2013 has not been the grandest years for theme parks in the country, more like a cheap table wine that you pick up for cheap at Tescos. From obvious budget cuts and rides standing but not operating for an entire year at Chessington too The Smiler trying to throw everything and the kitchen sink at passers by, it is clear that the Uk industry has stagnated somewhat in 2013.
What do you mean, Slammer's open?!
And yet, shockingly and surprisingly, despite not adding anything substantial, Thorpe Park has come out as the clear winner by a long shot. From much better reliability park wide, to improvement in effects up-keep and new events, the park has clearly embraced social media and openly interacts with guests more frequently. This all in turn with a slight shift in target audience, Thorpe has the potential to be the park of 2014 as well if it can keep the ball rolling with ideas that are fresh and innovative.
So where did this begin? Ah, I know, March time. I had booked a whole week off of work so that I could visit Thorpe for its opening weekend, take a look at how The Smiler construction was going and have a go on Zufari whilst enjoying old family favourites such as Runaway Train, Dragon Falls and Vampire. It wasn't to be. A refurbishment list made itself apparent, a lot of these rides were not to be open due to the park not able to maintain rides for a quarter of a century and Zufari was postponed by a week. No matter. As temperatures continued to drop, three successive trips to Thorpe occurred, one for the Swarm media photo day with Thorpe Park Mania, one before a meet weekend and another on what was to be the coldest trip of the season. On all three days, somehow, Slammer worked continuously, we even had a ride in the snow which is pretty surreal, I'm sure not many could say they've done that. Despite the freezing temperatures, the only rides closed all day were Colossus and Saw. A Trip to Chessington could have given you a ride on Bubbleworks and Tomb Blaster if you were really lucky. Alton also impressed during March, the emptiest I had ever seen it. Surprising sights such as only two people on Air at 4 in the afternoon is very different to the usual sights.
New Coasters - 142. Wodan - Europa Park
With the sun out, birds singing and all but one ride open at Chessington (for now), it was back with my theme park shoes and off on holiday. Instead of staying with the UK, it was back off the Europe for my favourite theme park so far. Europa Park is an utter joy to be had. Even though we spent three and a half days there it just isn't enough to fully embrace the joy of a theme park that is run professionally and efficiently with show after show, ride after ride and a park that has full pride in everything it provides for its guests. Ride highlights included Blue Fire being as good if not better then I remembered, the wonderful Euro-Mir and the very impressive, relentless Wodan. We stayed in the sublime Bell Rock resort and scored Eurovision one night, toured the hotel the other and had a delicious cocktail on our final night. Thursday night it was back off to England for a days rest and then onto the next trip, Denmark.
New Coasters:- Dæmonen - Tivoli Gardens
Odin Express - Tivoli Gardens
The Caravan - Tivoli Gardens
Rustcherbanan - Tivoli Gardens
Vandorm - Bon Bon Land
Vild Svinet - Bon Bon Land
Hunderprutterutchebane - Bon Bon Land
Tornado - Bakken
Rustchebanan - Bakken
Mine Train Ulven - Bakken
Racing - Bakken
Vilde Maus - Bakken
Mairehønen - Bakken
Piraten - Djurs Sommerland
Skatteøen - Djurs Sommerland
Karlo’s Taxi - Djurs Sommerland
Thors Hammer - Djurs Sommerland
Juvelen - Djurs Sommerland
Jungle X-Plorer - Legoland Billund
X-Treme Racers - Legoland Billund
Dragen - Legoland Billund
Timber Ride - Legoland Billund
Lynet - Farup Sommerland
Mine Expressen - Farup Sommerland
Flagermusen - Farup Sommerland
Pindsvinet - Farup Sommlernad
Falken - Farup Sommerland
On our arrival it was a sweltering 16 degrees (hot for Denmark) but throughout the week, the weather would fly up and down. It is a very odd climate indeed. We spent the first night celebrating Denmark's win of Eurovision and throughout the week we would hear that music blasting out of car windows. We even got to see the winning act perform live at Tivoli. The major highlights off the trip were the first Rustcherbanan at Tivoli Gardens, which is a truly wonderful attraction and deserves to be appreciated for its sheer beauty and smoothness, Piraten and Juvelen at Djurs Sommerland which were equal in the fun and thrill stakes, Polar XPlorer at Legoland Billund was a very fun ride, as was Lynet at Farup Sommerland. With the good comes the bad and Bakken was truly atrocious with the diabolical Tornado symbolising everything I think wrong with the modern day Intamin company. Not enough refining, too much trying to please a park on a sub-standard product. The Rustcherbanan at Bakken had also been seriously ruined by KumbaK with magnetic breaks destroying any element of momentum that the ride tries to build.
I left Denmark feeling very sad, it is a wonderful country, if not for its coasters then for its feeling of freedom, liberty and forward thinking Danes.
New Coasters - 170: The Smiler - Alton Towers
And after what felt like a life time of waiting, The Smiler finally got itself going and very swiftly, a trip was planned with my non coaster friend. The Smiler is a great ride. Ok, so it can't upstage Nemesis or Oblivion but I still maintain it is a great ride with a bit of a kick in it especially towards the end. You could say I've been lucky, every time I've visited, it has been open and whilst seeing break downs galore whenever I enter the queue, I've always been fortunate enough to ride. Even with it throwing bits off quite frequently. For my 25th birthday, it was off to Thorpe where I got my last ride on Slammer before its annual four month closure. It was a beautifully sunny day with minimal queues. And still it wasn't my best trip to Thorpe this season.. but that is coming. Shortly after my birthday, spent a weekend at Towers for some Smiler loving. The end of the month saw the Inferno ERT even for TPM members where we got to walk through some of the ride area and some lucky pups got to have a little walk up the lift hill.
This was a relatively quiet month with a solitary trip to Alton Towers where yet again a substantial ride count was halted by the troublesome Smiler eating up so much of the day.
Now this was the trip of the season. Thorpe hosting its summer late night events. I know some got rained on and the organisation is not as strong as it could be. But during my trip I can safely say I had the best Thorpe I've had for some time. The park was busy enough during the day but with the later hours, I got a chance to properly relax and appreciate my time there. With the joyous hot weather as well, it didn't feel like a theme park in the UK with rubbish weather and even worse opening hours. It felt like I was in sunny Florida or Italy with some great friends from TPM. I came away pretty blown away by how great the trip was, testament to how much Thorpe has grown and increased in confidence during the season.
New Coasters -
Space Mountain: Mission 2 - Disneyland Parc
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - Disneyland Parc
Indianna Jone et le Temple du Perile - Dienyland Parc
Casey Jr - Disneyland Paris
Crushs Coaster - Disneyland Paris
Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster - Disneyland Paris
RC Racer - Disneyland Paris
Tami Tami - PortAventura
And so with the weather starting to deteriorate it was off to Disneyland Paris, a place I have never been before. I did enjoy it and found it far more relaxing and stress free then the pressure kitchen that is Disney World. It helped that the parks were very quiet with 5 minute queues on Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and Tower of Terror being seen throughout the visit. Dreams was a real highlight, seriously great entertainment and needs to be seen by as many as possible. The final trip, two weeks later was PortAventura which unbeknown to me was the start of its Halloween events. Now, I really don't like Halloween events. I know they are extremely popular but I don't find them scary in the slightest despite the actors best efforts. For me, the important thing for the trip was to get my ride on Tami Tami and to fully enjoy Shambhala and Dragon Khan. Which I certainly did, getting more then my fill on both these coasters. Baco, lived up to its awful reputation, set last year but maintained fully in 2013. Is it worse then Tornado? They are both awful and nasty.
My year was finished off with a Fright Night finish at Thorpe. I don't do mazes but with it being quiet during night, it was nice to get a few night rides on Inferno, Stealth and front row Colossus.
And with that the year off theme parks is over. 2013 was not a great year for the UK admittedly. So much potential completely left untapped with Smiler not being as reliable as required and Chessington letting down every single guest that walked through its doors with its sheer incompetence. I used to be a major Chessington fan but frankly its no longer worth the effort. Full of low capacity rides that are either falling apart, closed or so low on staff that it takes five minutes to load a boat. Hence my lack of visit in 2013.
Here's to a full on 2014 for everyone and thanks for reading (if you did).