Welcome Back (if you didn’t get bored last time).
Previously, I left you with a Cliff hanger on whether we managed to get on Top Thrill Dragster. I’m afraid this is going to be a bit of a disappointment, because we didn’t return to the park. On the second day (at least).
Day 2- A Pointless Day
Although our hotel package included park tickets, these were only valid for three days, so at least one of our days was to be away from the park.
With adverse weather forecasted (and CP having a reputation for closing everything in storms), Tuesday was going to be our non park day.
Ohio is generally less touristy than other American states/cities such as Orlando, New York and Los Angelies. The only major attraction where we were staying was Cedar Point, but there would be other things to do.
One of the first place we visited was Wendy’s. This fast food outlet is quite popular in America and quite a few outlets exist as a result. They haven’t existed in the U.K. now for quite a number of years.
I went for a Chicken Burger meal, which turned out to be remarkably delicious (more than I was expecting). This medium is bigger than a U.K. large indefinitely.
When we finished up, we headed to the Sandusky Mall. The crazy thing about Malls are they a very American concept, however they seem to be a dying breed these days (largely due to people buying online more). Quite a few have closed up in the last few years.
Sandusky Mall is quite small (by American standards), but offered an adequate selection of stores. It was also considerably cleaner than your typical U.K. shopping place. There were quite a few stores there’s from J.C Penney and TJ Maxx.
To say they had a lot of Harry Potter products would be an understatement.
We next went into a Target, which is one of the bigger and more familiar stores in the states to buy lots under one roof. It was a bit like cross between Wilko and the long gone Woolworths.
Later on, we found a smallish horror themed entertainment complex which included a scare maze as part of it’s lineup. Not too bad maze at all, with a decent length and selection of interactive features and theming. Reminded me of a longer version of Creepy Cottage.
Afterwards, we grabbed some Dunkin Donuts (which were ok), we had a little drive around to see what else was here. A fairly impressive water park and a derelict Toys R Us, were some of those sights.
We had a short break back at the hotel, before heading out to Pizza Hut. The garlic bread was delicious, however I’m unsure on my choice of Pizza.
Maybe I didn’t choose wisely.
Day 3- Back In The Park,
The third day away and we returned back to the park.
That morning, it was time to give a US McDonald’s breakfast ago. The Mc Muffin was nice but I prefer the hash browns back home.
After the National anthem, we headed straight back to SV where we had a ride on the back. Even more amazing than the last time, the forces on this ride were insane.
This time, we generally did some re-rides but also went on some of the smaller things too. Millennium was just as amazing on the front row, Rougarou remained an impressive floor-less and Magnum was actually enjoyable. Like really enjoyable that I liked this a lot more.
On our last visit Top Thrill Dragster had been closed, due to launch cable replacements. However thankfully, it was now back up and running.
We managed two goes on this, including one on the front. That launch is certainly impressive! It really does shoot you out of that station with tonnes of acceleration for sure. The views uptop are great too. TTD is probably my favourite accelerator coaster (not launch coaster) and much better than Red Force. Sure it’s just a one trick pony, but that doesn’t detract anything from the ride and what’s it is trying to achieve! Five train operation though is very efficient!
The difference between something like Stealth and TDD compared to something like Taron and Maverick is, rather than delivering a palette of elements, its main intention is to purely just reach key speed and height quickly and efficiently.
Some of the other rides we tried included the S&S shot towers, including my first downwards launch one. Both were definitely amongst the better ones around, but I definitely preferred the one with the downwards launch.
We also did the park’s railway which was great. A long scenic route and traditional steam, featuring a great number of skeleton animatronics too.
There was also a park museum which was both charming and interesting to look around. I love parks that have pride in their past, present and future and is something more parks should do!
We also had another ride on Vengeance, after waiting a while following several shutdowns. We set at the front this time!
That evening we went to the TGI Friday’s in Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers. The portions were definitely bigger and offered more richly packed burgers. Despite this, I may still prefer the U.K. one, but that may be because I’m more familiar with them here.
We also explored the boardwalk area of Cedar Point shores. Everything was lovely, apart from the bugs, which there were billions of!
Day Four- Returning to Shores
Thursday would mark our third and final visit to the park through our hotel deal (Or Would It!)!
Back to Steel Vengeance we go, followed by another round on Maverick! Operations were definitely slower this time round, which was a pain, but it was still a great ride. Most operations were very good though, least whilst I was there.
We returned to the Smoke House again, this time opting for some Brisket Beef which was delicious. We also snuck in another Magnum ride somewhere in the middle. This is definitely a ride I’ve enjoyed the more I’ve ridden it!
Whilst Doyle went wind sailing, Matt Wise and I tried out the water park Cedar Point Shores. They had quite a interesting selection of slides, including a racing body slide with enclosed parts amongst a raft slide with a steep drop!
One of the craziest rides they had there were those slides where you stand up and then you plummet through a trap door into tie slide below! Honestly one mad but enjoyable ride, and perhaps one of my favourites there. And yes, I did say the ‘Wrong Lever’ speech during my ride, however to not much effect I’m afraid!
Not a bad water park at all I say and definitely one of the better ones I have visited. My only complaints are the lack of changing facilities (which there wasn’t enough of) and the Lazy River being closed!
Now back in the park, we went on some of the other attractions around the Boardwalk side including Max Air and the Wind Seeker. Max Air was great fun, it packed it’s forces and is probably my second favourite afterburner ride after Loki. Can’t say I was a massive fan of the Wind Seeker. Whilst I didn’t hate it, I just found the whole experience overwhelming with strong gusts blowing around whilst at the top. Maybe it’s me!
We revisited Wicked Twister and Gate Keeper once, Swarm has some better elements , but Gate Keeper for is still the better coaster. Raptor was revisited and retains it’s place as my second favourite invert (of four (I need to go on more)).
Valravn was revisited before indulging in the park’s gift shops. I don’t know if it’s me but I just didn’t enjoy this coaster as much as the other major ones here. I certainly enjoyed it more on my second time but it still seems to just lack something. The second half of the ride is probably better IMHO.
The last ride of the day would be Steel Vengeance (shock horror), where we were trying for a night ride! The park closed at 8pm each day we were out there, but it didn’t get dark until around 9pm earliest. Those poor SV staff!
This time we went for the back again and it certainly disappoint. Not to mention it was just about dark enough to be classed as a night ride!
The whole area looks pretty during the night!
That night it was Five Guys Night, where we ordered so close to closing, we had to exit through a fire escape (not the first time I did that on this trip)! Five Guys was ok, but a little bit disappointing, not because the food was bad but it was exactly like the U.K. ones (which is believed to be a direct import).
Least it’s probably better value for money and they have full fat coke (which may well be ditched in the U.K. thanks to Jamie Oliver)!
Day Five- The Final Surprise
Friday marked the final day of the trip after 5.5 days. Once we checked out, we were stuck between doing mini golf and other small things or another third to half day at the park. We chose the latter!
We paid at the hotel reception (which was more than we’d like but could’ve been worse). Off we went!
We headed once again for SV one last time, before getting a few things done. Woodstock Express was one of the last creds to get at the park and I can safely say it’s a very enjoyable young family coaster. That isn’t sarcasm. I promise! We also did Pipe Scream, which is a fun family flat but is definitely not a coaster!
We grabbed an ice cream/smoothie from one of those ‘choose your own toppings’ places. Mine was delicious, but given one of the machines exploded contents over me during dispensing was annoying to say the least!
During consumption, we noticed the ‘soon to be removed’ Witches Wheel Ride suddenly and strangely lower back to ground earlier than normal. Suddenly we noticed the lack of audio and realised the park had experienced a power cut!
Annoying to say the least, but it was interesting to see how quiet and different the park felt in those few moments. It was amazing how relaxed a lot of guests seemed to be about it, whereas back home they would be up in arms!
Around an hour later everything was getting back and running, so we went on Sky Hawk again first and then did the park’s Rapids. This thing was crazy, wet and wild! They have waterfalls that almost cover your whole body!
The boats were large although strangely they weren’t running many. They have spotters here too!
We headed over to Gemini Red, where we lost again but least we got the cred! It may not be the best coaster out there but it’s definitely a fun ride and seems quirky in a number of ways!
Our last ride (as random it is) was to be Iron Dragon, which was a little better than our first go but still nothing spectacular. One day I hope to ride Ninja, Vortex and/or Bat, hopefully all three.
Corkscrew was our last ride of the trip, followed by another ice cream/ smoothie before returning to the car and departing Cedar Point once and for all. On this visit anyway!
A visit to Wendy’s marked the last States meal. We returned the hire car immediately after and took the bus to the terminal. Security and departures was generally hassle free time round. For two of at least. Poor Doyle.
We boarded plane one (of two) thankfully to no delays and probably the nicest of our flights. Our flight back was perhaps the worst but it was still acceptable!
The Ending Point:
Some say Cedar Point is the holy grail of theme parks! Not only is it arguably one of the best in the world but boasts many of the best coasters in the world!
For me, Cedar Point is currently my second favourite park (number one amusement park), largely down to it’s vast impressive collection of rides (especially coasters), amongst mostly very good operations and their park seems generally well kept. Most areas look immaculate and it seems they jet wash the paths frequently!
One must remember that CP is a completely different type of park than say Disney or Efteling. It’s not trying to create immersive lands and attractions, but deliver generally impressive rides. This isn’t to say they don’t have places of charm. The western areas around Professor Delbert’s and near Steel Vengeanve are beautiful.
If thrilling, tall and fast white knuckle rides this is definitely the park for you! If you are more into immersive experience attractions over rides with impressive layouts, it’s definitely still a park worth seeing though as there’s plenty to see and discover here!
Although fairly short, this trip to America was highly enjoyable, not just as Cedar Point is concerned, but everything from the food to cultural differences. Who knows when I’ll go state side again? Maybe 2-3 years hopefully if things go to plan.
One things for sure, I won’t be forgetting this adventure anytime soon!
**Walks off into sunset**
America! It’s somewhere I have wanted to go and visit since I can remember.
I had always dreamt of visiting here, since seeing it in films, television and more. The style and the culture.
Recently that dream became a reality, thanks to a great opportunity with some great mates. Bringing not only a chance to visit the states but one of it’s most iconic parks Cedar Point.
Now you’ve probably already read Mark9’s informative trips from here, so a different scope should be required. In my reviews I will not only mention of Cedar Point, but my full experience of the States, being my first trip outside of Europe as of 2018.
Day 0/ Sunday- Going West
Wise and I parked up at Gatwick’s long stay before joining the transfer to the terminal. After uniting with Doyle, we were good to go beginning our long descent to America!
After devouring a Spoons brunch, we hopped onboard our first of two flights with Icelandic air, who despite being relatively unknown proved to be better than expected; the engines were loud though. Like very loud!
This would be my first long haul flight (having previously flown 2 HR 40 max on short haul). I expected a long, boring and tiring flight, but it wasn’t as bad, thanks to some on flight entertainment. Dead pool and Isle Of Dogs were amongst my choices with the odd Fawlty Towers episode.
Three hours later we arrived at Reykjavik Iceland, where we literally changed to our connecting flight immediately. This plane was even better than the first apart from one of our screens being broken, which was unacceptable.
Another five and a bit hours later , we finally landed at Cleveland Ohio. This was it, I was finally in America! Not after customs though.
The American custom process is much stricter and complex than the European one ( pre-Brexit at least). You are asked a number of questions upon arrival. Although the staff seemed friendly enough all instructions must be obeyed! This did take longer than first hoped.
Another security check took place before we were finally out. A quick bus to our hire car company commenced before we were finally on the way once we chose our vehicle.
It was interesting to note the differences on American roads. From yellow traffic lights and lack of roundabouts. Even the cars were different in many respects. Red indicators? No front number plates? All here in America.
We finally arrived at our hotel for the trip, Cedar Point’s Express Hotel. Although simple it was clean, tidy and welcoming.
Ride pictures above the beds is such a nice touch!
McDonald’s was our first stateside meal (conveniently located across the road from the hotel). The burger was certainly more tasty amongst a bigger portion and unlimited refills (a common measure in US eateries).
Day 1/ Monday- The Magnificent Seven-teen
Despite the long flight, I managed to wake up bright and early. Then again, I was still running on UK time so, 6am Cleveland time would equate to 11am in London.
Monday would be the first of three full days to visit Cedar Point.
Home of seventeen coasters (eighteen including both of Gemini’s track), the park boasts the second highest coaster count in the world. Least until a few years time when Energylandia will probably top it all.
The park features it’s own road/highway which may be the only major access route to the park. The views of the ride skyline make it what is arguably one of the most beautiful and impressive theme park views around!
They didn’t lie about it being a roller coast.
We parked up and arrived promptly. One of the advantages of staying at Cedar Point property is being allowed to enter for early ride time, one hour before main opening.
After playing the Star Spangled Banner, we made our way to our first attraction of the day, Steel Vengeance (the patriotism there is impressive).
New for 2018, this RMC replaced the ageing Mean Streak coaster, taking it’s layout and making it better.
The hype for this ride was unreal. I know I shouldn’t judge an attraction before riding, but I was unbelievably excited to experience this!
Such a beauty! Watching this ride going around it’s circuit!
So, how was Steel Vengeance you ask?
Absolutely Incredible! The ride is impressively tall, fast and packed with airtime (both floater and ejector) and hangtime amongst a lengthy ride duration.
I came off this ride immediately knowing it to be my number one coaster, and that was just from a middle row ride!
Cedar Point may not be specialists when it comes to turning, but SV definitely had some (if you look hard enough). From it’s styled lighting and story boards. They even feature different dispatch announcements for each train (Chess, Blackjack and Digger).
This was my first RMC, so fingers crossed I haven’t set the bar too high already and don’t appreciate others as a result.
My only criticism is naturally their ‘no phone in queue line’ policy, where phones must be put in a locker prior to riding. They even had undercover staff in the queue looking for anyone who snuck their phone in! There was also a security/police personnel at the entrance in case of abusive guests.
Things aside, Steel Vengeance is an incredible ride and worth tracking out for alone (amongst Cedar Point’s other amazing rides).
Maverick was the second ride of our trip. This intamin blitz coaster opened in 2007 replacing the former flume ride. I really like how they have preserved the old station and reused it as Maverick’s queue even if it is just your average cattle-pen.
Maverick really surprised me. Whilst I’d heard great things about this coaster, this thing literally wowed me! From it’s tight intense transitions, landscaping down to it’s hidden launch which was just amazing.
This ride for me narrowly beats Taron due to it’s variety of elements. And turnsurprise launch. There is also a back story to this attraction too.
We had a bite to eat next at this Smokehouse place. We all had spicy sausage, chips and a muffin.
It looked a lot more delicious than this photo suggests,
I like the details on these presumably old posters and signs.
Millennium Force was number three. The hype this coaster gets is absolutely insane, so I was concerned it would be overrated (given it’s mixed reception from enthusiasts).
I queued (ages) with an open mind trying not to think of how much I might like the ride.
Millennium Force surprised me! Often ranked very highly on coaster polls I was greatly satisfied this ride turned out to be just as good (if not better) from what I was expecting.
From it’s 300 ft plus cable lift hill, the ride delivers in plenty ways. There is definitely plenty of force as this coaster flies around it’s circuit. There is also plenty of interaction a lot more airtime than I was expecting too. Who said it was forceless?
I honestly came off shaken, in a good way which is why Millennium Force gets fifth place in my top 10 (speaking in September 2018).
N.B the gap between the 2-7 on my coaster ratings is pretty minuscule.
Having done what are arguably the three biggest (and best) rides at the park it was time for something comparatively smaller, Iron Dragon.
Opening in 1987, this Arrow suspended coaster is one of just five that remain operating (once 10). It’s also the oldest to remain operating (fourth one made).
The ride wasn’t anything remarkable, although I suppose it is one of the older ones of it’s type. Least I’ve now managed to one with the old Cars I guess.
Rougarou was next. This B&M coaster used to be a stand up but was converted to a floorless a few years ago.
I was pleasantly surprised with this ride. Like really surprised! The pacing and momentum through those inversions and helixes was superb. Truly an underrated coaster here and everything Dragon Khan should’ve been.
We headed east next to Gate Keeper, however it was down so we did Wicked Twister instead. This was a pleasant surprise and definitely a lot better than expected. The feeling of those launches and seeing the track top above was one crazy feeling!
Blue Streak followed, which was first and last wooden cred of the trip. This ride was pleasantly fun and reminded me of Big Dipper and Nick Streak at Blackpool. At 54 it is also one of the oldest coasters too.
We headed back to Gate Keeper which was now running which would by my second B&M Wing Rider.
Apart from the view onto the car park, I thoroughly enjoyed this one, from it’s selection of elements to the interactions near the entrance and theming elements! A better ride than Swarm in some areas but not in others.
We took the Sky Ride down to the entrance to experience Raptor. Not the Towers one. This version is an absolute classic and similar to the ones the first Magic Kingdom park’s used to have. They offered pleasant views of the park and peninsula. A shame Drayton spited theirs!
Raptor opened in 1994 (the same year as Nemesis) which is also a B&M invert.
It was hear we also experienced our first ‘in line shutdown’. No P.A announcement but they managed to get the ride up again pretty quickly in around 10 minutes. The amount of people leaving the line without appearing disgruntled was remarkable. They certainly seem more relaxed out here!
We managed front row on Raptor which turned out to be an impressive invert. It was a bit like Inferno but bigger and better. Some of those inversions really pull force and put you off guard, especially that reverse inline.
Currently my second favourite of four inverts (just four?) and favourite B&M in this park!
We grabbed another of many soft drink refills from the Coadter’s Diner before making a move to the further North Coasters in this park. The amount of free style refill and drinks choices out here is remarkable and offers considerably better choices than back home. Jamie Oliver is one of many reasons why the UK doesn’t get nice things anymore!
We did Corkscrew, another of several Arrow coasters at the park. Despite its age I found it surprisingly enjoyable.
Magnum XL was our next ride. In 1988 This beast was the tallest coaster in the world at 205ft tall, until it’s slightly taller sister the Big One stole it!
I found my first ride on the Magnum noticeably jerky and uncomfortable almost to the point I proffered The Big One. It’s a good job I didn’t just do it once! It’s still popular too.
Gemini followed. This is an interesting attraction in that it’s a racing coaster that looks like a woodie in places but is actually a steel coaster. It’s height implies it’s a thrill coaster, but it mostly rides as a thrilling family ride.
Whilst Gemini may not have the frills and excitement as other coasters at the park, it perfectly serves it’s purpose as a fun and exciting ride. The racing element here likely helps enhance this factor.
After Gemini we raced over (pun intended) to Cedar Creek Mine Ride, the final of C’s Arrow quintet. This is the second oldest coaster operating at the park, which you can tell from old fashioned restraints style which are manually functioned by ride staff. It also occupies one of the larger footprints too.
Aside from it’s historical significance, there isn’t anything remarkable about this ride as nothing really sticks out for it. Least the location is nice though. Still beats El Diablo.
We took a quick break from our coaster and soft drink hoarding by going on Sky Hawk, the park’s S&S Sky Swing. This was honestly tonnes of fun and swings much higher and longer than Rush indefinitely.
Valravn would serve as our final ride and Cred of day one. We joined the queue just before it closed and spent most of the time chatting an American family who seemed quite friendly; I found most people during my trip out there friendly.
Timing it right (when staff asked for a three), we finally boarded what would be our final B&M we hadn’t done at the park.
Although Wise and Martin seemed to like it, I came off feeling like something was missing. Like key wow factor moment. It probably didn’t help being asked to randomly swap seats with another rider.
Despite it’s height, the drop felt empty and I think the reason for this is largely down to the lack interaction. Whilst CP isn’t a park that specialise in theming, they could have at least added a tunnel or something as that alone would already be a noticeable improvement both to the ride in appearance and experience.
Don’t get me wrong it’s not a terrible coaster (far from it). But I just feel I csme off it feeling a little disappointed and wanting more and preferring Oblivion to it despite being a longer ride. I think the second half is generally better on this one! Least Yukon Striker actually has an impressive first drop!
Now your probably thinking I’m missing out on an important ride here. Something that you can’t help but notice really impacts the park’s ride selection and skyline. The answer Unfortunate is No. we didn’t go on Woodstock Express on day one!
Oh, and Top Thrill Dragster was down due to some cable replacing work, so looks like we’ve been spited a Cred here. Or have we?
End Of Part One
The Wickerman marks a noticeable and remarkable change from previous Secret Weapon coasters. Not only does it aim more towards older families (over thrill-seekers) but it doesn’t feature a ground breaking element (if one can excuse their previous claims. It’s made out of wood too by the way. This review contains spoilers.
Now enthusiasts, fans and the like have been wanting a wooden roller coaster at Towers for years. Previously with little success, until now. Cross Valley was cancelled and for years, Wooden coasters were deemed unmarketable. It perhaps doesn’t help the majority of U.K. park goers only have Blackpool and Stampida (at a push) as notable comparisons to wooden coasters.
As time passed, the idea of a Woodie gradually warmed up. Attraction designer John Wardley had always wanted a Wooden coaster at Towers. A Wallace and Gromit themed coaster was just one of many ideas.
Years later and the concept for the then labelled SW8 was announced and met with mixed reviews. Many were let down and concerned by the ride’s apparent small and mundane layout, whilst others were concerned of the ride’s theme.
Construction progressed and again marked a remarkable difference from previous SW projects. Whilst the others were somewhat more secretive, the park in this case almost wanted more to know of what was to arrive. Windows, posters and video teasers frequently appeared, giving visitors what this future attraction may deliver.
After numerous unfortunate weather delays (which seems to be a recurring issue with SW rides), Wickerman opened to the general public. Aside from it’s reliability it was met with mostly positive reviews and some saying it was the best thing at the resort to date.
Being the first Woodie in the U.K. since 1996 and at a Merlin park, many could regard the ride as highly successful. But how? The ride doesn’t feature a notable world’s first?
The Wickerman does not need a world’s first element, the ride is a complete package. An experience.
It all begins from the moment you enter the queue line entrance, welcomes by a sign that is effective and blends in without being too garish or generic. There may be Pirate attractions around the corner, but the ride fits in almost like it has always belonged there.
One may argue, too many newer attractions uphold bland and repotive queue lines, frequently resorting to ‘the cattle-pen’ layout. Not Wickerman.
The ride’s queue gradually progresses up hill, managing to showcase the ride whilst seeming to head away from it only to become nearer. This queue line style is reminiscent of Tussauds designed rides such as Nemesis and Colossus. The noticeable theming such as buntings and different zoned audio in places, is a welcoming addition.
As we become nearer, we reach a baggage hold and then enter into the pre-show room. The show isn’t the longest but delivers a short but sweet delivery into setting the scene and storyline.
We now enter the station itself, where the pens (gates) await to open taking the next riders onto the train. The thematic announcements, lighting and styles combine nicely to the already impressive setting and atmosphere.
The ride takes a slight drop out of the station through a 180 curve and we pass with some speed before reaching the lift hill after another 180 turn. It’s not the tallest by any means but still looks impressive height wise.
We then enter another curved drop (this time enclosed) before we gradually drop. The ride from here features numerous hills, helixes and turns as the train races around the circuit. Several times interacting with the impressive Wicker statue (filled with smoke and fire effects). It’s not the longest, fastest or tallest but makes for one exciting ride.
The ride ends after a final small banked curve and enters the first of two break runs. Numerous times smoke and light effects activate, as the train slowly returns to the station through an enclosed tunnel, the third one in total.
The ride’s trains are immaculately themed, replicating a Wickerhead and can carry upto 24 riders per train. There are three in total resulting in a theoretical throughout of just over 950 people an hour, which isn’t a bad throughout.
The shop is also surprisingly well themed (and looks even better in person). It features plenty of Wickerman merchandise, from your usual T-shirts, trains and keychains to the more unusual Wicker models and wood pieces.
How does it stand amongst other Woodies?
Balder has airtime, Wodan has theming with relentless pacing and Joris has the fun racing elements with niche features.
The Wicker feels like a complete experience attraction and feels like it takes some elements from these. The ride’s first drop features some surprisingly good airtime (especially towards the back), there’s some great theming and impressively forceful areas within the attraction too.
One could argue it weakens towards the end a little. However it still offers a highly enjoyable layout. John Wardley is said to have made some improvements to the first drop of the ride.
As it currently stands, the ride is now my favourite Wooden coaster in the U.K. and joint second favourite in Alton Towers. It may be the most immersive attraction to open in the U.K. since Hex.
Honestly speaking, the ride would not look out of place if it was located in Efteling or Phantasialand.
Unfortunately this is where these comparisons end. 2018 for Towers is a high-end investment year and the park should be in top form. If only this was the case.
The park still continue to face operational cuts
as parent company Merlin see the park as struggling despite numbers gradually returning. This has resulted in mothballed kiosks, staggered openings, reduced hours and deductions to capacity. Even baggage holds have disappeared.
On my second day visiting, four of the main coasters broke down simultaneously, resulting in longer queues and complaints. Whilst this could have been an unfortunate coincidence, it does question whether there have been further staff reductions. I don’t recall witnessing this on previous visits. Not to this level anyway.
It was also a 4pm close, which felt too early as lots of people were still around after 5pm. The Rapids also seemed short of boats and the monorail no longer allows people on the platform unless the train has stopped. This has reduced the capacity significantly.
Europa Park have managed to reopen their rapids after a major fire and relocate most of the food offering. Meanwhile at Towers, we still have Toadstall and Sub-Terra closed after 2-3 seasons and food outlets remaining closed on super-peak days.
I understand both parks have different structures, but it is disappointing that Towers is being financially starved and limited in such a year. Just to please faceless shareholders, turn an even bigger profit and build Legoland clones.
I do also worry how Wickerman will age after it’s first couple of seasons, especially considering Merlin aren’t known for great upkeep.
Will the baggage hold still exist? What state the pre show holds? How re-rideable will it be? The state of The Smiler, does not hold much reassurance. The ride looks rather grotty and many effects remain broken. Just one effect is still working in the projection room. I’d like Towers and Merlin to prove me wrong with Wickerman.
Right, I think it’s time to go back to the positives. The conservatories and Pagoda look competitively better after their restorations. Duel seems a noticeable improvement in most areas, whilst there is still room for improvement, it is believed to be a working project. The staff also seemed particularly friendly too.
Wickerman is an excellent coaster and will hopefully pave the way for great things in the U.K. all Towers need to do is maintain and look after it. All we need is for Merlin to give Towers more budget and put them off budget cuts.
Nine Out Of Ten
Chessington. It is arguably one of the most iconic and notable tourist attractions in the United Kingdom and naturally enriched in facts and history.
Opening it’s doors in 1931, Chessington Zoo was born and was once the largest private zoo in England as a result. Years passed by and Pearsons brought up the zoo. When the 1980’s arrived, the zoo was believed to be in decline and Tussauds (part of Pearsons) had the challenge of rejuvenating the attraction to a new generation.
Special effects designer John Wardley was one of the key people working on this project, which would transform the failing attraction into one of first proper theme parks in the U.K. In 1987, the attraction reopened as Chessington and was believed to be successful. Built on a relatively low budget, some of the park’s attractions included the powered coaster Runaway Train, cult classic dark ride ‘The Fifth Dimension’ and tradition logflume, Dragon River. It is the latter we shall focus on here (with good reasons to follow).
During it’s early years, the Dragon River was richly themed, from it’s giant Buddha, Dragon tunnel and rock work, which dominated the ride’s lifthills and surrounding area. It’s Asian architectural design and landscaping perhaps once regarded the ride as one of most richly themed attractions out there. Some say the water was even dyed once to further enhance it’s then mystic theme. Years later it would became renamed as Dragon Falls.
(Above) The ride during days of past when theming was complete. N.B not my photo (Theme Uk)
As the years passed, the theme park continued to grow and progress, however Dragon Falls through time became neglected and poorly looked after. In 2005, a large proportion of theming and rockwork was removed but not replaced, leaving the second lift and other surrounding areas to be exposed and naked from their former theming. By the time 2013 further theming was removed, including the rock faces on the main drop and remaining rock work on lift one. Once again, these were not replaced, likely down to being condemned and sufficient budgets not being provided.
Around this time, the ride was threadbare of theming on the most part, with the once grand drop area looking like this:
Compared to what it had once been, the general state of the ride was bleak, empty and something of an embarrassment. A once themed attraction striped threadbare of it’s once grand and striking appearance. The tunnel was also chopped in half, making a barely dark experience around a ‘back of house’ location. For five seasons, the ride continued to operate in this delapidated state. Apart from a safety upgrade, only the Buddha, Dragon and station received modest touchups. As nice they were, this didn’t do much to help a ride in a shadow of it’s past.
Then in 2017, plans came afoot to refresh the ride and surrounding area including Dragon Falls, which would be given a retheme with new features. Joining alongside a brand new Amur tiger exhibit, the ride would form part of a refreshed area Land Of The Tigers. Though not without it’s fault, this would be the biggest overhaul on the attraction during it’s 31 years of existence.
whilst zombies and flames invaded other Merlin attractions, Chessington was busy finishing off it’s Tiger area. Eight months after the closure of the original area, Land Of The Tigers opened to the public. Aside the new enclosures, Chessington’s flume was somewhat reborn with a new identity known as Tiger Rock.
The new updates drop area for the ride looks tigerrific
One of the biggest updates to the attraction is the brand new Tiger rockwork element, which the boats pass under during the final drop. This offers a great new element of excitement and interaction both on and off ride, looking much better than the previous eyesore in the previous years from the ride.
One of the best updates (from a personal perspective) is the station. There is a lot more atmosphere in there now, from it’s new soundtrack to the new artwork and lighting displayed on the side walls. I really like how they’ve kept the oriental theming and enhanced it with things such as lanterns. There’s also a cool tiger effect that activates every couple of minutes too, which is an interesting feature.
The exterior updates look nice enough too.
Whilst not without it’s faults, Tiger Rock joins the theme park and zoo are one. As long as the enclosures meet sufficient requirements, this may be the best way forward for much of Chessington, by becoming immersed in rides complimented by animal experiences. The tunnel features are an original touch, but the fences aren’t the most attractive.
The project has seen changes I like a lot, but others not so much. The tunnel after lift 1 epitomises this. The inside is finally back to it’s original length at long last, accompanied by some random effects/models which really complements the experience. However, the exterior looks hideous, ugly and out of place. Whilst a brightly coloured Dragon would never fit within the new theme, they could’ve done more from the hideous mess that awaits there now.
Lift two still doesn’t look great especially without any theming. The added fencing on the side makes it look somewhat worse, but is to probably prevent injury from those less able to remain seated. A limited budget from Merlin likely prevented ‘non safety’ enhancement on this section in the first place, which is a shame really.
The picsolve unit has been moved, and creating a new ride shop. A small one there too I should point out.
Lift one looks a little nicer with the new decorations.
Land Of The Tigers has breathed some new life into area and Flume ride, giving it a fresh identity on the whole as Tiger Rock. Whilst not without it’s flaws, the retheme can be seen as a much needed upgrade, from it’s stunning station to the impressive new theming on the main drop. It’s a shame some areas couldn’t have seen more work, such as theming on lift two and tunnel exterior, however I doubt they were offered enough budget to carry those out sadly.
Whilst it’s no Chiapas (and was never supposed to be), I like most of what they’ve done which is probably now my favourite U.K. flume ride, which isn’t difficult to be fair. It may not look as good compared to it’s early years, but is much better than the ones between it.
Seven Out Of Ten.
Phantasialand is one of my favourite theme parks, it may not be the biggest park out there, but they certainly know how to mix a combination of attractions within remarkable footprints.
Just over a year following my first visit, I decided to make a return visit for Winter to see the park beautifully lit up and decorated for Christmas.
Berlin Street, a beautiful park entrance (at least once you get past the street). It borrows some elements from Main Street but also makes it’s own in many ways too, like the Chairswing at the end and Fun House (Hotel Tartúff).
This time I finally got the chance to go through the Tartúff. I can safely say it’s one of the craziest (and longest) Funhouse attractions I have experienced. It must’ve taken at least 15minutes to walk through it. Worth the wait too.
Last time around I was criticised for not mentioning enough love for Chiapas. Here goes, Yes that’s an enhanced entrance too which looks amazing.
Words can it describe just how impressive and magical this attraction is, it’s such a happy upbeat attraction that aren’t common enough in main park’s. There is nothing I can fault about this attraction, from it’s dark segments, backwards drops and pacing throughout. The disco room is by far one of the best inventions in modern attractions. They even play a Christmas variant of the main theme too. Sheer perfection.
Subtle yet Christmassy.
Talocan was running just as impressively and intensely as last time. Certainly a stunning beast and just as much a show as a ride. Not one for after lunch.
Speaking on lunch, we went back to Rutmoore’s (which does these amazing hearty meals). The eatery is certainly holding it’s own with decorations too amongst delicious food.
Savoury Crepes Yum.
Taron is still absolutely amazing (and narrowly misses the top spot to Helix). I just adore the ride’s empowering launches, floaty airtime and interaction with nearby buildings and pathways. It’s just as much a piece of art as much as a coaster and much more than a series of twists and turns for sure.
Taron in the sunset looks even more beautiful for sure.
Whilst Klugheim is still park’s latest addition (Taron’s 120 minute queues are proof), it won’t be too long before the park’s next investment (albeit delayed until 2019) arrives, Rookburgh. Replacing the old Atlantis Simulator (removed before my first visit), the new area looks to boast a steampunk style theme, a surprising move away from the park’s signature rock Styles. Rockwork to Phantasialand is perhaps what shipping containers are to Merlin.
Whilst I am (naturally) highly excited this new area, I am going to be quite controversial now and say I’m slightly disappointed the area’s headline attraction looks to be another coaster (opposed to a dark ride). The park lost a major dark ride (Silvermine) so Taron could be built and I would like to see them gain a modern (animatronic heavy) dark ride. I’m sure Fly though will still be fantastic though and rumours suggest it will have dark ride elements which is a start.
Far on the other side of the park (away from the glamorous Chiapas and Klugheim) lies the sad sorry ageing duo that are Temple and Hollywood. It’s almost difficult to believe they are in the same park. The left side does generally feel noticeably inferior to the right, but then again it’s literally towards the back of resident’s gardens. I wouldn’t complain living there tbh.
Some say these will be the next attractions to be ripped out from the park (to makeway for the next park redevelopment). Whilst I won’t shed a tear when Nighthawk goes (a 10 minute confused journey in pitch black darkness), I will miss the Hollywood ride just a bit. The cave, jaws and Frankenstein scenes are my favourites in this sorry forgotten dark ride.
I’m probably in the minority but I actually really like Geister Riksha. Although it is one of the park’s oldest attractions (it’s 36 years old) the ride still feels like it holds a place even in modern Phantasialand. It certainly fits in more then Temple and Hollywood and feels better looked after too. I would rather the attraction extensively updated than ripped out entirely should China ever become redeveloped.
Spot the mistake.
Black Mamba was still amazing, Colorado crazy in the best way and Mystery Castle somewhat on the shorter setting. I enjoyed Maus Au Chocolate more this time which is great to see so much theming between the screens. Winjas Fear is definitely the better track. Bizarrely we had to enter through a back route to the entrances due to the main area playing home to a private function.
Due to a national holiday, there was no music on the second day in many park areas until 6pm.
Phantasialand at night just looks absolutely spectacular, here’s the China Area. Whilst this area doesn’t House the park’s best rides it’s still one of my favourite areas in the park. That said I like
pretty much all the areas of the park, the Fantasy not so much though.
Absolutely stunning. I don’t think these photos give the park justice.
The park at Winter also plays home to not one, but two night-time shows. The first one of these uses the park’s ice rink where numerous costumes performers actout. The loose plot basically comes down to something ruining Christmas and someone coming along saving it and ending on a firework finale.
The second show features a projection/fire show around the Chiapas ride plaza. Unfortunately no photography was permitted (Phantasialand are quite notoriously for being one of the stricter parks for this), so I wasn’t able to get any pics as I didn’t fancy getting shouted at in German.
I definitely enjoyed both shows for what they were but wouldn’t necessarily say they were out standing. They certainly weren’t terrible either. Perhaps my insufficient German didn’t help.
During my visit I was very fortunate to stay at Hotel Lingbao, which was just stunning. I absolutely fell l in love with the place from it’s oriental styling to it’s quaint surroundings. Many of the items in this hotel are said to have actually come from China itself.
Would strongly recommend staying here if you can as it’s definitely worth it. Otherwise H+ is a suitable place if you are on a budget.
On the second day, we ventured (or should I say attempted) some cultural stuff in Cologne. Unfortunately this wasn’t as successful as hoped due to the Chocolate Museum being closed, but we did what we could out of it.
Cologne Lock bridge.
I also had my first Hard Rock Cafe experience here. I strongly enjoyed this (however Tomb thought it was average). Not sure how others compare.
Old Cologne. Sadly most of Cologne is modern brutal buildings. I’ll let Basil Fawlty do the explaining.
Tradional German Market, we actually visited two but I definitely preferred this one.
Random animatronic goodness. You can pay a euro for the duo to play a tune of your choice whilst drinking beer.
I will end this update with Cologne Cathedral at night.
If the closed season becomes too much, just book a winter trip to Phantasialand (opening hours vary). Merry Christmas!
Thank you for reading part 1 of my trip report. Here's part 2 of my annual review if you have not died of boredom where we will look into the wonders of the international parks.
Visiting what is arguably the best European park (or even the world) is one thing, but doing it in a medium sized group that is TPM made things that extra bit more exciting.
Situated within a small and charming German town makes for one beautiful location making it one of the most picturesque parks in Europe.
Europa Park is not somewhere to visit just for the rides, but because it is Europa Park. A place despite its massive size is full to the brim of hidden attractions and details. It isn't uncommon to walk around the park and find something new all the time, whether that be an archway leading to a hidden dark ride or finding a random show or walk through.
The park features countless themed areas to different European countries including Spain, England and Scandanavia. Not only do these areas feel strongly coherent, but also complement one another. Even the aspect of crossing the English area to the (then still not open) Ireland feels like something the park have though about.
With Thirteen coasters (12 when I visited), it ranks as having the highest number of coasters in Europe (at least for now) featuring a great variety from the sleek and smooth Blue Fire to the classic Bobsled.
Wodan was my favourite coaster for sure, not only down to its crazy amazing layout but it's themed queue. An added bonus making a fast moving queue even more pleasant to wait in. Though some coasters were better than others, none of them come across as weak with each one helping to complement the package.
Europa though is more than coaster. As it boasts many shows, dark rides and smaller attractions. The shows come by the pair ranging from an Ice Show, jousting and even a Europa take on a Disney style parade. Whilst some are better than others, there are so many to see you could easily spend one park day watching all of them.
Controversially, none of the dark rides are top 10 material (with the possible exception of Arthur), but before you get the pitchforks, there's a perfect explanation. None of them are trying to be. Each dark ride not only complements specific areas but shows off what different attractions Mack has to offer making Europa just as much a working a ride museum amongst a theme park resort.
Despite the majority coming across as Disney style knock-offs, many of these attractions are highly enjoyable not only because of their charm but retaining a classic feel. The animatronic, setting and scenery styles are all highly reminiscent of the days when attractions like Bubbleworks, Phantom Phantasia and Terror Tomb existed.
What's even more appeasing to see is how well looked after these attractions and seeing them looking refreshed and not stale and falling apart. Piccolo Mondo is an example of this. Although the attractions has existed since the early eighties, it received a major remodelling in 2011 that not only modernised the ride from looking dated but has retained fundamental features of the original.
There's more than just the park though, with the resort's five hotels which are look amazing and retain superb quality about everywhere you look there. There's even a beautiful courtyard with fountains!
Accommodation at Europa isn't difficult as you have a wide variety of places to stay. If you can't afford Europa hotels, stay in Rust. There is plenty of places to stay, the majority very friendly and reasonable priced and usually no more than 15 minutes walk too. There's even log cabins and camping facilities if you prefer and plenty of restaurants and a super market if you don't want to eat in the park.
Europa as theme parks go is practically perfect except for one thing, getting there. Although far from impossible transportation from the airport to the park is more challenging compared to places like Disney and Liseberg. My group were rather lucky that we had enough drivers to warrant hire cars which is probably the easiest option.
If you are driverless, you are limited to either expensive but convenience park shuttles or a long fiddly train commute.
Two weeks after Europa, I was blessed to be visiting another major European park with another amazing Mack. Yet it was a park that couldn't be anymore different.
Unlike Europa Park, Liseberg is more of a traditional amusement park, although many of it's new additions have been themed rather well. A more sophisticated, hilly and picturesque Blackpool may be the best comparison here,although both parks are good in their own ways.
The park boasts three stunning coasters (more on the fourth later). Helix is an absolutely phenomenal ride, from it's impressive launches, sudden corkscrew out of the station and combination of inversions, airtime and ground hugging elements. Helix is my new number 1 coaster and worth visiting for the park alone.
Balder though is also a top quality Wooden coaster for the park. The drops and airtime are amazing although the styling feels comparatively dry to the rest of the park. Hopefully the area re-theme will resolve this. Lisebergbanen minus the brakes is another wonderful ride and it's Terran based layout and interaction almost make it a family thrill Helix without loops.
Whilst I adored the others, Kanonen left me feeling disappointed as I found it rather rattly and the restraints uncomfortable. That said given it's tiny footprint, the layout is quite impressive to say the least. Whilst I won't miss the ride given it's now being removed, this coaster would do wonders for a smaller park. I'd certainly visit Drayton more if they brought this.
Liseberg also boasts what may be the best selection of flats I've seen at a park. From the craziness of Steampunk themed star shape Mechanica to Uppswing, a swing ride that goes over a cliff. Rush eat your heart out! Atmosphere was even an acceptable drop tower (even just on height) and the Jukebox ride was great fun!
Not only is there a decent Rapids and interesting 'working' log flume but Hotel Gasten, a scare maze with some richly themed rooms, scares and over 10 minutes in length. Worth the extra charge too.
Amongst it's great attractions, stunning location and classic feel, the only thing this place lacks is a decent dark ride. Fairy Tale Castle is the only dark ride at the park, in the form of a dated schwartzkopf suspended track ride passing random fairy tale scenes to the Dream Flight theme. The ride is practically hilarious because it's so poor and dated.
For those who struggle getting to and affording European parks Liseberg is a good starting point as it's very easy to get to. Norwegian British Airways and Ryanair all fly to Gothenburg from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stanstead with prices being under £30 each way if you choose the right time to visit.
There's also a bus shuttle that runs from Gothenburg Landvetter to literally just outside the park entrance. Just remember pre-book your tickets or register your cards as they don't do cash payments!
Phantasialand is a park I've been wanting to visit for many years and for 2016 I finally got to visit.
The place is amazing and despite its smaller size (though definitely not tiny) it is packed with richly themed details everywhere, from the sophisticated Berlin street entrance to the creative details in Mexico. Imagine a fully decorated Chessington? Nope me neither.
The rides themselves are immaculately themed (the newer ones at least). Chiapas is a stunning ride with rich theming, dark ride sections and a large drop which proof flumes still have a place at parks today (Towers take note). Black Mamba bar it's stunning theming is a beautiful coaster that surpasses Inferno but not Nemesis.
Maus Au Chocolate, River Quest, Winjas and Colorado Adventure are also great rides that are worth a mention too.
Klugheim is an exceptional area, from its vast rock work, medieval/Norsk theming and landscaping. Taron is sublime coaster that really works with the area and is just amazing all round and certainly a favourite for me amongst arguably being the park's main coaster now.
Raik is also a loverly little ride that inkeeps with Klugheim and gives Phantasialand a much needed kids coaster. Everything in Klugheim is fab, even the eateries. Rutmoore's Tavern is a loverly place to visit for a hearty lunch and up there as one of my favourite theme park eateries.
With some fantastic new attractions and areas having opened in recent years, the park is not holding back on progressing further even at the expense of older attractions. Race For Atlantis, the former simulator was ripped out earlier this year and construction for the next big thing has already begun.
After that, Nighthawk, Hollywood and the Chinese Ghost Train will likely be cleared for expansions afterwards. The first two won't be too drastic given how dated and out of place they seem, but I will miss the ghost train as I think there's some charm in there and something I like about it too. I'm hoping more for a major update than replacement in all honesty.
It may be without its flaws but Phantasialand may be my second favourite park now. That place has done wonders to me and certainly changed me for sure.
Phantasialand is easy to get to if you know what you're doing. Fly to Cologne Bonn, then get the train from the airport to Koln HBF and then change the train to Brühl there. The hotel situation is slightly more complicated. If you can't stay onsite Ramada Koln is a good choice although you will need to drive or taxi to/from the park.
2016 wasn't the year for DLRP
As a result of years of neglect (for Disney standards), the resort has undergoing a rigorous rehabilitation resulting in rides, theming, facades, walkways and buildings being extensively refurbished. In it's peak, Big Thunder, Thunder Mesa, Star Tours, Peter Pan's Flight, Adventure Isle and more were all closed alongside the main fountain being closed off.
Despite this, I still returned to witness the magical Christmas season with my loverly girlfriend. though having no BIg Thunder, Star Tours and others, this did not dampen the magic in any way.
This was also the first park Christmas visit for both of us and the resort-wide festive was amazing. From the decorated main Street with Christmas tree to the Christmas parades. Christmas Dreams was good but lacks the warmth and heartstring pull the normal Dreams delivers.
Disney is still so magical, even in the middle of a major rehabilitation. It's also easy to get to regardless of your preferred choice. Walking might take a while though.
Happy Christmas and happy new year everyone. Who knows whether I'll do this in 2017 but I hope you enjoyed.
The Closed season is here, Christmas music and decorations are around everywhere and the sight of new year isn't far away.
This means one thing, time to review 2016. This year will be a two part edition, with part one focusing on the UK and part two on the wonders abroad.
The Merlin Machine/
Given the circumstances of 2015, it was fairly imminent this wasn't going to be the best year for them. With Park-wide budget cuts, ride closures and controversial decisions, there has been a fair share of negativity. However, not everything they've done has been unacceptable.
As expected, 2016 was not going to be Towers's year as a result of ruthless management operations to lessen the bleeding of 2015's unfortunate events.
This resulted in budget cuts, leading to staff redundancies, closures of shops and food outlets , knee jerk safety precautions and the closure of seven attractions.
Whilst Hex is the only major casualty here, closing down a family park staple, sufficient flat ride and more has certainly left a big gap in the family market.
Galactica for me feels like an attempt at shoe horning a gimmick onto what was already a popular ride just so it can be marketed as a new major attraction.
The VR element leaves something to be desired, although I did find the audio descriptive version highly amusing. That being said, I do really like the new space styling, soundtrack and station enhancements.
However on the upside, the new Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic addition to the park, featuring much character and a flagship park restaurant. The Steak I had last time was remarkable.
The TLC scheme has certainly enhanced run down areas of the park such as Forbidden Valley and Towers Street which look noticeably better. Though some areas are still fairly run down it's a start and if this is the only way for Merlin to do upkeep, so be it. Fingers crossed they can keep a similar scheme in place Post 2018.
The Galactica fireworks were highly enjoyable too and made for a great end of a season. The park still has magic but it may be a little drier for the time being.
2017 seems to be another year CBeebies land add ons, with a round ride and indoor attraction being installed amongst it's own hotel.
None of the above is appealing to anyone over 6, however if it's successful let's see what happens. SW8 construction is where it all lies though.
2016 has been very divided for the park with lots of positives and negatives happening at the park this year.
The park has continued an acceptable level of small improvements in places from updating the Amity toilet block to refurbishing the main Burger King which is good to see. The Tidal Wave improvements also look nice.
That being said a major TLC scheme could really benefit the park as lots of park areas have been neglected for a while now, including Colossus, Rumba, Canada Creek and even Inferno (to a lesser extent).
Breakdowns have been inconsistent this year with some rides such as Stealth and Samurai suffering major lengths of downtime but other rides like Swarm, Slammer and Rush remaining generally reliable all season. Some rides of course are out of the park's control when it comes to issues, but it would be nice to see a better consistency on reliability though.
Derren Brown's ghost train is where things become more complicated. The ride now offers the park with a much needed indoor/dark ride. The pre-show and live action elements (though without their faults) are the best elements of the attraction for me. Providing amusement and excitement that may controversially be the best we've seen at a UK park in the post Hex days.
The virtual reality (VR) element however I am not a massive fan of, the first section is okay but the second one feels disjointed and almost anticlimactic but that may just be the ride's reliability.
Speaking on reliability, the attraction hasn't been great, with the attraction constantly breaking down, headsets failing and other issues. The state of the attraction last October was shocking to say the least and that's before I mention the two month plus delay. Let's hope 2017 does wonders to this ride and it can finally prove to be a solid addition instead of the embarrassing handful it seemed to be this year.
Losing Loggers this year feels like a massive blow for the park, which despite it's age was still a popular and firm favourite for people of all ages. 2017's confirmation has only dampened the doubtful reopening of this attraction further which is a shame.
Ending this on a positive, the street food and temporary outlets in Old Town were decent additions to the park's catering lineup. The chip place place proved to be great and a very quirky idea at the very least. The I'm A Celebrity improvements were also acceptable.
The kiddie rides in Old Town is a bizzare one but if they enhance the younger guest offering which the park lacks, it can't be all bad.
Right, remaining optimistic here may be a little more difficult but let's see what happens.
Tomb Blaster (the park's veteran dark ride), was set for what was supposed to be a major refurbishment, giving the ride much needed TLC and restoring it into the best state in years. How wrong could we be?
The new lasers are blocky, tacky and ruin the look of the attraction and the scoring system makes no sense. And not only this but the new UV lighting (which was supposed to enhance the ride) has actually ruined this. As a result of exposing out of house areas and the metal warehouse the ride resides in.
The removal of ambient sound effects has only added insult to injury and goes to show what a shoddy refurbishment this was to begin with. The reduction in car stopping has only added to the rot as a result of the ride being less in sync.
In the contrary, the Bubbleworks was shut down forever to make way for the next revolving door IP attraction.
Whilst many will disagree here, I still had a liking for the attraction even to the end as it provided a fun ride for all ages and was an amusing experience. From the whirling fairground rides to the fountain finale.
The ride may be gone but it will always have a place in my heart. Especially my last ever ride. Where my girlfriend and I shared our first kiss in the fountain finale.
The rest of the park is still a mess. Bits of theming looking worn and neglected, Vampires station is still a mess, Falls is still naked and breakdowns seem to be happening more frequently.
Skyway was also spited after barely surviving the last few seasons. Shame they didn't maintain or rebuild it as that would've been much better than an animatronic panda show. Glamping won't save the park either sadly.
Only good things I can say about Chessington this year are the small TLC bits were acceptable, the Smokehouse place is good and I met my girlfriend here.
2017 will be interesting to say the least with Gruffalo re-theme and new Market Square carousel. Let's see.
Despite turning 20 years old, 2016 has been a quiet one for the park, as a result of adding anything major or notable.
The Lego Movie 4D was the main new attraction this season and is a fantastic addition to the park and one of the most amusing 4D shows I've seen. Featuring the return of many of the lovable original characters and more from the original film.
2016 also saw the Star Wars miniland extended,in the form of the Death Star occupying space previously part of the Star Wars store. The new addition is fantastic and the combination of interactive features and vast models, makes for an excellent finale.
The Star Wars store has also been renovated as a result of the updates. The model makers workshop has also been refurbished marking the return of the brick busts on the top floor which is really great to see again.
Whilst much of what the park has done this year, even with the opening show (it's location also resolving the terrible entrance bottleneck), one word. Farmer Joes Chicken Shack!
Theming aside this is one of the worst theme park eateries I've been too as the food tastes dull and barely edible; Was rather expensive too.
Change however is on the way for the park, with Dino safari and Loki's Labyrinth being demolished in the same year. A major Ninjago dark ride and area will replace the latter with the former becoming home to the park's second hotel featuring a castle theme.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
The historic seaside amusement park turned 120 this year making it the oldest operating U.K. Park and one of the oldest in the world.
Apart from that, not much else really happened this year, although the new bridge and ghost train scene are both highly acceptable additions.
The park still retains it's charm and character well amongst remaining one of the better kept UK parks.
That said, the operations over my two day visit did leave something to be desired as National and Avalanche were on one train operation over the weekend joined by the Big One on day two. However given circumstances and they're an independent park they are solely forgiven.
2018 will hopefully be the year to bring wonders here, but there's still a while yet.
A place I've always wanted to visit for a while and somewhere I can safely say is the underdog of UK parks currently.
It's not so much the big things that make paultons, but all the small touches from park tidiness, staff friendliness down to the organic feel of the place. No HB leisure or in your face upselling here.
The Lost Kingdom area has done wonders to this park and set the bar high for future investments on this upcoming park. The theming is of a high standard whilst the two coasters provide the perfect family thrill consistency amongst the other great attractions.
Paultons is definitely the park the watch in the coming years and once they bring in a decent water ride, woodie and dark ride, they will for sure be one of the best parks in the U.K. If they are not already.
Yet another place I've been longing to tick off my check list, but past opportunities encountering misfortune resulting in me not able to visit. Maybe that's an omen?
Drayton is the perhaps the blandest park I've ever visited. It lacks style, atmosphere and boasts the worst main coaster double act I've seen at a park.
With all that negativity said and done on to the positives. Thomas Land is a loverly charming park area and one of the parts with atmosphere. Their flats rides such as Apocalypse, Maelstrom and Air race are all enjoyable and the Haunting was actually an acceptable attraction too. So is Ben10.
Still won't be rushing back there yet, until they add a major attraction or receive enough persuasion. Still it's been ticked off the checklist right?
Other not-so theme parky bits
Went heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath which consists of a cable car, numerous caves and ruins.The views are fantastic and the caves were intriguing to say the least, especially given one actually featured an animatronic figure (sort of).
Matlock bath is also pleasant enough with countless fish and chip shops, independent stores and a mediocre aquarium. It's almost like a Sea Side Town, away from the sea. With Bikers.
Thanks for reading part 1 if you managed to not get bored. Part 2 will follow shortly. Adios
Several weeks into the UK theme park closed season and the urge to visit somewhere has kicked in. Rather than pay over the odds for a zoo with a Poundland grotto or illuminated bricks, I decided to return somewhere special to my heart.
Lurking in the distance lies, a magicical place.
Disneyland Paris, is that magical place.
A place of dreams and wonders
It's certainly clear that 2016 isn't the most ideal time to be visiting with the yearly closures of Big Thunder and Star Tours amongst the hefty other attraction and area refurbishments.
As excessive the pictured refurbishments may look, they didn't have a massive impact on our enjoyment of the trip. If anything it's actually very exciting to see the park being given the TLC it deserves.
The grand entrance to Disneyland Park is one of these and the staggered refurbishment has certainly polished it to an even greater level of amazement. The coloured fountains are wonder to the eyes especially at night.
It's A Small World is looking very refreshed out front with the inside noticeably fresher featuring improved audio. The bland warehouse ceiling remains sadly.
And Space Mountain continues to be amazing, on the inside and outside.
Add Phantom Manor, Pirates, Tower, Ratatouille and Crush and you have an impressive list of attractions (amongst others).
As great as these attractions may be, even with the absence of Star Tours and Big Thunder, none of them are the fundamental reason why I visit Disney (even Tower).
I visit Disney, because it is Disney. A magical wonderland in it's own bubble, hidden away from the real world. Very few theme parks seem to offer this level of escapism like Disney do.
Main Street USA is easily one of the best and grandeur entrance into a park. But at Christmas it's even better, with its facades and entraceways decorated in festive decoration with a massive tree at the bottom.
Studios's entrance is also acceptably festive.
Disney is Top when it comes to parades and Christmas is no exception with the park's special festive parade.
Mickey and Minnie
Toy Story Seasons Greetings
The parade would not be complete without the man himself, my Grandpa.
Amongst an extra special parade, festive Disney also exchanges normal Dreams for Christmas Dreams for this magic time of year.
As good the show may be, I still prefer normal Dreams by a pretty big margin.
The flow didn't feel as consistent and didn't pull on the heartstrings either. I did like the finale and Let It Go segments though, they were exceptional.
Main Street is even pretty at night too.
If you want a magical trip away from the real world, Disneyland Paris is the place for you. It may be undergoing a long refurbishment and be without its flaws but remains a highly magical place to visit. Little is grotty or depressing about the place.
It it is very easy to get to as well, with regular flights from Luton and Gatwick to Paris Charles De Gualle 45 minutes each way and TGV or RER from there. I'd choose the former personally as it takes less than 10 minutes each way and at €17.50 each way isn't too much.
Euro Star and Euro Tunnel (+ 2.5 hour drive) are alternatives so getting there isn't a massive challenge.
STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND BOOK YOUR TRIP!
Because you are missing out on this very acceptable tea cup ride that makes one the best ride sounds ever.
Welcome, to the Haunted Reviews, Mwoarhaha
2016 has provided me with a vast number of park trips and adventures. A trend which has continued happily for the Halloween season.
Due to excessive number of events done and trying not to bore you with maze review after maze review, I thought I would try and compact my trips into just one report. Where I intend to focus mainly on the best bits (and sometimes the worst).
Xtreme Scream Park/
Beginning with a bang. This was my first event and it certainly did not fail to disappoint.
Despite its fairly remote location and its budget not being massive I was highly impressed with this event, from the interaction and portrayal of roaming actors to the scattering of spooky theming.
Pie Factory was by far my favourite maze, down from the consistency of actors and scenes throughout and the fact some scenes worked fine without any actors as they helped build up the suspense and fear factor.
Apart from The Dungeon which I wasn't a fan of, was strongly impressed by all mazes there (a total of six). Stilton House Hotel and Hunted are honourable mentions.
It may surprise some of you that prior to October this year I had never been to a Scarefest event before (although I tried and failed last year).
And finally losing my Scarefest virginity finally happened With no regrets attending. All three maze offerings were of acceptable quality, Terror Of The Towers being surprisingly good despite being a largely established maze.
Sub Species was my preferred maze, which I liked the split elements and the preshow which was of good quality. Altonville Mine (or Skin Snatchers) seemed the weaker one and looked like it had potential, but I feel we may have just experienced a poor run through which was a shame.
Aside from the decent park lighting, the amusing flash mob and acceptable theming, the addition that Pleased me the most was House Of Monsters. A family based attraction which was more funny than frightening, the use of scenery and acting proved and was certainly an entertaining attraction that was worth the £5.
Particularly liked the Skeleton and vampire actors and was certainly 15 minutes well spent and reminded me of Shrwk's Adventure in a few ways but maybe better.
Night rides are cool too
No Halloween would really be complete without at least a visit or two to Fright Nights, especially being one of my local parks.
The event celebrated it's 15th anniversary by bringing back some of the park's popular roaming actors from deceased mazes including the Freezer and Experiment 10. This is always one of the things I like about Fright Nights and would like them to add a scare zone one day.
Big Top was much better this year. The flow was better, the acting was consistent and it generally felt more of a maze than a few disjointed scare zones. Face It Alone was as enjoyable as always but cannot help feel last year's was better.
Whilst I've tried to remain positive, this is where it sort of dwindles. The park was rammed on literally each attendance. Whilst some may see this as a positive thing, the crowd handling certainly has room for improvement.
Three and a half hours for Platform 15 just can't be justified, as the queue was barely moving and not even completely full.
The maze itself however was better than expected and offered something different and unique from the rest with its location and plot line. The long tunnel was one of the stronger elements which I thought built up suspense rather well.
Cabin is still cabin, acceptable but rather stale now. I can't comment for the rest as I never got to try them .
Howl O Ween
Despite possibly saying I probably wouldn't go I visited anyway (call that unacceptable if you must).
The only reason I visited was because it was on the way for other scare attractions and night rides never go a miss.
A round on tomb blaster, Carousel later and a final night ride on Fury ended the season.
Didn't manage any mazes as they're the same as last time and Vampire was dead. The theming however was quite good though.
Tulleys is somewhere I've been wanting to go for a while now and was finally able to do so this year.
Though lacking the exterior theming and roaming actors, this event certainly impressed me which provided a sufficient of mazes, eight to be precise.
The Horrorwood Tractor ride was certainly my favourite with it's interactive scenery and theming elements and vast range of different actors appearing throughout from scary cowboys to mad scientists.
Certainly more of a ride than a maze and clearly better than Zufari.
Other mazes that impressed me included the Colony and its large length and variations, The Cellar with its haunted theme and Pandemonium with its use of 3D elements.
Hellements was the only maze I wasn't taken with as it seemed weaker than rest, though Creepy Cottage was rather on the short side though.
Only other negative was the location as a whole looks very temporary and the use of temporary loos but that can't be helped given the location.
Legoland Brick Or Treat
Perhaps not a Halloween event in the traditional sense but still appropriate.
At the end of each year Legoland holds themed fireworks to end the season with a bang, alongside a selection of kids Halloween activities in their enchanted forest area.
This year's fireworks were themed to Nexo Knights (one of their current product lines) which featured audio dialogue synchronised to the fireworks.
The display as a whole was good, although not amazing. Helped by it's audio plot line and glasses that turn the fireworks into Lego bricks (worth the £1.50).
I particularly liked how the harbour area (one of the main viewing areas) was sort of turned into a pre-show before the main event as a result of the connected fountains and light being synchronised to the music.
Apart from the lack of good nighttime lighting and the number rides closing at dusk, was a very good event.
And this marks the end of another good Halloween season which has certainly been a good one (most of. The time). Didn't do Screamfest Burton and Screamland, but hopefully they can be done for another year.
so, in brief:
Best maze- Pie Factory Xtreme Scream
Best non maze attraction- Haunted Hayride- Tulleys
best fun scare attraction- House Of Monsters- Alton Towers
Best scare event- Xtreme Scream Park
Most improved maze- Big Top Thorpe Park
Most awkwardly hilarious moment- Walking out of a fire exit on the Twisted maze at Xtreme Scream
Best lit park- Alton Towers
StormmSurge- Hellements- Tulleys
Until next time, Farewell.
2016 has certainly been one of my best years for visiting new amazing parks, being lucky enough to visit Europa Park, Liseberg, Paultons Park and Drayton Manor (I suppose).
This September though, things would become even more fantastic as I was to experience my first time. The first time I would be visiting Phantasialand. This is a park I've been wanting to visit now for a longtime, hearing how flawless the theming and attention to detail was here and the quality of the rides; at least most of them anyway.
Berlin street is certainly a magical entrance into the park (at least once you escape the main road directly outside). Especially once you walk past the grand carousel and intricate street with themed food outlets whilst listening to upbeat dramatic orchestral music. It's almost like being in Disney.
2016 brings to the park a major new investment, Klugheim. A brand new themed area featuring two new roller coasters and two new food outlets.
The headliner attraction of the new area is Taron. A multilaunch coaster from Intamin.
Taron is certainly an amazing looking attraction and rides as good as she looks. From the momentum of the first launch to the twists and turns amongst moments of ejector airtime through the articulated rock work straight into that second launch.
Taron may not quite be a Helix beater, but she is definitely a worthwhile addition to the park amongst it's tangled track, superb soundtrack right down to the brand new restraints which are significantly better to the Rita/Stealth ones.
My only major criticism of the ride probably has to be the massive cattlepen, which resides at the back of the area and remains remarkably hidden.
Raik is also a great junior boomerang and probably my favourite so far, putting Veloceraptor into a close second.
The main eatery Rutmoore's Tavern is a great place to go for lunch too and serves some decent hearty meals. I had a pork knuckle meal served with salad and potatoes which was of very good quality. Certainly of the best park eateries I've visited and maybe only second to Polle's and Food Loop.
Klugheim aside, there are plenty of other top quality attractions at Phantasialand. Including Chiapas, an amazing modern log flume with a steep drop, dark ride sections and superb theming.
An amazing floor less topspin known as Talocan, which is almost like watching a show off-ride.
Black Mamba, a superbly themed B&M invert which beats Inferno but Nemesis (on layout st least). Can't believe I didn't take any (poor) pictures of it.
Colorado Adventure, a Vekoma mine train that features three lifts that never get boring. The forces from that twists and turns especially entering those tunnels is exhilarating to say the least.
Safe to say my photography is not always acceptable.
Winjas was a surprisingly good duel Maurer spinning coaster which features two tracks called Force and Fear. Fear was the favourite due to feeling longer as a whole.
Maus Au Chocolate, an interactive dark ride where you shoot guns throughout different scenes trying to stop mice from infesting a chocolate factory. The smells were nice too and guns far better than those blocky things on Tomb Blaster.
And no trip to Phantasialand would be complete without a ride on the classic River Quest. Honestly, these Rapids are crazy in the best way possible and make Rumba Rapids look like a slow carousel in comparison.
Mystery Castle has to be one of the most mysterious rides in the park. This castle structure hides a number of massive drop towers which shoot up and down completely enclosed in the tower. David and I got the longer cycle (we believe) whilst Lou watched as she doesn't like drop towers.
Better than Chessington.
One of the park's older rides is Geister Riksha, a Chinese themed ghost train attraction. It is pretty dated in parts, but definitely upheld much charm throughout the ride.
Amongst the great theming and rides alongside it, the park's shows should not be ignored. We decided to watch the Ice Show which featured a college style theme. The costumes and mixture of music made for a great watch.
Especially when one of the dancers seems to resemble TPM's very own Liam-T.
Whilst this place has so many good rides, it does have quite a share of not so good rides however, like this (supposed) splash battle, Wakobato.
This ride is so close to houses, you may as well be in their back garden.
Honestly, what's the point in this ride? You don't get wet, there's no scoring system, the theming is repetive. There is literally no point in this ride existing.
The Hollywood tour certainly hasn't aged well as is very dated in places. The Wizard of OZ and Kong sections really look worn and creepy in some ways too.
Feng Ju Palace (theming aside) may be the worst madhouse I've been on so far. What's the point of that pre-show? It was honestly just like watching a boring stretched out version of Street Fighter.
And Nighthawk, was just strange in one of the dullest ways possible. Three lift hills going around in complete darkness. Only real positives were the station looked nice and the lift hill lights were acceptable.
Phantasialand is a truly magical and immersive park, adding plenty of intricate between the different areas, whether that be the African or Mystery areas. Klugheim is well and truly an amazing area and certainly one of the best themed areas in Europa (let alone 2016). Taron is an amazing attraction and certainly the new signature ride the park deserves.
Of course like every park, there are down sides. For example some of the park's older rides are looking particularly worn and dated compared to it's recent stuff. Take Hollywood and Nighthawk for example, it almost feels a different park when you compare them to something like Chiapas or Maus Au Chocolate. However I've heard they are on the chopping block anyway. A nice modern dark ride or two and a modern dark ride coaster would fit this park perfectly.
The final question-does it beat Europa Park?
Phantasialand really did blow me away and is one of the most parks I have ever visited. Unfortunately though, it doesn't quite beat Europa Park (though it is close).
Europa for me is such a vast sized park that there's literally tonnes of things to do yet feels very relaxed regardless of busyness. The complimenting themed areas and its updates to rides new and old may also help it greatly here. Europa are also pretty relaxed when it comes to safety, to the degree they don't check every ride and allow filming (if equipment is secure).
At Phantasia, they are very strict on this, to the level where even Go Pros are banned on all rides including the likes of Maus Au Chocolate. As a result I was told off on the Hollywood ride, let alone a coaster. Rant aside, it's a minor set back, but at the end of the day I go to parks to get immersed and enjoy rides. Not make POVS or YouTube hits (even if it seems like it).
To wrap this up, Phantasialand is a park everyone needs to visit. It has some greats rides and theming and is pretty easy to get too as well from Cologne Bonn Airport. Two days should be enough for most, but it could be stretched to three quite easily.
Favourite ride of the trip. Taron of course.
Somewhere in the rural Hamptonshire countryside, lies a mysterious theme park. But this isn't any ordinary theme park, which is home to dinosaurs, Cobras, wonderful beasts and a famous animated pig (to name a few).
This is a park that is certainly on the up, investing in attractions that improve the park whilst retaining and complimenting it's character and values. It's a place so renowned for its greatness, legend has it adventurers have travelled to the depths of boots to witness it's golden gates.
WELCOME, TO PAULTONS PARK
Home to the weird and wonderful, like this raining tree.
For 2016, the park have invested at great lengths to bring us this wonderful prehistoric land through dedication of 8 million coins. It's well spent if you ask me.
One the main new discoveries of this new lost area is one of two coasters, Flight Of The Pteranosaur. A veto a family suspended coaster which dominates the centre of the world. The rock work theming is superb and of high quality.
And what a great family coaster this is. The coaster is great fun and interacts with the area superbly alongside a good proportion of theming. The end helix is also superb. As far as I'm aware the layout may be clone of another (maybe Grona's) but that doesn't take anything away from the ride which certainly looks to be a hit for the park.
It's the perfect fun thrilling coaster for the family.
Theming, with working animatronics.
The second new coaster is the Veloceraptor. Another Vejoma, but this time a boomerang style coaster like Ben10.
This is another superfluous coaster for the park and another fun ride. Whilst it doesn't beat Pteranosaur for me, I do prefer it to Ben 10 as this gives more a kick I think.
But the area is more than just coasters though (listen Merlin). They also have one of these crazy fun spinning rides like the Crazy Taxis at Europa Park. This ones called Boulder Dash.
This small Triceratops coaster, which I didn't get chance to ride ( ). Fact, this ride isn't actually brand new and was rethemed into the new area. It used be known as the Flying Frog I believe.
They also have a Safari track ride too which is neat.
Some very good theming here too. It's great to see park put so much effort into something just like this whilst a number of others (not naming) are either ripping theirs out or leaving them to rot. Best car style attraction in the uk by far.
Theres also an interactive Dino show too, which is good to see the park not just focus on the ride side either. Plus there's some roaming dinosaur animatronics in the area too.
They even have an area shop which is themed to a good level also. They've also added a new food place and smaller flat ride to the area too. Certainly making one of the best themed areas in the uk.
Also in the park, resides my second home. Critter Creek.
The theming quality they have here has been done very well, especially for a park like Paultons.
And here is the Cat-O-pillar, which again has been rethemed into the new area. The theming again is fantastic, weird and wacky. The coaster was alright but not my favourite.
The area is also home to a random aquarium type place. For a park like this, it's a nice little walk through.
The park is also home to Cobra, arguably their signature ride.
The queue line was a little shabby (spilt mess in the queue and a few areas of chipped pant), but that can be forgiven for the moment.
There is even a shed tunnel, and that isn't the best part.
Cobra is a really fun coaster and possibly my favourite ride at the park (either this or Pteranosaur). Two things to note about this ride are that it is a Gerstlauer, and an enjoyable one at that and that its 10 years old and was working fine. No lifeless structure here.
Speaking on lifelss, this ride was shut (at least when we went passed it) which was a shame as it looked fun.
They however have a Disko called The Edge (not Kobra) as Paultons know how to spell. This one is also run on a better setting too as you really get a good cycle. My only criticism are you were required to wear leg seat belts and mine was very tight. (Which ruined the experience in a way) and the ride doesn't feature much in terms of theming, but I'm sure that will be sorted one day.
The park also have a 4D cinema which features a fairly quirky but nicely themed facade outside (not cheap looking). The movie itself was alright, nothing amazing but was nice for a sit down and seemed entertaining enough for the guests. Its no Angry Birds but is good for what it is especially being the only undercover attraction so far.
The park even have a loverly grand carousel.
Featuring some loverly shrubbery too.
But the one thing park are famous for is Peppa Pig World, the investment (alongside Cobra) which have really helped the park develop in the last few years.
Sadly I didn't anymore photos here because my phone's camera reached capacity but all I can say is, it's a loverly themed area for the park's clientele and the park got the right balance with everything there too.
We only managed one ride in the area, that was Windy Castle. From the outside it looks like a little innocent spinning observation ride thing, think again! Peaj, Steve, Alex and I all shared one capsule and when you have no spin limits on a ride that also rotates upwards on a 4-5 minute cycle you're in for one hell of a white knuckle ride.
it was honestly crazy and ridiculous how crazily fast we were all going here and whilst it was hilarious to start with, I'm certain my thrill limit has been reached as it felt very painful and comftable towards the end of the ride and pretty nauseated for the tail end of the day too. Think this has put me off tea cups for the time being.
As much as things post 2006 have clearly marked the up for the park (moreso post 2010), there's still a fair few number of areas in the park that look bland and in need of an update.
one of these is the park's log ride which is pretty much an off the shelf Reberchon. Considering this ride isn't even 20 years old does show how superior their new stuff is now.
I could probably say the same for the Go Karts. I didn't try these either as I think there was an up charge.
that being said, there isn't a massive amount of upselling at the park. Considering I didn't see any HB leisure stalls or any posters trying to persuade me to buy a pass. Although the park exit is deliberately through a massive toy shop, that is more a tactical decision (and a cunning one at that).
But Paultons isn't just home to a decent selection of family rides. There's also a very reasonable amount of gardens and green spaces which help enhance a day here.
Which made for a really enjoyable day out that was enjoyed by all.
Unfortunately though Peaj was eaten by a giant hedge snake and hasn't been seen since.
Paultons is definitely a loverly park and worth a visit. its a place that puts effort and dedication into everything they do. Whether that be building a giant new themed area, staff friendliness or keeping the place tidy (we saw someone pick up litter minutes after it was dropped). With the possible exception of Cobra's queue, everywhere was beautifully well kept with no signs of wear and tear anywhere and a good atmosphere throughout.
The future for the park is bright and seeing the massive improvements they've made in the last few years (each one better than the last). All they need to do is build a proper flume and add a dark ride and they will then have a perfect full lineup. Whilst the park have little to nothing in terms of merchandise, I think they have it right by housing a massive toy shop at the exit which will no doubt be blissful joy for many of the kids (and a nightmare for many of their parents).
Chessington step aside. This is what a family park should be. Jump in the boot and let's go!
In 1996 within the Berkshire countryside, a defunct Safari park was invaded by bricks. Bricks that would mark the way for Legoland Windsor which would become the second Lego theme park in the world after Billund. Home to a boating school, driving school, Lego model village, A pirate log flume and more, the park was truly a unique place especially in it's early years.
Twenty Years on, the park is now part of the Merlin machine currently operating six (and counting) Legoland parks and discovery centres. Through this ownership the park has experienced much change (for better and worse), experiencing rigorous expansions of larger updated attractions. However one could argue as a consequence the park has lost much of it's charm, seeing smaller features neglected or removed and a spike up in the park's commercialism. Something that can be seen from the many walking adverts and upselling,the use of shouty IP's and rise of the hotels (consequently ripping out two prominent rides).
Now I think I have probably come across relatively harsh against the park. Yes it doesn't quite have the hardware of other parks out there; yes it can get packed with young families and is not to everyone's taste. But this is Legoland Windsor, the UK's most popular and successful park which now welcomes over 2.2 million guests a year despite its last E-ticket ride being over 5 years ago.
It may not beat (or come close) to the likes of Europa, DLRP and Efteling, but Legoland retains a strong soft spot for me, being one of the first major theme parks I visited and the place responsible for my interests in theme parks (and Lego). I have fond memories of the many trips I have taken here since first visiting in 1997. From squirting everyone on the train (and getting karma through a leaky tap) to my fascinations with the sadly long gone Magic Thestre and Explorers Institute attractions.
With much fanfare going towards a ghost train, 2016 may be a low investment year at Legoland, but the park is far from quiet.
As new for this year, the resort finally takes advantage of the success of the Lego Movie by releasing a brand new film based on the shenanigans from the original movie.
The movie wouldn't be the Lego Movie (no pun intended) without the lovable cast from the original film, including Emmet, Wyldstyle, Benny, Metalbeare and of course, Uni Kitty.
The feature film see's the cast enter a fictitious theme park operated by President Businesses's brother Risky Business, who has built a specific attraction for each character. Then in true Lego Movie style, this turns out to be a trap with Risky Business planning to capture the cast for a terrible park show. However things eventually end well with the characters eventually visiting the real Legoland.
The Lego Movie 4D has to be one the best cinema shows I've ever seen. It retains the charm and humour the original film boasted on and features many poke in the back moments to current trends, from the original film to even some tongue and cheek Disney references. It's a film that shouldn't be missed on any visit. 4.5/5 (not 10).
Also new for 2016, the Star Wars Miniland gets a hefty extension. Early on the season, it appeared the original Millenium Falcon entrance feature had been removed. But I'm happily to announce it has been repaired/replaced which is great to see.
After experiencing the original sections of the attraction, you are greeted with a series of heavy well built Lego Star Wars ships which lead into the new main section. This a great transition and works rather well.
More impressive models (displayed on the side of the area).
We then enter into the main area, which features a series of scenes based on the Death Star battles in the films, including the trenches.
And a mightily impressive Death Star model. The size and scale is remarkable.
The whole of the new area occupies space previously occupied by the Star Wars store (and Lego Racers store long before). It is certainly a fantastic addition and features many interactive elements, from ships flying around the model to numerous smaller animations being depicted by lights and push buttons.
The Star Wars store has also seen some modifications, with the tills moved to the old display case and the shop moving forward to space previously wasted as a result of lost space. The Model Maker workshop area has also been updated (which I'm yet to see).
2016 has also seen the addition of another new eatery, Farmer Joe's Chicken Company, replacing the Duplo Buffet restaurant. The facade area is themed quite well (if a little blocky) but I suppose it fits the Duplo area well. I didn't try the food here, however I believe it's similar to the fried chicken company at Chessington and Towers.
As as nice as it looks, it's a shame the park now lacks (non quick service) table restaurants as since the Burger Kitchen conversations, it really just leaves Knights Table, Hilltop cafe, Merlin pizza buffet and the hotel restaurants.
Meanwhile perched in a hidden corner resides Loki's Labarinth, the park's maze, which is one of the few quiet areas in the park to escape the crowds.
But not for very much longer sadly. Very soon, the whole maze will be completely removed to make way for a brand new Ninjago dark ride. I would strongly recommend visiting Legoland very soon if you wish to take in this attraction before it's removal as in Legoland fashion it's likely to close forever before the end of this season!
The maze's removal will also mark the end of the remainder of the Amazing Mazes, which the attraction was previously part of until the other mazes were demolished in 2007 for Viking River Splash.
Elsewhere in the park, another attraction has already become extinct making way for the park's second hotel. Dino Safari. The ride was the last ride installed when the Lego had full park ownership (now 30%) and marks the final nail in the coffin for the original Adventure Land.
As exciting and detailed the new hotels appears from the concept art (amongst being a fan of castles), I can't help feel the location isn't ideal, with the elaborate Atlantis on the left and airy Legoland hotel on the right. Not to mention the loss of another ride and the likeleihood of costing £400 pn. Still I'm sure it'll be a hit with the park's audience and may hopefully ease some of the strain from the park's nightmare car park situation.
At least segments of the original ride still live on (although in static model form).
And though some things in the park may have become a little bland recently.
There is still magic to be found.
And wonders to behold.
Some of which are small with details.
With Hidden gems.
And others larger than life.
Which is like Christmas for most seven year olds.
Happy Birthday Legoland, here's to twenty years of awesomeness (and hopefully another twenty). It may have changed for better and worse in its due course, but it's still my Legoland, the park I've enjoyed as a child and still enjoy today.
Raise a glass of Brickcola
It isn't always the rides that I get excited about when visiting theme parks, or the shows, or even the setting. Sometimes it's the food and dining experiences too.
When Towers announced they would be opening a Food Loop style restaurant for 2016, I got ridiculously excited. A lot more excited about this than Galactica and I don't think I have ever been excited for something as much as this in the UK since the Smiler.
Located in the Old Air shop, the restaurant is open for both lunch and dinner. Having an interest in staying after hours, my group went for the latter. Out of hours access is achieved by walking down this new funky path that goes between the hotels and Forbidden Valley.
After walking the path and through the southern sector of Forbidden, you reach the restaurant's entrance with it's striking L.E.D lit arch with a decent collage of roller coaster pictures behind. The name is obviously very creative, although I don't think they had much choice there.
Once inside, you are led to your designated table. Each table has 12 seats interconnected to each coaster trough. Whilst it's quite big inside, it's definitely a fair bit smaller than Food Loop. If you are visiting on busy days or in a group over 4, I would strongly suggest booking in advance to guarantee eating here.
The restaurant interior is futuristic and modern, which goes well with the nearby Galactica and contrasts the open airy Food Loop. You order food off a tablet just like Food Loop, but it's free standing instead of being connecting to the table.
The restaurant sports a reasonable range of different dishes, which can be adjusted for dietry needs.
For starters I had the garlic mushrooms, whilst for mains I went for the Roller Coaster Burger. A beef burger with a special sauce, salad, chips and slaw. One of the nice touches is how the plates and bowls have all been specifically branded for the restaurant. Quality is reasonable, think TGI Fridays and Frankie & Benny's and prices for the food at least is adequate. Drinks on the other hand are overpriced. £3 for soft drinks, no thanks and alcohol beverages are over £4.50 too.
However one of the things that brings this restaurant back up on the marketing is it pays homage to the park's roller coasters past and present. All over the eatery is lots of different plans and drawings from all the park's different rollercoasters amongst a video playing every so often showcasing the park's current coasters with changing lights and ride themes helping add to the experience. Even the seats are named after to coasters which also have a ride name amongst a number. I sat on the Sonic Spinball seat, which interestingly appears as Spinball Whizzer when orders arrive.
And if you leave late enough [depending on the time of year] you are treated to night time shots of Galactica and the surrounding area. Being summer [and just after the longest day] you can see this wasn't the best time for night shots. Roll On Scarefest I guess.
The Million Pound Question-Does It Beat Food Loop?
Like the Lord Of Darkness would say, the answer to that unfortunately is no.
This is Alton Towers, whilst the food quality and perhaps location are noticeably better, Food Loop is still the better. This is mostly down to the merchandise selection, the larger size and operations. But probably most importantly, it is located in Europa Park. It only beats it marginally but a defeat is still a defeat.
That being said, the Roller Coaster Restaurant is a fantastic restaurant and dining experience, and with the surroundings, food, atmosphere and roller coaster gimmick has to easily be the best theme park eating experience in the UK.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Efteling is more than just about the rides, especially when a large chunk of park comprises of the Fairy Tale Forest.
The Fairy Tale Forest is a massive forested area in the park which features a large array of animatronics and models telling the story of numerous fairy tales. There are different types of settings, some that are outdoors, others that are inside and some that are somewhat a mixture of both. Some have said to me how you can spend hours looking around the whole area.
Believe me, it's no joke as it took me around two hours to polish the whole area whilst taking everything in from the charm and overall atmosphere of the area and believe me, it didn't feel like a waste of time at all and was an intriguing experience in the wacky yet wonderful world of the Fairy Tale Forest as there was just so much to see. As a result of this, I shall only be showing some of the best fairy tales. if anyone wants to see any more of the missing, just let me know.
The iconic tree is one of the main centrepieces. To me, he comes across as wise and intelligent.
Could This Dragon be the influence for the creation of Joris?
One of the most interesting ones, the Chinese Nightingale.
The way they did the carpet on this one still remains interesting today.
The Emperors New Clothes, One of the more modern fairy tales in the forest.The effects and animatronics used here were nothing short of impressive.
There's some giant bits of theming in here [pun intended].
One of the most famous ones I think, the dancing water lilies I think. The track is included on the park CD.
The insppiration for Aquanura surely?
On of the more familiar ones, Cinderella. I like how the castle appears at the end.
I think Europa park got some influence from this one.
One of the more simple but effective ones here.
And who could forget this fellow?
One of the original ones here [Anton Pieck anyone]?
And of course this guy, who is one of the first characters you will encounter in the forest.
But there's more than just dozens of fairy tale models and characters in this forest.
There's a full scale theatre right in the middle where a puppet show aires every so often. Great show for young families, although the position of the dragon puppet is debatable.
But there's more to just the Fairy Tale Forest and the rides.
Ravelijan, a full scale live action show featuring numerous impressive live stunts and effects addition to theming and a soundtrack that are superb. Whilst I didn't understand the what was being said, the choreography and everything else was enough for me to know what was going on.
Ravelijan as a result of it's greatness is now my favourite theme park show [that doesn't use fountains & projections] and that includes Lights Motors Action too. Amazing show.
Like many of the best parks, Efteling features many random wonderful attractions around. One of these is this walk-through which depicts numerous fairy tale diorama scenes.
An interesting distraction. There was also an indoor carousel in the same complex which made me think of the long closed Carousel Kingdom at Thorpe Park.
Naturally during a busy day out, the need to have a bite to eat becomes inevitable. but Efteling, it's not all 'shove it down your mouth' at the park eateries.
Like a lot of the park, it is a unique experience. Polle's Kitchen is a must do on anyone's visit to Efteling.
Because they do the most amazing pancakes you've seen and eaten. They do savoury ones.
Or sweet ones. Both I had during my trip were absolutely fantastic. It's one the best places I've ever eaten at within a theme park and the theming and turning gears which will speed up and react to the music every so often help significantly. You can also buy pancake mix in the shops and restaurant as well, to yours heart's desire.
There's even a small museum in the park dedicated to the history of the park. It may not be for everyone but is nice to see the park keep such a historic addition.
Now on to one of the most ambiguous additions in the park, Spooksplot. Which down to interpretation can be seen as a show or an attraction.
I see it personally as a show [though maybe not in the traditional sense]. This is because you enter an unguarded entrance way, which adds to the mysterious atmosphere, wait and then enter where you are then shown a series of interesting effects in a spooky gothic setting whilst the music of Dance Macabre [Jonathan [Matt] Creek] plays.
Despite it's unknown entrance way, it fits in to the park very well even today as a sign of one of the first stepping stones where Efteling started expanding from the fairy tale forest in to the large world class park it is today. The effects there are still intriguing from the peppers ghost to the moving stairs especially considering this is nearly 40 years old, being the first projected created by the now late Tony Van De Ven, the successor to the park's original creative artist. This attraction was also one of the set pieces to the music video to Kate Bush's first tv appearance [type Kate Bush Efteling in youtube].
But no visit to Efteling would be complete without watching the shows fantastic fountain show Aquanura, the largest fountain show in Europe [third in the world].
It's an absolutely fantastic show, especially how they synchronise all the different fountains and colours to the music which are all ride themes from the park. These include The Flying Dutchman, Joris and Dream Flight, all of which are re-orchestrated to transition better but still retain their original features.
And some beautiful night shots to close my Efteling report, because this is one of the most picturesque parks I have ever visited [probably overtaking even Towers on that one].
Efteling is an underrated park. It features some fantastic theming and impressive rides alongside some excellent shows, entertainment and even eateries and as a result is one of my favourite park's I have ever visited. My favourite rides were easily Joris, Dutchman, Baron & Fate Morgana amongst many others. Not many weak rides in this park here, Monseur Carnival comes across as the only ride I did not really like and though Python was a little dull, I did not dislike it.
My only criticisms to the park would be the park closes rides at closing times [not the queue like many others], which would be nice if they took up the Towers way of closing things and the merch. Whilst there was some merch there to buy [notably Baron & CDs], I did not find there was a great selection and actually found it quite difficult choosing stuff to buy in the wrong sort of way. If the park could do more ride branded items like pens, mugs, t-shirts and even badges, it would be so much better.
Aside from these few floors, this park like Disney [ in it's own way], wipes the floor with much of the current UK offering. A lot of UK parks could learn many things if they took a leaf out of Efteling's book.
For the best part of at least three years, I have been looking at spiralling out of the UK circle of Theme Parks. Though doing Tivoli World many times [part of annual family holidays], it wasn't really to count as at the end of the day it was little more than a glorified fair ground [though the shows & fountains were half decent].
It was not until this year where I managed my first large non UK park in the form of DLP which was achieved in April this year, however this was to only mark the beginning of a brand new era. It is here where MC16 is set to begin [MC16 meaning Matt Creek, Mega Creds, or Mighty Coasters 2016].
The next steps of which park to do after DLP was an interesting one, with Europa Park & Liseberg initially projected as the next parks to do. However in the end Efteling was decided as the next park to do, with the great incentive to experience the impressive looking Baron 1898 coaster amongst those lucky enough to do this park amongst others on a long trip this summer. I will not name any names see [C] here. It was also Benin's loverly TR from a few years ago that gave me the incentive to visit here as until then I didn't really know of this place.
Part 1 of this report will focus on the rides.
Part 2 will mostly look at the shows and anything else worth noting about the park
Moving On to the report then! After a loverly cheeky night ride on the eye, we stayed over night at the Stansted Premier Inn with a train journey, sleep and bus shuttle that left very little to be desired. However after munching down a slightly overpriced Weatherspoons Eggs Benedict & taking the train to our gate [not a cred surely] we were on our plane and made it to Eindhoven in a remarkably quick 35 minutes. Ryanair aren't as bad as they are geared up to be.
A short'ish sight seeing tour and a generally easy commute [despite train problems] followed before we reached our port of call.
EFTELING! Don't think I had been so excited seeing this since spotting those spotlights of Tower Of Terror at Disney.
Since we weren't visiting the park until the next day, we walked to our hotel, checked in before finding a Steak House for tea [which was quite good actually] before hitting the sack for the next day ahead. One thing to note is, how the area is quite rural and very much in the middle of nowhere where aside from the roaring motorway, a couple of restaurants and a petrol garage [though not quite to the level of Towers perhaps].
Walking from our hotel to the guests of the park [NH Waalwijk [which is a very good hotel and decent for the price]], we arrived at Efteling. One of the first things to spot upon entering the mighty impressive curved building which stands out from quite a distance away. Accompanied by some appropriate yet subtle music brought out excitement levels on a similar level yet different feel to that of walking in to a Disney park.
Impressive is an understatement. Much of the rest of the park architecture upkeeps this fantastic standard.
Upon entering we swapped in our printed e-tickets for actual tickets [which didn't work], however we were given a signed note from turnstile staff to enter for ERT, which we technically missed due to a mixture of poor/confused organisation [from us] and one of the entrances being closed due to the new Pinocchio element in the Fairy Tale Forest.
No Strings holding down this one then.
First stop is what could be called the chase. Baron 1898.
Amazing architecture again, very much near Disney standards here and superier to much of what the Uk currently offers.
That animatronic though
Saw Alive, eat your heart out!
So Photo friendly.
Efteling have created half a masterpiece here; why half I hear you ask?
Well, two things struck out for me on Baron; the experience and the ride. Baron as an exprience is absolutely fantastic, from the moment you approach the surrounding area and landscape, you can tell lots of effort and dedication went in to not just building up the impressive steampunk style building/life structure but the small details such as the lights at the top, the turning wheels and even the smaller details all over the building.
The preshows too are also of very high quality. The first in where the Baron introduces us to his mine, where we briefly meet the white women is superb and the descrete touch of a more tinny recording of the soundtrack in order to give the attraction a nostalgic feel only helps it better and better. The second pre-show keeps up this with a high quality of the Baron himself where after setting in your rows, doors open shortly taking you directly to the station [with a smaller bag drop for smaller things] in a fashion of entering a ride station never ever seen before.
The third and final pre-show occurs on the ride itself, which is where the white women sing and curse riders before the main cut of the ride begins.
The layout though, left seeking for more. The drop at the top is impressive in the that the rest of the park is surrounding you before you enter the mine, but then it's it's goes through a few inversions, airtime hill, helix and then the ride is pretty much over. For me, it was sort of like the ride finished as I had just got in to it really. Though it surpassed Blivvy [though the drop was better], I would rate Inferno better at least on the layout.
The ride however as I rode later in the trip though did grow on me quite a lot more though as I re-did the ride in different rows [once at night] and have since rated it better, to the degree it has just made it in to my Top 10 [however that's not hard so far].
Baron is a stunning ride at the park and everything about it has been polished to a remarkable standard that has rarely been seen outside of the giants of Disney & Universal and once again proves that the difference between small details can make the difference between a ride that is average to something which is great. The park should be proud of their baby right now [if only we had seen this details on the Smiler station].
Efteling of course has many other coasters, most of which comprise the park's coaster corner where all the coasters except Bob can be found.
One of those is the Flying Dutchman [ or De Vilegende Hollander if you prefer], which is a water coaster at the park [and my first such cred too].
Opening in 2007 by Intamin, this ride was supposed to open a year before hand, but numerous problems occurred with the ride's original manufacturer Kumbak [who make Intamin look like B&M in many ways] had problems and Intamin stepped in.
Fantastic indoor queue line theming. Wouldn't see that at Merlin, you'd be waiting outside in a hideous cattle pen before hand.
Or station for that matter.
Flying Dutchman was a ride I really enjoyed and passed my expectations. The theming and effects featured in the ride again are superb and of high quality. The dark ride parts actually reminded me of Valhalla a little acutally. After going through the fantastic theming parts, the ride cascades in to a roller coaster section with twists and turns with drops before splashing in to the lake below.
One of my favourites at the park for certain [and has made it in to my top 10 water rides]. Incidentally got stuck on this ride when it broke down just as our boat reached the station. Not sure what happened but a bright halogen light was on when we reached the brake run. Fixing took a while at this time, so candy crush was the only way to pass the time.
Two down and town to go. There are two more coasters to knucle in this area of the park, so which we we do next.
Hint- It's not the one with all the loops
Joris of course, the park's duel racing woodie. Built in 2010 by GCI, this beast replaced the ageing Pegasus coaster [which I hear was boring & rough]. Though this wouldn't be my first racing woodie, it would be my first GCI [aside from the first outside the UK too].
First ride over, this ride didn't impress me, IT BLEW ME AWAY!
This coaster is superb, the way everything has been knotted is so creative from it's swampy queueline building up the ride to the touches so small yet effective. There is far more fanfare on this ride when a train wins [than on the likes of National] as not only does a sign notify which train won, but the winners come back to flags and cheers whilst the losing trains arrives to booes and jeers, and that's before I start talking about the nicely themed station, impressive soundtrack or that this is a coaster smooth as silk yet is so forceful when it rides though the corners. It may well be my favourite woodie now on the basis alone of it's use of simple theatrical effects and smoothness.
It is also possible this was the ride to heavilly influence Wodan as well.
Last & least of the coaster corner is Pyphon, the park's original coaster which opened in 1981 & made by Vekoma.
Well it was no surprise that this was my least favourite coaster at the park [and that's before we review the other two].
Aside from the lacking the overall theatre,theming & atmosphere due to being an older addition, the ride just feels rather short and a little dull, however the helix at the end was pretty good, least the ride was very smooth thanks to it's decent train designs.
Speaking on trains, I think this is the third or even fourth carnation of trains they have here two as the original trains were replaced at somepoint in the early 2000's by some form of vile Kumbak ones then may have been re-replaced by Vekoma ones before the current ones replaced them I think.
Whilst it's noticeably weaker than it's other coaster counterparts, I am sort of glad they've still got a ride like this in the park. Not just is it showing how much the park have progressed since it's early days amongst it's original coaster, but also a type of generic ride that seems to be sort of in a position of being endangered seeing how both Uk corkscrews removed [though one may have been spared], Walibi's Tornado & Holiday Land's corky coasters torn down. It's makes me question how long Heide's & even Garda's have left. I can see Efteling happily keeping theirs though for a while, especilly with the trains which were probably one of the best things about the ride.
The park's second classic coaster was Bob, built by Intamin a few years after Pyphon. This seems to Efteling's equivalent to Spinball, Crush or Boating School. Not so much in style but more so it suffers from having a high popularity but a low throughput. Fortunately a few years ago, the trains were replaced by newer ones which can take 6 instead of 4 people marking the throughput to a slightly better 850 PPH aprox. It's still the lowest throughput coaster though.
The ride still entails some fairly nice theming [though not a patch on the other coasters]. Bob was a fun ride, it really pulled some force when it went round it's corners and helixes. Slightly prefer this to Avalanche, whether that's due to one being in a picturesque forest & the other in the middle a grotty seaside town who knows, but I found this one to retain a better pace and the 'semi' night ride only helped add brownie points to this.
The final coaster at the park to do was Vogel Rok, a Vekoma indoor coaster which opened in 2001. This would by my fourth indoor coaster [and indoor Vekoma too for that matter as I'm yet to do an indoor coaster that isn't a Vekoma].
Didn't take many pics of this one for some reason, probably either due to my phone running out of storage or rushing the ERTs on day two.
A really great coaster here, packs a punch for it's short but sweet cycle and the music throughout the ride like most others at the park is superb, especially the fanfare'ish bit at the end. Reminds me a bit of a family/ non looping Space Mountain in a few ways here, no idea why.
It's probably my join second favourite indoor coaster right now after DLP's Space Mountain with RNR on the same place and X at Thorpe taking last place, the 2 people blanket rule probably hasn't helped it for me either [sorry X].
Moving from coasters now to dark rides [Vogel transitions this quite well really] where the park has a great selection. First off the highly impressive Fate Morgana, an Intamin tow boat ride which opened in 1986.
Essentially an Arabian equivalent of Pirates Of The Caribbean, the ride is pure perfection. The intimate yet high quality scenes and story of the landscape is so perfectly paced throughout the whole ride, starting in a jungle, heading in to town, jungle & palace landscapes before ending in jungle again which makes you wonder almost 'was what I experienced real'? Another sublime attraction, one of my favourite dark rides I have done. It obviously doesn't top tower but is definitely in my dark ride top 10's.
The next dark ride takes us away from the east to somewhere a lot more dreamy. It's Dream Flight [Droomvlucht]. This one opened in 1993.
Cattle Pens! least they're not like Saws. I think they were added after the ride opened due to it's popularity I believe.
I have never seen so much charm built in to a dark on such a large scale.
Whilst it doesn't top Fate Morgana, I adored Dream Flight, from it's astounding soundtrack, large, high quality set pieces and lighting affects alongside the coaster section at the end [which is a lot faster in person the POV's suggest]. Was unsure on this ride on my first go what to think of it, but grew on me a lot more on the second go to become one of my park favourites and at nearly 25 years old [scary the fact the ride is the same age as me ], in no way does the attraction appear dated in anyway.
Liseberg's Fairy Tale ride is surely a patronising insult in comparison.
after the charming forests of Dream Flight, we move on to the comical world of Festival Carnival which is one of the park's most famous rides.
Definitely one of the park's more comical attractions, and unPC to say the least. Apparently a critic slated this ride for it's subtle racism a few years ago [despite praising the rest of the park] and as a result received lots of backslash and even death threats.
Carnival Festival is such a fun ride, from it's bright colours, catchy soundtrack to amusing depications of the world. It feels like an It's A Small World style ride done in a Bubbleworks [pre 2006] format. Though it's not making the top list, it's a dark ride I strongly enjoy. This was Daniel Sheldrake's favourite ride of the trip too [who as a result bought the ride's music at the end].
The park's final dark ride is nestled in the forest on this cold autumn day. [note the failed Hex reference].
It's Villa Volta, the park's mad house which opened in 1996. Although it preceeded it by four years, the ride's biggest problem is it's frequently compared to Hex at Alton Towers which unfortunately affects the ride's experience, at least to begin with.
Unfortunately, I too was in that camp of comparing, however before hand, here's what I thought.
Villa Volta is definitely a beautifully detailed attraction, the facade fits in perfectly with the nearby Ravelijan & Dream Flight, not to mention the animatronic figure in the second pre-show is of high quality. Unfortunately, this was potentially my lesser favourite of the dark rides, not so much that this was a bad ride [far from it], but I struggled getting the storyline really, however reading up after my trip I believe the basic story is of some gang robbing a town or something [ with Villa Volta being the leader's home] and a woman cursing them with that the leader will never have peace or something like that].
Looking back at the pre-shows which I vaguely remember, this seems accurate especially with the animatronic being the gang leader himself. I probably should've done a re-ride to be fair as you can't really judge a ride on just one go. Soundtrack though was impressive as was the decor in the ride itself. However unfortunately on these grounds mentioned earlier, Hex still wins the battle by a long shot. Hex features some amazing theatrical build up's aside from it's also just as impressive soundtrack and even the subtle things like the evil face when the room turns upside down. But enough review of Hex now.
The last notable ride yet to be ventured at the park is the Pirana Rapids, a massive wild water set of rapids which is the park's main water ride.
Safe to say is now my favourite Rapids rides, and probably the roughest too. Quite often our boat was get stuck in different pockets throughout the ride and may sometimes take a while to get out too. Wetness levels were mild-moderate soaking [ around Dragon Falls soaking level] which was refreshing to say the least. a slightly better Congo or themed Viking River Splash essentially.
Amongst other rides at the park include, this impressive Pirate Ship [second after Buccaneer].
The strangest carnation of a sea storm ride, it doesn't go too fast nor does it turn backwards [the theming is decent though].
These very very stiff tea cups which for that alone make it my least favourite ride on park. The theming & soundtrack were still good though.
Too many caroulsels to count.
This Get Set Go style ride
This boating ride [one of the few attractions I didn't do at the park].
There was a sky view ride called Pagoda, but sadly this one was closed for refurbishment during the visit.
Efteling has some really good rides there amongst some which are just ok. You can definitely see which rides are the more recent ones with all the intricate details and elements included and those that are park veterans and stick out more than others and not so much in a good way.
However, the rides at Efteling are only half the experience as there's lots more to experience than just rides. And that's what we will look in to in Part 2 where we look in to what flipping forests of fairytale fountains can be discovered at Efteling apart from it's decent selection of rides.