After visiting the likes of Europa Park and Liseberg recently, I would be taken to yet another theme park that's been on my to do list for many years now [with many failed attempts]. However compared to my last two, this one may come across as being a little anticlimactic.
My next new park of call would be Drayton Manor Theme Park. Located just under 30 miles from Towers, what would this family park be able to offer in the UK outside the Merlin lot?
This sudden entrance. It's no towers street but it's not in anyway a bad entrance.
G-Force a maurer which is the only one in the U.K that isn't a mouse or spinner.
The ride starts with a looping lift hill, because it goes upside down on the chain lift. This process was about of comforting as the ride's throughput of 12 people on one train. The rest of the ride was alright but mostly forgettable.
The next coaster is Shockwave, this coaster marked a major milestone on my coaster quest. It's cred 100.
Wow, what an amazing B&M that was! It's intamin actually but for some reason looks like a B&M. I was honestly expecting to hate this ride [shock[wave]], but found it ok. It's certainly not my favourite coaster. All stand up for cred 100!
The park's newest coaster is Ben 10. A Vekoma junior boomerang which opened in 2011.
And my opinion it's their best too. The coaster features a richly themed queue line alongside a short but sweet paced ride which is great fun. Throughputs were relitively good here too.
Another coaster offering is the Troublesome Trucks in Thomas Land [more on that later]. Decent young family coaster which offers two laps round too.
Apparently I didn't take as many photos as I thought. This may have been down to the park being incredibly busy with thousands of school kids [no exaggeration] which means there was more people in the queues, and when there's more in the queues the wait for the rides is always longer.
Last and least is the Buffalo Coaster.
Which has to be slowest powered coaster on earth. It literally crawls the whole way through and takes a few years to complete each lap. Yay, old Zamperla.
The park has more to offer though. Like this drop tower called Apocalypse. I only managed sit down here but was definitely impressed here. It's certainly on a par with Detonator to say.
Drunken Barrels. Arguably the best tea cups in the UK both in theming and experience. It also tilts up a little too, making for a even more fun experience.
Maelstrom, this mighty looking outside facing after burner. Possibly my favourite park ride and means they already have a significantly better selection of flats than Towers currently do.
They also have an Air Race here which they also named Air Race [yay for creativity]. This ride was actually lots of fun and I enjoyed the prospect of being flung upside down continuously dozens of times a lot more than I expected.
Look!, it's a working Log Flume, don't see many of these nowadays.
The working log flume is Storm Force 10, which is a fun log flume with a backwards drop. As much as I liked this, you do get wet here, very very very wet. Even a poncho couldn't keep me immune to wetness. Tidal Wave has nothing here.
They also have a Rapids ride. This was a rather fun ride but it was no Congo let alone Fjord or Colodado. Still it beats Rumba so that is certainly something.
Have no dear dark ride fans, they do have dark rides. This one is The Haunting.
For 2016 the ride has apparently received an upgrade, but being new to the park I can't really compare. I liked this ride a fair bit, they had some good [not great] projection mapping and the pre-shows were cheesy but fun and reminded me a bit of Containment.
It's not a patch on Hex but I suppose it's strong point is this is actually open for guests to ride and not slowly gaining dust in a Vault sealed for 2 centuries.
The other dark ride is this Golden Nugget shot out ride. The ride's actual reference to the name like parkwide audio is practically non-existant. It's almost as good as Tomb Blaster.
Unfortunately, their third dark ride has been closed for repairs. Apparently for a couple of seasons too. That's piracy!
Meanwhile for the park's younger guests are spoiled with Thomas Land. The most popular and best kept area of the park, and technically the most immersive [which isn't saying a lot].
Aside from starting the trend of UK parks getting I.P kids areas, it's a loverly place to walkthrough with an upbeat happy atmosphere and decent theming in places for a park like this. If I had then when I was child, I would probably never leave as I used to be obsessed with trains [maybe I still am].
They also have a Big Wheel and Cable Car. Neither of which I got to ride.
And this cool looking Pirate Ship which I also didn't manage to ride [thanks to busyness]. I'm sure it beats Blade though.
Drayton is an interesting park and for a family and independent one, it isn't bad. I did feel however the park as a whole felt dry, in the sense it lacks park wide audio in most places, a standout attraction and the rest of the park outside Thomas Land feels overlooked. With the exception of Ben 10, none of the coasters are at all standout and easily take it or leave attractions.
The flats, flume and [to a lesser extent] The Haunting help but cannot rectify this. If the park did some more investments outside Thomas Land now, they could really go on the up especially as the newer additions certainly show some signs of hope and prosper. I think a Mack coaster for example along the lines of Lost Gravity or Arthur even could give the park a much needed staple star attraction the place deserves. Merch here was also practically none existent and the few bits they sold had absolutely no interest to me what so ever.
As much pleasantness I experienced at the park, it probably isn't a park I will probably rush back to. At-least until they build something worthwhile or visit again with friends. The latter is more likely. Drayton is no Towers but for an independent UK park it's alright.
Paris! Because mini breaks are awesome!
With ghostly looking lighting
This is the church in Madeline. Although the outside doesn't look as spectacular as St Augustin or Notre Dame, it is much grander on the inside
View to the Concorde
With a mini version of the tower roof inside the tower roof. ROOFCEPTION
Arc De Triomphe
Was a long way to the top
Worth it for the views though! And, like many things in Paris, free for 18-24 year olds!
Because Mickey is everywhere
IT's just a gorgeous place to walk about
The Grand Palais plus crazy french junctions!
2nd floor of the Tower
Oh yay. The Euros are on. So planned that...
Let's look this way instead then.
Just love the structure of it!
And the football, obviously.
Bridge of padlocks.
Another free attraction for 18-24s
The shpinx. Yup, THE sphinx. He's the one
Thought Milo might have been bigger.
Woo Mona Lisa. This is the pure definition of overrated.
The opposite painting was quite spectacular though
And the hunchback!
Iron Man is also everywhere
The very odd Grand Arch
This view was amazing though! Perfectly straight down to the Arc De Triomphe!
Trying to be artsy at the Louis Vuitton Foundation!
Now no mini break would be complete without some cred hunting!
This was really good fun!
Wacky lift hill
And dual load and offload! This is what these rides can be like. Not Storm Surge.
Surprisingly this purple monster isn't the entrance to the ghost train but more the exit. The ride itself is good fun, some decent scare tactics but nothing to shout home about.
This however was an excellent Mad House. The preshows were fun and the water one was fab. The mad house itself was like others, but cleverly used screens with the motion to make it feel like you were going sideways on a boat at points.
It's Europe so there was of course a boat ride which was one of the better ones I've done
Little Monorail type ride. This village bit you can see here has no rides. A few shops, a meet and greet but it was a lovely little walk through. As were two other sections of the park. It's a real shame Merlin and other parks want to cram rides in everywhere instead of having these little sections. It's nice to just wander about in a well themed area. Makes me sad Haunting in the Hollows isn't better.
Another example here.
With an indoor bit that they used during one of the kids shows as part of the story.
It's the little things that I love about European parks.
Moving on. Goudrix. Not great, not bad.
Looks filthy. Clean it up ta.
Or scrap it.
New for this year is another well themed Disko that can so easily be produced.
Throw in some pyro and water effects and boom.
Nice themed entrance
And you get yourself a relatively cheap but good investment!
There's also a huge Bobsleigh, a bumpy splash thing that just looked painful
A log flume and a rapids which seem mediocre till cray cray tunnel
This pure cred with a good themed queue
This really ugly out of place flat
And the two shout home about rides.
Really hard to photograph as it's hidden, Zuess is a superb woodie. Proper old school with speed, rattle, harsh turns and ridiculous speed throughout.
And then this. Oz'iris! In this photo you can see a little fountain show taking place which had some score from HTTYD playing alongside.
It really is a baby Montu, but better.
It's stunningly beautiful
The station building is amazing
The first drop without the predrop is crazy in back row.
The pacing is superb!
Length brilliant! Forces on point
Indoor queue gorgeous! There's so much more to it than this photo.
The elements of the ride portrayed on this wall for you geeks (not the best photo ever)
And this guy in the middles. Sums the ride up brilliantly. Well themed, but with a sense of humour and fun about it.
Oz'iris, people said when it was being built could it beat Nemesis. Unsure, but it's possibly the closest thing I've ridden that could. I don't think I've quite loved a ride this much in a long time. Definitely my favourite new ride since Manta, and it could beat that. I will have to seriously rethink my top 10 later this year.
Parc Asterix overall is a well themed park with a sense of humour and fun about it. All the staff seemed lovely, efficient, and happy to help. On Oz'iris they were running around unbuckling seatbelts before the train had fully stopped so when the bars were released all belts were undone. I've never seen anything like it. There are a few areas of the park that need work, but that's the case with many parks. Recent investments show they're heading the right way and will no doubt sort out other areas in need. My only real niggle with the park, where's the ride merch??? Loads of Asterix stuff, but no seperate ride merch Park rating: 8.5/10
Next trip: Belgerand Part2
Two weeks after experiencing the wonders of Europa, I would be experiencing another new European park. This park was Liseberg, Sweden's largest amusement park located slap-bang in the middle of Gothenburg home to a fine number of flat rides and coasters. Prior to 2014 I knew nothing about this place until a certain ride helixed into the lineup making this park leapfrog onto my list of must do parks.
After checking in and dropping our bags off at Gothia Towers we headed over to the park. This is a lovely hotel which is beautifully modern inside and conveniently located across the road from Liseberg and worth a stay. It's striking appearance almost makes it look like something from the Matrix.
Such a simple, but highly effective entrance.
New for 2016 is Aerospin, a Gerstlauer sky roller, which is similar to sky force but riders are positioned on a raising tower instead of an arm.
This ride is mixed bag for me. The views from the top of the ride are absolutely stunning offering some lovely views below but trying to spin on this is even more difficult than on the sky fly models. That said trying to freely spin over 200 ft in the air is terrifying enough. IMA score soundtrack for the winning though.
Also new at the park for 2016 is this traditional looking carousel and this lovely looking garden area.The park used to have two S&S drop towers and small wheel in this area but they were removed last year for Aerospin and these. Parks need quiet/green spaces aside from the rides IMHO.
Another of the park's recent flats is Mechanica, a star shape which opened last year.
all this theming and attenton for a flat ride? Amazing! Mechanica has to be one of the most intense rides I've ever experienced too.
They also boast a decent afterburner, this time from Zamperla. Flamingo need one!
And a better and more scary version of Rush. This one goes over a cliff [ if you're looking the right way].
There's also a Jukebox themed polyp ride which is great fun and an automatically operated Waltzer which can do some crazy spinning if the timing is right.
They also have a log flume which features an impressively original name. What makes me even more happy is that at over 40, this is a working log flume. Good drops though.
The park also boasts a fun and wild set of rapids. Whilst Fjord is still my favourite, this is still better than Congo and wipes the floor with Rumba.
Liseberg is also home to Europe's largest drop tower once observation tower. Whilst the drop isn't the best, this is made up for this with the superb views at the top and atmosphere. The ride is actually called Atmosphere.
There is however only dark ride at the park, the Fairy Tale Castle. The best thing about this ride is that it's indoors and plays the dream flight soundtrack.
Their scare maze Hotel Gasten however is absolutely amazing and worth the paid extra [around £4].
But there's another important aspect to Liseberg.
The coasters. The park is home to four major coasters, the first of these is Kanonen, an intamin launch coaster.
Considering how small this coaster's footprint is, the layout is remarkable. Unfortunately, the ride's setback is the restraints which are rather tight fitting and dig in during the ride. Well done Intamin. Still a good coaster, but probably not a great one due to the restraints alone.
Liseberganen is the 2nd of the park's large coasters. A 1987 Schwartzkopf
Whilst at nearly 30 years this may be the park's oldest coaster, it packs one amazing punch and is an amazingly fun thrilling ride. Flying through twists and turns, hills and helixes on the park's hillface. The ride's only minor issue is the brakes, which hit you worse than absinthe. It literally feels like you've almost experienced a car accident each time they kick in.
Then there's Balder, the park's intamin woodie which has apparently won a number of rewards since it's existence.
Which features number of other coasters in it's queue. Nemesis, Grand National and Megabobia all feature here.
Which is a fantastic coaster. This features some brilliant moments of ejector airtime throughout the ride, although the corners are unfortunately a little dull honestly speaking. It doesn't beat Wodan but is still one of my favourite woodies.
And now for the ride you've waited for. Helix
And what a spectacular diamond she is. Helix alone is worth travelling out to the park for. From it's modern airy sci-fi style queue line to it's amazing ride soundtrack. The ride starts as it means to go on, hurtling into a corkscrew immediately after leaving the station followed by a vast array of inversions, twists, turns, helixes [no pun intended] and hills delivering a significant amount of ejector airtime. This ride never shows any signs of slowing as it ascends into the second launch before the ride gets stale in anyform, launching round more exciting elements before entering a final corkscrew into the brake run.
As a result of the ride's immense layout and superb styling amongst being one of the most photo friendly coasters around, makes it my new number one coaster even over taking Wodan. Never have I been on a ride so many times in one trip and still been wanting to go back for more. Once Blackpool gets one of these, it could well be a game changer. Throughputs on this were also very good, no faffing around at all. I would say most park-wide operations were on a par with Towers overall.
And it's in one of the most picturesque parks out there amongst being my favourite amusement park [not theme park].
And Darkadder won a giant Toblerone!
So my last blog lasted long. Hopefully I'll be able to keep up-to-date with this one.
This blog will be divided into three sections:
My News: Stuff I'm doing (theme park related)
UK Theme Park News (that you probably wouldn't have heard about)
International Theme Park News (that you proabably won't have heard about)
Anyway, on with proceedings.
I'm going to Alton Towers in July!
We're going to be staying in the cottage I mentioned in the Places near Alton Towers topic and eating in the Rollercoaster Restaurant, as well as hopefully riding my first upside down coaster! Well also be going to Gullivers Land, Discovery Centre and probably Cadburys World too!
UK THEME PARK NEWS
LEGOLAND are at it again! If you don't love Miniland you don't love at all. This time they've thrown the Queen a miniature LEGO Birthday Party! http://royalcentral.co.uk/uk/thequeen/legoland-version-of-queens-birthday-took-650-hours-to-build-61395
INTERNATIONAL THEME PARK NEWS
Power outage in North Carolina leaves riders stranded hundreds of feet in air: http://abcnews.go.com/US/20-riders-stranded-theme-park-ride-nc/story?id=39753172
So thanks for reading! I should be going to LEGOLAND or Chessington, maybe Thorpe soon so will blog wherever we go!
This has been an attraction I’ve been following for a very long time, I just knew that if the ride was going to be as good as the facade, then Universal have done it again. Boy oh boy have they done it again. They have well and truly hit it out of the park with this ride. From the moment you enter the queueline, to the moment you step out of the mammoth ride vehicles at exit, you are fully immersed in the world of Kong.
The story stars with myself and Amarghh regularly checking to see if Kong would soft open each day for the past week. We had been past when construction walls were down but they were doing previews for team members whilst they ironed out any problems. Today, they were planning to do previews from 4-6PM, but the park shut at 8 so we knew there’d be a chance of soft opening for guests from 6-8PM. We were making our way through CityWalk at 17:55, half hoping and half waiting to be disappointed for softs, when we saw on Twitter that TM’s had told guests to start forming a line outside of Kong. We ran… and we are so glad we did because shortly after they closed the queue for it. Talking of the queue, it was proper scary.
So obviously you start at the entrance to the ride, with the large rock work Kong sculpture dawning down on you, the intimidation starts early. Weaving around the outside queue, with good views of the ride vehicle swooping past you, you slowly make your way into the ride building and the anticipation builds. There are multiple animatronics, scares and sounds in the queue line that help to make it a part of the attraction.
You will be greeted by an animatronic of an old witch like lady who is summoning Kong, at the end of her speech comes a large roar from the gorilla himself (don’t worry, this one doesn’t get shot). There are fire effects going off around her, and you are making your way closer to her throughout this part of the queue.
In the background you can also hear native chanting, which really helps build anticipation and makes it feel like you’re being watched at all times. This is where the HHN style queue line actors come into play, yes, queue line actors. There are obvious peep holes where the actors pop out from, but me being me was expecting them not to be around for this soft opening. I peeked my head into the hole to see where they’d be and a loud sound came from the hole followed by an actor jumping up. I crapped myself. Throughout the queue you can hear people screaming and actors jumping out, this really does make you feel immersed in the story with the natives watching you and making you feel uneasy.
The carved rock work in the queue matches outside of the entrance, it’s fantastic. There are skeletons, demon body things etc carved into the walls to really make you feel like you’re in this old cave.
There’s one amazing animatronic of the slug/snake/worm creature that is very freaky, every 30 seconds or so it’ll start moving and hissing at you, very cool stuff.
Gradually you make your way towards the station and a massive truck greets you, it carries around 72 people I think? So you’re batched into rows of 6 (I believe) and put into this truck. These trucks are so clever, they are all controlled wirelessly with no drivers. In the front of the truck is a tinted window with an animatronic driver sat there. There’s 5 drivers that you can get, each one has their own storyline that they give to you during the ride.
Now onto the ride itself, it’s brilliant, it really is. You make your way out of the cave and round a winding track, until you’re faced level with the large Kong doors. They swing open and you head inside. On your left hand side is a large skeleton and on the right are some very cool large animatronic bats. You stop shortly after this to a screen portion of another vehicle being attacked by some bats, which carry one of the characters way and you give chase. One thing I want to say here, is this screen part and the next are very very brilliantly done. Some screen based rides I find disappointing and unrealistic, but not this. They blend in with the physical cave elements very nicely and give a lot of depth to the cave.
So you speed off to the next scene which is also screen based, and has the characters being attacked by the large worm creatures (the ones like the animatronic in the queue). Your vehicle starts moving up and down slowly in this scene, I guess it’s some sort of muddy/quick sand area. The creatures attack the vehicle but the badass main lass in it shoots the crap out of them which sprays you with ‘blood’. Unfortunately, one of them grabs her and takes her away and you never see her again. The whole time this is going on, your animatronic driver is narrating and pooping their pants (depending on which one you have).
This is where you come up to the main 360 dome screen part, with dinosaurs and Kong himself wrestling all around you. There’s a lot of movement with the vehicle in this part as Kong throws you, climbs over you and catches you before you fall to your death. It’s done so well and you’re continuously looking from left tok right to left to right in your vehicle to catch all the action. It really is going on all around and on top of you! What I don’t like about this section, and what brings the whole attraction down a notch, is that if you are sitting on an end seat then you can very clearly see the bottom of the screen next to you. Whereas if you sit in the middle you can’t see the edge of the screen.
You zoom off to the final part, which for me is honestly the best part of any theme park attraction I have ever done. A three story high (you only see from the waist up, he’s huge) animatronic Kong. This animatronic might well be one of the best theme park attractions ones ever done, the facial expressions are perfect, the sound coming from him is crisp and you can smell his breath! The best part is you slowly crawl past right next to him for like 30 seconds, so it’s not a blink and you miss it (ayyyyeti). But yeah it’s a brilliant and massive animatronic that does look very realistic. I love it!
All in all this is a really good attraction from Universal. It’s not their best (doesn’t beat Harry Potter or Spiderman for me) but it’s a great ride. My only negatives from it are the ability to see the edge of the screens on the 360 dome bit if you sit on the end, and the fact it just seems quite short? It’s supposedly Universal’s longest ride, but it seems like it’s finished so soon? It might be that the excitement of the opening day of it has got to me, so I will try and ride it as much as I can over the next week. But I know this is going to be a very popular attraction for the park!
Final point, we broke down on this just as we were about to enter the cave, which sucked and killed the momentum of the great outside portion. But the staff were lovely and let us go on it again straight away! Another great thing which I love with this ride, if anyone tries to stand up in the vehicle the animatronic driver immediately tells them to sit down!
Enjoy some photos I took
I'm not gonna drown you with words, or pictures either. I just want to demonstrate how I fell in love with Wodan.
From the entrance, Wodan sits on the far right hand side of the park. you have to walk through most areas to get there, and the pathways there are limited, but stunningly themed, however when you emerge in Iceland you are treated to this gem of a view.
The ride casts an intimidating shadow over the rest of Iceland, and it's thunderous roar is well reserved until you arrive in this area.
It's 2 neighbours, Atlantica Super Splash and Blue Fire dance around the far ends of Wodan, creating some stunning pirouetting like synchronization if you're lucky. (I was not)
Wodan alone is a reason to visit Europa Park. Hel(l), it's queue alone is a reason to visit.
There was a certain, euphoric satisfaction I got from this ride that has only been achieved once before. As an experience, this is entirely complete. It submerges the rider, right from the entrance, in another world. The queue never stopped moving, the ride roared past you regularly building up a sense of enigmatic tension, and the sights you bare witness to in this queue are unmatched by anything I have ever experienced in a theme park.
Wodan is a truly complete ride, with a perfect amount of theming, unique character and intensity. Whilst I feel like Europa as a whole was overhyped during my visit; this ride certainly wasn't. It sits timidly at the back of the park, enticing you in.
And when you do come off of it, you just want to ride it again.
If you want to see more, I made a music video of our trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9_EaSXENjs
Germany trip - Part 3/3
From 19th May to 25th May 2016
With Loose Steele Bluth
Parks visited: Hansa Park, Heide Park, Phantasialand
**Photos to be added at a later date**
See parts 1 and 2 for Hansa Park and Heide Park
Days 4, 5, and beginning of 6 were spent at Phantasialand
⁃ Park open 9-6 (Rides open either 9:30 or 10, and queues close at 17:45)
⁃ All rides were walk-on during the visit, so I won’t review rides in any particular order
⁃ Stayed in Hotel Ling Bao which was beautiful, although because it was quiet there was little dining choice (unless you love expensive buffets!) in either hotel after park close
⁃ The park was smaller than I expected, and incredibly themed to Disney standards (Better than DLRP probably ha!)
⁃ Good ride reliability! Saw Chiapas down once and the Mine Train was closed in the afternoon due to wet weather on the first day, but otherwise I don't think I saw a ride down
As I’ve stated in the Phantasialand topic, this area is beautiful and looks so incredibly ready to open, but there are many buildings hidden away that are in the process of being built. The fact is the area is incomplete and having built two attractions which interplay with theming and landscaping so much, Phantasialand have been extremely clever to test that the actual rides work before completely closing up the area with restaurants etc. Nothing worse than building an entire land and a rollercoaster needing to be ripped out of it to be repaired before opening.
Didn't take pictures of the area as a load of higher quality ones have been posted on the forums before.
Anyway onto the other rides - I will do a short review of rides as it seems to be a well-visited park
It's like Phantasialand saw Nemesis and were like 'we want a terrain-y inverted B&M too'. First ride on it, I was incredibly impressed by the theming and winding queue line through Africa, with plenty of views of the coaster itself. The ride itself underwhelmed me a little, I think I expected something more from it, as I had heard such good things before riding. A second ride later in the day on the back row showed that it maybe just needed some warm up time; being dragged round the first drop/turn and into the loop was incredible. Whilst the helixes towards the end of the ride bored me on my first run, I was disorientated and felt a lot of force on them the second time.
Overall incredibly well themed, and a lovely B&M invert!
Wing's Fear and Force
So even after RCDBing these maurer spinning coasters a long time ago, I had luckily forgotten any of their surprises before riding them. First ride was on fear facing backwards
Fear - Facing backwards was just incredible; the surprise of the elevator lift hill tilting before being released straight into an airtime hill just had me laughing from the get-go. The visually stunning aspect of the ride is an interacting segment of wild-mouse sharp turns and circles around a ride in the middle of a central hall; this leaves you disorientated (spinning coaster eyyyyy) and too distracted to think what's coming next. Brake-run into immelman and then onto a trick-track section. Even when you think the ride is over there is a hinge-drop track. It is just a ride that is full of elements which make it a truly interesting and disorientating experience without being overly gimmicky (because these are all hidden). I am a massive fan of spinning coasters, so that probably makes me rate them a lot.
Force - Disappointing compared to its sister coaster, force does not seem as forceful or long, although I preferred the trick-track element on this side. Once again it's a ride full of surprises during the first ride, and
Not ashamed to say these were the most re-rided of any ride on our visit, I just fell in love
Temple of the Nighthawk
Having read about the past of this ride, it's just so difficult to see why it was ever turned into a jungle-themed ride which just meant the stripping of theming throughout. The ride is just dull and long, but I'm sure for the younger among us is pretty terrifying flying through the dark.
Hollywood Boat Ride
Guilty pleasure of the trip - The first drop and Frankenstein scenes were particular highlights
Maus Au Chocolate
Having been on Toy Story Mania, I was interested to see how this would compare. One thing which is welcome change was the amount of physical sets in between the 3D shooting show scenes, as TSM is mostly black space, although I understand they are stylised differently, it was nice that the ride had a backstory as to the need to shoot the mice who have run amuck in a bakery! The guns were a little temperamental at times, but I did really enjoy this ride, and the chocolate smell which is pumped into it.
Oh my god what is this ride, you literally get so wet and almost fall out of the boat. I understand the need for the 1.4m height restriction...
Even though the park was dead, there were 2 actors roaming the queue line at most times and scared me always. First time I thought they were animatronics as they repeated a small sequence of movements, then they would lunge at the un-expecting!
The ride was just hilarious, I was shocked at the sheer force of the ascent to the top, and the two cycles which were used almost at random were just as confusing. It's kind of easy to see why there aren't any more Intamin Bungee drops in the world, but I did really enjoy it, and the first bounce is always quite forceful.
Prime example of what theming a ride can accomplish. Talocan is a top-spin, and yet the most incredible ride in the park. Fire, water, music, and timing creates a visually stunning but also intense ride experience. Loading soundtrack also got stuck in my head, another IMAScore success.
Phantasialand was first on my radar since the construction of this beast of a log flume. Intamin has basically redesigned the classic log flume with faster lift hills, quick forwards-backwards transitions, and steep coaster-like drops. Not much I want to say except that the music was catchy and got stuck in my head as early as the second ride. It is well-paced flume ride with good theming, music, drops, and a disco room. Only negative would have to be the boats, as I managed to get some incredible leg cramp which made the ride hard to enjoy. I also suffer problems getting in and out of the boats on Dudley-Do-Right's RipSaw Falls, so this may be a personal problem rather than anything else.
It was all the hype.
Went to the Ice Show, but as with Europa Park's entertainment I don't really 'get it'. It wasn't even in german, but the whole story was about a girl who was hated in high school until she got a make-over from the popular kids - Are we not past this kind of awful storyline by now?
Mine train was great, Feng Ju Palace (Vekoma Madhouse) was terrible, The chinese-themed ghost train was hilarious, and I'm sure there's more to talk about...
The park was just incredibly well themed, the attractions were very re-ridable, and I hope Taron and Raik follow on from the park's other attractions.
Germany trip - Part 2/3
From 19th May to 25th May 2016
With Loose Steele Bluth
Parks visited: Hansa Park, Heide Park, Phantasialand
**Photos to be added at a later date**
Day 1 - Hansa Park is in the previous blog post
Day 2 - Heide Park
⁃ Park open 10-6
⁃ It was a Saturday so the park was very busy (See queue-times to see the difference between Saturday and Sunday particularly!)
⁃ Difficult to access before 10 on a Saturday due to train timetabling
⁃ Fairly large park, especially compared to Hansa
⁃ Weekend following the opening of the 'How to Train Your Dragon' land
⁃ Good ride reliability! A few times rides appeared as temporarily closed on queue time boards, but we were unaffected by/didn't see a break down all day (except Flug in the morning which I will talk about)
Public transport made it difficult to get to the park before opening - There is a bus from Hamburg to the park that arrives at 10:10am, but leaves to go back at 5 so we did not opt for this option and instead got trains. Despite Heide offering a shuttle bus from Soltau station, the bus times did not coincide with our options for trains so we instead alighted at Wolterdingen at 10:17 (Train before arrived at 8:05 and we would have needed to be up at 6 or something ridiculous). The park is then a 20-minute walk from the station on a road surrounded by trees.
On arrival it was obvious the park was going to be incredibly busy despite its size. At 10:45 queue time boards showed Desert Race had an hour queue and Krake was on 45 minutes so we headed to Flug der Daemonen which was sporting a 10-minute queue. We considered the Express Butler (Q-bot essentially) as it only costed €20 and you could use it similar to reserve and ride where you wait in a virtual queue for the wait time of the ride you wished to ride. There were other pricing options such as €30 to wait half the queue time, and €70 for unlimited use on all rides all day too. We however had faith in our ability to plan the day effectively and get on everything necessary without giving an extra €20 to Merlin for no reason.
Flug der Daemonen
Walking into the queue, I was pleasantly surprised at the theming, The portion of the queue in the old log flume building was really atmospheric and also a good use of the historical existing structure, despite some unthemed cattle pens following that (and nets everywhere of course) the queue was very dealable, having views of the ride above and a noise when the train passed by an area of the queue similar to the Swarm. Batching into the station was good as it kept everything organised (Germany ❤), however meant you could not opt for front row if someone else got their first! So we got the back on the left hand side and admired the station and bag-drop turntable (No bag rooms made life so much better for all ❤) before setting off.
Halfway up the lift we came to a stop and after 5 minutes a member of staff came out to talk to someone two rows ahead of us (we presumed about camera usage on the ride?!) - Another 5 minutes and the ride started again. At the end of the ride the person was spoken to by security and a park manager and trains were being sent empty, potentially indicating that he was tampering with the ride in some way?! Unknown to us but we had lost a crucial 10 minutes early on in the day and went off to our next ride.
The experience itself was good! I personally preferred that the transition from the lift to half loop was quicker than The Swarm, the airtime hill was good, the twists and turns were tight which led to a little bouncing of the trains but it didn't make the ride uncomfortable. Sounds are played during times the train enters tunnels which was very effective and one of those small things which makes a big impact on the ride experience. On the whole the length of the ride was welcome in comparison to The Swarm, but the Swarm is definitely more thrilling. Flug may suffer potentially as every inversion feels the same, just another roll rather than a loop; even an inline would be a nice change. All in all it was a fun ride with an interesting layout, theme, and effects. The queue-line shop was hellish though...
We couldn't make sense of why Flug der Daemonen was shoehorned into the area its in as there is space elsewhere in the park, plus it makes the left corner of the park just a mash of coasters with Krake, Bobbhan, Flug, Big Loop, and Limit all there. But it was impressively shoe-horned at least, leading to some tight elements and interaction with pathways, the queue, and itself.
An Intamin Gyrodrop tower. This was fairly well themed as a pair of giant cogs moves as the ride is raised. The queue moved quickly due to the high capacity, and it was nice to hear a very similar version of the detonator music! Because it's a gyrodrop, it offered some good views of the resort from above as well as the local area (forestland). A familiar top-spin gondola was spotted in the maintenance area, but more on that later! The drop itself was more forceful than expected and caught us off guard - Really enjoyable ride.
An SLC which is the same as the rest... Awful. I would love to see more parks invest in new trains for these like those on the SLC in WB Movie World, Gold Coast, Australia. However I was a fan of the fact that the transfer track went over the queue line hilariously.
Land of the Huss flats
There is a Mayan-themed area with 7 flat rides all next to each other, all manufactured by Huss (The company is based in Bremen not too far from the park) The topspin and Rotor ride were closed, and we ignored the enterprise. The topspin was closed for essentially maintenance, so the Ripsaw gondola may have been sent to Heide to have its parts cannibalised in order to get this one up and running again!
We enjoyed the breakdance although it was tamer than a recently enjoyed one in Tivoli Park. A chair swing sits on a raised platform central in the land with the other flats surrounding it. There was a moon dance which was surprisingly forceful, and a twister-type ride which was good fun too.
A quick look at queue times showed Desert Race at 20-30mins, so we headed there after all it had been 60 earlier on. Walked past these wonderfully themed toilets on our way. **Photo to come soon**
Another rotating bag drop was used here ❤ The ride seemed very out of place and just plonked down, but the experience itself was pretty fun. The layout is the same as rita with some more ground-hugging moments and a faster turn after the trims before the main brake run. Better than Rita? Yes, but potentially only due to the first turn not being the jolt we've grown to know and love of course.
The park's rapids were really good. Long with two waterfall sections and loads of actual rapid sections.
The Mack Powered Mine Train has a similar (if not identical) layout to the one at Europa Park, and was therefore deemed a failure as the theming was lacking in comparison, especially when entering the big shed.
How to Train your Dragon Land
Land had opened two weeks prior and took advantage of the prevoius nordic-ish themed land
Had a boat ride like Charlie and the Chocolate factory which entered a cave and has screen-based Dragon entertainment. There was a spinner ride with water similar to Solugden at Djurs Sommerland, Denmark. There was a smaller spinner and finally a Zamperla Kite Flyer ride where you lie down and are spun like a chairswing. It was painful on the neck if you didn't push upwards, but much fun was had.
The land was well themed and the IP is popular, so good news for Merlin, Dreamworks, and guests alike!
We ate at the Dämonen Grill which was located next to Flug. The ordering system was similar to Nando's athough there is a ordering form with both german and english to make it easier for everyone!
Restaurant was really well themed, with some nice cosy seating areas too! Food was nice and like all the german food was in massive portions... 5? from me.
The queue reached 90+ minutes at a point so when it was down to 45-60 minutes we thought this would be the ideal time to ride. The queue itself just had Dragon's Fury written all over it as you queue by the brake run with little view of anything. After a bag drop (whyyyy) you enter the station where you have the choice of choosing front row or rows 2/3. We opted for the front having waited a good 50 minutes outside already, an extra 10 minutes really wasn't an issue, however most other people felt the same and the other rows were not being filled. People queuing assumed that row 3 wasn't a row and staff made no effort to correct this, even allowing people on the 3rd row to re-ride despite 15 + people waiting for row 2?! This may have been due to staff shortage as they were running 2 trains (Not sure how many trains the ride can run, but there was a lot of stacking on 2...). Two staff members checking bars and two in the bag room is just annoying to see when they run good bag shelves etc on their other rides.
The ride itself was really good; loved being eaten by the Octopus and coming out of a ship, nice floaty immelman and airtime hill too. The ride is short but the main attraction of a dive machine is the drop which is delivered well here.
The park's oldest coaster with a train donation from Corkscrew at Alton Towers. As rough as you expect a 1989 Arrow Sit-down to be, but it was still fun.
Having ridden the Bobsled at Europa Park we didn't have high expectations, but felt like we should ride as we had the time towards the end of the day.
Surprise hit of the day! It is long with loads of tight turns, and general hilarity which was so so much better than Europa's bobsled.
The queue was listed at 90+ minutes all day so we decided to do this towards the end of the day. Queue was incredibly unimaginative switchbacks despite plenty of room amongst this monster of a ride. Managed two rides as we entered the queue a second time just before ride close at 6.
Both times we rode at the back as our experience with Intamin pre-fab wooden coasters (Balder at Leisberg) led us to believe this would give the best chance of airtime and fun. The ride is just huge and incredible, debatably still the signature attraction of the park despite the much newer Krake and Flug pulling big queues and dominating the skyline on the left side of the park. I don't have much to say except that it was as good as expected if not better, so much airtime and immense speed. Whilst I would prefer the smooth-yet-exciting transitions of a GCI such as Wodan, it really was the most enjoyable ride in the park for me and I can see why it was so popular.
Overall it was an enjoyable day despite not having time for some of the smaller rides like the monorail, and whilst the coasters were good they lack a certain charm that Kärnan and Fluch had the day before, and none are stand-out rides except maybe Colossos! Heide exuded the charm of a lot of European Parks which had their own mascots, and paid a lot of attention to detail etc with a quirkiness. At present it does scream 'Merlin' quite a bit, but probably not noticeable unless you've been to a UK Merlin park.
Day 3 - Travelling
Train from Hamburg to Brühl before getting a taxi to Phantasialand (Were too late for the shuttle bus the park provides as our train was delayed). I wrote days 1 and 2 on my phone during this time which may explain the difference in writing style or detail compared to Phantasialand days (part 3).
Germany trip - Part 1/3
From 19th May to 25th May 2016
With Loose Steele Bluth
Parks visited: Hansa Park, Heide Park, Phantasialand
**Photos to be added at a later date**
Edit: SPOILER TAGS ARE NOT WORKING AT PRESENT, SO BEWARE THERE ARE MANY SPOILERS
We hopped on the plane at LHR being keen for the parks again, Got the metro from HAM woo! Am I getting airtime? Jumped out the train it's Hamburg Central Station, checked in the hotel I can see the free mouthwash. We are both so tired, everybody seems so gerrrman
Day 1 - Hansa Park
Woke up early to ensure we had time to buy train tickets and catch a train to get to the park on time: After buying inter-rail passes (although just for Germany), we took two trains to get from Hamburg to Sierksdorf and had a short 10 minute walk to the park. Scanned our online-purchased tickets and were in just before main ride opening.
General points about the park:
⁃ Open 9-6 with most rides opening at 10
⁃ Not a big park, mostly family orientated
⁃ All rides were walk-on during our visit as the park was empty
⁃ Did not see a broken down or SBNO ride all day
Der Schwur von Kärnan (The Oath of Kärnan) - Spoiler tags are being a bit temperamental on this post, so I am warning you below
This was the newest ride, opened last year. It is a Gerstlauer infinity coaster and whilst not fully themed yet boasts many unique qualities
World's only hyper coaster with an inversion
World's first and only freefall drop on a lift hill
Europe's second tallest coaster after Shambhala
You walk past the massive tower, around a castle-turret themed queue and down a set of stairs entering into the building. On the stairs you wait to be batched into a room, and whilst waiting there are televisions playing a documentary-style TV show which explains that the King who built the Kärnan fortress may have used a spell in order to keep the fortress impenetrable (nonsense says the archeologist being questioned!). 16 people (one train) are then batched into an incredibly well-themed room where another video plays. This video speaks of the unearthing of the inner workings of the castle and discovery of rooms etc which may lead us to believe the spell is real! We are told it is too dangerous to bring belongings with us and a bookcase shelf opens for us to deposit items. Following the depositing of items you are led through a tight winding corridor past some cogs into a room with 12 doors in a circle which meet in a spire above, and 4 rows of 4 crowns on the floor. When everyone has stood on a crown, the lights get low and above the doors there are crests which illuminate one by one, first slowly, then quickly, and the music climaxes before ending when one row of crowns on the floor lights up. The floor lights then correspond to a door crest and the door opens for your group of 4 to board the train. The process repeats until every group of 4 is assigned a row on the train. This process is completely random; even after 9 rides we could not spot a pattern to the choice at all. We rode twice in the front, once at the back, and the rest row 2/3.
The whole pre-ride experience is just fab. Having a story behind not being able to take bags on is so unneccesary it's brilliant, and the idea of the spell choosing your rows stops the squabbling/extra queue for the front and creates an extra bit of excitement/tension before the ride.
Ride experience - SPOILERS
You turn left and pass under a barrel roll before a gentle hill down in pitch black and back up, before a very sharp (why no banking?!) left onto the lift hill.
The lift hill gets off to a slow start much like other vertical lift hills on Gerstlauer coasters, but makes it way up the lift very quickly to about 3/4 of the way up. There is nothing to see except lights of sensors on the track, which may make the lift suspenseful for some but just boring for me personally. There are sounds which get increasingly louder and louder until... You freefall drop 100ft down the tower. In reality you freefall for a short time before brakes gradually slow you to a halt at 1/4 of the lift hill. The drop is isn't forceful, and whilst it would shock a first time rider I think it's dull and not worth the engineering effort it probably took to make it. Despite this, it isn't a bad thing and certainly adds to the theme of the spell but perhaps not adding a great deal to the ride experience overall. If there was more going on in the lift than just darkness and noise then it may have been better, but in its current state is just misplaced somehow. After the drop there is another long wait before you start moving to the top of the hill. The whole lift from start to finish takes 2 minutes, meaning a maximum throughput of 480pph (?!); the ride was running two trains when we were there, and whilst could definitely run more, throughput is incredibly hindered by the lift sequence.
The train slows at the top of the 200+ft lift hill and down you go. Down down down. The layout is a bit of a blur but essentially you go incredibly quickly through very tight turns and elements; the train really flings you out at times during the non-inverting loop at the beginning, there are some tight turns and good airtime hills. If the ride had OTSRs it doesn't bear thinking about how rough it may have been, so the clam-shell lap bars were welcome although incredibly tight by the end of the outside ride. The ride does seem to lose a little momentum but the final few turns despite the 80mph start at the bottom of the first drop, however an airtime hill before a sharp brake run shows the train is still travelling at quite a speed. Past the brakes, a door opens and you enter an un-themed black room with an unexpected, slow, and slightly painful due to the tightness of restraints at this point, barrel roll. Sharp right into a brake run where your ORP is taken, then a right onto the offload past a lit up shield (lol theming again). You step off the train on the left and collect your bags from the other side of the bookcase before walking out through a gift shop.
Put simply the actual coaster experience is crazy, travelling as fast as stealth through elements designed to fling you out of the train, tight turns, and airtime hills. Impressive pre-show and batching procedure, and despite poor-pacing inside (potentially due to not being finished) the experience is on the whole incredible in all the right ways.
Fluch von Novgorod
A Gerstlauer Eurofighter opened in 2009 like our Saw - The Ride
The queue was very well themed, you snake through corridors before choosing row 1 or 2 closer to the station. Boarding the train from the left, after a quick check and you're off. Using a pepper's ghost illusion a figure appears to the right and has a little sing, the train progresses and on the left a hooded figure with projected-face speaks more german goodness before the train moves forwards once more.
A sharp drop into an unexpected forceful launch, sharp right outside into an airtime hill which I would build in NoLimits and say 'no that's unrealistic'. Twists and turns before a barrel roll and brake run into a building. In the building is the classic Eurofighter lift hill with the hooded figure from before speaking to you from the left, crows seemingly attacking you (air cannons), and lights etc in the ceiling above. You plummet into a 97° drop, through an over banked turn, and into a set of trims before a sharp hill into the main brakes. A scarecrow then flys from the ceiling towards the train, which is particularly scary as it is unexpected due to being on the final brake run; also most effective if you're on the front row.
Whilst there was a fair amount of movement/rattle on the cars, the ride was not rough and incomparable to Saw's roughness despite similar speeds and tight elements (Why Saw, why...)
The theming and story was brilliant, and the only negative would have to be how short the layout was after the inside drop, there is just so much momentum that it seems wasted to end the ride after one hill. But it was really fun, the launch was surprising, and the ride was forceful too.
Other rides and attractions
The other inverting coaster was a Schwarzkopf coaster called 'Nessie - Superrollercoaster'. I have ridden looping Schwarzkopf coasters before but from memory only ever shuttle-loops, so I wasn't sure what to expecting in terms of roughness, and was pleasantly surprised that it was incredibly smooth. The ride was fun with a loop through a mine train ride, a helix, and a few airtime moments (best in the back). The ride finale is a drop into the mouth of the happy Loch Ness Monster into a tunnel of flashing lights (also the train storage area). In the station there was a speed counter which showed how quick the previous train had traveller through the loop (Highest spotted that day was just over 86kmph, lowest around 80kmph which shows the difference between a full and almost-empty train). All in all it was an enjoyable coaster!
The aformentioned mine train which passed through the Nessie loop was a very tired-looking Vekoma junior coaster. Fairly forceful and long considering it was a junior coaster with penty of interaction with Nessie and its own track
Die Schlange von Midgard (The Snake of Midgard) was another Gerstlauer, this time family coaster. The ride enters into a well themed preshow area before acceding the lift hill and completing the ride's short but thrilling curcuit twice. As has been mentioned before on the forums, it is truly ridiculous the level of theming and detail put into this small attraction which rivals that of Disney and certainly puts Legoland's Dragon Coaster to shame to be honest, despite the difference in length of pre-show section
Spinning boat ride that was incomparable to Storm Surge - There was no water in the boats, the boats spun very forcefully despite several changes in direction of the flume, the circuit was a lot longer and more interesting, and it had a great deal of theming in the station and lower half of the ride. It was really good fun and you can see why Storm Surge might have been a good ride for Thorpe, but unfortunately it is just run terribly somehow.
Die Glöcke (The Bell) - So much wtf, it was fun but I'll keep a KMG afterburner or similar over it anyday.
Plenty of fun playgrounds and a free high ropes course which had the biggest queue of the day. A train which made its way around the park, Depth Charge clone, inverted pirate ship, Rattlesnake clone, indoor space-themed bumper cars, Calgary Stampede clone, and much more!
In the Kärnan pre-show there is a plan on a wall for a Gerstlauer sky-fly, so this may be installed on the patch of land behind Kärnan between Schlange and Die Glocke where there is currently empty plot.
Overall veiw of Hansa was that it was a fairly well themed, well cared-for park. You can see that the theme and implementation of newer rides is really important to the park and well thought out, not dis-similar to the shift of Paulton's from rides like the Edge to the current Lost Kingdom.
I must admit when reviewing Disneyland two years ago I was way to harsh. Part of the nature of theme parks is having high expectations and them not quite being fulfilled. Part of that is my fault, I'd built the place up to be the place that Walt built, when in reality the place has grown beyond recognition from when he was alive. The aspect I wasn't quite prepared for was just how small (in comparison to Disneyland Parc or Magic Kingdom) Disneyland is and how crowded it could become. Everytime I think of the place I think of the bottleneck entrances to Adventureland and Tomorrowland and that somewhat overshadowed the excellent stuff that is contained within. So the time, a little older, a little wiser, here is another full blown review of Disneyland. Woo.
So to start of with.
Decked out for the 60th anniversary, the castle has been decorated in diamonds on its spires. Special 60th anniversary merchandise adorns each shop. Special 60th cake pops, toffee apples, muffins, cupcakes tempt even the stingiest gate. I'm a sucker for this stuff frankly. We tried nearly everything and I have to give top ranking to the cupcake with bavarian buttercream.
Three special shows were introduced for the anniversary, the first being Disneyland Forever which is the main firework show in Disneyland. It's very reminiscent of Dreams in Paris but there are a few differences. Disneyland Forever uses projection mapping all down main street so that it's not essential to see the castle, it uses physical effects, my particular favourite was the Finding Nemo where the Matterhorn was used during the ring of fire scene. The snow effect during the inevitable Frozen scene was awesome as well.
If Disneyland Forever was a more atypical fireworks show, then World of Color - Celebrate was far more representative of the history of Walt Disney and the company. It's come in for a lot of stick from Disney fans. I personally really liked it even though the Frozen scene was completely unnecessary. WOC-Celebrate bought a tear to my eye and a collective aww during the scenes such as Dumbo being hugged by his mother or Beymax.
I really enjoyed it.
The final main addition was the Paint the Night parade. My highlight was the Cars lorry as it looks wonderful in its lights and on the whole, a very enjoyable parade.
So what else is new (well, for us anyway)
Alice in Wonderland
I really liked this. I normally have a problem with rides that try and tell a whole film story in less then three minutes (Peter Pan's Flight I'm looking at you). But because of the subject matter, Alice in Wonderland is a wonderful (pun intended) attraction that in my opinion, is worth the 40 minute queue we did on our final day.
Finding Nemo Submarines
I have to admit that this wasn't an attraction that I think is very noteworthy and I personally think I would have preferred the original version. Nemo to me, doesn't fit in that well here and it feels a little hokey. Like the omnimover at EPCOT, I feel the IP has been shoehorned in. I have a lot of respect for the ride itself and its size and scale but the subject matter isn't to impressive. Big props to Disney for keeping the thing going and even bigger props to the poor submarine operators, whose feet are exposed to guests at the bottom of the sub.
I didn't like Space Mountain on my original trip, I'm happy to say that Hyperspace Mountain was a vast improvement. The use of projections through the ride of TIE fighters and X wings, as well as physical effects such as laser shots along with a ride that felt far zippier then before left for an impressive ride.
Grizzly River Run
This rapids ride, whilst pretty much themed quite sparingly, is an intense, violent and soaking water ride. I found both of the drops terrifying and seemed to spin the boat more then I would really like. Would re-ride on a warmer day (It wasn't very warm when we rode!)
Luigis Rollicking Roadsters
New for 2016 was this redesigned attraction. Previously was a set of tires which with your body leaning in certain directions, would move the tire. It was a hard attraction to crack and was replaced this year with a ride based on the same technology from Ratatouille and Mystic Manor. I liked this for what it was. The movements of the cars is potentially better to watch then it was tor rise as watching the cars do there thing was mesmerising.
New Characters that we met
Oswald, My personal hero!
I felt this time, I was able to appreciate the rides far more and particularly the park structure. This was thanks to the previous trip, the app that displays live queue times and also lets you know what fast passes are available. We never queued more then ten minutes for Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Hyperspace Mountain, Indianna Jones, Radiator Springs Racers, all the busiest rides on park. We also learnt fairly early on that certain rides fastpass return times never get far enough ahead. Big Thunder Mountain and California Screamin' for example were always 40 minutes later. Even at night, we were able to get easy night rides on BTM and I have always been a big fan of these rides. We also used the parades to our advantage. Unlike Paris and Florida which have massive areas to avoid parade routes, Disneyland doesn't. When it's running, it effectively cuts the park in half. This means easy access and tactical positioning mean minimal queues at the best times. For instance, for the Soundsational parade, we positioned ourselves near it's a Small World so that when the parade ended, a quick run meant less then a five minute wait for the ride.
Sure this all sounds rather strategic and boring and maybe it is. By having frequent fastpass available, we utilised our day better and I found I appreciated the park far more. Rides that before, I thought of very little such as Mr Toad's wild Ride and Rodger Rabbits Cartoon Spin were suddenly more enjoyable. I still prefer California Adventure on a park basis. I love the variety of rides and my appreciation of Screaming' rises after every ride.
And just to mention...
I think it would be a crime to change this to Guardians of the Galaxy. I'm a massive fan of that film but compared to the Tower which in my opinion is a timeless classic, no flash in the pan film series will ever compare to a ride which is so thoughtfully themed, imagined, designed and constructed. Whilst it wouldn't be so hard for say a Brit to take (what with Paris less then three hours away and being eight hours away from Florida), it seems absolutely ludicrous that we are even considering a world where the Tower of Terror is replaced.
So, on that note, I had a much better time at Disneyland for my second trip to the Golden State. As a theme park, Disneyland is somewhat stretched to braking point. But there is no doubt for me now that with the addition of Star Wars Land, the park will go from strength to strength and I hope this solves some of the parks capacity issues.
And of course Radiator Springs Racers is there, which is just one of the most beautifully scenic rides I've ever ridden.
Over the last year, my theme park adventures have taken me to some weird and wonderful places away from the U.K. This is all started with Disneyland Paris last april [with a return visit in September] followed by Efteling in November. But from here on, where would my next theme park adventure take me?
It would take me to Europa Park, the crème de la creme of European parks amongst being one of the best in the world [if not the best]. After a doable 1 hr 20 minute flight to Basel from Gatwick followed by a 75 minute car journey we had all arrived at our accomodation in Rust. Located 15 minutes away from the park with at least 6 beds per room, this accommodation was perfect for the large [but nicely sized] group of us going.
The perfect crash pad and HQ for TPM and ideal for the usual and many meet shenanigans.
After an evening exploring the culinary delights and limited sleep, it was time to enter the golden arches into this beautiful park . The entrance area is absolutely beutiful and is another example of a theme park entrance done right, with the grandiose entrance and fountains outside leading into a beautifully layed out main street leading through to the main park.
With over 60 rides and attractions [not including shows], Europa Park houses the highest volume of attractions in one park [including Disney] making it even more impressive. Aside from it's stunning cohesive park areas it's a place where you only have to turn a corner to find a random show or enter a small marked façade and find one of many dark rides. The above picture is a disclaimer that I have visited [something that seems to be becoming a standard these days]
Europa currently houses 12 coasters [with another on the way soon] making it the park with the most coasters in Europe amongst the world. One of these is Wodan, a GCI coaster which opened back in 2012.
At over 130 ft tall, it is a mighty beast of a coaster and rides as beautiful as it looks [if not better]. After the descent into the drop, the coaster races through it's circuit in a crazily out of control yet impressive style as it's flies through turns and helixes around the area whilst diving in and out of tunnels. Wodan is a spectacular coaster and does everything I currently want from a coaster. From an impressive queue to an even more amazing layout. It is with the combination of both these elements that now make this my new number 1 coaster, knocking off Nemesis from it's top spot after nearly 4 years in the running.
Firing off in the nearby surroundings, stands yet another impressive master piece.
Blue Fire is such a photo friendly coaster and rides as well as she looks. After passing through the mandatory but impressive dark ride section, the ride thrusts into a smooth but impressive launch which isn't as intense as Stealth and Rita but considerably more comfortable. The coaster flows through it's circuit providing intensity and elegance at the same time, from it's flying through twists and turns to injector airtime inversions whilst proving to be glass smooth.
Blue Fire is yet another amazing coaster the park have created and everything from the comftable lap bar trains, to the greatly paced layout make for a fantastic ride, which is now my second favourite coaster overall, only just beaten by Wodan [for it's queue line alone]. This coaster makes me even more excited to be experiencing Helix soon and hopeful that if Blackpool are getting one of these, it will put them back on the map as a must do park.
Then there is Silver Star, Europa's giant which until 2012 was the tallest coaster in Europe, taking the height title from the inferior Big One.
Despite hearing people saying it was rather mundane before visiting, I actually enjoyed this one alot. From it's steep drop, to it's airtime hills which did give quite a floaty feeling. The ride's position does make it feel you're outside the park though almost which is a strange feeling,but probably helps make it stand out I guess. The ride is one of the first to be spotted when approaching the park and can be seen for miles. It was astounding watching a train go up the lift less than two minutes apart each time too as a result of the park's outstanding operations.
But Europa isn't just home to fantastic thrill coasters, but some equally impressive family ones too like Arthur.
This is such a gem of a ride which features many dark ride scenes indoors [mixing screens and traditional scenery amongst animatronics] with great bursts of outdoor coaster sections throughout making for a great paced coaster which would be perfect for a number of family parks. Another amusing fact is this has to be only family attraction in existence to feature swearing on the ride, due to the rap song in the alley scene using the n-word .
And if those weren't enough to handle, I also managed to take a brief visit to Epcot as well. Of course not, this is Euro Sat, one of the park's indoor dark ride coasters which is located in this giant ball [which mostly resembles Space Ship earth].
But once inside, the similarities between the two become vastly different with the attraction's 80's space theme and german rave music included. Whilst this may be one of the park's older coasters it certainly doesn't hold back as it really packs a punch in it's layout amongst it's long spiral like lift hill. After a couple of go's this attraction was a hit with most people, myself included [which may even be in my top 5 park favourites]. The ride is so much fun and could be described as a superior version of X with some space mountain effects.
Euro Mir has to be one of the most bizarre coasters I've ever ridden. From it's long spiral lift [also like Eurosat] to it's long twisty turns amongst mirrored buildings before going through numerous twists and turns. As much as I liked this one, I definitely prefer Eurosat to Euro Mir.
Then there's Poseiden, an amazing water coaster.
This is yet another enjoyable ride in the park, which I think is nicely paced out with lift, coaster section, splash, lift, coaster and a final splash before returning back to the station. The throughputs on this again are amazing as boats were literally flying out the station to the degree there were even two on the lift at the same time as well.
Then there's Atlantica Super Splash, which as perhaps the weakest coaster at the park. However with the decent theming and settings surrounding this can be mostly forgiven. I'd swap Storm Surge for one of these anyday.
Then there's Pegasus,which for a family coaster features a decent amount of theming amongst a fun and remarkably thrilling layout for a family coaster.
And lets not forget about the park's veteran coaster Alpen Express, which features a fantastic layout for a powered coaster and really speeds through that cave and last ride section at a fantastic pace too. I'm yet to try the VR on both coasters, but if I visit again soon will definitely be doing so.
Nestled within the Swiss area is the matterhorn blitz, a wild mouse with a difference. From it's amusing elevator lift to it's steep drop and tight corners, I found this version considerably more enjoyable than many others out there which reminds me a little of the old Jungle Coaster [despite this being superior].
Last but not least is the Schweizer Bobbhan, the park's bobsled coaster and by definition the prototype, due to Europa being a showcase of many of Mack rides [being owned by the Mack family]. The ride layout is highly enjoyable but not quite as good as Blackpool's but probably wins due to it's loverly location.
A loverly location indeed. It also has one of the longest break-run-station transitions in existence which takes up nearly half the ride alone.
However, there is more to Europa than a dozen coasters.
It's all about the park's random dark rides. Many of which are cleverly hidden away some of which are little more than a ride sign and a door in the wall.
Like this random christmas themed ride in the Russian section.
Or this PIrates Of The Caribbean style knock off.
Which was actually remarkably good and well done. Even the ceilings were themed up as well.
And there's no waiting for this Ghost Train either. It was actually really well themed and reminded me quite alot of the sadly long gone Wicked Witches Haunt ride amongst some tongue and cheek references to the Haunted Mansion with it's singing heads and stretching room.
The food at Europa is absolutely fantastic [even the quick service places]. The restaurant that naturally stands out the most however is Food Loop, the originally Roller Coaster Restaurant.
The food wasn't bad either. I absolutely loved this place, from the clever way of ordering food on the screens and then watching them race down along the track to your table. Whilst I don't think it beats Polle's as my favourite theme park eatery I really did enjoy this and look forward to trying the Towers version in the near future hopefully.
The park also has many shows, so many you could almost spend a whole park day watching them. One of these was a show about celebrating the park's history featuring rotating sections like the Caroulsel of progress I believe.
There was an Elvis tribute act in the Globe Theatre in the England area, no I am not lying. Was still amusing though.
However the ice show in the greek area was considerably better and more entertaining. The projection mapping and performances in this one were impressive to say the least.
There was also a park parade too which even had a soundtrack [quite reminiscent of Magic Everywhere].
Whilst the Paris parade was most likely the better of the two, what makes this one nicer is it feels a lot more close and intimate. There's a noticeable reduction of crowd hogging and finding a place to watch seems an easier task without waiting an hour find a good spot.
Some of the other weird and wonderful attractions in Europa include this set of football themed Dodgems, with an actual over sized football in play too.
The 'infamous' London Taxi ride, which is a lot more fun than getting a real taxi.
The Queen's Diamond, a laser maze which is a fun little filler.
This amazingly well themed splash battle attraction.
This quirky inverted monorail ride [the attention to detail is ridiculously good].
This 4D show about Euro Mouse. It was sort of like Angry Birds 4D but slightly better.
There is also the astoundingly themed Columbus Dinghy. This features projection mapping, fountains, rider control of directions and thematic centre piece all just for a sea storm ride. It's absolutely amazing.
And not forgetting this Jungle Cruise style ride. This was again lots of fun and a worthwhile filler attaction.
This picture alone perhaps describes the difference between Merlin and Europa. RIP Skyway
There's even a Fairy tale forest-esque area at the park which is very reminiscent to Eftelling's, except for being much smaller.
But even then, Europa Park is very beautiful and picturesque place to visit.
And the on-site hotels are just as beutfiul
Even the underground walkway is themed.
And it was a fantastic place to visit.
Europa is an amazing park. It features pretty much everything you'd wish in a theme park. A wide range of rides, coasters and dark rides, plenty of shows and green spaces, decent upkeep and great selection of food as well. The park definitely had a lot of tongue and check influences from places such as Disney & Efteling amongst some elements bringing back the days when our parks used to put care and effort into their rides.
Comparing this park to what have in the U.K is like comparing a tesco microwave meal to a michelin star restaurant [which the park apparently has actually] and they just can't be compared at all. Europa certainly has to be my favourite theme park now, probably just scraping past DLRP in greatness. It's not a park you would go to experience the rides more-so [bar Blue Fire & Wodan], but one just for the amazing surroundings and showcases in how everything there compliments one another and isn't just plonked down.
To appreciate the park, it's definitely a place where you need several days to visit, in which the longer you stay, the more you will appreciate the park. I spent three days at the park, which is probably the minimum amount of time of getting the core park elements done, but could could have easily done another day or two, just to experience all the shows, re-ride the coasters, do the VR and adore the park even more.
Bucky approves of Europa Park.
Thought I'd start my blog with something light and jolly.
There is something so amazing about theme parks, the thrills and the adrenaline when your on the towering wonders of engineering. However there are only a few Theme parks where you can have fun without riding a single ride or visiting a single attraction.
Alton Towers breaks the mold. It is extremely calming and relaxing to take half of the day walking around the gardens or climbing the Towers rather than rushing from ride to ride.
Sure I understand that for those who travel long and far to get to the sleepy village of Alton just want to ride the rides but for those that have "been there" and "done that" it's really something that needs to be squeezed into your day.
The Towers are great to walk around and if you come on a day that they are actually open, they are worth a look.
For those photographers out there we have some fantastic photo opportunities, from the ground floor,
To the roof, you get some amazing photos of the rides in action or the lovely surrounding area.
Not to mention getting a look at future additions to the Towers
There really is a lot to see! It gives you a perfect vantage point of the surroundings (including a few behind the scenes car parks and the realisation that the cloud cuckoo land chimneys are fake!!)
Once your back on the ground you can also go and visit the majestic gardens!
From the initial view, this is where the magic of Towers still remains. There is no place like it!
From stepping stones to waterfalls, to greenhouses and statues the Gardens have it all and although it looks a little overgrown in areas the overall view is magical.
Been a long time! But a busy few months lie ahead for me and theme parks so time to revive this blog!
Europa Park is one me and Jack had talked about for a few years, the place of dreams almost. Finally, it happened! This is one of those trips worthy of a realistic report, not some sarcastic attack at the park like I usually do.
We arrived in Basel to get a 100+mph train into Freiburg, followed by a double decker train to Ringsheim and a short "bus" (was a coach) ride to the park.
What a lovely sight to walk in on!
Just looming in the distance
Ed and Jack were ready!
Water fountains were ready!
First up Silver Star. I like the Mercedes F1 tie in, it's intimidating, trims aren't as bad as I was expecting but the airtime just got repetitive, twists were great though!
This twist though
Meanwhile over at Epcot, I mean the silver ball at EuropaPark... Eurosat sits around. This thing is bonkers, so glad it's hidden inside. Caught me by surprise each time we rode! Totally get why people wish X was like it.
It's also huge!
Cheeky bit of lunch in Greece. Food on park is great, so much choice and it's not hugely expensive for a theme park!
I don't know why, but this is now such a guilty pleasure ride of mine
Really nice station too!
Meanwhile, in Portugal there is this. A ride that is newer than Poseidon, yet does less and does nothing for me.
It photos well
But that's about it
Annoyingly I didn't take any photos of Spain, other than the jousting show with added drama
Bad guy drama
It's okay, it had a happy ending!
Whilst we're talking about shows. They have so many! Lots of 30-40 minute shows, this in itself takes over a day to complete. Plus, on the larger shows they have mimes entertaining the audience as you enter!
You had Bombay Nights in Holland with the Pirate's of Batavia ride going around the stage!
A live action Italian film set stunt magic show thing
An electronic bird show
In the same room as a bubble magician guy who smokes as part of the show.
A musical show in the Globe Theatre, because Shakespeare was known for his musicals.
A dome screen show where you lie in sleeping bags! Plus, an ice show, flamenco, open and closing show, 2 4D films, a little French dance/magic show and a parade
Ed being boss.
Just this. Quality.
A mine train that even with VR has a higher throughput than any Mack mine train over here!
Bears for bare banter.
Okay, I'll move on from that one.
Anyone still needing a lift to any meets this year, there are two options. This.
Or Jack in his purple sportscar! Can seat another 2 people, it's speedy and laps Silverstone regularly so must be good! Feel free to get in touch with Jack for more details
Then there was this thing. Odd is one word I suppose.
Yup, this guy looks like a trusty op. We'll do this then.
I want them everywhere. This is ideal for family parks!
Great coaster section! Fab dark ride.
And great visual in the plaza of the kingdom. Lots of these please thanks.
So many photos it's hard to fit them all in. So let's look at the hotels.
Bell Rock is gorgeous.
Colosseo really cool!
The other 3 really cool!
And not bad views from the bars
Back on park this guy thought he'd set fire to his house. As you do, red fire and that.
So that's it! Europa Park! Stunning park with great rides, operations, atmosphere, just everything! I have loads of photos so if you do want anymore just request in the comments and I'll post more
Oh, guess you want to see something else first though.
Me and Jack with ED that's why you're all here.
Or maybe for what this is...
Lots of artsy fartsy photos thanks to a back path that I think used to be an extension but is now open to public for photos, round the back of Wodan village.
This inline is crazy. The little pops of airtime, fast changes of direction, it's all just great. LOTS more of these in the world please, I bow to our new Mack overlords.
Wodan for me though was the best ride on the trip. The indoor queue has some great effects, and is just a really nice place to queue.
It just looks intimidating.
Has a spectacular entrance
Just loved it!
Bye bye Europa, it was fab. Should be back for Horror Nights!
I know I promised a part three of my disappearance blog AGES AGO but it's been a while so I'm just going to dump a load of Scarefest pictures and pictures from other stuff I've been up to since the end of last year here for anyone who's interested
The welcome posters were fabulous... Spot the mistake?
Compulsory trip Nemesis photos:
The Towers all lit up
No lights on the Smiler
Scarefest + scarecrows...
Morning welcome dance from the Alton Ancestors
Duel had an actual queue!
Shrek's Adventure... But I was more amazed by this!
Went to the Olympic Park, which is soon to get a slide so I hear down the side of this monster...
The sky above Winter Wonderland (taken from the London Eye)
I love all the lights at Winter Wonderland
Thanks for putting up with my dodgy photography, will have a few more photo dumps for you soon!
Welcome to Part 2 of the Stuttgart Sojourn; an April weekend exploring the regional Parks of south Germany (if you haven't read it, Part 1 is here). Following an overcast, but very enjoyable, day at Tripsdrill, a good night's sleep in one of their cosy Schäferwagen, and a hearty continental breakfast in a log cabin in the middle of the WildParadies (a second gate Wildlife Park next to the Theme Park), it was time to make the hour-long drive north to Haßloch's Holiday Park!
And what a difference a day made to the weather; out was the blanket grey cloud, and in were bright blue skies with warm sunshine. Theme Parks generally look great in any weather, but they look especially great when the sun has his hat on .
Holiday Park is based 12 miles out of Neustadt in Haßloch, and much like Tripsdrill before it, is set in the middle of vast areas of German countryside. Rather more "corporate" and polished than Tripsdrill, the Park was owned and run by the Schneider family from its opening in 1971, and was sold on to Studio 100 (who own the Plopsa brand) in November 2010.
Since then, Studio 100 have made significant efforts to "Plopsa-ify" the Park, importing into Germany the characters so prominent in their other Parks (and if you haven't heard of Plop the Gnome, Wickie the Viking, and Maya the Bee... well, you're not missing much). And there are now lofty ambitions for Holiday Park, which had suffered in the years prior to the Studio 100 takeover, with the stated aim to drive gate figures up to 1.2m through a phased €25m investment (to match visitor numbers at the flagship Park, Plopsaland De Panne).
It's easy to spot the new owner's influence from the moment you enter the car park - Holiday Park now sports a jazzy new themed archway at the entrance, much like the one at its sister Park.
The eagle eyed amongst you will have already spotted the Park's signature attraction in the above photo, and it was indeed the first ride we made a Maya-the-Beeline for as we entered the Park.
Expedition Ge Force's reputation precedes it; winner of the (revered?) Mitch Hawker Best Steel Coaster Poll 5 times in the last 10 surveys, and never dropping below third place over that time. With three of my personal favourite coasters coming in at 8th (Shambhala), 9th (Nemesis), and 11th (Katun) respectively, it would be fair to say that I was hyped to get to ride the so-called "King" of the leaderboard.
The ride is loosely themed around an expedition, with jeeps / backpacking gear / kettle drums scattered around the queueline, but the station is essentially an unglamorous tin shack, and the unthemed trains are of the standard Intamin lap-bar variety, commonly seen on their megalite rides (although these had tedious seat belts around the waist as well as the lap bar).
So far, so average. Also average were the operations - one train op, with the 2 ride attendants checking and re-checking both bar and seat belt twice each before the train was dispatched. We were lucky that despite the glorious weather, the Park wasn't overly busy - but had these ops been on a busier day, the resulting queues would have been pretty intolerable.
What isn't in any way average though, is this ride's scale. In a small-ish Park, it looks absolutely huge (at 171ft tall), with a monstrous sweeping layout that takes up a pretty large amount of Holiday Park's available space.
The cable lift hill is speedy, and affords some magnificent views of the surrounding countryside, along with the large twisty mess of track that riders are about to navigate. And as with Shambhala, the anticipation (and feeling of vulnerability) on the ascent is tangible.
There are many standout moments on this ride.
The 75mph first drop is an absolute winner; steep and sharply twisted down to the ground - in the back row particularly it's a killer. The numerous airtime hills, like the one below, deliver a sustained shot of ejector airtime. And the head choppers towards the end of the ride, where the track doubles back on itself underneath the supports of the first airtime hill, are some of the best I've experienced for maintaining the illusion of collision.
CoasterForce have a video of the ride that's well worth a look. GeForce is really, really good fun.
And yet, despite all this, it is hard to recommend it as the best coaster in the world.
The ride was built in 2001, around the same sort of time as Thorpe's Colossus. Aside from the lack of OTSRs, the train and track construction is pretty similar. The trains sound the same as Colossus as they roar around the track. And the comparisons with Colossus unfortunately extend to comfort: Expedition GeForce has exactly the same level of constant vibration / roughness that Colossus has.
For some people, this may add to the ride - no-one can claim that GeForce isn't exhilarating, or that it doesn't "give you a good ride". It's quite the thrill. But it does, especially in the back rows, mean that rides can come off GeForce feeling a bit beaten up.
And alas our old friends - the Intamin lap bars of doom - also don't help this feeling. Granted, they're far preferable to Colossus' restrictive OTSRs, but they do crush your thighs, especially over those ejector airtime hills, making re-riding more of a difficult choice than it should be. How Richard Rodriguez spent 104 days on the thing I've no idea.
So, Expedition GeForce: brilliant in many ways, but not, in my opinion, the best coaster in the world.
The Park's other big attraction is 2014's Sky Scream, a Premier LSM launched coaster with a small footprint; identical to Superman Ultimate Flight (the 2012 original) at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. Part of Studio 100's €25m investment plan, the ride replaced the ageing Vekoma Corkscrew Super Wirbel, and a la Towers' entrance, corkscrew track from retired ride has been installed over the pathway towards Sky Scream as a nostalgic decoration.
And as you can see, the old overgrown Wirbel area has been completely transformed by the new ride. Anyone for a quick trip in the Sky Scream Limo of Horror?
I was not expecting to come away with a hugely positive review of the ride, thinking that the experience would be similar to Parque de Atracciones' Abismo, Linnanmäki's Ukko and the like (in short: fun Maurer rides, but too short, and with stomach-hugging, oppressive restraints).
I was surprised.
Sky Scream is smooth, intense, and well engineered. The train shuttles out of the blocks into a half-powered set of LSMs, pushing it halfway up the incline. Then it shuttles (backwards) into the station, where the LSMs (now with reversed magnetism) push it nearly all the way up the incline on the opposite side. Gravity does its bit to take the train back down (forwards) into the station, where the LSMs (at 100%) boost the train right up the incline and over the top of the 150ft structure.
A slow inline twist follows at the top (as with the Maurer SkyLoops), and then a short holding brake (seen below) creates suspense, before the train bombs down again at a very steep angle into the non-inverting loop, and then down again back into the station. The train overshoots the station once, before being comfortably braked coming backwards in to stop.
Sky Scream is a lot of fun, with decent Gs felt across all of the elements, and the (comfortable) lap bar restraints meaning the rider can properly enjoy being thrown around the circuit. It's worth saying that the trains come complete with a leg bar as well as a lap bar - which could be an irritation for taller people - but (at 6'1'') this didn't materially affect my enjoyment of the ride.
Holiday Park chose to open the ride without any of the associated themeing in place (see an early photo here), but a mention must be given to the final product, which is now of a very high quality. The queueline acts as a walk-through Haunted House, with jumpy TV-screen effects, detailed set scenes, and loud noises (chains, dogs barking) startling prospective riders throughout. The Park actually has banners outside the entrance advising under 14s to stay away! I particularly enjoyed the lenticular portraits that changed from "normal" to "spooky" as you walked on past; done before, but nonetheless effective.
Overall, Sky Scream gets a thumbs up. Yes, it's short, but for the size of its footprint I think Premier are on to a winner, besting Maurer's ride by having intense launches, and being less clunky and more comfortable. And with two of these rides having opened last year, and two more opening this year, I'm clearly not the only person to think so.
Given its limitations, Sky Scream clearly can't compete with the very best coasters out there, but I'd ride again without hesitation. Couple that with an impressive themeing package, and Studio 100 have done a great job here - no bad thing if this is indicative of future quality from Holiday Park.
The Park's final coaster comes in the form of Holly's Wilde Autofahrt ("Holly's Crazy Car Journey"), a brightly-themed 2010 Maurer Wild Mouse from the now defunct Loudoun Castle, not dissimilar to Rattlesnake at Chessington. There's not a lot to be said about these rides, other than this one was running well, with barely a brake in sight... other than at the very end! The cars screech around the corners with gusto, throwing all riders uncontrollably into the side of the vehicles.
Brutal, but fun!
It's easy as a coaster geek to undervalue common ride types, such as the wild mouse, the boomerang, even the wacky worm... but for 99% of a Park's guests, particularly the younger ones, these rides are as fresh and exciting as anything else out there.
I was reminded of this when watching riders on Holly's Wild Fart (yes, a fart gag) - almost every car was filled with guests screaming their heads off and having a thoroughly good time. These ride types are successful for a reason, and although we goons might have ridden many identikit versions of a type ourselves, this doesn't make their existence any less worthwhile.
Onto the Park's supporting attractions, and first up was Sky Fly, a new-for-2015 Gerstlauer, um, Sky Fly. Whilst not winning any awards for naming innovation, the Park have presented the ride well in a colourful new area surrounded by stalls, cafes and a toilet block. I am a huge fan of this ride type, which involves riders tilting the wings on their individual aircraft left and right in order to induce rotation, all whilst being whirled around a central support via a giant arm (much like a Mondial Top Scan).
Holding the left wing down / right wing up will rock you in one direction, holding left wing up / right wing down will rock you in the other. Get enough momentum up and you can make it over the top and complete a 360. Keep your wings "fixed" in the wing position (up / down) that pushes you over the top, and you'll continue to rotate in that direction like a madman. Of the 12 guests per ride, usually 2-3 will grasp the concept and make it over the top.
What is brilliant is that the rider can set the intensity of their ride by how much they want to rotate their aircraft. What is also brilliant is that if you get the rotation momentum right, the resulting spinning is downright insane - and easily one of the most intense flat ride experiences out there. If you have read my mini Trip Report from Nigloland in 2014, you'll know that their Air Meeting gave me a subconjunctival haemorrhage, as well as an uncontrollable fit of the giggles. Whilst the eye problems were thankfully not repeated in Holiday Park, the giggles certainly were, and I came away with a big grin on my face, along with lots of strange looks from the waiting crowd.
The Park also has a Star Flyer, the 260ft Lighthouse Tower, from Funtime. I like these rides mainly for the fab views (yes, more German countryside), but with only a few chains holding your chair onto the central spinning structure, I can see why some otherwise-confident guests chicken out of riding...!
Burg Falkenstein ("Falkenstein Castle") is a German hill castle in the Harz mountain range, located between Aschersleben and Harzgerode, dating back to the High Middle Ages. It's also the name of Holiday Park's only dark ride!
Built in 1987, the ride certainly looks the part from the outside, complete with wooden stocks and well-established plants growing up around the aging brickwork...
...and long-time visitors to Thorpe will recognise the inside - it's Phantom Fantasia!
Sort of. Mack provided Holiday Park with this version of the omnimover-style ride 4 years after they furnished Thorpe with theirs, and 5 years after they gave Europa Geisterschloss.
Alas time has not been kind to the Burg on the inside. Burg Falkenstein has to be one of the most badly-aged dark rides in Europe, with only a tedious journey around supposed "animatronics" that are either falling apart, squeaky, or stationery, to offer. The attraction is very dark, and there is the impression that scenes have been removed over the years; there are some entirely blank spots during the ride. Altogether very dull.
It's a well above average dark ride building, and a well below average dark ride. A shame.
Much more impressive is Donnerfluss ("Thunder River"), an Intamin rapids ride that also happens to be Holiday Park's oldest ride; built in 1983, Donnerfluss was also Germany's first ever rapids.
Sporting the same boats as Thorpe's Thunder River (also an Intamin creation), this rapids has all the components of a great water ride: good rockwork, thunderous waterfalls, surprise geyser bombs, and most importantly, some pretty hairy rapids sections! 3 out of 4 of our boat got very wet; only one of us came off unscathed, and thankfully that was me .
And on the subject of good water rides, Wickie Splash is another solid addition to the Park's lineup. The Mack flume was opened as Teufelsfässer in 1992 ("Barrels of Hell"; darkly-themed with the devil, skeletons, and fire effects), but received a family-friendly Plopsa re-brand in 2014.
The re-theme is fantastic, brightening up the whole area with shiny, colourful buildings and characters from the Wickie the Viking series (if you still aren't familiar, you can enjoy / waste 3 minutes introducing yourself here). And the log flume itself is excellent; 3 fun drops including one backwards, with the inside turntable sections allowing for some storytelling with Wickie and friends. The final drop is an airtime-filled double-down, much like Logger's Leap's (now sadly missed), but a smidgen higher at 65ft.
Good length, multiple drops, a backwards section, well themed, wet but not too wet. You can't ask for much more from a Park flume!
The final ride of note in the Park is Anubis Free Fall Tower; the first free fall drop in Europe, standing tall at 230ft. I love Intamin drops, common though they are, and this delivered as consistently as any other. That said, having opened in 1997, its age does show - the fall itself was pretty unrefined and clunky, and there was definitely a greater than average amount of shaking on the way down!
It's also worth saying that the link to Anubis, Studio 100's successful kids drama, was tenuous at best - there were a few posters of the show displayed in the queueing area... and that was it.
Previously the ride was simply called Free Fall Tower. Nothing like shoehorning in an IP when it's not required...!
And last, but by no means least, we come to the Park's all-season Wasserski Stunt Show, staged at least once a day in the Park's 1,300 capacity Aquastadion.
Replacing the incumbent show of the last 2 years, "Hollywood's Talking Dead" (um, OK ), for their 45th birthday Holiday Park debuted a brand new spectacle: "Die Jubilaumsshow Holiday Park - 45 Jahre" ("The Anniversary Show of Holiday Park - 45 Years"). There was even a giant celebratory cake floating in the middle of show lake.
The Holiday Park waterski show remains Europe's first and only waterski stunt show in Europe, and against any metric, it's an absolute winner. A team of c.10 stunt performers showed off some serious skills on the water, involving waterskis, waterboards, high speed boats, jetskis, and jetpacks. There was also some abseiling and high-wire work across the audience.
And the whole show was set to a pumping up-tempo soundtrack, with gunfire, cannon-fire, pyrotechnics and party streamers thrown into the mix!
Perhaps the best thing about the show though was its bonkers storyline. My German's not exactly great, but from what I could gather...
Holly (the Park's original mascot; not a Plopsa character) wants to throw a party to celebrate Holiday Park's 45th birthday
Holly has made a giant birthday cake, and needs help lighting the candles
Comedy French bad guy (in a comedy cape, sporting comedy mustache) turns up with his comedy French henchman, having arrived all the way from Disneyland Paris (in a Mickey-Mouse themed old banger)
Disneyland Paris bad guy claims that Disneyland is the best Park in Europe, and therefore must ruin Holiday Park's 45th birthday celebrations
Holly attempts to eliminate the Disneyland bad guy, via many high-speed chases and stunts on the water
Having had no success, Holly rings up good friend Roland Mack (!), who provides Holly with a Europa Park stunt boat (!!)
Holly saves the day by arriving in the nick of time on the Europa Park stunt boat
Both comedy French bad guy and henchman are blown up in a big fireball via a cannon
The cannon is then filled with fireworks and directed towards the cake
The cake explodes with colourful fireworks, streamers erupt into the audience, Holly does a dance, much jubilation, etc...
Utterly hilarious, and great to see such tongue-in-cheek rivalry between Parks on the continent...!
Holiday Park flatters itself by making the comparison to Disneyland and Europa, but still... top stuff .
So if it wasn't clear already, I had a great day at Holiday Park, with GeForce, Sky Scream, and the Wasserski Stunt Show being reason alone to make the journey over to Haßloch. It's in a period of transition, with the new owners investing in both new areas (Sky Scream) and redevelopment of old areas (Entrance Plaza, Wickie Splash) - and long may this investment continue.
There is certainly more to do; the Park's layout is strange, and the quality is inconsistent; generally, things that have been Plopsa-ified are of a far higher standard than the legacy areas from the old ownership (I'm looking at you, Burg Falkenstein...). So there's a way to go before the whole thing feels coherent. But I am confident - seeing the improvements to date, and having the backing of the chain behind it - that this upward trajectory will continue.
And any Park that invests heavily in entertainment gets my vote. In addition to the Wasserski Stunt Show, Holiday Park puts on an energetic daily parade involving all the Plopsa characters, as well as regular shows for little ones in the main plaza area.
Thanks for all the smiles, Maya the Bee!
And thanks to you for reading; comments welcome as always.
The 2016 Theme Park season is upon us, and what better way to kick off than a weekend hop over to visit our deutsche Freunde in Baden Württemberg. The reason for the trip was to explore two of the more regional, and less-well-travelled parks, in Germany: Tripsdrill and Holiday Park.
Planning was a cinch, involving a Eurowings flight out to Stuttgart (£50) and overnight stay at the Wyndham hotel on airport (£30) on the Friday evening, 2-day car hire from Avis (£30) picked up on the Saturday morning, entry to Tripsdrill on the Saturday (£17), overnight stay in the Tripsdrill Schäferwagen on the Saturday evening (£40), entry to Holiday Park on the Sunday (£24), petrol for the weekend (£8.50), and BA flights home on Avios (£17.50); all prices per person, based on 2 travelling. At £217 each, it's great value - and I'd encourage anyone thinking about planning a similar European trip to jump straight in - there's a huge variety of Theme Parks on the continent, not all that far from us, at relatively accessible prices.
As you can see, both Tripsdrill and Holiday Park are easily driven to from Stuttgart airport, although flying into Frankfurt could also work. And for a three day trip, Europa Park is also just under 100 miles away...
First up, on the Saturday, was Tripsdrill; a Park marketed as "featuring over 100 original attractions depicting Swabian life in the late 1800s... remarkable attention to detail, dedication to authenticity and respect for nature truly set Tripsdrill apart". And I'm happy to report that there's no marketing hooey here: the above sums up Tripsdrill really rather well.
This here is a Swabian man - let's call him Günther - from the late 1800s. Goodness knows what he is doing, or what he has on his back, but Tripsdrill is stuffed full of animatronics such as Günther - the Park really is a mecca for rural German history, if that's the sort of thing you're into. There are whole areas of the Park filled with both static tableaux and moving scenes, and you can easily spend an hour wandering around the place exploring all the exhibits.
This, along with its gorgeous rural location (in a valley, surrounded by vast rolling fields), gives Tripsdrill a very "homely" feel: it would come as no surprise to anybody that it remains family owned (the Fischers have run Tripsdrill since 1929; it's easily Germany's oldest Theme Park). It's clearly important to the owners that the Park integrates as much with nature as possible; wood is used for most buildings, and there are trees and flowers everywhere. And being family owned, there is a more "relaxed" approach to H&S (although I never once felt unsafe), operations were excellent, and there wasn't a queue-jumping scheme to be seen.
First up for us was the 2013 Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster, Karacho (no literal translation, other than "a lot of power"). The Park's newest and most intense ride, Karacho still manages to nestle in very comfortably with its countryside surroundings. The ride features Infinity trains with similar assemblies to Alton's The Smiler, but with only 2 rows rather than 4, and lap bars instead of OTSRs.
Themeing on the ride, as with all of Tripsdrill, is excellent, with scenes around the queueline telling a story about a madcap inventor designing his perfect roller coaster, surrounded by plans, prototypes and the like. Karacho is the result of his work, but as riders disembark, they are treated to one final animatronic of the inventor throwing up (water) into an oil drum. Not so perfect for him, then.
The ride itself involves a 180 degree turn out of the station into darkness, a "surprise" indoors heartline roll in the same vein as The Smiler, a peppy 55mph LSM launch out into the light, and an outside layout that involves a 98ft top hat, 2 dive loops and a corkscrew.
Operations were excellent, with fast, regular dispatching of trains - the operator would give each lap bar one push down and one pull up, and that was it; away we went. Top marks.
I was expecting Karacho to be a solid Gerstlauer installation, in the same vein as Lynet at Fårup, or Anubis at Plopsa. Solid launch, decent layout, OK trains. So I was really surprised to find that Karacho was actually bloody fantastic.
The trains are a large reason as to why - the Gerstlauer clamshell lap bar is a triumph; allowing maximum freedom whilst not exerting too much pressure on any one part of your thighs (I'm looking at you, solid Intamin bar of doom; see my Italy TR for more musings on this). For me, Karacho's are the closest coaster seats in terms of comfort to those found on Mack's megacoaster product - high praise indeed.
This elevates an enjoyable experience to a brilliant one, as the rider has complete freedom to be thrown about the remarkably well-tracked layout - which, in contrast to certain other rides, features absolutely no jolting or shuddering whatsoever. It's super smooth, and super fun.
By far the highlight of the ride is the 2nd dive loop, shown below. Not only does the ride tunnel underground, but the transition from the banked curve (seen at the back) and the dive loop (at the front) is very tight, meaning that riders get sharply "pulled around" into the dive (in a similar way to blue fire's final inline twist). It's an example of where OTSRs would have caused all sorts of painful head bashing, but with clamshell restraints, the ride remains intense but comfortable.
A final nod to the ride's lighting package. The well-themed trains look even better when they connect to the power supply in the station, as the two rear "engines" start to glow a vibrant red. It's a simple LED effect but really showcases Tripsdrill's attention to detail, fostering a nice anticipatory atmosphere in the dimly-lit station.
Overall, Karacho came very close for me to being the perfect mid-sized coaster. Although it probably wouldn't trouble my top 10, it would get fairly close - and it's by far the best Gerstlauer I've ever ridden. It actually prompted me to consider a trip to Finland to ride its brightly-coloured brother at PowerLand, and seems to me to be the perfect investment for parks with mid-sized budgets; I can imagine Blackpool and Drayton would be good candidates in the UK for this sort of ride.
And finally - why, oh why, could Merlin not have opted for lap bars on Smiler's Infinity trains...?!
Next up was 2008's Mammut ("Mammoth"), a pre-fab wooden coaster from Holzbau Cordes (similar to Intamin's pre-fab efforts with Balder and Colossos), themed around German saw mills. Cue more tableaux in the queue line of workers, saws, wood, etc... you get the idea. Strangely, no mammoths to be seen. And again, Gerstlauer were involved - this time producing the trains.
It's an imposing ride for a smaller park like Tripsdrill (98-foot tall, 2,822ft long), and I had to set my camera to "panorama mode" to fit it all in...
We were lucky enough to get 4 back-to-back rides in the morning (it turns out the Park doesn't get so busy during dreary Saturdays in April...!), and I'm happy to report Mammut is a good 'un.
An entertaining pre-show before the lift hill (with a "saw mill goes wrong" theme), a killer first drop (especially in the back row), and a varied layout including a tunnel, all add up to a solid ride. Operations were good, albeit one train only.
It isn't hugely intense - although I suspect that's not the market Tripsdrill's after - and there is a little bit of roughness during some parts of the ride - although there's a good argument that this is part and parcel of a wooden coaster - but these are minor quibbles of an otherwise decent coaster.
You also get the advantage of some superb views of the rolling green countryside as you ascend the lift hill.
It's no Wodan or Troy, but just look at the curve on that drop. Phwoar.
Moving on, and this is G'sengte Sau - the Park's first "big" coaster, from - you guessed it - Gerstlauer. Indeed, Tripsdrill's involvement with Gerstlauer goes back a long way, as G'sengte Sau was Gerst's first ever coaster, back in 1998. And what is remarkable is how smooth and accomplished the ride is, given that it was Gerstlauer's very first effort.
The ride is built around a schwäbisch castle, featuring the wild-mouse bends and tight helices typical of these bobsled coasters, with some good near misses around the building structure. More than most rides at Tripsdrill, this one felt truly integrated with its environment; the bunny hops towards the end of the layout felt more like they were following the terrain than having been artificially created.
It most reminded me of Thor's Hammer at Djurs, which was no bad thing - and no surprise either given that Thor was Gerst's 2nd ever bobsled ride in 2002. A little rough in places, but capable of pulling some great forces around its tight layout.
Note how close the ride track is to the public pathway; no netting obscuring the view, no fencing or bars erected in the name of H&S. It makes a big difference to the organic feel to the ride, and was great to see - the Germans are clearly more trusted than we are to not do anything stupid...
The other side to the castle hosts the wonderful Badewannen-Fahrt zum Jungbrunnen (translation: "Bathtub Journey to the Fountain of Youth"). This is an above-average Mack flume ride, where riders sit in comedy bathtubs meandering around various animatronic bath time scenes - some featuring a fair bit more nudity than you'd see in other countries! I have photos, but we must remember that TPM is a family website...
There were three drops, including a backwards one, and some nice interaction with the aforementioned G'sengte Sau. The drop was visually impressive, but didn't get you all that wet - which is the perfect combination for a cloudy April afternoon in my eyes.
By far the best bit of Badewannen-Fahrt zum Jungbrunnen however is the figure - let's call her Maike - that greets you when you disembark your bathtub.
She surely has to be one of the most gross characters to be found at a Theme Park, ever.
Some things cannot be unseen...
Onto some of the Park's supporting attractions, and we come first to Doppelter Donnerbalken (literally, "Double Thunder Beam"). This is a quirky set of two 50ft drop towers from Premier, facing each other, both themed to large trees. "Forest Brother" Huzelin lives in these trees, apparently, and the only way to visit him is to ride the tower. You know it makes sense.
What was quirky about the ride, apart from the fab Tripsdrill themeing, was what happened for the finale. For most of the ride the towers acted like oversized frog-hoppers, bouncing around whilst catching the expressions of those on the tower opposite (made all the more thrilling by only having a small lap bar to hold you in). The finale though involved both towers being raised to the highest point, and then a pretty fast, aggressive lurch forwards towards the riders on the opposite side.
This maneuver was genuinely surprising, and only a touch away from being "too rough" - with only a thin lap bar to hold you in, the experience could be compared to having a minor car crash.
A nice idea, but I have no doubt that the same effect could be achieved in a more refined way. It's telling that I didn't rush around to ride it again, and I'm a big fan of drop towers (for the record, Thorpe's Detonator still stands as #1 drop tower for me, even up against other towers three times its height...).
The Park also has a decent kiddie coaster in Rasender Tausendfüßler (translation: "Raging Centipede" ), a Zierer Tivoli with a high-capacity train that snakes around a lake with a fountain.
Some decent landscaping - and two laps around the track rather than one - elevate this coaster above the majority of similar kiddie rides.
Tripsdrill also has an excellent rapids ride in Waschzuber-Rafting ("Washtub Rafting"), a Hafema installation themed around an old washhouse from 1808. The queueline was, as ever, excellently themed, although old mangles and first-gen Miele washing machines aren't the most exciting of things to view whilst queueing...
I've always been a fan of Hafema rapids (their best creation surely being Phantasialand's River Quest) due to their innovative 3-piece boats that allow water to slosh around everywhere. This rapids was great fun as expected, with some seriously choppy bits, a thundering waterfall section, and a mock whirlpool, seemingly a Hafema hallmark.
Note again how close the Park's public areas are to the trough of the rapids. There's only a small wire fence between the pathway and the ride, meaning that an idiotic guest could easily jump right on in...
...and the same applies for Mühlbach-Fahrt ("Mill Stream Ride"), the Park's kiddie flume with a teensy 11ft drop - the cobbled area shown on the bottom right of this photo is a public area, but with absolutely nothing to stop a guest falling / jumping in to the water. I wonder how many kids in the summer have attempted to jump in!
In today's age of hyper-sensitivity to H&S and litigation, Tripsdrill's approach is unusual, but refreshing - let's just hope their more trusting attitude doesn't spell trouble for the Park down the line.
And finally a quick look at some oddities that make Tripsdrill, well, Tripsdrill. This ride, Weinkübelfahrt ("Wine Barrel Ride"), looks like your typical cars-on-a-track affair (R.I.P. Miss Hippo), but when various sensors are tripped around the course, the barrels spin like a lively teacup. Fun!
Fittingly, just behind the Weinkübelfahrt is the Vinarium, a free museum dedicated to German viticulture that offers all those who enter a free Tripsdrill glass ( ) and a walk around (yet more) exhibits of Swabian culture.
More of note was the cellar of this Vinarium, which turned out to be a fully operational bar. Manned by a local guy with absolutely no understanding of English whatsoever (A Level German suddenly became very useful to me), locally-produced wines from the region were the order of the day. I went for a glass of red (€1.50), which proved very palatable.
Tripsdrill are onto a winner here: if only more Theme Parks would give out free merch and sell cheap local wine in pleasant surroundings....
Laughs were had on the Park's Wackelräder ("Shaky Wheels") bikes, which had asymmetrical spokes on the front wheels, making them pretty hard to cycle around. I crashed into a wall once, and very nearly crashed into another guest barely a minute later. Good fun, with up-charging conspicuous by its absence.
In all, Tripsdrill is a really lovely place, filled with good quality, well themed mid-sized attractions.
Karacho is a stand-out ride. The fact the Park is family owned and run is evident throughout, and although it was pretty when I went, it must look really gorgeous in the summer. The flowerbed : guest ratio, even in peak season, must be approaching something like 3 : 1 .
It's also a place filled with German heritage oddness, which can range from educational and interesting to just plain strange.
To finish, I'll leave you with the latter; yet another Tripsdrill character - let's call this one Stefanie - who was found towards the end of the Tripsdriller Eheinstitut (translation: "Tripsdrill Institution of Marriage"; itself an odd attraction).
You saucepot, Stefanie.
N.B. We stayed overnight in one of Tripsdrill's Schäferwagen ("Shepherd's Carts"); essentially a classier, all wooden Thorpe Shark Hotel, set in gorgeous woodland surroundings. Theoretically you can fit 5 in these 13 sq.m.carts, although it would be a squeeze even with 4: two bunk beds hang over a central double bed, with a couch doubling up as a potential fifth bed. Toilets and showers are situated in a (well maintained) central block, but for those with a bit more cash to spare, full blown 6-person 35 sq.m. treehouses (with integrated bathrooms) are also up for grabs.
It was more than comfortable, and didn't just provide €7 pizzas delivered to our door and a great night's sleep, but a hearty free breakfast the next morning. At €100 (£80) a night all-in, including free entry to the Tripsdrill Wildparadies Nature Park next door and discounted Tripsdrill Theme Park entry, it comes recommended to those looking for an overnight option.
Thanks for reading; comments welcome as always.
Next up: Holiday Park!
It had been almost two years since my previous visit to Alton Towers, due to numerous reasons and terrible planning in 2015 [see my Alton Towerless weekend entry]. Whilst 2016 is set to Thorpe's year on the new ride development front, a new attraction managed to pull me in to the orbit of Alton Towers.
That new experience was Galactica, the park's former flyer Air, now turned VR coaster for 2016.Would this ret-heme reach new heights or lack atmosphere without Air.
Now I know what some of you are thinking, where is the proof that I actually visited the park recently following my non trip to Disneyland Resort?
Here it is.
Anyway, back on topic.
The entrance plaza is definitely alot more striking and eye catching from the old one. The new logo is a nice touch with the ride's name below which gives the attraction a modern and sleek personality. Most of the rocks have been repainted space grey except the one that used be between the old air sign. The Galactica floor paving is also a very attractive feature in the plaza area.
The Music Soundtrack
the ride has also gained a new soundtrack. Created by IMA Score [arguably the B&M of park music], the new theme is very tranquil, airy and ambient whilst entailing a sense of excitment and wonder.
Amongst it's similarities with other IMA work , the music features similarities to a number of film soundtracks & Composers. These include Vangelis, The Matrix, American Beauty and Interstellar. Since most of these are Space/ Sci-Fi related, the music is definitely coherent.
The Queue line/build up
Aside from some improved fences and painted areas, the queue line remains almost identical to when it was Air [which was expected]. However it does look a lot more neat and tidier and builds the ride up more.
The photo opportunity unit is where the old merge point was which involves placing your head in a bowl like thing and automatic photos taken moments later. Once finished, the queue continues where the ride splits in to the two stations like before.
The ride's stations are considerably different whilst retaining similarities to the original. The main change that both are now fully enclosed [whilst previously being semi-enclosed].
This helps add some atmosphere prior to boarding alongside the new instructional videos through the attraction's fictional computer Eve explaining how to prepare prior to riding.
One of the things I love and hate are the air gate signs. I love how they say Galactica Gate [a sort of reference/element from one of Air's old features]. However I don't like that there are no numbers on the signs, which feels like a very simple flaw [making boarding harder for guests].
Once seated a ride host helps you strap on your VR goggles located in boxes/pouches connected to the restraint. The goggles can be adjusted at the back for comfort and element, whilst the focus can also be adjusted for blurriness.
One thing that should be noted is that dispatch times are considerably slower than when it was Air and the gap between putting on the headset and dispatch feels uncomfortably long and under whelming.
When the VR starts, it literally does start. no introduction, no build up it just begins as if someone's pressed play on a device.
The VR experience starts off well to begin with [bar the sudden jump], where a narration and the ride theme accompany some interesting graphics depicting being in a launch tunnel with lots of working machinery and devices. This is visually impressive to witness and reminds me somewhat of films like The Matrix, Inception and Interstellar to name a few.
Once you get to the top, a launch sequence begins where you then enter the space travel part of the attraction. Whilst it's interesting to witness on the ride, it's just as exciting off ride with the Portal element [more on that later].
Unfortunately like the ride's drop, it is here where the VR experience goes downhill.
Whilst the graphics are interesting to witness, a lot happens in the VR, too much. One minute you enter this hot fiery galaxy then the next your in this cold snowy planet less than 20 seconds later. This is before entering at least 2 more different worlds and then suddenly re-entering the portal element. It is here you are told you are safe and back at HQ before the VR ends a bit suddenly. You are then told to remove the goggles before heading back in the station.
Once back on foot, you follow the exit path where you soon enter the Galactica shop, which occupies 1/3 of Air's former shop.
Some nice space-esque lighting.
It may not be on the grand scale of the Derren Brown shop but it's still nicely themed and reminds me a little bit of Space Mountain in a way. There's some fairly decent merch in here too [though the shot glass looked a little tacky].
One of the other significant changes and additions is the portal. Located at the bottom of the drop, trains fly through this massive thematic element where a number of different light, smoke and mist effects go off in the process. This is a fantastic addition to the ride and gives Galactica that much more interaction and excitement to off riders amongst improving the themed experience as a whole.
The Critical Review
The portal is a stunning piece of theming and has got to be the most exciting feature built at Towers since the Marmaliser.
The sound track retains the fantastic quality IMA Score are renowned for
The entrance plaza is much more distinctive, striking and eye pleasing prior to when it was Air
The station area builds up to the ride much more than Airs used to
The pre-show videos fit in remarkably well
The new shop is decently themed
The wait between dispatch and VR kicking in is quite painstaking
Dispatch times are much slower to how Airs were
The headset can feel a bit uncomftable at times
The pace of the VR is off putting, it's too fast and begins and ends too suddenly
Headset tries to fall off during ride
VR may not be optional now
I have always thought Air has lacked style and personality compared to the other coasters [minus Rita]. It's felt rather bare, empty and a little unfished.
However the retheme to Galactica has definitely given the ride a much stronger image and personality as a stand out ride which feels more like an experience as . As Galactica the ride has gained a fantastic thematic centrepiece, loose storyline of space travelling and holes of it's empty past filled in.
However, it can't be helped that the VR feels like a gimmick just to make the ride's update feel more marketable. Whilst it still has some good points, the flaws including throughput, comfortability and pacing do outweigh the plus points. Unless something gives, I can't see the VR lasting by 2018 time as it causes too much hassle.
The perfect ride would be Galactica's theme/landscaping with Air's original flying concept.
Creeky Rating 6/10
But Lets Face It! Towers isn't about VR
It's about experiencing this beuaty!
As she's had a marvelous makeover this year
And I don't know about you. But at 22 she still runs very fine
And one the park's turds has been washed in glitter. It was running quite well that day too.
However this alone can't help the fact
The Uk's best experience is currently closed
A much needed flat has been sweeped out of the lineup
Alongside a much less popular one
Alongside a family staple [even it wasn't a patch on the also closed Loggers]
Not forgetting the selected shops
And food outlets that have also closed up for 2016
And these massive B&Q fences only add insult to injury
However I can happily cope with this closure, nothing lost here.
This place is nice though and Nemesis beer? what's not to like
But this needs to be great whenever it happens. Wood that be possible?
However with an entrance like this, how much is there not to like
So Smile always!
And I'll be back in June
To hopefully check out this exciting looking experience
One Creeky Criticism
One last thing I will however say, the park does now really lack rides. In an 8 hour day [thanks to ERT], I completed everything except Congo & Mine Train due to queues [and others not wishing to ride]. I even managed to do all coasters except Rita & Smiler at least twice alongside Duel and Skyride.
Considering it's the UK's biggest park, Towers no longer feels like a multiday park. At the moment it's very easy to nail the park in one day [even with a trip through the gardens].
Lets hope the park can get off it's knees and return to greatness now.
So we get of the Hogwarts express and arrive at Kings cross. It's crazy, literally just like a London station. The posters on the walls, to the bins, the constant train announcements, and they even had buskers!? It's just themeing to a whole new level.
We then walked out of Kings Cross to enter Diagon Alley. You turn a corner around a brick wall and then boom. There it is, Diagon alley.
Literally one place everyone has there phones out taking constant pictures. So real, just like the movies. Every little detail thought about. And same with the Wizarding world, such an amazing atmosphere, the music is perfect and has live performances. This area seems a lot more immersive with it being smaller, and the fire effect going off ever so often as well is cool.
Escape from Gringotts
Yes the whole experience starts from the queue with a lot of rides at Universal, but this whole queue is seriously amazing. Whole queue is well themed and has lots of entertainment, including 2 pre-shows! The single rider queue skips all of this out, so make you sure you go through the main queue once to see it all!
Onto the actual ride, again, its amazing! Beaten by the original FJ and Spiderman in my opinion, but the quality of the 3D on the ride is amazing. It does have quite a few rollercoaster elements in there as well which is cool. It was my brothers favourite ride ever.
Revenge of the mummy
Had no idea what to expect for this one. Walking through a very dark and atmospheric queue line. It ended up being one of the rides I rode the most at universal, most re-rideable, so so fun. More of a rollercoaster than a dark ride, it starts as a slow dark ride but soon turns into more of a rollercoaster. Really good theming, and the fire effects are amazing. Loved it <3 No 3D involved.
Very very dated, but it still had some pretty cool effects and is pretty interesting. The main part of the ride was over very quick though, did expect it to go on for longer. Good decision for it to go if I'm honest, it is very dated compared to the rest of the park and I'm sure Jimmy Fallon will be a lot lot better.
Hollywood rip ride rocket
Was really good, such a fun and unique coaster. Did find it slightly rough in some places, but it was nice having just a lapbar because of the freedom and found the seats pretty comfortable. Music made it really unique and it had quite a few near misses.
Men in black: Alien attack
So men in black was a shooter, competing with only dual and tomb blaster this is my favourite shooter. Again this was all proper theming, no screens involved. The ride system was pretty cool, lots of spinning round which actually had a bit of force to it Just a fun ride, I liked it.
Next up was the Simpsons ride, and yeah, It was alright. It was one of worst rides I did at Universal but that doesn't mean it was bad, it's just it was competing with some amazing rides. It basically lifts you up into like a curved Imax screen and you go on a rollercoaster journey, with 2 pre shows before the ride as well. I would of loved to of ridden it when it was back to the future.
The Simpsons building and whole area is amazing, the Simpsons theme gives it such a good atmosphere. It also has buildings you can go in like the Kick-E-Mart or Moe's as well as Simpson meets and greets.
Next up was ET which was an old dark ride with all proper theming, no use of screens. You sit on a bike which is pretty cool which is suspended from the roof (a similar ride system to Peter pan at Disney from what I remember) At the end of the ride is says goodbye to each individual rider, as you give your name before you get on the ride. Whilst it is a good ride, it is dated and is a ride I could be seen used for development (similar to Twister and Disaster.)
In between ET and the Simpsons there is a childrens area home to Woody the Woodpecker coaster, a barney show, a curious george play area and another play area. Maybe it's just because it was quiet while we were there but this area was always completely dead, and didn't really have a lot there apart from the coaster. It would be nice to see this area updated similar to Seuss Landing in IOA, or even a major ride put in there.
The moment you walk in the queue for this you know it's a new ride, and know its going to be a good one. Using the same or very similar ride system to Spiderman at IOA, it didn't disappoint. Not a lot to say about it really except it was very good, and that it used a good mix or real theming and screens similar to spiderman. Do prefer the previous 3 dark rides I've mentioned but this was really good.
Pretty good bog standard 4d cinema, very similar to Angry birds. Not a lot to say about it really, but it was good, and pretty funny
Terminator 2: 3D
Really didn't expect a lot from this, just a 3D cinema but was actually pleasantly surprised, it was very good. After a pretty long pre show (with live actors) we then got rushed in to a massive 3D cinema/ theater which was a mix of live action and 3D and loads of effects. Very impressive
Thats pretty much it for Universal, unfortunately we didn't get on Despicable me Minion Mayhem the whole time we were there as it always had a high queue time, wether that was because it has a low throughput or the fact its right next to the entrance I don't know?
I really liked Studios, and same with IOA, I loved the whole layout around the lake. I do however prefer IOA with it having my 2 favourite dark rides, better coasters and fun water rides.
City walk is such a nice area, and has some nice restaurants as well, although they are pretty pricey It's such a nice way to link the 2 parks as well, it takes less than 5 minutes if you are at one of the entrances.
Single rider queues are so so good, normally at least half the wait of the normal line, if not you get on pretty much instantly. A lot of times we got with people in our group as if they can't find a party of 2 quick enough they'll just shove 2 single riders on. Operations on all the rides are seriously faultless.
Thought it was worth mentioning that the drink capsules are really worth while here as well. You pay a higher price the first day for the cup but once you have a cup it's only $6 for unlimited refills all day. There are coke freestyle machines literally all round the parks which scan your cups automatically to see if they're active.
I've done a review of Busch Gardens Howl O scream if you haven't seen it already, and they will be a Universal Halloween Horror Nights one soon to compare
So it was the first day of our holiday, and waking up stupidly early due to jet lag we arrived at Universal after eating an IHOP. Yum.
We got our tickets, and we waited for IOA to open (even though studios opened at 8) not having a clue how busy it was going to be.
It opened a bit before 9, and after scanning our fingers we were in. We went straight to the back of the park for the Wizarding World.
Seeing the whole area, and Hogwarts for the first time is amazing. Photos, like of most places won't do it justice.
So much bigger than I thought it was going to be, looks so much better in person.
Not really knowing what to expect for my first proper dark ride (previous favourite being Dual) I was very exited to say the least.
Was seriously amazing, and in my opinion better than Gringotts. Gringotts may be more thrilling, but as an overall experience Forbidden Journey was my favourite dark. Perfect combination of screens and proper theming, and the ride system is soo cool! Amazed as I came off, I went straight round the single rider queue for another go.
Whole area has lots of shops to go in and experiences like live performances. Even if you're not a fan of Harry potter the area is amazing, yes I've seen the movies but I'm really not a fan of harry potter myself, and Forbidden Journey is still my favourite dark ride. The area also has a small Vekoma coaster called Flight of the Hippogriff with insane operations, and then obviously dragon challenge.
This ride literally never had a queue, the only queue was annoyingly for the metal detectors. If you didn't know, you have to go through metal detectors for both Dragon Challenge and Hollywood rip ride rocket, and I'm assuming Hulk as well which wasn't open at the time. This is so that no personal belongings such as phones can be taken in the queue line.
After a really long indoor queue, you then get to the point where you choose Chinese Fireball or Hungarian Horntail (easier to just say Fire and ice still )
They are both really good coasters actually, a lot better than I thought they were going to be! I do wish I rode them when they dueled. The entrance looked amazing back when it was dueling dragon! I personally preferred the Fireball however they were very similar!
Re-ride queue takes you straight to the front of the building again, so you don't have to queue to get through the metal detectors again. Great idea.
So Jurassic park was next, a really really good experience, especially the inside section and drop. So well themed, and the animatronics are amazing. It was however a really short experience and only had the 1 drop, a lot shorter than I was expecting it to be, especially the inside section. It was more outside than inside.
Getting all the water rides done at once, ripsaw falls was next, the best looking log flume I've ever seen by far
It didn't disappoint. Theming was great, and had quite a few good drops. Lap bars did make it uncomfortable, and I believe it didn't have them when it first opened? Guess they're there for a reason.
Theming in this whole toon area is really nice, and the music is cool.
By far the best rapids I've ever done. The theming is amazing, has a themed troff the whole way round. All the water effects make it so so good because of the randomness, lots high speed points and some good drops. I've heard so many times its the worlds wettest rapids, and after 4 re-rides, enough was enough. Still took a few hours to dry off in the heat.
Spiderman is an awesome ride, mainly screens but lots of scenery which adds to it. Lots of effects including fire, the music is perfect, one of my favourites. The ride system is really cool as well, and theres one point where it spins round loads which is fun. Defiantly my 2nd favourite dark ride I've ever done.
Say this about every area but he whole area is really nice, but it was such a shame hulk was closed and the ride was boarded off. Most of hulk was still there when I was there, but as I was there it was getting taken down.
Dr doom fearfall
2 S&S towers next to each other. Was really looking forward to this as I love drop towers and had never done a launching one before. I really enjoyed it, and the airtime once you get to the top is amazing. Single rider worked really well on this with it being up the exit, so no one really knows about it
A really really nice kids area, defiantly the the nicest I've ever seen. Did a few of the rides including the cat in the hat dark ride which was nice.
It then of course had the Hogwarts express which takes you to Studios, such a fantastic idea and is really handy. Not once did we spend the whole day in one of the parks, so this is great to take you from each one, when it doesn't have a queue.
Overall I loved IOA, its seriously such a beautiful park with such a good atmosphere. The whole park is superbly themed and has some great soundtracks just walking around the park. It's home to my 2 favourite dark rides, 3 great water rides and good coasters. The only downside in my opinion was the lack of rides, it really doesn't take long to get it all done especially during quiet days like when we visited. Was such a shame to see Hulk closed but I'm looking forward to visiting again to ride that and Kong
The journey continues at Studios... http://forum.maniahub.com/blog/76/entry-750-universal-studios-orlando-october-2015/
So was in the park from around mid day. The event started at half 7, and the park closed for normal quests at 6. People for Howl O scream were aloud in at 5 and were given wristbands, so from 6 only people with wristbands were given access to all the rides. This was nice as it meant we didn't have to sit doing nothing for an hour like we did at Universal.
Was really looking forward to this event, open until 1am with 7 houses with all the main rides open. There was a also a show, live music and nightclubs for those interested.
There were no specific scare zones listed on the map like universal but there quite a few around the park, and groups of actors walking round the park similar to Fright Nights. There were people dressed up in ghille suits hiding in bush's and trees all around the park who just randomly just out at people or make a loud bang every so often. I found out the hard way when at 6 (still daylight) I shat my pants when one jumped out a bush and made a loud bang. Didn't expect any actors to be out at all, especially at 6. The event hadn't even started and I had already had a much bigger scare than I got the whole time I was at Universal. Such a great idea, and scared so many people. No one expected it.
There was a group of clowns roaming the park as well, and one of them made me jump again as well. At a corner there was a clown just standing there making strange noises distracting me, then another clown jumps out from behind a bin with a horn and scares you. Very well done.
Anyway onto the houses...
So first up was the Basement. Turned up here about 15 minutes before it opened not knowing how busy/quiet it was going to be, but thought it was strange there being like 5 people in front of me when there was only 15 minutes until it opened.
As soon it was time, we were led down into the main queue and we were straight in. No talks like all the events in the UK, just signs at the entrance.
So at Busch gardens all the mazes were free flow meaning you didn't have to hold on the person in front of you, and they put you in the maze in around groups of 20, not as small as what they do in the UK but not as big as Universal (which is just a 1 massive conga line.)
Themed around mamas kitchen and how she is gonna cook you up and eat you. A brilliant house, better than all of the ones I did at Universal! Theming was excellent, water sprayed at you (as vomit) for example. All actors were great and stayed in roll the whole time, chainsaw ending on this one as well. 9/10
So next up located in Gwazi park (now closed during the day)...
Circus of superstition 3D
So being a 3D maze, you wear 3D glasses and everything in the maze is painted really bright UV colours, and all the glasses do is make the colours strike out a lot more.
After doing a dreadful 3D maze at Universal Halloween horror night I really wan't expecting much from this one. I walked up to the maze to see a completely empty queue, and got asked if I wanted to wait for a group or just go in alone (Didn't meet my family until after this house). So for the whole first half of the maze I was completely alone until I caught up with another group. It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Full of scares, including actors on swings/bungees who come out of no where and swing of the wall right up to you (you can't see them on a wall before they swing at you, they just come at you out of nowherere and swing back again. ) Clown costumes were excellent, music was excellent, acting quality again was amazing and overall just an amazing house. Defiantly one of the best I've ever done. 9/10
Facade looked amazing.
And there was a giant clown running around outside as well.
Next up was the new house for this year, Unearthed scarlets revenge.
Waited around 15 minutes for this one, was a bit stupid of us going in the house at the entrance of the park just as the event started as it had no queue later on Gwazis queue was used as the queue for this house, and even went right up to the station...
So annoying having a beautiful woodie lit up next to us SBNO which closed months before we went All the trains are still there sitting in the maintenance sheds.
Anyway back to the house, it was alright. Theming was good once again and was creepy, but lacked scares, which wasn't helped by the fact too many people were let in meaning it was very slow moving inside there. The main character in there Scarlett was just weird, a sexy girl with horns? Don't know how she was meant to be scary, or how she linked in with the rest of the monsters in there and rest of the house. Was just all a bit weird. Was a good house but just no where near as strong as the first 2 I did. 7/10
Death Water Bayou
Didn't really know what to expect for this one. Walked up a long path to find a nice facade, looked like an abounded house. This house was seriously amazing. Probably the best house/maze I've ever done. Seemed to have so many parts of the houses all combined into one, for example the swings/bungees from the clown maze were in here. A ridiculous amount of scares, a spinning tunnel, actors were amazing, theming was amazing, was just a really strong house throughout, loved every second. Very intense, most amount of scares in a maze. 10/10!!
Wasn't expecting to be scared a lot from this one, had never been through a zombie maze but once again a very good house. Soundtrack was great with a strong organ sound playing throughout, made a creepy atmosphere. Zombie costumes were really good, theming was good surprisingly a lot of scares. Another really strong house. 8/10
Again a pretty strong house, not a lot to say about this one. Theming was great, remember seeing a Merry go round, a playground, a graveyard. Was more creepy than scary. 8/10
Zombie Containment unit 15
Unfortunately I didn't get to experience this one. It had over a 45 minute queue the whole night when everything else was pretty much walk on, so we really couldn't be bothered. Guessing the reason for this is low throughput, all I know is that you have a gun and have to shoot the zombies. My advice to anyone that goes would be to do this first before it builds up a queue, the queue did not go down the whole time we were there.
Rides open at night were:
Cheetah Hunt in the dark was very good with a lot of it being dark.
Dodgems were great with smoke, lazers and loud music.
Kumba :wub: :wub: :wub:
Falcons Fury, which the Americans seemed to love.
Overall this was by far the best Halloween event I've ever done. The park atmosphere was fantastic, actors all round the park were fantastic and obviously all the main rides are open for night rides. There was really good music throughout the park, lighting and smoke machines everywhere. It's crazy how much a huge place can all have such a good atmosphere.
All the houses were very good, all had excellent theming, nice facades, great soundtracks and full of actors. Obviously some were better than others, but all the houses were very strong and there was none that I thought were terrible.
Walking around the park in the day is completely different to walking around it at night, it just all comes out of no where. There are loads of really nice photo opportunities dotted around the park as well, with actors standing there and staff to take a photo for you. Have one of me and my Dad.
We left the park a few hours early, we got we wanted to do done multiple times as there was literally no queues. Busch are good with re-rides on the coasters as well which is nice.
Lots of actors at the exit when we left
Apologies all the photos are terrible but they were all taken on my phone and all turned out very bad at night.
Thanks for reading. Happy to do a trip report of Busch Gardens in the day, Universal halloween horror night, Islands of adventure, Studios, Sea World, Fun Spot if people are interested
If 2014 was a year with new rollercoasters left, right and centre, then 2015 was like returning to old friends and sharing a big hug. This was a first for me. Not a single new park in 2015 and only two rollercoasters to my name. Why was this? I wish I knew but my priorities seemed to be tried and tested parks rather then venturing out into the unknown in a quest too boost a coaster count.
To start the year, it took till May to visit my first theme park of the year; the amazing Europa Park. We all know the draw with this, the important thing is that this theme park blows my mind overtime and if you haven't been yet, go. The best collection of rides, shows, hotels, entertainment, bars, environments and theming in the world. We took a detour via Disneyland Paris which just seems to go from strength to strength.
A month later, came Florida for my birthday (Although my partner will always maintain it was just for Star Wars weekend). Despite all the criticism Florida gets, I always have a wonderful time at Disney World and always shed a tear when I leave. Was good to see Dan9 on his first trip there too.
October time and back to Disneyland Paris before the big refurbishment years hit which includes massive closures to Disneyland Parc. No Thunder Mountain, no Star Tours and other rides down for several months. We were there to take my partners mum on her first Disney trip. She had an amazing time is already pushing us to visit for Christmas in 2016.
The final foreign trip of the year was a free trip that I won to Europa Park. I could complain that we were only there for a day and a half and spent most of the time tired, but thats petty when everything about the trip was paid for buy the Stuttgart government. Every ride had some kind of Christmasy vibe such as the Spacemen on Euro-Sat dressed as Santa or entire rafts on the Indian river raft ride taken over by Snowmen. It was wonderful.
And now.. the depressing part of the trip report.
I've taken a massive break from Merlin, even before the Smiler incident. My trips to Alton, Thorpe and Chessington in 2014 had been pretty depressing. The parks were getting run down, lots of ride closures and things broken and a general feeling that the parks were not where they should be and with no hope in sight I'd just gone cold turkey and wouldn't be talked round to visiting. Once the Smiler crashed in June, I felt compelled, despite my feeling that Merlin don't deserve defending, to defend the park against the public and particularly the media calling our parks unsafe, deserving of closure and other negative comments that really put a shiver down my coaster enthusiast spine. Despite all the bad things that I know of the Merlin parks, safety has never been something I've questioned or even thought of when riding an attraction at their parks.
I even felt a need to visit and it wasn't until August that I stepped back into Thorpe Park. The same old issues arose. Loggers, Saw, Slammer, Colossus, Fish, Storm Surge and the Swarm all closed at the same time. The terrible Angry Birds Land and the not even worth looking at I'm a Celebrity Maze hardly inspire confidence that Merlin can get these parks back on track. There are some nice shiny parts of Thorpe but Nemesis Inferno, Stealth, The Swarm and Detonator cannot save Thorpe. A worthy, insightful, interesting, entertaining, fun attraction is needed desperately IMO.
October saw me visit Alton. Christ what a ghost town. The Smiler incident has truly ripped the heart out of Alton Towers. I've never seen Nemesis, Air and Rita running one train and struggling to fill all the rows and I've certainly never seen Oblivion on a two carriage operation. Whilst all the outrage at Alton about rumoured ride closures and massively cut hours is justified, theres only so much money that can be made from the few people that visit. It's very easy to sit in a room and declare Alton a disgrace for whats happening there. All we can say is that Alton is ever to get back to its feet, it needs to remember what its sole purpose is and hopefully in two/three years time, Alton would be the popular place it was ten years ago.
And with that, happy new year everybody!
Back again with more definitive decisions on whatever I've visited over this year. And it's been a VERY busy year, with trips far and wide (as far as the Netherlands at least), as once again Europe called to me on a much more regular basis than anywhere in the UK. Indeed, I only visited Towers once, and only because I would've been upset with that red dot on my Coaster-Count profile. Perhaps next year I'll look to complete the leftovers of the UK.
How does one define 60 odd park visits into one list of things? With a bit of difficulty, but here we go:
Best Park – Efteling
Yep, not really a difficult one, the quality shines through Efteling completely. Effects fixed over the course of a few days trip, things added for no real reason, and just generally a nice place to be. No matter the season, since there's seemingly ALWAYS something going on.
Best New for 2015 Ride – Baron 1898 - Efteling
I was going to give this to Cu Chulainn, honest. But, yeah. Baron does everything I want from a ride. Theatrical, theming, classy music, fun ride, projection mapping. Ticking all the boxes for a good ride, but what makes it great is the details involved, there are plenty that are easily missed. They've also changed the outdoor batch and made it slightly better, still a weird system though, but it seems to work a lot better now. Baron sums up Efteling very well in everything with it, and I wish there were more like it.
Best “New for Benin” Ride – Troy (TROY!) - Toverland
In hindsight I'm not sure how many stand out rides there were for me this year. Too much mediocrity clearly. However Troy (and Toverland in general) was a rather bright spot this year. Troy is excellent quality and showed why GCI coasters are in general, great additions to a developing park.
Best Water Ride – (H)el Rio - Bobbejaanland
A surprisingly fab Rapids ride, the Halloween décor they had added to it improved it a fair amount, even if the ridiculous Ferris Wheel lift seems to be lifeless these days (would’ve been interesting to experience that), it made up with it with the whirlpool of death as also featured at Bagatelle’s rapids. But the Halloween music, theming and smoke made it so much better than I’m sure it would normally have been.
Best Flat Ride – De Waarbeek’s classic selection
Cheating I know for this one, but quite frankly the couple of classic flat rides available at De Waarbeek were great fun. From the self-propelled Whip to the unrestrained Caterpillar with added cover, a really nice surprise to discover.
Best Dark Ride – U-571
This is how you do a simulator attraction, a real standout from Movieland and sums up the place nicely. Effort and insanity go hand in hand from the naval base theming, the great staff members, to the fact that you have to run down metal steps as water bombs go off. The simulator feels real too, and the lack of restraints adds to the fear. I was fortunate/unfortunate to not experience the WET version too, which apparently ups the ante further. Which sounds insane.
Best Show - Romanes vs Gaules, The Match
New for this year, and Asterix really pulled this out of the bag. This is an amazing show, with a great setup, spoof adverts on the screens, great references to pop culture. Just the effort put into it makes it one of the best shows in a theme park today. Also gains points for having a real dog involved.
Worst Park – Duinrell
A bad atmosphere and even worse rides, there was just something about this park that didn’t end up sitting right with my positive side. Pretty much started downhill with the stupidly long queue to enter the place, followed by a massive walk around a caravan site. At least most of the other parks I visited this year had some positive elements.
Worst Seaside Park – Hemsby Fun Park
Decided it would be unfair to put Seaside parks in with normal ones this year, Hemsby was a clear winner for this though. The place is an absolute dump.
Worst Coaster – Sequoia Adventure
I had the misfortune of riding this again this year. It cemented its place as the worst coaster I’ve ever been on. No wonder they can’t sell it.
Worst Water Ride – DiVertical
It was closed and spiteful. Tbh, there were no real water rides I went on worthy of this award, so the chance to jump on some Intamin rubbish cant be knocked.
Biggest Surprise – U-571, Movieland Studios
Best dark ride, and biggest surprise in general. The unexpectedness of the attraction is what makes it so unique.
Biggest Disappointment – The Forbidden Caves
I loved Lost Temple in Germany. I really did. So I thought Bobbiejobbie's effort would be as good, but it was lacking a fair bit if I'm honest. The pre shows just felt faffy, as did the long walk to the ride. The story also didn't really work to the ride type. Shame.
The “I forgot actually how good this ride was” Award – Oz’Iris – Parc Asterix
A new award, purely for Oz'Iris if I'm honest. Its so good! Better than Katun in my book now, and shows that just because B&M don't go ridiculously intense anymore doesn't stop them creating real gems.
The “WTF was that?” Award – Revolution, Bobbejaanland
Just... I don't even know tbh... From the 30 car train in the curved station, the weird seating arrangement, the underground train sounds, the massive round lift hill room with the screen to the tiny descending drops in the outside. Revolution was certainly an enigma.
Why is this under-rated? Ride - Goliath - Walibi World
This is better than Expedition GeForce. There I said it. Where GeForce I found lacklustre last year, Goliath this year was seemingly a breath of fresh air for me. Perhaps the layout, perhaps the lax ride ops meaning no stapling, but it's just something about Goliath that made it a better overall ride than it's highly rated German counterpart.
Strangest Park – Movieland Studios
I've already mentioned U-571, but the rest of the park deserves credit too. Magma 2.0 is a fantastic experience, whereas things like Terminator (interactive shooting gallery) and Kitt Superjet (waterjet attraction) seemingly add to the insanity. The Rambo stunt show was also fab, and involved ACTUAL volunteers. It really is just a random and entertaining place.
Best Park related Experience – The Plopsaland Backstage Tour
A whole morning finding out about Plopsa and a full on tour of the backstage. It was informative though really, and worth it was the cred anxiety that took place. I wish Plopsa would open something in the UK.
Worst Park related Experience – Gardaland’s Express Pass Problem
Oh Merlin, even when barely going in the UK you still curse me. Providing AP holders with unlimited Fastrack for €80 for the year was never going to end well, and it pretty much ruined the day at Garda as a result. If they ever bring it over to the UK, their fan won't be able to move.
Best Ride Experience – Sky Drop Tower – Tivoli Friheden
Kinda pushing the definition of ride, but I'm glad I did this. Summed up you go up a tower, winched up and then free fall into a net. The tower is tall. The experience of literally free falling attached to nothing is something no other ride can fulfill. Well worth the money (£5).
Milestones – 450th (Hembsy Caterpillar), 500th (Formule X)
2015 in summary has been one of the best years visiting theme parks myself, reaching some major milestones including visiting to major parks outside the uk [Disneyland Paris & Efteling] and my first ever coaster climb on the Swarm.
Previously, my end of year reports have involved fully analysing the highs and lows of all the parks I've been visited that year [amongst those I almost did or had some importance]. However due to the higher amount of park's I've been lucky to visit this year [12 different parks this year compared to 6 in 2014] I have decided to compact it down in to more of a award system than complete in-depth
analysis. This will enable me to focus mainly on the high's and lows of the year rather than review everything which might take significantly longer to do so [and perhaps be less interesting to read in the meantime].
So here goes, a new end of year review style. Please let me know what you think and whether this method works better than the previous ones I've used [your constructive comments are always helpful]. Here goes.
Broken Coat Hangers: The 2015 Matt Creek Awards
Thorpe Throttle [
Winner- Marketing Of WC16 [bypass if you don't to know anything about next year's ride [you know who you are]]
Honourable Mentions- Neptune Touch ups, Fin's Bar,
It hasn't been the best or easiest years for the park in 2015 [in all honesty], however the park have managed to nail down some fantastic additions, whether that be an improved bar restaurant or touch up's on one of the older park areas. What has stuck out for me however is how the park have built up promotional material for their next big bang, WC16.
The marketing for this such ride has been done in a discrete but creative way where more is differently less. The thing I actually like about the marketing is not just the creative clues and slogans such as the 'Mind The Gap' and 'Minds Wanted' that the park have done but also the deliberate diversions and teasers they have done for this such attraction to create further speculation. Thus relating further to how all suggestions of this ride being related to Dr Who, The Big Top or even the walking dead, all that were wrong. The promo videos have also brought such intrigue from the worn steam punk look and underground twin dolls which is certainly some of the best marketing the park have done so far.
Lets just hope the ride turns out to be just as good as this marketing and we could be on to a winner.
Thorpe Flopper [The epitome of 2016]
Winner- Fright Nights
Dishonourable mentions- ride reliability, I'm A Celebrity, £60 tickets,
Sadly Thorpe have dropped a fair share of eggs this year [not that all of it is their fault] but nonetheless as a recurring visitor throughout the years it is never great to witness. £60 for a day ticket is just too much [unless you are Disney or Universal], a new attraction with such a low throughput feels rushed, shoe horned and somewhat an afterthought and having half a dozen rides as ornaments on visits is good for nobody.
It is Fright Nights however that gets the collar of shame though. Whilst Saw Alive & Blair Witch were somewhat better, Cabin retained it's greatness and Containment brought a unique addition to the line up [even if there is room for improvement] this years event felt somewhat underwhelming. For some reason, this year's Fright Nights seemed to lack the scare and atmosphere it had done in the past few years, whether that be due to the lower presence of Lionsgate, Tidal Wave being derelict or the fact the event just felt stale and too similar past events in the wrong ways.
My Bloody Valentine was awful and feels too short without the hospital scene, Cabin felt stale especially since things like the revolving tunnel were still broken and the Big Top was somewhat of a big roulette. Some run throughs of the maze was fantastic and shone from the others but on others it was a mess which after queueing 2.5 hours does not leave a good impression either. Add together the concerning amount of ride closures and break downs at a time where it feels the park is somewhat struggling with guests adds only insult to injury. I counted 12 shut down rides at the end of my 2nd trip [the first Saturday] which had to be one of the worst trips to Thorpe I'd been to since 2011 when I regrettably chose to visit on a school trip day, god knows how worse it would've been without the wonderful people I went with that day too.
So in all fairness unlike the previous two, 2015 Fright Nights in my eyes wasn't a successful event, which is a shame seeing they added two new attractions which with some altering and consistency could be fantastic, but this years event just felt weak and watery.. Even face it alone could not save it which in stark contrast, was absolutely brilliant and is the best it's ever been [though extreme it may be in some forms]. Lets hope 2016 can deliver a top level Fright Nights that the park deserves and that can complement next year's big plans.
Merlin's Big Bang [Merlin highlight of 2015]
HM's- Heartlake City,Shrek's Adventure
Another difficult one to pick up here [mostly due to most things Merlin wise being unfortunately somewhat negative], however one that does shine out for me though is how the Uk's 'supposed' No.1 park sort of brought themselves back to knees after such a bad fall last Halloween.
I am talking here about Alton Tower's 2015 Scarefest event, which looked absolutely fantastic this year. Given a much needed refresh with two brand new mazes, scare zones and plenty more entertainment and theming bits, Alton Towers delivered a winner on to one of their leading events showing how a UK Halloween event should be done and kicking it's siblings events to the curb at Thorpe and Chessie.
Strongly regrettably due to a number of reasons including finding the time, work commitments and a large amount of family do's [the majority of my family have October birthdays], I never had the chance to visit Scarefest, but from the pictures and videos I have seen around, the event as a whole looked spectacular.
Shrek almost won this award, being a highly impressive fun and interactive attraction, but keeping in mind the bus no longer works, the ticketing system is a hassle to say the least and that Shrek's peak in popularity was at least 5 years ago does suggest a slight missed opportunity here which is why Scarefest wins it [just].
Merlin Maul [low light of Merlin in 2015]
Winner-The Smiler Crash
DM's, Chessington, parkwide reliability, short sighted budget cuts,
an inevitable one here, but it's safe to say for many enthusiasts, the Smiler crash is by far the worst thing to happen for 2015, making even Chessington's dire park-wide state seem in the shadows.
Love it or hate it, The Smiler has always been rather unreliable, from it's stop and start opening, hissy fit downtime or flying coaster wheels that one time. However what happened last summer was not just a disaster but a major catastrophe. The ride has murdered the park of all goodness and excitement it once had, seeing exciting exciting projects like the SW8 Cross Valley woodie buried underground because the operator is so OCD about success they apparently have null confidence of bringing on such an exciting challenge which would work to the park's favour. I feel sorry for those on-board who received injuries and it's a miracle no-one departed.
It'll take sometime before the park can recover from this dreadful event and is extremely likely visitor numbers will still be noticeably lower next year to what they were in pre-2015. The park's method on getting back on to the road is also a debatable one, seeing as the park will be closed selected weekdays next year amongst no february half term or friday fireworks, which in a way seems to be the opposite of what they should be doing. This is also alongside the 'rumoured six rides being closed'.
Lets only hope that the Air re-theme and food loop turn out to be worthwhile additions and that the Towers TLC plan brings us lots of upkeep improvements. Hopefully we could see some ageing rides given some love in the end.
Best park of 2015
HM's Disneyland Paris, Adventure Island, Blackpool
One I am still undecided on as it was between Efteling and Disneyland Paris [two park's I adore and love]. one of the reasons Efteling won was because they have created a number of memorable immersive experience that are at or near Disney quality yet are on a smaller budget. Rides such as Baron 1898, Dutchman and Fate Morgana are just a few of a good chunk of rides that have fulfilled this request.
However, like most good theme parks, it isn't the rides that help this place shine through, but the park's setting. The location is beautiful and with it's countless stunning water features, architecture and heavily forested setting it easily comes across as one of the most picturesque park's out there even beating Towers. The fact despite it's size you can't help but walk around fairly relaxed also helps with the park's lovely atmosphere amongst the fact you can spend 2 hours in the Fairy Tale Forest and not regret it.
The highly impressive Aquanura show, which is the best fountain show I have witnessed amongst Polle's Kitchen, a fantastic pancake house in the centre of the park only help this park further here and without doubt, it's a park not to be missed.
For those of you wandering why Disneyland Paris didn't win, I can safely say it was only lost by a fingernail. Whilst I adore DLP, the thing to remember here is though the park is currently going through a major refurbishment phase plus also I have found some of the food offering leaving a lot to be desired too. Whilst neither of these ruin my day, they are things to note and since I have love both these places so much, it results in me having to be extremely picky for the winner to come out strong.
Sometimes my opinions on which is better changes frequently on which I prefer. Whilst Efteling officially won this reward, both parks should be praised and achieved for the amazing places they are and are at standards that we can at the moment only dream our home park's become almost as good as let alone as good.
Best new ride of 2015
Winner- Baron 1898
HM's Sky Force
For me there was only going to be one winner for this category and it had to be Baron 1898. Whilst the ride is a little on the short side, it makes up for it's length by implementing some of the most impressive theming outside of a Disney park ever seen, ranging from the impressive heavily articulated station building with chimney to the custom supports and cog wheel feature attached to the lift hill.
Alongside this, the ride spectacular pre-shows, special effects, Baron animatronic and even the ride's soundtrack [which IMA score have written another masterpiece with here] have crated a champion ride which appears to have been a massive success for the park amongst giving Efteling a signature ride. Baron is further proof that by adding superior quality thematic elements, structures and theatre, you can turn an alright ride in to a great one!
Best new cred [that isn't new]
Winner- Tower Of Terror
HM's Big Thunder Mountain, Flying Dutchman, Joris, Ratatouille, Pirates Of The Caribbean
No surprises here, but when I had my first ever ride on Tower Of Terror at Disneyland Paris, I instantly fell in love with it! Tower does pretty much everything I want in a dark ride, tell a story, explain why you're there, take us on a believable adventure and concludes in a spectacular fashion.
Aside from it's spectacular themed façade [which can be seen for miles away], it's all the subtle details in the queue that make me love this ride more like the card game or the cob-webbed crow statue or even the eery service corridoor which reminds me a little of Saw's queue but feels much superior in feel. A rarity of this ride is, despite it's heavily based dialogue, I find Tower highly re-ridable,something I definitely haven't found on the likes of Hex or even Villa Volta which makes it win for me. Even the shop is spectacularly themed.
HM's Swarm, Joris, Megafobia,
Considering I didn't get to ride Nemesis this year, it's safe to say Baron wins the award for the best coaster I have done this year. I just loved everything about the ride from it's theming and build up. I would say more, but I'll likely just be repeating myself considering Baron has also won best 2015 ride too.
Best Dark ride
Winner- Tower Of Terror
HM's Fate Morgana, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Droomvlucht, Ratatouille
I seem to treading on myself yet again here, but again for reasons explained up above it is clear Tower Of Terror is a definite winner for me here as a ride this seems to fulfill perfection. How the Americans will compare [whenver I get that opportunity to experience] will be a different matter.
Pirates, Fate Morgana & Ratatouille to mention a few are all fantastic dark rides too which I also love and enjoy in their own way, but they cannot take down the terrificness of the Tower, at least not at the moment.
Most underrated park
HM's Pleasurewood Hills
The 'so called' under dog award. This goes to park's which have done a great job during the season yet don't seem to be in the main ground. Adventure Island may not have much space and room to play with [making even Thorpe look large], but they certainly use much of this space to their advantage. This includes a handful of coasters, half decent dark ride, large selection of flats amongst other such rides.
But it isn't just the good/creative use of space and attractions that have filled it, but the love the park receives. The ride staff here are some of the most friendly and enthusiastic ones I have ever seen, amongst the overall the love that goes in to up keeping their rides which each winter not just see's the rides stripped down but often repainted and refurbished to a level we only wish many other parks did.
Adventure Island has never been a leading contender in the park industry, nor will it or ever try to be, but should be commended for the lovely shiny but minuscule little gem of a park it is and deserves a visit every once in while as a place that seems to have more love for their park in their fingers that others don't seem to have in their whole body.
Most improved park
HM's Blackpool, Adventure Island
Disneyland Paris takes the reward for the most improved theme park of 2015. Whilst it's always been a magical place to visit, somepoint in the last decade the park went on a slippery slope where the park went in to some decline. This included cuts and cancellations to shows, reduced quality in food and service and rides and theming getting in to a very poor state [for Disney standards].
Whilst the park still shone from the UK ones in it's declining years, it seems the park has finally realised how run down [for Disney] the park had become and as a result is unleashing a massive upgrade plan. This will see many attractions and areas receive the much needed updates they deserve which shall hopefully bring the resort back to the amazing standard it was in it's early years, which at the time was said to be the most beautiful.
In 2015, there has been a sudden shift of improvement in the park, with a massive range of new shows and additions, not to mention the amazing updates throughout the park too [even It's A Small World looks lush after it's revamp].Whilst we are in for a rough ride next year, with at least six attractions [three major] closed for major refurbs, by this time in 2017, the park shall hopefully look fantastic for it's next big park anniversary. Lets hope some of our parks can follow this suite [though on a smaller scale of course].
Best theme park show
HM's Ravelijin, Aquanura
Until this year, the best theme park show I had probably seen was the stunt show at Legoland. It is that statement alone which shows how much more I have been able to achieve witnessing no fewer than four shows on a grand scale.
On another one I find remarkably hard to decided upon [with all being fantastic]. The prize here goes to the spectacular firework, fountain festival that is the wonderful Disney Dreams. This is a show that not delivers some fantastic effects and projection mapping on the park's centrepiece but is able to bring back all those childhood memories with a fantastic choice of repetoire from some of Disney's most iconic films. Numbers include Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and even Hunchback which all works perfectly to the loose Peter Pan plot line too. It is also one of the few places to belt out Disney songs and not look stupid [outside of Peaj's car].
Aquanura is also a fantastic show don't get me wrong, and perhaps a more subtle and sophisticated dreams without screens [or as massive crowds], but it is Dreams that wins it on nostalgia alone that makes it the best show in my books.
DM's Studio Tram Tour, IAC, Storm Sturge, Smiler
From the best to the worst, and one that has a fair share of it's contenders. It is Armageddon that wins it in the end however. Whilst the actual main section is actually quite good, the ride has one of the most dull,pointless and boring pre-shows that it makes even Charlie look interesting [somehow] which is the only time for me that Disneyland Paris felt unmagical.
Best looking 2016 attraction
HM's WC16, Lost Kingdom, Mako, Kong, Frozen ride
2016 looks to be one of the most exciting years we've seen for new rides for a while now, especially in the UK where we have not one, but two large projects in the works for two parks [one of which is looking to slowly appear on the main stage].
It is however Phantasialand's next big thing that I am most excited about in 2016 however. Whilst I may be booed by some for overlooking the uk, the new massive ride they are building looks to be one of the best coasters ever built in Europe alongside thematic landscaping that hasn't been seen since the likes of Everest. Taron looks to be one crazy but amazing coaster with so much track and elements crammed in to such a modest location and should make for one beast of a ride. Lets just hope Intamin don't ruin the trains [cough cough Baco]. It's crazy to think they will be building another smaller coaster on that site too alongside upgrading River Quest.
Whilst Taron may have won best [looking] new ride next year, it doesn't necessarily mean it will win the best 2016 attraction next year but anything can happen. Who knows, WC16 could well be a ride that is a worldwide game changer with theming that makes sense and Lost Kingdom could hold an overwhelming amount of charm. It could even be Wild Fire or Walibi's next big thing which seem to be underdogs at the moment [however it's unlikely I will be getting either of those creds next year].
Florida also holds another exciting year [which will also be the case for 2017 & 2018] as being rides that interest lots. However I can't see me reaching the states at all next year unlike I am extremely lucky.
The more personal awards, this about memories not additions of statistics.
Most magical Creek moment [park highlight of 2015]
Winner- Disneyland Paris 
HM's, Riding megafobia in the dark on the back, Efteling in the dark, arriving at Disneyland site listening to the Mickey Mouse March
This time last year, I was resenting the fact I still hadn't been to Disneyland Paris [especially that there at least six failed attempts and a working trip to France]. After nearly losing all hope [as seen in my random video], my wish was finally fulfilled as I was lucky to visit for the first time thanks to TPM's Peaj.
Having my first ever visit last April with Peaj, Fish, Alex & Jaymiee, I had an amazing trip to Disneyland Paris which has to be one of the most magical trips away I've ever had and I don't think I've been so happy for some time. Whilst the winning title may seem on the vague side, I just can't decide upon a single solo moment that sticks out, due to enjoying pretty much everyone during the whole trip.
This includes my first ever park ride [and first goes on everything], eating at Cafe Mickey, watching Dreams,the arrival at the gates alongside being joined by one of my best mates from sixth form [who lived in Paris at the time] and whom I hadn't seen for years [who thankfully got on very well with everyone]. Even the gift shops and the pre-drinking on the friday were enjoyable experiences [though arriving to Disney first thing with a slight hangover and 3 hours sleep is never a good thing].
Whilst I have enjoyed all my Disney trips this year [I've only done two], I will always remember the first one and how 'amazing' it was.
Creakened Creak [biggest achievement of 2015]
Winner- Getting to Disneyland Paris
HM's visiting Efteling, walking on Swarm
Safe to say this is a surprising winner of course . Disneyland Paris did me a great deal of favours, not just introducing me to my first Disney and world class theme park [if you don't count Towers], but also opened the doors to a brand new era. An era that I will hopefully get to experience many more fantastic parks and new rides outside of the Uk, Efteling is an example of this. It's just amazing how many theme park gems we seem to have in Europe.
Biggest amusment of 2015
Winner- Peaj getting Disney cast member out of character
HM's MOS shenanigan's, everything that happened at the Disney meet
In what appears in the third reward running, Disneyland Paris has done it once again is the winner of the most amusing shenanigan of 2015.
In many Disney rides, cast members don't just operate and run rides, but they portray a specific character to help build the setting and experience for guests, whether that be restaurant staff on Ratatouille or bell hoppers in Tower Of Terror. The event here, takes place on the latter where one these cast members was behaving as such portraying the mysterious and creepy bell hoppers, where it would take quite an ordeal to get that member out of character.
That ordeal was when Peaj said how many there were in the group resulting in that cast member to go out of character and whiff due to Peaj's breath apparently . It shall not be explained why this happened, but it was very hilarious to watch and witness.
The Bewilder reward [Matt Creek's low light of 2015]
Winner- Choosing the worst weekend to visit Alton Towers
DM's not getting Drayton Manor,
The only one that could've won it for me. When I learned I could not make the official TPM Towers meet [due to work and party], I decided to plan my own trip up to Towers with a friend and myself. This trip took place on June the 6-8th.
In what was supposed to be a very exciting and relaxed weekend, I also booked myself and friend a VIP lift walk on one of the park's main coasters. This coaster was the Smiler. Everything was all booked and ready to go, where excitement was growing by the day for my trip to the park; then the accident happened.
The park closed Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday and unsurprisingly Saturday and Sunday as well where my trip to Towers was no more. Luckily though thanks to some kind friends in the Towers area, our plans were not beaten, only badly blooded as were able to go to Blackpool instead on the Saturday whilst spending a relaxed day at the Towers hotels on the Sunday. Even then, the Big One was shut and we had to cancel our Treetop slot due to running severely behind and catching a train home. In regards to the lift hill walk, I was lucky enough to get a refund after changing it Nemesis after the accident but sending an understanding email once I knew they would be closed.
Hopefully next year I will finally manage a proper Towers visit, even if the park is underwhelming aside from the new food restaurant [which is the only thing that I'm really excited about there currently].
Spilt Dignity award [most embarrassing act but amusing to those watching]]
Winner- Re-enacting the dance of thriller drunk
HM's choosing the wrong rows in tower of terror,Fuzzy Duck, the strange six symbol, Life style of Aladdin [in the what disney character would I be game].
The reward where I look the most idiotic but perhaps most amusing to those watching and witnessing these shenanigans.
This reward goes to that time in Wales where after drinking several TGI cocktails and a lot of wine, Professor Drunk appeared, however whenever certain songs came on, I randomly danced around 'trying' to re-enact them. One of those was Thriller and once other of the group had arrived on the Friday another Thriller re-enactment went ahead.
This resulted in me running round the room, slamming doors, pulling up hoods, jumping at people and then the coat hangers. The coat hangers were spontaneously picked from the side and banged together at the songs climax, however just before I dropped on to the bed at the end of the song, as a result of banging them together so hard and repeatedly one of those coat hangers broke and become dislocated.
After awkwardly placing it back, it was safe to say our excuse from this outcome would've been re-enacting the dance to Thriller, though someone did say they didn't remember the original Thriller containing coat hangers.
Safe to say there's been almost as many this year as last year where my Creaky dignity has gone out the window. Whether this be always going out on the wrong row on Tower Of Terror, signing a random six on the same ride [confusing the operator] or losing a simple game whilst sober, they're all pretty embarrassing but funny to look back on.
And so ends 2015 bringing us in to a hopefully exciting 2016, a year where it will be time for Thorpe, Phantasia, Paultons and most of the Florida parks to shine. However it may not be the best of years to visit Towers, Disneyland Paris and Hollywood studios for numerous different reasons which will be the mix of building sites and derelict based on current rumours.
What does 2016 have planned so far?
I have several park's lined up for the list in what could be the biggest year yet. This includes a weekend trip to Liseberg which is already booked plus plans for Phantasialand and Europa Park [the latter I hope to do with TPM].
Uk park's will likely involve Blackpool, Towers, Paultons and Dreamland whilst Thorpe Legoland and Chessington are most likely givens.
There is more to be confirmed, which will could be anything. Drayton could finally be done, alongside a fly by to Billund Legoland and even a last trip to DLP before my pass expires [which may not be renewed until early 2017]. We shall have to see.
Finally, I would like thank the whole of TPM for being amazing this year [and tolerating my Creakiness]. Extra thanks goes to:
Peaj- for being a fantastic meet organiser and those Disney trips, which without I probably still wouldn't have been [and be moaning continuously of having not been].
Myk & Shinequa, Fish and Scary Coaster Boy for giving me lifts to parks throughout the year [whom without I wouldn't have visited as many parks]
Stretchy- for everything done that Tower[less] weekend
Mer- for making my renewal cheaper [at this expensive time]
Marc & Ian for running TPM
Alex for tolerating Saw
Plus all the mods for keeping the site safe, fun and amusing
Happy Christmas, Here's to 2016, see you next year!