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