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Phantasialand Review - October 2018

The third and final day of the Pleasure Beach Experience European park event took place at Phantasialand, where we were expecting a 30-minute ERT on Black Mamba and lunch included.   Before I review the park itself, can I just say what incredible treatment we had from their corporate/events team.  Having expected the above, we also got a night time ERT on Taron (joining the hotel guests) followed by 2 PBE group rides, early morning rides on Maus au Chocolat and Chiapas (before the park opened) as well as both cycles on Mystery Castle at the end of the day.  In addition, we were given four fast passes each and of course the lunch, it was truly incredible and the park went above and beyond to make sure we had a good day.   Onto the park itself, I was absolutely blown away by the scale and detail of some of the theming, it puts anything in the UK to absolute shame in that respect; from the dark tone of Klugheim to the vibrant areas elsewhere, and queueing for Talocan felt more like watching a show!  The landscaping, theming and audio truly sets this park apart from anywhere else I’ve ever seen in terms of a themed experience park.   The park was incredibly busy on the Saturday however operations were slick meaning we managed to ride most things, unfortunately River Quest was only using one of the two elevators and the queue moved extremely slowly as a result but apart from that, everything else was run very efficiently and queues were always moving.   Saturday Ride count Taron x11 (10 during night time ERT) Black Mamba x8 (ERT) Chiapas x2 River Quest x1 Talocan x1 Winjas Fear x1 Winjas Force x1 Raik x1 Colorado Adventure x1 Mystery Castle x1 Maus Au Chocolat x1 Geister Rikscha x1   TOTAL: 30   Sunday Ride count (non-event day, in park 10:30 – 4pm) Taron x1 Black Mamba x1 Raik x1 Winjas Fear x1 Colorado Adventure x1 Talocan x1 Feng Ju Palace x1 Temple of the Night Hawk x1 Hollywood Tour x1 Wurmling Express x1 Geister Rikscha x1   TOTAL: 11     Onto the rides!   Taron Taron is truly an incredible coaster in every respect, from the landscaping, theming through to the coaster itself it’s near-perfection.     Entering Klugheim the twisted metal track becomes visible through literal mountains of rockwork, with the audio blaring out, it’s just stunning and features such as the waterfall, launch audio and night-time lighting all add to the experience.       The queue-line starts well but unfortunately goes through to a poorly-decorated cattlepen area, a shame really as all the work building that immersion into the area is lost the moment you enter that.   Queue aside, you enter the station, board the train and the launch audio kicks in… following a short corner you’re launched forcefully into an overbank, followed by an incredible airtime hill (it looks tame but is crazy!) and a sharp turn then snap to the right; following a few more meandering turns, you’re dropped down into the second launch which is INCREDIBLE.     The surrounding walls and nearby theming adds to the sensation of speed as you enter the second launch, and the sound is just amazing… following this you’re thrown up (getting splashed slightly by the waterfall if you’re on the left) and into a fantastic second half; it has all the qualities of the first and more, with closer interactions with the theming, sharper transitions and some very forceful turns.  The only criticism I have is the trim brakes on the final airtime hills.     Overall, Taron is an absolutely spectacular roller coaster.  I actually like the fact that it isn’t flat-out intense all the way through, with some of the turns offering breathers before you enter the next section.  The theming is incredible for the most part, audio is fantastic and the coaster holds its own and would be amazing even without everything else.  10/10.   Black Mamba A very fun B&M invert, again the theming is incredible and some of the near-misses are terrifying, I’d go as far to say it’s the most effective use of near-miss elements I’ve ever seen on a coaster.     I really enjoyed not knowing where the layout was going next due to all the theming, and the spiral section at the end adds a lot to the ride IMO.     The queue line and station are very atmospheric, with the station area being in near-darkness until the train enters the station.   Very fun coaster.   Chiapas A fantastic log flume, I loved the catchy music and it’s clear the ride system is very smart and manages to do a lot very efficiently.     Much like everything else the theming/landscaping is just incredible, walking over the bridge with the drop on one side and the splashdown on the other feels quite surreal with all the decoration.     River Quest River Quest is absolutely insane, having not done much research my reaction upon exiting the elevator and seeing what followed was basically, what the...?!   Good ride, came off drenched, only downside was the capacity issues.   Winjas Fear and Force How haven’t I heard about these before?  They look like standard Maurer spinners in a building on first approach, but caught me completely off guard with all the surprises.  Absolutely excellent coasters.     Mystery Castle is absolutely amazing IMO, the queue theming is stunning but the ride itself is just so much fun, without ruining too much I’ll just say it’s become my favourite drop tower ride by a country mile.     Talocan is a topspin, but with the added thematics it's transformed into a really good experience; with the audio, fire and water, it feels more like watching a show from off ride!     Colorado Adventure is decent enough, the pitch-black section was fun and the capacity excellent.     Raik is okay, but much more about the theme than the ride experience itself IMO.   Temple of the Nighthawk – how can you do so little in so much time?   May be an unpopular opinion, but I really enjoyed the dark rides Geister Rikscha and Hollywood Tour – definitely in the “so bad, it’s good” category but IMO parks need rides like this to fill a gap, and they were great examples of how dark rides used to be.     Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Phantasialand, from the rides themselves, theming and of course the way the park treated us, it has instantly become my number 2 park.                       Thanks for reading

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Coaster

 

Toverland Review - October 2018

The second day of the Pleasure Beach Experience European park trip took place at Toverland, where we had a full day at the park followed by 30 minutes ERT on Fenix, and then a behind the scenes tour of the ride.   Toverland is a lovely theme park located in the Netherlands with lots of nice theming/landscaping, an indoor area of the park and some really unique attractions mixed with a few exceptional coasters.  The park has lots of extra features such as the fountain show, assault courses and it’s clear that they put a lot of effort into the quality of the overall park.     The park was quiet during our visit meaning that one train operations was all that was needed – in addition, the queueing areas are all incredibly well presented meaning you never felt like you were waiting around for too long.   Ridecount: Fenix x11 (9 on ERT) Troy x8 Dwerlvelwind x2 Booster Bike x2 Djengu River x2 Expedition Zork (log flume) x1 Maximus’ Blitz Bahn x1 Toos-Express x1 Merlin’s Quest x1 Villa Fiasko x1   TOTAL: 30   Onto the rides!   Fenix Approaching the ride’s area, the landscaping is beautifully done with lakes, fountain features and low fences meaning fantastic views of the ride are possible.  As you approach, smaller features (such as a stream running down the path?!) become noticeable, and the effort that has gone into the area becomes evident.  This place is stunning!       Entering the queue-line you find yourself navigating dimly lit passageways with spiral staircases, tunnels and terrifyingly steep stairs into and out of the station.  There are a few areas once the ride starts that feel incomplete, but I believe the park are planning to add to this over the winter.       Passing through a mist effect you begin ascending the lift-hill, before taking a turn and entering the first drop.  This felt a lot more forceful than Swarm’s, with there being much more of a “pull-over” at the back despite the shorter trains.  You then enter an excellent airtime hill, diving through a near miss before going up, over and into an incredibly forceful helix.       Out of the helix you enter a zero-g-roll taken at a ridiculously fast pace, and then dive into the last few turns.     Fenix is an incredible coaster, and (IMO) infinitely better than The Swarm.  Where Swarm takes elements slowly and crawls over the top of inversions, Fenix throws you into them at a much faster pace whilst still retaining the smooth nature of a B&M.  This, combined with the incredible landscaping makes Fenix a truly fantastic coaster.  My only criticism would be that it’s fairly short, but even then, it packs a punch so you don’t feel short-changed.     Troy Oh.  My.  Word.   As someone who holds wooden coasters in very high regard, I was excited to ride Troy but also conscious that I didn’t want to overhype it.  Similar to most rides at Toverland it’s very well presented, with the queue-line and surrounding area offering stunning views of the ride’s imposing structure.     Navigating the first corner and lift-hill, views of the ride’s obscene layout come into view, but before you realise you’ve reached the first drop.   Plummeting down the twisting first drop is incredible, and what follows is an extremely fast banked turn, then two minutes of pure joy.  I won’t even try and go through the layout because it’s taken at such a pace that it makes it impossible, but you’re thrown side-to-side, out of your seat on occasion (though airtime isn’t really the focus of the ride) and the station fly-through is awesome.     The ride is just utterly relentless from start to finish, yet still manages to retain a sense of comfort whilst throwing you around and really bringing a new meaning to the “out of control” sensation associated with wooden coasters.     I think it’s become my new favourite coaster.             Dwerlvelwind A really fun family spinning coaster with some surprising force in places, and the onboard audio is fantastic.  With it being compact I’d say one of these would be perfect for a UK park with limited space, and of course with it being Toverland it was fantastically decorated both inside the station and around the ride’s area.     Booster Bike A fun coaster, the launch is more forceful than I was expecting and the turns/hills at the end are good fun; also, the unique seating position adds to it.  Probably not quite as good as Velocity, but still good.   Merlin’s Quest was a little bit of a disappointment as it was taken far too slowly, and felt like an ordeal waiting to get back into the station.  With that said, the indoor section is excellently themed though I didn’t appreciate the bugs on the outdoor section!   Maximus’ Blitz Bahn is a unique ride, and a lot of fun.   The rapids were a bit terrifying in a full boat, and the log flume was good (though very weird!)     During the behind the scenes tour of Fenix we were treated to a walk along the brake run, as well as a look into the ride’s control panel, a walk round the first turn after the station and a long look into and walk round the maintenance shed (it’s huge!) with the second train in storage – we were only allowed to take pictures on the brake run and in the station.           Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Toverland; it’s a lovely family owned park and they clearly put a lot of pride into everything they do.  With investments such as Fenix I think it’s definitely one to watch.  A few more photos below                     Spot anything strange about this picture?     Hmm...   There were YouTuber's filming a stunt show of some sort at the park, earlier on in the day they jumped onto our boat on Merlin's quest and then back off again whilst being filmed by the park!   Thanks for reading  

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Coaster

 

Efteling Review - October 2018

Day 1 of a three-day event with Pleasure Beach Experience took place at Efteling Theme Park in the Netherlands, where we had an hour’s ERT on Joris en de Draak before park opening as well as a full day at the park.  First and foremost, the park was very accommodating to us, and the staff were all excellent and friendly.   With it being my first visit to Efteling I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but I’d probably describe the park as very quirky and unusual.  There are a lot of nicely themed attractions and some fun coasters, and I really liked the large spanning lakes, exceptional use of audio and some weird and wacky features around the park.       Operations seemed very good aside from Baron, with multiple trains running and queues moving fast.   Unfortunately, on my visit Bob was closed (to then open a week later – spite!) as were Fata Morgana and Villa Volta.   Ride Count: Joris en de Draak x17 (ERT & a few afternoon rides) Flying Dutchman x3 Python x2 Rapids x2 Baron 1898 x1 Rogel Vok x1 Carnival Festival x1 Droomvlucht x1 Symbolica x1   TOTAL: 29   Onto the rides!   Joris en de Draak Joris en de Draak is a fantastic racing wooden coaster with some incredible moments of airtime, strange banking and a very fun layout.   Similar to Wicker Man, the ride’s queue line is landscaped around the ride well with some good viewpoints of the ride and interaction over the lake.   I really enjoyed the racing element of the ride, with the trains breaking off from each other and then joining back side-by-side for the final section of the race.  There were some fun interactions throughout the layout, too.     The sweeping turns at both ends of the ride’s layout were great fun and felt very forceful, especially the first one where you dive suddenly to the right-hand-side – brilliant!   Whilst both sides were brilliant I marginally preferred the blue one, due to an insanely brutal airtime hill that seems to appear out of nowhere… absolutely fantastic.   I liked the features the ride has such as the flag announcing the winner, cheering/booing in the station and the flags being draped for the winning train; fun little extras which the park didn’t have to do, but they make the experience better.     Baron 1898 Having enjoyed Valkyria I was fairly confident that Baron would at least be a fun coaster, but unfortunately, I just didn’t enjoy it.   The theming is excellent.  The way the music outside differs to that inside, the station building, pre-shows and everything else are just incredible, and it’s clear that a lot of detail has been put into the attraction.     Ascending the (incredibly well themed) lift hill with the ghostly singing ringing in your ears, you approach the top.  I found the drop was too small to achieve the freefall sensation, and the ride that followed fairly weak; the inversions didn’t feel overly forceful, the helix felt a bit awkward and the airtime hill didn’t produce any airtime.       Baron 1898 is a visually impressive ride and a good themed experience, but that’s as far as it goes for me.   Flying Dutchman Wow!  What a brilliant attraction.   From the incredible theming in the queue to the highly detailed station, the presentation of this ride is superb both internally and externally.   Giving a false sense of security, you deport the harbour and things soon take a turn for the worse… I really liked the use of atmospheric lighting and audio here, and the mist screen effect is so well executed.  The indoor section had a few surprises, and the outdoor section was good fun too.     Python Really enjoyed this, despite it being a fairly short coaster.  The inversions were forceful, as were the helix’s, and the entire ride was very smooth (I’m guessing due to the recent re-track).  I wasn’t a fan of the vest restraints though, they felt very restrictive when compared with B&M’s version.       Vogel Rok was awesome, a really fun indoor coaster with some interesting visual effects, fun audio and a really good sensation of speed.     Symbolica has a really clever ride system and I enjoyed it, even if I didn’t fully understand what it was about!  External presentation is fantastic here also.     Other attractions included Droomvlucht and the Rapids, both of which were done to a very high standard with some surprises.  Also, that rapids music is so catchy!   Overall, I really enjoyed Efteling.  It’s a big contrast to parks in the UK, and offers something different to any other park I’ve visited.  I did feel that one day wasn’t enough to take everything in, as there were a few other attractions I’d have liked to experience.  A few more photos below             Thanks for reading    

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Coaster

 

Launches, Freefalls and Airtime in Sweden - My Liseberg Review

Liseberg caught my attention in 2014 with the launch of Helix, and has since been very much on my agenda to visit.  With it being my first non-UK park, there were high expectations and I was extremely excited to visit.   Firstly, looking at the park itself, it’s absolutely beautiful.  The location in Gothenburg is amazing and I like the fact that many of the rides are built into the hillside, whilst also entwining between each other; it’s very Blackpool-on-a-hill ish.  Helix has a fantastic presence and I really like the way it entwines between Lisebergbanan, the log flume and various other rides.  In turn, Valkyria stands out and the view looking down from the top of the hill is fantastic.       Another thing that struck me was that the park must have a fantastic landscaping team; the gardens were all spotless, as were the buildings, queuelines and surrounding areas.  It really puts UK parks to shame in terms of presentation.     Unfortunately, I was disappointed with the operations at the park after hearing great things.  Helix runs three trains but has terribly slow dispatch times, it was stacked on all three trains every time I was on the ride and/or watching from elsewhere in the park.  I feel a lot of this is caused by the (unnecessary) seatbelts, as Icon at Blackpool doesn’t really have this problem.  In addition, operations on Valkyria were equally slow with the ride stacking all 3 cars on almost every occasion.   On a more positive note, Lisebergbanan is a fantastic queue shifter, as are the Flume Ride and Rapids.  Furthermore, the park was extremely busy on Saturday and Sunday, and I feel the park held together well with minimal breakdowns and generally a well organised feel, even if some of the throughputs were lower than I would have hoped for.   Finally, before looking at the rides, catering let the park down massively in my opinion.  The Max burger outlets all had queues out of their pens, meaning we ended up queueing 45 minutes for “fast food” – the other more upmarket options are pricey but the wait times are generally lower.   Onto the rides!     Valkyria Approaching the ride, it has an intimidating presence with fantastic landscaping allowing you to get really close to the ride’s drop, and a forced-perspective of the ride station at the top of the steps.  The queueline is standard cattle pen for the most part, but there are some theming elements throughout and the theme music plays.     Inside the station, two faux fire plinths create a fantastic effect, as does a projection of a Valkyrie on the wall at the far end.  The music plays louder in here, and the atmosphere is very dramatic.       Onto the ride itself, the fast lift hill is followed by a wide turn with fantastic views of Gothenburg and the surrounding rides at Liseberg.  You’re slowed down before the holding break is used; I found it holds you for significantly longer than Oblivion, and the views over Liseberg are followed by a sudden plunge into a mist-filled tunnel.  The effect is very good here, as the angle you enter the tunnel mean it acts as a head-chopper; at night, the mist is lit in blue which adds further to the effect.       Following the drop, you enter an Immelmann before taking a fast-right-hand turn into a zero-g-roll.  I found the roll provided a strange sensation, as it’s taken much faster than most yet feels as if you “float” through it.  The turns which follow are fun, with a small moment of airtime offered depending where you are sat.  Following this, I found the final heartline roll to offer another floaty-sensation.       My verdict on Valkyria is that it’s a very fun and floaty coaster, but lacks high levels of G-Force.  Whilst I prefer Oblivion’s first drop due to the restraints, and longer tunnel, I feel that Valkyria is a much better attraction with it being a full-length coaster, and the theming is solid.     Helix Helix was the main reason for my visit to Liseberg, and with a similar ride being introduced to the UK it was finally time to go and ride its main inspiration.   I find the ride’s presence around Liseberg absolutely stunning, it feels like it’s carved into the hillside and fits in perfectly around the park’s other attractions, whilst also maintaining a stature of its own.  At night, it looks phenomenal with the light only coming from the ride’s trains.   Entering the queueline, the ride’s soundtrack immediately becomes audible as you navigate (or queue!) through a high-tech feeling metallic queueline.  It reminded me of a classy version of G-Force’s queueline, but MUCH better.       The ride’s station is fairly standard, but the ceiling dispatch lighting adds a lot; especially once night falls.  The theme music plays loudly in here, but is sadly interrupted by the seatbelt announcement each time the train loads.   Dropping out of the station into the first inversion, some hangtime is experienced before turning into the first launch.  With a small burst of acceleration, you are thrown into a zero-g-roll, then a turn/airtime hill before entering the next two inversions.  I found the ride picked up some good force here, to then throw you into the airtime hill.  I didn’t experience much airtime here, however the sensation on the next zero-g-roll felt oddly jerky, as if the train is constantly catching up with itself; I think this is due to the track profile, but I actually really liked it!       The next section was my favourite of the ride, as you are thrown into a mini-airtime hill before entering a “helix” with extremely high g-forces experienced!  The turn that follows this was very weak by comparison, though the tunnel makes it more fun I guess.   Entering the second launch, you enter the ride’s tallest inversion.  I found this quite weak, and much prefer Icon’s Immelmann as you experience a lot of airtime coming down from it; whereas on Helix, you turn whilst inverted meaning there isn’t any.  After exiting this you are thrown into a huge airtime hill, which produces fantastic ejector on the back row.  Entering another high-g turn, you navigate some S-turns before entering the final heartline roll, which had some amazing hangtime.     Overall, I found that Helix is a very good, solid coaster with a decent length.  With that said, I don’t rate it as highly as many others do.     Balder Balder was much anticipated by myself, being a fan of wooden coasters.  The ride’s queueline is a horrible mess of mesh and cattle pen but putting that aside, it’s a really awesome ride.     I was surprised with how steep (and fast!) the lift hill is, and much like the other rides at Liseberg, fantastic views are offered.  The first drop is fantastic and provides some fantastic airtime, a trend that continues throughout the ride.     The bulk of the ride’s layout is made up of airtime hills taken very quickly, meaning that there’s insane ejector in almost every hill.  A particular highlight for me was the hill taken fully in a tunnel, as it feels like you’re being thrown up towards the ceiling.  In addition, there are a huge number of VERY close head choppers throughout the layout, which combined with being thrown out of your seat at the same time genuinely made me feel uneasy!       Overall, Balder is a fantastic wooden coaster.  It’s much smoother than other woodies I’ve ridden, but the airtime is sublime.  The ride experience improves massively at night, with the tunnel providing a moment of pitch-darkness.   With that said, I did find it very formulaic and the layout feels methodical as opposed to out-of-control, making it an entirely different experience to rides like Megafobia.  It’s great fun, but I couldn’t help feeling on the last few hills, “it’d be great if the ride did something different now.”     Lisebergbanan is a fantastic coaster which makes use of the terrain, much like Helix.  A lengthy ride is experienced, with plenty of force on the corners.  I also loved the three turns taking you down the hillside through the tunnel, though the brake run is brutal!  The ride station is one of the best I’ve ever seen, as is the ride’s capacity.         Atmosfear is a brilliant drop tower, whilst not as forceful as some the views are impressive and the height fantastic, and I liked the fact that the drop feels much longer than similar drop towers.     Loki is an incredible flat ride, and may be my new favourite (was previously Slammer at Thorpe).  The ride’s restraints mean that incredible airtime is offered, as well as a huge amount of force on the way down.  Close interactions with Balder also improve this.       The biggest surprise of the visit for me was Mechanica.  I absolutely adored Bling at Blackpool, like I remembered it being amazing.  But Mechanica was (to put it as politely as possible), utter rubbish.  We had two rides on it and only experienced one good moment, the rest was awkward shuffling from side to side and aimlessly swinging.  The noise it makes is amazing though.   Flume ride is amazing, my absolute favourite log flume.  It’s taken at a very fast speed, and the hillside location makes for stunning interactions with the coasters.  I found the last two drops to be a lot of fun, with just the right level of wetness to be fun but not stupidly wet.  Similarly, the rapids were also brilliant fun, and it was nice to see that they still use all their water features unlike UK ones.     Overall, I found Liseberg to be a really nice amusement park.  It’s clear that they prioritise quality in everything they do, with the rides all being comfortable, well presented and fun.  A very easy abroad park to do for the first one, too.  A few more photos below            

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Coaster

 

An ICON launches in Blackpool - My Review

A cryptic wheel cover and demolition of a bridge, followed by markings on the ground.  A pIt of concrete footers.  Then a coaster.  Even after watching the project for well over two years, it feels surreal standing next to the twisted metal track of Icon and seeing the trains swish around what was previously a lake.   Visible from many locations within the park, Icon makes its presence known simply by being there.  It may not be tall, but in terms of land covered it’s HUGE.  First impressions heading up the ramp seeing the Immelman looming up ahead are impressive, but the approach from the ride entrance side is the money shot.  It’s such an impressive sight with the huge entrance structure, glorious soundtrack playing and the smart gold trains whizzing around you and other rides at the park.     The queue line is fantastically landscaped with amazing vantage points to watch the ride, and whilst relatively short manages to catch various sections of the ride’s amazing soundtrack.  It really is sublime standing there, hearing the launch audio, and seeing a train full of excited riders slowly exit the station before the train is hurled through swirling mist and into the tunnel.   Yes, they have finished the fence now!   Decorated in style, the ride features various elements of theming such as a garden with named posts of those involved in the project, a small water feature, mist effects and a nice entrance area/viewing platform.  Given that Pleasure Beach is an amusement park at heart, I have to give them credit for putting so much effort into the overall experience of Icon, it has really paid off and creates a unique atmosphere around the ride.     Entering the station, the soundtrack hits you like a ton of bricks and does a great job of building the hype - alongside the class decoration, lighting and mirrors, it’s one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever felt inside a coaster station.   But… is it any good to ride?     The excitement builds as you dispatch from the station, with the launch audio gradually getting louder before launching you towards the mist-filled tunnel with “IIIIIIIIIICON” ringing in your ears.     Flying through the misty tunnel, an almost dream-like moment of obscured vision is followed by entering the top hat element completely disorientated, before cresting the hill and being treated to one of the best airtime moments I have ever known on a coaster.  On the back, you crest the hill slowly before being thrown out of your seat on the way down, whilst there is some ejector as you crest on the front.     Diving through the garden for the first time, you enter the inclined loop before swerving to the left, right, then diving underneath Steeplechase and Big Dipper.  Whilst I didn’t feel the near-misses on-ride as much as I expected, it’s an engineering masterpiece to fit the track there and the S-turns provide some fun forces before you are taken back over Steeplechase into what I found to be one of the best elements of the ride.   The heart-line roll offers a completely different sensation to the beginning of the ride, creating a stark contrast.  From fast-paced ground hugging turns, you are taken into some ridiculously comfortable hang-time – the amazing Mack restraints are really used to their potential here, allowing you to hang freely (but comfortably) for a second before “catching” you and throwing you into two small and sudden moments of airtime.  Leading you back through the tunnel of mist, I found the two small airtime hills followed by the second launch to be a highlight of the ride.     With the station and surroundings a blur as you fly past them, you enter the Immelman.  It’s quite something seeing The Big One essentially turn-over, and the element is a lot of fun at the front – at the back, it’s quite simply one of the most insane moments on any coaster.  You’re taken from ascending what feels like the start of a loop to hang-time, then ridiculous “sideways-airtime” as you come down the drop, before being thrown into a steeply banked Stengel dive and then into the turn.  This is one of the perfectly executed moments of Icon.     Coming out of the over-bank and into the airtime hill, you are thrown yet again out of your seat before twisting onto your side into a tight helix.  I found the force to be decent here, with a good view of the theming if you’re sat on the left-hand side of the train.  Forcing you out of your seat yet again, you twist over to the right to take a majestic dive over the ride’s entrance area before entering yet another unique element.     Wonky-airtime.  Yep, Icon has it.  You’re taken into an off-banked airtime hill, giving the impression that you’re going to be thrown into the totem poles (a fantastic throwback to the park’s past for those who remember, btw!) before meandering into the high-five element and slithering back into the brake run.  The high-five element felt quite weak to me; it’s very clever and a true engineering feat, but it didn’t have the impact or sensation I thought it would as a ride experience… although with the Icon exit music becoming audible as the train hits the brake run, I soon forgot about that!     After my initial rides on Icon I was unsure but having let the coaster properly warm up, it has become a firm favourite.  To me, it’s the definition of a perfect coaster; it’s long, has a number of unique elements, isn’t inversion focused (yet still has two perfectly placed and impactful inversions in the layout) and the airtime is second-to-none.  Every element serves a purpose, and the ride is taken so comfortably yet isn’t afraid to throw you around.  The decoration is excellent, and the soundtrack is pure bliss; easily some of the best audio I have ever heard at a theme park, The Notable Stranger has done an excellent job.   My concerns going forward are the maintenance of audio systems, and effects; the train lighting and mist has already proved unreliable, and the ride has only just been open a week.  Pleasure Beach are historically not the best with keeping audio systems in check, but I hope Icon changes this trend.    Thanks for reading, a few more photos below                 Icon is incredible, and offers something that the UK has been missing for some time.  Pure quality. 

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Why Wicker Man is the best UK coaster since 1996

Wicker Man.  I think it’s fair to say that I had very mixed feelings during the construction and build-up process for this ride.  Whilst I was happy to see a new wooden coaster finally grace the UK line-up, I had reservations about how good it would be; there weren’t any huge drops in the layout, so would it pick up enough speed to be thrilling?   On approaching the ride, the excitement builds from the moment you see the hugely impressive Wicker Man structure and entrance signage come into view with the music droning in the background.  I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – it’s such a compelling sight, nothing looks out of place and everything just ‘works’.       Moving into the queue-line, the design is fantastic with so many vantage points for the ride – small items of theming are expertly placed creating brilliant photo opportunities.  Throughout queuing there are many good places to watch the coaster from, and it’s so pleasing to see that everyone seems to be enjoying it.  I really like how the smoke effect is pulled around the corner by the train after exiting the second tunnel, in particular.  Being surrounded by the roar of a wooden coaster combined with the soundtrack, theming and screams of joy is really something quite special.       Onto the preshow, I enjoyed this and found it delivers a lot in a short space of time.  The transition is clever and the show lasts just long enough to stay interesting whilst not becoming a burden after a few rides.  I found the theatrics and changes in atmosphere particularly impressive, however it was a shame on one of the rides I had that the automatic doors at the back of the room kept opening.  Exiting into the station, the lighting and dispatch/unload audio keeps the theme consistent and is very impressive.   With the thematic elements done to a very high standard, how well would the coaster itself hold up?  After five rides on two separate occasions, I absolutely love it.   Dispatching out of the station, the pre-lift section is very Nemesis Inferno-esque (with the mist-filled tunnel) and sets the scene for the ride very well.  Ascending the lift hill, the views of the ride are excellent and the audio helps to build anticipation throughout.     The first corner and drop help to build up the speed, and the tunnel adds a level of disorientation, as you exit already facing the ground.  The section that follows is truly sublime; after going over the second hill in the tunnel, you emerge blinded from the light to be thrown (yes, THROWN) first to the right, then to the left and into a ground-hugging turn.  This is my absolute favourite section of the ride; the forces are much better than I expected and the transition from right-to-left is just so much fun.       Diving through the Wicker Man structure and up into the turnaround, this offers a nice view of the queue-line and theming structure before hitting the two small bumps (which are much better than they look!) and then plunging to the right through the structure into yet another fantastic and unexpected sideways-banked drop.     I found that the flat corner goes a long way to making the ride feel longer, as it gives you time to process the elements you’ve been through before heading into the next section.  The straight drop which follows provides a nice feeling of weightlessness, however on the back row at the end of a rainy day there was some incredible airtime there!  Following this is a sharp right-hand-turn through the structure, before turning left under the lift-hill and into the brake run leaving the clank of the lift chain ringing in your ears.     After some time to think it through, I can say in full confidence that Wicker Man is genuinely one of the best roller coasters I have ever ridden.  Firstly, it’s the first time Alton have delivered a fully complete theme under Merlin, with no obvious corners cut and nothing looks out of place.  I could nit-pick, but it's the best we've had in the UK for years - so I won't.  The coaster itself is great fun and is a superb example of a wooden coaster.   Combined, it’s a masterpiece.   My only concerns going forward are the reliability issues the ride is currently having, and maintenance of effects.  The fire, smoke and audio add a lot to the overall experience, and with the fire already broken, I only hope that Alton can manage to maintain them to a high standard.   Thanks for reading, a few more photos below.               Wicker Man = AMAZING. 

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach: April 2015 PTR

Yet another brilliant week was spent in Blackpool, and as we have BPB season passes we spent most days in the park, which was great fun despite a few negatives which I will get to later in the trip report. BPB is still my favourite park, purely because it has my favourite rides, and the history and charm adds to it - my top three coasters are The Big One, Wild Mouse and Grand National as well as my overall favourite ride being Valhalla, so to have these and a fantastic collection of wooden coasters, steel coasters and dark rides is just amazing! There isn't one ride I get bored of (I don't go on Grand Prix, Dora or Impossible much ), they are all brilliant and in my opinion it still definitely has the best ride lineup in the UK. Big Dipper deserves it's own mention in my opinion. I have always enjoyed it, but this week it was running the best I've ever known it to! Never before have I actually been nearly standing up due to the fantastic airtime on the first two drops, add to that the battering the back row was getting on the turnaround and it was absolutely brilliant! Grand National and Wild Mouse are still superior to it however IMO, both were running well most of the time, and the airtime on the final drop on Mouse is probably my favourite of any ride! The Big One, nothing much to say that I haven't said in previous trip reports, still our favourite coaster and it was much enjoyed as usual. The first drop in the back is the highlight IMO. Valhalla was a mixed bag this time, but good overall. One day there was no fire whatsoever, and for the last three days the final explosion was off, as well as no projected face on the first few days, but we still really enjoyed it. Wish they'd turn the audio up in some places though! Once again we did the "no poncho challenge" on one of the days, which was just as hilarious as usual! I always say that you haven't had a good day out at BPB unless you have bruises to show for it, and after a week of riding the coasters we definitely do, I'd be disappointed if I didn't to be honest! The negative bit: There were however negatives to the trip this time. I'm not going to hold back, so if you don't want to read the negative comments then skip this section. Park operations were absolutely dire most days. On the Sunday, it closed at 5pm despite being advertised as a 6pm close on the website, this was still the case after it had closed. This is not acceptable, if people have paid for a 6pm close then it is wrong to change that. Further to this, on the following Sunday (19th) the park gates didn't open until 10:45am, with nothing open until 11am. Even then, both Wild Mouse and Grand National opened late. Add to this a 5pm close, I would not have been impressed if I had paid to get in or driven there for that specific day! On the first Saturday of our trip, we weren't allowed on Infusion or Nickelodeon Streak until 11am because the RCCGB were on them. This is not on, ERT events should take place outside of park opening hours. Guests who have paid for tickets (or season passes) and made the effort to visit should not be told they can't ride, yet the coasters are clearly going round in front of their eyes. Unacceptable. On some days this week they really let us down in terms of their attitude to ride capacity. A few examples are: - Avalanche running one train with a full queue round the extensions on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. - The Big One running one train with a full station (apart from in the mornings and just before it closed), and often all the way down the ramp as well. To add to this, dispatch times were two and a half minutes (between the train stopping and dispatching again), which meant that even on one train it could have shifted the queue more than it was if the staff could be bothered. - Big Dipper on one. This wouldn't have been a problem, but when added to all the other coasters not being on capacity it was yet another slow moving queue. - Steeplechase only on two lanes unless the queue got down to the bottom of the stairs, at which point they would put three lanes on for a short amount of time and then go back down to two. - Incredibly slow dispatch times on Grand National, even when running four trains, there was a good five minutes sometimes between the trains arriving and the next ones being dispatched, even though they had been checked and were ready to go. - Only six boats on Valhalla until the final hour most days, leading to queues building up much earlier in the day. The only day ride capacity was what it should be was on Saturday 18th. The park was busy, and the atmosphere was fantastic with a great selection of songs from Holiday Rock FM, people just sitting enjoying the sun and most rides operating as they should be, aside from The Big One which was stacking on two trains far more often than it should have been. Furthermore, Grand National and Valhalla both opened at 11am, half an hour earlier than usual which was great! However Infusion opened half an hour late so not all good. The first Saturday was also quite good for capacity, but PMBO was on one due to wind (which was not the case the rest of the week, the wind didn't get above 11mph on some of the days it was running one). Whilst I have had much worse days at other UK parks, this is not the standard I expect from BPB, they have been much better in the past few years so I was quite disappointed by this. RIDECOUNTS! Saturday 11th April 2015: Valhalla x5 Grand National x4 Big Dipper x3 Wild Mouse x2 Avalanche x2 The Big One x1 Revolution x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 Alice in Wonderland x1 Blue Flyer x1 TOTAL: 26 Sunday 12th April 2015: We only spent the last hour and a half in the park today, as we had done the Tower Dungeons and Circus as well. We would have had two and a half hours as planned if they hadn't closed an hour early! The Big One x2 Wild Mouse x2 Big Dipper x2 Infusion x2 Grand National x1 Valhalla x1 Ghost Train x1 TOTAL: 11 Monday 13th April 2015: Valhalla x7 The Big One x6 Wild Mouse x2 Revolution x2 Nickelodeon Streak x2 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x2 Ghost Train x2 Ice Blast x2 (This was about the only "thrill" ride I could cope with at the end of the day). Grand National x1 Big Dipper x1 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Avatar Airbender x1 River Caves x1 Alice x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 TOTAL: 34 Tuesday was spent in the Yorkshire dales which was really enjoyable once again. Wednesday 15th April 2015: The Big One x4 Valhalla x3 Wild Mouse x3 Grand National x2 Big Dipper x2 Nickelodeon Streak x2 Revolution x2 Wallace and Gromit x2 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Ghost Train x1 Lost River x1 Alice x1 Dora x1 :lol: TOTAL: 26 Thursday 16th April 2015: We went in from 1pm onwards after spending the morning in Sandcastle Waterpark. Wild Mouse x2 Big Dipper x2 Valhalla x1 The Big one x1 Grand National x1 Revolution x1 Wallace and Gromit x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 11 Friday 17th April 2015: Valhalla x7 The Big One x4 Grand National x2 Big Dipper x2 Steeplechase x2 Infusion x2 Wild Mouse x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit x1 Ghost Train x1 Avatar Airbender x1 TOTAL: 25 Saturday 18th April: Grand National x6 (The park was packed but for some reason this had quite a short queue at times, and it was running well!) The Big One x5 (Today was a case of OMG it's on two trains!! ) Wild Mouse x4 Big Dipper x4 Valhalla x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Avalanche x1 Infusion x1 Steeplechase x1 Wallace and Gromit x1 River Caves x1 Flying Machines x1 Ice Blast x1 TOTAL: 28 Sunday 19th April 2015: We just had a few rides and a Gourmet Burger before a long drive home. We wanted one last go on National but it hadn't opened by the time we left sadly. Big One x2 Wild Mouse x1 Big Dipper x1 TOTAL: 4 OVERALL RIDECOUNT: Valhalla x25 The Big One x25 Grand National x17 Big Dipper x17 Wild Mouse x16 Revolution x8 Infusion x8 Wallace and Gromit x8 Nickelodeon Streak x7 Ghost Train x7 Avalanche x6 Steeplechase x6 River Caves x4 Ice Blast x3 Alice Ride x3 Avatar Airbender x2 Flying Machines x1 Blue Flyer x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 Lost River x1 Dora x1 OVERALL TOTAL: 167 PHOTOS! All photos taken by me. Valhalla; Tom Sawyer Bridge shots; The old and new(ish); It looks so simple, but packs a huge punch; Cheese Gromit! Would you like to see this receive a facelift, or does the ageing look add to the charm? Time for vertical reality! The tunnel does look very narrow when you see it from the PBE! Ice Blast does seem a bit more forceful in the launch this season, but sadly it still lacks airtime at the top most of the time; Infusion, I do enjoy this coaster despite most people hating it; The life and soul of the Pleasure Beach, the wooden coasters! This drop had much more airtime then I've ever had on it in the past! Wild Mouse, in my opinion the best wooden coaster in the UK when it's on form; Grand National, another amazing coaster and my second favourite woodie; Streak is good although I did prefer it as Roller; Finally, some random park shots; Skyforce; Still my fave; Steeplechase, a unique ride to BPB and lots of fun! Two photos overlooking the Big One/Skyforce area; This was taken on Saturday 18th, it felt like summer and the atmosphere was fantastic! Thanks for reading/looking, comments welcome.

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Blackpool Pleasure Beach - October/November 2014 | Photo Trip Report

Wow, what a fantastic week! We spent 8 consecutive days in Blackpool Pleasure Beach, arriving at just after 10am and staying until park close every day. This equates to a total of 76 hours spent in the park! In fact, the only break we had from the park was one morning to visit the Tower and watch the Circus. Blackpool Pleasure Beach was nearly faultless all week, it was being run the best I have ever seen it with all coasters on maximum capacity every day (aside from Nash on two one day and Steeple having a bit of trouble with the yellow lane at some points). One thing that I always find amazing about the park is the sheer range of ages of the rides. There really is nothing that can match seeing 100 year old rides run next to newer rides, it's just brilliant! The park is maintaining it's clean image and I saw loads of cleaners around the park getting rid of any little bit of rubbish, it was brilliant to see them making an effort and I can't fault them at all with this, especially when you see rubbish strewn everywhere at many other parks. The coasters were running brilliantly, obviously they have their off times but by the evening they were going like the clappers! The Grand National in the rain at gone 8pm is one of the most insane experiences possible on a coaster! :twisted: Valhalla is in a much better state than it was at Easter in terms of effects (and it was good then), although some of the effects broke halfway through the week and were not fixed (or didn't stay fixed for long). However, the ride itself seems to be struggling as it was breaking down quite a lot - although I cannot fault the park's efforts at all as they had it back open again within 15 - 20 minutes every time. A plus point is that I got five breakdowns whilst on the ride so got to see most of it with the lights on which was fab! (Not for the staff though I bet!) No evacuation though However, on one particular day a certain water effect that usually misses the boat decided not to switch off, but more on that further down. It is still my favourite ride and I am yet to come across anything else like it. Leaving the park has never been easy, but it was more difficult for me than it ever has been in the past, possibly because it is the first time I have gone to Blackpool more than once in a year however we have ordered 2015 season passes - in our opinion it is unbeatable as the quality of rides, history & charm and ever improving operations of the park makes it the UK's number one. Highlights: - Park was looking great, very clean and fresh. Also a really great atmosphere! - Dark rides are looking great, it is clear that a lot of time has gone into maintaining them. Ghost Train has seen a lot of paint since April, River Caves looks really good and Wallace and Gromit was still all working (aside from one effect) and I noticed new smell effects in the bread scene. - Getting back on Valhalla - Getting back on all the coasters. - Capacity the best I have ever seen it. - BPB at night time. - Trevor on the PMBO has got to be the best staff member I have ever come across - so into his job and recognised us every time we went into the station, also joking about my brother's Smiler hoodie. - Seeing Valhalla with the lights on - The Big One nearly stopping midway around the course due to the ridiculous winds it was battling with. Seriously, it was great fun and the first time I have been scared on a coaster for a very long time. - Valhalla's waterfall in the skull mouth not switching off and drenching everyone! (This was NOT a highlight at the time!) It was leaving huge puddles in the bottom of every boat yet I had to tell the staff as they hadn't realised. My feet were nearly a foot deep in water! - A night ride on PMBO in torrential rain at gone 10:30pm, plus seeing the faces of the staff who had joined us afterwards! Lowlights: - Leaving! (There were a tiny number of annoyances but they were vastly outweighed by the positives, and unless being picky I can't really find anything to moan about!) RIDECOUNTS: We may have done a few more rides than this as I usually forget a few when I'm adding them up. Saturday 25th October 2014 Valhalla x3 The Big One x2 Big Dipper x2 Infusion x2 Wild Mouse x1 Grand National x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 TOTAL: 14 Sunday 26th October 2014 (PMBO was closed from lunchtime onwards due to high winds, sadly we didn't go on it in the morning but to be honest I didn't miss it as I knew I would have a week to ride it). Valhalla x9 Grand National x7 Wild Mouse x6 Big Dipper x3 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Ice Blast x1 Avatar Airbender x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 35 Monday 27th October 2014 (We were only in the park for the afternoon as we went to the Tower and Circus in the morning. The Big One x2 Horror Maze x2 Valhalla x1 Grand National x1 Revolution x1 Ice Blast x1 Blue Flyer x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 TOTAL: 10 Tuesday 28th September 2014 The Big One x8 Valhalla x3 Ghost Train x3 Wild Mouse x2 Grand National x2 Big Dipper x2 River Caves x2 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Steeplechase x1 Infusion x1 Alice in Wonderland x1 TOTAL: 27 Wednesday 29th September 2014 (Park was packed, great to see it so busy! Also, they were coping really well with crowds). Valhalla x3 Grand National x3 Revolution x3 The Big One x2 Wild Mouse x1 Big Dipper x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 (Had never been on this before!) Horror Maze x1 Impossible x1 TOTAL: 21 Thursday 30th October 2014 (Another busy day) Valhalla x3 The Big One x3 Infusion x2 Wild Mouse x1 Grand National x1 Big Dipper x1 Avalanche x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 Ghost Train x1 Pleasure Beach Express x1 Horror Maze x1 TOTAL: 16 Friday 31st October 2014 - VAMPIRE BEACH The Big One x5 Valhalla x3 Grand National x3 Horror Maze x3 (Scaring people in this was fun!) Big Dipper x2 Wallace and Gromit x2 Wild Mouse x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Revolution x1 Steeplechase x1 Avatar Airbender x1 Ghost Train x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 23 Saturday 1st November 2014 Valhalla x6 (Some of these were hilarious! Two were no poncho or waterproof as we were already soaked from the Skull mouth!) The Big One x4 Grand National x3 Wild Mouse x2 Big Dipper x1 Nickelodeon Streak x1 Avalanche x1 Revolution x1 Blue Flyer x1 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x1 River Caves x1 TOTAL: 21 Overall Ride Count: Valhalla x31 The Big One x26 Grand National x21 Wild Mouse x14 Big Dipper x12 Wallace and Gromit's Thrill O' Matic x8 Ghost Train x7 Horror Maze x7 (Usually just before joining the PMBO queue) Nickelodeon Streak x6 Revolution x6 Avalanche x6 Infusion x6 River Caves x6 Steeplechase x3 Ice Blast x2 Avatar Airbender x2 Blue Flyer x2 Pleasure Beach Express x2 Alice in Wonderland x1 Impossible x1 OVERALL TOTAL: 169 Photos (all taken by me). Valhalla; You WILL get soaked! 91 years old and still standing proud; Headchopper! The Big One - still my favourite coaster. Where else can you find a 20 year old coaster and a 91 year old coaster running side by side? All lit up! Wild Mouse, one of the most intense coasters around; Grand National, yet another brilliant coaster; Nickelodeon Streak, in my opinion the best family coaster in the country. Imagine living in those houses! Avalanche; Revolution packs a huge punch considering how innocent it looks; Some general park shots: Strange orbs in this picture... Took it again without orbs but I prefer the angle of the first one. Easy question but does anyone know where you can find this in the park? Exciting times! VAMPIRE BEACH: BPB seems to be one of the only parks that still bothers with parkwide theming; Bring back Trauma! And Noah's Ark! Horror Maze; I must admit this one did make me laugh, possibly because it had moved every time we went through the maze! I'm sure these two were in the Ghost Train years ago; (These pictures were taken in the day, the maze was better in the dark and with actors). You cannot beat Blackpool Pleasure Beach at night! Thanks for reading/looking, comments welcome.

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