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.