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2015 in summary has been one of the best years visiting theme parks myself, reaching some major milestones including visiting to major parks outside the uk [Disneyland Paris & Efteling] and my first ever coaster climb on the Swarm. Previously, my end of year reports have involved fully analysing the highs and lows of all the parks I've been visited that year [amongst those I almost did or had some importance]. However due to the higher amount of park's I've been lucky to visit this year [12 different parks this year compared to 6 in 2014] I have decided to compact it down in to more of a award system than complete in-depth analysis. This will enable me to focus mainly on the high's and lows of the year rather than review everything which might take significantly longer to do so [and perhaps be less interesting to read in the meantime]. So here goes, a new end of year review style. Please let me know what you think and whether this method works better than the previous ones I've used [your constructive comments are always helpful]. Here goes. Broken Coat Hangers: The 2015 Matt Creek Awards Thorpe Throttle [ Winner- Marketing Of WC16 [bypass if you don't to know anything about next year's ride [you know who you are]] Honourable Mentions- Neptune Touch ups, Fin's Bar, It hasn't been the best or easiest years for the park in 2015 [in all honesty], however the park have managed to nail down some fantastic additions, whether that be an improved bar restaurant or touch up's on one of the older park areas. What has stuck out for me however is how the park have built up promotional material for their next big bang, WC16. The marketing for this such ride has been done in a discrete but creative way where more is differently less. The thing I actually like about the marketing is not just the creative clues and slogans such as the 'Mind The Gap' and 'Minds Wanted' that the park have done but also the deliberate diversions and teasers they have done for this such attraction to create further speculation. Thus relating further to how all suggestions of this ride being related to Dr Who, The Big Top or even the walking dead, all that were wrong. The promo videos have also brought such intrigue from the worn steam punk look and underground twin dolls which is certainly some of the best marketing the park have done so far. Lets just hope the ride turns out to be just as good as this marketing and we could be on to a winner. Thorpe Flopper [The epitome of 2016] Winner- Fright Nights Dishonourable mentions- ride reliability, I'm A Celebrity, £60 tickets, Sadly Thorpe have dropped a fair share of eggs this year [not that all of it is their fault] but nonetheless as a recurring visitor throughout the years it is never great to witness. £60 for a day ticket is just too much [unless you are Disney or Universal], a new attraction with such a low throughput feels rushed, shoe horned and somewhat an afterthought and having half a dozen rides as ornaments on visits is good for nobody. It is Fright Nights however that gets the collar of shame though. Whilst Saw Alive & Blair Witch were somewhat better, Cabin retained it's greatness and Containment brought a unique addition to the line up [even if there is room for improvement] this years event felt somewhat underwhelming. For some reason, this year's Fright Nights seemed to lack the scare and atmosphere it had done in the past few years, whether that be due to the lower presence of Lionsgate, Tidal Wave being derelict or the fact the event just felt stale and too similar past events in the wrong ways. My Bloody Valentine was awful and feels too short without the hospital scene, Cabin felt stale especially since things like the revolving tunnel were still broken and the Big Top was somewhat of a big roulette. Some run throughs of the maze was fantastic and shone from the others but on others it was a mess which after queueing 2.5 hours does not leave a good impression either. Add together the concerning amount of ride closures and break downs at a time where it feels the park is somewhat struggling with guests adds only insult to injury. I counted 12 shut down rides at the end of my 2nd trip [the first Saturday] which had to be one of the worst trips to Thorpe I'd been to since 2011 when I regrettably chose to visit on a school trip day, god knows how worse it would've been without the wonderful people I went with that day too. So in all fairness unlike the previous two, 2015 Fright Nights in my eyes wasn't a successful event, which is a shame seeing they added two new attractions which with some altering and consistency could be fantastic, but this years event just felt weak and watery.. Even face it alone could not save it which in stark contrast, was absolutely brilliant and is the best it's ever been [though extreme it may be in some forms]. Lets hope 2016 can deliver a top level Fright Nights that the park deserves and that can complement next year's big plans. Merlin's Big Bang [Merlin highlight of 2015] Winner-Scarefest 2015 HM's- Heartlake City,Shrek's Adventure Another difficult one to pick up here [mostly due to most things Merlin wise being unfortunately somewhat negative], however one that does shine out for me though is how the Uk's 'supposed' No.1 park sort of brought themselves back to knees after such a bad fall last Halloween. I am talking here about Alton Tower's 2015 Scarefest event, which looked absolutely fantastic this year. Given a much needed refresh with two brand new mazes, scare zones and plenty more entertainment and theming bits, Alton Towers delivered a winner on to one of their leading events showing how a UK Halloween event should be done and kicking it's siblings events to the curb at Thorpe and Chessie. Strongly regrettably due to a number of reasons including finding the time, work commitments and a large amount of family do's [the majority of my family have October birthdays], I never had the chance to visit Scarefest, but from the pictures and videos I have seen around, the event as a whole looked spectacular. Shrek almost won this award, being a highly impressive fun and interactive attraction, but keeping in mind the bus no longer works, the ticketing system is a hassle to say the least and that Shrek's peak in popularity was at least 5 years ago does suggest a slight missed opportunity here which is why Scarefest wins it [just]. Merlin Maul [low light of Merlin in 2015] Winner-The Smiler Crash DM's, Chessington, parkwide reliability, short sighted budget cuts, an inevitable one here, but it's safe to say for many enthusiasts, the Smiler crash is by far the worst thing to happen for 2015, making even Chessington's dire park-wide state seem in the shadows. Love it or hate it, The Smiler has always been rather unreliable, from it's stop and start opening, hissy fit downtime or flying coaster wheels that one time. However what happened last summer was not just a disaster but a major catastrophe. The ride has murdered the park of all goodness and excitement it once had, seeing exciting exciting projects like the SW8 Cross Valley woodie buried underground because the operator is so OCD about success they apparently have null confidence of bringing on such an exciting challenge which would work to the park's favour. I feel sorry for those on-board who received injuries and it's a miracle no-one departed. It'll take sometime before the park can recover from this dreadful event and is extremely likely visitor numbers will still be noticeably lower next year to what they were in pre-2015. The park's method on getting back on to the road is also a debatable one, seeing as the park will be closed selected weekdays next year amongst no february half term or friday fireworks, which in a way seems to be the opposite of what they should be doing. This is also alongside the 'rumoured six rides being closed'. Lets only hope that the Air re-theme and food loop turn out to be worthwhile additions and that the Towers TLC plan brings us lots of upkeep improvements. Hopefully we could see some ageing rides given some love in the end. Best park of 2015 Winner- Efteling HM's Disneyland Paris, Adventure Island, Blackpool One I am still undecided on as it was between Efteling and Disneyland Paris [two park's I adore and love]. one of the reasons Efteling won was because they have created a number of memorable immersive experience that are at or near Disney quality yet are on a smaller budget. Rides such as Baron 1898, Dutchman and Fate Morgana are just a few of a good chunk of rides that have fulfilled this request. However, like most good theme parks, it isn't the rides that help this place shine through, but the park's setting. The location is beautiful and with it's countless stunning water features, architecture and heavily forested setting it easily comes across as one of the most picturesque park's out there even beating Towers. The fact despite it's size you can't help but walk around fairly relaxed also helps with the park's lovely atmosphere amongst the fact you can spend 2 hours in the Fairy Tale Forest and not regret it. The highly impressive Aquanura show, which is the best fountain show I have witnessed amongst Polle's Kitchen, a fantastic pancake house in the centre of the park only help this park further here and without doubt, it's a park not to be missed. For those of you wandering why Disneyland Paris didn't win, I can safely say it was only lost by a fingernail. Whilst I adore DLP, the thing to remember here is though the park is currently going through a major refurbishment phase plus also I have found some of the food offering leaving a lot to be desired too. Whilst neither of these ruin my day, they are things to note and since I have love both these places so much, it results in me having to be extremely picky for the winner to come out strong. Sometimes my opinions on which is better changes frequently on which I prefer. Whilst Efteling officially won this reward, both parks should be praised and achieved for the amazing places they are and are at standards that we can at the moment only dream our home park's become almost as good as let alone as good. Best new ride of 2015 Winner- Baron 1898 HM's Sky Force For me there was only going to be one winner for this category and it had to be Baron 1898. Whilst the ride is a little on the short side, it makes up for it's length by implementing some of the most impressive theming outside of a Disney park ever seen, ranging from the impressive heavily articulated station building with chimney to the custom supports and cog wheel feature attached to the lift hill. Alongside this, the ride spectacular pre-shows, special effects, Baron animatronic and even the ride's soundtrack [which IMA score have written another masterpiece with here] have crated a champion ride which appears to have been a massive success for the park amongst giving Efteling a signature ride. Baron is further proof that by adding superior quality thematic elements, structures and theatre, you can turn an alright ride in to a great one! Best new cred [that isn't new] Winner- Tower Of Terror HM's Big Thunder Mountain, Flying Dutchman, Joris, Ratatouille, Pirates Of The Caribbean No surprises here, but when I had my first ever ride on Tower Of Terror at Disneyland Paris, I instantly fell in love with it! Tower does pretty much everything I want in a dark ride, tell a story, explain why you're there, take us on a believable adventure and concludes in a spectacular fashion. Aside from it's spectacular themed façade [which can be seen for miles away], it's all the subtle details in the queue that make me love this ride more like the card game or the cob-webbed crow statue or even the eery service corridoor which reminds me a little of Saw's queue but feels much superior in feel. A rarity of this ride is, despite it's heavily based dialogue, I find Tower highly re-ridable,something I definitely haven't found on the likes of Hex or even Villa Volta which makes it win for me. Even the shop is spectacularly themed. Best Coaster Winner-Baron 1898 HM's Swarm, Joris, Megafobia, Considering I didn't get to ride Nemesis this year, it's safe to say Baron wins the award for the best coaster I have done this year. I just loved everything about the ride from it's theming and build up. I would say more, but I'll likely just be repeating myself considering Baron has also won best 2015 ride too. Best Dark ride Winner- Tower Of Terror HM's Fate Morgana, Pirates Of The Caribbean, Droomvlucht, Ratatouille I seem to treading on myself yet again here, but again for reasons explained up above it is clear Tower Of Terror is a definite winner for me here as a ride this seems to fulfill perfection. How the Americans will compare [whenver I get that opportunity to experience] will be a different matter. Pirates, Fate Morgana & Ratatouille to mention a few are all fantastic dark rides too which I also love and enjoy in their own way, but they cannot take down the terrificness of the Tower, at least not at the moment. Most underrated park Winner-Adventure Island HM's Pleasurewood Hills The 'so called' under dog award. This goes to park's which have done a great job during the season yet don't seem to be in the main ground. Adventure Island may not have much space and room to play with [making even Thorpe look large], but they certainly use much of this space to their advantage. This includes a handful of coasters, half decent dark ride, large selection of flats amongst other such rides. But it isn't just the good/creative use of space and attractions that have filled it, but the love the park receives. The ride staff here are some of the most friendly and enthusiastic ones I have ever seen, amongst the overall the love that goes in to up keeping their rides which each winter not just see's the rides stripped down but often repainted and refurbished to a level we only wish many other parks did. Adventure Island has never been a leading contender in the park industry, nor will it or ever try to be, but should be commended for the lovely shiny but minuscule little gem of a park it is and deserves a visit every once in while as a place that seems to have more love for their park in their fingers that others don't seem to have in their whole body. Most improved park Winner-Disneyland Paris HM's Blackpool, Adventure Island Disneyland Paris takes the reward for the most improved theme park of 2015. Whilst it's always been a magical place to visit, somepoint in the last decade the park went on a slippery slope where the park went in to some decline. This included cuts and cancellations to shows, reduced quality in food and service and rides and theming getting in to a very poor state [for Disney standards]. Whilst the park still shone from the UK ones in it's declining years, it seems the park has finally realised how run down [for Disney] the park had become and as a result is unleashing a massive upgrade plan. This will see many attractions and areas receive the much needed updates they deserve which shall hopefully bring the resort back to the amazing standard it was in it's early years, which at the time was said to be the most beautiful. In 2015, there has been a sudden shift of improvement in the park, with a massive range of new shows and additions, not to mention the amazing updates throughout the park too [even It's A Small World looks lush after it's revamp].Whilst we are in for a rough ride next year, with at least six attractions [three major] closed for major refurbs, by this time in 2017, the park shall hopefully look fantastic for it's next big park anniversary. Lets hope some of our parks can follow this suite [though on a smaller scale of course]. Best theme park show Winner-Disneydreams HM's Ravelijin, Aquanura Until this year, the best theme park show I had probably seen was the stunt show at Legoland. It is that statement alone which shows how much more I have been able to achieve witnessing no fewer than four shows on a grand scale. On another one I find remarkably hard to decided upon [with all being fantastic]. The prize here goes to the spectacular firework, fountain festival that is the wonderful Disney Dreams. This is a show that not delivers some fantastic effects and projection mapping on the park's centrepiece but is able to bring back all those childhood memories with a fantastic choice of repetoire from some of Disney's most iconic films. Numbers include Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and even Hunchback which all works perfectly to the loose Peter Pan plot line too. It is also one of the few places to belt out Disney songs and not look stupid [outside of Peaj's car]. Aquanura is also a fantastic show don't get me wrong, and perhaps a more subtle and sophisticated dreams without screens [or as massive crowds], but it is Dreams that wins it on nostalgia alone that makes it the best show in my books. Worst ride Winner- Armageddon DM's Studio Tram Tour, IAC, Storm Sturge, Smiler From the best to the worst, and one that has a fair share of it's contenders. It is Armageddon that wins it in the end however. Whilst the actual main section is actually quite good, the ride has one of the most dull,pointless and boring pre-shows that it makes even Charlie look interesting [somehow] which is the only time for me that Disneyland Paris felt unmagical. Best looking 2016 attraction Winner- Taron-Phantasialand HM's WC16, Lost Kingdom, Mako, Kong, Frozen ride 2016 looks to be one of the most exciting years we've seen for new rides for a while now, especially in the UK where we have not one, but two large projects in the works for two parks [one of which is looking to slowly appear on the main stage]. It is however Phantasialand's next big thing that I am most excited about in 2016 however. Whilst I may be booed by some for overlooking the uk, the new massive ride they are building looks to be one of the best coasters ever built in Europe alongside thematic landscaping that hasn't been seen since the likes of Everest. Taron looks to be one crazy but amazing coaster with so much track and elements crammed in to such a modest location and should make for one beast of a ride. Lets just hope Intamin don't ruin the trains [cough cough Baco]. It's crazy to think they will be building another smaller coaster on that site too alongside upgrading River Quest. Whilst Taron may have won best [looking] new ride next year, it doesn't necessarily mean it will win the best 2016 attraction next year but anything can happen. Who knows, WC16 could well be a ride that is a worldwide game changer with theming that makes sense and Lost Kingdom could hold an overwhelming amount of charm. It could even be Wild Fire or Walibi's next big thing which seem to be underdogs at the moment [however it's unlikely I will be getting either of those creds next year]. Florida also holds another exciting year [which will also be the case for 2017 & 2018] as being rides that interest lots. However I can't see me reaching the states at all next year unlike I am extremely lucky. Personal Acreekments The more personal awards, this about memories not additions of statistics. Most magical Creek moment [park highlight of 2015] Winner- Disneyland Paris  HM's, Riding megafobia in the dark on the back, Efteling in the dark, arriving at Disneyland site listening to the Mickey Mouse March This time last year, I was resenting the fact I still hadn't been to Disneyland Paris [especially that there at least six failed attempts and a working trip to France]. After nearly losing all hope [as seen in my random video], my wish was finally fulfilled as I was lucky to visit for the first time thanks to TPM's Peaj. Having my first ever visit last April with Peaj, Fish, Alex & Jaymiee, I had an amazing trip to Disneyland Paris which has to be one of the most magical trips away I've ever had and I don't think I've been so happy for some time. Whilst the winning title may seem on the vague side, I just can't decide upon a single solo moment that sticks out, due to enjoying pretty much everyone during the whole trip. This includes my first ever park ride [and first goes on everything], eating at Cafe Mickey, watching Dreams,the arrival at the gates alongside being joined by one of my best mates from sixth form [who lived in Paris at the time] and whom I hadn't seen for years [who thankfully got on very well with everyone]. Even the gift shops and the pre-drinking on the friday were enjoyable experiences [though arriving to Disney first thing with a slight hangover and 3 hours sleep is never a good thing]. Whilst I have enjoyed all my Disney trips this year [I've only done two], I will always remember the first one and how 'amazing' it was. Creakened Creak [biggest achievement of 2015] Winner- Getting to Disneyland Paris HM's visiting Efteling, walking on Swarm Safe to say this is a surprising winner of course . Disneyland Paris did me a great deal of favours, not just introducing me to my first Disney and world class theme park [if you don't count Towers], but also opened the doors to a brand new era. An era that I will hopefully get to experience many more fantastic parks and new rides outside of the Uk, Efteling is an example of this. It's just amazing how many theme park gems we seem to have in Europe. Biggest amusment of 2015 Winner- Peaj getting Disney cast member out of character HM's MOS shenanigan's, everything that happened at the Disney meet In what appears in the third reward running, Disneyland Paris has done it once again is the winner of the most amusing shenanigan of 2015. In many Disney rides, cast members don't just operate and run rides, but they portray a specific character to help build the setting and experience for guests, whether that be restaurant staff on Ratatouille or bell hoppers in Tower Of Terror. The event here, takes place on the latter where one these cast members was behaving as such portraying the mysterious and creepy bell hoppers, where it would take quite an ordeal to get that member out of character. That ordeal was when Peaj said how many there were in the group resulting in that cast member to go out of character and whiff due to Peaj's breath apparently . It shall not be explained why this happened, but it was very hilarious to watch and witness. The Bewilder reward [Matt Creek's low light of 2015] Winner- Choosing the worst weekend to visit Alton Towers DM's not getting Drayton Manor, The only one that could've won it for me. When I learned I could not make the official TPM Towers meet [due to work and party], I decided to plan my own trip up to Towers with a friend and myself. This trip took place on June the 6-8th. In what was supposed to be a very exciting and relaxed weekend, I also booked myself and friend a VIP lift walk on one of the park's main coasters. This coaster was the Smiler. Everything was all booked and ready to go, where excitement was growing by the day for my trip to the park; then the accident happened. The park closed Wednesday, then Thursday, then Friday and unsurprisingly Saturday and Sunday as well where my trip to Towers was no more. Luckily though thanks to some kind friends in the Towers area, our plans were not beaten, only badly blooded as were able to go to Blackpool instead on the Saturday whilst spending a relaxed day at the Towers hotels on the Sunday. Even then, the Big One was shut and we had to cancel our Treetop slot due to running severely behind and catching a train home. In regards to the lift hill walk, I was lucky enough to get a refund after changing it Nemesis after the accident but sending an understanding email once I knew they would be closed. Hopefully next year I will finally manage a proper Towers visit, even if the park is underwhelming aside from the new food restaurant [which is the only thing that I'm really excited about there currently]. Spilt Dignity award [most embarrassing act but amusing to those watching]] Winner- Re-enacting the dance of thriller drunk HM's choosing the wrong rows in tower of terror,Fuzzy Duck, the strange six symbol, Life style of Aladdin [in the what disney character would I be game]. The reward where I look the most idiotic but perhaps most amusing to those watching and witnessing these shenanigans. This reward goes to that time in Wales where after drinking several TGI cocktails and a lot of wine, Professor Drunk appeared, however whenever certain songs came on, I randomly danced around 'trying' to re-enact them. One of those was Thriller and once other of the group had arrived on the Friday another Thriller re-enactment went ahead. This resulted in me running round the room, slamming doors, pulling up hoods, jumping at people and then the coat hangers. The coat hangers were spontaneously picked from the side and banged together at the songs climax, however just before I dropped on to the bed at the end of the song, as a result of banging them together so hard and repeatedly one of those coat hangers broke and become dislocated. After awkwardly placing it back, it was safe to say our excuse from this outcome would've been re-enacting the dance to Thriller, though someone did say they didn't remember the original Thriller containing coat hangers. Safe to say there's been almost as many this year as last year where my Creaky dignity has gone out the window. Whether this be always going out on the wrong row on Tower Of Terror, signing a random six on the same ride [confusing the operator] or losing a simple game whilst sober, they're all pretty embarrassing but funny to look back on. And so ends 2015 bringing us in to a hopefully exciting 2016, a year where it will be time for Thorpe, Phantasia, Paultons and most of the Florida parks to shine. However it may not be the best of years to visit Towers, Disneyland Paris and Hollywood studios for numerous different reasons which will be the mix of building sites and derelict based on current rumours. What does 2016 have planned so far? I have several park's lined up for the list in what could be the biggest year yet. This includes a weekend trip to Liseberg which is already booked plus plans for Phantasialand and Europa Park [the latter I hope to do with TPM]. Uk park's will likely involve Blackpool, Towers, Paultons and Dreamland whilst Thorpe Legoland and Chessington are most likely givens. There is more to be confirmed, which will could be anything. Drayton could finally be done, alongside a fly by to Billund Legoland and even a last trip to DLP before my pass expires [which may not be renewed until early 2017]. We shall have to see. Finally, I would like thank the whole of TPM for being amazing this year [and tolerating my Creakiness]. Extra thanks goes to: Peaj- for being a fantastic meet organiser and those Disney trips, which without I probably still wouldn't have been [and be moaning continuously of having not been]. Myk & Shinequa, Fish and Scary Coaster Boy for giving me lifts to parks throughout the year [whom without I wouldn't have visited as many parks] Stretchy- for everything done that Tower[less] weekend Mer- for making my renewal cheaper [at this expensive time] Marc & Ian for running TPM Alex for tolerating Saw Plus all the mods for keeping the site safe, fun and amusing Happy Christmas, Here's to 2016, see you next year!
Efteling is more than just about the rides, especially when a large chunk of park comprises of the Fairy Tale Forest. The Fairy Tale Forest is a massive forested area in the park which features a large array of animatronics and models telling the story of numerous fairy tales. There are different types of settings, some that are outdoors, others that are inside and some that are somewhat a mixture of both. Some have said to me how you can spend hours looking around the whole area. Believe me, it's no joke as it took me around two hours to polish the whole area whilst taking everything in from the charm and overall atmosphere of the area and believe me, it didn't feel like a waste of time at all and was an intriguing experience in the wacky yet wonderful world of the Fairy Tale Forest as there was just so much to see. As a result of this, I shall only be showing some of the best fairy tales. if anyone wants to see any more of the missing, just let me know. The iconic tree is one of the main centrepieces. To me, he comes across as wise and intelligent. Could This Dragon be the influence for the creation of Joris? One of the most interesting ones, the Chinese Nightingale. The way they did the carpet on this one still remains interesting today. The Emperors New Clothes, One of the more modern fairy tales in the forest.The effects and animatronics used here were nothing short of impressive. There's some giant bits of theming in here [pun intended]. One of the most famous ones I think, the dancing water lilies I think. The track is included on the park CD. The insppiration for Aquanura surely? On of the more familiar ones, Cinderella. I like how the castle appears at the end. I think Europa park got some influence from this one. One of the more simple but effective ones here. And who could forget this fellow? One of the original ones here [Anton Pieck anyone]? And of course this guy, who is one of the first characters you will encounter in the forest. But there's more than just dozens of fairy tale models and characters in this forest. There's a full scale theatre right in the middle where a puppet show aires every so often. Great show for young families, although the position of the dragon puppet is debatable. But there's more to just the Fairy Tale Forest and the rides. Ravelijan, a full scale live action show featuring numerous impressive live stunts and effects addition to theming and a soundtrack that are superb. Whilst I didn't understand the what was being said, the choreography and everything else was enough for me to know what was going on. Ravelijan as a result of it's greatness is now my favourite theme park show [that doesn't use fountains & projections] and that includes Lights Motors Action too. Amazing show. Like many of the best parks, Efteling features many random wonderful attractions around. One of these is this walk-through which depicts numerous fairy tale diorama scenes. An interesting distraction. There was also an indoor carousel in the same complex which made me think of the long closed Carousel Kingdom at Thorpe Park. Naturally during a busy day out, the need to have a bite to eat becomes inevitable. but Efteling, it's not all 'shove it down your mouth' at the park eateries. Like a lot of the park, it is a unique experience. Polle's Kitchen is a must do on anyone's visit to Efteling. Because they do the most amazing pancakes you've seen and eaten. They do savoury ones. Or sweet ones. Both I had during my trip were absolutely fantastic. It's one the best places I've ever eaten at within a theme park and the theming and turning gears which will speed up and react to the music every so often help significantly. You can also buy pancake mix in the shops and restaurant as well, to yours heart's desire. There's even a small museum in the park dedicated to the history of the park. It may not be for everyone but is nice to see the park keep such a historic addition. Now on to one of the most ambiguous additions in the park, Spooksplot. Which down to interpretation can be seen as a show or an attraction. I see it personally as a show [though maybe not in the traditional sense]. This is because you enter an unguarded entrance way, which adds to the mysterious atmosphere, wait and then enter where you are then shown a series of interesting effects in a spooky gothic setting whilst the music of Dance Macabre [Jonathan [Matt] Creek] plays. Despite it's unknown entrance way, it fits in to the park very well even today as a sign of one of the first stepping stones where Efteling started expanding from the fairy tale forest in to the large world class park it is today. The effects there are still intriguing from the peppers ghost to the moving stairs especially considering this is nearly 40 years old, being the first projected created by the now late Tony Van De Ven, the successor to the park's original creative artist. This attraction was also one of the set pieces to the music video to Kate Bush's first tv appearance [type Kate Bush Efteling in youtube]. But no visit to Efteling would be complete without watching the shows fantastic fountain show Aquanura, the largest fountain show in Europe [third in the world]. It's an absolutely fantastic show, especially how they synchronise all the different fountains and colours to the music which are all ride themes from the park. These include The Flying Dutchman, Joris and Dream Flight, all of which are re-orchestrated to transition better but still retain their original features. And some beautiful night shots to close my Efteling report, because this is one of the most picturesque parks I have ever visited [probably overtaking even Towers on that one]. Efteling is an underrated park. It features some fantastic theming and impressive rides alongside some excellent shows, entertainment and even eateries and as a result is one of my favourite park's I have ever visited. My favourite rides were easily Joris, Dutchman, Baron & Fate Morgana amongst many others. Not many weak rides in this park here, Monseur Carnival comes across as the only ride I did not really like and though Python was a little dull, I did not dislike it. My only criticisms to the park would be the park closes rides at closing times [not the queue like many others], which would be nice if they took up the Towers way of closing things and the merch. Whilst there was some merch there to buy [notably Baron & CDs], I did not find there was a great selection and actually found it quite difficult choosing stuff to buy in the wrong sort of way. If the park could do more ride branded items like pens, mugs, t-shirts and even badges, it would be so much better. Aside from these few floors, this park like Disney [ in it's own way], wipes the floor with much of the current UK offering. A lot of UK parks could learn many things if they took a leaf out of Efteling's book.
For the best part of at least three years, I have been looking at spiralling out of the UK circle of Theme Parks. Though doing Tivoli World many times [part of annual family holidays], it wasn't really to count as at the end of the day it was little more than a glorified fair ground [though the shows & fountains were half decent]. It was not until this year where I managed my first large non UK park in the form of DLP which was achieved in April this year, however this was to only mark the beginning of a brand new era. It is here where MC16 is set to begin [MC16 meaning Matt Creek, Mega Creds, or Mighty Coasters 2016]. The next steps of which park to do after DLP was an interesting one, with Europa Park & Liseberg initially projected as the next parks to do. However in the end Efteling was decided as the next park to do, with the great incentive to experience the impressive looking Baron 1898 coaster amongst those lucky enough to do this park amongst others on a long trip this summer. I will not name any names see [C] here. It was also Benin's loverly TR from a few years ago that gave me the incentive to visit here as until then I didn't really know of this place. Part 1 of this report will focus on the rides. Part 2 will mostly look at the shows and anything else worth noting about the park Moving On to the report then! After a loverly cheeky night ride on the eye, we stayed over night at the Stansted Premier Inn with a train journey, sleep and bus shuttle that left very little to be desired. However after munching down a slightly overpriced Weatherspoons Eggs Benedict & taking the train to our gate [not a cred surely] we were on our plane and made it to Eindhoven in a remarkably quick 35 minutes. Ryanair aren't as bad as they are geared up to be. A short'ish sight seeing tour and a generally easy commute [despite train problems] followed before we reached our port of call. EFTELING! Don't think I had been so excited seeing this since spotting those spotlights of Tower Of Terror at Disney. Since we weren't visiting the park until the next day, we walked to our hotel, checked in before finding a Steak House for tea [which was quite good actually] before hitting the sack for the next day ahead. One thing to note is, how the area is quite rural and very much in the middle of nowhere where aside from the roaring motorway, a couple of restaurants and a petrol garage [though not quite to the level of Towers perhaps]. Walking from our hotel to the guests of the park [NH Waalwijk [which is a very good hotel and decent for the price]], we arrived at Efteling. One of the first things to spot upon entering the mighty impressive curved building which stands out from quite a distance away. Accompanied by some appropriate yet subtle music brought out excitement levels on a similar level yet different feel to that of walking in to a Disney park. Impressive is an understatement. Much of the rest of the park architecture upkeeps this fantastic standard. Upon entering we swapped in our printed e-tickets for actual tickets [which didn't work], however we were given a signed note from turnstile staff to enter for ERT, which we technically missed due to a mixture of poor/confused organisation [from us] and one of the entrances being closed due to the new Pinocchio element in the Fairy Tale Forest. No Strings holding down this one then. First stop is what could be called the chase. Baron 1898. Amazing architecture again, very much near Disney standards here and superier to much of what the Uk currently offers. That animatronic though Saw Alive, eat your heart out! So Photo friendly. Efteling have created half a masterpiece here; why half I hear you ask? Well, two things struck out for me on Baron; the experience and the ride. Baron as an exprience is absolutely fantastic, from the moment you approach the surrounding area and landscape, you can tell lots of effort and dedication went in to not just building up the impressive steampunk style building/life structure but the small details such as the lights at the top, the turning wheels and even the smaller details all over the building. The preshows too are also of very high quality. The first in where the Baron introduces us to his mine, where we briefly meet the white women is superb and the descrete touch of a more tinny recording of the soundtrack in order to give the attraction a nostalgic feel only helps it better and better. The second pre-show keeps up this with a high quality of the Baron himself where after setting in your rows, doors open shortly taking you directly to the station [with a smaller bag drop for smaller things] in a fashion of entering a ride station never ever seen before. The third and final pre-show occurs on the ride itself, which is where the white women sing and curse riders before the main cut of the ride begins. The layout though, left seeking for more. The drop at the top is impressive in the that the rest of the park is surrounding you before you enter the mine, but then it's it's goes through a few inversions, airtime hill, helix and then the ride is pretty much over. For me, it was sort of like the ride finished as I had just got in to it really. Though it surpassed Blivvy [though the drop was better], I would rate Inferno better at least on the layout. The ride however as I rode later in the trip though did grow on me quite a lot more though as I re-did the ride in different rows [once at night] and have since rated it better, to the degree it has just made it in to my Top 10 [however that's not hard so far]. Baron is a stunning ride at the park and everything about it has been polished to a remarkable standard that has rarely been seen outside of the giants of Disney & Universal and once again proves that the difference between small details can make the difference between a ride that is average to something which is great. The park should be proud of their baby right now [if only we had seen this details on the Smiler station]. Efteling of course has many other coasters, most of which comprise the park's coaster corner where all the coasters except Bob can be found. One of those is the Flying Dutchman [ or De Vilegende Hollander if you prefer], which is a water coaster at the park [and my first such cred too]. Opening in 2007 by Intamin, this ride was supposed to open a year before hand, but numerous problems occurred with the ride's original manufacturer Kumbak [who make Intamin look like B&M in many ways] had problems and Intamin stepped in. Fantastic indoor queue line theming. Wouldn't see that at Merlin, you'd be waiting outside in a hideous cattle pen before hand. Or station for that matter. Flying Dutchman was a ride I really enjoyed and passed my expectations. The theming and effects featured in the ride again are superb and of high quality. The dark ride parts actually reminded me of Valhalla a little acutally. After going through the fantastic theming parts, the ride cascades in to a roller coaster section with twists and turns with drops before splashing in to the lake below. One of my favourites at the park for certain [and has made it in to my top 10 water rides]. Incidentally got stuck on this ride when it broke down just as our boat reached the station. Not sure what happened but a bright halogen light was on when we reached the brake run. Fixing took a while at this time, so candy crush was the only way to pass the time. Two down and town to go. There are two more coasters to knucle in this area of the park, so which we we do next. Hint- It's not the one with all the loops Joris of course, the park's duel racing woodie. Built in 2010 by GCI, this beast replaced the ageing Pegasus coaster [which I hear was boring & rough]. Though this wouldn't be my first racing woodie, it would be my first GCI [aside from the first outside the UK too]. First ride over, this ride didn't impress me, IT BLEW ME AWAY! This coaster is superb, the way everything has been knotted is so creative from it's swampy queueline building up the ride to the touches so small yet effective. There is far more fanfare on this ride when a train wins [than on the likes of National] as not only does a sign notify which train won, but the winners come back to flags and cheers whilst the losing trains arrives to booes and jeers, and that's before I start talking about the nicely themed station, impressive soundtrack or that this is a coaster smooth as silk yet is so forceful when it rides though the corners. It may well be my favourite woodie now on the basis alone of it's use of simple theatrical effects and smoothness. It is also possible this was the ride to heavilly influence Wodan as well. Last & least of the coaster corner is Pyphon, the park's original coaster which opened in 1981 & made by Vekoma. Well it was no surprise that this was my least favourite coaster at the park [and that's before we review the other two]. Aside from the lacking the overall theatre,theming & atmosphere due to being an older addition, the ride just feels rather short and a little dull, however the helix at the end was pretty good, least the ride was very smooth thanks to it's decent train designs. Speaking on trains, I think this is the third or even fourth carnation of trains they have here two as the original trains were replaced at somepoint in the early 2000's by some form of vile Kumbak ones then may have been re-replaced by Vekoma ones before the current ones replaced them I think. Whilst it's noticeably weaker than it's other coaster counterparts, I am sort of glad they've still got a ride like this in the park. Not just is it showing how much the park have progressed since it's early days amongst it's original coaster, but also a type of generic ride that seems to be sort of in a position of being endangered seeing how both Uk corkscrews removed [though one may have been spared], Walibi's Tornado & Holiday Land's corky coasters torn down. It's makes me question how long Heide's & even Garda's have left. I can see Efteling happily keeping theirs though for a while, especilly with the trains which were probably one of the best things about the ride. The park's second classic coaster was Bob, built by Intamin a few years after Pyphon. This seems to Efteling's equivalent to Spinball, Crush or Boating School. Not so much in style but more so it suffers from having a high popularity but a low throughput. Fortunately a few years ago, the trains were replaced by newer ones which can take 6 instead of 4 people marking the throughput to a slightly better 850 PPH aprox. It's still the lowest throughput coaster though. The ride still entails some fairly nice theming [though not a patch on the other coasters]. Bob was a fun ride, it really pulled some force when it went round it's corners and helixes. Slightly prefer this to Avalanche, whether that's due to one being in a picturesque forest & the other in the middle a grotty seaside town who knows, but I found this one to retain a better pace and the 'semi' night ride only helped add brownie points to this. The final coaster at the park to do was Vogel Rok, a Vekoma indoor coaster which opened in 2001. This would by my fourth indoor coaster [and indoor Vekoma too for that matter as I'm yet to do an indoor coaster that isn't a Vekoma]. Didn't take many pics of this one for some reason, probably either due to my phone running out of storage or rushing the ERTs on day two. A really great coaster here, packs a punch for it's short but sweet cycle and the music throughout the ride like most others at the park is superb, especially the fanfare'ish bit at the end. Reminds me a bit of a family/ non looping Space Mountain in a few ways here, no idea why. It's probably my join second favourite indoor coaster right now after DLP's Space Mountain with RNR on the same place and X at Thorpe taking last place, the 2 people blanket rule probably hasn't helped it for me either [sorry X]. Moving from coasters now to dark rides [Vogel transitions this quite well really] where the park has a great selection. First off the highly impressive Fate Morgana, an Intamin tow boat ride which opened in 1986. Essentially an Arabian equivalent of Pirates Of The Caribbean, the ride is pure perfection. The intimate yet high quality scenes and story of the landscape is so perfectly paced throughout the whole ride, starting in a jungle, heading in to town, jungle & palace landscapes before ending in jungle again which makes you wonder almost 'was what I experienced real'? Another sublime attraction, one of my favourite dark rides I have done. It obviously doesn't top tower but is definitely in my dark ride top 10's. The next dark ride takes us away from the east to somewhere a lot more dreamy. It's Dream Flight [Droomvlucht]. This one opened in 1993. Cattle Pens! least they're not like Saws. I think they were added after the ride opened due to it's popularity I believe. I have never seen so much charm built in to a dark on such a large scale. Whilst it doesn't top Fate Morgana, I adored Dream Flight, from it's astounding soundtrack, large, high quality set pieces and lighting affects alongside the coaster section at the end [which is a lot faster in person the POV's suggest]. Was unsure on this ride on my first go what to think of it, but grew on me a lot more on the second go to become one of my park favourites and at nearly 25 years old [scary the fact the ride is the same age as me ], in no way does the attraction appear dated in anyway. Liseberg's Fairy Tale ride is surely a patronising insult in comparison. after the charming forests of Dream Flight, we move on to the comical world of Festival Carnival which is one of the park's most famous rides. Definitely one of the park's more comical attractions, and unPC to say the least. Apparently a critic slated this ride for it's subtle racism a few years ago [despite praising the rest of the park] and as a result received lots of backslash and even death threats. Carnival Festival is such a fun ride, from it's bright colours, catchy soundtrack to amusing depications of the world. It feels like an It's A Small World style ride done in a Bubbleworks [pre 2006] format. Though it's not making the top list, it's a dark ride I strongly enjoy. This was Daniel Sheldrake's favourite ride of the trip too [who as a result bought the ride's music at the end]. The park's final dark ride is nestled in the forest on this cold autumn day. [note the failed Hex reference]. It's Villa Volta, the park's mad house which opened in 1996. Although it preceeded it by four years, the ride's biggest problem is it's frequently compared to Hex at Alton Towers which unfortunately affects the ride's experience, at least to begin with. Unfortunately, I too was in that camp of comparing, however before hand, here's what I thought. Villa Volta is definitely a beautifully detailed attraction, the facade fits in perfectly with the nearby Ravelijan & Dream Flight, not to mention the animatronic figure in the second pre-show is of high quality. Unfortunately, this was potentially my lesser favourite of the dark rides, not so much that this was a bad ride [far from it], but I struggled getting the storyline really, however reading up after my trip I believe the basic story is of some gang robbing a town or something [ with Villa Volta being the leader's home] and a woman cursing them with that the leader will never have peace or something like that]. Looking back at the pre-shows which I vaguely remember, this seems accurate especially with the animatronic being the gang leader himself. I probably should've done a re-ride to be fair as you can't really judge a ride on just one go. Soundtrack though was impressive as was the decor in the ride itself. However unfortunately on these grounds mentioned earlier, Hex still wins the battle by a long shot. Hex features some amazing theatrical build up's aside from it's also just as impressive soundtrack and even the subtle things like the evil face when the room turns upside down. But enough review of Hex now. The last notable ride yet to be ventured at the park is the Pirana Rapids, a massive wild water set of rapids which is the park's main water ride. Safe to say is now my favourite Rapids rides, and probably the roughest too. Quite often our boat was get stuck in different pockets throughout the ride and may sometimes take a while to get out too. Wetness levels were mild-moderate soaking [ around Dragon Falls soaking level] which was refreshing to say the least. a slightly better Congo or themed Viking River Splash essentially. Amongst other rides at the park include, this impressive Pirate Ship [second after Buccaneer]. The strangest carnation of a sea storm ride, it doesn't go too fast nor does it turn backwards [the theming is decent though]. These very very stiff tea cups which for that alone make it my least favourite ride on park. The theming & soundtrack were still good though. Too many caroulsels to count. This Get Set Go style ride This boating ride [one of the few attractions I didn't do at the park]. There was a sky view ride called Pagoda, but sadly this one was closed for refurbishment during the visit. Efteling has some really good rides there amongst some which are just ok. You can definitely see which rides are the more recent ones with all the intricate details and elements included and those that are park veterans and stick out more than others and not so much in a good way. However, the rides at Efteling are only half the experience as there's lots more to experience than just rides. And that's what we will look in to in Part 2 where we look in to what flipping forests of fairytale fountains can be discovered at Efteling apart from it's decent selection of rides.
*Once again, a long time between entries into this trip - sorry to anyone who is still reading this! Reports will probably be shorter from now on so I can finish this thing before Christmas...* After a nice sleep in Dusseldorf, we said out goodbyes to Germany and ventured into The Netherlands. Out first stop was Toverland, which, despite being a relatively small park, was one I was looking forward to a lot. The 10-6 opening time would surely give plenty of time to give everything a couple of rides, before heading off to try and get a sneaky ride in on Baron at Efteling for its opening day (yes, this report is all the way back from July 1st). We arrived to a very empty-looking car park at opening, and got in. We were told that the ropes course was closed for the day and that the park's signature coaster, Troy, would only be open 12-5. With half of the park basically being indoors, we decided to start off in there and do the big rides that there were. We started the day off with Boomerang, a Vekoma junior coaster. A neat little coaster which feels surprisingly high when at the top. After a quick ride on the Teacups - where my bag flew out of mine and Adam's cup despite minimal spinning! - we did the nearby waterslides, which were good fun. We then ventured outside and did the random hedge maze, before heading to the second half of the indoor part of the park. We had planned to get the bobsleigh ride done, but it has suffered a technical fault, so we instead did the adjacent funhouse and the nearby logflume, Backstroke. It was a nice flume, with it being partially indoors and outdoors, and has a nice bit of theming. It doesn't get you very wet, but has a nice backwards drop and a weird turntable mid lift to turn you forwards... Blitz Bahn, the redone bobsleigh ride, has opened by the time we were done with this. It had a nicely themed queue, which was good as this had the longest queue of the day at a staggering 15 minutes. The ride itself was fun, can't really add much more to it than that really! I was rather happy to see some maths on a 'chalkboard' in the queue... With the noteworthy things inside done, we ventured outside and headed over to the Magic Valley to ride the park's newest coaster, Dwervelwind, a Mack spinning coaster. Rather unsurprisingly, it was practically a walk on, so we made our way through the nicely themed queue and into the station building. I really loved the station; nicely styled and there's a neat little dispatch sequence with some lights when a train leaves. The ride itself was pretty fun with a nice layout that even could be enjoyed on a non-spinning coaster. We got some decent spinning on our first ride too. Temperatures we soaring, so we went and did Djengu River, the park's rapids. Again, not a particularly wet ride, but they were a fun set of rapids with some good spinning in the boats. Certainly a much more welcome rapids ride than River Quest to me! The queue line was themed beautifully as well, which was a bonus. We went back on ourselves to Booster Bike, a motorbike coaster, which was now open following a small closure. I've wanted to try one of these out for a while, for the obvious novelty factor of them, so was a bit excited. I was surprised at how comfortable the seating arrangement was, which was a bonus. The ride's layout was fun, but I just can't help but feel the ride would be much better if it just had a normal seating arrangement with lapbars. The novelty is alright, but I think I'd have enjoyed the ride so much more with just lap bars. 12 o'clock was approaching, so we headed over to the Troy Area to get ready for Troy's opening. Before that, we did Scorpios, a pirate ship with some cool water effects. I wear I read somewhere a couple of years back that this was the tallest or the steepest pirate ship in Europe, so the whole group was really excited for this, but was understandably underwhelmed when we were greeted by a quaint little ride. Don't trust everything you read on the internet guys... It was now time for pretty much the main reason why we visited the park - Troy. The coaster really does dominate the park and the immediate surrounding area, and it really does look impressive. Again, the ride was basically a walk on, which was fab. Back row awaited us, and off we went. And wow. The ride is truly relentless, with a great first drop, awesome speedy moments, nice pops of airtime, and the out-of-control feeling woodies are known for it. The ride really is fab, and shot straight up to my favourite ride of the trip so far. *ORP to come here soon..* With no queue and everyone loving Troy, we went straight back on for another go, and all loved it again (I think I got front row this time and it was still fab). We then decided to retreat indoors and have some lunch; I had some form of spaghetti and it was nice and reasonably priced. It was just coming up to 1 o'clock now, and we'd done everything major already. We stayed inside for a bit and did a couple of the smaller rides in there that we missed out on, before doing some rerides. According to my ride count I wrote up in the car to Efteling, we'd done all the coasters multiple more times, and the water rides again (including the surprisingly wet indoor water slide which was so much fun!). I remember riding Dwervelwind one time and smacking the back of my head against the seat quite hard mid-way through the ride, and the rest of the ride being quite uncomfortable. The rest of the group did another ride on it straight away whilst I sat out. Troy was the most ridden ride on the day, and despite the temperatures soaring (34-35 degrees; possibly the hottest I've experienced in my life..), I was happy to keep on riding it during the day. We also watched the Fountain show, and in general had some fun by the fountains, which was nice. Pictures don't really do the show justice... I continued doing all the rides till about half 4, before the constant high temperature had finally gotten to me and I had to stay inside. It was a shame to miss out on a couple more rides on Troy, but despite staying well hydrated during the day, the heat had really just gotten to me. We left the park not long after 5, so that we could set off to Efteling to try and get the ride on Baron... Final Toverland thoughts: Toverland is a fantastic little park with some really good attractions. Their coasters are all good fun, and having pretty much half the park indoors is great too. One or two more attractions would be nice to help give the park just that little bit more ride-wise, but still is a great little park as it is! Not a park I'm dying to visit again any time soon, but that's not a bad thing I suppose. --- Now, I don't want to steal the thunder from Toverland, but since I'm doing these blogs in days, I can't not put a bit about Baron here. With Efteling a little over an hour away from Toverland, we made our way to the park, hoping that we'd be able to get to the park before the 8pm close and sneak a quick ride in on Baron, on it's opening day. We made good time on the road, and checked into our room in the Efteling Bosrijk Village (which was lovely!). By the time that was all done, we got into the park just after 7 and headed straight to Baron. I won't go into it too much, since my ride review is here, but the hour-or-so queue for front row in the heat made it quite a long and gruelling experience, but oh so worth it! We then went to the nearby town to try and find dinner, and almost had no luck before finding a kebab shop which did nice and cheap-ish food. A short walk back to our room and I quite happily collapsed into bed at some point around 1am I think (goodness knows where all the time had gone...). And that's where I'll leave it for now. The next report will combine our 2 days at Efteling, and hopefully shouldn't be too long before I post it!