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JoshC.

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  1. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, The Ride to Happiness   
    My 100% favourite thing about rollercoasters is that sometimes, just on that odd occasion, something will completely take your breathe away. Something will remind you that your hobby is the best in the world. This trip was a little out of the blue. Initially, we were supposed to go to Towers but once we learned that the Saturday was fully booked and Sunday was supposed to see a high amount of travellers, we took the quick decision to book a ferry to Dunkirk. Plopsaland is a quick drive across the French/Belgium border. There's lots of loveliness to Plopsaland, I was a particular fan of the dinosaur themed log flume and Heidi the mini GCI wooden coaster. But frankly, there was only one ride that bought me here. 
     
    The Ride to Happiness is one of those odd rides that does stick out like a sore thumb. I read the dedicated thread that said this ride does dramatically change the dynamics of this cute little family theme park. Whilst that is true, I actually think that its a good thing that there is something like RtH at the park as it definitely has something special about it. The queue line is a simple affair, two dedicated rooms with little theming areas and a little area under the break run that was never used. On our visit, the queues were minimal with about a 5 minute wait for the ride. Which was perfect to get a real proper feel for the ride.
     

     
    The station is nice and open and it becomes very clear quickly that this is a ride where it doesn't really matter where in the train you ride, the experience is similar. With that being said, the air time on the back carriage is probably the greatest. Like many of Mack's newer rollercoasters, the restraints are near perfect. Not too tight but enough to feel secure. The trains are exactly the same design choice as Time Traveller. With everyone seated and checked, the train is dispatched and your first inversion is a jo-jo roll. It's hard to describe because the sensation of being upside down whilst spinning is so peculiar and unique. It sets up the ride perfectly, this is no normal rollercoaster. Unlike most Mack launches which are normally pretty tame, this feels pretty forceful because of the spinning element and as a bonus, the train is forced to spin near the end of the launch track and it is fantastic. The train travels upwards into a top hate kind of element, the track is slightly banked which encourages the spin to continue and then you just fall. Oh the drop on this is sublime. It catches your breathe quite unlike any other rollercoaster. On a couple of rides, we were on the back carriage and it was in the right position to go down this track backwards and let me tell you, the ejector was exquisite. Absolutely superb. The ultimate adrenaline hit. I adored it and it became one of the many highlights in a ride full of them. 
     
    The train traverses the banana roll which admittedly, was not my favourite part of the ride but the thing is, it was always excellent. With every ride just being that little bit different it always felt fresh and exciting. The vertical loop quickly following this was funky. I enjoyed doing it sideways or with a slight spin. The zero g is also excellent encouraging the train to spin just that little bit more each time. Just fantastic.

     
    Up next is the bunny hop second launch area which just gives the train that extra kick to get into the signature element which surrounds the entrance to the rides queue line. Just wow. Sometimes it was easy to see where the train was going, sometimes the carriage was spinning so much it was hard to tell just exactly where you were. Just completely disorientated. The train drops down over the area, around a lake and finishing off with two ejector filled bunny hops. Packed to the brim with air time you hit the break run happy. And thats really the key to this ride. It reminds me of the first time riding Taron, hitting the final breaks and just smiling. It was wonderful, it was a shock to the system, it makes you want to run round to do it all over again. And that, was what a lot of people were doing that day. There was a lot of us going round and round on this thing to experience it as much as possible. With each ride being so unique and different it was fantastic to just experience it. 

     
    I've never known a ride like it. It was just something special, something completely unique and enjoyable. Huge smiles that I could not hide after each ride. Just hitting that break run, wanting to run around and experience it again. Sheer joy. I'm so grateful for what Blue Fire did for the Mack company back in 2009 because we are now really seeing the fruits of their labour. And what I love about it is that whilst it is forceful and a fast experience, it never feels overwhelming. Whilst spinning around on it, you can see the joy from all your fellow riders faces. We met a person who had been on it over 1900 times and still isn't bored. I've got this far and haven't even talked about the fantastic soundtrack which fits the ride to perfection. Themed around a music festival in Belgium, this could have easily failed but it works perfectly with the rides pacing. Gives me chills.
     
     
    Ride to Happiness isn't just a wonderful ride, it is in my opinion, the finest ride in Europe. 

  2. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Cal for a blog entry, JoshC. goes to America - Hersheypark   
    I finally did it: I finally went to America for some creds. Before my trip at the start of June, I'd only done European parks, so it was hugely exciting.

    Before getting to it, here's a setting the scene sorta dealy.

    This trip had been a long time in the works. Early plans can be traced back to March 2021, which was going to be a Cedar Point + others trip. But that fell through. Still wanting to go out to the States for some creds, I looked at other possible ideas. I could do Orlando / California or similar, but not being a big Disney fan, their draws were weak, and I didn't really have a clue where to start with booking that sort of trip. Resorting to the easier-for-me-to-plan road trip, I quickly honed in towards flying to Philadelphia, and then hitting up some of the big parks there.

    The plan was to fly into Philly, have a day to get accustomed to the country, then do Hersheypark, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Six Flags America, Knoebels and Dorney (in one day) and Six Flags Great Adventure. There were some long journey times between the parks, but heyho, I've done long drives and was fine, so I'm sure this'll be fine.

    The build up to the trip was...hectic. The day after I landed, I was moving flat (for a new job I started last week). My mum is also in the process of moving flat, so I'd been helping her out too. I had finished my temp job only a couple of days before flying out too, which didn't give me much time to generally sort out everything in life.

    But anyway, I made my way to Heathrow bright and early...and headed to the wrong terminal. My flight was from Terminal 3...I got off the free shuttle bus at Terminal 2. D'oh! Fortunately, it's only a short walk between the terminals, and soon enough I was checked in and in a long security line. Small spoilers: the security queue was one of the longest of the trip! But soon enough, I was on the plane and ready for the 7-8hr flight.

    Long haul flying was fine for me. Wasn't quite sure how I'd find it, but my American Airlines flight was comfortable, the food was acceptable, and I was able to pass the time by watching Stranger Things 4. Soon enough, I'd landed in Philadelphia.

    And oh boy, it was hot. Midday local time and it was 35C (oops, I'm in America now, that's....95F). I'm not someone who particularly enjoys the heat (another reason why I was unsure about doing a trip to Orlando). But hey, I'd manage, America has aircon in most places, and I'd adjust soon enough...

    I collected my hire car no problems. This was actually the first time I'd ever hired a car, and my first time driving on "the other side" of the road. On top of that, it was my first time driving an automatic, and only the third different car I'd ever driven since passing my test 4 years ago. So just a few firsts. I took my time to get used to it before heading off to a nearby-ish Walmart to get some drinks and snacks. This 20 minute drive to Walmart didn't serve me well though. Driving wasn't difficult, but I made the odd little mistake and just didn't feel wholly comfortable whilst driving. I guess that's understandable and to be expected within context, but still, it played on my mind a bit.

    I carried on to my first motel of the trip and arrived in one piece. Woo, much success. But I still didn't get that comfortable feeling with driving. My excitement and elation for the trip and parks ahead turned to one of worry. "How on earth will I manage all the driving to come feeling like this?". Of course, I was hot, bothered and tired. And then thoughts came flooding into my head..."If I feel like this now, how will I feel after 8 hours outside at a park, then having to do a 1.5-2hr drive?", "How will I manage that for a week straight?", "I'm not sure if I can do this". I'm, err, not the most confident person, and I think this whole thought process shows that.

    I tried to cast these thoughts to one side and had a spot of dinner from a lovely little restaurant just opposite the motel I was at. But these thoughts played on my mind still. I tried looking at all the drives I had for the next couple of days to try and ease my concerns, but that did little to help me. The first two parks were to be Hersheypark and Kings Dominion, and they weren't a short distance apart. Knoebels and Dorney, parks much closer to Hersheypark, were shut the day after my Hershey trip, so I couldn't change the order to do shorter drives before doing longer drives.

    In the end, I got inside my head so much that I changed the trip a bit more dramatically. I hadn't booked park tickets due to my lack of organisation. Most of the motels/hotels I booked were free to cancel until 23:59 the day before arrival. So I wasn't going to lose any money.
    Gone were Kings Dominion, Busch and SFA, the three parks which were a huge drive away.
    The one motel I couldn't cancel was one which was between Dorney and SFGAd.
    So the trip changed into:
    Hersheypark: 2 days
    Knoebels
    Free day
    Dorney
    SFGAd

    It made the trip feel less daunting with the driving. It did take out a big chunk of creds, and I was particularly looking forward to Busch / Pantheon. But ultimately, in the moment, I just didn't feel I could do it. In hindsight, it all feels a bit stupid. I'm sure everything would have been fine. I got more used-to and comfortable with driving quick enough. Maybe I should have planned the trip better to build up to longer drives? Maybe I should tried hiring a car on a smaller like (like my recent Hamburg one, where I changed my mind late on about driving too)? Maybe I should have gotten out of my own head / slept on it? Maybe I should have booked everything earlier to force me to do these things? Whatever I should have done, it's done now.
     
    And now onto Day 1, which was my first day at Hersheypark...
     
    It was June 1st, and again it was hot. The drive from my motel to Hersheypark was about an hour, so I set off in good time. I passed Dutch Wonderland en route - a park which was closed on that day, but I made a note that I could possibly do it on my free day if I wanted. The drive to Hershey wasn't without stress, with my phone losing internet connection just before I was due to go on Route 283, making me very nervous I was going the wrong way. Fortunately, I rolled up at 10ish - huzzah, I was finally at my first American park!

    I really enjoyed the entrance plaza area: smart and well-presented, with the lovely view of a B&M hyper to boot. Plus, with the shop open, the hour before open flew by.

    Whilst waiting for the park to open, I realised I hadn't planned out my day at all. I knew roughly what creds the park had, but didn't know the layout of the park or anything. Candymonium was open for season pass holder ERT and right by the entrance, so that was a no-go. Skyrush is bound to be popular, so maybe not there. After a brain wave, I remembered about a particular ride which gets long queues. So whilst the masses made their way to the park's hypers and whatever else, I made a beeline to...
    Laff Trakk! Yep, my first American coaster was an indoor spinner. It was...okay. There's an attempt with theming and all that, but it just comes across as a bit tacky sadly. And the layout didn't really do it for me. So very much a one and done for me.

    Carrying on the theme of low-throughput, bog standard coasters, I ticked off the nearby Wild Mouse. It was bog standard. Jesus, I've flown 3500miles for some tacky rubbish I could have gotten at the British seaside...It's time to throw in something better. So it was time for Wildcat. GCI's first coaster - a fact I'd forgotten at the time - does have a decent layout, and is filled with some neat moments. At the same time, it does give off vibes of 'Our first coaster', but you can see what they wanted to do, and how they've refined their coasters with newer models. A decent family-thrill ride for the park.

    The park had only been open 15 minutes, and I'd ticked off 3 creds. The temperatures were soaring, so now felt like an appropriate time to ride Celsius.
    Wait, no, I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It felt like an appropriate time to ride Fahrenheit.
    An Intamin multi inversion coaster with a vertical lift and beyond vertical drop - it's either going to be amazing, or bloody dreadful right?

    It was at this point I learnt to not trust the Hersheypark app too much. The app does give queue times for all the rides, but it said Fahrenheit was only 5 minutes, despite it clearly being more. I hesitated a guess at around 20 minutes, and an update came from soon enough advertising 15 minutes. Ended up taking a nice, round 40 minutes. Ooft. Thank goodness for the misters in the queue line though - they were a godsend!

    I'll channel my inner MattN now...how was the ride? Well, it wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bloody dreadful. It fell firmly into the "good" category. The layout is surprisingly fun, and the airtime towards the end of the ride took me by surprise. The cobra roll was extremely "vibrate-y", but not in a rough way, which was...odd. I wasn't a fan of the clunky restraints though. So it was definitely good, but this was also something that really needed a reride at some point to determine just how good.

    It has a pretty colour scheme too

    I then double-backed on myself to go to the park's duelling woodies: Lightning Racer. I hadn't done them earlier as they opened late, but now seemed like a good time to pick them up. And I have to say, I really enjoyed these. Quick-paced, nice interaction with each other and great coasters in their own right. I wasn't a fan of how it seemed like the Thunder side would win every single time; seems like a bit of a flaw there.

    Whilst I didn't want to make immediate comparisons, I make it no secret that I love Joris en de Draak at Efteling, so it was hard not to. And to be honest, Lightning Racer definitely feels like an attraction that walked, so Joris could run. Joris sees what Lightning Racer does, learns from its mistakes, and refines what it does well. Hersheypark is filled with "learning GCIs" it seems.
    Aside #1: I didn't take photos of Wildcat or LR. Clearly I have something against taking bad photos of GCIs.
    Aside #2: The Lightning (right) side of Lightning Racer was my 250th. Yay.

    With the creds in that area ticked off, I went a bit more centrally into the park. With stomach grumbling, I decided to pick up a snack. Oooo, finally time to try out some American park food!! A funnel cake standard was nearby, so naturally I gravitated towards there...
    It was blooming huge! Is this just American portion sizes? Are they meant to be shared? Did I buy a sharing one? I dunno, but I wasn't going to complain.

    After eating a bit more than expected, I decided another cred might not be best straight away, instead opting for the nearby shooting darkride, Reece's Cupfusion. I like shooters, and I was intrigued by this. I was taken back a bit by the layout going up and down; thought that was a bit quirky. But the best way to describe this (from a European's standpoint) is like a discount/budget Bazyliszek at Legendia. It has screens as well as 2D props (some move, some don't). But it all feels a little bit on the cheap side, and a little bit lazy. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, and I had fun, but really, for a park of Hershey's size and grandeur, I was expecting something a bit better.

    With that done, it was time for another cred. And I opted for hopeful quality over 'just a +1', and went to Great Bear, the park's B&M invert...
    Another 40-ish minute wait for this. And I didn't really enjoy waiting for this. Obviously queueing becomes more boring when you're alone, but with no sort of themed music (just generic pop music, which was fine, but meh all the same), and limited views of anything in a painfully dull cattlepen queue, it does drain you a bit. Wasn't helped further by the fact operations were pretty poor, partially due to slow staff, partially due to people being idiots and faffing. Oh well.

    Anyways, I was on and sat near the back. What followed was a decent, albeit unremarkable, ride. It very much peters out by the end though. Before this trip, I'd ridden 4 B&M inverts: Oz'Iris, Nemesis, Black Mamba and Nemesis Inferno. These are all fantastic examples of the ride type. Great Bear is an example which shows B&M Inverts are good rides, but can also be incredibly paint-by-numbers. "Let's chuck in a big drop, a vertical loop, a zero-g roll, a corkscrew and something else, boom, there's your B&M Invert". That's possibly a little harsh, but really, that's what it is. It doesn't have the location/terrain of Nemesis and Mamba, It doesn't have the scale and 'extra-ness' of Oz'Iris. The layout isn't as polished as Inferno. It just does every part well.
    It'd be interesting to know what my reaction would be if this was my first B&M Invert. Maybe I'd rate it higher. But for me right now, whilst I enjoyed it and don't have anything overly negative to say about it (ending aside), it just doesn't do it for me.
    Following the path along, I stumbled across another cred, the comically named Sooperdooperlooper. Obviously the historical nature of the ride shouldn't be ignored, but it very much feels like a ride which was designed to have the loop and nothing else. Literally after the loop, the ride feels like it was designed by RCT's "auto complete" feature, to get the track back to the start in a weird and funky ride.

    Next up was the big attraction of Hersheypark, the famous Intamin known by Skyrush.
    Since it had a surprisingly short queue (probably about 2-3 trains' worth of wait, if that), I opted for a front row ride. This turned out to not be the smartest idea, since after 3 cycles, it shut down for a bit. I decided to stick it out for a bit, and 10 or so minutes later, it came back up. And shortly enough, I was on.

    And WOW. This thing lives up to the hype and is insane. You get lifted / chucked out of your seat every couple of seconds. It's relentless. And yet it remains glass smooth, and even 10 years after opening, hasn't developed an infamous Intamin roughness. Yes, the extreme airtime does kill the thighs - and that does take away from the experience a little bit for me - but that's the point of the ride. Skyrush is clearly a ride designed to try its absolute best to fling you out your seat so you land into the lake, whilst not compromising and things like speed. And it makes a spectacle out of its elements: there's no mini airtime hills that you'd find on a RMC, say. It's loud and proud with what it does. There's no stand out element either, because so many elements are just incredible in their own right. I also liked the mini lapbar release it does whilst on the brake run - much appreciated.

    Given the lack of queue, I decided to run round for another ride, and got to do a back row ride. Again, bloody insane - moreso with some of the intense airtime moments too. I just about preferred the front, just for the pure thrill of getting the wind in your face, and it being slightly more comfortable. But damn, it's a bloody good ride.
    The lift hill is comically quick too

    Hopefully it's clear here that Skyrush is a ride I rate very highly. It's easily a "Top 10%-er", and even a "Top 10-er". For me, it slots nicely into the Top 5 too, slotting above Helix, but below Taron, Taiga and Untamed. Ultimately, the ride comfort is what stops it going above the others, but the craziness of the ride definitely cements its place.

    From one hyper to another, it was time to ride Sweetsmonium.
    Wait, no, I keep forgetting I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It was time to ride Candymonium.
    (I'll stop with these terrible jokes now, promise)
    I'd been keeping an eye on the ride's queue time during the day - despite not really trusting the app - and it had seesawed between 20 minutes and 180 minutes. I decided to risk it on a supposed 20 minute wait.
    This was my first experience of a "no bags in the queue line" rule, which they were being strict on. Interestingly Skyrush has the same rule, but wasn't being applied. I'm fine with the rule and like the free lockers, but it felt like there weren't enough screens and lockers, and having to wait for a locker was painful.

    After about a 30 minute wait in the warm tin shed queue, I was on. Given how slow the operations were, I dread to think what it would be like if bags were allowed in the station. I'm understanding to how hard it is to work on rides in hot conditions, but when you have a coaster running 3 trains and you have the 2 out of the station stacking every single time, something ain't quite right sadly.

    Anyways, I'd managed to bag a back row ride for my first go on Candymonium. And this was my first B&M hyper too. I was quite excited for this. Andddddddddd....it didn't live up expectations. To be honest, all I really remember from this first ride is fixating on the two trims that are on the ride. They are extremely noticeable, and it disappointed me quite a bit.

    I'll leave my review of Candymonium there for now, but note I will come back to this later!

    There was now just over an hour left before the park shut. Despite having agreed with myself I'd be back tomorrow, I wanted to try and get all creds done in one day (just to see if my original plan was possible). So I went over towards Storm Runner - arguably the last major cred in the park. It had been closed all day, but I had noticed a couple of test runs. En route to the Intamin accelerator, I found Trailblazer, the park's Arrow Mine Train, looking very shut, and with fencing blocking off the entrance. Well, there's one spite.

    There were staff stood outside Storm Runner too, that was also shut, and they said it probably wouldn't open today. I didn't press for a reason, but I wonder if it was down to the heat - I know the likes of Stealth and Rita struggle in 30C+ heat, and at 33-35C, maybe it was just too much?

    To settle that disappoint, I decided instead to ride...
    Jolly Rancher Remix
    Previously known as Sidewinder, the park's Vekoma Boomerang received a makeover for this. Because of my immeasurable disappointment about missing out on 2 creds, I didn't take any photos of it on this day.
    The retheme is nice and vibrant, and the ride gives me 'Speed of Sound at Walibi Holland' vibes: they've taken a Boomerang, added some flashing lights and loud, thumping music. The presentation for it works. The ride itself is an above average Boomerang, which is still a below average ride.

    I then ticked off the park's kiddie cred, Cocoa Cruiser, and rode the park's old skool woodie, Comet. Really these were just a quick +2 and nothing more to me, though I guess Comet was pretty neat, and also my first taste of a Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster.

    With a bit of time leftover, I rounded Day 1 off with a couple more laps on Skyrush. Still a breathtaking ride.
    I possibly could have gotten a couple more goes in, but it broke down again. Intamin, ey?

    My hastily arranged motel was only a 15 minute drive from the park, close to shops and restaurants, and was reasonably cheap. Huzzah!

    So Day 1 Hersheypark thoughts: I enjoyed the park. It was busier than I expected, and the heat was a bit much at times. It immediately gets points for the amazing Skyrush, and even though there were some rides which didn't live up to expectations, others beat expectations, so swings and roundabouts. I was certainly looking forward to a second day, getting some rerides on the good creds, and trying some of the non-cred things I missed, all in a more relaxed setting.

    I have two bugbears about Hersheypark. One is their queue lines: they are all so boring, and the coaster queues don't give you views of the rides. Two is the lack of themed audio. Their newer areas (Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land...not its official name btw) do a good job at creating a cohesive area with some neat audio bits. But really, the atmospheres in and around the stations for the likes of Skyrush, Great Bear, Fahrenheit would all be infinitely better with some loop of special audio. I know it's kinda an American thing, but still.  
    I returned to Hersheypark the next day. It was another hot one, of course, but it was a bit more overcast. I did a strange thing, and arrived at the park even earlier than yesterday though. Why, you ask? Well, to visit Chocolate World of course!

    Located outside the park, and I guess extending the exterior of their 'Chocolate Town' area, Hershey's Chocolate World is I guess the American answer to Cadbury World (not that I've ever been there, mind!). There's loads of stuff in there to do: a 4D cinema, create your own chocolate experience, plus tram tours and other things. All of that along with a huge sweet shop and a couple of food outlets. Chocolate World opens at 9am (2 hours before the park). I wasn't bothered by the upcharge stuff, but there is a free attraction:  
    Hershey's Chocolate Tour is basically a dark ride, taking you through the process of how the chocolate is made. After seeing the quality of the park's dark ride, it was nice to see how well-polished this is: lots of neat effects and animatronics, and all-in a fab little experience, definitely showcasing the place off well. The queue line serves as a walk through too, giving the history of the company. And at the end of the ride, you get a piece of Hershey's chocolate for free.

    Resisting the temptation to go round again for the sake of another freebie, I had a look round the shop to kill some time, picked up a Blueberry Muffin KitKat (which, sadly, wasn't all that nice), and then went back outside to get in line before the masses descended to wait for the park to open.

    Unlike yesterday, there was entertainment outside the gates. Well, I say entertainment, a single member of staff tried rallying some people up to get them excited, and got some kids to play a game. Or something like that, I don't know: he had a microphone, but it wasn't working. Anyways, at 10.45, he got everyone to do a countdown from 10 to 0, at which point.......nothing happened. A couple of staff behind the gates ran around panicking, wondering what was going on. I don't know what on earth was meant to be happening, seems like no one did. But in any case, this countdown to 0 did nothing, and the park opened bang on 11.

    Noting that the park felt a bit quieter, and not being in a rush to get creds, I decided to head to Candymonium first - maybe it's a morning ride? I got a front row ride and...
    Damn, that was impressive! Going in knowing a couple of the airtime hills had trims, I didn't fixate on them, and instead was able to just...sit back and enjoy. And it was just great fun: some nice floater airtime, but also some pops of ejector too. It was a class ride, and just really fun from start to finish.

    I'd've loved to jump straight back on and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold ride, but everyone was making their way over, so I decided to leave it and make my way to something new...
    Storm Runner was storm running (best pun I have, sorry), so made sense to tick it off before it got a potential long queue. This was a ride I was quite looking forward to, and it kind of lived up to the expectations. It was a nice, fast-paced ride which does what it sets out to do. It's short, but doesn't need to be any longer, as it packs in some cool elements. But at the same time, it doesn't quite hit the 'Wow' moments it should have for such a short, punchy ride.

    In part, I think it's because coasters have come along quite a bit since this was made, and so there's more modern, quirky elements out there. I can imagine that an RMC-inspired Intamin could make a much more fun Storm Runner today, for example. Also, the restraints are a bit restrictive, and do take away from the experience a bit.

    I then returned to another Intamin, Fahrenheit, for my much awaited re-ride. It provided a fun ride again, but was perhaps a bit weaker than my original ride. So it cemented it as a "good, but not great" ride for me, and probably not something I'd bother with again for the day.
    The "theme" (if you can call it that?) of Fahrenheit confused me. I get the idea of it being a 97 degree drop and using it as a temperature and angle (that's clever), but I thought the idea was it was also a 'blazing hot' ride? So why would the temperature be falling? And why am I overthinking this so much?

    Moving away from coasters, I went to something new and different:
    Mix'd Flavoured by Jolly Rancher, to give it its full name (sigh) forms part of the new Jolly Rancher Land, and is a Zamperla NebulaZ - one of these new rides which seem to slowly be becoming all the range. They're pretty neat to look at, and though I don't like spinning, I thought it looked tame enough to give it a go. Ultimately, it wasn't awful, but by the end of the cycle, I did feel queasy. The good thing is, though, is as much of a spectator ride as this is, it's still pretty fun to go on too!

    Turning my attention back to coasters, I then went for to take my reride on Great Bear. The big thing that stood out to me was that it had a much shorter queue, and I now realised how much quieter the park was compared to yesterday. Maybe not having to wait 40-ish minutes for the ride in blistering heat would make me more fond of the ride? Nope, not really. In fact, it just cemented my thoughts, and meant it was another ride I could tick off as "Don't need to ride again".

    I decided to get a snacky-American-sized lunch:
    The bucket of pulled pork chips gets my seal of approval

    Still adjusting to American-sized portions (or just eating sharing portions and not realising it), I opted away from creds for a bit. I ticked off the park's log flume, which was good fun - I particularly liked the calm looking section which was actually on a gentle slope, creating a fun few seconds, and the nice camel hump at the bottom of the drop. I then returned to Reece's Cupfusion, the park's dark ride
    I decided to try out a feature with the park's app, HPGO, which you can link up with the ride. Basically, it's a free wristband with a QR code. You can use it to load up photos, Fastpass things and all of that. But you can also scan it just before you board Cupfusion, and it then sends your score and on ride photo to the app for free.

    As you can see, I get very focused on shooters, even if their quality is patchy.
    Clearly not that good though, ranking 12th of all signed up players of the day, after only a couple of hours of park-opening.

    That's enough time without creds, so I went to GCI corner of the park to, well, reride the GCIs (ignoring the bog standard Wild Mouse and tacky spinner). A solid duo/trio of woodies there, and I found myself enjoying the Lightning side of Lightning Racer a bit more than yesterday; a good choice for 250 in the end!
    I even took a terrible photo of Lightning Racer, see!

    Something I had only learnt the previous day, and that had only truly dawned on me the previous night, is that Hersheypark has a zoo. And whilst it has its own separate ticket, you also get it included for free in your day ticket. So why not have a quick wander through I thought! It's a nice area, not too big, away from the park but not too far away, and a good way to break up the day. Didn't take any photos, but yeah, was nice.

    Anyways, it was time for creds again. And I surprised myself with how restrained I was in getting back to the one and only...
    Skyrush!

    Remember how I said yesterday they weren't enforcing the no-bags-in-queue rule? Well today they were. Eurgh, fine. Don't see the need really; the stupid station design means bags vs no bags is a mute discussion in my mind. Anyways, I got a couple more rides in, including at the back again, and it lived up to my memory from the day prior. Absolutely fantastic experience, and well and truly cemented itself as my #4.
    Not wanting to completely wreck my thighs one park in though, I left the yellow beast for now to return back to Candymonium, and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold beast. Fortunately it didn't have much of a queue, only 5-10 minutes, and I decided to mimic my ride from the previous day and go for the back row. And you know what? It was fantastic again! It was a ride that was just a ton of fun, and filled with neat airtime moments. Whatever disappointment I had yesterday had dissipated, and I truly liked this sweet ride. I went back round again and bagged another front row ride, which I guess shows my enjoyment of it.

    So now for my Candymonium review. It's a really fun ride, with lots of neat airtime moments. It's got good pacing with it too, which is great. And what I realised, most importantly, is that whilst it has trims at two different moments, those trims are needed. You still get some good airtime on them, and if they weren't there, you'd be getting airtime more akin to Skyrush's. That wouldn't be a bad thing for the ride really, but it then means you have two rides offering the exact same experience, which you don't want. The trims help differentiate Candymonium from Skyrush, and give the rides separate identities, whilst not taming down Candymonium. Huzzah!

    My one concern about Candymonium - I really enjoyed my rides where I didn't have to queue, but didn't get the same sense of fulfilment when I did queue. That could also be put down to first ride expectations. So whilst I rate Candymonium, would I be willing to queue for it? Honestly, I don't know.
    The Kisses fountain is a bit abstract, but I can see what they tried to do.

    As the photos show, the clouds had become a bit more ominous-looking after my rides on Candymonium. And sure enough, the dreaded "R" word followed....rain. It wasn't unexpected by me: the forecast did predict a short shower. But checking my weather app, it said this shower would last for a good 1-2 hours now. Bugger. Hersheypark close their big outdoor rides in the rain; certainly anything I wanted to re-ride was down. After a quick snack and think, I decided to do what a good chunk of people had done, and ride one of only two indoor rides on park. Not wanting to bother to trek to the other side of the park, I went for another go on Reece's Cupfusion...
    I got another delightful, free mugshot
    More importantly though...
    I claimed the current high score for the day...BOOM! Guy at the exit said he hadn't seen a score above 300k for a while too - whether he said that as a generic customer servicey comment thing, or if he was genuine, I don't know, but yeah. Take that everyone who visited Hersheypark on June 2nd! (I'm not competitive at all......)

    I had hoped the long wait and doing the ride would mean the rain would pass, but it didn't. It was still going strong. I really wasn't interested in doing Laff Trakk again, so I decided to wander over towards Skyrush, find somewhere undercover, and see what happens. For reference, at this point, it was about half 4, and park closed at 6. So I sat, and I waited. Rain still coming down. I don't mind the rain, but with little to do, I didn't see the point in wandering around too much aimlessly. In hindsight, now would have been a good time to do the zoo, and I could have used my earlier zoo time for rides, but oh well.

    The rain stopped a little after 5 - woohoo, the clouds have been kind! I didn't know what the rules would be exactly with rides reopening, but I hung back and waited patiently for Skyrush to come back to life. 15 minutes later, still no sign of life. Hmmmm, that's less good. Asked the staff at the entrance whether it would reopen - turns out it wasn't set to reopen for the day. Well bugger. Did it die before the rain? Was it a post-rain thing? No idea. Ah well, back to Candymonium then....
    Or not, that was also closed. And there was no committed answer as to whether it would reopen at this point.

    Other bigger rides were running around the park. But I didn't have much inclination to go on something like Great Bear or Fahrenheit again. The app listed Storm Runner as shut, though I wasn't wholly convinced. Equally though, whilst it would be nice to get a reride on it, I wasn't that fussed in tracking back and giving it a shot. So I decided to call it a day, with only 20 minutes of park time left.

    So though my visit to Hersheypark finished on a bit of a damp downer, it was still a fantastic couple of days. Skyrush and Candymonium are a great one-two punch for the park, and they have a wide variety of "good" rides too. There's obviously a solid selection of flats too, which I didn't really go on, and an included water park, which isn't my thing. So it's super well rounded too. I hope they continue going for the more 'themed area' approach, even if only lightly, as Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land are wonderful, cohesive pieces. I'd also love to see them get another indoor ride - there's definitely scope and potential for something really cool.
    Wait no, I'm in Hersheypark.
    There's definitely scope and potential for something really sweet. 

    Coming soon: Knoebels, filled with nice food...and not-so-nice spites...
  3. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Inferno for a blog entry, JoshC. goes to America - Hersheypark   
    I finally did it: I finally went to America for some creds. Before my trip at the start of June, I'd only done European parks, so it was hugely exciting.

    Before getting to it, here's a setting the scene sorta dealy.

    This trip had been a long time in the works. Early plans can be traced back to March 2021, which was going to be a Cedar Point + others trip. But that fell through. Still wanting to go out to the States for some creds, I looked at other possible ideas. I could do Orlando / California or similar, but not being a big Disney fan, their draws were weak, and I didn't really have a clue where to start with booking that sort of trip. Resorting to the easier-for-me-to-plan road trip, I quickly honed in towards flying to Philadelphia, and then hitting up some of the big parks there.

    The plan was to fly into Philly, have a day to get accustomed to the country, then do Hersheypark, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Six Flags America, Knoebels and Dorney (in one day) and Six Flags Great Adventure. There were some long journey times between the parks, but heyho, I've done long drives and was fine, so I'm sure this'll be fine.

    The build up to the trip was...hectic. The day after I landed, I was moving flat (for a new job I started last week). My mum is also in the process of moving flat, so I'd been helping her out too. I had finished my temp job only a couple of days before flying out too, which didn't give me much time to generally sort out everything in life.

    But anyway, I made my way to Heathrow bright and early...and headed to the wrong terminal. My flight was from Terminal 3...I got off the free shuttle bus at Terminal 2. D'oh! Fortunately, it's only a short walk between the terminals, and soon enough I was checked in and in a long security line. Small spoilers: the security queue was one of the longest of the trip! But soon enough, I was on the plane and ready for the 7-8hr flight.

    Long haul flying was fine for me. Wasn't quite sure how I'd find it, but my American Airlines flight was comfortable, the food was acceptable, and I was able to pass the time by watching Stranger Things 4. Soon enough, I'd landed in Philadelphia.

    And oh boy, it was hot. Midday local time and it was 35C (oops, I'm in America now, that's....95F). I'm not someone who particularly enjoys the heat (another reason why I was unsure about doing a trip to Orlando). But hey, I'd manage, America has aircon in most places, and I'd adjust soon enough...

    I collected my hire car no problems. This was actually the first time I'd ever hired a car, and my first time driving on "the other side" of the road. On top of that, it was my first time driving an automatic, and only the third different car I'd ever driven since passing my test 4 years ago. So just a few firsts. I took my time to get used to it before heading off to a nearby-ish Walmart to get some drinks and snacks. This 20 minute drive to Walmart didn't serve me well though. Driving wasn't difficult, but I made the odd little mistake and just didn't feel wholly comfortable whilst driving. I guess that's understandable and to be expected within context, but still, it played on my mind a bit.

    I carried on to my first motel of the trip and arrived in one piece. Woo, much success. But I still didn't get that comfortable feeling with driving. My excitement and elation for the trip and parks ahead turned to one of worry. "How on earth will I manage all the driving to come feeling like this?". Of course, I was hot, bothered and tired. And then thoughts came flooding into my head..."If I feel like this now, how will I feel after 8 hours outside at a park, then having to do a 1.5-2hr drive?", "How will I manage that for a week straight?", "I'm not sure if I can do this". I'm, err, not the most confident person, and I think this whole thought process shows that.

    I tried to cast these thoughts to one side and had a spot of dinner from a lovely little restaurant just opposite the motel I was at. But these thoughts played on my mind still. I tried looking at all the drives I had for the next couple of days to try and ease my concerns, but that did little to help me. The first two parks were to be Hersheypark and Kings Dominion, and they weren't a short distance apart. Knoebels and Dorney, parks much closer to Hersheypark, were shut the day after my Hershey trip, so I couldn't change the order to do shorter drives before doing longer drives.

    In the end, I got inside my head so much that I changed the trip a bit more dramatically. I hadn't booked park tickets due to my lack of organisation. Most of the motels/hotels I booked were free to cancel until 23:59 the day before arrival. So I wasn't going to lose any money.
    Gone were Kings Dominion, Busch and SFA, the three parks which were a huge drive away.
    The one motel I couldn't cancel was one which was between Dorney and SFGAd.
    So the trip changed into:
    Hersheypark: 2 days
    Knoebels
    Free day
    Dorney
    SFGAd

    It made the trip feel less daunting with the driving. It did take out a big chunk of creds, and I was particularly looking forward to Busch / Pantheon. But ultimately, in the moment, I just didn't feel I could do it. In hindsight, it all feels a bit stupid. I'm sure everything would have been fine. I got more used-to and comfortable with driving quick enough. Maybe I should have planned the trip better to build up to longer drives? Maybe I should tried hiring a car on a smaller like (like my recent Hamburg one, where I changed my mind late on about driving too)? Maybe I should have gotten out of my own head / slept on it? Maybe I should have booked everything earlier to force me to do these things? Whatever I should have done, it's done now.
     
    And now onto Day 1, which was my first day at Hersheypark...
     
    It was June 1st, and again it was hot. The drive from my motel to Hersheypark was about an hour, so I set off in good time. I passed Dutch Wonderland en route - a park which was closed on that day, but I made a note that I could possibly do it on my free day if I wanted. The drive to Hershey wasn't without stress, with my phone losing internet connection just before I was due to go on Route 283, making me very nervous I was going the wrong way. Fortunately, I rolled up at 10ish - huzzah, I was finally at my first American park!

    I really enjoyed the entrance plaza area: smart and well-presented, with the lovely view of a B&M hyper to boot. Plus, with the shop open, the hour before open flew by.

    Whilst waiting for the park to open, I realised I hadn't planned out my day at all. I knew roughly what creds the park had, but didn't know the layout of the park or anything. Candymonium was open for season pass holder ERT and right by the entrance, so that was a no-go. Skyrush is bound to be popular, so maybe not there. After a brain wave, I remembered about a particular ride which gets long queues. So whilst the masses made their way to the park's hypers and whatever else, I made a beeline to...
    Laff Trakk! Yep, my first American coaster was an indoor spinner. It was...okay. There's an attempt with theming and all that, but it just comes across as a bit tacky sadly. And the layout didn't really do it for me. So very much a one and done for me.

    Carrying on the theme of low-throughput, bog standard coasters, I ticked off the nearby Wild Mouse. It was bog standard. Jesus, I've flown 3500miles for some tacky rubbish I could have gotten at the British seaside...It's time to throw in something better. So it was time for Wildcat. GCI's first coaster - a fact I'd forgotten at the time - does have a decent layout, and is filled with some neat moments. At the same time, it does give off vibes of 'Our first coaster', but you can see what they wanted to do, and how they've refined their coasters with newer models. A decent family-thrill ride for the park.

    The park had only been open 15 minutes, and I'd ticked off 3 creds. The temperatures were soaring, so now felt like an appropriate time to ride Celsius.
    Wait, no, I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It felt like an appropriate time to ride Fahrenheit.
    An Intamin multi inversion coaster with a vertical lift and beyond vertical drop - it's either going to be amazing, or bloody dreadful right?

    It was at this point I learnt to not trust the Hersheypark app too much. The app does give queue times for all the rides, but it said Fahrenheit was only 5 minutes, despite it clearly being more. I hesitated a guess at around 20 minutes, and an update came from soon enough advertising 15 minutes. Ended up taking a nice, round 40 minutes. Ooft. Thank goodness for the misters in the queue line though - they were a godsend!

    I'll channel my inner MattN now...how was the ride? Well, it wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bloody dreadful. It fell firmly into the "good" category. The layout is surprisingly fun, and the airtime towards the end of the ride took me by surprise. The cobra roll was extremely "vibrate-y", but not in a rough way, which was...odd. I wasn't a fan of the clunky restraints though. So it was definitely good, but this was also something that really needed a reride at some point to determine just how good.

    It has a pretty colour scheme too

    I then double-backed on myself to go to the park's duelling woodies: Lightning Racer. I hadn't done them earlier as they opened late, but now seemed like a good time to pick them up. And I have to say, I really enjoyed these. Quick-paced, nice interaction with each other and great coasters in their own right. I wasn't a fan of how it seemed like the Thunder side would win every single time; seems like a bit of a flaw there.

    Whilst I didn't want to make immediate comparisons, I make it no secret that I love Joris en de Draak at Efteling, so it was hard not to. And to be honest, Lightning Racer definitely feels like an attraction that walked, so Joris could run. Joris sees what Lightning Racer does, learns from its mistakes, and refines what it does well. Hersheypark is filled with "learning GCIs" it seems.
    Aside #1: I didn't take photos of Wildcat or LR. Clearly I have something against taking bad photos of GCIs.
    Aside #2: The Lightning (right) side of Lightning Racer was my 250th. Yay.

    With the creds in that area ticked off, I went a bit more centrally into the park. With stomach grumbling, I decided to pick up a snack. Oooo, finally time to try out some American park food!! A funnel cake standard was nearby, so naturally I gravitated towards there...
    It was blooming huge! Is this just American portion sizes? Are they meant to be shared? Did I buy a sharing one? I dunno, but I wasn't going to complain.

    After eating a bit more than expected, I decided another cred might not be best straight away, instead opting for the nearby shooting darkride, Reece's Cupfusion. I like shooters, and I was intrigued by this. I was taken back a bit by the layout going up and down; thought that was a bit quirky. But the best way to describe this (from a European's standpoint) is like a discount/budget Bazyliszek at Legendia. It has screens as well as 2D props (some move, some don't). But it all feels a little bit on the cheap side, and a little bit lazy. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, and I had fun, but really, for a park of Hershey's size and grandeur, I was expecting something a bit better.

    With that done, it was time for another cred. And I opted for hopeful quality over 'just a +1', and went to Great Bear, the park's B&M invert...
    Another 40-ish minute wait for this. And I didn't really enjoy waiting for this. Obviously queueing becomes more boring when you're alone, but with no sort of themed music (just generic pop music, which was fine, but meh all the same), and limited views of anything in a painfully dull cattlepen queue, it does drain you a bit. Wasn't helped further by the fact operations were pretty poor, partially due to slow staff, partially due to people being idiots and faffing. Oh well.

    Anyways, I was on and sat near the back. What followed was a decent, albeit unremarkable, ride. It very much peters out by the end though. Before this trip, I'd ridden 4 B&M inverts: Oz'Iris, Nemesis, Black Mamba and Nemesis Inferno. These are all fantastic examples of the ride type. Great Bear is an example which shows B&M Inverts are good rides, but can also be incredibly paint-by-numbers. "Let's chuck in a big drop, a vertical loop, a zero-g roll, a corkscrew and something else, boom, there's your B&M Invert". That's possibly a little harsh, but really, that's what it is. It doesn't have the location/terrain of Nemesis and Mamba, It doesn't have the scale and 'extra-ness' of Oz'Iris. The layout isn't as polished as Inferno. It just does every part well.
    It'd be interesting to know what my reaction would be if this was my first B&M Invert. Maybe I'd rate it higher. But for me right now, whilst I enjoyed it and don't have anything overly negative to say about it (ending aside), it just doesn't do it for me.
    Following the path along, I stumbled across another cred, the comically named Sooperdooperlooper. Obviously the historical nature of the ride shouldn't be ignored, but it very much feels like a ride which was designed to have the loop and nothing else. Literally after the loop, the ride feels like it was designed by RCT's "auto complete" feature, to get the track back to the start in a weird and funky ride.

    Next up was the big attraction of Hersheypark, the famous Intamin known by Skyrush.
    Since it had a surprisingly short queue (probably about 2-3 trains' worth of wait, if that), I opted for a front row ride. This turned out to not be the smartest idea, since after 3 cycles, it shut down for a bit. I decided to stick it out for a bit, and 10 or so minutes later, it came back up. And shortly enough, I was on.

    And WOW. This thing lives up to the hype and is insane. You get lifted / chucked out of your seat every couple of seconds. It's relentless. And yet it remains glass smooth, and even 10 years after opening, hasn't developed an infamous Intamin roughness. Yes, the extreme airtime does kill the thighs - and that does take away from the experience a little bit for me - but that's the point of the ride. Skyrush is clearly a ride designed to try its absolute best to fling you out your seat so you land into the lake, whilst not compromising and things like speed. And it makes a spectacle out of its elements: there's no mini airtime hills that you'd find on a RMC, say. It's loud and proud with what it does. There's no stand out element either, because so many elements are just incredible in their own right. I also liked the mini lapbar release it does whilst on the brake run - much appreciated.

    Given the lack of queue, I decided to run round for another ride, and got to do a back row ride. Again, bloody insane - moreso with some of the intense airtime moments too. I just about preferred the front, just for the pure thrill of getting the wind in your face, and it being slightly more comfortable. But damn, it's a bloody good ride.
    The lift hill is comically quick too

    Hopefully it's clear here that Skyrush is a ride I rate very highly. It's easily a "Top 10%-er", and even a "Top 10-er". For me, it slots nicely into the Top 5 too, slotting above Helix, but below Taron, Taiga and Untamed. Ultimately, the ride comfort is what stops it going above the others, but the craziness of the ride definitely cements its place.

    From one hyper to another, it was time to ride Sweetsmonium.
    Wait, no, I keep forgetting I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It was time to ride Candymonium.
    (I'll stop with these terrible jokes now, promise)
    I'd been keeping an eye on the ride's queue time during the day - despite not really trusting the app - and it had seesawed between 20 minutes and 180 minutes. I decided to risk it on a supposed 20 minute wait.
    This was my first experience of a "no bags in the queue line" rule, which they were being strict on. Interestingly Skyrush has the same rule, but wasn't being applied. I'm fine with the rule and like the free lockers, but it felt like there weren't enough screens and lockers, and having to wait for a locker was painful.

    After about a 30 minute wait in the warm tin shed queue, I was on. Given how slow the operations were, I dread to think what it would be like if bags were allowed in the station. I'm understanding to how hard it is to work on rides in hot conditions, but when you have a coaster running 3 trains and you have the 2 out of the station stacking every single time, something ain't quite right sadly.

    Anyways, I'd managed to bag a back row ride for my first go on Candymonium. And this was my first B&M hyper too. I was quite excited for this. Andddddddddd....it didn't live up expectations. To be honest, all I really remember from this first ride is fixating on the two trims that are on the ride. They are extremely noticeable, and it disappointed me quite a bit.

    I'll leave my review of Candymonium there for now, but note I will come back to this later!

    There was now just over an hour left before the park shut. Despite having agreed with myself I'd be back tomorrow, I wanted to try and get all creds done in one day (just to see if my original plan was possible). So I went over towards Storm Runner - arguably the last major cred in the park. It had been closed all day, but I had noticed a couple of test runs. En route to the Intamin accelerator, I found Trailblazer, the park's Arrow Mine Train, looking very shut, and with fencing blocking off the entrance. Well, there's one spite.

    There were staff stood outside Storm Runner too, that was also shut, and they said it probably wouldn't open today. I didn't press for a reason, but I wonder if it was down to the heat - I know the likes of Stealth and Rita struggle in 30C+ heat, and at 33-35C, maybe it was just too much?

    To settle that disappoint, I decided instead to ride...
    Jolly Rancher Remix
    Previously known as Sidewinder, the park's Vekoma Boomerang received a makeover for this. Because of my immeasurable disappointment about missing out on 2 creds, I didn't take any photos of it on this day.
    The retheme is nice and vibrant, and the ride gives me 'Speed of Sound at Walibi Holland' vibes: they've taken a Boomerang, added some flashing lights and loud, thumping music. The presentation for it works. The ride itself is an above average Boomerang, which is still a below average ride.

    I then ticked off the park's kiddie cred, Cocoa Cruiser, and rode the park's old skool woodie, Comet. Really these were just a quick +2 and nothing more to me, though I guess Comet was pretty neat, and also my first taste of a Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster.

    With a bit of time leftover, I rounded Day 1 off with a couple more laps on Skyrush. Still a breathtaking ride.
    I possibly could have gotten a couple more goes in, but it broke down again. Intamin, ey?

    My hastily arranged motel was only a 15 minute drive from the park, close to shops and restaurants, and was reasonably cheap. Huzzah!

    So Day 1 Hersheypark thoughts: I enjoyed the park. It was busier than I expected, and the heat was a bit much at times. It immediately gets points for the amazing Skyrush, and even though there were some rides which didn't live up to expectations, others beat expectations, so swings and roundabouts. I was certainly looking forward to a second day, getting some rerides on the good creds, and trying some of the non-cred things I missed, all in a more relaxed setting.

    I have two bugbears about Hersheypark. One is their queue lines: they are all so boring, and the coaster queues don't give you views of the rides. Two is the lack of themed audio. Their newer areas (Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land...not its official name btw) do a good job at creating a cohesive area with some neat audio bits. But really, the atmospheres in and around the stations for the likes of Skyrush, Great Bear, Fahrenheit would all be infinitely better with some loop of special audio. I know it's kinda an American thing, but still.  
    I returned to Hersheypark the next day. It was another hot one, of course, but it was a bit more overcast. I did a strange thing, and arrived at the park even earlier than yesterday though. Why, you ask? Well, to visit Chocolate World of course!

    Located outside the park, and I guess extending the exterior of their 'Chocolate Town' area, Hershey's Chocolate World is I guess the American answer to Cadbury World (not that I've ever been there, mind!). There's loads of stuff in there to do: a 4D cinema, create your own chocolate experience, plus tram tours and other things. All of that along with a huge sweet shop and a couple of food outlets. Chocolate World opens at 9am (2 hours before the park). I wasn't bothered by the upcharge stuff, but there is a free attraction:  
    Hershey's Chocolate Tour is basically a dark ride, taking you through the process of how the chocolate is made. After seeing the quality of the park's dark ride, it was nice to see how well-polished this is: lots of neat effects and animatronics, and all-in a fab little experience, definitely showcasing the place off well. The queue line serves as a walk through too, giving the history of the company. And at the end of the ride, you get a piece of Hershey's chocolate for free.

    Resisting the temptation to go round again for the sake of another freebie, I had a look round the shop to kill some time, picked up a Blueberry Muffin KitKat (which, sadly, wasn't all that nice), and then went back outside to get in line before the masses descended to wait for the park to open.

    Unlike yesterday, there was entertainment outside the gates. Well, I say entertainment, a single member of staff tried rallying some people up to get them excited, and got some kids to play a game. Or something like that, I don't know: he had a microphone, but it wasn't working. Anyways, at 10.45, he got everyone to do a countdown from 10 to 0, at which point.......nothing happened. A couple of staff behind the gates ran around panicking, wondering what was going on. I don't know what on earth was meant to be happening, seems like no one did. But in any case, this countdown to 0 did nothing, and the park opened bang on 11.

    Noting that the park felt a bit quieter, and not being in a rush to get creds, I decided to head to Candymonium first - maybe it's a morning ride? I got a front row ride and...
    Damn, that was impressive! Going in knowing a couple of the airtime hills had trims, I didn't fixate on them, and instead was able to just...sit back and enjoy. And it was just great fun: some nice floater airtime, but also some pops of ejector too. It was a class ride, and just really fun from start to finish.

    I'd've loved to jump straight back on and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold ride, but everyone was making their way over, so I decided to leave it and make my way to something new...
    Storm Runner was storm running (best pun I have, sorry), so made sense to tick it off before it got a potential long queue. This was a ride I was quite looking forward to, and it kind of lived up to the expectations. It was a nice, fast-paced ride which does what it sets out to do. It's short, but doesn't need to be any longer, as it packs in some cool elements. But at the same time, it doesn't quite hit the 'Wow' moments it should have for such a short, punchy ride.

    In part, I think it's because coasters have come along quite a bit since this was made, and so there's more modern, quirky elements out there. I can imagine that an RMC-inspired Intamin could make a much more fun Storm Runner today, for example. Also, the restraints are a bit restrictive, and do take away from the experience a bit.

    I then returned to another Intamin, Fahrenheit, for my much awaited re-ride. It provided a fun ride again, but was perhaps a bit weaker than my original ride. So it cemented it as a "good, but not great" ride for me, and probably not something I'd bother with again for the day.
    The "theme" (if you can call it that?) of Fahrenheit confused me. I get the idea of it being a 97 degree drop and using it as a temperature and angle (that's clever), but I thought the idea was it was also a 'blazing hot' ride? So why would the temperature be falling? And why am I overthinking this so much?

    Moving away from coasters, I went to something new and different:
    Mix'd Flavoured by Jolly Rancher, to give it its full name (sigh) forms part of the new Jolly Rancher Land, and is a Zamperla NebulaZ - one of these new rides which seem to slowly be becoming all the range. They're pretty neat to look at, and though I don't like spinning, I thought it looked tame enough to give it a go. Ultimately, it wasn't awful, but by the end of the cycle, I did feel queasy. The good thing is, though, is as much of a spectator ride as this is, it's still pretty fun to go on too!

    Turning my attention back to coasters, I then went for to take my reride on Great Bear. The big thing that stood out to me was that it had a much shorter queue, and I now realised how much quieter the park was compared to yesterday. Maybe not having to wait 40-ish minutes for the ride in blistering heat would make me more fond of the ride? Nope, not really. In fact, it just cemented my thoughts, and meant it was another ride I could tick off as "Don't need to ride again".

    I decided to get a snacky-American-sized lunch:
    The bucket of pulled pork chips gets my seal of approval

    Still adjusting to American-sized portions (or just eating sharing portions and not realising it), I opted away from creds for a bit. I ticked off the park's log flume, which was good fun - I particularly liked the calm looking section which was actually on a gentle slope, creating a fun few seconds, and the nice camel hump at the bottom of the drop. I then returned to Reece's Cupfusion, the park's dark ride
    I decided to try out a feature with the park's app, HPGO, which you can link up with the ride. Basically, it's a free wristband with a QR code. You can use it to load up photos, Fastpass things and all of that. But you can also scan it just before you board Cupfusion, and it then sends your score and on ride photo to the app for free.

    As you can see, I get very focused on shooters, even if their quality is patchy.
    Clearly not that good though, ranking 12th of all signed up players of the day, after only a couple of hours of park-opening.

    That's enough time without creds, so I went to GCI corner of the park to, well, reride the GCIs (ignoring the bog standard Wild Mouse and tacky spinner). A solid duo/trio of woodies there, and I found myself enjoying the Lightning side of Lightning Racer a bit more than yesterday; a good choice for 250 in the end!
    I even took a terrible photo of Lightning Racer, see!

    Something I had only learnt the previous day, and that had only truly dawned on me the previous night, is that Hersheypark has a zoo. And whilst it has its own separate ticket, you also get it included for free in your day ticket. So why not have a quick wander through I thought! It's a nice area, not too big, away from the park but not too far away, and a good way to break up the day. Didn't take any photos, but yeah, was nice.

    Anyways, it was time for creds again. And I surprised myself with how restrained I was in getting back to the one and only...
    Skyrush!

    Remember how I said yesterday they weren't enforcing the no-bags-in-queue rule? Well today they were. Eurgh, fine. Don't see the need really; the stupid station design means bags vs no bags is a mute discussion in my mind. Anyways, I got a couple more rides in, including at the back again, and it lived up to my memory from the day prior. Absolutely fantastic experience, and well and truly cemented itself as my #4.
    Not wanting to completely wreck my thighs one park in though, I left the yellow beast for now to return back to Candymonium, and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold beast. Fortunately it didn't have much of a queue, only 5-10 minutes, and I decided to mimic my ride from the previous day and go for the back row. And you know what? It was fantastic again! It was a ride that was just a ton of fun, and filled with neat airtime moments. Whatever disappointment I had yesterday had dissipated, and I truly liked this sweet ride. I went back round again and bagged another front row ride, which I guess shows my enjoyment of it.

    So now for my Candymonium review. It's a really fun ride, with lots of neat airtime moments. It's got good pacing with it too, which is great. And what I realised, most importantly, is that whilst it has trims at two different moments, those trims are needed. You still get some good airtime on them, and if they weren't there, you'd be getting airtime more akin to Skyrush's. That wouldn't be a bad thing for the ride really, but it then means you have two rides offering the exact same experience, which you don't want. The trims help differentiate Candymonium from Skyrush, and give the rides separate identities, whilst not taming down Candymonium. Huzzah!

    My one concern about Candymonium - I really enjoyed my rides where I didn't have to queue, but didn't get the same sense of fulfilment when I did queue. That could also be put down to first ride expectations. So whilst I rate Candymonium, would I be willing to queue for it? Honestly, I don't know.
    The Kisses fountain is a bit abstract, but I can see what they tried to do.

    As the photos show, the clouds had become a bit more ominous-looking after my rides on Candymonium. And sure enough, the dreaded "R" word followed....rain. It wasn't unexpected by me: the forecast did predict a short shower. But checking my weather app, it said this shower would last for a good 1-2 hours now. Bugger. Hersheypark close their big outdoor rides in the rain; certainly anything I wanted to re-ride was down. After a quick snack and think, I decided to do what a good chunk of people had done, and ride one of only two indoor rides on park. Not wanting to bother to trek to the other side of the park, I went for another go on Reece's Cupfusion...
    I got another delightful, free mugshot
    More importantly though...
    I claimed the current high score for the day...BOOM! Guy at the exit said he hadn't seen a score above 300k for a while too - whether he said that as a generic customer servicey comment thing, or if he was genuine, I don't know, but yeah. Take that everyone who visited Hersheypark on June 2nd! (I'm not competitive at all......)

    I had hoped the long wait and doing the ride would mean the rain would pass, but it didn't. It was still going strong. I really wasn't interested in doing Laff Trakk again, so I decided to wander over towards Skyrush, find somewhere undercover, and see what happens. For reference, at this point, it was about half 4, and park closed at 6. So I sat, and I waited. Rain still coming down. I don't mind the rain, but with little to do, I didn't see the point in wandering around too much aimlessly. In hindsight, now would have been a good time to do the zoo, and I could have used my earlier zoo time for rides, but oh well.

    The rain stopped a little after 5 - woohoo, the clouds have been kind! I didn't know what the rules would be exactly with rides reopening, but I hung back and waited patiently for Skyrush to come back to life. 15 minutes later, still no sign of life. Hmmmm, that's less good. Asked the staff at the entrance whether it would reopen - turns out it wasn't set to reopen for the day. Well bugger. Did it die before the rain? Was it a post-rain thing? No idea. Ah well, back to Candymonium then....
    Or not, that was also closed. And there was no committed answer as to whether it would reopen at this point.

    Other bigger rides were running around the park. But I didn't have much inclination to go on something like Great Bear or Fahrenheit again. The app listed Storm Runner as shut, though I wasn't wholly convinced. Equally though, whilst it would be nice to get a reride on it, I wasn't that fussed in tracking back and giving it a shot. So I decided to call it a day, with only 20 minutes of park time left.

    So though my visit to Hersheypark finished on a bit of a damp downer, it was still a fantastic couple of days. Skyrush and Candymonium are a great one-two punch for the park, and they have a wide variety of "good" rides too. There's obviously a solid selection of flats too, which I didn't really go on, and an included water park, which isn't my thing. So it's super well rounded too. I hope they continue going for the more 'themed area' approach, even if only lightly, as Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land are wonderful, cohesive pieces. I'd also love to see them get another indoor ride - there's definitely scope and potential for something really cool.
    Wait no, I'm in Hersheypark.
    There's definitely scope and potential for something really sweet. 

    Coming soon: Knoebels, filled with nice food...and not-so-nice spites...
  4. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt Creek for a blog entry, JoshC. goes to America - Hersheypark   
    I finally did it: I finally went to America for some creds. Before my trip at the start of June, I'd only done European parks, so it was hugely exciting.

    Before getting to it, here's a setting the scene sorta dealy.

    This trip had been a long time in the works. Early plans can be traced back to March 2021, which was going to be a Cedar Point + others trip. But that fell through. Still wanting to go out to the States for some creds, I looked at other possible ideas. I could do Orlando / California or similar, but not being a big Disney fan, their draws were weak, and I didn't really have a clue where to start with booking that sort of trip. Resorting to the easier-for-me-to-plan road trip, I quickly honed in towards flying to Philadelphia, and then hitting up some of the big parks there.

    The plan was to fly into Philly, have a day to get accustomed to the country, then do Hersheypark, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Six Flags America, Knoebels and Dorney (in one day) and Six Flags Great Adventure. There were some long journey times between the parks, but heyho, I've done long drives and was fine, so I'm sure this'll be fine.

    The build up to the trip was...hectic. The day after I landed, I was moving flat (for a new job I started last week). My mum is also in the process of moving flat, so I'd been helping her out too. I had finished my temp job only a couple of days before flying out too, which didn't give me much time to generally sort out everything in life.

    But anyway, I made my way to Heathrow bright and early...and headed to the wrong terminal. My flight was from Terminal 3...I got off the free shuttle bus at Terminal 2. D'oh! Fortunately, it's only a short walk between the terminals, and soon enough I was checked in and in a long security line. Small spoilers: the security queue was one of the longest of the trip! But soon enough, I was on the plane and ready for the 7-8hr flight.

    Long haul flying was fine for me. Wasn't quite sure how I'd find it, but my American Airlines flight was comfortable, the food was acceptable, and I was able to pass the time by watching Stranger Things 4. Soon enough, I'd landed in Philadelphia.

    And oh boy, it was hot. Midday local time and it was 35C (oops, I'm in America now, that's....95F). I'm not someone who particularly enjoys the heat (another reason why I was unsure about doing a trip to Orlando). But hey, I'd manage, America has aircon in most places, and I'd adjust soon enough...

    I collected my hire car no problems. This was actually the first time I'd ever hired a car, and my first time driving on "the other side" of the road. On top of that, it was my first time driving an automatic, and only the third different car I'd ever driven since passing my test 4 years ago. So just a few firsts. I took my time to get used to it before heading off to a nearby-ish Walmart to get some drinks and snacks. This 20 minute drive to Walmart didn't serve me well though. Driving wasn't difficult, but I made the odd little mistake and just didn't feel wholly comfortable whilst driving. I guess that's understandable and to be expected within context, but still, it played on my mind a bit.

    I carried on to my first motel of the trip and arrived in one piece. Woo, much success. But I still didn't get that comfortable feeling with driving. My excitement and elation for the trip and parks ahead turned to one of worry. "How on earth will I manage all the driving to come feeling like this?". Of course, I was hot, bothered and tired. And then thoughts came flooding into my head..."If I feel like this now, how will I feel after 8 hours outside at a park, then having to do a 1.5-2hr drive?", "How will I manage that for a week straight?", "I'm not sure if I can do this". I'm, err, not the most confident person, and I think this whole thought process shows that.

    I tried to cast these thoughts to one side and had a spot of dinner from a lovely little restaurant just opposite the motel I was at. But these thoughts played on my mind still. I tried looking at all the drives I had for the next couple of days to try and ease my concerns, but that did little to help me. The first two parks were to be Hersheypark and Kings Dominion, and they weren't a short distance apart. Knoebels and Dorney, parks much closer to Hersheypark, were shut the day after my Hershey trip, so I couldn't change the order to do shorter drives before doing longer drives.

    In the end, I got inside my head so much that I changed the trip a bit more dramatically. I hadn't booked park tickets due to my lack of organisation. Most of the motels/hotels I booked were free to cancel until 23:59 the day before arrival. So I wasn't going to lose any money.
    Gone were Kings Dominion, Busch and SFA, the three parks which were a huge drive away.
    The one motel I couldn't cancel was one which was between Dorney and SFGAd.
    So the trip changed into:
    Hersheypark: 2 days
    Knoebels
    Free day
    Dorney
    SFGAd

    It made the trip feel less daunting with the driving. It did take out a big chunk of creds, and I was particularly looking forward to Busch / Pantheon. But ultimately, in the moment, I just didn't feel I could do it. In hindsight, it all feels a bit stupid. I'm sure everything would have been fine. I got more used-to and comfortable with driving quick enough. Maybe I should have planned the trip better to build up to longer drives? Maybe I should tried hiring a car on a smaller like (like my recent Hamburg one, where I changed my mind late on about driving too)? Maybe I should have gotten out of my own head / slept on it? Maybe I should have booked everything earlier to force me to do these things? Whatever I should have done, it's done now.
     
    And now onto Day 1, which was my first day at Hersheypark...
     
    It was June 1st, and again it was hot. The drive from my motel to Hersheypark was about an hour, so I set off in good time. I passed Dutch Wonderland en route - a park which was closed on that day, but I made a note that I could possibly do it on my free day if I wanted. The drive to Hershey wasn't without stress, with my phone losing internet connection just before I was due to go on Route 283, making me very nervous I was going the wrong way. Fortunately, I rolled up at 10ish - huzzah, I was finally at my first American park!

    I really enjoyed the entrance plaza area: smart and well-presented, with the lovely view of a B&M hyper to boot. Plus, with the shop open, the hour before open flew by.

    Whilst waiting for the park to open, I realised I hadn't planned out my day at all. I knew roughly what creds the park had, but didn't know the layout of the park or anything. Candymonium was open for season pass holder ERT and right by the entrance, so that was a no-go. Skyrush is bound to be popular, so maybe not there. After a brain wave, I remembered about a particular ride which gets long queues. So whilst the masses made their way to the park's hypers and whatever else, I made a beeline to...
    Laff Trakk! Yep, my first American coaster was an indoor spinner. It was...okay. There's an attempt with theming and all that, but it just comes across as a bit tacky sadly. And the layout didn't really do it for me. So very much a one and done for me.

    Carrying on the theme of low-throughput, bog standard coasters, I ticked off the nearby Wild Mouse. It was bog standard. Jesus, I've flown 3500miles for some tacky rubbish I could have gotten at the British seaside...It's time to throw in something better. So it was time for Wildcat. GCI's first coaster - a fact I'd forgotten at the time - does have a decent layout, and is filled with some neat moments. At the same time, it does give off vibes of 'Our first coaster', but you can see what they wanted to do, and how they've refined their coasters with newer models. A decent family-thrill ride for the park.

    The park had only been open 15 minutes, and I'd ticked off 3 creds. The temperatures were soaring, so now felt like an appropriate time to ride Celsius.
    Wait, no, I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It felt like an appropriate time to ride Fahrenheit.
    An Intamin multi inversion coaster with a vertical lift and beyond vertical drop - it's either going to be amazing, or bloody dreadful right?

    It was at this point I learnt to not trust the Hersheypark app too much. The app does give queue times for all the rides, but it said Fahrenheit was only 5 minutes, despite it clearly being more. I hesitated a guess at around 20 minutes, and an update came from soon enough advertising 15 minutes. Ended up taking a nice, round 40 minutes. Ooft. Thank goodness for the misters in the queue line though - they were a godsend!

    I'll channel my inner MattN now...how was the ride? Well, it wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bloody dreadful. It fell firmly into the "good" category. The layout is surprisingly fun, and the airtime towards the end of the ride took me by surprise. The cobra roll was extremely "vibrate-y", but not in a rough way, which was...odd. I wasn't a fan of the clunky restraints though. So it was definitely good, but this was also something that really needed a reride at some point to determine just how good.

    It has a pretty colour scheme too

    I then double-backed on myself to go to the park's duelling woodies: Lightning Racer. I hadn't done them earlier as they opened late, but now seemed like a good time to pick them up. And I have to say, I really enjoyed these. Quick-paced, nice interaction with each other and great coasters in their own right. I wasn't a fan of how it seemed like the Thunder side would win every single time; seems like a bit of a flaw there.

    Whilst I didn't want to make immediate comparisons, I make it no secret that I love Joris en de Draak at Efteling, so it was hard not to. And to be honest, Lightning Racer definitely feels like an attraction that walked, so Joris could run. Joris sees what Lightning Racer does, learns from its mistakes, and refines what it does well. Hersheypark is filled with "learning GCIs" it seems.
    Aside #1: I didn't take photos of Wildcat or LR. Clearly I have something against taking bad photos of GCIs.
    Aside #2: The Lightning (right) side of Lightning Racer was my 250th. Yay.

    With the creds in that area ticked off, I went a bit more centrally into the park. With stomach grumbling, I decided to pick up a snack. Oooo, finally time to try out some American park food!! A funnel cake standard was nearby, so naturally I gravitated towards there...
    It was blooming huge! Is this just American portion sizes? Are they meant to be shared? Did I buy a sharing one? I dunno, but I wasn't going to complain.

    After eating a bit more than expected, I decided another cred might not be best straight away, instead opting for the nearby shooting darkride, Reece's Cupfusion. I like shooters, and I was intrigued by this. I was taken back a bit by the layout going up and down; thought that was a bit quirky. But the best way to describe this (from a European's standpoint) is like a discount/budget Bazyliszek at Legendia. It has screens as well as 2D props (some move, some don't). But it all feels a little bit on the cheap side, and a little bit lazy. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, and I had fun, but really, for a park of Hershey's size and grandeur, I was expecting something a bit better.

    With that done, it was time for another cred. And I opted for hopeful quality over 'just a +1', and went to Great Bear, the park's B&M invert...
    Another 40-ish minute wait for this. And I didn't really enjoy waiting for this. Obviously queueing becomes more boring when you're alone, but with no sort of themed music (just generic pop music, which was fine, but meh all the same), and limited views of anything in a painfully dull cattlepen queue, it does drain you a bit. Wasn't helped further by the fact operations were pretty poor, partially due to slow staff, partially due to people being idiots and faffing. Oh well.

    Anyways, I was on and sat near the back. What followed was a decent, albeit unremarkable, ride. It very much peters out by the end though. Before this trip, I'd ridden 4 B&M inverts: Oz'Iris, Nemesis, Black Mamba and Nemesis Inferno. These are all fantastic examples of the ride type. Great Bear is an example which shows B&M Inverts are good rides, but can also be incredibly paint-by-numbers. "Let's chuck in a big drop, a vertical loop, a zero-g roll, a corkscrew and something else, boom, there's your B&M Invert". That's possibly a little harsh, but really, that's what it is. It doesn't have the location/terrain of Nemesis and Mamba, It doesn't have the scale and 'extra-ness' of Oz'Iris. The layout isn't as polished as Inferno. It just does every part well.
    It'd be interesting to know what my reaction would be if this was my first B&M Invert. Maybe I'd rate it higher. But for me right now, whilst I enjoyed it and don't have anything overly negative to say about it (ending aside), it just doesn't do it for me.
    Following the path along, I stumbled across another cred, the comically named Sooperdooperlooper. Obviously the historical nature of the ride shouldn't be ignored, but it very much feels like a ride which was designed to have the loop and nothing else. Literally after the loop, the ride feels like it was designed by RCT's "auto complete" feature, to get the track back to the start in a weird and funky ride.

    Next up was the big attraction of Hersheypark, the famous Intamin known by Skyrush.
    Since it had a surprisingly short queue (probably about 2-3 trains' worth of wait, if that), I opted for a front row ride. This turned out to not be the smartest idea, since after 3 cycles, it shut down for a bit. I decided to stick it out for a bit, and 10 or so minutes later, it came back up. And shortly enough, I was on.

    And WOW. This thing lives up to the hype and is insane. You get lifted / chucked out of your seat every couple of seconds. It's relentless. And yet it remains glass smooth, and even 10 years after opening, hasn't developed an infamous Intamin roughness. Yes, the extreme airtime does kill the thighs - and that does take away from the experience a little bit for me - but that's the point of the ride. Skyrush is clearly a ride designed to try its absolute best to fling you out your seat so you land into the lake, whilst not compromising and things like speed. And it makes a spectacle out of its elements: there's no mini airtime hills that you'd find on a RMC, say. It's loud and proud with what it does. There's no stand out element either, because so many elements are just incredible in their own right. I also liked the mini lapbar release it does whilst on the brake run - much appreciated.

    Given the lack of queue, I decided to run round for another ride, and got to do a back row ride. Again, bloody insane - moreso with some of the intense airtime moments too. I just about preferred the front, just for the pure thrill of getting the wind in your face, and it being slightly more comfortable. But damn, it's a bloody good ride.
    The lift hill is comically quick too

    Hopefully it's clear here that Skyrush is a ride I rate very highly. It's easily a "Top 10%-er", and even a "Top 10-er". For me, it slots nicely into the Top 5 too, slotting above Helix, but below Taron, Taiga and Untamed. Ultimately, the ride comfort is what stops it going above the others, but the craziness of the ride definitely cements its place.

    From one hyper to another, it was time to ride Sweetsmonium.
    Wait, no, I keep forgetting I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It was time to ride Candymonium.
    (I'll stop with these terrible jokes now, promise)
    I'd been keeping an eye on the ride's queue time during the day - despite not really trusting the app - and it had seesawed between 20 minutes and 180 minutes. I decided to risk it on a supposed 20 minute wait.
    This was my first experience of a "no bags in the queue line" rule, which they were being strict on. Interestingly Skyrush has the same rule, but wasn't being applied. I'm fine with the rule and like the free lockers, but it felt like there weren't enough screens and lockers, and having to wait for a locker was painful.

    After about a 30 minute wait in the warm tin shed queue, I was on. Given how slow the operations were, I dread to think what it would be like if bags were allowed in the station. I'm understanding to how hard it is to work on rides in hot conditions, but when you have a coaster running 3 trains and you have the 2 out of the station stacking every single time, something ain't quite right sadly.

    Anyways, I'd managed to bag a back row ride for my first go on Candymonium. And this was my first B&M hyper too. I was quite excited for this. Andddddddddd....it didn't live up expectations. To be honest, all I really remember from this first ride is fixating on the two trims that are on the ride. They are extremely noticeable, and it disappointed me quite a bit.

    I'll leave my review of Candymonium there for now, but note I will come back to this later!

    There was now just over an hour left before the park shut. Despite having agreed with myself I'd be back tomorrow, I wanted to try and get all creds done in one day (just to see if my original plan was possible). So I went over towards Storm Runner - arguably the last major cred in the park. It had been closed all day, but I had noticed a couple of test runs. En route to the Intamin accelerator, I found Trailblazer, the park's Arrow Mine Train, looking very shut, and with fencing blocking off the entrance. Well, there's one spite.

    There were staff stood outside Storm Runner too, that was also shut, and they said it probably wouldn't open today. I didn't press for a reason, but I wonder if it was down to the heat - I know the likes of Stealth and Rita struggle in 30C+ heat, and at 33-35C, maybe it was just too much?

    To settle that disappoint, I decided instead to ride...
    Jolly Rancher Remix
    Previously known as Sidewinder, the park's Vekoma Boomerang received a makeover for this. Because of my immeasurable disappointment about missing out on 2 creds, I didn't take any photos of it on this day.
    The retheme is nice and vibrant, and the ride gives me 'Speed of Sound at Walibi Holland' vibes: they've taken a Boomerang, added some flashing lights and loud, thumping music. The presentation for it works. The ride itself is an above average Boomerang, which is still a below average ride.

    I then ticked off the park's kiddie cred, Cocoa Cruiser, and rode the park's old skool woodie, Comet. Really these were just a quick +2 and nothing more to me, though I guess Comet was pretty neat, and also my first taste of a Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster.

    With a bit of time leftover, I rounded Day 1 off with a couple more laps on Skyrush. Still a breathtaking ride.
    I possibly could have gotten a couple more goes in, but it broke down again. Intamin, ey?

    My hastily arranged motel was only a 15 minute drive from the park, close to shops and restaurants, and was reasonably cheap. Huzzah!

    So Day 1 Hersheypark thoughts: I enjoyed the park. It was busier than I expected, and the heat was a bit much at times. It immediately gets points for the amazing Skyrush, and even though there were some rides which didn't live up to expectations, others beat expectations, so swings and roundabouts. I was certainly looking forward to a second day, getting some rerides on the good creds, and trying some of the non-cred things I missed, all in a more relaxed setting.

    I have two bugbears about Hersheypark. One is their queue lines: they are all so boring, and the coaster queues don't give you views of the rides. Two is the lack of themed audio. Their newer areas (Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land...not its official name btw) do a good job at creating a cohesive area with some neat audio bits. But really, the atmospheres in and around the stations for the likes of Skyrush, Great Bear, Fahrenheit would all be infinitely better with some loop of special audio. I know it's kinda an American thing, but still.  
    I returned to Hersheypark the next day. It was another hot one, of course, but it was a bit more overcast. I did a strange thing, and arrived at the park even earlier than yesterday though. Why, you ask? Well, to visit Chocolate World of course!

    Located outside the park, and I guess extending the exterior of their 'Chocolate Town' area, Hershey's Chocolate World is I guess the American answer to Cadbury World (not that I've ever been there, mind!). There's loads of stuff in there to do: a 4D cinema, create your own chocolate experience, plus tram tours and other things. All of that along with a huge sweet shop and a couple of food outlets. Chocolate World opens at 9am (2 hours before the park). I wasn't bothered by the upcharge stuff, but there is a free attraction:  
    Hershey's Chocolate Tour is basically a dark ride, taking you through the process of how the chocolate is made. After seeing the quality of the park's dark ride, it was nice to see how well-polished this is: lots of neat effects and animatronics, and all-in a fab little experience, definitely showcasing the place off well. The queue line serves as a walk through too, giving the history of the company. And at the end of the ride, you get a piece of Hershey's chocolate for free.

    Resisting the temptation to go round again for the sake of another freebie, I had a look round the shop to kill some time, picked up a Blueberry Muffin KitKat (which, sadly, wasn't all that nice), and then went back outside to get in line before the masses descended to wait for the park to open.

    Unlike yesterday, there was entertainment outside the gates. Well, I say entertainment, a single member of staff tried rallying some people up to get them excited, and got some kids to play a game. Or something like that, I don't know: he had a microphone, but it wasn't working. Anyways, at 10.45, he got everyone to do a countdown from 10 to 0, at which point.......nothing happened. A couple of staff behind the gates ran around panicking, wondering what was going on. I don't know what on earth was meant to be happening, seems like no one did. But in any case, this countdown to 0 did nothing, and the park opened bang on 11.

    Noting that the park felt a bit quieter, and not being in a rush to get creds, I decided to head to Candymonium first - maybe it's a morning ride? I got a front row ride and...
    Damn, that was impressive! Going in knowing a couple of the airtime hills had trims, I didn't fixate on them, and instead was able to just...sit back and enjoy. And it was just great fun: some nice floater airtime, but also some pops of ejector too. It was a class ride, and just really fun from start to finish.

    I'd've loved to jump straight back on and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold ride, but everyone was making their way over, so I decided to leave it and make my way to something new...
    Storm Runner was storm running (best pun I have, sorry), so made sense to tick it off before it got a potential long queue. This was a ride I was quite looking forward to, and it kind of lived up to the expectations. It was a nice, fast-paced ride which does what it sets out to do. It's short, but doesn't need to be any longer, as it packs in some cool elements. But at the same time, it doesn't quite hit the 'Wow' moments it should have for such a short, punchy ride.

    In part, I think it's because coasters have come along quite a bit since this was made, and so there's more modern, quirky elements out there. I can imagine that an RMC-inspired Intamin could make a much more fun Storm Runner today, for example. Also, the restraints are a bit restrictive, and do take away from the experience a bit.

    I then returned to another Intamin, Fahrenheit, for my much awaited re-ride. It provided a fun ride again, but was perhaps a bit weaker than my original ride. So it cemented it as a "good, but not great" ride for me, and probably not something I'd bother with again for the day.
    The "theme" (if you can call it that?) of Fahrenheit confused me. I get the idea of it being a 97 degree drop and using it as a temperature and angle (that's clever), but I thought the idea was it was also a 'blazing hot' ride? So why would the temperature be falling? And why am I overthinking this so much?

    Moving away from coasters, I went to something new and different:
    Mix'd Flavoured by Jolly Rancher, to give it its full name (sigh) forms part of the new Jolly Rancher Land, and is a Zamperla NebulaZ - one of these new rides which seem to slowly be becoming all the range. They're pretty neat to look at, and though I don't like spinning, I thought it looked tame enough to give it a go. Ultimately, it wasn't awful, but by the end of the cycle, I did feel queasy. The good thing is, though, is as much of a spectator ride as this is, it's still pretty fun to go on too!

    Turning my attention back to coasters, I then went for to take my reride on Great Bear. The big thing that stood out to me was that it had a much shorter queue, and I now realised how much quieter the park was compared to yesterday. Maybe not having to wait 40-ish minutes for the ride in blistering heat would make me more fond of the ride? Nope, not really. In fact, it just cemented my thoughts, and meant it was another ride I could tick off as "Don't need to ride again".

    I decided to get a snacky-American-sized lunch:
    The bucket of pulled pork chips gets my seal of approval

    Still adjusting to American-sized portions (or just eating sharing portions and not realising it), I opted away from creds for a bit. I ticked off the park's log flume, which was good fun - I particularly liked the calm looking section which was actually on a gentle slope, creating a fun few seconds, and the nice camel hump at the bottom of the drop. I then returned to Reece's Cupfusion, the park's dark ride
    I decided to try out a feature with the park's app, HPGO, which you can link up with the ride. Basically, it's a free wristband with a QR code. You can use it to load up photos, Fastpass things and all of that. But you can also scan it just before you board Cupfusion, and it then sends your score and on ride photo to the app for free.

    As you can see, I get very focused on shooters, even if their quality is patchy.
    Clearly not that good though, ranking 12th of all signed up players of the day, after only a couple of hours of park-opening.

    That's enough time without creds, so I went to GCI corner of the park to, well, reride the GCIs (ignoring the bog standard Wild Mouse and tacky spinner). A solid duo/trio of woodies there, and I found myself enjoying the Lightning side of Lightning Racer a bit more than yesterday; a good choice for 250 in the end!
    I even took a terrible photo of Lightning Racer, see!

    Something I had only learnt the previous day, and that had only truly dawned on me the previous night, is that Hersheypark has a zoo. And whilst it has its own separate ticket, you also get it included for free in your day ticket. So why not have a quick wander through I thought! It's a nice area, not too big, away from the park but not too far away, and a good way to break up the day. Didn't take any photos, but yeah, was nice.

    Anyways, it was time for creds again. And I surprised myself with how restrained I was in getting back to the one and only...
    Skyrush!

    Remember how I said yesterday they weren't enforcing the no-bags-in-queue rule? Well today they were. Eurgh, fine. Don't see the need really; the stupid station design means bags vs no bags is a mute discussion in my mind. Anyways, I got a couple more rides in, including at the back again, and it lived up to my memory from the day prior. Absolutely fantastic experience, and well and truly cemented itself as my #4.
    Not wanting to completely wreck my thighs one park in though, I left the yellow beast for now to return back to Candymonium, and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold beast. Fortunately it didn't have much of a queue, only 5-10 minutes, and I decided to mimic my ride from the previous day and go for the back row. And you know what? It was fantastic again! It was a ride that was just a ton of fun, and filled with neat airtime moments. Whatever disappointment I had yesterday had dissipated, and I truly liked this sweet ride. I went back round again and bagged another front row ride, which I guess shows my enjoyment of it.

    So now for my Candymonium review. It's a really fun ride, with lots of neat airtime moments. It's got good pacing with it too, which is great. And what I realised, most importantly, is that whilst it has trims at two different moments, those trims are needed. You still get some good airtime on them, and if they weren't there, you'd be getting airtime more akin to Skyrush's. That wouldn't be a bad thing for the ride really, but it then means you have two rides offering the exact same experience, which you don't want. The trims help differentiate Candymonium from Skyrush, and give the rides separate identities, whilst not taming down Candymonium. Huzzah!

    My one concern about Candymonium - I really enjoyed my rides where I didn't have to queue, but didn't get the same sense of fulfilment when I did queue. That could also be put down to first ride expectations. So whilst I rate Candymonium, would I be willing to queue for it? Honestly, I don't know.
    The Kisses fountain is a bit abstract, but I can see what they tried to do.

    As the photos show, the clouds had become a bit more ominous-looking after my rides on Candymonium. And sure enough, the dreaded "R" word followed....rain. It wasn't unexpected by me: the forecast did predict a short shower. But checking my weather app, it said this shower would last for a good 1-2 hours now. Bugger. Hersheypark close their big outdoor rides in the rain; certainly anything I wanted to re-ride was down. After a quick snack and think, I decided to do what a good chunk of people had done, and ride one of only two indoor rides on park. Not wanting to bother to trek to the other side of the park, I went for another go on Reece's Cupfusion...
    I got another delightful, free mugshot
    More importantly though...
    I claimed the current high score for the day...BOOM! Guy at the exit said he hadn't seen a score above 300k for a while too - whether he said that as a generic customer servicey comment thing, or if he was genuine, I don't know, but yeah. Take that everyone who visited Hersheypark on June 2nd! (I'm not competitive at all......)

    I had hoped the long wait and doing the ride would mean the rain would pass, but it didn't. It was still going strong. I really wasn't interested in doing Laff Trakk again, so I decided to wander over towards Skyrush, find somewhere undercover, and see what happens. For reference, at this point, it was about half 4, and park closed at 6. So I sat, and I waited. Rain still coming down. I don't mind the rain, but with little to do, I didn't see the point in wandering around too much aimlessly. In hindsight, now would have been a good time to do the zoo, and I could have used my earlier zoo time for rides, but oh well.

    The rain stopped a little after 5 - woohoo, the clouds have been kind! I didn't know what the rules would be exactly with rides reopening, but I hung back and waited patiently for Skyrush to come back to life. 15 minutes later, still no sign of life. Hmmmm, that's less good. Asked the staff at the entrance whether it would reopen - turns out it wasn't set to reopen for the day. Well bugger. Did it die before the rain? Was it a post-rain thing? No idea. Ah well, back to Candymonium then....
    Or not, that was also closed. And there was no committed answer as to whether it would reopen at this point.

    Other bigger rides were running around the park. But I didn't have much inclination to go on something like Great Bear or Fahrenheit again. The app listed Storm Runner as shut, though I wasn't wholly convinced. Equally though, whilst it would be nice to get a reride on it, I wasn't that fussed in tracking back and giving it a shot. So I decided to call it a day, with only 20 minutes of park time left.

    So though my visit to Hersheypark finished on a bit of a damp downer, it was still a fantastic couple of days. Skyrush and Candymonium are a great one-two punch for the park, and they have a wide variety of "good" rides too. There's obviously a solid selection of flats too, which I didn't really go on, and an included water park, which isn't my thing. So it's super well rounded too. I hope they continue going for the more 'themed area' approach, even if only lightly, as Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land are wonderful, cohesive pieces. I'd also love to see them get another indoor ride - there's definitely scope and potential for something really cool.
    Wait no, I'm in Hersheypark.
    There's definitely scope and potential for something really sweet. 

    Coming soon: Knoebels, filled with nice food...and not-so-nice spites...
  5. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt N for a blog entry, JoshC. goes to America - Hersheypark   
    I finally did it: I finally went to America for some creds. Before my trip at the start of June, I'd only done European parks, so it was hugely exciting.

    Before getting to it, here's a setting the scene sorta dealy.

    This trip had been a long time in the works. Early plans can be traced back to March 2021, which was going to be a Cedar Point + others trip. But that fell through. Still wanting to go out to the States for some creds, I looked at other possible ideas. I could do Orlando / California or similar, but not being a big Disney fan, their draws were weak, and I didn't really have a clue where to start with booking that sort of trip. Resorting to the easier-for-me-to-plan road trip, I quickly honed in towards flying to Philadelphia, and then hitting up some of the big parks there.

    The plan was to fly into Philly, have a day to get accustomed to the country, then do Hersheypark, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Six Flags America, Knoebels and Dorney (in one day) and Six Flags Great Adventure. There were some long journey times between the parks, but heyho, I've done long drives and was fine, so I'm sure this'll be fine.

    The build up to the trip was...hectic. The day after I landed, I was moving flat (for a new job I started last week). My mum is also in the process of moving flat, so I'd been helping her out too. I had finished my temp job only a couple of days before flying out too, which didn't give me much time to generally sort out everything in life.

    But anyway, I made my way to Heathrow bright and early...and headed to the wrong terminal. My flight was from Terminal 3...I got off the free shuttle bus at Terminal 2. D'oh! Fortunately, it's only a short walk between the terminals, and soon enough I was checked in and in a long security line. Small spoilers: the security queue was one of the longest of the trip! But soon enough, I was on the plane and ready for the 7-8hr flight.

    Long haul flying was fine for me. Wasn't quite sure how I'd find it, but my American Airlines flight was comfortable, the food was acceptable, and I was able to pass the time by watching Stranger Things 4. Soon enough, I'd landed in Philadelphia.

    And oh boy, it was hot. Midday local time and it was 35C (oops, I'm in America now, that's....95F). I'm not someone who particularly enjoys the heat (another reason why I was unsure about doing a trip to Orlando). But hey, I'd manage, America has aircon in most places, and I'd adjust soon enough...

    I collected my hire car no problems. This was actually the first time I'd ever hired a car, and my first time driving on "the other side" of the road. On top of that, it was my first time driving an automatic, and only the third different car I'd ever driven since passing my test 4 years ago. So just a few firsts. I took my time to get used to it before heading off to a nearby-ish Walmart to get some drinks and snacks. This 20 minute drive to Walmart didn't serve me well though. Driving wasn't difficult, but I made the odd little mistake and just didn't feel wholly comfortable whilst driving. I guess that's understandable and to be expected within context, but still, it played on my mind a bit.

    I carried on to my first motel of the trip and arrived in one piece. Woo, much success. But I still didn't get that comfortable feeling with driving. My excitement and elation for the trip and parks ahead turned to one of worry. "How on earth will I manage all the driving to come feeling like this?". Of course, I was hot, bothered and tired. And then thoughts came flooding into my head..."If I feel like this now, how will I feel after 8 hours outside at a park, then having to do a 1.5-2hr drive?", "How will I manage that for a week straight?", "I'm not sure if I can do this". I'm, err, not the most confident person, and I think this whole thought process shows that.

    I tried to cast these thoughts to one side and had a spot of dinner from a lovely little restaurant just opposite the motel I was at. But these thoughts played on my mind still. I tried looking at all the drives I had for the next couple of days to try and ease my concerns, but that did little to help me. The first two parks were to be Hersheypark and Kings Dominion, and they weren't a short distance apart. Knoebels and Dorney, parks much closer to Hersheypark, were shut the day after my Hershey trip, so I couldn't change the order to do shorter drives before doing longer drives.

    In the end, I got inside my head so much that I changed the trip a bit more dramatically. I hadn't booked park tickets due to my lack of organisation. Most of the motels/hotels I booked were free to cancel until 23:59 the day before arrival. So I wasn't going to lose any money.
    Gone were Kings Dominion, Busch and SFA, the three parks which were a huge drive away.
    The one motel I couldn't cancel was one which was between Dorney and SFGAd.
    So the trip changed into:
    Hersheypark: 2 days
    Knoebels
    Free day
    Dorney
    SFGAd

    It made the trip feel less daunting with the driving. It did take out a big chunk of creds, and I was particularly looking forward to Busch / Pantheon. But ultimately, in the moment, I just didn't feel I could do it. In hindsight, it all feels a bit stupid. I'm sure everything would have been fine. I got more used-to and comfortable with driving quick enough. Maybe I should have planned the trip better to build up to longer drives? Maybe I should tried hiring a car on a smaller like (like my recent Hamburg one, where I changed my mind late on about driving too)? Maybe I should have gotten out of my own head / slept on it? Maybe I should have booked everything earlier to force me to do these things? Whatever I should have done, it's done now.
     
    And now onto Day 1, which was my first day at Hersheypark...
     
    It was June 1st, and again it was hot. The drive from my motel to Hersheypark was about an hour, so I set off in good time. I passed Dutch Wonderland en route - a park which was closed on that day, but I made a note that I could possibly do it on my free day if I wanted. The drive to Hershey wasn't without stress, with my phone losing internet connection just before I was due to go on Route 283, making me very nervous I was going the wrong way. Fortunately, I rolled up at 10ish - huzzah, I was finally at my first American park!

    I really enjoyed the entrance plaza area: smart and well-presented, with the lovely view of a B&M hyper to boot. Plus, with the shop open, the hour before open flew by.

    Whilst waiting for the park to open, I realised I hadn't planned out my day at all. I knew roughly what creds the park had, but didn't know the layout of the park or anything. Candymonium was open for season pass holder ERT and right by the entrance, so that was a no-go. Skyrush is bound to be popular, so maybe not there. After a brain wave, I remembered about a particular ride which gets long queues. So whilst the masses made their way to the park's hypers and whatever else, I made a beeline to...
    Laff Trakk! Yep, my first American coaster was an indoor spinner. It was...okay. There's an attempt with theming and all that, but it just comes across as a bit tacky sadly. And the layout didn't really do it for me. So very much a one and done for me.

    Carrying on the theme of low-throughput, bog standard coasters, I ticked off the nearby Wild Mouse. It was bog standard. Jesus, I've flown 3500miles for some tacky rubbish I could have gotten at the British seaside...It's time to throw in something better. So it was time for Wildcat. GCI's first coaster - a fact I'd forgotten at the time - does have a decent layout, and is filled with some neat moments. At the same time, it does give off vibes of 'Our first coaster', but you can see what they wanted to do, and how they've refined their coasters with newer models. A decent family-thrill ride for the park.

    The park had only been open 15 minutes, and I'd ticked off 3 creds. The temperatures were soaring, so now felt like an appropriate time to ride Celsius.
    Wait, no, I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It felt like an appropriate time to ride Fahrenheit.
    An Intamin multi inversion coaster with a vertical lift and beyond vertical drop - it's either going to be amazing, or bloody dreadful right?

    It was at this point I learnt to not trust the Hersheypark app too much. The app does give queue times for all the rides, but it said Fahrenheit was only 5 minutes, despite it clearly being more. I hesitated a guess at around 20 minutes, and an update came from soon enough advertising 15 minutes. Ended up taking a nice, round 40 minutes. Ooft. Thank goodness for the misters in the queue line though - they were a godsend!

    I'll channel my inner MattN now...how was the ride? Well, it wasn't amazing, but it wasn't bloody dreadful. It fell firmly into the "good" category. The layout is surprisingly fun, and the airtime towards the end of the ride took me by surprise. The cobra roll was extremely "vibrate-y", but not in a rough way, which was...odd. I wasn't a fan of the clunky restraints though. So it was definitely good, but this was also something that really needed a reride at some point to determine just how good.

    It has a pretty colour scheme too

    I then double-backed on myself to go to the park's duelling woodies: Lightning Racer. I hadn't done them earlier as they opened late, but now seemed like a good time to pick them up. And I have to say, I really enjoyed these. Quick-paced, nice interaction with each other and great coasters in their own right. I wasn't a fan of how it seemed like the Thunder side would win every single time; seems like a bit of a flaw there.

    Whilst I didn't want to make immediate comparisons, I make it no secret that I love Joris en de Draak at Efteling, so it was hard not to. And to be honest, Lightning Racer definitely feels like an attraction that walked, so Joris could run. Joris sees what Lightning Racer does, learns from its mistakes, and refines what it does well. Hersheypark is filled with "learning GCIs" it seems.
    Aside #1: I didn't take photos of Wildcat or LR. Clearly I have something against taking bad photos of GCIs.
    Aside #2: The Lightning (right) side of Lightning Racer was my 250th. Yay.

    With the creds in that area ticked off, I went a bit more centrally into the park. With stomach grumbling, I decided to pick up a snack. Oooo, finally time to try out some American park food!! A funnel cake standard was nearby, so naturally I gravitated towards there...
    It was blooming huge! Is this just American portion sizes? Are they meant to be shared? Did I buy a sharing one? I dunno, but I wasn't going to complain.

    After eating a bit more than expected, I decided another cred might not be best straight away, instead opting for the nearby shooting darkride, Reece's Cupfusion. I like shooters, and I was intrigued by this. I was taken back a bit by the layout going up and down; thought that was a bit quirky. But the best way to describe this (from a European's standpoint) is like a discount/budget Bazyliszek at Legendia. It has screens as well as 2D props (some move, some don't). But it all feels a little bit on the cheap side, and a little bit lazy. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad, and I had fun, but really, for a park of Hershey's size and grandeur, I was expecting something a bit better.

    With that done, it was time for another cred. And I opted for hopeful quality over 'just a +1', and went to Great Bear, the park's B&M invert...
    Another 40-ish minute wait for this. And I didn't really enjoy waiting for this. Obviously queueing becomes more boring when you're alone, but with no sort of themed music (just generic pop music, which was fine, but meh all the same), and limited views of anything in a painfully dull cattlepen queue, it does drain you a bit. Wasn't helped further by the fact operations were pretty poor, partially due to slow staff, partially due to people being idiots and faffing. Oh well.

    Anyways, I was on and sat near the back. What followed was a decent, albeit unremarkable, ride. It very much peters out by the end though. Before this trip, I'd ridden 4 B&M inverts: Oz'Iris, Nemesis, Black Mamba and Nemesis Inferno. These are all fantastic examples of the ride type. Great Bear is an example which shows B&M Inverts are good rides, but can also be incredibly paint-by-numbers. "Let's chuck in a big drop, a vertical loop, a zero-g roll, a corkscrew and something else, boom, there's your B&M Invert". That's possibly a little harsh, but really, that's what it is. It doesn't have the location/terrain of Nemesis and Mamba, It doesn't have the scale and 'extra-ness' of Oz'Iris. The layout isn't as polished as Inferno. It just does every part well.
    It'd be interesting to know what my reaction would be if this was my first B&M Invert. Maybe I'd rate it higher. But for me right now, whilst I enjoyed it and don't have anything overly negative to say about it (ending aside), it just doesn't do it for me.
    Following the path along, I stumbled across another cred, the comically named Sooperdooperlooper. Obviously the historical nature of the ride shouldn't be ignored, but it very much feels like a ride which was designed to have the loop and nothing else. Literally after the loop, the ride feels like it was designed by RCT's "auto complete" feature, to get the track back to the start in a weird and funky ride.

    Next up was the big attraction of Hersheypark, the famous Intamin known by Skyrush.
    Since it had a surprisingly short queue (probably about 2-3 trains' worth of wait, if that), I opted for a front row ride. This turned out to not be the smartest idea, since after 3 cycles, it shut down for a bit. I decided to stick it out for a bit, and 10 or so minutes later, it came back up. And shortly enough, I was on.

    And WOW. This thing lives up to the hype and is insane. You get lifted / chucked out of your seat every couple of seconds. It's relentless. And yet it remains glass smooth, and even 10 years after opening, hasn't developed an infamous Intamin roughness. Yes, the extreme airtime does kill the thighs - and that does take away from the experience a little bit for me - but that's the point of the ride. Skyrush is clearly a ride designed to try its absolute best to fling you out your seat so you land into the lake, whilst not compromising and things like speed. And it makes a spectacle out of its elements: there's no mini airtime hills that you'd find on a RMC, say. It's loud and proud with what it does. There's no stand out element either, because so many elements are just incredible in their own right. I also liked the mini lapbar release it does whilst on the brake run - much appreciated.

    Given the lack of queue, I decided to run round for another ride, and got to do a back row ride. Again, bloody insane - moreso with some of the intense airtime moments too. I just about preferred the front, just for the pure thrill of getting the wind in your face, and it being slightly more comfortable. But damn, it's a bloody good ride.
    The lift hill is comically quick too

    Hopefully it's clear here that Skyrush is a ride I rate very highly. It's easily a "Top 10%-er", and even a "Top 10-er". For me, it slots nicely into the Top 5 too, slotting above Helix, but below Taron, Taiga and Untamed. Ultimately, the ride comfort is what stops it going above the others, but the craziness of the ride definitely cements its place.

    From one hyper to another, it was time to ride Sweetsmonium.
    Wait, no, I keep forgetting I'm in America. Let me try that again.
    It was time to ride Candymonium.
    (I'll stop with these terrible jokes now, promise)
    I'd been keeping an eye on the ride's queue time during the day - despite not really trusting the app - and it had seesawed between 20 minutes and 180 minutes. I decided to risk it on a supposed 20 minute wait.
    This was my first experience of a "no bags in the queue line" rule, which they were being strict on. Interestingly Skyrush has the same rule, but wasn't being applied. I'm fine with the rule and like the free lockers, but it felt like there weren't enough screens and lockers, and having to wait for a locker was painful.

    After about a 30 minute wait in the warm tin shed queue, I was on. Given how slow the operations were, I dread to think what it would be like if bags were allowed in the station. I'm understanding to how hard it is to work on rides in hot conditions, but when you have a coaster running 3 trains and you have the 2 out of the station stacking every single time, something ain't quite right sadly.

    Anyways, I'd managed to bag a back row ride for my first go on Candymonium. And this was my first B&M hyper too. I was quite excited for this. Andddddddddd....it didn't live up expectations. To be honest, all I really remember from this first ride is fixating on the two trims that are on the ride. They are extremely noticeable, and it disappointed me quite a bit.

    I'll leave my review of Candymonium there for now, but note I will come back to this later!

    There was now just over an hour left before the park shut. Despite having agreed with myself I'd be back tomorrow, I wanted to try and get all creds done in one day (just to see if my original plan was possible). So I went over towards Storm Runner - arguably the last major cred in the park. It had been closed all day, but I had noticed a couple of test runs. En route to the Intamin accelerator, I found Trailblazer, the park's Arrow Mine Train, looking very shut, and with fencing blocking off the entrance. Well, there's one spite.

    There were staff stood outside Storm Runner too, that was also shut, and they said it probably wouldn't open today. I didn't press for a reason, but I wonder if it was down to the heat - I know the likes of Stealth and Rita struggle in 30C+ heat, and at 33-35C, maybe it was just too much?

    To settle that disappoint, I decided instead to ride...
    Jolly Rancher Remix
    Previously known as Sidewinder, the park's Vekoma Boomerang received a makeover for this. Because of my immeasurable disappointment about missing out on 2 creds, I didn't take any photos of it on this day.
    The retheme is nice and vibrant, and the ride gives me 'Speed of Sound at Walibi Holland' vibes: they've taken a Boomerang, added some flashing lights and loud, thumping music. The presentation for it works. The ride itself is an above average Boomerang, which is still a below average ride.

    I then ticked off the park's kiddie cred, Cocoa Cruiser, and rode the park's old skool woodie, Comet. Really these were just a quick +2 and nothing more to me, though I guess Comet was pretty neat, and also my first taste of a Philadelphia Toboggan Coaster.

    With a bit of time leftover, I rounded Day 1 off with a couple more laps on Skyrush. Still a breathtaking ride.
    I possibly could have gotten a couple more goes in, but it broke down again. Intamin, ey?

    My hastily arranged motel was only a 15 minute drive from the park, close to shops and restaurants, and was reasonably cheap. Huzzah!

    So Day 1 Hersheypark thoughts: I enjoyed the park. It was busier than I expected, and the heat was a bit much at times. It immediately gets points for the amazing Skyrush, and even though there were some rides which didn't live up to expectations, others beat expectations, so swings and roundabouts. I was certainly looking forward to a second day, getting some rerides on the good creds, and trying some of the non-cred things I missed, all in a more relaxed setting.

    I have two bugbears about Hersheypark. One is their queue lines: they are all so boring, and the coaster queues don't give you views of the rides. Two is the lack of themed audio. Their newer areas (Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land...not its official name btw) do a good job at creating a cohesive area with some neat audio bits. But really, the atmospheres in and around the stations for the likes of Skyrush, Great Bear, Fahrenheit would all be infinitely better with some loop of special audio. I know it's kinda an American thing, but still.  
    I returned to Hersheypark the next day. It was another hot one, of course, but it was a bit more overcast. I did a strange thing, and arrived at the park even earlier than yesterday though. Why, you ask? Well, to visit Chocolate World of course!

    Located outside the park, and I guess extending the exterior of their 'Chocolate Town' area, Hershey's Chocolate World is I guess the American answer to Cadbury World (not that I've ever been there, mind!). There's loads of stuff in there to do: a 4D cinema, create your own chocolate experience, plus tram tours and other things. All of that along with a huge sweet shop and a couple of food outlets. Chocolate World opens at 9am (2 hours before the park). I wasn't bothered by the upcharge stuff, but there is a free attraction:  
    Hershey's Chocolate Tour is basically a dark ride, taking you through the process of how the chocolate is made. After seeing the quality of the park's dark ride, it was nice to see how well-polished this is: lots of neat effects and animatronics, and all-in a fab little experience, definitely showcasing the place off well. The queue line serves as a walk through too, giving the history of the company. And at the end of the ride, you get a piece of Hershey's chocolate for free.

    Resisting the temptation to go round again for the sake of another freebie, I had a look round the shop to kill some time, picked up a Blueberry Muffin KitKat (which, sadly, wasn't all that nice), and then went back outside to get in line before the masses descended to wait for the park to open.

    Unlike yesterday, there was entertainment outside the gates. Well, I say entertainment, a single member of staff tried rallying some people up to get them excited, and got some kids to play a game. Or something like that, I don't know: he had a microphone, but it wasn't working. Anyways, at 10.45, he got everyone to do a countdown from 10 to 0, at which point.......nothing happened. A couple of staff behind the gates ran around panicking, wondering what was going on. I don't know what on earth was meant to be happening, seems like no one did. But in any case, this countdown to 0 did nothing, and the park opened bang on 11.

    Noting that the park felt a bit quieter, and not being in a rush to get creds, I decided to head to Candymonium first - maybe it's a morning ride? I got a front row ride and...
    Damn, that was impressive! Going in knowing a couple of the airtime hills had trims, I didn't fixate on them, and instead was able to just...sit back and enjoy. And it was just great fun: some nice floater airtime, but also some pops of ejector too. It was a class ride, and just really fun from start to finish.

    I'd've loved to jump straight back on and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold ride, but everyone was making their way over, so I decided to leave it and make my way to something new...
    Storm Runner was storm running (best pun I have, sorry), so made sense to tick it off before it got a potential long queue. This was a ride I was quite looking forward to, and it kind of lived up to the expectations. It was a nice, fast-paced ride which does what it sets out to do. It's short, but doesn't need to be any longer, as it packs in some cool elements. But at the same time, it doesn't quite hit the 'Wow' moments it should have for such a short, punchy ride.

    In part, I think it's because coasters have come along quite a bit since this was made, and so there's more modern, quirky elements out there. I can imagine that an RMC-inspired Intamin could make a much more fun Storm Runner today, for example. Also, the restraints are a bit restrictive, and do take away from the experience a bit.

    I then returned to another Intamin, Fahrenheit, for my much awaited re-ride. It provided a fun ride again, but was perhaps a bit weaker than my original ride. So it cemented it as a "good, but not great" ride for me, and probably not something I'd bother with again for the day.
    The "theme" (if you can call it that?) of Fahrenheit confused me. I get the idea of it being a 97 degree drop and using it as a temperature and angle (that's clever), but I thought the idea was it was also a 'blazing hot' ride? So why would the temperature be falling? And why am I overthinking this so much?

    Moving away from coasters, I went to something new and different:
    Mix'd Flavoured by Jolly Rancher, to give it its full name (sigh) forms part of the new Jolly Rancher Land, and is a Zamperla NebulaZ - one of these new rides which seem to slowly be becoming all the range. They're pretty neat to look at, and though I don't like spinning, I thought it looked tame enough to give it a go. Ultimately, it wasn't awful, but by the end of the cycle, I did feel queasy. The good thing is, though, is as much of a spectator ride as this is, it's still pretty fun to go on too!

    Turning my attention back to coasters, I then went for to take my reride on Great Bear. The big thing that stood out to me was that it had a much shorter queue, and I now realised how much quieter the park was compared to yesterday. Maybe not having to wait 40-ish minutes for the ride in blistering heat would make me more fond of the ride? Nope, not really. In fact, it just cemented my thoughts, and meant it was another ride I could tick off as "Don't need to ride again".

    I decided to get a snacky-American-sized lunch:
    The bucket of pulled pork chips gets my seal of approval

    Still adjusting to American-sized portions (or just eating sharing portions and not realising it), I opted away from creds for a bit. I ticked off the park's log flume, which was good fun - I particularly liked the calm looking section which was actually on a gentle slope, creating a fun few seconds, and the nice camel hump at the bottom of the drop. I then returned to Reece's Cupfusion, the park's dark ride
    I decided to try out a feature with the park's app, HPGO, which you can link up with the ride. Basically, it's a free wristband with a QR code. You can use it to load up photos, Fastpass things and all of that. But you can also scan it just before you board Cupfusion, and it then sends your score and on ride photo to the app for free.

    As you can see, I get very focused on shooters, even if their quality is patchy.
    Clearly not that good though, ranking 12th of all signed up players of the day, after only a couple of hours of park-opening.

    That's enough time without creds, so I went to GCI corner of the park to, well, reride the GCIs (ignoring the bog standard Wild Mouse and tacky spinner). A solid duo/trio of woodies there, and I found myself enjoying the Lightning side of Lightning Racer a bit more than yesterday; a good choice for 250 in the end!
    I even took a terrible photo of Lightning Racer, see!

    Something I had only learnt the previous day, and that had only truly dawned on me the previous night, is that Hersheypark has a zoo. And whilst it has its own separate ticket, you also get it included for free in your day ticket. So why not have a quick wander through I thought! It's a nice area, not too big, away from the park but not too far away, and a good way to break up the day. Didn't take any photos, but yeah, was nice.

    Anyways, it was time for creds again. And I surprised myself with how restrained I was in getting back to the one and only...
    Skyrush!

    Remember how I said yesterday they weren't enforcing the no-bags-in-queue rule? Well today they were. Eurgh, fine. Don't see the need really; the stupid station design means bags vs no bags is a mute discussion in my mind. Anyways, I got a couple more rides in, including at the back again, and it lived up to my memory from the day prior. Absolutely fantastic experience, and well and truly cemented itself as my #4.
    Not wanting to completely wreck my thighs one park in though, I left the yellow beast for now to return back to Candymonium, and see what on earth was up with this hot and cold beast. Fortunately it didn't have much of a queue, only 5-10 minutes, and I decided to mimic my ride from the previous day and go for the back row. And you know what? It was fantastic again! It was a ride that was just a ton of fun, and filled with neat airtime moments. Whatever disappointment I had yesterday had dissipated, and I truly liked this sweet ride. I went back round again and bagged another front row ride, which I guess shows my enjoyment of it.

    So now for my Candymonium review. It's a really fun ride, with lots of neat airtime moments. It's got good pacing with it too, which is great. And what I realised, most importantly, is that whilst it has trims at two different moments, those trims are needed. You still get some good airtime on them, and if they weren't there, you'd be getting airtime more akin to Skyrush's. That wouldn't be a bad thing for the ride really, but it then means you have two rides offering the exact same experience, which you don't want. The trims help differentiate Candymonium from Skyrush, and give the rides separate identities, whilst not taming down Candymonium. Huzzah!

    My one concern about Candymonium - I really enjoyed my rides where I didn't have to queue, but didn't get the same sense of fulfilment when I did queue. That could also be put down to first ride expectations. So whilst I rate Candymonium, would I be willing to queue for it? Honestly, I don't know.
    The Kisses fountain is a bit abstract, but I can see what they tried to do.

    As the photos show, the clouds had become a bit more ominous-looking after my rides on Candymonium. And sure enough, the dreaded "R" word followed....rain. It wasn't unexpected by me: the forecast did predict a short shower. But checking my weather app, it said this shower would last for a good 1-2 hours now. Bugger. Hersheypark close their big outdoor rides in the rain; certainly anything I wanted to re-ride was down. After a quick snack and think, I decided to do what a good chunk of people had done, and ride one of only two indoor rides on park. Not wanting to bother to trek to the other side of the park, I went for another go on Reece's Cupfusion...
    I got another delightful, free mugshot
    More importantly though...
    I claimed the current high score for the day...BOOM! Guy at the exit said he hadn't seen a score above 300k for a while too - whether he said that as a generic customer servicey comment thing, or if he was genuine, I don't know, but yeah. Take that everyone who visited Hersheypark on June 2nd! (I'm not competitive at all......)

    I had hoped the long wait and doing the ride would mean the rain would pass, but it didn't. It was still going strong. I really wasn't interested in doing Laff Trakk again, so I decided to wander over towards Skyrush, find somewhere undercover, and see what happens. For reference, at this point, it was about half 4, and park closed at 6. So I sat, and I waited. Rain still coming down. I don't mind the rain, but with little to do, I didn't see the point in wandering around too much aimlessly. In hindsight, now would have been a good time to do the zoo, and I could have used my earlier zoo time for rides, but oh well.

    The rain stopped a little after 5 - woohoo, the clouds have been kind! I didn't know what the rules would be exactly with rides reopening, but I hung back and waited patiently for Skyrush to come back to life. 15 minutes later, still no sign of life. Hmmmm, that's less good. Asked the staff at the entrance whether it would reopen - turns out it wasn't set to reopen for the day. Well bugger. Did it die before the rain? Was it a post-rain thing? No idea. Ah well, back to Candymonium then....
    Or not, that was also closed. And there was no committed answer as to whether it would reopen at this point.

    Other bigger rides were running around the park. But I didn't have much inclination to go on something like Great Bear or Fahrenheit again. The app listed Storm Runner as shut, though I wasn't wholly convinced. Equally though, whilst it would be nice to get a reride on it, I wasn't that fussed in tracking back and giving it a shot. So I decided to call it a day, with only 20 minutes of park time left.

    So though my visit to Hersheypark finished on a bit of a damp downer, it was still a fantastic couple of days. Skyrush and Candymonium are a great one-two punch for the park, and they have a wide variety of "good" rides too. There's obviously a solid selection of flats too, which I didn't really go on, and an included water park, which isn't my thing. So it's super well rounded too. I hope they continue going for the more 'themed area' approach, even if only lightly, as Chocolate Town and Jolly Rancher Land are wonderful, cohesive pieces. I'd also love to see them get another indoor ride - there's definitely scope and potential for something really cool.
    Wait no, I'm in Hersheypark.
    There's definitely scope and potential for something really sweet. 

    Coming soon: Knoebels, filled with nice food...and not-so-nice spites...
  6. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Mark9 for a blog entry, Californias Great America - Invest now   
    I wouldn't say that Californias Great America is a park that anyone has a huge itch to get to. Unlike some others in the Cedar Fair group, its investments are on the lower end of the scale. Flat rides are the name of the game and even its planned hyper that it was rumoured to get was given to another park instead (Orion).
     
    Eight years ago, it was either this or Discovery Kingdom and bizarrely I chose DK. I thought that was a great little park, but this time it was CGA's turn. It's relatively easy to get to, sitting in San Jose and it took about two hours of train journey from San Francisco. I'd heard very little about this place before so upon arriving I didn't really know where anything was or what support rides there were. The entrance for example looks very similar to other Cedar Fair parks but also Six Flags Great America. I've since learned that and CGA were once owned by the same group.
     
    Our first destination was Flight Deck which has the distinction of being B&M's first custom inverted rollercoaster. Built in 1993 the ride features three inversions and is a very old school B&M. It looks stunning in its bright red attire and the ride looked well maintained. My first reaction was how small the station was. It's very cramped and its the same with Patriot and many of the original gang of B&M's are the same (Batman clones tend to have tiny stations too). Also, for all the criticism I saw that Emperor has no station at Seaward, well.. there isn't a station here either. Geek, be consistent.  Once getting on, after waiting one train off we went. Very positive G Force heavy, really nice inversions and a well paced layout. There is an odd bit in the middle of the ride where the train travels in a straight line over the station which felt at odds with everything else. The ending is particularly great with an intense helix over a small lake. There was no second train. Unlike Cedar Point which runs three trains to a fault or Silver Bullet which had its second train in bits scattered all over the break run, Flight Decks second train doesn't seem to exist.

     
    This isn't an extra-ordinary inverter and neither is it a dud. It's a good, solid B&M which has clearly served the park well. It just made me so glad we have Nemesis. I know its very easy to compare every inverter to Nemesis but the reality is, Nemesis is outstanding. From a layout perspective, a theming perspective, an efficiency and capacity perspective. Every park could learn a lesson from our grubby white alien.
     

     
    I next wanted to get on Patriot but we went the wrong way and ended up exploring all the park instead. Some of my favourite flat rides passed (KMG Afterburner, Huss Breakdance) before we just ended up getting lost. I checked the app and it said that Railblazer was 0 minutes. Staying cautious we decided to take a chance. Now this has two trains running. Which is good as at 8 people a train it has serious capacity issues. We ended up waiting half an hour which I was pretty happy with. To be honest, as good as it is, it's too fast. It zooms through the layout at break-neck speed and it feels very hard to take it all on board. Air time hills, inversions. it's like a blur. No major park should get the off-shelf model. It's too popular for what it is and it just cannot handle a park with crowds. The legend that is Josh C has been tweeting about Jersey Devil, so when he reviews, I'll be very interested in that one.

     
    With that out the way we took a ride on Demon, an arrow looper. I like the old arrow loopers. Whilst rougher then most modern rides there's something about a ride with janky track design that just appeals to me. As they start to arrive at the end of their lives, I'm just glad to have got on some of them.
     
    Next was Patriot. This used to be a stand up before it got converted to a floorless (like Rougarou and Firebird). Whilst I do get why parks are running away from stand up, I dunno. The floorless train doesn't add much beyond making the ride rideable? Maybe thats the point. My husband made the observation that if it wasn't for the height restriction, this would be an excellent 'starter' rollercoaster for an aspiring thrill seeker. And it got me thinking about rides like this and Daemonen at Tivoli Gardens. And he's so right in the observation. Very few inversions, mildly intense without being mind-blowing. Considering this is a B&M from 1991, its aged pretty well from what I could tell. Still, no second train to be found.

     
    After lunch it was time for the wooden coasters. We started with the CGI Wooden coaster, Gold Striker. This had a second train! wow. This was a fantastic ride. Really fast and intense. And with most of the ride hidden from the walkways, it took me by surprise. It probably sits just under Wodan for intensity. Some of the turns it was doing, for a traditional woody, were fabulous. Heavily recommended and the best ride at CGA by a country mile.
     

     
    And onto our final new rollercoaster Grizzly. Quite easily the worst operations I have ever seen on a ride. It took over seven minutes to unload, load and dispatch a train. Part of this seemed to be staff training, the other part was sheer incompetence. You're running one train around your mildly interesting rollercoaster. This shouldn't be that difficult. But it was. What looked to be a twenty minute wait ended up taking around 70. I was done after this, Didn't even want to attempt the low capacity Arrow wild-mouse which was displaying a 40 minute wait. 
     
    So instead we went on two flat rides including the breakdance. Every park should have a breakdance. They are the best flat ride by far. And we called it a day around 4pm. This park needs investment. On the surface everything looks fine. But it provides a middling day out in a state that has Disney, Knotts & Magic Mountain. Hard to compete, yes, but CGA isn't really even trying. It has great support rollercoasters in Flight Deck and Gold Striker but it needs that killer, triple A attraction to make the difference. And two trains on its rides. 
     
     
  7. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, Riding Solo: A Danish Adventure Part 1 Bakken   
    Life, the last number of years have been something of a disappointment to many for a number reasons. Mostly Covid. 
     
    Now having, an outstanding flight voucher following many cancelled trips, an idea came to me. A solo holiday/adventure. After much debate, I decided to return to Copenhagen. Whilst not the cheapest, it’s a city I had liked previously and also felt reasonably safe from what I remembered. 
     
    The flight from Gatwick was a little bumpy. From the hideously long security queues, boots having no meal deals and what might have  been the roughest landing I have experienced to date. Mr fish special. 
     
    After working my way around the clean efficient M2&M3 (not near Thorpe), the adventure had properly. Urban house was my base for the trip, a rather trendy yet conveniently located hotel literally in the city centre. Very close to Tivoli. 
     
    Attraction Parks:
    There are two amusement parks around Copenhagen. Bakken & Tivoli gardens. With both being danish amusement parks and somewhat close, you’d think there would be many similarities. Think again! 
     
    Bakken/
    The oldest amusement park out there. Bakken is a short train journey away via the central station. The park is literally located in the middle of a large park/woods and is surprisingly concealed. You wouldn’t know it was there if you were looking for it! 
     

    Despite the pretty woods setting, the park isn’t picturesque or interesting in any sort of way. If anything it’s a little characterless, dull and maybe underwhelming. 

    There are a number of rides and attractions in this place, including five roller coasters. One of those was the Rutshebanen (sp), the park’s wooden roller coaster. 
     
    As past reviews highlight, the ride had a modification to remove the brakeman with new trains. The ride was honestly ok, not great but just ok. The automated braking definitely had an impact on the pacing, being familiar to a go kart race maybe. The tunnel on the other hand was highly interesting with it’s position. 

    Tornado, perhaps one of the park’s bigger draws is an intamin spinning coaster. It literally launches you up the lift hill into what can be described as a crazy bumpy spinning sensation. It is not in anyway a smooth or comfortable experience, but a rough one indeed. 
     
    The park’s other coasters include Mine Train Ulven. A decent mine train coaster featuring a fun layout. There is also an acceptable wild mouse and ladybird coaster too. 
     

    So, what else is there besides coasters? 
     
    Well, they have two random dark rides, a dodgy ghost train and a random Safari shooter ride, was the least terrible of the two. 
     
    Several flat rides incorporate the place, including a fun polyp ride, those “crazy” spinning rides and one of those axis rides everywhere is getting now. Although it was quite fun. 
     
    They also have a small yet powerful S&S shot tower, which packs a punch. Also in the queue line it seems, given it tore my jacket! 
     

    Does this look familiar? 
     
    They also had a largely enjoyable fun house, featuring an array of effects and a broken piano. Shame it was broken. There was also a flume ride, although I didn’t go on this. 
     

    So, I managed to complete and wrap up my visit here in less than 90 minutes, including re-rides on 3/5 coasters. On what must be one of my shortest stays at any park. So why didn’t I stay to long? 

    To be honest, Bakken is potentially one of the most bland and generic parks I have been to, nothing comes across as striking. It just doesn’t feel photogenic in any particular way. 
     
    The place just feels like a large permanent fun fair. And not in a good way. There was just no charm or atmosphere at all. 
     
    Despite its plus points, it is no doubt towards the bottom-end of parks I’ve visited so far. And you know it’s not a great place, when a part of you is even happy to leave too. 
     
    Visit for the creds, visit for Tornado. Maybe visit if you want to see new parks and like funfairs. Otherwise, you aren’t missing out on too much here. 
     
    Stay tuned for my Tivoli review soon. 
  8. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Matt N for a blog entry, Matt N’s Europa Park Initiation 26th-30th April 2022 (26th April 2022: Travel)   
    26th April 2022 (Travel)
    Hi guys. Today was a very exciting day; the start of my first ever trip to Europa Park! This might possibly be my most significant theme park trip in some time, and it’s quite a significant change in tune compared to the bulk of my recent trips, with a number of new experiences in store for me; my first time travelling abroad post-COVID, my first time at Europa Park, my first time in Germany full stop… I could go on, as there are so many firsts for me this trip! So join me over the next 5 days as I visit Europa Park, a major bucket list park I have legitimately wanted to visit for the past 7 or 8 years, for the very first time!
     
    This was only our travel day, so I haven’t set foot into the park itself yet, but I’ve already gotten some glimpses of what Europa Park Resort has to offer. So let me start today from the very beginning.
     
    Interestingly, today started out with the longest single leg of the trip there; a 3 hour drive from Gloucestershire to London Stansted. The drive actually felt quicker than expected given it was 3 hours, and my dad said it was very easy, so I guess that’s all you can ask for, really!
     
    After that, we went into Stansted itself, where check-in & security were surprisingly quick; we were through it all very quickly compared to what I always remembered Manchester/Gatwick being like, which is always good! It felt very weird being back in an airport… the last time I flew abroad was to Florida in April 2019, so after the few years we’ve all had, it felt almost surreal being back travelling abroad again, with surprisingly few differences compared to pre-COVID! It was exciting, though; even though an airport in itself is perhaps not the most pleasurable of experiences, being in an airport preparing for a foreign holiday does give you a certain buzz that I can’t quite put my finger on, particularly when your destination is a park you’ve spent years dreaming of visiting!
     
    After a wait of around an hour in Stansted’s departure lounge, we headed to our gate and boarded our plane to Baden-Baden:




    This flight was my first ever Ryanair flight, which I’m led to believe is somewhat of a rite of passage for any theme park enthusiast, and I’ve got to say, it was quite good! The seats were perfectly comfortable, the flight was short (only 1h 25m); what more can you really ask for?
     
    After getting off our flight, we headed through immigration in Baden-Baden, which was fairly quick, and that’s when it hit home that Europa Park really was well within my reach:

    Wow, seeing that was exciting! After that, we got our hire car and headed down to Europa Park itself from Baden-Baden airport, which my dad described as a surprisingly easy drive. It took around 45 minutes, and I must say, I was stunned by quite how convenient Europa is to reach from the motorway; when people described it as being in a town/village, I was expecting something like Alton Towers, where you wind your way through all kinds of country lanes and villages for miles on end once you leave the motorway, but it was literally a case of “exit the motorway… wow, there’s Europa!” in an almost America-style fashion! I was also surprised at how much Europa Park dominates Rust; I was anticipating it being a case of Europa Park being in the middle of a large town that engulfed it, but it’s almost more like Rust is an add-on to Europa Park, which I found very interesting!
     
    Then, we headed onto the resort itself. I have to say, first impressions are very good; the hotels are stunningly themed, and they’re all very grand in scale! My first view of a Europa Park hotel was the lobby for El Andaluz, where we checked in, and I must say, it’s stunning:


    We’re staying in a Standard Room Plus in Hotel Castillo Alcazar, and the room is very nicely themed, as well as surprisingly big. The park view is also fantastic, and gives Blackpool’s similar park view a run for its money for sure:


    After getting settled into our room, we decided to take a stroll around the Europa resort and see what some of the other hotels had to offer.
     
    We firstly stopped at Hotel Colosseo, where we loitered around the piazza for a bit:



    And then we went up to the top of the Colosseum replica, where I got some views of the piazza from above:

    As well as Rulantica:

    And also some of the surrounding Black Forest area; EP is surprisingly rural and in a surprisingly nice forest setting for such a huge resort:

    After that, we strolled past Hotel Bell Rock:


    And finally, we ended up walking past Colosseo again and going back to El Andaluz:


    After our little stroll around, we headed into the Castillo Restaurant in Hotel Castillo Alcazar for an evening meal, which it must be said was very nice; the restaurant is also very nicely themed. I didn’t take any photos of the restaurant, but my mum did catch a photo of the very nice corridor leading up to it, which is very well themed indeed, and certainly sets the tone for the restaurant:

    Finally, I caught a few photos of the stunning night time view from out of our window; Europa really does look stunning at night:



    So, that was the first day of our trip! Apologies that this was a bit of a boring report today; I hope the next few days’ worth of reports are a bit more interesting, seeing as we’re going to be in the park itself on tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. I’m incredibly excited; I can’t wait to see what Europa has to offer after years of wanting to go! What I’ve seen of the resort so far certainly bodes well for what I’ll think of the park, as it’s all very nice!
     
    Tomorrow, we’ll be stepping into the park for the first time… I can’t wait!
  9. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt Creek for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 2, Hansa Park   
    Lo and behold, Day 2 of 2 is here!

    After staying the night in Lubeck (in what was apparently a non-smoking hotel, but in a room which smelt strongly of cigarette smoke), I was energised for another day. The weather was cold and windy, but no rain.

    The journey from my hotel to Hansa Park was much simpler than the previous day: a direct train from Lubeck to Sierksdorf, and then a walk to the park. The walk was again very straightforward - pretty much a straight path which takes about 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, by the time I'd arrived at Sierksdorf, the rain was kicking in, setting the tone for the weather for the rest of the day...

    I got to the park just before rides opened at 10, and walked straight on in after a quick security check. Dumping my stuff in a locker (1 euro for the whole day with unlimited entries - bargain!), I made a beeline straight to the park's main event - Karnan. I'd been keeping an eye on the park's app in days prior, which showed that it's availability had been...sketchy, at best. So ticking it off first was the safest bet.

    Arriving by the entrance, there was a staff member out the front, and a queue of people. Karnan was also testing, but filled with test dummies


    Shortly after I got there, the staff member said something in German I didn't quite understand, but about half the people waiting left. I imagine it was the usual "We don't know when it will open, hopefully soon, but try other rides and come back later". Realising the park would be very quiet and not wanting to take any chances, I decided to hang around and see. It was still regularly testing, still with dummies, so I remained optimistic.

    That optimism was perhaps foolish though. After about half an hour, and engineer came to queue front, after having emerged from "the tower" and said something and waved his hands, at which point everyone left dispersed. Uh oh, that didn't seem good. I asked the lovely guy out front what was what, and between my basic German and his basic English, I managed to piece together "We don't know when it will open, keep looking at the app".
    Bye for now

    The rain at this point was pretty consistent; not heavy, but not light either. I wandered away from Karnan, not quite sure what to do first. My first thought was obviously the park's other Gerstlauer, Flucht von Novgorod. But instead I walked right past their Wild Mouse, so thought why not...
    Well, it was closed, so that would be why not...

    Undeterred, I carried on walking in the random direction I had chosen, and eventually ended up the park's Beautiful Britain area, which included two creds. Let's go.

    First up was Nessie. The park's Schwarzkopf coaster, with basic lap bars and a vertical loop. Nice walk on too. The station for this is wonderful; really nicely themed. This was my first taste of what Hansa Park could do with their indoor spaces, and I was impressed. As for the ride itself, it was...fine? I was a bit disappointed in some ways, maybe because I set up high expectations thinking this might be like a mini Lisebergbanan (a cred I really like) with a loop. But yeah, it just didn't do it for me. Also, the aggressive brake run in the dark was not something I was prepared for (no nice warning signs a la Lisebergbanan!)
    I also didn't take any photos of it, which also highlights my lack-of-care for this.

    I wanted to tick off the other cred in the area, Royal Scotsman, whilst here. But lo and behold, it was closed. Entrance shut off with no explanation. Was it because of the weather? Would it open later? No idea.

    Instead, I turned my attention to the small matter of Highlander. You know, the 120m tall drop tower? I was very confused by this, because the gondola was not parked on the ground; it was instead about 10-15ft off the ground (like in some sort of maintenance mode?), but the entrance was open. I hadn't seen it go yet, but I decided to walk through and see. A staff member appeared from the op box, indicated to give him a moment, and then he lowered the gondola down. Huzzah!

    At this point, it was still raining pretty consistently. It was windy. My phone said it was 3°. Yet I was going near-400ft in the air. Cool.

    I love drop towers, but this did get to me a bit. The climb up is slow and suspenseful, and the accompanying music fits really well. It was going up and round that I also realised how close Hansa Park is to the Baltic Sea (spoilers: very close!). Going up just went on and on and on. And the wind and the rain was making me feel very cold. Nearing the top I got the tilt, which doesn't really do a lot for me, but I'm sure gets people. It was running the "super tilt" mode, where it stays like that for the drop, so it quickly went back to the upright position. Then, finally, it stopped. And I waited. And waited. And waited. There's no more audio, no countdown, nothing. Okay, this was a tiny bit terrifying, in the best possible way. How long was I up there, who knows? But soon enough, I was dropping down. That was fine...fun enough, but these larger ones give you more time to adjust to the sensation.

    In short, whilst the drop on Highlander isn't anything special, the whole build up and anticipation to it is. Really fun, and slightly nerve-wracking, experience!


    Now it was time to move on over to the much-praised Flucht von Novgorod. I knew the secrets this had (ie launch and vertical lift / beyond vertical drop), and that it had on-board pre shows. But beyond that, I was in the dark. The ride was only running one car, which meant the wait for front row took a bit of time. But I'm not complaining, as it gave me a chance to dry off in the indoor queue, and appreciate the theming around.
    I was told off by the operating for taking this photo...although maybe he was just telling me no phones on the ride. I don't quite know.

    Quickly enough, I was on. The pre shows before the launch are great. They set a really nice tone; creepy and spooky, with some neat effects in there too. That, however, it where most of my positives run out. You drop into the launch and it hits you. But at the same time, it doesn't feel that punchy? I know it is a quick acceleration, but it didn't feel like it was all that powerful. Maybe going in from the drop you already have a decent starting speed, so the boost doesn't come across that great? Maybe being in near-total darkness drains it of some reference? I don't know, but it didn't really do it for me. This was particularly sad, as I love Anubis' launch at Plopsaland!

    You then head on outside and the layout is...fine. Fine seems to be a word I'm using a lot for Hansa Park so far, doesn't it? It doesn't really do much, and it doesn't really give any notable forces / airtime. The inversion over the building is nice, but forgettable.

    Then you head on inside and reach the vertical lift. Oooh, back to Hansa indoor quality! Stopping on the vertical, you get some more "pre show". I guess if I could understand it more coherently I might enjoy it more, but it felt like a bit of a pace killer - the ride had just got going, now you're stopping me for this? The rest of the ride then takes place in total darkness, and is a bit rough and ready in typical Gerstlauer fashion, which made it hard to enjoy. It then ends with a projection of a crow on the wall (I've since learned about some scarecrow scare, which seems to have gone?).

    I did like how after the ride, you walk through a maze which has an actual potential dead end. That was a neat little 'post-ride' touch.

    Overall first impressions of Novgorod though: not that good. This is a ride I'd heard lots of good things about, and was something that seemed right up my street. Again, maybe I set my expectations too high? Maybe it was just a bit of a bum ride, which Gerstlauers sometimes give. It wasn't something I was prepared to write off just yet, but I was disappointed.

    By this point, the weather had improved ever so slightly - it was still raining, but it was a bit warmer. That, or I just got used to the cold. In either case, I decided to check out what was going on with this mystical Karnan thing. Still closed. Same poor soul stood outside. Fortunately by this point, the Wild Mouse, Crazy Mine, had opened. So I decided to get the +1 now. It gave me some nice Rattlesnake at Chessington vibes, and the singing animatronics were just on the right side of annoying to be charming enough. Ride is standard though of course.

    Sticking near Karnan, I then went for their Gerstlauer junior cred, Schlange von Midgard. This ride looks stunning, though sadly I didn't get any photos. In true recent Hansa fashion, it features a nice indoor pre-show section, with animatronics and some backstory. At the top of the lift, there's a screen with some stuff going on. Couldn't see what though as there was a huge warning message over the screen. Whoops. Ride itself is pretty fun; surprised there isn't more Gerst family coasters in general.

    Thanks to my slow wandering round the park, it was coming up to 12. Karnan had stopped testing, and the rain was coming down heavier again and it was becoming a bit colder. I took shelter under a nearby canopy to try and figure out my plan for what to do. I quickly decided that food would be the best option, even if it was a bit early. There didn't seem to be many indoor options except the restaurant at the front of the park, "Weltumsegler". This place looked really nice, and had a "canteen" style set up.

    This turned out to be a great choice, as demonstrated by this wonderful spicy currywurst and fries, and Oreo/grape dessert...

    This gave me a chance to warm up and take stock. I had managed all open creds, but there were still 3 closed creds and no clear indication if they would open. The park had a selection of water rides, something which I usually like but wasn't feeling because of the weather. There was some smaller rides which didn't appeal, and the Gerst sky fly, which again isn't my thing. So I decided after lunch to just walk around, despite the rain, see parts of the park I hadn't yet seen, and go with the flow. Here's some random pictures...
    Remember I said I didn't take any photos of Nessie? Well, I lied, I took this terrible one.
    Some water rides I did not ride

    I came across Novgorod on my wander round, and decided now was a good time to give it another shot. I had a back row ride this time. It still didn't do it for me. Disappointing.

    After this, I caught a glimpse of Karnan again (it's hard not to in the park!). And I saw a car moving. And it was empty - no test dummies! That had to be a good sign, right? So I made my way towards to it, and lo and behold, it was open!! Yes!

    So let's get to - Der Schwur des Karnan.
    The queue line is absolutely fantastic. Highly detailed, with great special effects. The indoor section has some TV screens explaining the story (with English sub-titles), in a Hex-at-Alton Towers like fashion. I know that some people don't like this style of storytelling, but the park have made it work. I got to see the full loop plus some repeat during this wait. Then I was batched into the first pre-show room, which again is told by TV screen and following the same character in the queue line videos. This features a wonderful reveal of where to store your bags; really liked that!

    Then comes the first special feature of Karnan; the row choosing ceremony. I'm sure most know what's what: you stand in a row, then a dramatic sequence occurs which randomly assigns you to a row. I'm sure that it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really loved the suspense this built up, and it's just a great deal of fun. Top rating from me.

    I was assigned into row 2, and was finally sat down in the beast that was Karnan. I've had previous experience with Gerst's clamshell restraints, on Gold Rush at Slagharen, and liked them then, and this was no different fortunately.

    I won't explicitly talk about the indoor section of Karnan. What I will say, however, is that I knew what happened, and still loved it, was still mightily impressed by it and found it truly exhilarating. Fantastic. If you know, you know, if you don't, don't look it up.

    As for the outdoor section of the ride - I can't sing its praises enough. The first drop is fantastic. The non-inverting butterfly element thing that follows is brilliant; filled with some weird moments and the exit to it is better than so many first drops on other coasters. The remaining parts of the layout are low to the ground, taking at high speed and feature great pops of airtime and lateral forces. And whilst doing all of this, it remains comfortable, and not too forceful. It truly is a masterpiece.

    Hitting the brake run leaves you processing everything which just happened. Annnnnd then, Karnan goes and spoils itself. There's a short indoor section to end the ride, including a verrrrrrrrry slow roll, which isn't particularly comfortable or interesting, followed by pitch blackness, bar the pointless on ride photo opportunity on a brake run (why?), and some heroic music to end off. This ends the ride on a low note for me; that whole section as it stands is either unnecessary, or needs some theming / effects to bring it to life. Or it would be better if you took the inversion at some speed; a final big hurrah.

    I don't want to 'do a Karnan' and leave its review on a bum note. So let's focus on the positives: this is a fantastic attraction, which looks visually stunning (even the weird supports for the butterfly thing work), has brilliant build up which is dramatic and serious, whilst still exciting. And it has a great roller coaster to back it up too. Definite Top 10% material and, for me, gets a Top 10 spot too.
    I know some people have said the tower is a bit boring, but I liked how intimidating it came across

    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. I completely forgot about the rest of the park. I forgot I still had 2 creds to check on. I forgot that I would have liked another go on Highlander. There was Karnan and only Karnan. The wait this time was a bit longer; no doubt by now everyone had converged to the almighty Karnan. It took about 40 minutes this time.

    And here's where I have a bigger niggle about Karnan. It feels like a nightmare to run. It was only running one car, which means its throughput on that day would have been shockingly bad. But the staff were still struggling with timings. We were batched into the batching pre show room before people had left it. This left an awkward wait. I don't know why the ride was delayed for over 3 hours, but it's dodgy reliability seemed to be a common trend when I was looking in the days leading up to the trip.
    Is Karnan something bigger than Hansa Park can handle? Did they try to create such a fantastic, larger-than-life experience that they got carried away and lost sight of making sure it was easy to operate? I don't know, but that's certainly an impression I got.

    Maybe I'm being harsh here, since the park had only been open for the new season for just a few days, and they'd still be re-adjusting. But still, something which lives on in my mind.

    On a brighter note, Karnan still rode fantastic on my second ride, in the third row. And in literal brighter news, the storm had subsided, and the blue skies had appeared!

    As much as I loved Karnan, I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and be outside, and see what was what with the other two creds. Fortunately for me, they were open! Royal Scotsman was first, and this was a nice Vekoma junior ride. Nothing special, and you could tell this was an older ride which they've tried to retrofit into their newer, theme-heavy ideology. Then after getting briefly lost, I found the park's kiddie cred, Kleine Zar, and ticked off that +1 nice and easy.
    I also took this photo of a waterfall which features on a slow boat ride, which I quite liked

    With the weather still nice, I decided to wander round the park and appreciate it in the sun. I also got a glimpse of Baltic Sea too.

    I took a quick ride on Störtebekers Kaperfahrt, the WildWater West dingy boat ride, for the primary reason that these lift hills give you a nice foot massage, and I wanted a few minutes off my feet.

    That was enough time away from Karnan though - a third ride followed. Getting row 2 again, it truly cemented itself as a top tier ride for me here, and it had warmed up very nicely.

    After this, the storm had annoyingly returned, and it bought the rain again. It was now that I was left with a dilemma too, as time was now against me. I could squeeze in another ride on Karnan (maybe even two if the queue was nice), but then have an awkward wait after park close for my train. This would also cut my time fine for getting back to the airport, and a delayed / missed train would be very stressful. Or I could leave now, and have a more relaxed journey to the station.

    In hindsight, I probably would have chosen differently, but I opted for the latter of these options and called it a day. At the time, I think the new wave of rain had hit me, and even though I would be queueing indoors for Karnan, I didn't fancy getting wetter and colder later.

    So that was that for my day at Hansa Park. I had a good day, certainly helped by the excellent Karnan, but equally, I felt a bit downbeat about it. Hansa was a park that I had heard such good things about, but I just didn't get the same buzz from it. I definitely think the weather has played a part here. The little bit of cred anxiety too. But even then, I think you can enjoy the real top tier parks whatever the weather.

    I did really enjoy the park's theming attempts, and it's clear they have some real talent and drive behind them, wanting to make them a fantastic park. I'm not writing the park off, and I look forward to returning at some point in the future.

    ---

    The trains back to Hamburg Airport were simple enough, and no delays. The same couldn't be said for my flight home, which ended up being delayed by a couple of hours. Given the problems that Easyjet were facing at the time though, I guess it's better delayed than cancelled. It did mean I got home at like half 1, and had to be up at 7 for work. Not my brightest idea that.

    As for going to parks solo, was fine. I enjoyed it; none of my fears about it were founded. I'm looking forward to my solo America trip in a few weeks all the more now!

    ---

    I'll round of the trip with a little geek summary:

    New parks: 2
    New creds: 15
    Best new cred: Karnan
    Most surprising cred: Limit, for not killing me
    Most disappointing cred: Flucht von Novgorod
    Best non-cred: Highlander
    Highlight: Broad one, but actually going abroad again
    Lowlight: The bloody weather
  10. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Mattgwise for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 2, Hansa Park   
    Lo and behold, Day 2 of 2 is here!

    After staying the night in Lubeck (in what was apparently a non-smoking hotel, but in a room which smelt strongly of cigarette smoke), I was energised for another day. The weather was cold and windy, but no rain.

    The journey from my hotel to Hansa Park was much simpler than the previous day: a direct train from Lubeck to Sierksdorf, and then a walk to the park. The walk was again very straightforward - pretty much a straight path which takes about 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, by the time I'd arrived at Sierksdorf, the rain was kicking in, setting the tone for the weather for the rest of the day...

    I got to the park just before rides opened at 10, and walked straight on in after a quick security check. Dumping my stuff in a locker (1 euro for the whole day with unlimited entries - bargain!), I made a beeline straight to the park's main event - Karnan. I'd been keeping an eye on the park's app in days prior, which showed that it's availability had been...sketchy, at best. So ticking it off first was the safest bet.

    Arriving by the entrance, there was a staff member out the front, and a queue of people. Karnan was also testing, but filled with test dummies


    Shortly after I got there, the staff member said something in German I didn't quite understand, but about half the people waiting left. I imagine it was the usual "We don't know when it will open, hopefully soon, but try other rides and come back later". Realising the park would be very quiet and not wanting to take any chances, I decided to hang around and see. It was still regularly testing, still with dummies, so I remained optimistic.

    That optimism was perhaps foolish though. After about half an hour, and engineer came to queue front, after having emerged from "the tower" and said something and waved his hands, at which point everyone left dispersed. Uh oh, that didn't seem good. I asked the lovely guy out front what was what, and between my basic German and his basic English, I managed to piece together "We don't know when it will open, keep looking at the app".
    Bye for now

    The rain at this point was pretty consistent; not heavy, but not light either. I wandered away from Karnan, not quite sure what to do first. My first thought was obviously the park's other Gerstlauer, Flucht von Novgorod. But instead I walked right past their Wild Mouse, so thought why not...
    Well, it was closed, so that would be why not...

    Undeterred, I carried on walking in the random direction I had chosen, and eventually ended up the park's Beautiful Britain area, which included two creds. Let's go.

    First up was Nessie. The park's Schwarzkopf coaster, with basic lap bars and a vertical loop. Nice walk on too. The station for this is wonderful; really nicely themed. This was my first taste of what Hansa Park could do with their indoor spaces, and I was impressed. As for the ride itself, it was...fine? I was a bit disappointed in some ways, maybe because I set up high expectations thinking this might be like a mini Lisebergbanan (a cred I really like) with a loop. But yeah, it just didn't do it for me. Also, the aggressive brake run in the dark was not something I was prepared for (no nice warning signs a la Lisebergbanan!)
    I also didn't take any photos of it, which also highlights my lack-of-care for this.

    I wanted to tick off the other cred in the area, Royal Scotsman, whilst here. But lo and behold, it was closed. Entrance shut off with no explanation. Was it because of the weather? Would it open later? No idea.

    Instead, I turned my attention to the small matter of Highlander. You know, the 120m tall drop tower? I was very confused by this, because the gondola was not parked on the ground; it was instead about 10-15ft off the ground (like in some sort of maintenance mode?), but the entrance was open. I hadn't seen it go yet, but I decided to walk through and see. A staff member appeared from the op box, indicated to give him a moment, and then he lowered the gondola down. Huzzah!

    At this point, it was still raining pretty consistently. It was windy. My phone said it was 3°. Yet I was going near-400ft in the air. Cool.

    I love drop towers, but this did get to me a bit. The climb up is slow and suspenseful, and the accompanying music fits really well. It was going up and round that I also realised how close Hansa Park is to the Baltic Sea (spoilers: very close!). Going up just went on and on and on. And the wind and the rain was making me feel very cold. Nearing the top I got the tilt, which doesn't really do a lot for me, but I'm sure gets people. It was running the "super tilt" mode, where it stays like that for the drop, so it quickly went back to the upright position. Then, finally, it stopped. And I waited. And waited. And waited. There's no more audio, no countdown, nothing. Okay, this was a tiny bit terrifying, in the best possible way. How long was I up there, who knows? But soon enough, I was dropping down. That was fine...fun enough, but these larger ones give you more time to adjust to the sensation.

    In short, whilst the drop on Highlander isn't anything special, the whole build up and anticipation to it is. Really fun, and slightly nerve-wracking, experience!


    Now it was time to move on over to the much-praised Flucht von Novgorod. I knew the secrets this had (ie launch and vertical lift / beyond vertical drop), and that it had on-board pre shows. But beyond that, I was in the dark. The ride was only running one car, which meant the wait for front row took a bit of time. But I'm not complaining, as it gave me a chance to dry off in the indoor queue, and appreciate the theming around.
    I was told off by the operating for taking this photo...although maybe he was just telling me no phones on the ride. I don't quite know.

    Quickly enough, I was on. The pre shows before the launch are great. They set a really nice tone; creepy and spooky, with some neat effects in there too. That, however, it where most of my positives run out. You drop into the launch and it hits you. But at the same time, it doesn't feel that punchy? I know it is a quick acceleration, but it didn't feel like it was all that powerful. Maybe going in from the drop you already have a decent starting speed, so the boost doesn't come across that great? Maybe being in near-total darkness drains it of some reference? I don't know, but it didn't really do it for me. This was particularly sad, as I love Anubis' launch at Plopsaland!

    You then head on outside and the layout is...fine. Fine seems to be a word I'm using a lot for Hansa Park so far, doesn't it? It doesn't really do much, and it doesn't really give any notable forces / airtime. The inversion over the building is nice, but forgettable.

    Then you head on inside and reach the vertical lift. Oooh, back to Hansa indoor quality! Stopping on the vertical, you get some more "pre show". I guess if I could understand it more coherently I might enjoy it more, but it felt like a bit of a pace killer - the ride had just got going, now you're stopping me for this? The rest of the ride then takes place in total darkness, and is a bit rough and ready in typical Gerstlauer fashion, which made it hard to enjoy. It then ends with a projection of a crow on the wall (I've since learned about some scarecrow scare, which seems to have gone?).

    I did like how after the ride, you walk through a maze which has an actual potential dead end. That was a neat little 'post-ride' touch.

    Overall first impressions of Novgorod though: not that good. This is a ride I'd heard lots of good things about, and was something that seemed right up my street. Again, maybe I set my expectations too high? Maybe it was just a bit of a bum ride, which Gerstlauers sometimes give. It wasn't something I was prepared to write off just yet, but I was disappointed.

    By this point, the weather had improved ever so slightly - it was still raining, but it was a bit warmer. That, or I just got used to the cold. In either case, I decided to check out what was going on with this mystical Karnan thing. Still closed. Same poor soul stood outside. Fortunately by this point, the Wild Mouse, Crazy Mine, had opened. So I decided to get the +1 now. It gave me some nice Rattlesnake at Chessington vibes, and the singing animatronics were just on the right side of annoying to be charming enough. Ride is standard though of course.

    Sticking near Karnan, I then went for their Gerstlauer junior cred, Schlange von Midgard. This ride looks stunning, though sadly I didn't get any photos. In true recent Hansa fashion, it features a nice indoor pre-show section, with animatronics and some backstory. At the top of the lift, there's a screen with some stuff going on. Couldn't see what though as there was a huge warning message over the screen. Whoops. Ride itself is pretty fun; surprised there isn't more Gerst family coasters in general.

    Thanks to my slow wandering round the park, it was coming up to 12. Karnan had stopped testing, and the rain was coming down heavier again and it was becoming a bit colder. I took shelter under a nearby canopy to try and figure out my plan for what to do. I quickly decided that food would be the best option, even if it was a bit early. There didn't seem to be many indoor options except the restaurant at the front of the park, "Weltumsegler". This place looked really nice, and had a "canteen" style set up.

    This turned out to be a great choice, as demonstrated by this wonderful spicy currywurst and fries, and Oreo/grape dessert...

    This gave me a chance to warm up and take stock. I had managed all open creds, but there were still 3 closed creds and no clear indication if they would open. The park had a selection of water rides, something which I usually like but wasn't feeling because of the weather. There was some smaller rides which didn't appeal, and the Gerst sky fly, which again isn't my thing. So I decided after lunch to just walk around, despite the rain, see parts of the park I hadn't yet seen, and go with the flow. Here's some random pictures...
    Remember I said I didn't take any photos of Nessie? Well, I lied, I took this terrible one.
    Some water rides I did not ride

    I came across Novgorod on my wander round, and decided now was a good time to give it another shot. I had a back row ride this time. It still didn't do it for me. Disappointing.

    After this, I caught a glimpse of Karnan again (it's hard not to in the park!). And I saw a car moving. And it was empty - no test dummies! That had to be a good sign, right? So I made my way towards to it, and lo and behold, it was open!! Yes!

    So let's get to - Der Schwur des Karnan.
    The queue line is absolutely fantastic. Highly detailed, with great special effects. The indoor section has some TV screens explaining the story (with English sub-titles), in a Hex-at-Alton Towers like fashion. I know that some people don't like this style of storytelling, but the park have made it work. I got to see the full loop plus some repeat during this wait. Then I was batched into the first pre-show room, which again is told by TV screen and following the same character in the queue line videos. This features a wonderful reveal of where to store your bags; really liked that!

    Then comes the first special feature of Karnan; the row choosing ceremony. I'm sure most know what's what: you stand in a row, then a dramatic sequence occurs which randomly assigns you to a row. I'm sure that it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really loved the suspense this built up, and it's just a great deal of fun. Top rating from me.

    I was assigned into row 2, and was finally sat down in the beast that was Karnan. I've had previous experience with Gerst's clamshell restraints, on Gold Rush at Slagharen, and liked them then, and this was no different fortunately.

    I won't explicitly talk about the indoor section of Karnan. What I will say, however, is that I knew what happened, and still loved it, was still mightily impressed by it and found it truly exhilarating. Fantastic. If you know, you know, if you don't, don't look it up.

    As for the outdoor section of the ride - I can't sing its praises enough. The first drop is fantastic. The non-inverting butterfly element thing that follows is brilliant; filled with some weird moments and the exit to it is better than so many first drops on other coasters. The remaining parts of the layout are low to the ground, taking at high speed and feature great pops of airtime and lateral forces. And whilst doing all of this, it remains comfortable, and not too forceful. It truly is a masterpiece.

    Hitting the brake run leaves you processing everything which just happened. Annnnnd then, Karnan goes and spoils itself. There's a short indoor section to end the ride, including a verrrrrrrrry slow roll, which isn't particularly comfortable or interesting, followed by pitch blackness, bar the pointless on ride photo opportunity on a brake run (why?), and some heroic music to end off. This ends the ride on a low note for me; that whole section as it stands is either unnecessary, or needs some theming / effects to bring it to life. Or it would be better if you took the inversion at some speed; a final big hurrah.

    I don't want to 'do a Karnan' and leave its review on a bum note. So let's focus on the positives: this is a fantastic attraction, which looks visually stunning (even the weird supports for the butterfly thing work), has brilliant build up which is dramatic and serious, whilst still exciting. And it has a great roller coaster to back it up too. Definite Top 10% material and, for me, gets a Top 10 spot too.
    I know some people have said the tower is a bit boring, but I liked how intimidating it came across

    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. I completely forgot about the rest of the park. I forgot I still had 2 creds to check on. I forgot that I would have liked another go on Highlander. There was Karnan and only Karnan. The wait this time was a bit longer; no doubt by now everyone had converged to the almighty Karnan. It took about 40 minutes this time.

    And here's where I have a bigger niggle about Karnan. It feels like a nightmare to run. It was only running one car, which means its throughput on that day would have been shockingly bad. But the staff were still struggling with timings. We were batched into the batching pre show room before people had left it. This left an awkward wait. I don't know why the ride was delayed for over 3 hours, but it's dodgy reliability seemed to be a common trend when I was looking in the days leading up to the trip.
    Is Karnan something bigger than Hansa Park can handle? Did they try to create such a fantastic, larger-than-life experience that they got carried away and lost sight of making sure it was easy to operate? I don't know, but that's certainly an impression I got.

    Maybe I'm being harsh here, since the park had only been open for the new season for just a few days, and they'd still be re-adjusting. But still, something which lives on in my mind.

    On a brighter note, Karnan still rode fantastic on my second ride, in the third row. And in literal brighter news, the storm had subsided, and the blue skies had appeared!

    As much as I loved Karnan, I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and be outside, and see what was what with the other two creds. Fortunately for me, they were open! Royal Scotsman was first, and this was a nice Vekoma junior ride. Nothing special, and you could tell this was an older ride which they've tried to retrofit into their newer, theme-heavy ideology. Then after getting briefly lost, I found the park's kiddie cred, Kleine Zar, and ticked off that +1 nice and easy.
    I also took this photo of a waterfall which features on a slow boat ride, which I quite liked

    With the weather still nice, I decided to wander round the park and appreciate it in the sun. I also got a glimpse of Baltic Sea too.

    I took a quick ride on Störtebekers Kaperfahrt, the WildWater West dingy boat ride, for the primary reason that these lift hills give you a nice foot massage, and I wanted a few minutes off my feet.

    That was enough time away from Karnan though - a third ride followed. Getting row 2 again, it truly cemented itself as a top tier ride for me here, and it had warmed up very nicely.

    After this, the storm had annoyingly returned, and it bought the rain again. It was now that I was left with a dilemma too, as time was now against me. I could squeeze in another ride on Karnan (maybe even two if the queue was nice), but then have an awkward wait after park close for my train. This would also cut my time fine for getting back to the airport, and a delayed / missed train would be very stressful. Or I could leave now, and have a more relaxed journey to the station.

    In hindsight, I probably would have chosen differently, but I opted for the latter of these options and called it a day. At the time, I think the new wave of rain had hit me, and even though I would be queueing indoors for Karnan, I didn't fancy getting wetter and colder later.

    So that was that for my day at Hansa Park. I had a good day, certainly helped by the excellent Karnan, but equally, I felt a bit downbeat about it. Hansa was a park that I had heard such good things about, but I just didn't get the same buzz from it. I definitely think the weather has played a part here. The little bit of cred anxiety too. But even then, I think you can enjoy the real top tier parks whatever the weather.

    I did really enjoy the park's theming attempts, and it's clear they have some real talent and drive behind them, wanting to make them a fantastic park. I'm not writing the park off, and I look forward to returning at some point in the future.

    ---

    The trains back to Hamburg Airport were simple enough, and no delays. The same couldn't be said for my flight home, which ended up being delayed by a couple of hours. Given the problems that Easyjet were facing at the time though, I guess it's better delayed than cancelled. It did mean I got home at like half 1, and had to be up at 7 for work. Not my brightest idea that.

    As for going to parks solo, was fine. I enjoyed it; none of my fears about it were founded. I'm looking forward to my solo America trip in a few weeks all the more now!

    ---

    I'll round of the trip with a little geek summary:

    New parks: 2
    New creds: 15
    Best new cred: Karnan
    Most surprising cred: Limit, for not killing me
    Most disappointing cred: Flucht von Novgorod
    Best non-cred: Highlander
    Highlight: Broad one, but actually going abroad again
    Lowlight: The bloody weather
  11. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt N for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 2, Hansa Park   
    Lo and behold, Day 2 of 2 is here!

    After staying the night in Lubeck (in what was apparently a non-smoking hotel, but in a room which smelt strongly of cigarette smoke), I was energised for another day. The weather was cold and windy, but no rain.

    The journey from my hotel to Hansa Park was much simpler than the previous day: a direct train from Lubeck to Sierksdorf, and then a walk to the park. The walk was again very straightforward - pretty much a straight path which takes about 10-15 minutes. Unfortunately, by the time I'd arrived at Sierksdorf, the rain was kicking in, setting the tone for the weather for the rest of the day...

    I got to the park just before rides opened at 10, and walked straight on in after a quick security check. Dumping my stuff in a locker (1 euro for the whole day with unlimited entries - bargain!), I made a beeline straight to the park's main event - Karnan. I'd been keeping an eye on the park's app in days prior, which showed that it's availability had been...sketchy, at best. So ticking it off first was the safest bet.

    Arriving by the entrance, there was a staff member out the front, and a queue of people. Karnan was also testing, but filled with test dummies


    Shortly after I got there, the staff member said something in German I didn't quite understand, but about half the people waiting left. I imagine it was the usual "We don't know when it will open, hopefully soon, but try other rides and come back later". Realising the park would be very quiet and not wanting to take any chances, I decided to hang around and see. It was still regularly testing, still with dummies, so I remained optimistic.

    That optimism was perhaps foolish though. After about half an hour, and engineer came to queue front, after having emerged from "the tower" and said something and waved his hands, at which point everyone left dispersed. Uh oh, that didn't seem good. I asked the lovely guy out front what was what, and between my basic German and his basic English, I managed to piece together "We don't know when it will open, keep looking at the app".
    Bye for now

    The rain at this point was pretty consistent; not heavy, but not light either. I wandered away from Karnan, not quite sure what to do first. My first thought was obviously the park's other Gerstlauer, Flucht von Novgorod. But instead I walked right past their Wild Mouse, so thought why not...
    Well, it was closed, so that would be why not...

    Undeterred, I carried on walking in the random direction I had chosen, and eventually ended up the park's Beautiful Britain area, which included two creds. Let's go.

    First up was Nessie. The park's Schwarzkopf coaster, with basic lap bars and a vertical loop. Nice walk on too. The station for this is wonderful; really nicely themed. This was my first taste of what Hansa Park could do with their indoor spaces, and I was impressed. As for the ride itself, it was...fine? I was a bit disappointed in some ways, maybe because I set up high expectations thinking this might be like a mini Lisebergbanan (a cred I really like) with a loop. But yeah, it just didn't do it for me. Also, the aggressive brake run in the dark was not something I was prepared for (no nice warning signs a la Lisebergbanan!)
    I also didn't take any photos of it, which also highlights my lack-of-care for this.

    I wanted to tick off the other cred in the area, Royal Scotsman, whilst here. But lo and behold, it was closed. Entrance shut off with no explanation. Was it because of the weather? Would it open later? No idea.

    Instead, I turned my attention to the small matter of Highlander. You know, the 120m tall drop tower? I was very confused by this, because the gondola was not parked on the ground; it was instead about 10-15ft off the ground (like in some sort of maintenance mode?), but the entrance was open. I hadn't seen it go yet, but I decided to walk through and see. A staff member appeared from the op box, indicated to give him a moment, and then he lowered the gondola down. Huzzah!

    At this point, it was still raining pretty consistently. It was windy. My phone said it was 3°. Yet I was going near-400ft in the air. Cool.

    I love drop towers, but this did get to me a bit. The climb up is slow and suspenseful, and the accompanying music fits really well. It was going up and round that I also realised how close Hansa Park is to the Baltic Sea (spoilers: very close!). Going up just went on and on and on. And the wind and the rain was making me feel very cold. Nearing the top I got the tilt, which doesn't really do a lot for me, but I'm sure gets people. It was running the "super tilt" mode, where it stays like that for the drop, so it quickly went back to the upright position. Then, finally, it stopped. And I waited. And waited. And waited. There's no more audio, no countdown, nothing. Okay, this was a tiny bit terrifying, in the best possible way. How long was I up there, who knows? But soon enough, I was dropping down. That was fine...fun enough, but these larger ones give you more time to adjust to the sensation.

    In short, whilst the drop on Highlander isn't anything special, the whole build up and anticipation to it is. Really fun, and slightly nerve-wracking, experience!


    Now it was time to move on over to the much-praised Flucht von Novgorod. I knew the secrets this had (ie launch and vertical lift / beyond vertical drop), and that it had on-board pre shows. But beyond that, I was in the dark. The ride was only running one car, which meant the wait for front row took a bit of time. But I'm not complaining, as it gave me a chance to dry off in the indoor queue, and appreciate the theming around.
    I was told off by the operating for taking this photo...although maybe he was just telling me no phones on the ride. I don't quite know.

    Quickly enough, I was on. The pre shows before the launch are great. They set a really nice tone; creepy and spooky, with some neat effects in there too. That, however, it where most of my positives run out. You drop into the launch and it hits you. But at the same time, it doesn't feel that punchy? I know it is a quick acceleration, but it didn't feel like it was all that powerful. Maybe going in from the drop you already have a decent starting speed, so the boost doesn't come across that great? Maybe being in near-total darkness drains it of some reference? I don't know, but it didn't really do it for me. This was particularly sad, as I love Anubis' launch at Plopsaland!

    You then head on outside and the layout is...fine. Fine seems to be a word I'm using a lot for Hansa Park so far, doesn't it? It doesn't really do much, and it doesn't really give any notable forces / airtime. The inversion over the building is nice, but forgettable.

    Then you head on inside and reach the vertical lift. Oooh, back to Hansa indoor quality! Stopping on the vertical, you get some more "pre show". I guess if I could understand it more coherently I might enjoy it more, but it felt like a bit of a pace killer - the ride had just got going, now you're stopping me for this? The rest of the ride then takes place in total darkness, and is a bit rough and ready in typical Gerstlauer fashion, which made it hard to enjoy. It then ends with a projection of a crow on the wall (I've since learned about some scarecrow scare, which seems to have gone?).

    I did like how after the ride, you walk through a maze which has an actual potential dead end. That was a neat little 'post-ride' touch.

    Overall first impressions of Novgorod though: not that good. This is a ride I'd heard lots of good things about, and was something that seemed right up my street. Again, maybe I set my expectations too high? Maybe it was just a bit of a bum ride, which Gerstlauers sometimes give. It wasn't something I was prepared to write off just yet, but I was disappointed.

    By this point, the weather had improved ever so slightly - it was still raining, but it was a bit warmer. That, or I just got used to the cold. In either case, I decided to check out what was going on with this mystical Karnan thing. Still closed. Same poor soul stood outside. Fortunately by this point, the Wild Mouse, Crazy Mine, had opened. So I decided to get the +1 now. It gave me some nice Rattlesnake at Chessington vibes, and the singing animatronics were just on the right side of annoying to be charming enough. Ride is standard though of course.

    Sticking near Karnan, I then went for their Gerstlauer junior cred, Schlange von Midgard. This ride looks stunning, though sadly I didn't get any photos. In true recent Hansa fashion, it features a nice indoor pre-show section, with animatronics and some backstory. At the top of the lift, there's a screen with some stuff going on. Couldn't see what though as there was a huge warning message over the screen. Whoops. Ride itself is pretty fun; surprised there isn't more Gerst family coasters in general.

    Thanks to my slow wandering round the park, it was coming up to 12. Karnan had stopped testing, and the rain was coming down heavier again and it was becoming a bit colder. I took shelter under a nearby canopy to try and figure out my plan for what to do. I quickly decided that food would be the best option, even if it was a bit early. There didn't seem to be many indoor options except the restaurant at the front of the park, "Weltumsegler". This place looked really nice, and had a "canteen" style set up.

    This turned out to be a great choice, as demonstrated by this wonderful spicy currywurst and fries, and Oreo/grape dessert...

    This gave me a chance to warm up and take stock. I had managed all open creds, but there were still 3 closed creds and no clear indication if they would open. The park had a selection of water rides, something which I usually like but wasn't feeling because of the weather. There was some smaller rides which didn't appeal, and the Gerst sky fly, which again isn't my thing. So I decided after lunch to just walk around, despite the rain, see parts of the park I hadn't yet seen, and go with the flow. Here's some random pictures...
    Remember I said I didn't take any photos of Nessie? Well, I lied, I took this terrible one.
    Some water rides I did not ride

    I came across Novgorod on my wander round, and decided now was a good time to give it another shot. I had a back row ride this time. It still didn't do it for me. Disappointing.

    After this, I caught a glimpse of Karnan again (it's hard not to in the park!). And I saw a car moving. And it was empty - no test dummies! That had to be a good sign, right? So I made my way towards to it, and lo and behold, it was open!! Yes!

    So let's get to - Der Schwur des Karnan.
    The queue line is absolutely fantastic. Highly detailed, with great special effects. The indoor section has some TV screens explaining the story (with English sub-titles), in a Hex-at-Alton Towers like fashion. I know that some people don't like this style of storytelling, but the park have made it work. I got to see the full loop plus some repeat during this wait. Then I was batched into the first pre-show room, which again is told by TV screen and following the same character in the queue line videos. This features a wonderful reveal of where to store your bags; really liked that!

    Then comes the first special feature of Karnan; the row choosing ceremony. I'm sure most know what's what: you stand in a row, then a dramatic sequence occurs which randomly assigns you to a row. I'm sure that it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I really loved the suspense this built up, and it's just a great deal of fun. Top rating from me.

    I was assigned into row 2, and was finally sat down in the beast that was Karnan. I've had previous experience with Gerst's clamshell restraints, on Gold Rush at Slagharen, and liked them then, and this was no different fortunately.

    I won't explicitly talk about the indoor section of Karnan. What I will say, however, is that I knew what happened, and still loved it, was still mightily impressed by it and found it truly exhilarating. Fantastic. If you know, you know, if you don't, don't look it up.

    As for the outdoor section of the ride - I can't sing its praises enough. The first drop is fantastic. The non-inverting butterfly element thing that follows is brilliant; filled with some weird moments and the exit to it is better than so many first drops on other coasters. The remaining parts of the layout are low to the ground, taking at high speed and feature great pops of airtime and lateral forces. And whilst doing all of this, it remains comfortable, and not too forceful. It truly is a masterpiece.

    Hitting the brake run leaves you processing everything which just happened. Annnnnd then, Karnan goes and spoils itself. There's a short indoor section to end the ride, including a verrrrrrrrry slow roll, which isn't particularly comfortable or interesting, followed by pitch blackness, bar the pointless on ride photo opportunity on a brake run (why?), and some heroic music to end off. This ends the ride on a low note for me; that whole section as it stands is either unnecessary, or needs some theming / effects to bring it to life. Or it would be better if you took the inversion at some speed; a final big hurrah.

    I don't want to 'do a Karnan' and leave its review on a bum note. So let's focus on the positives: this is a fantastic attraction, which looks visually stunning (even the weird supports for the butterfly thing work), has brilliant build up which is dramatic and serious, whilst still exciting. And it has a great roller coaster to back it up too. Definite Top 10% material and, for me, gets a Top 10 spot too.
    I know some people have said the tower is a bit boring, but I liked how intimidating it came across

    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. I completely forgot about the rest of the park. I forgot I still had 2 creds to check on. I forgot that I would have liked another go on Highlander. There was Karnan and only Karnan. The wait this time was a bit longer; no doubt by now everyone had converged to the almighty Karnan. It took about 40 minutes this time.

    And here's where I have a bigger niggle about Karnan. It feels like a nightmare to run. It was only running one car, which means its throughput on that day would have been shockingly bad. But the staff were still struggling with timings. We were batched into the batching pre show room before people had left it. This left an awkward wait. I don't know why the ride was delayed for over 3 hours, but it's dodgy reliability seemed to be a common trend when I was looking in the days leading up to the trip.
    Is Karnan something bigger than Hansa Park can handle? Did they try to create such a fantastic, larger-than-life experience that they got carried away and lost sight of making sure it was easy to operate? I don't know, but that's certainly an impression I got.

    Maybe I'm being harsh here, since the park had only been open for the new season for just a few days, and they'd still be re-adjusting. But still, something which lives on in my mind.

    On a brighter note, Karnan still rode fantastic on my second ride, in the third row. And in literal brighter news, the storm had subsided, and the blue skies had appeared!

    As much as I loved Karnan, I wanted to take advantage of the good weather and be outside, and see what was what with the other two creds. Fortunately for me, they were open! Royal Scotsman was first, and this was a nice Vekoma junior ride. Nothing special, and you could tell this was an older ride which they've tried to retrofit into their newer, theme-heavy ideology. Then after getting briefly lost, I found the park's kiddie cred, Kleine Zar, and ticked off that +1 nice and easy.
    I also took this photo of a waterfall which features on a slow boat ride, which I quite liked

    With the weather still nice, I decided to wander round the park and appreciate it in the sun. I also got a glimpse of Baltic Sea too.

    I took a quick ride on Störtebekers Kaperfahrt, the WildWater West dingy boat ride, for the primary reason that these lift hills give you a nice foot massage, and I wanted a few minutes off my feet.

    That was enough time away from Karnan though - a third ride followed. Getting row 2 again, it truly cemented itself as a top tier ride for me here, and it had warmed up very nicely.

    After this, the storm had annoyingly returned, and it bought the rain again. It was now that I was left with a dilemma too, as time was now against me. I could squeeze in another ride on Karnan (maybe even two if the queue was nice), but then have an awkward wait after park close for my train. This would also cut my time fine for getting back to the airport, and a delayed / missed train would be very stressful. Or I could leave now, and have a more relaxed journey to the station.

    In hindsight, I probably would have chosen differently, but I opted for the latter of these options and called it a day. At the time, I think the new wave of rain had hit me, and even though I would be queueing indoors for Karnan, I didn't fancy getting wetter and colder later.

    So that was that for my day at Hansa Park. I had a good day, certainly helped by the excellent Karnan, but equally, I felt a bit downbeat about it. Hansa was a park that I had heard such good things about, but I just didn't get the same buzz from it. I definitely think the weather has played a part here. The little bit of cred anxiety too. But even then, I think you can enjoy the real top tier parks whatever the weather.

    I did really enjoy the park's theming attempts, and it's clear they have some real talent and drive behind them, wanting to make them a fantastic park. I'm not writing the park off, and I look forward to returning at some point in the future.

    ---

    The trains back to Hamburg Airport were simple enough, and no delays. The same couldn't be said for my flight home, which ended up being delayed by a couple of hours. Given the problems that Easyjet were facing at the time though, I guess it's better delayed than cancelled. It did mean I got home at like half 1, and had to be up at 7 for work. Not my brightest idea that.

    As for going to parks solo, was fine. I enjoyed it; none of my fears about it were founded. I'm looking forward to my solo America trip in a few weeks all the more now!

    ---

    I'll round of the trip with a little geek summary:

    New parks: 2
    New creds: 15
    Best new cred: Karnan
    Most surprising cred: Limit, for not killing me
    Most disappointing cred: Flucht von Novgorod
    Best non-cred: Highlander
    Highlight: Broad one, but actually going abroad again
    Lowlight: The bloody weather
  12. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt Creek for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 1, Heide Park   
    Rewinding just over two years ago, I and a few friends had booked a trip out to Hamburg, which would include one and a half days at Heide Park - plus a stay in their hotel - and a day at Hansa Park. It would coincide with two of our birthdays too. What better way than to spend a birthday at a new park?
     
    At the time, this Covid-19 thing had just turned up on the British doorstep, and concerns were growing. But the idea of a lockdown was a far away thought. Obviously, come March, that all changed, and the trip cancelled (fortunately fully refunded). So instead of celebrating my birthday in some new foreign park, it was spent hunkered down in lockdown. "Ah well, maybe net year" I thought. Obviously I could go to Hamburg at other times, but I dunno, something felt kind of right about doing this trip over my birthday.
     
    But the world had other plans. Lockdown III was coming to an end, but foreign travel was out of the question, and the UK parks were out of the question. Instead, my birthday in 2021 was spent playing some outdoor mini golf (which was a big deal at the time tbf). 
     
    Early 2022 came around, and things seemed a bit more promising. Maybe I could spend a birthday out of lockdown for the first time since 2019!! And maybe, just maybe, I could finally get out to Hamburg. I tried to rally up those who I originally planned to go with, but after being met with radio silence, it became apparent if this was going to happen, I'd be going solo.
     
    Ooft. Solo park trips aren't something I've done for a long time. Well, I haven't really done them at all. I've maybe spent a couple of hours at a park alone when someone had to leave unexpectedly early, or a bit of time when arriving early. But never a full day, and never at a new park. But to be honest, it wasn't a difficult choice..."ahhhh, screw it, let's do it!" was basically my thought process.
     
    To keep costs minimal, this was going to be a short trip - fly in on a Tuesday evening, one park Wednesday, one park Thursday, fly home Thursday night. Ideally I'd've flown in Wednesday morning, but flight times just didn't work out. I had planned to drive too, but that was very costly (plus the rising fuel prices scared me), but I quickly realised both parks were pretty accessible by train. It increased the journey times, but it saved a lot of money really.
     
    Anyways, enough pre-amble ramblings. Time to get to it...
     
    Day 0
    This was my first flight since January 2020. Things have changed a fair bit since then, with both Brexit and Covid. Gatwick airport was pretty chill, and boarding on the Easyjet flight was fine. As Germany require FFP2 masks in certain places (such as planes, airports and trains), crew were freely giving out these masks to anyone who didn't have that specific type of mask. Pretty chill.
     
    A not-short queue through passport control followed. It was at this point where I expected to have to show my vaccine passport (the only requirement to get into Germany at the time), but I didn't. Oh well.
     
    My hotel was a 20 minute walk from the airport, and was surprisingly cheap and nice given the location. Boom, easy.
     
    Day 1 - Heide Park
    I was faced with two problems for my day at Heide Park.
     
    First thing, the weather. The weather had been pretty miserable the past few days prior; cold and wet with threats of storms. Having checked their park app in the days prior, that seemed to be affecting ride availability too. And the weather today didn't seem much better - cold and dark clouds, with high chances of rain. Just a tad concerning. 
     
    The second was more of an "operational" concern. The park say on their website that the nearest train station to the park is Wolterdingen, which is a 20 minute walk to the park. Annoyingly, when travelling from Hamburg, you can only arrive hourly, at 48 minutes past each hour. So I was left with a choice: arrive to Wolterdingen at 08:48 and awkwardly wait outside the park for ages, but be one of the first through the gate...or arrive at the park late.
     
    I expected the park to be quiet, so arriving late wouldn't be the end of the world, buttttttttt I like to get to parks for opening wherever possible. So I opted to get out of bed the hour earlier to get there earlier. Who needs a birthday lie in when there's creds to get?!
     
    Getting from my hotel to Wolterdingen was straightforward enough. U-Bahn from hotel to Hamburg's main station. 20 minute wait time for connection to a random place called Buchholz, then a 15 minute wait to connect to Wolterdingen. Easy enough.
    U-Bahn went smoothly. But then disaster struck. The connection was delayed...by 15 minutes. Ffs. The train pulled into Buchholz just as my connection left. And it was an hour until the next train.
     
    I came to really hate Buchholz. It was a large station which was very windy and cold, and there was no indoor waiting area that I could find. Fortunately, the rest of the journey was easy enough, and the walk from Wolterdingen to Heide was a straight line, and only took me 15mins. And so, a little after 10, I was finally here!

     
    Waltzing straight on through, with no whiff of security, my first port of call was the dump my stuff in a locker. I don't usually use park lockers (usually opting to visit light), but didn't fancy lugging all my stuff all day, especially with the ominous storm clouds hanging over. An all day, unlimited-entry locker cost 5 euro...not awful, but could be worse I guess.
     
    Checking the app, it suggested that of the "big" rides, only Krake, Flug der Damonen and Big Loop were open. All with 0 minute queues, fortunately. But not a great start, and already cred anxiety was kicking in. But let's not focus on that, and instead let's get some B&M-goodness...

     
    Krake wasn't particularly something that was on my radar. Drop, inversion, over, right? A fun +1, but I didn't expect any more. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I walked on to front row straight away, and got a very nice ride. You seem to hang over the drop for a good few seconds (much longer than Oblivion and Baron at least), and the splash effect is really cool. The whole ride is filled with nice floaty moments, and even then those it's quick, it left me feeling fulfilled. Coupled in with the nice music and nice theming, I was quite happy. 


    It's nothing special, but it does what it aims to do very well.
     
    On an even more exciting note, I noticed whilst on ride that Colossos was running. And it looked like people were on it too! I checked the app and it said it was still closed. This left me with a choice...not head over and tick off the nearby creds, or trek to the other side of the park and see what's what. With Colossos being my most anticipated cred of the park, and with it's availability seemingly being sporadic over previous days, I decided to venture over. This turned out to be a very good choice; I saw it run again, and there were clearly people on it. Woohoo!
     
    Colossos
    Fortunately there was no queue, and even getting into the station, there was only a one train wait. The ride, like everything, was on one train, which gave me a good feeling about the level of busyness to expect. Opted for the back row for my first ride.
     
    WOW.
     
    I didn't really know what to expect from the ride. I hadn't heard much about it, and didn't know the layout. But having done Balder, I had high expectations for my second Intamin woodie. And damn, they were, pretty much, met. Climbing up the lift hill hearing the audio is a neat thing. The first drop is fantastic, lifting you out of your seat. The first airtime hill flings you out too. The second gives you nice really nice floater airtime too.
     
    Then you hit the turnaround. This kills the ride a bit. It doesn't make anything bad, but it loses its ability to give decent airtime. You get little pops, but it feels weak compared to what you've just experienced. And this feeling carries on until the helix, where the ride picks up speed and its aggressive nature again. The final couple of hills have some good, consistent airtime, and leave the ride ending on a high note.
     
    The "wicker monster", as I call it, looks really nice, and is a good first time effect on-ride as a near miss. It didn't have any fire effects going though, which was a shame.

     
    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. And with no queue, that's exactly what I did. In honesty, there's not many rides where I've had that immediate feeling of "Damn, let's do that again, like right now!"; it was very much a 'Top 10%' ride for me from the get-go. Taking advantage of there being no queue, I went for the front this time. I was surprised at how consistent the ride was compared between front and back. And the pure rush going down the first drop on the front row is something I really liked too.



    Two rides in, and I decided - reluctantly - to move on. The park seemed like it was going to be quiet, but with the threats of storms still looming, I thought I should try to mop up the creds just in case, and then return to Colossos later if I could.
     
    With that, I went to the neighbouring Desert Race. It's basically a Rita clone. I like Rita, so expected to like this. However, it fell a bit flat for me, for reasons I can't quiet put my figure on. Maybe the bare-ness of the ride? Maybe the slow ops, where they waited for an entire full train before dispatching? Maybe the annoying announcements? Just little fiddly things. This also feels like a very Tussauds investment: plonked down, minimal theming, very tacky in general. I hope the park do something with this sooner rather than later.
     
    I then went back the way I came towards Big Loop

    Bog standard old Vekoma. Not much else to say.
     
    Then it was time to tick off the remaining B&M, Flug der Damonen. I had been intrigued by this, due to its tight layout and neat theming. Despite the app saying this had a 0 minute queue, there was a bit of a wait...about 10 minutes. No problem really though I guess. I really liked the station; had a real nice vibe to it.



    I got a front row ride on the right hand side. And the ride...was not that good. It starts off nicely, standard B&M wing. But then it tries cramming all its elements into a small space, and it just seems to make the ride a bit juddery, and it lacks any sort of flow. A real shame, and definitely the weakest one I've done so far.
     
    The app still listed Scream, Bobbahn and Limit as closed. These rides had all been closed any time I'd checked the app on previous days too. As they were nearby, I decided to check them out and see what's what. Scream had a sign outside saying it was waiting for a part, and should be ready to open for "Week 15". Sad times, as I like drop towers. Bobbahn had a sign outside saying it was too cold to open. Gah, spite
    Limit, however, had no sign. It wasn't open, but there was a solid handful of people waiting outside, and staff in the station. I overheard a conversation between guests which I loosely managed to translate to as "it will open soon". So I decided to hang around.
     
    To be honest, I can't believe I decided to willingly hang around and see if an SLC would open soon. Especially when it lunchtime, I was hungry, and I was in the same park as a walk-on Colossos. But heyho, a man's gotta get his creds. After about 10 minutes, it opened up. Yay...
    I managed to get on the second train of the day. Second train of the season. I got a middle row seat, and braced myself in usual SLC-fashion. But something strange happened. It wasn't...awful. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good. But it didn't try to massacre me, and I left the ride without my head feeling like I'd been in the ring with Drederick Tatum. Maybe the ride hadn't warmed up enough, so it was running slowly and, somehow, less rough?
    So there we have it folks, if you want a not-awful ride on an SLC, make sure to take one of the first rides of the season on a cold and stormy day!

    I also quite liked the music - nice rock track.
     
    After a quick spot of lunch, I went to the other side of the park, where the water rides and a smaller cred lived. I did both the log flume - which had a long cattlepen queue you couldn't skip over thanks to Covid barriers still being in place - and the rapids in quick succession. They were nice; not too wet, not too dry, and solid, yet unremarkable, examples of their ride types. I ticked off kiddie cred, Indy-Blitz, too, getting a solo ride and a +1 for my troubles.
     
    Next up was perhaps my second-most anticipated ride of the day...Ghostbuster 5D. I make no secret that I love shooting dark rides. I'm not big on the Ghostbusters franchise, but I acknowledged that it was something that had huge potential with this ride type. The exterior is very Merlin, in that it looks good in context of what the theme of the ride is, yet still a bit bland for a theme park. And it's kind of let down by the dodgy shipping container entrance. 



    The mathematician in me feels obliged to take photos of any mathematical equations that work their way into theming within rides.
     
    As for the ride itself...I dunno. I'm not sold. The idea is cool, especially the working together to take down ghosts. But the pacing feels a bit off. Some scenes are far too long, others far too short. There's not one which is 'just right'. There's not really anything between screens, and the attempted compensation is "let's spin and jerk the car around quickly". This left me feeling a bit motion sick, which was a shame. A bit better pacing in the scenes, and some better breathing space between scenes, and this would be SO much better.
     
    On my way to the final cred, I took a nice slow wander round. On this random, meandering walk, I noticed a random fire effect, which was coming from the boat ride in the How to Train Your Dragon area. I don't particularly care for the franchise, but liking fire effects, I thought sod it, I'll give the ride a go. It was a nice little ride, with some neat effects and was largely indoors, protecting me from those pesky storm clouds (which were still threatening rain, but not following through!). Detour completed, I did the final open cred of the day, Grottenblitz, a Mack powered cred, with shared the same building as the previous boat ride. It had a nice layout. But I didn't get any photos (it was getting rather cold).
     
    Now it must have been around 2 / half 2, and I'd ticked off all the creds and all the rides I wanted to do. Yes, there were loads of flats, but none appealed. The park have a monorail and train ride, which I would usually do, but both looked slow and burdensome to do in cold weather. So I took the chance to do re-rides, and a do a fair few of them at that.
     
    Throughout the last couple of hours, I managed another two rides on Krake (on 2nd and 3rd row, both were nice, but not quite as good as the front, of course), and ride on the opposite side of Flug (which was even more juddery on the back row). I decided to give Ghostbusters another shot, but even being prepared for the spinning, I still felt a little queasy afterwards. More importantly, I managed another 6 goes on Colossos, including another front and back row ride. All in, it really cemented itself as a top ride for me. It had warmed up nicely, and the middle third was running better by the end of the day. Still a weak spot, but the first and final thirds more than compensated for it.
     
    I also took the chance to just wander round the park and take some more photos. So here's a little final photo dump on my least terrible photos...





     
    All in, I had a really nice day at Heide Park. The weather held off, the park was sufficiently quiet and it has a good selection of rides. It had quite a Merlin feel about it, and even moreso a feel of a park that's had three very different owners and directions. There's the older, classic rides which have a nice, integrated feeling. Then there's the Tussauds-era, plonking rides down and just rolling with it. Then the more recent Merlin-era, where theming and ride integration clearly plays a part, but can be a bit hit and miss. In saying that, I would happily go back again in the future - especially if they were to add a more traditional dark ride, and maybe replace Desert Race with something that uses the space better!
     
     
    The day ended off by taking the train to Lubeck. It was a good couple of hours journey along 3 trains (Wolterdingen to the much-hated Buchholz, to Hamburg, then to Lubeck), but simple enough. Sadly, the weather decided to finally take a turn for the worse, and the heavens opened. The 20 minute walk up the hills of Lubeck felt so much longer thanks to the rain and bitter wind. Cheers for the birthday present, Lubeck...just what I always wanted!
     
    Coming soon, day 2 of 2...a wet, cold and anxious day at Hansa Park...
  13. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt N for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 1, Heide Park   
    Rewinding just over two years ago, I and a few friends had booked a trip out to Hamburg, which would include one and a half days at Heide Park - plus a stay in their hotel - and a day at Hansa Park. It would coincide with two of our birthdays too. What better way than to spend a birthday at a new park?
     
    At the time, this Covid-19 thing had just turned up on the British doorstep, and concerns were growing. But the idea of a lockdown was a far away thought. Obviously, come March, that all changed, and the trip cancelled (fortunately fully refunded). So instead of celebrating my birthday in some new foreign park, it was spent hunkered down in lockdown. "Ah well, maybe net year" I thought. Obviously I could go to Hamburg at other times, but I dunno, something felt kind of right about doing this trip over my birthday.
     
    But the world had other plans. Lockdown III was coming to an end, but foreign travel was out of the question, and the UK parks were out of the question. Instead, my birthday in 2021 was spent playing some outdoor mini golf (which was a big deal at the time tbf). 
     
    Early 2022 came around, and things seemed a bit more promising. Maybe I could spend a birthday out of lockdown for the first time since 2019!! And maybe, just maybe, I could finally get out to Hamburg. I tried to rally up those who I originally planned to go with, but after being met with radio silence, it became apparent if this was going to happen, I'd be going solo.
     
    Ooft. Solo park trips aren't something I've done for a long time. Well, I haven't really done them at all. I've maybe spent a couple of hours at a park alone when someone had to leave unexpectedly early, or a bit of time when arriving early. But never a full day, and never at a new park. But to be honest, it wasn't a difficult choice..."ahhhh, screw it, let's do it!" was basically my thought process.
     
    To keep costs minimal, this was going to be a short trip - fly in on a Tuesday evening, one park Wednesday, one park Thursday, fly home Thursday night. Ideally I'd've flown in Wednesday morning, but flight times just didn't work out. I had planned to drive too, but that was very costly (plus the rising fuel prices scared me), but I quickly realised both parks were pretty accessible by train. It increased the journey times, but it saved a lot of money really.
     
    Anyways, enough pre-amble ramblings. Time to get to it...
     
    Day 0
    This was my first flight since January 2020. Things have changed a fair bit since then, with both Brexit and Covid. Gatwick airport was pretty chill, and boarding on the Easyjet flight was fine. As Germany require FFP2 masks in certain places (such as planes, airports and trains), crew were freely giving out these masks to anyone who didn't have that specific type of mask. Pretty chill.
     
    A not-short queue through passport control followed. It was at this point where I expected to have to show my vaccine passport (the only requirement to get into Germany at the time), but I didn't. Oh well.
     
    My hotel was a 20 minute walk from the airport, and was surprisingly cheap and nice given the location. Boom, easy.
     
    Day 1 - Heide Park
    I was faced with two problems for my day at Heide Park.
     
    First thing, the weather. The weather had been pretty miserable the past few days prior; cold and wet with threats of storms. Having checked their park app in the days prior, that seemed to be affecting ride availability too. And the weather today didn't seem much better - cold and dark clouds, with high chances of rain. Just a tad concerning. 
     
    The second was more of an "operational" concern. The park say on their website that the nearest train station to the park is Wolterdingen, which is a 20 minute walk to the park. Annoyingly, when travelling from Hamburg, you can only arrive hourly, at 48 minutes past each hour. So I was left with a choice: arrive to Wolterdingen at 08:48 and awkwardly wait outside the park for ages, but be one of the first through the gate...or arrive at the park late.
     
    I expected the park to be quiet, so arriving late wouldn't be the end of the world, buttttttttt I like to get to parks for opening wherever possible. So I opted to get out of bed the hour earlier to get there earlier. Who needs a birthday lie in when there's creds to get?!
     
    Getting from my hotel to Wolterdingen was straightforward enough. U-Bahn from hotel to Hamburg's main station. 20 minute wait time for connection to a random place called Buchholz, then a 15 minute wait to connect to Wolterdingen. Easy enough.
    U-Bahn went smoothly. But then disaster struck. The connection was delayed...by 15 minutes. Ffs. The train pulled into Buchholz just as my connection left. And it was an hour until the next train.
     
    I came to really hate Buchholz. It was a large station which was very windy and cold, and there was no indoor waiting area that I could find. Fortunately, the rest of the journey was easy enough, and the walk from Wolterdingen to Heide was a straight line, and only took me 15mins. And so, a little after 10, I was finally here!

     
    Waltzing straight on through, with no whiff of security, my first port of call was the dump my stuff in a locker. I don't usually use park lockers (usually opting to visit light), but didn't fancy lugging all my stuff all day, especially with the ominous storm clouds hanging over. An all day, unlimited-entry locker cost 5 euro...not awful, but could be worse I guess.
     
    Checking the app, it suggested that of the "big" rides, only Krake, Flug der Damonen and Big Loop were open. All with 0 minute queues, fortunately. But not a great start, and already cred anxiety was kicking in. But let's not focus on that, and instead let's get some B&M-goodness...

     
    Krake wasn't particularly something that was on my radar. Drop, inversion, over, right? A fun +1, but I didn't expect any more. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I walked on to front row straight away, and got a very nice ride. You seem to hang over the drop for a good few seconds (much longer than Oblivion and Baron at least), and the splash effect is really cool. The whole ride is filled with nice floaty moments, and even then those it's quick, it left me feeling fulfilled. Coupled in with the nice music and nice theming, I was quite happy. 


    It's nothing special, but it does what it aims to do very well.
     
    On an even more exciting note, I noticed whilst on ride that Colossos was running. And it looked like people were on it too! I checked the app and it said it was still closed. This left me with a choice...not head over and tick off the nearby creds, or trek to the other side of the park and see what's what. With Colossos being my most anticipated cred of the park, and with it's availability seemingly being sporadic over previous days, I decided to venture over. This turned out to be a very good choice; I saw it run again, and there were clearly people on it. Woohoo!
     
    Colossos
    Fortunately there was no queue, and even getting into the station, there was only a one train wait. The ride, like everything, was on one train, which gave me a good feeling about the level of busyness to expect. Opted for the back row for my first ride.
     
    WOW.
     
    I didn't really know what to expect from the ride. I hadn't heard much about it, and didn't know the layout. But having done Balder, I had high expectations for my second Intamin woodie. And damn, they were, pretty much, met. Climbing up the lift hill hearing the audio is a neat thing. The first drop is fantastic, lifting you out of your seat. The first airtime hill flings you out too. The second gives you nice really nice floater airtime too.
     
    Then you hit the turnaround. This kills the ride a bit. It doesn't make anything bad, but it loses its ability to give decent airtime. You get little pops, but it feels weak compared to what you've just experienced. And this feeling carries on until the helix, where the ride picks up speed and its aggressive nature again. The final couple of hills have some good, consistent airtime, and leave the ride ending on a high note.
     
    The "wicker monster", as I call it, looks really nice, and is a good first time effect on-ride as a near miss. It didn't have any fire effects going though, which was a shame.

     
    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. And with no queue, that's exactly what I did. In honesty, there's not many rides where I've had that immediate feeling of "Damn, let's do that again, like right now!"; it was very much a 'Top 10%' ride for me from the get-go. Taking advantage of there being no queue, I went for the front this time. I was surprised at how consistent the ride was compared between front and back. And the pure rush going down the first drop on the front row is something I really liked too.



    Two rides in, and I decided - reluctantly - to move on. The park seemed like it was going to be quiet, but with the threats of storms still looming, I thought I should try to mop up the creds just in case, and then return to Colossos later if I could.
     
    With that, I went to the neighbouring Desert Race. It's basically a Rita clone. I like Rita, so expected to like this. However, it fell a bit flat for me, for reasons I can't quiet put my figure on. Maybe the bare-ness of the ride? Maybe the slow ops, where they waited for an entire full train before dispatching? Maybe the annoying announcements? Just little fiddly things. This also feels like a very Tussauds investment: plonked down, minimal theming, very tacky in general. I hope the park do something with this sooner rather than later.
     
    I then went back the way I came towards Big Loop

    Bog standard old Vekoma. Not much else to say.
     
    Then it was time to tick off the remaining B&M, Flug der Damonen. I had been intrigued by this, due to its tight layout and neat theming. Despite the app saying this had a 0 minute queue, there was a bit of a wait...about 10 minutes. No problem really though I guess. I really liked the station; had a real nice vibe to it.



    I got a front row ride on the right hand side. And the ride...was not that good. It starts off nicely, standard B&M wing. But then it tries cramming all its elements into a small space, and it just seems to make the ride a bit juddery, and it lacks any sort of flow. A real shame, and definitely the weakest one I've done so far.
     
    The app still listed Scream, Bobbahn and Limit as closed. These rides had all been closed any time I'd checked the app on previous days too. As they were nearby, I decided to check them out and see what's what. Scream had a sign outside saying it was waiting for a part, and should be ready to open for "Week 15". Sad times, as I like drop towers. Bobbahn had a sign outside saying it was too cold to open. Gah, spite
    Limit, however, had no sign. It wasn't open, but there was a solid handful of people waiting outside, and staff in the station. I overheard a conversation between guests which I loosely managed to translate to as "it will open soon". So I decided to hang around.
     
    To be honest, I can't believe I decided to willingly hang around and see if an SLC would open soon. Especially when it lunchtime, I was hungry, and I was in the same park as a walk-on Colossos. But heyho, a man's gotta get his creds. After about 10 minutes, it opened up. Yay...
    I managed to get on the second train of the day. Second train of the season. I got a middle row seat, and braced myself in usual SLC-fashion. But something strange happened. It wasn't...awful. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good. But it didn't try to massacre me, and I left the ride without my head feeling like I'd been in the ring with Drederick Tatum. Maybe the ride hadn't warmed up enough, so it was running slowly and, somehow, less rough?
    So there we have it folks, if you want a not-awful ride on an SLC, make sure to take one of the first rides of the season on a cold and stormy day!

    I also quite liked the music - nice rock track.
     
    After a quick spot of lunch, I went to the other side of the park, where the water rides and a smaller cred lived. I did both the log flume - which had a long cattlepen queue you couldn't skip over thanks to Covid barriers still being in place - and the rapids in quick succession. They were nice; not too wet, not too dry, and solid, yet unremarkable, examples of their ride types. I ticked off kiddie cred, Indy-Blitz, too, getting a solo ride and a +1 for my troubles.
     
    Next up was perhaps my second-most anticipated ride of the day...Ghostbuster 5D. I make no secret that I love shooting dark rides. I'm not big on the Ghostbusters franchise, but I acknowledged that it was something that had huge potential with this ride type. The exterior is very Merlin, in that it looks good in context of what the theme of the ride is, yet still a bit bland for a theme park. And it's kind of let down by the dodgy shipping container entrance. 



    The mathematician in me feels obliged to take photos of any mathematical equations that work their way into theming within rides.
     
    As for the ride itself...I dunno. I'm not sold. The idea is cool, especially the working together to take down ghosts. But the pacing feels a bit off. Some scenes are far too long, others far too short. There's not one which is 'just right'. There's not really anything between screens, and the attempted compensation is "let's spin and jerk the car around quickly". This left me feeling a bit motion sick, which was a shame. A bit better pacing in the scenes, and some better breathing space between scenes, and this would be SO much better.
     
    On my way to the final cred, I took a nice slow wander round. On this random, meandering walk, I noticed a random fire effect, which was coming from the boat ride in the How to Train Your Dragon area. I don't particularly care for the franchise, but liking fire effects, I thought sod it, I'll give the ride a go. It was a nice little ride, with some neat effects and was largely indoors, protecting me from those pesky storm clouds (which were still threatening rain, but not following through!). Detour completed, I did the final open cred of the day, Grottenblitz, a Mack powered cred, with shared the same building as the previous boat ride. It had a nice layout. But I didn't get any photos (it was getting rather cold).
     
    Now it must have been around 2 / half 2, and I'd ticked off all the creds and all the rides I wanted to do. Yes, there were loads of flats, but none appealed. The park have a monorail and train ride, which I would usually do, but both looked slow and burdensome to do in cold weather. So I took the chance to do re-rides, and a do a fair few of them at that.
     
    Throughout the last couple of hours, I managed another two rides on Krake (on 2nd and 3rd row, both were nice, but not quite as good as the front, of course), and ride on the opposite side of Flug (which was even more juddery on the back row). I decided to give Ghostbusters another shot, but even being prepared for the spinning, I still felt a little queasy afterwards. More importantly, I managed another 6 goes on Colossos, including another front and back row ride. All in, it really cemented itself as a top ride for me. It had warmed up nicely, and the middle third was running better by the end of the day. Still a weak spot, but the first and final thirds more than compensated for it.
     
    I also took the chance to just wander round the park and take some more photos. So here's a little final photo dump on my least terrible photos...





     
    All in, I had a really nice day at Heide Park. The weather held off, the park was sufficiently quiet and it has a good selection of rides. It had quite a Merlin feel about it, and even moreso a feel of a park that's had three very different owners and directions. There's the older, classic rides which have a nice, integrated feeling. Then there's the Tussauds-era, plonking rides down and just rolling with it. Then the more recent Merlin-era, where theming and ride integration clearly plays a part, but can be a bit hit and miss. In saying that, I would happily go back again in the future - especially if they were to add a more traditional dark ride, and maybe replace Desert Race with something that uses the space better!
     
     
    The day ended off by taking the train to Lubeck. It was a good couple of hours journey along 3 trains (Wolterdingen to the much-hated Buchholz, to Hamburg, then to Lubeck), but simple enough. Sadly, the weather decided to finally take a turn for the worse, and the heavens opened. The 20 minute walk up the hills of Lubeck felt so much longer thanks to the rain and bitter wind. Cheers for the birthday present, Lubeck...just what I always wanted!
     
    Coming soon, day 2 of 2...a wet, cold and anxious day at Hansa Park...
  14. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from MattyB for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 1, Heide Park   
    Rewinding just over two years ago, I and a few friends had booked a trip out to Hamburg, which would include one and a half days at Heide Park - plus a stay in their hotel - and a day at Hansa Park. It would coincide with two of our birthdays too. What better way than to spend a birthday at a new park?
     
    At the time, this Covid-19 thing had just turned up on the British doorstep, and concerns were growing. But the idea of a lockdown was a far away thought. Obviously, come March, that all changed, and the trip cancelled (fortunately fully refunded). So instead of celebrating my birthday in some new foreign park, it was spent hunkered down in lockdown. "Ah well, maybe net year" I thought. Obviously I could go to Hamburg at other times, but I dunno, something felt kind of right about doing this trip over my birthday.
     
    But the world had other plans. Lockdown III was coming to an end, but foreign travel was out of the question, and the UK parks were out of the question. Instead, my birthday in 2021 was spent playing some outdoor mini golf (which was a big deal at the time tbf). 
     
    Early 2022 came around, and things seemed a bit more promising. Maybe I could spend a birthday out of lockdown for the first time since 2019!! And maybe, just maybe, I could finally get out to Hamburg. I tried to rally up those who I originally planned to go with, but after being met with radio silence, it became apparent if this was going to happen, I'd be going solo.
     
    Ooft. Solo park trips aren't something I've done for a long time. Well, I haven't really done them at all. I've maybe spent a couple of hours at a park alone when someone had to leave unexpectedly early, or a bit of time when arriving early. But never a full day, and never at a new park. But to be honest, it wasn't a difficult choice..."ahhhh, screw it, let's do it!" was basically my thought process.
     
    To keep costs minimal, this was going to be a short trip - fly in on a Tuesday evening, one park Wednesday, one park Thursday, fly home Thursday night. Ideally I'd've flown in Wednesday morning, but flight times just didn't work out. I had planned to drive too, but that was very costly (plus the rising fuel prices scared me), but I quickly realised both parks were pretty accessible by train. It increased the journey times, but it saved a lot of money really.
     
    Anyways, enough pre-amble ramblings. Time to get to it...
     
    Day 0
    This was my first flight since January 2020. Things have changed a fair bit since then, with both Brexit and Covid. Gatwick airport was pretty chill, and boarding on the Easyjet flight was fine. As Germany require FFP2 masks in certain places (such as planes, airports and trains), crew were freely giving out these masks to anyone who didn't have that specific type of mask. Pretty chill.
     
    A not-short queue through passport control followed. It was at this point where I expected to have to show my vaccine passport (the only requirement to get into Germany at the time), but I didn't. Oh well.
     
    My hotel was a 20 minute walk from the airport, and was surprisingly cheap and nice given the location. Boom, easy.
     
    Day 1 - Heide Park
    I was faced with two problems for my day at Heide Park.
     
    First thing, the weather. The weather had been pretty miserable the past few days prior; cold and wet with threats of storms. Having checked their park app in the days prior, that seemed to be affecting ride availability too. And the weather today didn't seem much better - cold and dark clouds, with high chances of rain. Just a tad concerning. 
     
    The second was more of an "operational" concern. The park say on their website that the nearest train station to the park is Wolterdingen, which is a 20 minute walk to the park. Annoyingly, when travelling from Hamburg, you can only arrive hourly, at 48 minutes past each hour. So I was left with a choice: arrive to Wolterdingen at 08:48 and awkwardly wait outside the park for ages, but be one of the first through the gate...or arrive at the park late.
     
    I expected the park to be quiet, so arriving late wouldn't be the end of the world, buttttttttt I like to get to parks for opening wherever possible. So I opted to get out of bed the hour earlier to get there earlier. Who needs a birthday lie in when there's creds to get?!
     
    Getting from my hotel to Wolterdingen was straightforward enough. U-Bahn from hotel to Hamburg's main station. 20 minute wait time for connection to a random place called Buchholz, then a 15 minute wait to connect to Wolterdingen. Easy enough.
    U-Bahn went smoothly. But then disaster struck. The connection was delayed...by 15 minutes. Ffs. The train pulled into Buchholz just as my connection left. And it was an hour until the next train.
     
    I came to really hate Buchholz. It was a large station which was very windy and cold, and there was no indoor waiting area that I could find. Fortunately, the rest of the journey was easy enough, and the walk from Wolterdingen to Heide was a straight line, and only took me 15mins. And so, a little after 10, I was finally here!

     
    Waltzing straight on through, with no whiff of security, my first port of call was the dump my stuff in a locker. I don't usually use park lockers (usually opting to visit light), but didn't fancy lugging all my stuff all day, especially with the ominous storm clouds hanging over. An all day, unlimited-entry locker cost 5 euro...not awful, but could be worse I guess.
     
    Checking the app, it suggested that of the "big" rides, only Krake, Flug der Damonen and Big Loop were open. All with 0 minute queues, fortunately. But not a great start, and already cred anxiety was kicking in. But let's not focus on that, and instead let's get some B&M-goodness...

     
    Krake wasn't particularly something that was on my radar. Drop, inversion, over, right? A fun +1, but I didn't expect any more. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I walked on to front row straight away, and got a very nice ride. You seem to hang over the drop for a good few seconds (much longer than Oblivion and Baron at least), and the splash effect is really cool. The whole ride is filled with nice floaty moments, and even then those it's quick, it left me feeling fulfilled. Coupled in with the nice music and nice theming, I was quite happy. 


    It's nothing special, but it does what it aims to do very well.
     
    On an even more exciting note, I noticed whilst on ride that Colossos was running. And it looked like people were on it too! I checked the app and it said it was still closed. This left me with a choice...not head over and tick off the nearby creds, or trek to the other side of the park and see what's what. With Colossos being my most anticipated cred of the park, and with it's availability seemingly being sporadic over previous days, I decided to venture over. This turned out to be a very good choice; I saw it run again, and there were clearly people on it. Woohoo!
     
    Colossos
    Fortunately there was no queue, and even getting into the station, there was only a one train wait. The ride, like everything, was on one train, which gave me a good feeling about the level of busyness to expect. Opted for the back row for my first ride.
     
    WOW.
     
    I didn't really know what to expect from the ride. I hadn't heard much about it, and didn't know the layout. But having done Balder, I had high expectations for my second Intamin woodie. And damn, they were, pretty much, met. Climbing up the lift hill hearing the audio is a neat thing. The first drop is fantastic, lifting you out of your seat. The first airtime hill flings you out too. The second gives you nice really nice floater airtime too.
     
    Then you hit the turnaround. This kills the ride a bit. It doesn't make anything bad, but it loses its ability to give decent airtime. You get little pops, but it feels weak compared to what you've just experienced. And this feeling carries on until the helix, where the ride picks up speed and its aggressive nature again. The final couple of hills have some good, consistent airtime, and leave the ride ending on a high note.
     
    The "wicker monster", as I call it, looks really nice, and is a good first time effect on-ride as a near miss. It didn't have any fire effects going though, which was a shame.

     
    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. And with no queue, that's exactly what I did. In honesty, there's not many rides where I've had that immediate feeling of "Damn, let's do that again, like right now!"; it was very much a 'Top 10%' ride for me from the get-go. Taking advantage of there being no queue, I went for the front this time. I was surprised at how consistent the ride was compared between front and back. And the pure rush going down the first drop on the front row is something I really liked too.



    Two rides in, and I decided - reluctantly - to move on. The park seemed like it was going to be quiet, but with the threats of storms still looming, I thought I should try to mop up the creds just in case, and then return to Colossos later if I could.
     
    With that, I went to the neighbouring Desert Race. It's basically a Rita clone. I like Rita, so expected to like this. However, it fell a bit flat for me, for reasons I can't quiet put my figure on. Maybe the bare-ness of the ride? Maybe the slow ops, where they waited for an entire full train before dispatching? Maybe the annoying announcements? Just little fiddly things. This also feels like a very Tussauds investment: plonked down, minimal theming, very tacky in general. I hope the park do something with this sooner rather than later.
     
    I then went back the way I came towards Big Loop

    Bog standard old Vekoma. Not much else to say.
     
    Then it was time to tick off the remaining B&M, Flug der Damonen. I had been intrigued by this, due to its tight layout and neat theming. Despite the app saying this had a 0 minute queue, there was a bit of a wait...about 10 minutes. No problem really though I guess. I really liked the station; had a real nice vibe to it.



    I got a front row ride on the right hand side. And the ride...was not that good. It starts off nicely, standard B&M wing. But then it tries cramming all its elements into a small space, and it just seems to make the ride a bit juddery, and it lacks any sort of flow. A real shame, and definitely the weakest one I've done so far.
     
    The app still listed Scream, Bobbahn and Limit as closed. These rides had all been closed any time I'd checked the app on previous days too. As they were nearby, I decided to check them out and see what's what. Scream had a sign outside saying it was waiting for a part, and should be ready to open for "Week 15". Sad times, as I like drop towers. Bobbahn had a sign outside saying it was too cold to open. Gah, spite
    Limit, however, had no sign. It wasn't open, but there was a solid handful of people waiting outside, and staff in the station. I overheard a conversation between guests which I loosely managed to translate to as "it will open soon". So I decided to hang around.
     
    To be honest, I can't believe I decided to willingly hang around and see if an SLC would open soon. Especially when it lunchtime, I was hungry, and I was in the same park as a walk-on Colossos. But heyho, a man's gotta get his creds. After about 10 minutes, it opened up. Yay...
    I managed to get on the second train of the day. Second train of the season. I got a middle row seat, and braced myself in usual SLC-fashion. But something strange happened. It wasn't...awful. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good. But it didn't try to massacre me, and I left the ride without my head feeling like I'd been in the ring with Drederick Tatum. Maybe the ride hadn't warmed up enough, so it was running slowly and, somehow, less rough?
    So there we have it folks, if you want a not-awful ride on an SLC, make sure to take one of the first rides of the season on a cold and stormy day!

    I also quite liked the music - nice rock track.
     
    After a quick spot of lunch, I went to the other side of the park, where the water rides and a smaller cred lived. I did both the log flume - which had a long cattlepen queue you couldn't skip over thanks to Covid barriers still being in place - and the rapids in quick succession. They were nice; not too wet, not too dry, and solid, yet unremarkable, examples of their ride types. I ticked off kiddie cred, Indy-Blitz, too, getting a solo ride and a +1 for my troubles.
     
    Next up was perhaps my second-most anticipated ride of the day...Ghostbuster 5D. I make no secret that I love shooting dark rides. I'm not big on the Ghostbusters franchise, but I acknowledged that it was something that had huge potential with this ride type. The exterior is very Merlin, in that it looks good in context of what the theme of the ride is, yet still a bit bland for a theme park. And it's kind of let down by the dodgy shipping container entrance. 



    The mathematician in me feels obliged to take photos of any mathematical equations that work their way into theming within rides.
     
    As for the ride itself...I dunno. I'm not sold. The idea is cool, especially the working together to take down ghosts. But the pacing feels a bit off. Some scenes are far too long, others far too short. There's not one which is 'just right'. There's not really anything between screens, and the attempted compensation is "let's spin and jerk the car around quickly". This left me feeling a bit motion sick, which was a shame. A bit better pacing in the scenes, and some better breathing space between scenes, and this would be SO much better.
     
    On my way to the final cred, I took a nice slow wander round. On this random, meandering walk, I noticed a random fire effect, which was coming from the boat ride in the How to Train Your Dragon area. I don't particularly care for the franchise, but liking fire effects, I thought sod it, I'll give the ride a go. It was a nice little ride, with some neat effects and was largely indoors, protecting me from those pesky storm clouds (which were still threatening rain, but not following through!). Detour completed, I did the final open cred of the day, Grottenblitz, a Mack powered cred, with shared the same building as the previous boat ride. It had a nice layout. But I didn't get any photos (it was getting rather cold).
     
    Now it must have been around 2 / half 2, and I'd ticked off all the creds and all the rides I wanted to do. Yes, there were loads of flats, but none appealed. The park have a monorail and train ride, which I would usually do, but both looked slow and burdensome to do in cold weather. So I took the chance to do re-rides, and a do a fair few of them at that.
     
    Throughout the last couple of hours, I managed another two rides on Krake (on 2nd and 3rd row, both were nice, but not quite as good as the front, of course), and ride on the opposite side of Flug (which was even more juddery on the back row). I decided to give Ghostbusters another shot, but even being prepared for the spinning, I still felt a little queasy afterwards. More importantly, I managed another 6 goes on Colossos, including another front and back row ride. All in, it really cemented itself as a top ride for me. It had warmed up nicely, and the middle third was running better by the end of the day. Still a weak spot, but the first and final thirds more than compensated for it.
     
    I also took the chance to just wander round the park and take some more photos. So here's a little final photo dump on my least terrible photos...





     
    All in, I had a really nice day at Heide Park. The weather held off, the park was sufficiently quiet and it has a good selection of rides. It had quite a Merlin feel about it, and even moreso a feel of a park that's had three very different owners and directions. There's the older, classic rides which have a nice, integrated feeling. Then there's the Tussauds-era, plonking rides down and just rolling with it. Then the more recent Merlin-era, where theming and ride integration clearly plays a part, but can be a bit hit and miss. In saying that, I would happily go back again in the future - especially if they were to add a more traditional dark ride, and maybe replace Desert Race with something that uses the space better!
     
     
    The day ended off by taking the train to Lubeck. It was a good couple of hours journey along 3 trains (Wolterdingen to the much-hated Buchholz, to Hamburg, then to Lubeck), but simple enough. Sadly, the weather decided to finally take a turn for the worse, and the heavens opened. The 20 minute walk up the hills of Lubeck felt so much longer thanks to the rain and bitter wind. Cheers for the birthday present, Lubeck...just what I always wanted!
     
    Coming soon, day 2 of 2...a wet, cold and anxious day at Hansa Park...
  15. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Inferno for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 1, Heide Park   
    Rewinding just over two years ago, I and a few friends had booked a trip out to Hamburg, which would include one and a half days at Heide Park - plus a stay in their hotel - and a day at Hansa Park. It would coincide with two of our birthdays too. What better way than to spend a birthday at a new park?
     
    At the time, this Covid-19 thing had just turned up on the British doorstep, and concerns were growing. But the idea of a lockdown was a far away thought. Obviously, come March, that all changed, and the trip cancelled (fortunately fully refunded). So instead of celebrating my birthday in some new foreign park, it was spent hunkered down in lockdown. "Ah well, maybe net year" I thought. Obviously I could go to Hamburg at other times, but I dunno, something felt kind of right about doing this trip over my birthday.
     
    But the world had other plans. Lockdown III was coming to an end, but foreign travel was out of the question, and the UK parks were out of the question. Instead, my birthday in 2021 was spent playing some outdoor mini golf (which was a big deal at the time tbf). 
     
    Early 2022 came around, and things seemed a bit more promising. Maybe I could spend a birthday out of lockdown for the first time since 2019!! And maybe, just maybe, I could finally get out to Hamburg. I tried to rally up those who I originally planned to go with, but after being met with radio silence, it became apparent if this was going to happen, I'd be going solo.
     
    Ooft. Solo park trips aren't something I've done for a long time. Well, I haven't really done them at all. I've maybe spent a couple of hours at a park alone when someone had to leave unexpectedly early, or a bit of time when arriving early. But never a full day, and never at a new park. But to be honest, it wasn't a difficult choice..."ahhhh, screw it, let's do it!" was basically my thought process.
     
    To keep costs minimal, this was going to be a short trip - fly in on a Tuesday evening, one park Wednesday, one park Thursday, fly home Thursday night. Ideally I'd've flown in Wednesday morning, but flight times just didn't work out. I had planned to drive too, but that was very costly (plus the rising fuel prices scared me), but I quickly realised both parks were pretty accessible by train. It increased the journey times, but it saved a lot of money really.
     
    Anyways, enough pre-amble ramblings. Time to get to it...
     
    Day 0
    This was my first flight since January 2020. Things have changed a fair bit since then, with both Brexit and Covid. Gatwick airport was pretty chill, and boarding on the Easyjet flight was fine. As Germany require FFP2 masks in certain places (such as planes, airports and trains), crew were freely giving out these masks to anyone who didn't have that specific type of mask. Pretty chill.
     
    A not-short queue through passport control followed. It was at this point where I expected to have to show my vaccine passport (the only requirement to get into Germany at the time), but I didn't. Oh well.
     
    My hotel was a 20 minute walk from the airport, and was surprisingly cheap and nice given the location. Boom, easy.
     
    Day 1 - Heide Park
    I was faced with two problems for my day at Heide Park.
     
    First thing, the weather. The weather had been pretty miserable the past few days prior; cold and wet with threats of storms. Having checked their park app in the days prior, that seemed to be affecting ride availability too. And the weather today didn't seem much better - cold and dark clouds, with high chances of rain. Just a tad concerning. 
     
    The second was more of an "operational" concern. The park say on their website that the nearest train station to the park is Wolterdingen, which is a 20 minute walk to the park. Annoyingly, when travelling from Hamburg, you can only arrive hourly, at 48 minutes past each hour. So I was left with a choice: arrive to Wolterdingen at 08:48 and awkwardly wait outside the park for ages, but be one of the first through the gate...or arrive at the park late.
     
    I expected the park to be quiet, so arriving late wouldn't be the end of the world, buttttttttt I like to get to parks for opening wherever possible. So I opted to get out of bed the hour earlier to get there earlier. Who needs a birthday lie in when there's creds to get?!
     
    Getting from my hotel to Wolterdingen was straightforward enough. U-Bahn from hotel to Hamburg's main station. 20 minute wait time for connection to a random place called Buchholz, then a 15 minute wait to connect to Wolterdingen. Easy enough.
    U-Bahn went smoothly. But then disaster struck. The connection was delayed...by 15 minutes. Ffs. The train pulled into Buchholz just as my connection left. And it was an hour until the next train.
     
    I came to really hate Buchholz. It was a large station which was very windy and cold, and there was no indoor waiting area that I could find. Fortunately, the rest of the journey was easy enough, and the walk from Wolterdingen to Heide was a straight line, and only took me 15mins. And so, a little after 10, I was finally here!

     
    Waltzing straight on through, with no whiff of security, my first port of call was the dump my stuff in a locker. I don't usually use park lockers (usually opting to visit light), but didn't fancy lugging all my stuff all day, especially with the ominous storm clouds hanging over. An all day, unlimited-entry locker cost 5 euro...not awful, but could be worse I guess.
     
    Checking the app, it suggested that of the "big" rides, only Krake, Flug der Damonen and Big Loop were open. All with 0 minute queues, fortunately. But not a great start, and already cred anxiety was kicking in. But let's not focus on that, and instead let's get some B&M-goodness...

     
    Krake wasn't particularly something that was on my radar. Drop, inversion, over, right? A fun +1, but I didn't expect any more. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I walked on to front row straight away, and got a very nice ride. You seem to hang over the drop for a good few seconds (much longer than Oblivion and Baron at least), and the splash effect is really cool. The whole ride is filled with nice floaty moments, and even then those it's quick, it left me feeling fulfilled. Coupled in with the nice music and nice theming, I was quite happy. 


    It's nothing special, but it does what it aims to do very well.
     
    On an even more exciting note, I noticed whilst on ride that Colossos was running. And it looked like people were on it too! I checked the app and it said it was still closed. This left me with a choice...not head over and tick off the nearby creds, or trek to the other side of the park and see what's what. With Colossos being my most anticipated cred of the park, and with it's availability seemingly being sporadic over previous days, I decided to venture over. This turned out to be a very good choice; I saw it run again, and there were clearly people on it. Woohoo!
     
    Colossos
    Fortunately there was no queue, and even getting into the station, there was only a one train wait. The ride, like everything, was on one train, which gave me a good feeling about the level of busyness to expect. Opted for the back row for my first ride.
     
    WOW.
     
    I didn't really know what to expect from the ride. I hadn't heard much about it, and didn't know the layout. But having done Balder, I had high expectations for my second Intamin woodie. And damn, they were, pretty much, met. Climbing up the lift hill hearing the audio is a neat thing. The first drop is fantastic, lifting you out of your seat. The first airtime hill flings you out too. The second gives you nice really nice floater airtime too.
     
    Then you hit the turnaround. This kills the ride a bit. It doesn't make anything bad, but it loses its ability to give decent airtime. You get little pops, but it feels weak compared to what you've just experienced. And this feeling carries on until the helix, where the ride picks up speed and its aggressive nature again. The final couple of hills have some good, consistent airtime, and leave the ride ending on a high note.
     
    The "wicker monster", as I call it, looks really nice, and is a good first time effect on-ride as a near miss. It didn't have any fire effects going though, which was a shame.

     
    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. And with no queue, that's exactly what I did. In honesty, there's not many rides where I've had that immediate feeling of "Damn, let's do that again, like right now!"; it was very much a 'Top 10%' ride for me from the get-go. Taking advantage of there being no queue, I went for the front this time. I was surprised at how consistent the ride was compared between front and back. And the pure rush going down the first drop on the front row is something I really liked too.



    Two rides in, and I decided - reluctantly - to move on. The park seemed like it was going to be quiet, but with the threats of storms still looming, I thought I should try to mop up the creds just in case, and then return to Colossos later if I could.
     
    With that, I went to the neighbouring Desert Race. It's basically a Rita clone. I like Rita, so expected to like this. However, it fell a bit flat for me, for reasons I can't quiet put my figure on. Maybe the bare-ness of the ride? Maybe the slow ops, where they waited for an entire full train before dispatching? Maybe the annoying announcements? Just little fiddly things. This also feels like a very Tussauds investment: plonked down, minimal theming, very tacky in general. I hope the park do something with this sooner rather than later.
     
    I then went back the way I came towards Big Loop

    Bog standard old Vekoma. Not much else to say.
     
    Then it was time to tick off the remaining B&M, Flug der Damonen. I had been intrigued by this, due to its tight layout and neat theming. Despite the app saying this had a 0 minute queue, there was a bit of a wait...about 10 minutes. No problem really though I guess. I really liked the station; had a real nice vibe to it.



    I got a front row ride on the right hand side. And the ride...was not that good. It starts off nicely, standard B&M wing. But then it tries cramming all its elements into a small space, and it just seems to make the ride a bit juddery, and it lacks any sort of flow. A real shame, and definitely the weakest one I've done so far.
     
    The app still listed Scream, Bobbahn and Limit as closed. These rides had all been closed any time I'd checked the app on previous days too. As they were nearby, I decided to check them out and see what's what. Scream had a sign outside saying it was waiting for a part, and should be ready to open for "Week 15". Sad times, as I like drop towers. Bobbahn had a sign outside saying it was too cold to open. Gah, spite
    Limit, however, had no sign. It wasn't open, but there was a solid handful of people waiting outside, and staff in the station. I overheard a conversation between guests which I loosely managed to translate to as "it will open soon". So I decided to hang around.
     
    To be honest, I can't believe I decided to willingly hang around and see if an SLC would open soon. Especially when it lunchtime, I was hungry, and I was in the same park as a walk-on Colossos. But heyho, a man's gotta get his creds. After about 10 minutes, it opened up. Yay...
    I managed to get on the second train of the day. Second train of the season. I got a middle row seat, and braced myself in usual SLC-fashion. But something strange happened. It wasn't...awful. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good. But it didn't try to massacre me, and I left the ride without my head feeling like I'd been in the ring with Drederick Tatum. Maybe the ride hadn't warmed up enough, so it was running slowly and, somehow, less rough?
    So there we have it folks, if you want a not-awful ride on an SLC, make sure to take one of the first rides of the season on a cold and stormy day!

    I also quite liked the music - nice rock track.
     
    After a quick spot of lunch, I went to the other side of the park, where the water rides and a smaller cred lived. I did both the log flume - which had a long cattlepen queue you couldn't skip over thanks to Covid barriers still being in place - and the rapids in quick succession. They were nice; not too wet, not too dry, and solid, yet unremarkable, examples of their ride types. I ticked off kiddie cred, Indy-Blitz, too, getting a solo ride and a +1 for my troubles.
     
    Next up was perhaps my second-most anticipated ride of the day...Ghostbuster 5D. I make no secret that I love shooting dark rides. I'm not big on the Ghostbusters franchise, but I acknowledged that it was something that had huge potential with this ride type. The exterior is very Merlin, in that it looks good in context of what the theme of the ride is, yet still a bit bland for a theme park. And it's kind of let down by the dodgy shipping container entrance. 



    The mathematician in me feels obliged to take photos of any mathematical equations that work their way into theming within rides.
     
    As for the ride itself...I dunno. I'm not sold. The idea is cool, especially the working together to take down ghosts. But the pacing feels a bit off. Some scenes are far too long, others far too short. There's not one which is 'just right'. There's not really anything between screens, and the attempted compensation is "let's spin and jerk the car around quickly". This left me feeling a bit motion sick, which was a shame. A bit better pacing in the scenes, and some better breathing space between scenes, and this would be SO much better.
     
    On my way to the final cred, I took a nice slow wander round. On this random, meandering walk, I noticed a random fire effect, which was coming from the boat ride in the How to Train Your Dragon area. I don't particularly care for the franchise, but liking fire effects, I thought sod it, I'll give the ride a go. It was a nice little ride, with some neat effects and was largely indoors, protecting me from those pesky storm clouds (which were still threatening rain, but not following through!). Detour completed, I did the final open cred of the day, Grottenblitz, a Mack powered cred, with shared the same building as the previous boat ride. It had a nice layout. But I didn't get any photos (it was getting rather cold).
     
    Now it must have been around 2 / half 2, and I'd ticked off all the creds and all the rides I wanted to do. Yes, there were loads of flats, but none appealed. The park have a monorail and train ride, which I would usually do, but both looked slow and burdensome to do in cold weather. So I took the chance to do re-rides, and a do a fair few of them at that.
     
    Throughout the last couple of hours, I managed another two rides on Krake (on 2nd and 3rd row, both were nice, but not quite as good as the front, of course), and ride on the opposite side of Flug (which was even more juddery on the back row). I decided to give Ghostbusters another shot, but even being prepared for the spinning, I still felt a little queasy afterwards. More importantly, I managed another 6 goes on Colossos, including another front and back row ride. All in, it really cemented itself as a top ride for me. It had warmed up nicely, and the middle third was running better by the end of the day. Still a weak spot, but the first and final thirds more than compensated for it.
     
    I also took the chance to just wander round the park and take some more photos. So here's a little final photo dump on my least terrible photos...





     
    All in, I had a really nice day at Heide Park. The weather held off, the park was sufficiently quiet and it has a good selection of rides. It had quite a Merlin feel about it, and even moreso a feel of a park that's had three very different owners and directions. There's the older, classic rides which have a nice, integrated feeling. Then there's the Tussauds-era, plonking rides down and just rolling with it. Then the more recent Merlin-era, where theming and ride integration clearly plays a part, but can be a bit hit and miss. In saying that, I would happily go back again in the future - especially if they were to add a more traditional dark ride, and maybe replace Desert Race with something that uses the space better!
     
     
    The day ended off by taking the train to Lubeck. It was a good couple of hours journey along 3 trains (Wolterdingen to the much-hated Buchholz, to Hamburg, then to Lubeck), but simple enough. Sadly, the weather decided to finally take a turn for the worse, and the heavens opened. The 20 minute walk up the hills of Lubeck felt so much longer thanks to the rain and bitter wind. Cheers for the birthday present, Lubeck...just what I always wanted!
     
    Coming soon, day 2 of 2...a wet, cold and anxious day at Hansa Park...
  16. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Mattgwise for a blog entry, Storm Clouds Over Hamburg - Day 1, Heide Park   
    Rewinding just over two years ago, I and a few friends had booked a trip out to Hamburg, which would include one and a half days at Heide Park - plus a stay in their hotel - and a day at Hansa Park. It would coincide with two of our birthdays too. What better way than to spend a birthday at a new park?
     
    At the time, this Covid-19 thing had just turned up on the British doorstep, and concerns were growing. But the idea of a lockdown was a far away thought. Obviously, come March, that all changed, and the trip cancelled (fortunately fully refunded). So instead of celebrating my birthday in some new foreign park, it was spent hunkered down in lockdown. "Ah well, maybe net year" I thought. Obviously I could go to Hamburg at other times, but I dunno, something felt kind of right about doing this trip over my birthday.
     
    But the world had other plans. Lockdown III was coming to an end, but foreign travel was out of the question, and the UK parks were out of the question. Instead, my birthday in 2021 was spent playing some outdoor mini golf (which was a big deal at the time tbf). 
     
    Early 2022 came around, and things seemed a bit more promising. Maybe I could spend a birthday out of lockdown for the first time since 2019!! And maybe, just maybe, I could finally get out to Hamburg. I tried to rally up those who I originally planned to go with, but after being met with radio silence, it became apparent if this was going to happen, I'd be going solo.
     
    Ooft. Solo park trips aren't something I've done for a long time. Well, I haven't really done them at all. I've maybe spent a couple of hours at a park alone when someone had to leave unexpectedly early, or a bit of time when arriving early. But never a full day, and never at a new park. But to be honest, it wasn't a difficult choice..."ahhhh, screw it, let's do it!" was basically my thought process.
     
    To keep costs minimal, this was going to be a short trip - fly in on a Tuesday evening, one park Wednesday, one park Thursday, fly home Thursday night. Ideally I'd've flown in Wednesday morning, but flight times just didn't work out. I had planned to drive too, but that was very costly (plus the rising fuel prices scared me), but I quickly realised both parks were pretty accessible by train. It increased the journey times, but it saved a lot of money really.
     
    Anyways, enough pre-amble ramblings. Time to get to it...
     
    Day 0
    This was my first flight since January 2020. Things have changed a fair bit since then, with both Brexit and Covid. Gatwick airport was pretty chill, and boarding on the Easyjet flight was fine. As Germany require FFP2 masks in certain places (such as planes, airports and trains), crew were freely giving out these masks to anyone who didn't have that specific type of mask. Pretty chill.
     
    A not-short queue through passport control followed. It was at this point where I expected to have to show my vaccine passport (the only requirement to get into Germany at the time), but I didn't. Oh well.
     
    My hotel was a 20 minute walk from the airport, and was surprisingly cheap and nice given the location. Boom, easy.
     
    Day 1 - Heide Park
    I was faced with two problems for my day at Heide Park.
     
    First thing, the weather. The weather had been pretty miserable the past few days prior; cold and wet with threats of storms. Having checked their park app in the days prior, that seemed to be affecting ride availability too. And the weather today didn't seem much better - cold and dark clouds, with high chances of rain. Just a tad concerning. 
     
    The second was more of an "operational" concern. The park say on their website that the nearest train station to the park is Wolterdingen, which is a 20 minute walk to the park. Annoyingly, when travelling from Hamburg, you can only arrive hourly, at 48 minutes past each hour. So I was left with a choice: arrive to Wolterdingen at 08:48 and awkwardly wait outside the park for ages, but be one of the first through the gate...or arrive at the park late.
     
    I expected the park to be quiet, so arriving late wouldn't be the end of the world, buttttttttt I like to get to parks for opening wherever possible. So I opted to get out of bed the hour earlier to get there earlier. Who needs a birthday lie in when there's creds to get?!
     
    Getting from my hotel to Wolterdingen was straightforward enough. U-Bahn from hotel to Hamburg's main station. 20 minute wait time for connection to a random place called Buchholz, then a 15 minute wait to connect to Wolterdingen. Easy enough.
    U-Bahn went smoothly. But then disaster struck. The connection was delayed...by 15 minutes. Ffs. The train pulled into Buchholz just as my connection left. And it was an hour until the next train.
     
    I came to really hate Buchholz. It was a large station which was very windy and cold, and there was no indoor waiting area that I could find. Fortunately, the rest of the journey was easy enough, and the walk from Wolterdingen to Heide was a straight line, and only took me 15mins. And so, a little after 10, I was finally here!

     
    Waltzing straight on through, with no whiff of security, my first port of call was the dump my stuff in a locker. I don't usually use park lockers (usually opting to visit light), but didn't fancy lugging all my stuff all day, especially with the ominous storm clouds hanging over. An all day, unlimited-entry locker cost 5 euro...not awful, but could be worse I guess.
     
    Checking the app, it suggested that of the "big" rides, only Krake, Flug der Damonen and Big Loop were open. All with 0 minute queues, fortunately. But not a great start, and already cred anxiety was kicking in. But let's not focus on that, and instead let's get some B&M-goodness...

     
    Krake wasn't particularly something that was on my radar. Drop, inversion, over, right? A fun +1, but I didn't expect any more. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. I walked on to front row straight away, and got a very nice ride. You seem to hang over the drop for a good few seconds (much longer than Oblivion and Baron at least), and the splash effect is really cool. The whole ride is filled with nice floaty moments, and even then those it's quick, it left me feeling fulfilled. Coupled in with the nice music and nice theming, I was quite happy. 


    It's nothing special, but it does what it aims to do very well.
     
    On an even more exciting note, I noticed whilst on ride that Colossos was running. And it looked like people were on it too! I checked the app and it said it was still closed. This left me with a choice...not head over and tick off the nearby creds, or trek to the other side of the park and see what's what. With Colossos being my most anticipated cred of the park, and with it's availability seemingly being sporadic over previous days, I decided to venture over. This turned out to be a very good choice; I saw it run again, and there were clearly people on it. Woohoo!
     
    Colossos
    Fortunately there was no queue, and even getting into the station, there was only a one train wait. The ride, like everything, was on one train, which gave me a good feeling about the level of busyness to expect. Opted for the back row for my first ride.
     
    WOW.
     
    I didn't really know what to expect from the ride. I hadn't heard much about it, and didn't know the layout. But having done Balder, I had high expectations for my second Intamin woodie. And damn, they were, pretty much, met. Climbing up the lift hill hearing the audio is a neat thing. The first drop is fantastic, lifting you out of your seat. The first airtime hill flings you out too. The second gives you nice really nice floater airtime too.
     
    Then you hit the turnaround. This kills the ride a bit. It doesn't make anything bad, but it loses its ability to give decent airtime. You get little pops, but it feels weak compared to what you've just experienced. And this feeling carries on until the helix, where the ride picks up speed and its aggressive nature again. The final couple of hills have some good, consistent airtime, and leave the ride ending on a high note.
     
    The "wicker monster", as I call it, looks really nice, and is a good first time effect on-ride as a near miss. It didn't have any fire effects going though, which was a shame.

     
    After my first ride, I was itching to get on again. And with no queue, that's exactly what I did. In honesty, there's not many rides where I've had that immediate feeling of "Damn, let's do that again, like right now!"; it was very much a 'Top 10%' ride for me from the get-go. Taking advantage of there being no queue, I went for the front this time. I was surprised at how consistent the ride was compared between front and back. And the pure rush going down the first drop on the front row is something I really liked too.



    Two rides in, and I decided - reluctantly - to move on. The park seemed like it was going to be quiet, but with the threats of storms still looming, I thought I should try to mop up the creds just in case, and then return to Colossos later if I could.
     
    With that, I went to the neighbouring Desert Race. It's basically a Rita clone. I like Rita, so expected to like this. However, it fell a bit flat for me, for reasons I can't quiet put my figure on. Maybe the bare-ness of the ride? Maybe the slow ops, where they waited for an entire full train before dispatching? Maybe the annoying announcements? Just little fiddly things. This also feels like a very Tussauds investment: plonked down, minimal theming, very tacky in general. I hope the park do something with this sooner rather than later.
     
    I then went back the way I came towards Big Loop

    Bog standard old Vekoma. Not much else to say.
     
    Then it was time to tick off the remaining B&M, Flug der Damonen. I had been intrigued by this, due to its tight layout and neat theming. Despite the app saying this had a 0 minute queue, there was a bit of a wait...about 10 minutes. No problem really though I guess. I really liked the station; had a real nice vibe to it.



    I got a front row ride on the right hand side. And the ride...was not that good. It starts off nicely, standard B&M wing. But then it tries cramming all its elements into a small space, and it just seems to make the ride a bit juddery, and it lacks any sort of flow. A real shame, and definitely the weakest one I've done so far.
     
    The app still listed Scream, Bobbahn and Limit as closed. These rides had all been closed any time I'd checked the app on previous days too. As they were nearby, I decided to check them out and see what's what. Scream had a sign outside saying it was waiting for a part, and should be ready to open for "Week 15". Sad times, as I like drop towers. Bobbahn had a sign outside saying it was too cold to open. Gah, spite
    Limit, however, had no sign. It wasn't open, but there was a solid handful of people waiting outside, and staff in the station. I overheard a conversation between guests which I loosely managed to translate to as "it will open soon". So I decided to hang around.
     
    To be honest, I can't believe I decided to willingly hang around and see if an SLC would open soon. Especially when it lunchtime, I was hungry, and I was in the same park as a walk-on Colossos. But heyho, a man's gotta get his creds. After about 10 minutes, it opened up. Yay...
    I managed to get on the second train of the day. Second train of the season. I got a middle row seat, and braced myself in usual SLC-fashion. But something strange happened. It wasn't...awful. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good. But it didn't try to massacre me, and I left the ride without my head feeling like I'd been in the ring with Drederick Tatum. Maybe the ride hadn't warmed up enough, so it was running slowly and, somehow, less rough?
    So there we have it folks, if you want a not-awful ride on an SLC, make sure to take one of the first rides of the season on a cold and stormy day!

    I also quite liked the music - nice rock track.
     
    After a quick spot of lunch, I went to the other side of the park, where the water rides and a smaller cred lived. I did both the log flume - which had a long cattlepen queue you couldn't skip over thanks to Covid barriers still being in place - and the rapids in quick succession. They were nice; not too wet, not too dry, and solid, yet unremarkable, examples of their ride types. I ticked off kiddie cred, Indy-Blitz, too, getting a solo ride and a +1 for my troubles.
     
    Next up was perhaps my second-most anticipated ride of the day...Ghostbuster 5D. I make no secret that I love shooting dark rides. I'm not big on the Ghostbusters franchise, but I acknowledged that it was something that had huge potential with this ride type. The exterior is very Merlin, in that it looks good in context of what the theme of the ride is, yet still a bit bland for a theme park. And it's kind of let down by the dodgy shipping container entrance. 



    The mathematician in me feels obliged to take photos of any mathematical equations that work their way into theming within rides.
     
    As for the ride itself...I dunno. I'm not sold. The idea is cool, especially the working together to take down ghosts. But the pacing feels a bit off. Some scenes are far too long, others far too short. There's not one which is 'just right'. There's not really anything between screens, and the attempted compensation is "let's spin and jerk the car around quickly". This left me feeling a bit motion sick, which was a shame. A bit better pacing in the scenes, and some better breathing space between scenes, and this would be SO much better.
     
    On my way to the final cred, I took a nice slow wander round. On this random, meandering walk, I noticed a random fire effect, which was coming from the boat ride in the How to Train Your Dragon area. I don't particularly care for the franchise, but liking fire effects, I thought sod it, I'll give the ride a go. It was a nice little ride, with some neat effects and was largely indoors, protecting me from those pesky storm clouds (which were still threatening rain, but not following through!). Detour completed, I did the final open cred of the day, Grottenblitz, a Mack powered cred, with shared the same building as the previous boat ride. It had a nice layout. But I didn't get any photos (it was getting rather cold).
     
    Now it must have been around 2 / half 2, and I'd ticked off all the creds and all the rides I wanted to do. Yes, there were loads of flats, but none appealed. The park have a monorail and train ride, which I would usually do, but both looked slow and burdensome to do in cold weather. So I took the chance to do re-rides, and a do a fair few of them at that.
     
    Throughout the last couple of hours, I managed another two rides on Krake (on 2nd and 3rd row, both were nice, but not quite as good as the front, of course), and ride on the opposite side of Flug (which was even more juddery on the back row). I decided to give Ghostbusters another shot, but even being prepared for the spinning, I still felt a little queasy afterwards. More importantly, I managed another 6 goes on Colossos, including another front and back row ride. All in, it really cemented itself as a top ride for me. It had warmed up nicely, and the middle third was running better by the end of the day. Still a weak spot, but the first and final thirds more than compensated for it.
     
    I also took the chance to just wander round the park and take some more photos. So here's a little final photo dump on my least terrible photos...





     
    All in, I had a really nice day at Heide Park. The weather held off, the park was sufficiently quiet and it has a good selection of rides. It had quite a Merlin feel about it, and even moreso a feel of a park that's had three very different owners and directions. There's the older, classic rides which have a nice, integrated feeling. Then there's the Tussauds-era, plonking rides down and just rolling with it. Then the more recent Merlin-era, where theming and ride integration clearly plays a part, but can be a bit hit and miss. In saying that, I would happily go back again in the future - especially if they were to add a more traditional dark ride, and maybe replace Desert Race with something that uses the space better!
     
     
    The day ended off by taking the train to Lubeck. It was a good couple of hours journey along 3 trains (Wolterdingen to the much-hated Buchholz, to Hamburg, then to Lubeck), but simple enough. Sadly, the weather decided to finally take a turn for the worse, and the heavens opened. The 20 minute walk up the hills of Lubeck felt so much longer thanks to the rain and bitter wind. Cheers for the birthday present, Lubeck...just what I always wanted!
     
    Coming soon, day 2 of 2...a wet, cold and anxious day at Hansa Park...
  17. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Inferno for a blog entry, Remembering 'Brave it Alone' in Cabin in the Woods at Thorpe Park   
    As we approach the start of the 2022 season, I thought I'd do a few blog post ramblings on some nostalgic Thorpe memories I have.
     
    I started off with Dr Pepper Sun Scream, now it's time for Brave it Alone back when it opened in 2013...
     
    I have hazy memories about this, but recently I found an old post I made after I experienced it and thought I'd spruce it up a bit and share!
     
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
     
    We did Cabin in the Woods way back on Sunday 13th October 2013, when the experience was brand new (and in my opinion at its best!)

    So... Here's what happened!

    After park closing at 10 pm, we met the Director, his assistant, and some park managers along with the other 'brave-it-aloners' at the bar area in Clypso BBQ, where we were read a very long and elaborate warning speech while having a drink.
    We then had to sign an agreement that stated that 'you are prepared for anything to happen' and that 'TP takes no responsibility for anything', blah blah...

    After around 20 minutes, when the guests had all left the park, the 10 or so of us were then given one of the classic "Don't wet yourself" ponchos to protect clothes from fake blood, dirt, facepaint and bodily fluids (yep, really).

    We were then split up and were walked with a park manager to our chosen mazes, where we were asked further questions such as "are you aware that literally anything could happen in here", and "please you must tell us now if you have any reason to not experience this"... 
    At this point the nerves were setting in - why did these warnings keep coming up? What on earth was going to happen inside?

    After waiting outside the cabin door for a few moments listening to the actors inside, I stepped in to the cabin's first room, the one with the 4 doors, which was brightly lit. I was alone. Suddenly the lights turn off for a second, then back on, but now there are 2 actors standing right in my face!
    Do any of you remember the guy who played Les Coogan back in 2011/2012? Well I had asked him if he's still known as Les Coogan earlier in the day, But I'll come back to that in a minute.
    'Les' pushed me backwards in to a chair in the corner of the room, where I was screamed at and told of the horrors I was about to see. The chair was then tipped backwards and I was led on my back!
    This was amazingly intense. The interrogation continued.
    The actors were hillbillies of some sort, so there was... Umm... dribble.... lol!
    I was then told to crawl in to the next room.

    Here I was left alone with a single actor who after a while forced me to 'kiss the moose' on the wall, similar to the film. Interrogation went on for a couple of minutes, lights flashed on and off, the actor started getting crazy bouncing off the walls, when my friend crawled in to the room with an actor riding on his back! (I did laugh at this!) I snuck out in to the next room at this point...

    This room had a person in a plain white mask, and was one of the most surreal parts. She forced me against a wall and slithered around me... very odd! The lights then went out, flashed back on, revealing her mask right up in my face. This happened a few times with her appearing and disappearing at different points.

    I was then grabbed by another actor who looked panicked, saying "don't look, just get over here". He stood facing me and grabbed me by the shoulders, then pushed backwards (quite fast!) through several flaps and doors until my back banged against a wall!!

    I was then pushed (very violently) back down on to the floor by a different actor, and told to continue onwards.

    This next part is a blur to be honest, but I did a lot of walking, crawling, being pulled and pushed around, had lots of jump scares, until I reached the spinning tunnel, which had 2 female clowns inside...
    Both clowns had 'penis shaped' balloons which they, errm, 'rubbed' me with in various ways... Yeah I'll leave that to your imagination...
    They then taunted me with them and popped them in my ears.
    One of the clowns then got behind me, wrapped herself around me and held me still, while the other licked my face and neck while the other laughed in my ear. This was very uncomfortable and weird!!! CLOWNS!?! All of this while the tunnel was spinning around me!

    I can't remember what happened between here and the final room., however when I did reach the final room, the actor who played Les Coogan in previous years (remember from earlier?) stormed up to me, with about 5 other actors in tow! They each took hold of one of my limbs, picked me up and put me flat on my back on the floor.... 'Les' then completely went crazy!! They were dragging me around, and Les's final words to me were "DON'T YOU ****ING DARE CALL ME LES COOGAN AGAIN BOY. GET OUT OF HERE NOW." I was then pretty much forced to apologise to 'Les', and literally thrown in to a door leading out of the maze!

    The look on the faces of the park staff was hilarious when I came out!  I particularly remember one of the managers looking genuinely worried!

    It was absolutely fantastic and much more intense than I could have imagined. The whole experience lasted around 10 minutes. Worth every penny of the £15! Bargain.

    I have probably missed bits here, and probably haven't done it justice, but you get the basic idea.

    We then all made our way back from the various mazes and met back at the 'bar' in the BBQ, where we all had a good chat about it!
    Some of the other guests had done Asylum, which was totally mad apparently. They were all drenched in fake blood, and said that many of the asylum patients were completely naked. Lots of 'adult' themes going on in there, including a performance in the bed scene which I'm not sure would hold up today.
    Some of the others had done Saw Alive which was apparently amazing as well.
     
    I can't describe how good Brave it Alone was in its first year! Genuinely terrifying to have literally ALL of the actors focusing on you the entire time.
  18. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Inferno for a blog entry, Remembering Sun Scream at Thorpe Park   
    As we approach the start of the 2022 season, I thought I'd do a few blog post ramblings on some nostalgic Thorpe memories I have.
     
    Let's start off with Dr Pepper Sun Scream!
     

     
    Launching way back in 2009 when Saw opened, Sun Scream ran every year for many summers at the park, bringing live music, silent discos, stunt displays, beatboxing, sideshows and festival vibes.
     
    In reality, Sun Scream wasn't much in terms of an event, starting off as simply a stunt show and some yellow t-shirts for the rides staff, it evolved as the years went on and new things were tried, but I do have a lot of good memories from my annual mid-summer visits in the sunny weather!
     
     
    The amazing Stunt Show
     
    The standout feature of Sun Scream for me was the incredible stunt show in the Arena in the centre of the park.
    This was one of the few times during the season that the Arena was actually used, but it was used well!
    I remember sitting in the stands watching the Red Bull Stuntriders going over jumps and performing in the small area, and it was very impressive! I do remember one year one of the riders came off his motorbike during one of the performances, and was luckily ok, but the show was very good and (other than fright nights and Thorpe Blast) was probably the best 'show' the park has ever put on in my opinion, even in later years when it was replaced by a BMX display team.
     
     
    Other activities
     
    There were some less than ideal 'activities' as part of Sun Scream..
    I distinctly remember a silent disco was tried one year in the Colossus queue line.
    At a point early in the queue, everyone was offered a pair of wireless headphones which played music for everyone to jam to in the queue.
    The thing is, in a typically British fashion, very few people actually took the headphones, and even fewer took part in the disco.
    A nice idea, but didn't really work in reality.
    I also remember several performances, like a beatboxer one year.. Again, nice idea, but the crowd in front of the stage (in front of X) never really grew to more than about 10 people at any time despite the best efforts of the staff pulling people in.
     
     
    Late opening
     
    One of the great things about Sun Scream was the 8PM closing time.
    Being summer, this didn't really allow for night rides, but it was 'dusk' at least towards the end, and on the warm summer evenings it was great to stay late in the park after the crowds left.
    This no doubt paved the way for the Summer Nights event that followed years later.
     
     
    That 'Thorpe Park feeling' was at its strongest
     
    I'm not sure about what it was about Thorpe in the 2009 - 2012 period, but for me that was when Thorpe was at its absolute best.
    I always remember driving home from Thorpe, especially in the summer, with "that Thorpe Park feeling".
    I can't describe it, but it's the feeling you get when you've had a great day, you're knackered, aching and have a fuzzy head, your hair is a mess, and you stink... But you can't wait to go back and do it all again, preferably tomorrow.
    Sun Scream brought this feeling more than ever - it was such a positive and lively event, the sun was nearly always shining, the staff were lively and happy, and the park was always on top form.
    We also had a new ride in Saw, and The Swarm was under construction. The park was alive in this period and at its best.
     
     
    Dr Pepper
     
    Dr Pepper was the sponsor for Sun Scream, and as such during the event the staff handed out free little Dr Pepper cans.
    Because of this, I always associate the taste and smell of Dr Pepper with Thorpe Park, and every time I have it even all these years later, it takes me right back to "the good days" at Thorpe.
     
     
    __________
     
    Does anyone have any memories of Sun Scream?
  19. Like
    JoshC. reacted to JoshuaA for a blog entry, Chocolate, Cologne, and Taron II   
    After a boozy evening sailing down the rhine the night before, it was finally time to visit Phantasialand. A park I have heard so much about.
    Now Phantasialand seems to really draw very different reactions from people, some people think its the best park in the world. Some people think its great with flaws, and then you have those who think it is shockingly over-rated. Anyways, once into the park. Something really made me think, I knew this would be a paragraph-worthy rant, so lets jump in.
     
    (for your information, I didn't take many pictures due to time constraints. Tut Mir Leid)
     
    The Entrance:
    When you think of a park entrance, you think of Europa Park's main street, you think of Gatekeeper towering over Cedar Point's gates, you think of Towers Street. Most of these entrances really leave a great first impression. Now, Phantasialand has easily the worst entrance of any major park I have been to. It feels so underwhelming, its next to River Quest and Mystery Castle. And it just looks, kinda amateur. Its just awkward, and really I was questioning whether I was visiting a major theme park.
    People rave so much about Phantasialand's theming, and sure they have some brilliant themed rides, but they can't even have a half-decent park entrance?
    It feels like a staff side entrance, never mind the main entrance. I know space is a issue here, but I really think the park should completely reform the entrance at some point if they can. It would really help.
     
    Taron

     
    So after entering, I couldn't help myself. Taron had a big queue, but I did not care. This was going to my first ride.
     

     
    My only other experience with a blitz-coaster is Maverick, which is my #2. I adore its transitions, its launch, and its laterals. Now Taron seems to be heavily touted as great due to its theming. Though there has been a ever-growing group of people who have labelled it over-rated or slow. Is it the great ride everybody says it is? Yes, in my opinion, yes.
    Taron is simply not as intense as a coaster like Maverick, but it makes up for it in having brilliant theming and interactions throughout the entire ride. It also has much better restraints. The ride is a spectacle, on ride and off ride, in the front row it is surreal. Now launch wise, I find the first one to be fun, its not too intense but it was more forceful than I was expecting. The second rolling launch is brilliant, it feels like you are being catapulted forward. Now element wise, the ride is basically just a bunch of turns. But if you've ridden Maverick, you know those transitions can be incredibly fun and give pops of sideways airtime. Sadly besides a pop or two from the turns, Taron lacks on the airtime front. It has two hills toward the end, but those are ruined by trims. I rode in the back, the front, and the middle. In all seats the airtime on those hills were pretty non existent. 
     
    Despite the lack of airtime, Taron is a outstanding coaster. Its long, its well themed, it has a lot of interaction with Klugheim, its fun, and it is re-rideable. I rank it at #2 pushing Maverick down to #3. I ended up getting 4 rides in, which proved hard as Taron is not a reliable coaster! Intamin strike again!
     

     
    Feng Ju Palace
    I kinda rode this by accident. I didn't know what it was going in. Its a fun madhouse, nowhere near as good as Hex but its fair.
     
    Tikal
    This was fun. Very long cycle, good views. Very fun family drop tower.
     
    Colorado Adventure

     
    I have ridden my fair share of mine trains. From the original at Over Texas, to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, to Cedar Creek at Cedar Point. Colorado Adventure blows them all out of the water. It is long, well themed, has a brilliant indoor section, interactions with Chiapas, and is lowkey intense at points. I really wish I was able to ride this more than once, as it was a brilliant family coaster. Oustanding.
     
    Crazy Bats (Temple of The Nighthawk)
    I'll give it some credit. This ride made me laugh, but for all the wrong reasons. The exterior for one looks like a B&Q DIY job, and the queue line has enough black walls to rival The Dungeons. Once you get to the ride, its a meandering boring mess in a black box with darkness to hide the lack of theming. I like long rides, but Crazy Bats just goes on and on. I hope this is the next ride to be axed, as its one of the worst coasters I have ridden.
     
    Winjas

     
    I only rode one side, I can't remember which one. But they look fairly similar.
    Winjas is a top tier spinning coaster, its quirky, its weird, and its fun. I love the elevator style lift, I love the tilt track finale, and I love just how weird the ride is.
    I would say I still prefer Dragon's Fury as its more intense, but Winjas is still a brilliant spinning coaster and a fun supporting coaster in the lineup.
     
    Maus au chocolat
    What a lush dark ride. Maus Au Chocolat is very cutesy, the queue line is adorable in itself, and the smell pods are strong and sweet. 
    The ride itself is akin to the Toy Story Mania, and its a fun experience. But I do think its a smidge too long. I like how Phantasialand have long rides, but in this case it just gets a bit repetitive. But that aside, its a very charming dark ride that is just great fun. I would rank it as one of my favourite dark rides for sure.
     
    Raik
    Raik is a fine Vekoma Boomerang. Honestly its amazing how they fit this in. It has beautiful surroundings, and its a very solid supporting coaster.
     
    Mystery Castle

     
    So props to Phantasialand. This ride looks very cool. The queue is even more cool. The ride itself is very fun, its a intamin drop tower, though its bounces more like a S&S. I like the theming elements during the ride, though honestly its not as forceful as other Intamin drop towers out there. Though due to it being enclosed, and well themed, its probably one of the better drop towers out there. I only rank Detonator and Hurakan Condor higher. I do wish the cycles were longer though, the ride had no queue and it could of really gone on for longer.
     
    Chiapas:

     
    Everybody raves about Chiapas. And they have good reason, this is the future of log flumes. The disco room, the backwards section, and the finale are just brilliant.
    Its a long flume, it has fast lift hills, it really is what log flumes should aspire to be in the future. Overall a brilliant supporting ride, it was a shame it was so cold as I would of gotten more rides in! The theming and interaction with Colorado Adventure is another huge positive.
     
    Black Mamba

     

     
    Black Mamba is a very interesting invert. It starts off pretty normal. Drop, loop, zero g roll. But then it has a Jr immelmann. The ride is a very compact invert, and it does a lot of diving into tunnels. The inversions are really the only moments where the ride pops up above ground level. Its really cool!
    I found the ride to be much better later in the day, in the back row it is very whippy! I also love the finale, I know a lot of people find it slow. But I like the constant turning in and out of tunnels. Its very disorientating. The break run is also very cool, being in utter darkness.
    Overall Black Mamba is a ride that I still am working out where I rank it, I think I prefer it over Inferno, Raptor, and Batman. Though I'm still deciding about if I prefer it over Nemesis. In the end I got 4 rides on it all on different rows. The back row was my favourite. Overall I liked Black Mamba much more than I was expecting. I feel it gets a bit overshadowed by Taron now, but by itself its a very unique and fun invert.
     
    Shows:
    So during my day I saw the parks Ice Show. This show was fun, had a lot of fun elements to it. Though it certainly is on a lot smaller scale than the Ice Show at Europa Park. 
    It definitely reflects how Phantasialand is a lot more of a smaller and intimate park.
     
    Food:
    I had one meal here, it was wurst and fries. And honestly I don't think I can judge the food off this one meal, but it was good. It wasn't anything mindblowing or amazing, but it was fine. And I'm sure there is more unique and interesting options in the park, and if I came back I might have a more fully-formed opinion.
     
    Operations:
    Phantasialand had mostly good operations on my visit. Taron had good dispatches, Black Mamba had good dispatches, and most of the other coasters were pretty fast. My main gripe with the park had to be 1 train operations on Black Mamba for the second half of the day. I know the queue wasn't very long, but it just felt a bit annoying. Especially compared to the consistent operations down in Europa Park. Even when its quiet.
    I would say the park has probably the third best operations I've seen. Behind Cedar Point and Europa, certainly one of the better parks, but not quite the best.
     
    Rides were also very reliable, the only rides that had downtime was Taron and Raik. Overall I found the downtime to be minimal, which is a positive.
    Staff were very polite and efficient, overall I was very impressed.
     
    Covid:
    Phantasialand really is a difficult park for social distancing. It is small, has tight pathways, ect. So with that social distancing was a bit impossible at points. Though masks were worn at basically all times by everyone. And the park did a good job of enforcing the masks. 

     
     
    Final Thoughts:
    Phantasialand is a great park. I really enjoyed it. Though I don't think its a perfect park whatsoever. I feel the newer areas/rides are really the standouts here, Chiapas, Chocolat, Klugheim. Though some of the older rides like Temple Of The CrapHawk and China really show the more dated part of the park. 
    I also found the park to not be the prettiest to be honest either. Most areas are well themed, but its not quite scenic and full of flowers like Europa Park for example. The theming is brilliant, but most areas of the park aren't really as serene or quite as magical as Europa. Klugheim is very close though, and the way the Taron dives in and around the area is absolutely amazing. I would probably rank Phantasialand as my #3 park. Though once F.L.Y opens and Crazy Bats is bulldozed, then I could see it easily jumping to #2. I don't believe it can overtake Europa Park though. 
     
    Phantasialand is brilliant, though the sheer size and scale of Europa Park really can't be beaten. Though Phantasialand definitely packs a lot of greatness into a fairly modest sized park, and for that, you have to admit it kicks a lot of ass.
     
     
     
     
  20. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Cal for a blog entry, Premiere Soquet Grilling - Day 5, Dennlys Parc (The End)   
    And Day 5 brings an end to the trip, where we spend a few hours at Dennlys Parc, which is about an hour from Calais...
     


    Covid Measures
    Face coverings on rides if you're over the age of 11. Some queues had social distancing markers I think, and people kept at a sensible enough distance. The visit was the day after face coverings has become compulsory in shops again across the whole of France, so I expect that the idea of social distancing might have been on people's minds a bit if it was pushed a lot by the media.  

    A long meandering drive meant we arrived to the park about quarter past 10, and their first (smaller) car park was approaching full-ness, and a couple of coaches of young school kids were entering the park. A little bit of a worrying start, but it turned out not to matter as the park was pretty quiet all day, with basically no queues.

    First stop of the day was Nitro, a Mobius loop coaster where you do both sides in one ride. It's an okay ride, the concept of course being quite novel, especially with a hint of duelling (though I wish it was timed so that cars went over the air time hill at the same time). However, there's a really nasty turn half way through the 'left side' of circuit, which gave a really uncomfortable lateral jerk. Was not a fan. Plus there was little leg room in the front row of the car, making it a bit uncomfortable.

    We rode it later in the day too, so it's not horrendous, but that was more out of 'needing to drag a bit more out of the park' than really wanting to reride.  

    We did some of their family rides, including their new-for-2020 ride which was a pedal sky car ride called Xotic. It wasn't a very exotic experience tbh. Next stop was a ride on their figure 8 spinner for the +1 (made by a company called Gesotto, who I'd never heard of before - another one for the manufacturer count I guess!). All that led upto a ride on Furio, their Soquet coaster which was by 200th cred. Boom, achievement unlocked right - I'm slightly less basic now...

    I remember being a younger, very basic goon sitting on 20 creds thinking how cool it would be one day to have 200 creds; a 'bucket list' sort of thing. So it was nice to hit it, feels a bit more substantial than any other milestone I'll probably hit (unless I magic myself to 1000 one day)..  
    I even made a terrible sign and felt like a pillock getting my photo taken. Never again.

    Furio itself was a bit meh. Not the good level of wacky that some Soquets are.
     

    Looks nice though with the trees

    With creds done, it was just a case of ticking off rides. One intriguing ride was Squadron 33, which is a mix of an Enterprise and Gerstlauer Sky Fly..

    As I've said, I hate spinning rides, but I'm also a sucker for doing something a little different and unique (most of the time), and I don't usually mind Sky Flys (though I hate Enterprises..), so I gave it a go. But damn did I regret it. I was able to rotate myself at points - I think! - but the double spinning motion really hit me. It was much more difficult to judge when you'd be upside down. However, you can get some really cool 'drops' if you time your rotations right.
    Definitely not my cup of tea, but a really solid and different ride in fairness!  
    After recovering and doing gentler rides, we'd managed to squeeze to just past midday, so had lunch at the restaurant near the front of the park. They had "tacos" on the menu, with a variety of fillings (Mexican, doner, vegetarian, etc). I ordered a Mexican taco, and was somewhat disappointed to find that their version of a 'taco' is in fact a panini... Still, was alright for price.

    It turns out that after lunch I didn't bother taking any more photos, which probably says something about my feelings about the place. The afternoon was spent doing some of their other family rides on the side of the park that doesn't have creds and a couple of rerides. A particular highlight was their water boat ride, where you drive your own dingy around what's effectively a pool, which also has a water gun attached. You get a solid 3 minute cycle to just squirt people, including helpless people in the queue, and bump around. Pure, simple fun - but also very wet! And, in fact their rapids ride was decent as well - also very well, and actually built by, you guessed it, Soquet.. Oh that random French company, you're full of surprises.
     
    I lied, I took one photo after lunch...of this pistachio ice cream I had. It was tasty. So enjoy this final photo...

    The park also had a 'sitting on a rocking chair with a gun in front of a screen and shoot things' attraction, behind their spinner, but it was closed all day. No sign explaining why and nothing on the website, so not sure if because of Covid or if it's just buggered.

    We managed to drag the day out till just after 2pm, before ultimately deciding to move on. With no creds or nothing of particular fun en route between the park and Calais, where out half 7 ferry would eventually await us, we decided to divert to Cité Europe, the large shopping centre by the channel tunnel terminal, to kill a couple of hours before a stress-free journey home.

    Final Dennlys thoughts: My trips have a habit of sticking on a smaller park after visiting great parks to end it (my first major European trip saw me end with a visit Bobbejaanland after multiple days after Efteling and Phantasialand, for example). Unsurprisingly, Dennlys felt rather flat after an incredible day at Asterix. The park is nice and has a few cool rides for a family group, but felt a little weak compared to some of the other smaller parks from the trip.

    And so that's that - thanks for reading! 
  21. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Martin Doyle for a blog entry, Zadra - A review (UPDATED!!)   
    So I was recently lucky enough to head across to Poland to visit Energylandia In Zator. The main reason to visit the park ofcourse was the hotly anticipated new for 2019 RMC Hybrid Zadra. So for this write up, I will be sharing my full thoughts on this well received in the coaster community coaster and where it matches up to my top coasters.
     
    A brief history and background!!
     
    Zadra is Rocky Mountain Constructions second “hyper hybrid" ibox track coaster with the first being my personal number one coaster Steel Vengeance. It is also the third RMC installation on the continent behind Wildfire at Kolmarden and Untamed at Walibi Holland. Zadra is also the very first RMC Ibox track coaster to be a ground up installation. Previously, RMC would use the “topper track” design that features on rides like Lightning Rod and Wildfire for their ground up designs whereas the “Ibox" track design would be used on conversions of pre-existing wooden coasters. So this was the first use of Ibox track for a ground up model. At opening, Zadra would break the records set by Steel Vengeance for the tallest and fastest Hybrid coaster by a whopping 1 FOOT and 1MPH. Zadra will lose the record for fastest when Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa opens (also by 1mph!!) and will see its height record matched by the new Florida hyper hybrid. It will also lose the record it shares with Steel Vengeance for steepest drop (90 degree) on a hybrid when Iron Gwazi opens by 1 degree!! Zadra initially was going to open at the park in 2020. However, as a result of it being completed ahead of schedule, the park was able to open it at the end of August 2019. This is even more impressive given a portion of the structure was blown over in a storm during its construction!!
     
    Heading to Zadra/ Dragon Zone

    Zadra is located at the very back of the park in the new expanded area the park has built into. So on entering Energylandia and walking through what could best be described as a glorified fun fair, you will find an underpass to take you to the other side of the road and into “Dragon zone" (or Dragon Castle) and you will find a new Medieval themed village with a few stores and eateries with Zadra towering above the lot of it on the right hand side. This area is charming enough with its audio (featuring an appearance from Hall Of The Mountain King!!) and the odd show going on. This area also features two family coasters and a kiddy flat ride. To get to the star attraction, you will walk through the entirety of this themed area where you will then find the entrance to Zadra on the right.
     
    The queue!!
     
    There has been a lot of enthusiasts who have visited the park and cried blue murder over the sheer length of Zadras physical queue line and I can now safely say, they are not unjustified in their comments!!. I have ridden many coasters in my time and not once have I found a coaster that has a queue of such a ridiculous length to walk through than what Zadra takes to navigate. Coupled with the fact there are NO short cuts whatsoever to cut off some of the queue, you WILL have to deal with this walk every single time you ride Zadra. This massively hurts the rides reliability unless you are as fit as a fiddle and just enjoy walking for a ridiculous amount of time. The queue takes 5-7 minutes to navigate and I kid you not, equates to half a mile worth of walking when you convert steps into mile. If you are familiar with the FLY queue and the length of that queue than that may give you a slight idea what to expect with Zadra. It also does not help when theres a fair few stairs to climb up and down to get to the ride aswell. So yes. I would advise getting fit before heading out to ride this thing However!! Whilst the queue is insanely long, it is relatively aesthetically pleasing on the eye with the medieval style walls in certain places and also allows for some wonderful views of the coaster. So this is a big positive for those who enjoy video taking and photography.
     
    The lockers
     
    So after finally reaching the station buidling for Zadra, you will be faced with the locker area. Energylandia offers a fairly decent locker set up in where you pay around the same as £1 and you are given a wristband for all day lockers. You will scan your wristband and then you will be allocated a locker to store bags and loose belongings in. The lockers are double sided so you will collect your belongings from the other side of the wall on exiting the ride. No belongings are allowed to be left in the station.
     
    Operations/batching
     
    On placing your items in your locker, you will climb the stairs and head to be batched. Zadra (as well as Hyperion) uses a pretty neat loading system where there are four screens which count down the amount of riders who can go through into the station. One screen is for the front row line. Another screen is for single riders and two more screens are for the rest of the train. Once the counter shows theres seats for you, you will go through to board the coaster. A tip if you want the back row. Try to make sure you get yourself in a position where you are in front of the door to the station and as soon as it opens, make a beeline for the back. You can NOT request a row from my experience whilst in the station. Depending on what mood Energylandia are in, they will run it on one or two trains. So if you are wanting the front row, be aware that you will be waiting a long time if they opt to run it on one given the length of the coaster.
     
    Operations on Zadra was very bizarre on my visit. They opened on one train and then when the queue got longer it put a second on but then half an hour later, they took the second off when the queue went back down. Then the real “what the hell!!?” moment came later on where one hour before closing, they swapped trains around which wasted well over 15 minutes of my time. Its also worth noting that if the ride is walk on, they will wait until the train is near full until they send it. So abandon any hope of a “zen ride" on it before going to ride!! A part of me feels the train swap I mentioned earlier was a way of building the queue up a little.
     
    The trains
     
    So after all the effort it took to get to this point, it is now time to head into the nicely styled station of Zadra and board the train. Zadra ofcourse uses the standard RMC trains so you will be greeted with the usual policy of fasten your seatbelt but let the operator put the bar down. Although on my rides, the staff insisted on doing the seatbelt aswell. The trains feature the standard RMC restraints of a lapbar and a pair of shin guards. As I have mentioned previously with my reviews on the other RMC coasters, these restraints cause me personally no bother at all. However, if you are a larger rider or have larger legs then they can cause major discomfort. Its also worth noting that the shinguards on Zadra are slightly thicker than the ones on Untamed and Steel Vengeance. So be aware of this if you found the restraints on those two painful. The operators on my visit also seemed to be hell bent on causing me as much pain as possible. As in, literally slamming the restaint down on me and trying to put it as far down as possible. Compared to how I was treated on Steel Vengeance and Untamed, this left a very sour taste in my mouth. Hopefully in future visits, this wont be the case.
     
    The coaster itself

    After being given the clearance to dispatch, you are on your way!!. The train glides out of the station and dips down to the right before latching onto the loud (the mark of a Hyper Hybrid lift hill!!) 206 foot lift hill. Ascending this hill, you are greeted with some amazing views of the area around you. With the local countryside to the right and front of you and the new Dragon zone area to the left. You also will get some views of the all new Aqualantis area.
     
    The train ascends this lift hill at a quick speed and sooner than you think, you reach the top and hit the 200 plus foot vertical drop!! This drop is a pure and utter stunner!! You are raised out of your seat the whole way down regardless of where you sit and as it drops into the wooden structure, it creates one hell of a head chopper moment. This drop feels exactly the same as that on Steel Vengeance in terms of the physical sensation and you WILL feel the force at the bottom of this drop but given the head chopper at the bottom, this rides drop just about edges that on big Steve!!
     
    Speeding through the woodwork, you will turn slightly to the right over a small speed hill where the camera for your onride photo is to the right. This speed hill is then followed by the highlight of the coaster. At a massive 76mph, you will bank upwards aggressively to the left in a massive turn around before levelling up at the top before plummeting back down to ground level. This element is an amazing combo of intensity and airtime. As you bank upwards, you are right on your side feeling grey out level of force and when you hit the top and drop down you get a beautiful sustainted pop of ejector airtime. This is the absolute show stealer on Zadra. On exiting this element, the train will shoot up into the Zero G Stall and boy is this a cracker of an inversion. You enter and exit the element at a great speed and experience some stunning hangtime. The height of this element also adds to that hangtime sensation massively. The best inversion on the coaster.

     
    Still travelling at a breakneck pace, the train then sharply turns left into its outwards airtime hill which sharply throws riders from right to left before navigating some turns before hitting the massive airtime hill. This airtime hill is utterly brilliant. Going through it offers a good mix of ejector and floater airtime and is a good solid intense moment.
     
    Following this, the train shoots up into its second inversion which is a Zero G Roll in the middle of the wooden structure. It takes this element at a quick pace and coupled with the rider being surrounded with the structure, it is a real disorientating element and offers great headchoppers. Yet another great element.
     
    Speeding out the structure, the train shoots through a double down element which offers two pops of solid ejector which feels like shades of the Untamed and Steel Vengeance airtime. The ride will then race through an S turn which throws the rider around even more before it enters a very fastly taken Zero G Roll before turning to the left and into the very aggressive breaks. Brace yourself for these breaks as you will be lunged right forward into your restraint. Let the speed it hits the breaks at tell you how fast this coaster navigates its 1316 metres of track!!. The ride then heads back into the station and you are free to exit and ride again!!....if you really want to make that walk again that is!!
     
    Overall thoughts

     
    Zadra is incredible. Absolutely incredible. I at the time of updating this have now done three trips to Energylandia and each time it has got better and better.
     
    Whilst I do not think Energylandia is a particularly great park (for now!!) Thanks largely to its glorified fun fair feel, they have absolutely struck gold with Zadra. Zadra is a perfect mix of intensity,airtime,hangtime,speed and transitions. Loads of people have been dismissive of the airtime on Zadra by watching POV videos of it but let me tell you that the airtime on this should not be underestimated. It is not all about the airtime like what Untamed is but my lord it still has some strong moments of it.
     
    What makes Zadra great to me is its use of speed throughout the whole course. It really does not lose any steam from drop to breaks and of anything, it could have gone on much longer if it wanted to with the speed it hits the breaks at. It really is paced wonderfully and has a flawless layout.
     
    Surprisingly, I found the front row of this coaster to be the best row on it by an ever so slight margin. With Untamed and Steel Vengeance, I go for the back but on Zadra, I found the front to be where its at. You still get a good drop there and you feel the speed and airtime very well in the front. The back row however gives one heck of a pull over the drop and over the massive turnaround element. So both rows definitely excel over the other in some regards.
     
    The million pound question when Zadra came around was “is this going to be the Steel Vengeance killer?”. In my own personal opinion, the answer to that is no as Steel Vengeance has all of whats great about Zadra AND Untamed in one package. The extra 30 plus seconds on Steel Vengeance is to me is what clinches it. Whilst I prefer Steel Vengeance, it is by an ever so slight margin and if Zadra lasted an additional 15-20 seconds, it may well have been the coaster to displace Steel Vengeance. On my initial rides on Zadra in 2020, I was also convinced I also preferred Untamed over at Walibi but having now done additional trips to both of these hybrids, it really is now a no contest that Zadra is not only the best RMC in Europe but also HANDS DOWN the best coaster overall in Europe. It really does offer such an unrelenting ferocious coaster in what is a relatively short ride time. I personally would rather a 40 second coaster that has no dead spots and ferocious pacing than I would a coaster that is a minute and a half and farts about for most of it. So Zadra to me is just ideal.
     
    One negative as I mentioned earlier is that the rerideabillity of Zadra is greatly harmed by the excessive length of the queue. Even if you love riding a coaster over and over, its just so hard to motivate yourself to walk all the way back round Zadra to do so.
     
    The other silly negative negative is the fact front row riders are required to wear goggles in the front. This is also present at Hyperion. To the best of my understanding, this was in place BEFORE Covid but was bought back post Covid (it we can call it that) so makes zero sense how we could do without them for two years but magically need them now
     

     
    That being said, Zadra is a stunning coaster and takes its place at number 2 on my top coaster list. It really is a great coaster from start to finish and once again showcases that RMC are the top dog in the coaster industry and that other manufacturers need to up their game to keep up with them. Please get yourself out there to ride it whenever you can and you will not be disappointed in this absolute masterpiece.
     
    10/10

     

  22. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Cal for a blog entry, Soquet Premiere Grilling - Day 4, Parc Asterix   
    And now the big one, Day 4 - Parc Asterix! And this was, in fact, my first visit to Asterix.

    I'll start as ever with the Covid measures
    Face coverings were obligatory on all rides and in queue lines. There were hand sanitising points at the end of every queue (just before you board the ride), as well as at ride exits and dotted around the park. There were social distancing markers in queues, but no one really followed them much tbh. However, park security had a major presence in queue lines, regularly walking through queue lines, making sure everyone had coverings on, and were covering their noses. This went to the extreme where I witnessed a security guard watch someone have a drink and not move on until they had finished their drink and put their covering back over their face. A little OTT in my opinion, but equally I can't argue with results: seeing everyone in queues masked up did give a good level of reassurance.

    Interestingly as well, the park were very hot on filling up every seat - single rider was still in operation, and they were happy to get smaller groups matched up in queues too. The only exception was on water rides, where they weren't trying to fill boats to the full. There are questions about the point of social distancing on rides in my opinion, especially if everyone is wearing a covering, but it did feel odd sitting next to strangers again.

    Anyways, onto the park. First time I've experienced metal detectors at a full on theme park (Ja-Dar isn't necessarily a 'full on park' imo), but it was done smoothly and easily. Anticipating it would get long queues, we headed over towards the back of the park, where the first stop was Tonnerre de Zeus..

    We were on in under 15mins which was nice. Zeus is a ride I'd heard a lot about for many years. Whilst I'd seen a lot of people say it's a bit of a love-or-hate ride, most reviews I'd actually read were that it was good, which gave me some quiet optimism. Sadly though, it did nothing for me. It's got a long layout, yet manages to feel like it does nothing with it. It's not rough, but doesn't have enough fun / classic woodie laterals to give it that sort of edge. I don't remember there being any air time either. It just sort of goes around for a while and ends?

    Even riding it later in the day, it did very little for me. I remember feeling a bit more positive about it, but not much. I just don't really get it? Why do people like this?
    Is it because of Zeus' underpants? I bet it's because of Zeus' underpants.
     

    I don't care if you're wearing floral underpants - your ride isn't that good

    A quick stop to the neighbouring Goudrix was of course in order. Similarly, this is something I'd heard a bit of a mixed bag of, but mostly negative reviews. In particular, @pluk's review of it from a few years ago stuck in my mind (spoilers for those who don't know: he's not a fan of it..). And, of course, it has regularly been near the bottom of several coaster polls over the years. So I wasn't looking forward to it. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The ride was smooth, the right level of intense and reasonably fun. It's not something I rank highly, as a layout of inversions is ultimately a bit meh, but it was fun enough.

    Again, a ride was had later in the day. And frankly, I don't know what happened - was a riding a different ride? It was rough and jerky and I did not enjoy it from the third inversion! Perhaps not as bad as some had described it, but still pretty bad. Really not sure how I could have such different reactions to it.

    My first ride was in the front of a car, and the second in the back of a car, so I guess that could have something to do with it. Could also be different trains too I guess. After that second ride though, I didn't want to risk a third to try and figure it out. But it's just crazy how different the ride experiences were.  


    A ride on L'Oxygenarium ("the good Storm Surge" I believe us Brits are required to call it by law) followed, en route to the next cred: Trace du Hourra. I've only ever done Intamin Swiss Bobs before, so it was intriguing to see how the Mack equivalent would ride. And it was alright. Layout is solid, theming around is good and the operations were outstanding. It'd be nice if it swayed a bit more, as it did feel very restricted, but I guess many of these rides feel like this.
     

    We collected the +1 of the Zierer bum rattler, SOS Numerobis (which has an excellent, almost B&M-like roar might I add), before arriving at the highlight attraction, which is of course Oz'Iris.

    Just looking at the area you can tell it's something spectacular. It just looks stunning, from the theming, the dive under the pathway, to even things like the track colour. Everything just blends beautifully. The queue wasn't too long, no more than 30mins, which was long enough to appreciate the stunning indoor queue line too. And once you get into the station, you see they've capped off the atmosphere perfectly. Even the little lighting sequence on dispatch is just great. Everything works. Also, fair play to the staff, who worked their nuts off loading and unloading the ride - jumping inbetween rows to unclip the seat belts whilst the train was still moving(!), and checking bars insanely quickly. Something like that is an art.

    As for the ride itself, it was brilliant. A lovely mix of forces, floatly moments, great inversions, decent length and perfectly paced. First drop is fantastic. My highlight has to be when you dive underground past the waterfall, and then come out into the inversion, which is wonderfully profiled. It's just fantastic all round.

    My issue with B&M rides, which may be a bit controversial, is that when their rides age, they seem to become more intense and forceful. I've noticed it particularly with Inferno at Thorpe, but even my experiences on the likes of Nemesis, Baron 1898 and even Galactica suggest this 'more intense with age' trend. They're like cheeses: they mature and get stronger flavour. As someone who's not a fan of high-G intense rides usually, it's meant some of those rides have gone down in my rankings as time goes on (particularly true with Nemesis).

    Oz'Iris was intense, but it was the right level for me. It'll be interesting to see how it feels in a few years (ie - when I go back for the Intamin), and whether it's experiencing the same 'growing intensity with age' thing! But for now: 4 rides throughout the day, including a wondrous front row ride, puts it as my favourite B&M, and slides into my Top 5..  

    I really liked this bit in the station, loosely showing the layout of the ride

    The random fountain show was fun too - never saw it in its entirety though!

    Another water ride was in order before lunch, and with the log flume closed for technical difficulties, Le Grand Splatch was the port of call. I'm not normally a fan of big boat / big splash rides (too wet too quick), but this was surprisingly decent, since the finale was more for show, and it was water effects which got you wet.
     
    In case you haven't been able to tell, I really like water effects

    With stomachs grumbling, lunch was needed. I'd heard not-good things about food options at Asterix, but ended up being pleasantly surprised at the quality of the restaurant by the log flume (Le Relais Gaulois). A canteen-style restaurant where all the food options looked really good, and ended up being great too. Reasonably priced too, so would recommend!

    Explored some of the kiddie area, including their decent boat ride, before heading to their Vekoma madhouse, Le Defi de Cesar. I'd heard wonderful things about this, including the pre shows, but knew before visiting that because of Covid, they weren't running said preshows. I was intrigued how it would operate, and the short answer is: badly. It didn't help we went on the ride just after a shutdown, but you enter the ride through the exit and just go straight into the ride. Sadly there was no audio and half the screens weren't on either, creating a really awkward experience. From what I've heard, it sounds like the complete experience is a good one, but this was just rubbish. Hopefully the lack of on ride effects was a blip, but I do wonder if they should just keep it shut whilst they're running the pre shows.  
    Boat ride in the kids land has loads of nice set pieces
    This chap gave me some serious moustache-envy...

    Keeping within the Roman area, we cooled off on the rapids, which look stunning but could do with being a bit wetter in my opinion, before braving Pégase Express. Unsurprisingly, this had a long queue pretty much all day, but I guess a 40 minute queue for the park's newest coaster in the middle of July isn't too bad. Again, queue was magnificent, giving great views of the ride and the rapids, and the indoor section was brilliant. The ride itself is solid too. The launch out the station took me by surprise, the section after the lift hill is good fun with some nice twists and turns. The shed is simple but effective, and the backwards section is the perfect length and style. So all in all, a fantastic family coaster.
    Also worth saying they weren't using the bag drop; don't know if that's just because of Covid (it seemed in an awkward space) or if they're just not bothering with it (let's face it, if you can keep your bags on Goudrix, you can keep your bags on this easily).

    The final cred was ticked off after this. Another +1.


    Something I'd been really looking forward to at Asterix was L'Aérolaf, the park's 'rotating bar'. You buy a drink, then take a seat at a table at the bottom of a tower. You then go up 35m and slowly rotate, taking in views of the park and surrounding area, whilst enjoying your drink for about 10mins, before coming back down. Awesome concept for a theme park, and I'd always wanted to do one of those 'have a meal in the sky' experiences - so this was very much a discount version on that. Great views, really nice and open (you just have a seatbelt in your seat of course), and was a great way to break up the day.

    It's on the pricier side - my mocktail was 7,90€ - but I'd say it's worth doing. For reference, a bottle of Coke was 6,90€, which I think was about a 3-3,50€ mark up compared to elsewhere at the park. So if you view it in that sense, you're paying about 3,50€ for the experience, which isn't bad. You even get to keep the themed cup your drink is served in!

    One weird quirk for this though: You had to wear a covering whilst the table went from the bottom to the top. You were then told you could remove it. When it was ready to go back down, we were told to wear a covering again. Felt very odd and pointless given everyone had their coverings off/down for the past 10 minutes and we were the same distance away as before.


    Excuse the feet, but yeah - it's high!
    Me trying not to look like I'm bricking myself and desperately afraid of dropping drink

    Ahh, the face covering hides that fear...but just makes me look like a confused middle-aged man who has no idea how the selfie mode on his phone works...

    Final major ride to do was Menhir Express, their log flume, which was back open and had a reasonable queue. It was a decent log flume, good level of wet and the surprise shed moment took me completely off guard and I loved it!  

    This took us to about half 4ish, leaving the final 2 and a bit hours for re-rides and just admiring the park. Things really died down in the last half hour or so; Oz'Iris was basically walk on for example! Really awesome way to end the day.

    Final thoughts: Asterix is bloody brilliant. I really enjoyed it and, all in all, it's up there as one of my favourite parks. I may not be a fan of two of their major coasters, but it's clear they serve a purpose and people do enjoy them. Their water ride selection is brilliant. And they have a good selection of other rides which will suit most people's tastes too (I never bothered with their flat rides for example, but they were always busy and look sublime). Their quality of theming is amazing as well, along with all the staff being top notch too! Would love to see the park get another dark ride or two, and can't wait till 2023 for the Intamin (or whenever it gets pushed back too..!)
  23. Like
    JoshC. reacted to Matt Creek for a blog entry, A Fantasy Island Like No Other    
    2020, it’s been one crazy roller coaster ride and sadly one that hasn’t been particularly enjoyable. It has been rougher than a ride on Saw or Gouderix.
      With a massive pandemic halting life as we know it, everything has been challenging in general, let alone theme parks. Skip ahead to now and with parks cautiously reopening I would finally get to visit a one again, this time a new one.  Fantasy Island in Ingoldmells near Skegness is an amusement located adjacent to a large open air market. Now in the hands of the Mellor’s group, this would be an ideal opportunity to nail the final key U.K. park on my bucket list. On the surface, it might just look like your typical sea side fun fair or something (which it somewhat is). And you might even mistake it for Winter Wonderland if you look at from certain angles.  But it’s a good one at that featuring a decent selection of attractions. Like this flat ride which was actually a lot of fun. The drop tower is alright except for the silly short seatbelts! They have an alright log flume, which is actually fun. Rhombus Rocket is one of five park coasters. It might look your standard powered coaster off ride, but this thing really packs a punch and gives off airtime that I didn’t think was possible on such a ride. Easily my favourite U.K. ride type, which isn’t actually a Mack but made by WGH transportation. One of the main attractions is the Millenium. At 20 years it’s still silky smooth and looking fresh after a funky paint job a few years ago. Probability my favourite there although the ride station’s placement on the street is both hilarious and unique. Until a few years ago the entrance was too. The other headliner is Odyssey, a large Vekoma SLC, erm. At 167ft it is the tallest SLC ever made and third tallest U.K. coaster.  SLCs have a reputation in the industry of mostly being rough and uncomfortable coasters. This ride is not exception as your head and ears are constantly bashed around as the ride completes it’s circuit. Despite the roughness there was something I liked about this coaster although it may be last of the three ride types I’ve done. If they modified or replaced the train to decrease roughness I think it would be a great attraction. Think I’m dreading Condor if I get to do that.   A pyramid building resides in the park’s centre. This houses several amenities from bars, restaurants, arcades and several attractions. The charming interior design reminds me of Coral island and the ‘original’ Dome albeit on a greater scale. There are two dark rides in here, one of them is the Magical Seaquarium. Opening in 1995,  it’s certainly a charming attraction with an upbeat soundtrack which synchronises better than some. Sadly a number of effects were broken which given current circumstances probably isn’t a high priority for the park. Although rumours suggest a refurbishment is planned. Toucan Tours is the other dark ride, where you enter an enclosed section with numerous scenes after meandering the pyramid area. It’s quite random but enjoyable nonetheless. Some of the pyramid’s other inhabitants include a few kids rides such a tracked pony ride, a water slide (which was sadly closed when visiting and a Jurassic themed mini golf. The second half was themed noticeably better than the first, however space limitations are likely the result of this. It’s still amazing how much has actually been squeezed into the building since the refurbishment 2/3 years ago.  Overall Fantasy Island is a fun and pleasantly enjoyable park, even in the amidst of a pandemic. Usually you’d be free to roam and enter the place from many angles, but for now it is a strict entry system. Operations at the park are alright and everything else including food is to an adequate level too. Although a fight apparently did break out whilst queuing for the Flume. We took a walk down the road where numerous bars, restaurants and amusements were and was pleasantly surprised to see how buzzing and upbeat the place was. Haven’t seen this in years and gave a rich holiday feel. However social distancing was rarely properly seen.   Would recommend, but just be careful.
  24. Like
    JoshC. got a reaction from Matt Creek for a blog entry, Premiere Soquet Grilling - Day 5, Dennlys Parc (The End)   
    And Day 5 brings an end to the trip, where we spend a few hours at Dennlys Parc, which is about an hour from Calais...
     


    Covid Measures
    Face coverings on rides if you're over the age of 11. Some queues had social distancing markers I think, and people kept at a sensible enough distance. The visit was the day after face coverings has become compulsory in shops again across the whole of France, so I expect that the idea of social distancing might have been on people's minds a bit if it was pushed a lot by the media.  

    A long meandering drive meant we arrived to the park about quarter past 10, and their first (smaller) car park was approaching full-ness, and a couple of coaches of young school kids were entering the park. A little bit of a worrying start, but it turned out not to matter as the park was pretty quiet all day, with basically no queues.

    First stop of the day was Nitro, a Mobius loop coaster where you do both sides in one ride. It's an okay ride, the concept of course being quite novel, especially with a hint of duelling (though I wish it was timed so that cars went over the air time hill at the same time). However, there's a really nasty turn half way through the 'left side' of circuit, which gave a really uncomfortable lateral jerk. Was not a fan. Plus there was little leg room in the front row of the car, making it a bit uncomfortable.

    We rode it later in the day too, so it's not horrendous, but that was more out of 'needing to drag a bit more out of the park' than really wanting to reride.  

    We did some of their family rides, including their new-for-2020 ride which was a pedal sky car ride called Xotic. It wasn't a very exotic experience tbh. Next stop was a ride on their figure 8 spinner for the +1 (made by a company called Gesotto, who I'd never heard of before - another one for the manufacturer count I guess!). All that led upto a ride on Furio, their Soquet coaster which was by 200th cred. Boom, achievement unlocked right - I'm slightly less basic now...

    I remember being a younger, very basic goon sitting on 20 creds thinking how cool it would be one day to have 200 creds; a 'bucket list' sort of thing. So it was nice to hit it, feels a bit more substantial than any other milestone I'll probably hit (unless I magic myself to 1000 one day)..  
    I even made a terrible sign and felt like a pillock getting my photo taken. Never again.

    Furio itself was a bit meh. Not the good level of wacky that some Soquets are.
     

    Looks nice though with the trees

    With creds done, it was just a case of ticking off rides. One intriguing ride was Squadron 33, which is a mix of an Enterprise and Gerstlauer Sky Fly..

    As I've said, I hate spinning rides, but I'm also a sucker for doing something a little different and unique (most of the time), and I don't usually mind Sky Flys (though I hate Enterprises..), so I gave it a go. But damn did I regret it. I was able to rotate myself at points - I think! - but the double spinning motion really hit me. It was much more difficult to judge when you'd be upside down. However, you can get some really cool 'drops' if you time your rotations right.
    Definitely not my cup of tea, but a really solid and different ride in fairness!  
    After recovering and doing gentler rides, we'd managed to squeeze to just past midday, so had lunch at the restaurant near the front of the park. They had "tacos" on the menu, with a variety of fillings (Mexican, doner, vegetarian, etc). I ordered a Mexican taco, and was somewhat disappointed to find that their version of a 'taco' is in fact a panini... Still, was alright for price.

    It turns out that after lunch I didn't bother taking any more photos, which probably says something about my feelings about the place. The afternoon was spent doing some of their other family rides on the side of the park that doesn't have creds and a couple of rerides. A particular highlight was their water boat ride, where you drive your own dingy around what's effectively a pool, which also has a water gun attached. You get a solid 3 minute cycle to just squirt people, including helpless people in the queue, and bump around. Pure, simple fun - but also very wet! And, in fact their rapids ride was decent as well - also very well, and actually built by, you guessed it, Soquet.. Oh that random French company, you're full of surprises.
     
    I lied, I took one photo after lunch...of this pistachio ice cream I had. It was tasty. So enjoy this final photo...

    The park also had a 'sitting on a rocking chair with a gun in front of a screen and shoot things' attraction, behind their spinner, but it was closed all day. No sign explaining why and nothing on the website, so not sure if because of Covid or if it's just buggered.

    We managed to drag the day out till just after 2pm, before ultimately deciding to move on. With no creds or nothing of particular fun en route between the park and Calais, where out half 7 ferry would eventually await us, we decided to divert to Cité Europe, the large shopping centre by the channel tunnel terminal, to kill a couple of hours before a stress-free journey home.

    Final Dennlys thoughts: My trips have a habit of sticking on a smaller park after visiting great parks to end it (my first major European trip saw me end with a visit Bobbejaanland after multiple days after Efteling and Phantasialand, for example). Unsurprisingly, Dennlys felt rather flat after an incredible day at Asterix. The park is nice and has a few cool rides for a family group, but felt a little weak compared to some of the other smaller parks from the trip.

    And so that's that - thanks for reading! 
  25. Thanks
    JoshC. got a reaction from jessica2 for a blog entry, Soquet Premiere Grilling - Day 4, Parc Asterix   
    And now the big one, Day 4 - Parc Asterix! And this was, in fact, my first visit to Asterix.

    I'll start as ever with the Covid measures
    Face coverings were obligatory on all rides and in queue lines. There were hand sanitising points at the end of every queue (just before you board the ride), as well as at ride exits and dotted around the park. There were social distancing markers in queues, but no one really followed them much tbh. However, park security had a major presence in queue lines, regularly walking through queue lines, making sure everyone had coverings on, and were covering their noses. This went to the extreme where I witnessed a security guard watch someone have a drink and not move on until they had finished their drink and put their covering back over their face. A little OTT in my opinion, but equally I can't argue with results: seeing everyone in queues masked up did give a good level of reassurance.

    Interestingly as well, the park were very hot on filling up every seat - single rider was still in operation, and they were happy to get smaller groups matched up in queues too. The only exception was on water rides, where they weren't trying to fill boats to the full. There are questions about the point of social distancing on rides in my opinion, especially if everyone is wearing a covering, but it did feel odd sitting next to strangers again.

    Anyways, onto the park. First time I've experienced metal detectors at a full on theme park (Ja-Dar isn't necessarily a 'full on park' imo), but it was done smoothly and easily. Anticipating it would get long queues, we headed over towards the back of the park, where the first stop was Tonnerre de Zeus..

    We were on in under 15mins which was nice. Zeus is a ride I'd heard a lot about for many years. Whilst I'd seen a lot of people say it's a bit of a love-or-hate ride, most reviews I'd actually read were that it was good, which gave me some quiet optimism. Sadly though, it did nothing for me. It's got a long layout, yet manages to feel like it does nothing with it. It's not rough, but doesn't have enough fun / classic woodie laterals to give it that sort of edge. I don't remember there being any air time either. It just sort of goes around for a while and ends?

    Even riding it later in the day, it did very little for me. I remember feeling a bit more positive about it, but not much. I just don't really get it? Why do people like this?
    Is it because of Zeus' underpants? I bet it's because of Zeus' underpants.
     

    I don't care if you're wearing floral underpants - your ride isn't that good

    A quick stop to the neighbouring Goudrix was of course in order. Similarly, this is something I'd heard a bit of a mixed bag of, but mostly negative reviews. In particular, @pluk's review of it from a few years ago stuck in my mind (spoilers for those who don't know: he's not a fan of it..). And, of course, it has regularly been near the bottom of several coaster polls over the years. So I wasn't looking forward to it. However, I was pleasantly surprised! The ride was smooth, the right level of intense and reasonably fun. It's not something I rank highly, as a layout of inversions is ultimately a bit meh, but it was fun enough.

    Again, a ride was had later in the day. And frankly, I don't know what happened - was a riding a different ride? It was rough and jerky and I did not enjoy it from the third inversion! Perhaps not as bad as some had described it, but still pretty bad. Really not sure how I could have such different reactions to it.

    My first ride was in the front of a car, and the second in the back of a car, so I guess that could have something to do with it. Could also be different trains too I guess. After that second ride though, I didn't want to risk a third to try and figure it out. But it's just crazy how different the ride experiences were.  


    A ride on L'Oxygenarium ("the good Storm Surge" I believe us Brits are required to call it by law) followed, en route to the next cred: Trace du Hourra. I've only ever done Intamin Swiss Bobs before, so it was intriguing to see how the Mack equivalent would ride. And it was alright. Layout is solid, theming around is good and the operations were outstanding. It'd be nice if it swayed a bit more, as it did feel very restricted, but I guess many of these rides feel like this.
     

    We collected the +1 of the Zierer bum rattler, SOS Numerobis (which has an excellent, almost B&M-like roar might I add), before arriving at the highlight attraction, which is of course Oz'Iris.

    Just looking at the area you can tell it's something spectacular. It just looks stunning, from the theming, the dive under the pathway, to even things like the track colour. Everything just blends beautifully. The queue wasn't too long, no more than 30mins, which was long enough to appreciate the stunning indoor queue line too. And once you get into the station, you see they've capped off the atmosphere perfectly. Even the little lighting sequence on dispatch is just great. Everything works. Also, fair play to the staff, who worked their nuts off loading and unloading the ride - jumping inbetween rows to unclip the seat belts whilst the train was still moving(!), and checking bars insanely quickly. Something like that is an art.

    As for the ride itself, it was brilliant. A lovely mix of forces, floatly moments, great inversions, decent length and perfectly paced. First drop is fantastic. My highlight has to be when you dive underground past the waterfall, and then come out into the inversion, which is wonderfully profiled. It's just fantastic all round.

    My issue with B&M rides, which may be a bit controversial, is that when their rides age, they seem to become more intense and forceful. I've noticed it particularly with Inferno at Thorpe, but even my experiences on the likes of Nemesis, Baron 1898 and even Galactica suggest this 'more intense with age' trend. They're like cheeses: they mature and get stronger flavour. As someone who's not a fan of high-G intense rides usually, it's meant some of those rides have gone down in my rankings as time goes on (particularly true with Nemesis).

    Oz'Iris was intense, but it was the right level for me. It'll be interesting to see how it feels in a few years (ie - when I go back for the Intamin), and whether it's experiencing the same 'growing intensity with age' thing! But for now: 4 rides throughout the day, including a wondrous front row ride, puts it as my favourite B&M, and slides into my Top 5..  

    I really liked this bit in the station, loosely showing the layout of the ride

    The random fountain show was fun too - never saw it in its entirety though!

    Another water ride was in order before lunch, and with the log flume closed for technical difficulties, Le Grand Splatch was the port of call. I'm not normally a fan of big boat / big splash rides (too wet too quick), but this was surprisingly decent, since the finale was more for show, and it was water effects which got you wet.
     
    In case you haven't been able to tell, I really like water effects

    With stomachs grumbling, lunch was needed. I'd heard not-good things about food options at Asterix, but ended up being pleasantly surprised at the quality of the restaurant by the log flume (Le Relais Gaulois). A canteen-style restaurant where all the food options looked really good, and ended up being great too. Reasonably priced too, so would recommend!

    Explored some of the kiddie area, including their decent boat ride, before heading to their Vekoma madhouse, Le Defi de Cesar. I'd heard wonderful things about this, including the pre shows, but knew before visiting that because of Covid, they weren't running said preshows. I was intrigued how it would operate, and the short answer is: badly. It didn't help we went on the ride just after a shutdown, but you enter the ride through the exit and just go straight into the ride. Sadly there was no audio and half the screens weren't on either, creating a really awkward experience. From what I've heard, it sounds like the complete experience is a good one, but this was just rubbish. Hopefully the lack of on ride effects was a blip, but I do wonder if they should just keep it shut whilst they're running the pre shows.  
    Boat ride in the kids land has loads of nice set pieces
    This chap gave me some serious moustache-envy...

    Keeping within the Roman area, we cooled off on the rapids, which look stunning but could do with being a bit wetter in my opinion, before braving Pégase Express. Unsurprisingly, this had a long queue pretty much all day, but I guess a 40 minute queue for the park's newest coaster in the middle of July isn't too bad. Again, queue was magnificent, giving great views of the ride and the rapids, and the indoor section was brilliant. The ride itself is solid too. The launch out the station took me by surprise, the section after the lift hill is good fun with some nice twists and turns. The shed is simple but effective, and the backwards section is the perfect length and style. So all in all, a fantastic family coaster.
    Also worth saying they weren't using the bag drop; don't know if that's just because of Covid (it seemed in an awkward space) or if they're just not bothering with it (let's face it, if you can keep your bags on Goudrix, you can keep your bags on this easily).

    The final cred was ticked off after this. Another +1.


    Something I'd been really looking forward to at Asterix was L'Aérolaf, the park's 'rotating bar'. You buy a drink, then take a seat at a table at the bottom of a tower. You then go up 35m and slowly rotate, taking in views of the park and surrounding area, whilst enjoying your drink for about 10mins, before coming back down. Awesome concept for a theme park, and I'd always wanted to do one of those 'have a meal in the sky' experiences - so this was very much a discount version on that. Great views, really nice and open (you just have a seatbelt in your seat of course), and was a great way to break up the day.

    It's on the pricier side - my mocktail was 7,90€ - but I'd say it's worth doing. For reference, a bottle of Coke was 6,90€, which I think was about a 3-3,50€ mark up compared to elsewhere at the park. So if you view it in that sense, you're paying about 3,50€ for the experience, which isn't bad. You even get to keep the themed cup your drink is served in!

    One weird quirk for this though: You had to wear a covering whilst the table went from the bottom to the top. You were then told you could remove it. When it was ready to go back down, we were told to wear a covering again. Felt very odd and pointless given everyone had their coverings off/down for the past 10 minutes and we were the same distance away as before.


    Excuse the feet, but yeah - it's high!
    Me trying not to look like I'm bricking myself and desperately afraid of dropping drink

    Ahh, the face covering hides that fear...but just makes me look like a confused middle-aged man who has no idea how the selfie mode on his phone works...

    Final major ride to do was Menhir Express, their log flume, which was back open and had a reasonable queue. It was a decent log flume, good level of wet and the surprise shed moment took me completely off guard and I loved it!  

    This took us to about half 4ish, leaving the final 2 and a bit hours for re-rides and just admiring the park. Things really died down in the last half hour or so; Oz'Iris was basically walk on for example! Really awesome way to end the day.

    Final thoughts: Asterix is bloody brilliant. I really enjoyed it and, all in all, it's up there as one of my favourite parks. I may not be a fan of two of their major coasters, but it's clear they serve a purpose and people do enjoy them. Their water ride selection is brilliant. And they have a good selection of other rides which will suit most people's tastes too (I never bothered with their flat rides for example, but they were always busy and look sublime). Their quality of theming is amazing as well, along with all the staff being top notch too! Would love to see the park get another dark ride or two, and can't wait till 2023 for the Intamin (or whenever it gets pushed back too..!)
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