So Christmas is almost here as 2014 gradually comes to an end in what has been one of the most mixed years for everything [in what could easily be material for a new soap opera]. However here I will only be mentioning the theme park side of things [after all it's a theme park forum).
Unfortunately compared to a number of active members here such as Benin, my theme park collection trip is on a much smaller scale, as someone quoted to me talking about how comparing Thorpe park to Universal & Disney World was a bit like comparing a corner shop to a large supermarket, something which is very much the case here, but carrying on.
Total number of visits 12
visited March 2x,April, May July 2x, August,October 5x
In what might be the park's busiest year for a while, Thorpe has had a very mixed season. The park has seen some minor but excellent improvements such as a new map, improved eateries [Amity Fish & Chips & Cantina extension] and the Inferno shop [which has some great touches in there].
Park events this year were also on a roll and the easter event at the park looked very good [although I didn't actually make it this year] and Summer Nights improving further with not just the main coasters open but also opening of rides such as the teacups and Dodgems on top of a park wide DJ. MOS was just as good as last year [maybe even a little better] and Fright Nights delivered once again bringing us Studio13 [a decent replacement to the Asylum], some great improvements to Blair Witch and Face It Alone, which is an amazing experience for anyone who loves scare mazes and wants to experience them on a more extreme setting.
OK, moving on to something [which I appear to be dodging opinions upon] and that is the opening of Angry BIrds Land, perhaps the greatest opinion splitter since Saw, some people seem to love it whilst others hate it like the plague. For me there I love and hate it for different reasons.
I love the installation of the new 4D cinema and Dodgems. The cinema offers a fun,interactive & immersive experience for the park [plus a much needed indoor attraction too] whilst the dodgems offer a decent filler ride for the park with the Bird VS Pig car designs offering some good competition which hasn't been seen since the Beanoland days. The area also gives us a new area dedicated to families [something Thorpe have lacked in recent years] and utilising space that was previously rather wasted.
What I didn't like about the area though was the fact it has divided the Amity area in half [one of the park's best area transitions] and feels a bit shoe horned and Detonator's retheme feels a bit cheap [pun intended] and more could've been done [the ride music is fine by the way]. I also don't like how the flooring and lampposts in the area are very miss mash in comparison and should've been redone.
Whilst the park has made quite a lot of improvements, there is still a long way to go before perfection as the park is still suffering from ongoing problems such as Fastrack, ride breakdowns, Stealth & Samurai in particular were unreliable this year [though the engineer team I know do work very hard [which could do with a few more in numbers] and the continuation of 1 train ops on weekdays and mornings on peak days. There are also a lot of park areas that do look very worn such as Canada Creek which still had no new Loggers tunnel, Ranger County & Rumba to name some.
This year we also said goodbye to yet another classic attraction at the park, the Rangers Caroulse, an attraction which was in service at the park for 20 years which disappears to make way for the highly speculated 2016 dark ride. Whilst just a Caroulsel contained rich history of Thorpe's past, not just being the second to last park Ranger attraction to survive but featuring a collage of former park ride vehicles onboard including Phantom Phantasia, Thunder River & Hudson River Rafters. Lets just hope the park salvage as many horses/models from the ride as possible [if there is no chance of the attraction's return].
Best Year since 2009
Total visits 2
Arguably the most magical theme park in the Uk and our nearest port of call to Efteling, Europe & Euro Disney. during the last few seasons some could argue the magic has been lost a fair bit with three disappointing seasons in a row. 2011 saw one of the lowest number of guests and 2012 featured the then disappointing Sub-Terra ride [amongst still low attendance]. 2013 was supposed to be one the year the park shined as a whole but was trashed completely due to how the park's big new coaster The Smiler was handled overall plus it's poor reliability.
Whilst far from perfect, 2014 appears to have been a better year for the park. Operations seem to be on a roll again, ride reliability is better [bar a few exceptions] and improvements in food and entertainment too.
Whilst having naturally low expectations, I was rather impressed with the new/re-themed area that opened replacing the ageing farmyard. The area is full of life including freshly re-imaged rides, plenty of themed walkthroughs and gardens and lots of friendly enthusiastic staff. The In The Night Garden Ride was very good in particular with it's animatronics and storyline, Postman Pat was a great fun ride full of heavy themed models and the Get Set Go was a brilliant re-incarnation of the random Squirell Nutty [it feels more like an experience now].
As I'm not the biggest fan of IP's in theme parks [bar some exceptions], the idea of brand-name here makes perfect sense and fits in well within the park.
Scarefest proved a mixed bag this year giving us the new Scarytales which looks to have been a good addition however with the loss of one of the former Scaremazes Carnival Of Screams, which was not replaced.
Best year since 2010
Total visits 2 [very very nearly 3]
Visited April, May [almost October]
2013 at Chessington [to some] was complete shambles, park falling apart, poor/slow operations, closed rides, disappointing opening hours and also a fire at one of the park's newest outlets. Nothing seemed be done right [even the new Zufari ride].
However for 2014, the park's come it's own again and whilst [stastically speaking] hasn't installed a 'proper' new ride it's improved much of whats there significantly. The hugely retimed Scorpion Express [formerly Runaway Train] whilst definitely being better with the now removed rock face, has a lot more personality now with it's quirky features such as abandoned town backdrops, moving/squirting Scorpion and fire tower plus the overall back story of a town overrun by Scorpions and new soundtrack. Despite losing the Boiler in the queue [which is now in the ride area], the queue line is still nicely themed [for Merlin standards] with interactive elements and the like throughout the queue.
Other additions such as the re-imaged Market Square, Mexica & Transylvania areas also impressed me among noticeably better park operations among having more soul altogether this year. Amazu is also an interesting update to the monkey walkthrough which looks nice and updated compared to it's old form and whilst the Azteca hotel has taken up a fair portion of land that could've been used for new development it should hopefully bring in more guests and customers to the park and also the theming [on top of the retheme of the 1st hotel] should definitely add up to the wild/exciting experience for staying guests.
Sadly I never [quite] made it to the now rebranded Howl'O'ween event which looked very good from the reviews I saw and heard about, but who hopefully this will finally happen in 2015. Speaking on 2015, I'm looking forward to see what more the park will be doing as we will see a big update to the penguin enclosure and a new show [after all penguins are rather popular at the moment plus more updates to the park overall.
Whilst a massive improvement to the disastrous 2013, there's still a long way before the park gets back to it's old 'magic making' days [pre2005] as there's still lots of areas at the park looking old,worn and forgotten. Falls, Tombs, Skyways & Bubbleworks are good examples of this.
Best year since 2010
Total number of visits 2.5
Visited, April,September, November
Despite it's lack of anything groundbreaking or eye-catching in the last few years, Legoland continues to remain as popular as ever [shockingly receiving even more guests than the nearby Thrill Capital]. Unfortunately, 2014 wasn't the best of years of the park as once again nothing too exciting and worthwhile for those over 10 appeared with the main new addition being a big new play area replacing the ageing Rat Trap and a chunk of the enchanted forest walkthrough.
Unfortunatly the other new attraction for the park this year was the [3rd] re-theme of the Pirate Falls log flume featuring new models, audio and storyline. Whilst the new one features better audio and looks a lot more fresh in appearance I still prefer the original as it featured more charm and humour then.
Aside from a new play area and re-themed log flume, the park also received two further additions which are perhaps unwelcome appearing in the form of Burger Kitchens. Located in the Pirate & City areas of the park, these outlets see the replacement of Burger Ranch & Crossed Ribs [an eatery that has existed since the early park years and did some good BBQ food]. Despite offering more indoor seating for cold/bad whether days these aren't a good addition as the food line up at Legoland has been reduced slightly and Burger kitchens haven't been renowned for good quality [I'm still yet to try one actually].
Despite not being too impressed with the park during main season, I opted out [and paid the perhaps overpriced fee] to visit the park during it's Christmas event which despite the reduced ride line up [and park access] I really enjoyed as I virtually had the park to myself when I went not just getting on rides without queues but getting actually rides to myself and the park was also lit up beautifully with loads of lighting scatted over the park making it feel like a christmas kingdom. It was a truly magical experience there [either that or I'm reflecting on the amount of friends who went to Euro Disney at that time of year ].
2015 was set to be one of the most exciting years for the park for a while, with the addition of a big scale immersive themed Haunted House attraction [giving the park another much needed dark, high capacity and older aimed] ride. However unfortunately this plan was ripped to shreds due to the selfishness of the residents and local council resulting in the rejection of the plans [despite recommendation] and what we will be receiving instead will not just be on a smaller scale but also strongly unappealing too. I just hope the park can send an appeal and get this ride approved in the future instead.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Blackpool for me was the biggest theme park venture for me [at least outside of the Merlin circle] in what proved to be one of the most exciting weekends this year gaining lots of new credits at the famous Pleasure Beach. Whilst it's no Disneyland, it proved to be surprisingly good with some very exciting coasters including Grand National, Steeplechase and Avalanche with each ride holding it's own. I also got to experience the highly immersive Valhalla which is an amazing experience and is the best uk water ride by a country mile.
Many of the other rides also proved to be very good too including Wallace & Gromit which was a very good dark ride whilst Alice [although rather dated] proved to be an entertaining and fun attraction]. The only ride that left me feeling disappointed was Impossible which was just pants.
Other attractions I was able experience included the Blackpool Dungeons which was a very good experience and whilst there were some flaws, some elements were better than the London ones including the Drop towers at the end. The circus show and tower themselves were also very and interesting [the latter offering some loverly views from the top]. Coral Island was an interesting attraction with a cool monorail and ghost train which was sadly ruined greatly by funny and moody staff.
Whilst having a very enjoyable trip in 2013, I sadly never had chance to return to the park in 2014, however by the looks of reports, that was possibly for the better as the park had apparently gone backwards greatly, featuring poor operations of rides, lots of rides closed daily and many areas completely rundown [which make Thorpe's flaws sound almost forgivable]. Lets just hope the park learn from their mistakes next year and finally open the Sleepy Hollow area.
Where do we begin with this soap opera of my life? Well, It didn't happen [at least in 2014].
There were at least five attempts to get to the park in 2014 [no exagerration] but a lot of things down to budget, timing and personal reasons [which I'm not going in to] none of these trips were successful so I never got to see Remy. 2015 however will hopefully break this spell.
Like the last 5 years, the park has virtually remained unchanged still housing the same ageing/out dated attractions that have existed for many years. The park hasn't gone backwards but it certainly hasn't gone forwards and only receives a mention for being the only theme park in Europe I managed in 2014.
What looks ahead for 2015?
In terms of the uk parks, not much I'm afraid at least for the Merlin parks as so far the only new additions confirmed are glorified log cabins, a retimed area [without any new rides] and a new penguin show and enclosure, meaning we won't get any official rides [as we currently know].
For smaller uk park's though it looks a better year though as we will definitely be receiving some new attractions next year. Blackpool will be getting the Red Arrow flying ride, Paultons will be getting a brand new themed area called Critter Creek, Drayton are getting [yet more attractions] in Thomas Land and Oakwood will finally be receiving it's new Sleepy Hollow themed area.
As for Europe, Efteling will be receiving a new major exciting dive coaster, Gardaland will be receiving a dive coaster, Hansa will be gaining a new exciting coaster whilst parks in Denmark and one of the Walibi ones are expected to also earn new rides too.
And this marks the end of 2014, roll on 2015 I say, a year I will hopefully be getting some new parks and several across sea [that aren't Tivoli World].