the small queue a continuous shuffle which went by in no time. But the ride itself is poor. 3/10
Unfortunately while trying to find the entrance to Poseidon we accidently stumbled into a madhouse apparently called Cassandra which was also pretty crap. Maybe we are/were spoiled with Hex, but just walking into the room with no explanation just seems odd, then to have it programmed for the walls to start spinning straight over with no correlation with the movement or attempt to make it feel like it builds up to an inversion renders the whole exercise pointless. There's no illusion to it, 3/10.
Fortunately it turned out we had got the worst of the park out of the way, and it was all upwards from here, so I can stop seeming like such a grumpy old sod. Next we managed to find the entrance to Poseidon, which like all the water rides on our blisteringly hot trip unfortunately held a hefty queue most of the time, but it was worth the wait. The coaster element was a surprise to us and although pretty rough and jolty a lot of fun, especially the double dip at the end. Good long ride, refreshing splashdowns and such complete intricate theming it is just like driftin through actual Greece. 8/10
England boat ftw!
I'll leave it there for today, before we head into the general insanity that is Russia.
From there it was the longest drive of our trip, into the mountains to the small town of Todtnau. I'll start with a TopTip: If you visit Tripsdrill and your journey takes you right out of the carpark, beware; just before the first town the 70kph road suddenly drops to 30kph for no apparent reason and then raises to 50 kph after about 100 meters. The 30kph section has a speed camera which duly took my photo as drifted through it trying to work out what was going on, a month later I've had nothing through from the car hire company, so fingers crossed that's going to come to nothing! Sneaky speed cameras aside driving and roads throughout Germany are a delight, everything is so well maintained, clean and tidy, and just works. We had one short delay on the outskirts of Stuttgart but other than that the roads flow at speed and with ease.
Out of the car window
Maybe it's just the route we took, but the whole area is stunningly pretty. Even the industrial areas looked neat, tidy and prosperous unlike the dives we have over here. Once in the mountains some of the roads are a bit precarious, but it's worth the trek once you are up there. We checked into guesthouse Lamm, which is just outside of town and took the short walk to a small selection of bars and restaurants at the base of the mountain for that evenings beer
and a look at what the next day would bring
It's a lovely relaxing place place for a day or two
doesn't look real, does it?
The next morning I was eager to get up that mountain for the main even, the mountain coaster. 9 Euros a pop includes your trip up on the chairlift and slide down the coaster. The views from the top of the town bellow and surrounding mountains are stunning, and for the less adventurous the chairlift can be taken as a round trip. Toptip: Don't forget you are up a mountain and the sun is different here, industrial strength suntan lotion required!
The ride itself was the highlight of the whole holiday for me. It's insane fun. As you are in control of your own braking you can have as wild or sedate ride as you like, so it really is for everyone. I tried to use the brakes as little as possible, my wife though was not pleased with this decision as we were going down together in one cart, and I only really applied them near the bottom to stop us smashing into the person in front. With barely any banking in the corners it really feels like it is trying to fling you from your little cart if you take them at speed, and the standard three point seat belt does little to make you feel secure, which all adds to it for me.
That's me, speeding again
I loved it and went up again, my wife less so and sat out go two. As it got a little later in the day the queue at the top built up to about 30 minutes, so try not to hit peak times if you can. TopTip: Chose your place in the queue wisely; you don't want to be getting on just after someone who is likely to be going down slowly, so get on behind teens and not a young family. If the ride is backing up a bit the op will let you wait at the top for a minute or two so you can get a clearer run.
if you are still speeding at this point you are in trouble
I can't put into words how much I loved this. I would recommend it to everyone. If you have any opportunity to do one of these then take it, it's an absolute must. I could have spent the whole day going up and down here, but we didn't, we went to look at some waterfalls instead.
A short drive out of the other side of town, the waterfalls are stunning and climbable from top to bottom if you are into that sort of pain. We were happy with more sedate wander through parts of it.
And very nice it was too. Then by afternoon it was time to be off, drive out of the mountains, and on to the climax of it all. Europa Park! I'll leave you with what I think may be one of the best photos that has ever been taken. If ever a picture could sum up our differing feelings of an experience, this is it...
I did mention I didn't use the brakes!
Somewhere in the rural Hamptonshire countryside, lies a mysterious theme park. But this isn't any ordinary theme park, which is home to dinosaurs, Cobras, wonderful beasts and a famous animated pig (to name a few).
This is a park that is certainly on the up, investing in attractions that improve the park whilst retaining and complimenting it's character and values. It's a place so renowned for its greatness, legend has it adventurers have travelled to the depths of boots to witness it's golden gates.
WELCOME, TO PAULTONS PARK
Home to the weird and wonderful, like this raining tree.
For 2016, the park have invested at great lengths to bring us this wonderful prehistoric land through dedication of 8 million coins. It's well spent if you ask me.
One the main new discoveries of this new lost area is one of two coasters, Flight Of The Pteranosaur. A veto a family suspended coaster which dominates the centre of the world. The rock work theming is superb and of high quality.
And what a great family coaster this is. The coaster is great fun and interacts with the area superbly alongside a good proportion of theming. The end helix is also superb. As far as I'm aware the layout may be clone of another (maybe Grona's) but that doesn't take anything away from the ride which certainly looks to be a hit for the park.
It's the perfect fun thrilling coaster for the family.
Theming, with working animatronics.
The second new coaster is the Veloceraptor. Another Vejoma, but this time a boomerang style coaster like Ben10.
This is another superfluous coaster for the park and another fun ride. Whilst it doesn't beat Pteranosaur for me, I do prefer it to Ben 10 as this gives more a kick I think.
But the area is more than just coasters though (listen Merlin). They also have one of these crazy fun spinning rides like the Crazy Taxis at Europa Park. This ones called Boulder Dash.
This small Triceratops coaster, which I didn't get chance to ride ( ). Fact, this ride isn't actually brand new and was rethemed into the new area. It used be known as the Flying Frog I believe.
They also have a Safari track ride too which is neat.
Some very good theming here too. It's great to see park put so much effort into something just like this whilst a number of others (not naming) are either ripping theirs out or leaving them to rot. Best car style attraction in the uk by far.
Theres also an interactive Dino show too, which is good to see the park not just focus on the ride side either. Plus there's some roaming dinosaur animatronics in the area too.
They even have an area shop which is themed to a good level also. They've also added a new food place and smaller flat ride to the area too. Certainly making one of the best themed areas in the uk.
Also in the park, resides my second home. Critter Creek.
The theming quality they have here has been done very well, especially for a park like Paultons.
And here is the Cat-O-pillar, which again has been rethemed into the new area. The theming again is fantastic, weird and wacky. The coaster was alright but not my favourite.
The area is also home to a random aquarium type place. For a park like this, it's a nice little walk through.
The park is also home to Cobra, arguably their signature ride.
The queue line was a little shabby (spilt mess in the queue and a few areas of chipped pant), but that can be forgiven for the moment.
There is even a shed tunnel, and that isn't the best part.
Cobra is a really fun coaster and possibly my favourite ride at the park (either this or Pteranosaur). Two things to note about this ride are that it is a Gerstlauer, and an enjoyable one at that and that its 10 years old and was working fine. No lifeless structure here.
Speaking on lifelss, this ride was shut (at least when we went passed it) which was a shame as it looked fun.
They however have a Disko called The Edge (not Kobra) as Paultons know how to spell. This one is also run on a better setting too as you really get a good cycle. My only criticism are you were required to wear leg seat belts and mine was very tight. (Which ruined the experience in a way) and the ride doesn't feature much in terms of theming, but I'm sure that will be sorted one day.
The park also have a 4D cinema which features a fairly quirky but nicely themed facade outside (not cheap looking). The movie itself was alright, nothing amazing but was nice for a sit down and seemed entertaining enough for the guests. Its no Angry Birds but is good for what it is especially being the only undercover attraction so far.
The park even have a loverly grand carousel.
Featuring some loverly shrubbery too.
But the one thing park are famous for is Peppa Pig World, the investment (alongside Cobra) which have really helped the park develop in the last few years.
Sadly I didn't anymore photos here because my phone's camera reached capacity but all I can say is, it's a loverly themed area for the park's clientele and the park got the right balance with everything there too.
We only managed one ride in the area, that was Windy Castle. From the outside it looks like a little innocent spinning observation ride thing, think again! Peaj, Steve, Alex and I all shared one capsule and when you have no spin limits on a ride that also rotates upwards on a 4-5 minute cycle you're in for one hell of a white knuckle ride.
it was honestly crazy and ridiculous how crazily fast we were all going here and whilst it was hilarious to start with, I'm certain my thrill limit has been reached as it felt very painful and comftable towards the end of the ride and pretty nauseated for the tail end of the day too. Think this has put me off tea cups for the time being.
As much as things post 2006 have clearly marked the up for the park (moreso post 2010), there's still a fair few number of areas in the park that look bland and in need of an update.
one of these is the park's log ride which is pretty much an off the shelf Reberchon. Considering this ride isn't even 20 years old does show how superior their new stuff is now.
I could probably say the same for the Go Karts. I didn't try these either as I think there was an up charge.
that being said, there isn't a massive amount of upselling at the park. Considering I didn't see any HB leisure stalls or any posters trying to persuade me to buy a pass. Although the park exit is deliberately through a massive toy shop, that is more a tactical decision (and a cunning one at that).
But Paultons isn't just home to a decent selection of family rides. There's also a very reasonable amount of gardens and green spaces which help enhance a day here.
Which made for a really enjoyable day out that was enjoyed by all.
Unfortunately though Peaj was eaten by a giant hedge snake and hasn't been seen since.
Paultons is definitely a loverly park and worth a visit. its a place that puts effort and dedication into everything they do. Whether that be building a giant new themed area, staff friendliness or keeping the place tidy (we saw someone pick up litter minutes after it was dropped). With the possible exception of Cobra's queue, everywhere was beautifully well kept with no signs of wear and tear anywhere and a good atmosphere throughout.
The future for the park is bright and seeing the massive improvements they've made in the last few years (each one better than the last). All they need to do is build a proper flume and add a dark ride and they will then have a perfect full lineup. Whilst the park have little to nothing in terms of merchandise, I think they have it right by housing a massive toy shop at the exit which will no doubt be blissful joy for many of the kids (and a nightmare for many of their parents).
Chessington step aside. This is what a family park should be. Jump in the boot and let's go!
...and what unusual accommodation it is.
The Wooden Wagons are brilliant. Such a quirky way to provide accommodation that is not intrusive to the natural beauty of the place, but very comfortable and functional. Set in three little clusters, and with further larger treehouses in the forest, it's a small set up so feels so very secluded and natural when the sun goes down and you are surrounded by forest and darkness.
Inside they are pretty small, but well designed with a double bed and two single bunks, a TV, a fridge, worktop and dining table. Even in the 100+ degree heat the inside remained cool and pleasant with the help of a beer or two from the fridge.
Don't come a knockin' when the wagon's rockin'
Once the park is closed the only on site refreshment comes from a vending machine, there is a resturant a short drive away which the reception will book for you, but as we had made good use of the winery this was not an option for us! We opted for a pizza delivery from a nearby town which they give you a leaflet for when you book in, the pizza was OK at best, having suffered a little from what I presume was quite a long journey for hot food. This is the places one downfall, and its a shame they don't arrange a single trip minibus for the restaurant, or use the wildlife park facility in the evening. The other issue with this is the lack of anywhere to keep things refrigerated during the day before you check in, with no option to keep food fresh it's pretty much the pizza or nothing, and the beers took a while to cool in the little fridge having come from the meltingly hot car sitting in the sun all day.
In the morning continental breakfast is served in the wildlife park, it's quite an uphill trek so thankfully breakfast is good and plentiful as you really need it when you get there. As the whole place is pretty small (and was far from full up when we visited) it's all very calm and tranquil, a really delightful way to start your day.
Also worth mentioning the shower and toilet block is impressive too, spotlessly clean, plenty big enough and really quirkily themed in great detail.
At about £60 for the night, and including the breakfast, entrance to the wildlife park and heavily discount on theme park tickets, it's well worth a stay.
After checking out we spent a few hours in the wildlife park, which is plenty of time really. While it is obviously stunningly beautiful, and what is there is very well done, it's not really the hugest place and there aren't that many exhibits. If you like deer and goats you are in for a treat though, as they make up about 80% of the park!
It's fair to say, they do like their dears and goats. There are other things too though...
I think he's seen me
It's worth mentioning the wildlife park feels like it is built on a cliff face; the paths are steep and knackering in the heat and sometimes the payoff of another goat isn't worth the trek. Toptip: This is not a place to wear flipflops. As with the themepark it also suffers from zero English signage; maybe some of the exhibits would have been more interesting had we been able to read about them too.
The food looked good, it appeared they set up fires and then sold meat for you to go and cook on massive swinging grills hanging over them (I'm not sure if that was happening, due to lack of English), but we were to be on our way by lunchtime for the adventure to get a little more adventurous. Away from the theme parks and into the mountains for some real Germany.
Can I have your attention please, due to some people climbing the lift hill the ride is currently unavailable.
We have E-Stopped the ride, padlocked it and thrown away the key!
And left the trains stranded.
On Colossus, each wheel unit is inspected heavily every seven days. Fact
Colossus is dirty, also fact
And up we went! Trying to be all artsy but the ride was sinking which made it hard (fact! They blast air into the ground to stop this)
I love the shots you get from these walks! Plus the VIP hosts are always lovely!
The chain is actually huge. I always forget how huge
The lift hill wobbles a lot too, which adds a great thrill element!
Saw facts! The ride didn't have the lift system in place to evacuate at first, this was something Thorpe helped design with Gerst and is known as the Thorpe Amendment and is now used on all post Saw eurofighters
There is also a hawk noise effect that sounds every 20 minutes. This was put in to try and scare off the pigeons. It doesn't have that effect, but the sound effect still works!
London skyline just about
The engineers decided to run a train on Inferno. For the fun of it clearly
Sun breaking through and Ghost Train shed! Few things on it.
They have a 6 year contract with DB then it will be reviewed. It's cost can't be published yet as it isn't finalised as they're still paying for all the delays, tweaks etc they're having to do. It initially was set out to be £25 million ish, it's more now due to the issues and could keep rising till next year! They also built a cherry picker into the building not on purpose. Good job. It can join Smiler's one.
Other bits: IAC is on a 3 year contract so runs out end of 2017, possible retheme for 2018 attraction. Next year is probably a flat ride of some sorts. They have begun weight testing on the island behind Swarm for the next big ride and working on the plans. A coaster seems to be most likely apparently. AB contract is also up sometime soon but they want to keep that one, especially as the film got okay reviews!
Read and learn guys
Night night Colossus!
Next time... Florida
In 1996 within the Berkshire countryside, a defunct Safari park was invaded by bricks. Bricks that would mark the way for Legoland Windsor which would become the second Lego theme park in the world after Billund. Home to a boating school, driving school, Lego model village, A pirate log flume and more, the park was truly a unique place especially in it's early years.
Twenty Years on, the park is now part of the Merlin machine currently operating six (and counting) Legoland parks and discovery centres. Through this ownership the park has experienced much change (for better and worse), experiencing rigorous expansions of larger updated attractions. However one could argue as a consequence the park has lost much of it's charm, seeing smaller features neglected or removed and a spike up in the park's commercialism. Something that can be seen from the many walking adverts and upselling,the use of shouty IP's and rise of the hotels (consequently ripping out two prominent rides).
Now I think I have probably come across relatively harsh against the park. Yes it doesn't quite have the hardware of other parks out there; yes it can get packed with young families and is not to everyone's taste. But this is Legoland Windsor, the UK's most popular and successful park which now welcomes over 2.2 million guests a year despite its last E-ticket ride being over 5 years ago.
It may not beat (or come close) to the likes of Europa, DLRP and Efteling, but Legoland retains a strong soft spot for me, being one of the first major theme parks I visited and the place responsible for my interests in theme parks (and Lego). I have fond memories of the many trips I have taken here since first visiting in 1997. From squirting everyone on the train (and getting karma through a leaky tap) to my fascinations with the sadly long gone Magic Thestre and Explorers Institute attractions.
With much fanfare going towards a ghost train, 2016 may be a low investment year at Legoland, but the park is far from quiet.
As new for this year, the resort finally takes advantage of the success of the Lego Movie by releasing a brand new film based on the shenanigans from the original movie.
The movie wouldn't be the Lego Movie (no pun intended) without the lovable cast from the original film, including Emmet, Wyldstyle, Benny, Metalbeare and of course, Uni Kitty.
The feature film see's the cast enter a fictitious theme park operated by President Businesses's brother Risky Business, who has built a specific attraction for each character. Then in true Lego Movie style, this turns out to be a trap with Risky Business planning to capture the cast for a terrible park show. However things eventually end well with the characters eventually visiting the real Legoland.
The Lego Movie 4D has to be one the best cinema shows I've ever seen. It retains the charm and humour the original film boasted on and features many poke in the back moments to current trends, from the original film to even some tongue and cheek Disney references. It's a film that shouldn't be missed on any visit. 4.5/5 (not 10).
Also new for 2016, the Star Wars Miniland gets a hefty extension. Early on the season, it appeared the original Millenium Falcon entrance feature had been removed. But I'm happily to announce it has been repaired/replaced which is great to see.
After experiencing the original sections of the attraction, you are greeted with a series of heavy well built Lego Star Wars ships which lead into the new main section. This a great transition and works rather well.
More impressive models (displayed on the side of the area).
We then enter into the main area, which features a series of scenes based on the Death Star battles in the films, including the trenches.
And a mightily impressive Death Star model. The size and scale is remarkable.
The whole of the new area occupies space previously occupied by the Star Wars store (and Lego Racers store long before). It is certainly a fantastic addition and features many interactive elements, from ships flying around the model to numerous smaller animations being depicted by lights and push buttons.
The Star Wars store has also seen some modifications, with the tills moved to the old display case and the shop moving forward to space previously wasted as a result of lost space. The Model Maker workshop area has also been updated (which I'm yet to see).
2016 has also seen the addition of another new eatery, Farmer Joe's Chicken Company, replacing the Duplo Buffet restaurant. The facade area is themed quite well (if a little blocky) but I suppose it fits the Duplo area well. I didn't try the food here, however I believe it's similar to the fried chicken company at Chessington and Towers.
As as nice as it looks, it's a shame the park now lacks (non quick service) table restaurants as since the Burger Kitchen conversations, it really just leaves Knights Table, Hilltop cafe, Merlin pizza buffet and the hotel restaurants.
Meanwhile perched in a hidden corner resides Loki's Labarinth, the park's maze, which is one of the few quiet areas in the park to escape the crowds.
But not for very much longer sadly. Very soon, the whole maze will be completely removed to make way for a brand new Ninjago dark ride. I would strongly recommend visiting Legoland very soon if you wish to take in this attraction before it's removal as in Legoland fashion it's likely to close forever before the end of this season!
The maze's removal will also mark the end of the remainder of the Amazing Mazes, which the attraction was previously part of until the other mazes were demolished in 2007 for Viking River Splash.
Elsewhere in the park, another attraction has already become extinct making way for the park's second hotel. Dino Safari. The ride was the last ride installed when the Lego had full park ownership (now 30%) and marks the final nail in the coffin for the original Adventure Land.
As exciting and detailed the new hotels appears from the concept art (amongst being a fan of castles), I can't help feel the location isn't ideal, with the elaborate Atlantis on the left and airy Legoland hotel on the right. Not to mention the loss of another ride and the likeleihood of costing £400 pn. Still I'm sure it'll be a hit with the park's audience and may hopefully ease some of the strain from the park's nightmare car park situation.
At least segments of the original ride still live on (although in static model form).
And though some things in the park may have become a little bland recently.
There is still magic to be found.
And wonders to behold.
Some of which are small with details.
With Hidden gems.
And others larger than life.
Which is like Christmas for most seven year olds.
Happy Birthday Legoland, here's to twenty years of awesomeness (and hopefully another twenty). It may have changed for better and worse in its due course, but it's still my Legoland, the park I've enjoyed as a child and still enjoy today.
Raise a glass of Brickcola
Another early start for the longer journey to the second park and accommodation of the trip, trippsdrill. I'd recommend staying closer to this park than we did; it's in the middle of nowhere and the pretty long journey was a bit arduous before a long day on the park, especially as much of this was on winding roads with junction after junction. TopTip: You need a good map or satnav to get here; the road signs are sporadic to say the least with many junctions left for you to guess at.
Tripsdrill is properly German, with little to no concession made for non German speakers. All adds to the fun, but there were a couple of times we found ourselves entirely unable to make ourselves understood, which is of course because of own ignorance and not their fault at all. The first time this becomes apparent is using their online booking for the treehouses and wagons which is entirely in German, and even using google translate for the documents sent out I couldn't find a way to actually pay them. I emailed them requesting someone phoned me back which they and it worked out fine, but I've since noticed they can be booked on booking.com, which is probably a lot easier.
It was another term time weekday, and another largely empty park. Again I had very little expectation, knowing virtually nothing about the place. Again I loved it.
A working vineyard set in largely unspoiled rolling hills, it's something of an understatement to say the place is picturesque. The grounds are well kept with everything feeling clean, fresh and vibrant, it's the sort of place you'd be happy to be at not riding anything. The park is split into two distinct areas of old and new, with the old world being tightly knitted together surrounding the entrance with more traditional attractions, and the new area of bigger thrill rides in a separate more spacious area. This seems to work really well having both styles without them jarring against each other.
Staggered opening gives you the first hour to explore the old world before the other side opens. I gather it is designed to depict a traditional German way of life, and does so in a charming way with little automated and interactive scenes in what I presume to post humor which was entirely lost on us and our Englishness. Some of the more traditional rides like spinning barrels tranquil boats are intermingled with fun little diversions like funhouse style moving walkways. There's also the downright bizarre with the likes of the armory, an admittedly impressively huge display of old guns and weapons that you can not imagine sitting in a UK family theme park. There's a few flats too, all well run and again looking so well maintained. TopTip: No-one is going to check your restraints here, sit down and strap in as it's on you if you come flying out! Some rides are run with one op between two, who is only paying attention to the loading and off loading of the stationary ride and not the one which is actually running! I love that tbh, Germans a clearly less dumb than us Brits..
Tilting treehouses of doom
The highlight of this area for us was the wine museum and cellar, a cool dark underground bar where Tripsrill's own wine can be sampled along with a good few others from the surrounding for a couple of Euros a glass. Could have spent many hours in there hiding from the 100 degree plus heat outside, it's so nice finding somewhere so genuine in the fake world of theme parks, and we spent longer in there than we probably should have! The elderly man behind the bar was so helpful and clearly very knowledgeable of the wines, we had a great time with him trying to converse in his very broken English and he seemed to love trying. Oh, and the wine glass is free and to keep! TopTip: Even if you're not a drinker pop in with your park ticket and collect your glass. Free merch!
Over to the 'modern' side and first up was unfortunately one of only a couple of disappointments of the whole trip. Mammut is wood. I like wood. I like wood a lot. So inevitably it was what I was hoping to be the highlights of the park, but it is anything but. Slow, dull and uninspiring, it rattles along in an annoyingly pointless way achieving very little. It looks like it's a decent size and and has points which look like they are there to provide some airtime, but the speed it goes round none of it amounts to much.
We rode a few times, front and back and hoping it would warm up later in the day, but no. 4/10
On to their newest coaster, I didn't too expect much from Karacho based mostly on me not being much of a fan of the other original Infinity coaster The Smiler. This is such a better coaster than that; glass smooth track, fun little indoor section, powerful rolling launch, interesting varied layout with some great moments climaxing in a two suburb inversions with the dive into and roll out of the tunnel, all in the extreme comfort of those lapbars in the stylish trains. It's just sooo much fun, everything the Smiler isn't. I know they are not trying to achieve the same thing but this being the same type built by the same people at the same time shows how much better you can do by not chasing gimmicks and building something good and solid instead.
Look, I told you it was pretty.
I rode many times and didn't even begin to get bored of it. I also got bonus bit of geekery when they swapped a train over just as I was boarding, seeing the transfer track disappear into the false wall of the far side of the station and watch the poor staff push the trains back and forth as this track isn't powered.
Actually Smile. Always.
I like Rage a lot, but why our other (read Merlin) Geursts are so poor in comparison I do not know. It's a shame. Karacho was another massive hit for me on this trip. 8.5/10
One of these is enjoying it less than the others
Also over this side are some really fab rapids, with a much better lift and loading system than we have over here, decent length and a good amount of rough water and wetness in strange bendy boats which feel disconcertingly top heavy. Probably one of the better rapids I've ever been on, 8/10. A good mouse/bobsleigh type affair interacts with a brilliant flume including a backwards section and an unexpected nude spa float through. Mental. The flume was the only ride to hold a proper queue all day, I can only asume it's those kids wanting a titillating glimpse of latex nipple.
Overall we had a wonderful day. It's not perfect, but then nowhere is. I'd hate for the place to lose its German-ness, but I don't think that would be spoiled by some English and French on the museum type exhibits which line the queue lines, their splashbattle type affair is useless, and we weren't allowed on a couple of the kids rides (boo) and the park map isn't up to much. But I was smitten with the place, I implore you to go if you get the opportunity.
A short stroll in the evening sun back to the wildlife park to us to our slightly unusual accommodation for the night...
I've wanted to complete my BelGerAnd2 "trip report" for a while, mostly for sake of completion, but I've really struggled to figure out what to say about Phantasialand. It's easy to sing the praises for the park, and most of those praises would see me reiterate myself. So let's get those out of the way...
Maus au Chocolat and Chiapas are the perfect examples of how to a shooting dark ride and water ride respectively. Black Mamba is a great coaster that really turns into a beast in the afternoon, and Winjas is a fine example of how to blend coaster and 'other' elements into one ride. Colorado Adventure is a neat little family ride, though nothing *that* special in my books. River Quest is disgustingly terrifying and yet amazingly fun, and the new theming it's received thanks to Klugheim is great (though I wish they disguised the lifts a bit better). The Berlin area is generally fab too. The park's general atmosphere, theming, sense of showmanship and storytelling is surely one of the best in Europe.
And, in an unusual twist for me, I'll focus a bit more on the negatives...
I honestly do not get the fuss over this ride. I went into it last year with no real idea of what to expect and was left disappointed. Though after hearing there's 2 cycles, one of which is not great, I was left with a glimmer of hope. But this year, I realised that what I had previously experienced was in fact the 'good cycle', and I had the joy of experiencing the not-so-good one. Disappointed is probably the best word that describes my feelings about this. Underwhelmed also springs to mind. But at least the queue is fantastically themed!
Though the China area looks good, the two dark rides (a madhouse and omnimover) are far from good. The madhouse is definitely my least favourite one I've been on, and the omnimover is more outdated than anything else. The trouble these rides have is that whatever park they were in, they would only ever be 'okay' or 'passable' at best, and so their quality - or lack of - sticks out like a sore thumb in Phantasialand. I know not everything can be sorted out all at once and these are on the potential hit list, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable.
Temple of the Nighthawk
Jack and Matt seemed to adore this because of the new music it has. But I still found it awful and boring and just generally a waste of space. Again, it's another ride like the Chinese duo; it's lack of quality sticks out so badly within the park. And, unlike China, it feels slightly forgotten and neglected, almost as if the park are just waiting to axe it.
Perhaps a bit of an odd one, but one thing I noticed during our visit was that some of the operations weren't great. Not really talking about throughputs or getting through the queues here, moreso how they dealt with them generally. Queue times weren't that accurate (especially on the not-so-big rides) and queue boards weren't updating properly (the boards were advertising a 6pm close for a few hours when it was in fact an 8pm close, leaving some confusion). And when one of the Winjas coasters closed, they still allowed the queue to split, creating confusion in the queue and havoc in the station area. Something that should have been dealt with better, especially since the side that did close seemed to have a problem which didn't have a quick solution.
Not to leave this blog post on a negative note, let's talk about Klugheim. It's reason enough to make the effort to go to Phantasialand. Taron might not be everyone's cup of tea, and it might not break into everyone's Top 10, but I can see it being appreciated by almost all of the enthusiast community (and the general public as well). Raik is a solid family coaster, and Klugheim in general is a fantastic area to explore. Oh, and the staff uniforms for that area are just incredible.
Also, much to whole group's excitement, we got to (albeit briefly) speak to Chris, one of the park's managers who was seen in build up videos to Klugheim's opening. He was a super nice guy, and he let us queue up for front row on Taron at the end of the day, despite them closing the front row queue. Only wish we had more time to talk to him because he genuinely seemed so passionate and excited about the coaster when we saw him in the station area; very hands on too!
I really hope that despite my laziness in writing this up, and focusing a bit too much on the negatives, the absolute joy I had at Phantasialand is still shining through somehow. Yes, there's a couple of niggles and a few rides that are getting past their shelf life, but recent investments indicate that when they kick the bucket, something incredible will come in its place. I genuinely cannot wait to go back, and I really hope more and more people but Phantasia on their radar!
That's none of the above. But we're at Paultons! This bird is happy because of this.
Paultons is lovely
With some great landscapers!
And a volcano!
Want a really cool retheme of a section? Look no further!
Simple, yet great
And fun which is perfect for families
Themed staff area too
And a little aquarium type thing
Just really fun!
Rest of the park is standard. The modern entrance is still nice with a HUGE toy shop, gardens always lovely, main street type thing cool, peppa pig really popular etc.
And now this! 2 new coasters, a few new flats and a car ride plus loads of theming, animatronics etc.
This dinosaur has a hard skull, to protect his head getting damaged and ending up spending so much money on stuff when you can get a real bargain
Oh no, water effect!!!
I feel safe now!
Dinosaur meet and greet!!!!
Paultons is great. It's better than Chessington in my eyes, they invest wisely and are developing a lovely park! Dark ride and proper water ride please then we'll be good. Go Karts still look rubbish and are hardly used. The next thing though is going over by the back of Peppa Pig, next to the Meerkats. There are markings out there already, I've read it is going to be a small/medium ride, maybe a Peppa expansion (if they do then fair enough, they haven't done since it opened). Go visit is all I can say.
Next up, my annual coaster climb, this year, Colossus!
WARNING - This review has very STRONG spoilers
Choo Choo... No this isn't Runaway Mine Train, this is MY Ghost Train (Well actually it's Derren's, but I got to experience it last weekend).
Delayed for two months, a hype built higher than Kingda Ka and being the largest investment in Merlin HISTORY! I, of course, had low expectations.
I'll begin my review on the outside, we were greeted by a 90 minute queue in the baking heat, so I had lots of time to sink in the exterior, unfortunately, most of the poster theming had been destroyed by the guests'.
Apart from the huge red shed that Thorpe has proudly placed at the front of the area, the actual building itself is well themed and the music was loud, maybe a little too loud (is that possible?).
Apart from the AWFUL photo spots, the queue itself wasn’t that bad, the baggage room was well themed and the batching area kept the hype going… now it was time to go through to the pre-show.
The pre-show started, with the worlds lamest ‘jump scare’, Derren waffled on about fear (I did pay attention, honest!) and another lame jump scare, although I did appreciate the special effects, this pre show felt like it was actually him talking to me, not just a video.
We move onto the main room and I was taken aback, the train looked incredible and really looked like it was hanging! I have no idea how it’s done, the way the trains are hidden is actually the most mind bending thing about this attraction.
The VR headsets come on and the story begins, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... The scares begin and I was already screaming before the video started, the whole first VR section felt so realistic and I was immersed in what they was saying, I had the young man, old lady and old man so I got to experience a difference in the stories, my 3rd ride on DBGT 1st VR experience was the best VR I have ever experience, so crisp and clear.
So after my knees were attacked by Thorpe’s ride host, we moved into the second part of the attraction, after a lot of shouting and confusion, this huge train comes swinging towards us, the effect would work well if they had more smoke and less lights but I still jumped back in time.
Onto the second train and off we went, this time the story got confusing for me… why the explosions? Where’s Derren gone? Is Derren a member of the Green Party? But the demons did scare me, but the extremely long gas section made me loose interest and I could feel myself wanting to remove my headset, next thing I know, we’re falling to my second home, 5,4,3,2… an abrupt ending and back to reality.
We exit into the highly themed shop and I had experienced the ghost train.
- The physically train and underground theming.
- The first VR experience nearly made me fall off my seat
- The ride system works SO WELL.
- The whole ‘sub core’ story comes out of nowhere, it feels like they’re two different plot lines happening throughout the whole attraction, Derren Brown & Sub Core.
- Second VR section comes across very out there, making me confused to what was actually happening.
- Making me change my pants because it scared me THAT much.
The newest major UK theme park attraction, was certainly an experienced I’ve never had before, the plot line and lack of physically theming let it down for me, but it did what it was created for, to scare you.
I’m unsure how this will keep up in a few years’ time, the technology is far too underdeveloped for how much it gets used and was already straining when I visited, I have a strong opinion that VR is NOT the future of theme parks, but that’s a debate for another day.
With GeForce getting us on to a high it was in to the rest of the park to see what it had to offer, and it turned out there were a couple of other stand out bits.
First up was something else I had little expectation of having not done the type before and thinking they looked awkward and a bit cheap and nasty, Premier Rides Sky Rocket Sky Scream.
Again I was wrong and I loved it. The launch is fast and smooth, I think this was my first rolling launch and it's a fantastic feeling being given that boost backwards and forwards, and the coaster above a whole lot of fun. As the ride twists from inside to outside the track at the top it really whips you away from you seat but even with the slow inversion and tight maneuvers on the way down it's all very comfortable with the lap bar nice and snug.
A beautiful mess
The walk through (thankfully not 'queue' in our case - I imagine the throughput on here is its biggest downfall) before the ride is well done too, great theming. TopTip: The coaster feels very similar from the front to the back, in this case the view from the front probably makes a bit of an extra wait worthwhile. Real good fun, a solid coaster. Certainly wouldn't mind one of these making there way over here sometime soon. 8/10.
Then my favorite discovery of the whole trip that I'm sure won't be new to most here but it was to me. The perfect flat ride that is a Gerstlauer Sky Fly. It can be all things to all guests; while my wife was happy gently rocking away I could spin and spin like a mad thing, pulling what must be incredible sustained forces, in absolute comfort. I could spend the whole day on this. If I went all Michael Jackson with some rides in my back garden this would absolutely be top of my buy list.
It's in what will be a nice area, with a little balloon ride already open and a couple of other small round rides of some sort currently being built, all on a flight theme. This will be the star though, and was the only thing with a (still small) queue in the whole park. I got myself spinning nicely, probably strung about 20 together in one sustained spin, but when it starts to feel like it might be a bit much it's very easy to bring it under control give it a little break then flip it over and off you go again. TopTip: the front outside seat (2nd row) is the easiest to get spinning.
I'll be the upside-down one
Hours and hours of fun. The only limit to there being one in every park is the throughput. I wonder if it'd be possible to have one with seating all the way round before lifting and tilting? Anyway, this is now my favorite flat ride by a mile. 10/10
The a whole are which shouldn't have been for us, but is so well done we loved it. The kiddies area based on a bunch of characters I've never heard of was brilliant, not just the fabulous colourful and complete theming, but the rides themselves for kiddies fare are excellent. The ride ops didn't seem to mind that we were a couple of adults squeezing ourselves in and were quite happy laughing at us. As Benin might say, don't care, got creds.
Bouncing frog of crazy
Yes, I'm on a grasshopper. And what?
We ate in this area too, a burger restaurant in the middle of the land was good quality and value. A couple of other eateries we saw around the park appeared prety expensive in comparison. TopTip: all drinks bottles have a deposit added when you buy and given back when you return, this is standard across Germany. We didn't know this, and threw away a few Euros worth before a helpful staff member told us.
Flying high in the land of creds
All reminiscent of Peppa Pig land in what it is doing, but on a larger scale and with better rides. The drop tower and frog carousel (same ones as at Europa) are genuinely brilliant, so much fun, but there's loads of little rides and not a duff one between them. Certainly worth a visit if you are an adult on park and presuming this is recent shows the they really are going the right way with their theming efforts and general quality. 8/10
Once a day off peak, the WaterSki Stunt Show does its thing on the lake. As always with these things presenter faff to stunt ratio is way off, especially when that faff is incomprehensible to my English ears, but that said this was fun and it was pleasing to know that the Germans main opinion of the French is that they smell a bit. Maybe we're not so different after all.
Casually watersking with no skis
Some of the stunts really were spectacular though, and a bit of pyro is always nice, so we really enjoyed it. But it could have done with 15 minutes of presenter being lopped off its running time, and even that would still leave a lot of presenter. Bonus points for not giving the tiniest crap about health and safety (if I had stood up at one point I would have been kicked in the head by someone on a zip wire flying above me!), this sort of entertainment is what is most sorely missing from UK parks. Bring it back! 7/10
Aside from that there's a good solid support ride line up, couple of spiny rides running well, rapids and nicely themed flume both decent without setting the world on fire. A lighthouse tower that as far as I'm concerned can do one along with all the others ever made, pleasant little boat ride etc. A little museum on the parks history was interesting, although there was no English translations it appeared to show one old exhibit where you could come and look at the dwarfs, living in a little train! Times have changed. Even with the lack of dwarfs to look at these days there's still certainly enough to do to while away a whole day.
Standard boat-ride selfie
It's not perfect though. The whole right side of the park from SkyScream to the kids place feels really tired and in need of attention. The PhantomPhantasia-a-like ghost train is dire really, especially when ridden a few days apart from Europa's take on the same thing, and the carousel is horrible, really dilapidated and deeply coated in grime. Worthy of special mention, just up the path to Sky Scream in the most jarring extremes of quality is Hollys Wild Autofart or something. A particularly awful and out of place wild mouse. Horrible theming, rattly horrible ride. Looks so cheap compared to the more recent additions/re-themes and the quality of the park as a whole. 1/10 - burn it. These things only really stand out as the newer stuff really is very good.
Overall I was very impressed with Holiday Park as a whole, am glad I went and would certainly return. It was a short drive back to Speyer for an inevitable couple of beers before another early start the next day, off to the second park of the trip...
The first day proper began with a short easy drive to Holiday Park of about 15 minutes, Speyer really is an ideal base for a visit here. On a term time weekday with the Germans all tucked up behind their desks somewhere we were greeted with a practically empty park and some rather generous 09:00 - 18:00 opening hours.
Arriving a bit early we were let through to the little holding plaza where the two pathways into the main park were held with barriers, while some of the few people waiting played in the great dancing fountains. Looming over the entrance is the drop tower, but no-one cared; nearly everyone was crowded around one of the two pathways jostling with anticipation. A check of the map confirmed what I suspected - this was the pathway (TopTip, it's the left one, get to the front and just follow the path) to the main attraction, Expadition GeForce. We dutifully joined the mini scrum and at the stroke of 09:00 were on our way...
Big FM Expedition GeForce, to give it its full annoyingly sponsored title
Before we made our trip I had deliberately not spoilered myself too much with individual rides and, as much as possible while still wanting to plan effectively, whole parks. I didn't know much about Holiday Park or anything there, other than that GeForce existed and was consistently rated as one of the best coasters in the world. I didn't have the highest hopes for either to be honest; a couple of times it was said to not bother with Holiday Park at all and go elsewhere instead, and as for GeForce being one of the best I had seen it derided as massively overrated many many times. I'd also seen POV's of it and thought it looked pretty average too.
I was wrong. Everyone doing it down was wrong. If it is over hyped and overrated it is by the tiniest of margins; it really is one of the best. The first drop is great, but it is really only the means to gather the momentum for the ejector chaos which is to follow. The second hill crest is one of the best moments on any coaster anywhere, the attempt it makes to fling you from under your little lap bar is extreme and sustained like nothing else, followed by a couple more similar but less violent and more sustained peaks. Every moment of it is fast and fun; the right to left on peak transition change halfway through whips you through spectacularly, the bunny hops to the finish are taken at a perfect floaty speed. As is nearly always the case, back is best. TopTip: The front row queue line is actually for the front two rows, and when you get up there everyone wants to ride the actual front row, obviously, so the wait for that is even longer than it looks. This even held quite a queue when the rest of the ride/park was walk on. Just don't bother, why wait longer for less good?
Joy (sweaty man in red, if you weren't sure)
It's safe to say I rather enjoyed it, and with it being walk on even on single train operation I whored the hell out of the back rows towards the end of the day. Lost count of rides, easily in the double figures and I left the park with some pretty heavy thigh bruising, but it was well worth it. First coaster of the holiday and it's unexpectedly straight in the top 10, put me in rather a good mood for the rest of the park and the rest of the trip.
My lack of having visited Europa had been hanging over me for far too long, so it was decided Germany had to happen. Not wanting to go all that way without seeing any of the country or other nearby parks, a plan was made to add Holiday Park, Tripsdrill and a mountain coaster to the week long trip. A plan which was made largely guided by trip reports and advice from the lovely members here and on TowersStreet, so thank you all, and I’ll try and include some bits which might help other thinking of doing similar.
With Stanstead to Baden-Baden flights booked at the stupidly cheap Ryanair price of £32 return, a car hired for the very reasonable £150 from Europcar, and accommodation booked for each night, myself and the Mrs headed off on our little adventure to southern Germany…
Firstly, I was really impressed with Ryanair. We'd never used them before, just out of circumstance not snobbery, but I probably preferred it over Easyjet for general ease of travelling with them. Shame about the nauseating iluminous yellow headrests inescapably glowing in your eyes. Europcar were also very good; the internet is full of people claiming to have been ripped off by them (and practically every car hire company it seems) with hidden charges and claims of phantom damage being charged, but all went smoothly for me with the invoice following me home for exactly the amount I was expecting. Top Tip: buy excess insurance in the UK for about £20, don't take the excess waiver policies that do exactly the same for 10 times that amount with the hire company.
The beast. (That's the car, not me)
And so with the mighty 1.1 purring with anticipation at my toes, it was to the Autobahn to try not to get killed. I found driving in Germany a pleasure in general; the roads are very well maintained, clearly signposted for directions and far less crowded than here in the UK. Everyone knows how to drive on multiple carriage way roads (ie, if you are not overtaking something, get the hell out of the way) so it all works rather well. Some things to look out for include:
- the lack of speed limit signage (you'll often get one as the limit changes, but there are no 'repeaters' as we have here, so you have to notice and remember)
- speed cameras are grey and hidden to catch you rather than warn you
- on autobahns you really have to watch the speed of those coming up behind when you look to move out for an overtake. It's easy to glance in your mirror at a small speck, go to pull out and notice it's already up with you doing 200mph, when we are used to everything doing roughly similar speeds.
- on smaller roads merging traffic often has right of way over what appears to be the main carriageway, but not always, and confusingly there aren't always any road markings (which I could decipher) to warn you which way round it is. Everyone else seemed to know what was going on, but not me. Only one near miss but be cautions!
- when roads are closed, that's your problem. No diversion signs!
TopTip: this might be obvious, but I hadn't thought about it, your phone needs data for satnav, so buy a roaming package before you leave rather than having German Virgin Mobile faff like I did.
This paper saved my life a few times. So simple but effective.
We headed off to our first destination of Speyer, about an hours easy drive from the airport for a place giving relatively easy access to both Holiday Park and Tripsdrill. Arriving in the early evening there was no hint of a rush hour on the roads despite us driving through the peak time. We stayed at Hotel Am Wartturm which was very nice and good value, close to the motorway exit so avoid any driving though town stress and about 20 minutes stroll though a strangely beautiful graveyard. We slung the bags in the room and took that stroll to what is one of the most important moments of any trip...
...the first beer
Speyer is a beautiful place. Like everywhere in Germany it seems immaculately kept, with beautiful architecture and a relaxed but busy vibe with bars and eateries lining the streets, all seeming to be good quality, with people out drinking and being happy without anyone ever being rowdy. If you tried the same set up on the streets of the UK it would be carnage. We took in a few bars and a restaurants for a lovely evening, but didn't want to go crazy and spoil the theme park fun that was to come with a hangover.
Cultured cathedral shadow drinking
Although we were there for two nights and had a good look round (the bars, primarily!) both evenings, I wish we had allowed ourselves more time to spend in the town itself, spend some time there during the day. I've heard good things about the Technik Musium there too, one for next time.
So nice and sensibly early to bed ready for the excitement of the next morning, when this supposed theme park trip report might actually make it to a theme park...
I don't think I need to tell you how much I love Chessington.
We must be in double figures for visits this year by now and no plans of stopping yet.
Today was a fantastic day at my beloved, with no closed rides, only one breakdown (and a delay on Dragon's Fury while we were on that wasn't a breakdown), two fantastic rides on the bigger coasters, however the sad news that Bubbleworks would be closing in September.
First things first I went on Dragons Fury via Single Rider queue, the weight in the car was unbalanced and span loads, it was brilliant. So brilliant that it turned Dragon's Fury into my favourite ride for about an hour. I actually came off shaking with adrenaline for the first time since my first ride on it.
Next we got the ride access pass and headed to Trail of the Kings and Hocus Pocus Hall. I personally didn't go in (my mum said I wouldn't have liked it in there anyway) instead sitting outside checking the forums and listening to "Hocusssss Pocussssssss!" Over and over again coming from the exit, which was annoying. Then we headed for lunch at Pizza Pasta, where I didnt eat much for once. Over lunch we made the plan for Tomb Blaster, Dragon Falls, Bubbleworks and Vampire.
Now, Tomb Blaster was... interesting. A few effects I didn't know about were working including some jumpscares (I don't think they were intentional... but scared the living daylight out of me) and all the audio was a bit louder. By the end of my ride me and my sister where nearly fearing for our lives. Fair to say Bubbleworks was interesting too (get on to that in a minute). Can't remember the exact scores but my sister came first (embarrassing, especially as I got a heavy lead at the start) I came second and mum came miles behind. So yeah, my heart was... faster than usual.
Then we went on Dragon Falls which was normal. Thankfully no phones lost this time. We took a (not so short) detour because my sister wanted to ride Toadies, which I haven't been on for a year or two and it just worsens each year. The (possibly new) on board soundtrack was quite nice if a little annoying. Now, Bubbleworks. It's almost as if it's throwing a tantrum because it doesn't want to go. Broke down loads over the last few days being one of the only rides to do so today. It also really creaked at the start, and unless they have added a new sound effect creaked at the lift hill too, which scared me after the Tomb Blaster experience (I was a bit jumpy).
Now, onto Vampire. If you've read any one of my posts this season you'll know how much I adore this wonderful piece of machinery. After riding it on the fourth row, however, I began to lean towards Dragons Fury and after my first ride today Fury had well overtaken Vampy. This ride was set to undo that. Back left, seemed alot faster, alot more airtime on the second drop (my favourite part of Vampire), and apart from the usual jolts near the second lift hill and going into/inside the tunnel it was actually really smooth. I didn't hit my head once even if I hurt my shoulders somehow (think it was the way I pressed them up against the restraints, it went away as soon as I came off). Perfect and was enough to put it back on top again. After this we headed to Scorpion Express, YooHoo to pass the time before we could go on Rattlesnake via RAP, then Rattlesnake which my sister is somehow still not tall enough to ride! Loading was weird as they wouldn't put anyone on the back row unless they were in a group of 3 or 4. Overall it was normal. After this we headed to Dragon's Fury again, this time with mum, where the weight was unbalanced again meaning a great ride (we span loads on the bunny hop). We got stuck in the station for about 5 minutes, believe somebody wet themself...
After this came Griffins Galleon which has been reverted to its old soundtrack, then Black Bucaneer, my first ride on. Mum wouldn't come on with me so I queued. It was nearly walk on (got on the next ride) despite the board saying it was 45 minutes. I needed to join someone elses row so a nice family let me sit with them, they spoke to me (as did the woman on Dragons Fury the first time) asking if Id been on before and if I was scared. I was scared but loved it by the end and I'm dragging my dad on with me next time.
Overall a brilliant day.
MY RIDE COUNT
Dragon's Fury x2
Toadie's Crazy Cars
+Hocus Pocus Hall (just without me)
Dragon's Fury Keyring (for me)
New Yellow Map Pen (for me)
Millions Tube (does that even count?) (for sister)
Next blog post will be tommorow at Cadbury World, then on Sunday at Gulliver's, then Alton Towers Monday, again Friday, the July round up thing on the 30th and probably LL Discovery Centre/Trafford Centre inbetween.
Fellow mortals. If you are reading this, it means I have literally just returned from a preposterous trek within the vicinity of the most dangerous place on Earth...Skull Island.
...but of course for the most technically-minded (and gullible) of readers, this is only my report from my recent trip to Orlando.
No sooner than I arrived had I had an unexpected encounter with a mysterious creature. One of Skull Island's deadly inhabitants?
Anyway, the call to adventure was nigh. But in order to get to Skull Island I had other adventures to attend to...
...such as requesting some backup at Skull Island from a childhood superhero (but in all seriousness, The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman is quite spectacular).
...until finally...I FOUND IT! I knew I had struck gold and now it BECKONED me!
...Kong himself in particular
No other soul had DARED venture into this unforgiving realm...hence this very conveniently placed sign.
In case you haven't already guessed, Skull Island is HUGE!
Almost as huge as this rather innocent looking castle next door.
I heard Kong can fight a pack of dinosaurs. Does this include dragons???
Anyway, to cap this all off, here's my review on Skull Island: Reign of Kong
...This gets a 9/10 from me. Spectacular ride experience, incredible amounts of detail along with a pretty decent queueing experience. Definitely worth the queue time.
But that's not all! I leave you with my total ride count.
Islands of Adventure:
The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman: x5
Dr Doom's Fear Fall: x2
Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls: x1
Jurassic Park River Adventure: x3
Forbidden Journey: x4
Flight of the Hippogriff: x1
Dragon Challenge: x2 (Chinese Fireball: x1, Hungarian Horntail: x1)
Hogwarts Express: x1
Poseidon's Fury: x1
Skull Island: Reign of Kong: x2
Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit: x2
Revenge of The Mummy: x2
Transformers: The Ride: x2
The Simpsons Ride: x2
Men in Black: Alien Attack: x1
Escape from Gringotts: x2
As we know, Walibi Belgium and Holland got new Mack's this year. Both new types of Mack's.
This is what Belgium asked for.
It's really grand.
Has a spectacular splash
It's really cool
And there's a cool turntable to improve throughputs and just be cool! Queue was cool too!
So that's what Walibi get when they ask for a ride (and Mack are the company that choose to do it).
Don't know what you want? Then roll up, today is your lucky day as Mack now offers mystery box rides! They'll tease the park over snapchat what they're building and just not think one bit. So what did Holland get from their mystery box?
A loss of gravity. Seems like a great deal.
Mack had some spare yellow and black track pieces floating in their yard and hoped it would all fit together
And even though some of it doesn't look like it should fit together
It all does
Woosh. Now, because Walibi didn't know what they were getting, when they built the exit paths they had to slant these arches, or Mack told them it was necessary. Mystery box fun!
They also had some shipping containers that were cluttering the yard
And a broken set of these
And the cars are too wide for the track. Mystery box risks you see
Fancy a Mack Mystery Box for your park? Then send a ? and your budget to [email protected]
Beware, they may cause you to drink in hope it'll ease the mind confuddling caused.
Next week we'll go see some cobras, dinosaurs and critters
Phantasialand is a stunning park. Up there was one of my favourites, and definitely my favourite non Disney/Uni park.
Look at the stunningness. Everything is just so well done. Immersion is great. Rides are fab. Like Maus Au Chocolat. It just has so much magic going for it! Midway Mania sounds tacky compared to this. The fun house down Berlin street is odd for a theme park but great.
Destroyed Josh on our second go as well
It's a beautiful park.
And the most well known top spin lives here.
And a solid, well themed B&M. Mamba is an odd case. In the morning near the front it was lame. In the afternoon after some rain at the back it was top 10 contender. But it lacks consistency soooo much! For more park photos see last years report as nothing has changed. Winjas is still awesome. Nighthawk now has music, Hollywood boat tour still looks like it could have the scenery collapse at any moment. Wakabato was just avoided. Still don't get Mystery Castle, had an even shorter cycle this year! River Quest is hilarious. Mad house is an odd theme.
The area looks great!
Intimidating yet deceiving as it's almost on level with the path.
Looks like a village in a rocky mountain with a coaster.
Watching the coaster fly all around you in the area is great
And Raik which is so much fun with a brill station.
This second launch makes one of the coolest sounds I've heard from a ride ever
It winds all over the place.
WIth a love of design, engineering and sheer immersion it was great to meander about.
But that's it really.
The queue moves fast and has a geeky view of the transfer track.
But what about the ride?
Well, Jack Josh and Matt knew when we came off first time it hadn't wowed me. I wasn't really joyous by what I just rode, I was quite mellow. I mean, there was nothing wrong with it. At all. Just, nothing made me go OMG. I love the dive into the second launch and up past the waterfall. That's the only thing that still sticks in my head. It felt like there were lots of lul moments, then crazy, then lul. But I don't feel it flowed in the right order to make a stunning ride. It's not a top 10 for me. Probably not a top 20. But that doesn't mean it's bad. It is a good fun ride, has created a hugely themed area secluded from the park. It is spectacular to watch, wander the little village with Taron roaring overhead. But the ride isn't standout in my eyes. For the next level of theming yes, as a ride, no. It is a solid ride that will do well against time. It won't be a fad. As long as it doesn't get Intamin rough, it'll always be a good ride. It also got me thinking though, why does every new ride these days have to seemingly be a top 10 ride or the next best thing. What's wrong with just building a good solid coaster that no one will dislike. I guess you could see it as Inferno in a way. Nothing special, but a ride that is always liked, pretty popular and serves the park extremely well. So yeah, Taron. Good.
Now Chiapas however is special.
A gorgeous ride
Now with it's weird issues sorted so you can sit properly.
But a fun theme! Great music throughout, lighthearted nature, doesn't soak you so is always enjoyable. Definitely my favourite flume type ride, sorry Dudley's.
Intamin will sell lots of these once they're confident it won't have multiple issues again. And Taron too, I'm sure they'll sell more launchers now with the new trains.
Go to Phantasialand! 9/10 park at least.
In more serious news.
If anyone spots Josh, please inform Phantasialand. He is currently trying to rip of the Chiapas rave room somewhere in Monchengladbach. That way he'll get banned
Walibi Holland was the only new-for-me park of the trip, and there were two obvious draws for visiting: the new Mack coaster Lost Gravity, and Goliath, the Intamin mega coaster. We seemed to get lucky with our visit, as the park was very quiet, and we didn't queue over 15 minutes for anything if memory serves me correctly. Overall impressions of the park are quite mixed for me; there's some great attractions around the park (and of higher quality to Walibi Belgium's offerings), but there's still a fair amount of trash about that makes it difficult to praise the overall park too much. Anyways...
Xpress: Platform 13
Located by the main entrance to the park, but before the 'containment gates' into the main bulk of the park, this opened up at least 15 minutes before the park opened. And my god, this was a massive gem, probably the biggest surprise of the whole trip. The coaster itself is almost a clone of Rock n Roller Coaster (I haven't done RnRC myself, but that'll not doubt give some indication to the quality of the coaster to those who have done it). But the reason for this standing out so much was because of the atmosphere in the queue line. Themed around a mystery train disappearance, the queue line feels exactly like an abandoned train station, and features plenty of scares, a creepy atmosphere, surprises and excellently themed sets along the way. Dare I say, the queue line is a better scare attraction than many scare mazes that the UK theme parks produce at Halloween!
An unassuming entrance
With surprise opening out of the way, we headed over the Lost Gravity, which opened shortly after the 10am opening. Words cannot really describe this ride. Whoever designed this must have been high on a cocktail of drugs, but they've managed to create a ride which chucks together loads of random, somewhat incoherent, ideas, and makes it work for a fun ride. The queue is weird and features a couple of wtf moments, the theming is odd, the effects make no sense (including the huge flamethrower effect which makes even the staff jump as there's no rhythm to it going off). The ride itself - first drop is fab, airtime hills are fab. The top hat thing is weird. The second half of the ride is really slow and killed by the MCBR, but at the same time, is still alright. I definitely think the outer-left seat is going to give the best ride experience.
All in all, this attraction makes no sense at all, but is still a fun little thing. It's nothing *special*, but definitely a great concept, and hopefully more parks invest in Mack BigDippers in the future...
The top hat looks very square from this perspective...
Escalator theming the queue because...reasons?
The main thing I remember about Goliath is how painfully obvious this was a ride from the Six Flags era. No theming, awful-looking queue, no audio in the surrounding around, unimaginative name, awkward location. That's not to say it was a bad ride, but I guess because I always look for a more overall experience than *just* a coaster, the lack of overall experience will stand out to me. The coaster is pretty fun, offering nice moments of airtime and intensity, and has a decent-ish layout on the whole. We had a ride on it in the hail, which was both painful and awesome in equal measure. We ended up riding this a few times during the day, so I guess that shows how loved it was by the group as a whole, but it's just a shame there wasn't more to go with it!
From here, the park goes a bit downhill. Robin Hood, the park's Vekoma woodie, is alright, and has a bit more airtime than it's sister Werewolf, and is good in its own right, but failed to leave much of a lasting impression on me. Speed of Sound, a Vekoma Boomerang, is one of the better Boomerangs I've done in fairness, but the transition between the cobra roll and vertical loop is rather unpleasant. The soundtrack is annoyingly catchy though. Coaster-wise, we also did kiddie coaster Drako, which wasn't terrible.
The final coaster we did at the park was El Condor, a Vekoma SLC. I heard bad things about it, so wasn't exactly looking forward to it. But dear oh dear, this was dreadful. The OTSR actually squished my ears due to the lack of room they provided. The ride was rough, rattly and in general just uncomfortable and awful. And this was in the front row too! Honestly, I cannot think of a worst (notably) coaster I've done. One can only hope this is on the chopping block for the park (hopefully for their 2019 coaster...)
This is not BaronC. approved.
Outside of the coasters, there's little of note really. Merlin's Magic Castle was a largely forgettable Vekoma madhouse, though did feature a nice bit of misdirection in the main ride show. Their rapids and log flume were fun and featured some quirky signs (though are clearly nothing to write home about as I've forgotten their names, and I'm too lazy to look them up...). And aside from a couple of smaller rides, there's not really much else on park.
I'm probably selling the park a little short here, but time constraints, laziness and a general mediocre reaction to the park isn't really encouraging me to go much further. It's evident that the park's recent investments have been very good for the park though, which is only a positive sign. The lack of indoor rides was something that really stood out to me (especially given the pouring rain!), but hopefully next season's 'thrilling dark ride' will help with that.
One final point - the park's direction. Walibi have made is obvious that they want Walibi Holland to be a thrill park, focusing on teenagers and young adults. They pretty much said as much when they closed down their 4D cinema for next year's apparent new attraction. And, much like Thorpe at the beginning of the decade, they've tailored their marketing and general park atmosphere to that market. From "#HardGaan" ('#GoFast') plastered all across the park and live DJs playing music across the park (with many songs featuring plenty of swears), they know what they think this market wants. Oh, and there's this charming t-shirt, which many staff wear, and is also on sale...
Subtly, not Walibi Holland's strong point.
I'm by no means a prude or anything, but this whole style seems very theme park unfriendly. And it's nowhere near as clever, subtle or humorous as some of the stuff Thorpe did during their fathead phase (the 2011 fireworks event 'Thorpe Park BLOWS IT UP / BLOW S#!T UP' advertising was something which I genuinely found amusing and clever, and still brings a smile to my face thinking about it). Part of me hopes it works for them, as I think turning Walibi Holland into a thrill-focused park would be great, as they have plenty of opportunities (much more so than Belgium and Rhone-Alpes) and a firm foundation already. But at the same time, we've seen plenty of parks try this strategy, before realising alienating families is never a good thing. So who knows.
Anyways, enough rambling. Platform 13, Lost Gravity and Goliath were all fab coasters in their own right, but everything else is a bit drab. Hopefully we can see more fabness in the future.
Next time - Germany, and Phantasialand of awesome-ness...
This past week, I hit up a few European parks in search of some new creds, and to go back to some places I enjoyed last year. Just thought I'd throw in a few thoughts from my visits...
Plopsaland de Panne
Went here last year, and had a lot of fun. With Heidi originally planned to open July 1st, we decided to return for some wooden coaster goodness. Alas, it wasn't meant to be as Heidi Spiti is too loud at the moment, and sound barriers are still being constructed.
Looks like a fab little coaster, and I'm sure when it opens - and is fully themed - it will be a great addition to the park!
Also new since my last visit was the gigantic castle housing a restaurant a teacups:
For what it houses, it's pretty insane. The level of detail and the sheer scale of this is completely unnecessary for a restaurant and teacups. Hopefully this is a good sign of things to come in the future from the park, but one can't help but wonder if the investment would have been better placed elsewhere in the park.
I had hoped to try out a few more attractions we missed out on last due to closures (namely their starflyer, Disko and The Bat; their random suspended coasters). Unfortunately, both the starflyer and Bat were closed, despite being listed as open on the park's website. A bit disappointing, but nothing major. Their disko was open though and has a nice, lengthy cycle, and is nicely themed.
The true highlight of Plopsaland though is Anubis:
This Gerstlauer rolling launch had a lot to live up to after I ranked it so well last time. Fortunately it still delivered. The exit from the launch is a bit rougher than I remember, but otherwise this is a solid coaster, with a very punchy launch, pops of airtime and a nice bit of intensity blended it a brilliant 'older family' coaster.
Actually, I don't have much else to add (for longer review, see my trip last year: http://forum.maniahub.com/blogs/entry/693-belgerand-day-1-plopsaland-de-panne/
Walibi Belgium was a weird one last year. We visited on a very busy day (thanks school trips!) and arrived over an hour late to the park (thanks Brussels traffic!). We managed to get most things done, but it was all a bit of a rush. It wasn't a park I was dying to go back to, but it fit in nicely in the trip as a last day, was a chance to get the Boomerang cred I missed out, and also do their weird-looking new coaster, Pulsar.
Speaking of Pulsar, that's where I'll start. For those who don't know, it's a shuttle coaster featuring 3 launches (2 backwards, 1 forwards) gradually increasing to 62mph and a small airtime hill. On, and one Tidal Wave sized splash. It's one of those coasters where all sensible thought said it'd be naff, but I just felt like it could be great fun. And you know what? It's fun. The launches are both fun and a little bit punchy (and great with lap bars), the airtime is alright, and the splash gets you wet. How wet does depend on where you sit - the back leaves you rather soaked, the sides wet and the inside sprayed. Front row was blocked off due to loads of water spilling into those seats during the ride - hopefully that's an issue Mack can correct soon!
Geeky techy specs were about too
The turntable system for loading (meaning the coaster has 2 cars) is really clever, and it means that one car is ready to go before the other has even finished. No doubt this is thanks to Mack's brilliant engineering and clever way of locking and checking restraints. This meant the queue was really quick moving and it must get a really good throughput (I believe they're aiming for 800ish and I can see them reaching that easily!). The turntable was the cause of a couple of breakdowns during the day, but I imagine these issues will be ironed out with time.
The combination of the ride experience, theming, slight story and music means that Walibi are onto a real winner with this attraction. It feels different enough to their other shuttle coasters, and is a great family attraction. Hopefully we see more of these pop up across the world!
Another cred for the list was Cobra, a Vekoma boomerang:
It was rough, awkwardly intense and just not a fun ride. So glad I didn't waste 20 minutes of my life queueing for it last year.
I won't really bore you with the rest of my trip. The park was very quiet (longest we queued for anything was about 10 minutes for Psyke Underground), so we managed to get everything done, and some rerides of some stuff. My opinions haven't changed much from last year (see here - http://forum.maniahub.com/blogs/entry/699-belgerand-day-3-walibi-beglium/ ). Would like to add that I still enjoyed Werewolf, despite now having done other woodies, though naturally not as much as my first ride.
Something I'd just like to throw out there was the atmosphere of the park. With generic chart music everywhere (except Pulsar pretty much), a few rowdy guests who seemingly would never follow instructions (people standing up on their extremely rapid rapids rather dangerously) and the like, the atmosphere felt a bit dull and meh. A bit of a shame, especially since last year's visit was overall much nicer despite the large crowds.
I feel as though I've properly 'done' Walibi Belgium now. With Pulsar, Psyke and Werewolf, they've got 3 coasters I enjoy, and the likes of drop tower Dalton Terror and madhouse La Palais du Genie are fun rides, but there's just not enough to entice me back any time soon. Not a bad thing of course, it's a nice enough park, just nothing all that special.
Next time, a new-for-me park: Walibi Holland, featuring Lost Gravity and Goliath...
Taron looks like burnt spaghetti.
Taron, the biggest part of Phantasialand's newest development; Klugheim is one of the better coasters I've been on.
The parks biggest and baddest ride has little mercy, and throws you around the majority of the track relentlessly, curving and hopping in ways previously unmatched in steel tracks, comparable to renowned wooden coasters.
The ride is a very generous length, and meanders its way underneath, around, and above the gloriously themed village of Klugheim, which I wouldn't hesitate to call the most immersive themed area I have ever been in.
The detail is uncanny.
The ride is one of the most reridable attractions I have ever experienced.
It's refreshing to ride something that doesn't have any stand out elements. Yes, the track goes over itself loads, but it doesn't have the tallest drop, the most inversions, or groundbreaking technology. Its just a very fun ride, and an engineering master piece.
This isn't my favourite coaster. I'm not going to ride the hyper train here, but it's worth mentioning that the elements this ride features are astounding.
The lap bar is comfy, the lack of fans on the side of the seat give you a lot of freedom, and these mixed with some of the elements the ride throws at you create insane air time, powerful launches, and unique throw out elements that completely ace the likes of blue fire, and many wooden coasters.
This ride won't fade with time. All these record breakers with silly USPs fade. this won't. This is an amazing ride, with superb surroundings and elements that I'm already dying to ride again.
On the 1st July 2016, Derren Brown's Ghost Train officially opened to the public for technical rehearsals and I was one of the lucky few to be able to experience it before it's official opening. What follows is an extremely long review and walkthrough of the attraction which will be summarised by bullet points in addition to long paragraphs to make it easier to read.
(I uploaded a previous review yesterday regarding the experience which some of you may have read. I deleted it because after reading it back, I thought I could re-write it a lot better so this is more of an updated review than a new one.)
PLEASE NOTE: There will be some spoilers ahead in this review with detailed explanations of what happens, so unless you would like to know what happens, please don't read ahead. I didn't need to sign an NDA or form when I rode this 3 times.
So to begin the review, I'll start with the exterior and queue-line:
1) Queue-line and exterior
The queue itself has two photo booths which you pass through before you begin your experience. The first one involves you looking through a glass window and focusing your eyes upon a red dot on a TV monitor screen which displays certain images related to the theme of the ghost train. During this stage, the dot moves up until it turns green telling you the picture is taken. You are given a "one way ticket" with a barcode which you must scan on the reader in both photo booths in order to get both types go photo at the end.
About 20 minutes down the queue later, you approach the second photo booth and there are signs giving the symptoms of an infected person such as white, bloodshot or dilated pupils which all relates to the vague fracking theme of the attraction. In this booth, using the tickets you were given earlier, you then individually place your heads onto these stands and look straight into a screen to align your eyes with the camera. Once it's aligned, 3 cameras (one at the front and two on each side) scan your head using LED's to light your face up from all angles which I presume is for a 3D rendered head in a jar souvenir you can buy at the end of the ride, as well as a regular additional on-ride photo with your head in a green jar. After you've been "disinfected", you proceed to the last section of the queue which is roughly another 20-30 minute wait if the line is full.
As for the queue speakers, the audio kept on cutting in and out constantly on an average time of 15 seconds and it happened all day through all the speakers. Not sure why this was happening but I can only guess it's a glitch with the audio system in the queue as they were testing the exterior audio all morning it seemed. Sure it will be fixed very soon, but the audio itself really did build up tension whilst waiting in the queue!
Lastly, you are then grouped together with about 55-60 other people outside the baggage booth. Here, you just simply wait outside whilst dropping off your bags until the green curtain slides back and you are then welcomed inside the building. Unlike the other indoor mazes which involve a staff member telling you all the safety instructions before you go inside, this didn't happen. Derren himself tells you this inside the building which leads to the next part of the experience.
After passing through the green curtain, you enter this very dark room which has a stand for you step up onto and you look upon a scene which involves a vacant empty chair under a spotlight, and a black chalkboard behind. Above you are a series of about 10-12 differently styled light bulbs all lit up dimly, all with an old-fashioned look and feel to them all. Above the scene in front of you are two projectors displaying text on the walls which are used for directional purposes to lead the audience in and out of the room before and after the show has finished.
When the show begins, Derren appears in front sitting in the chair and he discusses about what the meaning of fear is, how it links to enjoyment and what awaits ahead inside the Ghost Train. Amongst his speech, he subtly goes through the safety and recommendations for those who might find it a bit too much to handle. Before long, he finishes with "I'll see you on the other side" before disappearing from the room promoting you to proceed to the next star of your journey.
I found this pre-show very entertaining to watch as it was very well executed and convincing for the audience, plus it built up more tension for the other guests I noticed! So for the pre-show, great intro and build-up for what's to come!
3) The Ghost Train (Part 1)
As you leave the pre-show room, you are led up a few stairs round the back of the building and you then enter the warehouse with the victorian train carriage suspended by chains in the air. From first impressions, the carriage is a lot larger and longer in length than I was expecting and the platform you walk along is quite high up. Whilst you wait in the warehouse on the suspended platform for the next train, you can hear various sound effects coming from all angles inside the warehouse, such as bats flying above you, screams from the ghost train, and the sound of trains moving along the rails below the suspended carriage. I must admit, the sounds coming underneath the carriage on the gravel floor sounded identical to the real London Underground trains when they move along the rails so it was a very realistic sound effect also coupled with an echo effect just to make it more realistic.
Before long, the carriage doors open and the previous guests from the train carriage leave the platform and exit through another door whilst your group proceeds to board the train through the other set of doors. The train conductor and actors are there shouting "All aboard!" dressed in uniform and directing you inside the carriage. Once inside however, the atmosphere changes entirely. Gone is the dark, old-fashioned sound and feel to the red carriage you just boarded and instead, you are greeted by two London Underground staff instead inside a perfectly identical replica of a London Underground train (more specifically the ones used on the Northern and Jubilee lines). The detail inside is so close to the real ones that I begin to wonder if the creative team had the designers from the real tube train involved with this project. There isn't a seating arrangement or plan once inside, you just take any seat you can find and get your headsets ready.
TIP - even though there were a couple of headsets that weren't working, make sure the headset you put on has a green LED light lit up and NOT a red one, otherwise the content won't work. They don't make this obvious but please bear that in mind when you board.
It also became obvious why the number of seats recently went from 60 to 58. In each carriage(s) , two seats next to each other were stripped back room for wheelchair users, so there's no need for disabled passengers to leave their wheelchair, which also helps with the throughput.
TIP - when you put on your headset, the best and more comfortable way of doing it is to place in on the top of your head then before you place the goggles over your eyes, pull down the two speakers for the headphones instead. They are ergonomically shaped to fit your ears so you'll know if they are fitted on correctly. Once they're set, just pull down the headset and adjust the tightness of the headset with the velcro straps just like Galactica. Even though my vision was fine all 3 tries, I couldn't work out how to focus the image through a mechanical dial like Galactica has. Maybe I'm being stupid and missing it, but I couldn't feel or see anywhere to adjust it. Not that I needed to, but maybe someone else will.
I won't go into too much detail about what happens inside, but rest assured, there's a lot more to this ride than you would be lead to expect and it certainly makes the experience very thrilling and engaging. The first half is by far the best part of the entire experience!
On e this section is over and you've got off the train (as it does physically move into another section of the building) the next part of the journey begins.
4) The Evacuation
As the underground staff guide you out of the train, they lead you through to a room which stinks of this gas they mentioned telling you to cover your mouths. Once you've evacuated the station, you find yourselves inside the underground tunnels itself with various other underground trains parked stationary. There is also a giant leaking pipe which the construction workers inside are trying to fix. The whole feeling and atmosphere here made me quite nervous as it was very loud with the noises of train passing through the tunnels and the stench coming from the gas leak.
Here as a group, various effects happen which include of a moving train, shadow, light and sound effects and acting from the underground staff. Again, I won't say much here, but it certainly surprised me the first time!
I must say, some of the effects used in this section really had me for a few moments. This coupled with the smells and nosies really made this section a thrilling yet mildly scary section of the experience.
5) The Ghost Train (Part 2)
As before, you take your seats in the underground carriage with the VR headsets on (don't forget to find one with a green LED light on it) and the final section of the experience continues here. The underground train through the headset is empty again and the train moves virtually and physically again for a quick moment here. Then, out of nowhere, one of the creatures rips apart the entire side of the carriage you are sat in and you can see outside a street in London with lots of cars and vehicles congested and abandoned whilst your carriage is held upon a bridge.
What happens next is rather not say but it does involve more visual effects with the headsets as well as more physical movement from the train carriage, including a brief sensation of falling.
After this, the ride experience is over and you exit the carriage from where you started through the victorian carriage, you are then lead down some stairs to the baggage hold area and finally through the ride's shop.
Now, I'd like to quickly talk about the VR headsets as that had quite an important role in this experience.
6) VR Quality
Compared to Galactica's headsets, I can assure you that these ones used on Ghost Train are of far higher quality for the following reasons:
• Everything was much higher definition with more pixels and a wider viewing angle.
• Unlike Galactica, the VR content was a smooth 60fps film from start to finish making the quality much nicer.
• The headsets I find are much more comfy to wear and the speakers are louder than that of Galactica's.
• The headsets used two images for each eye but at slightly different perspectives. What this resulted in was all of the content being rendered in 3D making the experience even more immersive.
Overall, I would say that this is a solid investment for Thorpe and it certainly delivered in many areas I was hoping it would, some of which exceeded my expectations. The VR quality was great, the build-up worked effectively, the theming is some of the best we've seen yet at any theme park in the UK and it thrilled me with fear and excitement which is what the ride is designed to do.
The best thing about the experience is how all of the technology, mechanics, engineering and theatrical elements all bind together to create this very unique experience. If Thorpe can keep them all in sync together as it currently is and enhance the experience a little more with some slight alterations, this can in my opinion be one of the best ride experiences out there currently that I know of.
However, due to the fact it was a technical preview, there were a few bugs I experience the 2nd and 3rd time I rode it. At one point, the headset I wore in the final section forgot which direction I was looking and very quickly zoomed to the left, and the other bug was when I looked to far down the carriage on the left the 2nd go, the graphics seemed to shake and wobble slightly. But thankfully, for both of these glitches, they automatically fixed themselves both in less than a second after I noticed them, so the system involved detected the glitch and fixed them almost immediately.
Another little disappointment I had was the entire experience wasn't as scary as I was expecting it to be. Don't get me wrong, it still made me pretty nervous in some areas, but not terrifyingly so. Mind you, a lot of the other guests seemed pretty scared as a lot of them were screaming inside the carriage, so it might just be me being used to scares delivered at theme parks probably.
So even though there were a couple of downs, the rest of the experience was superb in my opinion and I will happily give it a high recommendation to any park guest to try and do. Bear in mind it was a rehearsal, so it wasn't 100% delivering, but as it stood when I rode it, it's fantastic and is in the top 3 rides for me at the park now.
Derren Brown's Ghost Train - 8/10
To finish, below are a series of images taken from the day in addition to the on-ride photos you get which are both included in the DigiPass. Enjoy!
Also, if you would like to ask me any questions about the experience, please feel free to ask.
It isn't always the rides that I get excited about when visiting theme parks, or the shows, or even the setting. Sometimes it's the food and dining experiences too.
When Towers announced they would be opening a Food Loop style restaurant for 2016, I got ridiculously excited. A lot more excited about this than Galactica and I don't think I have ever been excited for something as much as this in the UK since the Smiler.
Located in the Old Air shop, the restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner. Having an interest in staying after hours, my group went for the latter. Out of hours access is achieved by walking down this new funky path that goes between the hotels and Forbidden Valley.
After walking the path and through the southern sector of Forbidden, you reach the restaurant's entrance with it's striking L.E.D lit arch with a decent collage of roller coaster pictures behind. The name is obviously very creative, although I don't think they had much choice there.
Once inside, you are led to your designated table. Each table has 12 seats interconnected to each coaster trough. Whilst it's quite big inside, it's definitely a fair bit smaller than Food Loop. If you are visiting on busy days or in a group over 4, I would strongly suggest booking in advance to guarantee eating here.
The restaurant interior is futuristic and modern, which goes well with the nearby Galactica and contrasts the open airy Food Loop. You order food off a tablet just like Food Loop, but it's free standing instead of being connecting to the table.
The restaurant sports a reasonable range of different dishes, which can be adjusted for dietry needs.
For starters I had the garlic mushrooms, whilst for mains I went for the Roller Coaster Burger. A beef burger with a special sauce, salad, chips and slaw. One of the nice touches is how the plates and bowls have all been specifically branded for the restaurant. Quality is reasonable, think TGI Fridays and Frankie & Benny's and prices for the food at least is adequate. Drinks on the other hand are overpriced. £3 for soft drinks, no thanks and alcohol beverages are over £4.50 too.
However one of the things that brings this restaurant back up on the marketing is it pays homage to the park's roller coasters past and present. All over the eatery is lots of different plans and drawings from all the park's different rollercoasters amongst a video playing every so often showcasing the park's current coasters with changing lights and ride themes helping add to the experience. Even the seats are named after to coasters which also have a ride name amongst a number. I sat on the Sonic Spinball seat, which interestingly appears as Spinball Whizzer when orders arrive.
And if you leave late enough [depending on the time of year] you are treated to night time shots of Galactica and the surrounding area. Being summer [and just after the longest day] you can see this wasn't the best time for night shots. Roll On Scarefest I guess.
The Million Pound Question-Does It Beat Food Loop?
Like the Lord Of Darkness would say, the answer to that unfortunately is no.
This is Alton Towers, whilst the food quality and perhaps location are noticeably better, Food Loop is still the better. This is mostly down to the merchandise selection, the larger size and operations. But probably most importantly, it is located in Europa Park. It only beats it marginally but a defeat is still a defeat.
That being said, the Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic restaurant and dining experience, and with the surroundings, food, atmosphere and roller coaster gimmick has to easily be the best theme park eating experience in the UK.