Join us for a mega roller coaster holiday through Germany and Holland! What an adventure this one was! Starting and ending in Cologne, the trip included 1570km of driving and 122km of walking. In 10 days we covered 7 theme parks, 1 funfair and 6 hotels.
We’ve done our best to cram it all into a 4 minute film, but there is plenty more to see over the coming months so please do subscribe to our YouTube channel if you like what you see!
3 days, 3 parks! We’re back with our first trip overseas of 2018. This time we visit Port Aventura, Ferrari Land and Tibidabo.
This 3 night trip is surprisingly affordable and a great way to get your fix on some truly excellent rides, with the promise of some sunshine thrown in. What’s your favourite ride at Port Aventura? Let us know down below!
A very quick look at our 2 day theme park trip to Kolmården & Gröna Lund in Sweden. More in depth videos are to follow!
Thrill seekers are in for a treat this summer as three of the UK’s tallest thrill rides take residence at the Liverpool Pier Head Village.
Running from 30th June to 10th September, the Pier Head Village is dubbed as a “summer festival to remember”. Whilst we were naturally drawn in by the rides, the event also boasts live entertainment, food and drink, an urban beach and much more.
The event is beautifully located at the Pier Head, offering some incredible views to those brave enough to take on the tallest rides. These are the UK Power Tower, Around the World and Mach 5. Alongside these are a selection of family rides and inflatables, as well as the brilliant “Das Fun Schiff” pirate ship.
An event that is well worth a visit this summer. Rides are accessed via a token system, with the big rides costing between £5 and £10 a go. More information can be found on the Pier Head Village website.
Thrill seekers are in for a treat as Zip World Fforest open the UK’s only Alpine Coaster.
It’s called the Fforest Coaster. And no, that’s not a typo. The one-of-a-kind downhill adventure is located in Wales, where one F just isn’t enough! Lets start by taking a ride.
Just like a traditional roller coaster, the Fforest Coaster starts with a powered lift hill which drags riders to the top of the course. The similarities end when the ‘sleds’ that the passengers sit in reach the peak and begin their downward decent. Unlike a normal rollercoaster where riders have no input, each sled on the Fforest coaster has its own manual braking system. This allows the rider to control the speed of the ride.
The Fforest coaster comes from German firm Wiegand, who’ve been responsible for many Alpine Coasters all over the world. You’ll notice that we’ve (awkwardly) worded the title of this post to state that Zip World’s ride is the UK’s only Alpine Coaster and not the UK’s first. This is because we did used to have a similar Alpine Coaster in Stoke-On-Trent. Located at Stoke Ski Slope, the ride operated between 2003 and 2007 and was around 425 meters long.
Zip World’s new coaster is over twice this length, featuring a 365 m upward lift (split into two sections) and a 710 m downhill slalom through the trees. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty tiny when you compare it to some of the German alpine coasters located on the side of mountains, but it’s still long enough to pick up a bit of speed and feel like you’ve gone on a bit of an adventure. Take a look at the layout shown in the planning document below;
The ride lasts for around 6 minutes, during which riders can reach speeds of up to a limited 25mph.
You read that correctly. The FForest coaster’s top speed is restricted to 25mph. Not gunna lie, this came as a massive disappointment. After all, Alpine Coasters are known specifically for the fact that you can ride them without using the brakes, reaching blistering speeds, all the way down the hill, whilst recording an onride video for YouTube entitled “CRAZY alpine coaster with NO BRAKES! Absolutely INSANE!”, which will then go viral and make the poster thousands in Ad Revenue. Soz Theme Park Review.
Jokes aside, it is 2017 and Health & Safety is definitely “a thing” now, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise. In fact the way in which the speeds are monitored and controlled is actually surprisingly advanced and rather interesting. Allow this diagram to explain;
Named the “Driver’s Assistance system”, it relies on magnetic eddy-current technology working in harmony with electronic sensors and control system. When the sled reaches 25mph the system automatically kicks in to slow it down. As well as limiting speed, the system acts as a spacer and ensures that all of the sleds are at least 25meters apart from each other at all times during the decent. This does unfortunately mean that if the person in front of you is a pansy and braking all the way down your sled will automatically be slowed down too.
There’s no denying that it detracts from the overall ride experience, however the safety benefits probably outweigh the lack of speed. Coupled with this, the cost of maintenance is likely to be less as magnetic brakes are non-contact and require less maintaining than traditional friction brakes.
But lets not get bogged down by the speed, the Fforest coaster is awesome! We really are lucky to have an Alpine Coaster of this length and quality in the UK. The setting couldn’t really be any better, with the track weaving in and out of the trees throughout the ride – the only obvious comment to make is “can we have another one that’s even longer?!”. With Zip World growing as quickly as it is and with multiple sites in Snowdonia, maybe we’ll have an answer to that question in the next few years!
It’s also definitely worth mentioning how friendly and accommodating the Zip World staff were, so thanks!
The Fforest coaster opened on 10th May and is located at Zip World Fforest, LL24 OHA. Riders must be 9 years old and 1.35 m or taller to ride unaccompanied. More details can be found on the official website.
2016 has been an exciting year for new coasters in Europe. And whilst social media has been awash with photos and videos of the latest rides, the chances are that there was one that kept cropping up and catching your eye – TARON.
Located at Phantasialand, Brühl (that’s in Germany), Taron is a multi-launch coaster from Swiss manufacturer Intamin. Unlike the UK-based Intamin launch coasters Rita and Stealth, which are both hydraulically launched, Taron uses an LSM system to propel the trains twice during the ride. And with a maximum speed of 72.7mph, Taron is the world’s fastest multi-launch coaster!
Taron opened on 30th June 2016 as part of a new themed-world named Klugheim. Themed as a rocky basalt landscape with a rustic village at its heart, Klugheim also features a smaller (also new) coaster for the younger adventurers, Raik. This is a Vekoma Family Boomerang and, like everything else in Klugheim, features heavy theming.
Big statement, we know. And you don’t have to agree with it. Although it is hard to justify yourself if you don’t.
Taron is the full package. It’s not hard to find a coaster that is super thrilling and smooth. It’s also not hard to find a coaster with incredibly immersive theming. What is rare is to find one coaster that combines the two of these features into one fully coherent and immersive ride.
The ride experience itself is phantastic (see what we did there?). Intamin have done an incredible job with the layout and build, resulting in a smooth and comfortable ride with bucketloads of force and airtime. The trains are a new design to that of the old Intamin launchers and feature lap-bars and a raised seating position that will feel conveniently familiar to those who’ve previously ridden a MACK Mega Coaster such as Blue Fire or Helix.
Speaking of Helix…
Helix (at Liseberg, Sweden) seems to be the ride that everybody wants to compare to Taron. Whilst they’re both from different manufacturers, they do share the similarities of both being LSM Multi-launch coasters with similar trains and long layouts.
They’re both great rides for different reasons – Helix has the advantage of taking the riders on a real journey through the park as its layout sprawls from one side of Liseberg to the other, but the LSM launches are more gentle nudges than anything else. Conversely, Taron’s launches are really forceful but the ride has a very small footprint so you don’t get that same sense of going on a journey.
Just to confirm though, for us Taron is far superior to Helix. Just look at it!
We’re clearly not the only ones who love Taron. Check out the state of the overflow queue line during our visit.
The good news is it’s really easy to get to Phantasialand. Flights are often £9.99 each way with Ryanair from London Stansted to Cologne, with public transport taking you from the airport to the park in around about 90 minutes at a cost of £10(ish). Already ridden Taron? Let us know how it ranks for you in the comments below!
Ho Ho Ho. Christmas is drawing ever-nearer. With the inevitable stress of deciding which socks to buy for your most-hated loved ones, what better way to escape in to the festive spirit than by visiting Stoke’s new Winter Wonderland?! We’ve been along to take a look for ourselves.
Billed as “The Midlands’ spectacular Christmas destination“, Winter Wonderland Stoke is the first event of its kind to appear at the Birch Terrace car park in Hanley. It promises entertainment for the whole family, with activities including ice skating, spectacular rides, Bavarian food and live music.
On entering the site you’re instantly transported from the bleak familiarities of Stoke into a festive wonderland fit for the big-man himself. The smell of Bavarian sausage wafts up your nostrils, the jingle of Christmas tunes fills the air, and underfoot you are treated to a wooden-decked walkway to help you forget that you’re standing in a carpark in the middle of Winter.
It really is quite impressive. Undeterred by the rain, we were pleased to see a good turnout at the Wonderland, with the ice skating rink proving very popular – even on a week night.
Thrill-seekers are certainly in for a treat. Joining the 60 metre tall Sky Swing are the Airmaxx, No Limit and Super Bowl. For the families there’s the Crazy Mouse rollercoaster, the Sizzler and the Dodgems, amongst others.
Winter Wonderland Stoke is open from 17th November 2016 until 2nd January 2017. Entry is free, with ride tokens sold on-site. It is recommended that you book Ice Skating in advance to guarantee a slot.
Full details can be found on the official website.
It was fun and thrills for all the family at the annual Loughborough fair last weekend. A part of Loughborough’s history for almost 800 years, what did 2016 have to offer?
The Loughborough Pleasure fair has been a highlight of the fairground calendar for showmen and enthusiasts alike for many years. Dating back to 1221, the fair has been a part of Loughborough’s history for 795 years.
Held in the town centre, the fair was traditionally confined to the Market Square. Over the years it has expanded to now cover most of the town, with the latest rides and attractions for the whole family to enjoy.
The 2016 funfair was held between 9th & 12th November. With our visit set for the final night (Saturday), there was some concern raised having read reports earlier in the week suggesting a lack of punters on the ground. Upon arrival we were therefore delighted to see the usual crowds of excited fair-goers enjoying the latest rides and attractions.
It is certainly worth mentioning one of the unexpected stars of the show this year – that being the Super Bowl ride of Darren Matthews. Located in the Granby Street carpark, it was riding full with a queue for most of the evening. Having ridden many-a-superbowl, we were frankly shocked to see it doing so well – so gave it a go ourselves! It didn’t disappoint, going down as the most enjoyable ride on a Super Bowl we’ve ever experienced.
Return of the Top Buzz
After a three year absence, the prime spot in Market Square was once again occupied by a Mondial Top Scan ride. This year’s attraction, named “Xtreme”, was presented by S&D Leisure Rides. The Xtreme was imported from Austria to make it’s UK debut earlier in 2016, and joins S&D’s “AtmosFear” – also at this years fair – in their thrill rides line-up.
Thrill-seekers were spoilt for choice, with the likes of Airmaxx, Mach 1 and the Freak Out all on the bill. For the families there’s the traditional Gallopers, Sizzlers and plenty of Juveniles for the little’uns.
Loughborough fair is one of the biggest street fairs in the UK. It is therefore not uncommon for their to be multiple rides of the same type in attendance. This year was no exception. Duplications for 2016 were; 2 Crazy Bulls, 2 Extremes and an Orbiter, 2 Miamis, 2 Gallopers, 2 Twists and 2 Rotors.
The atmosphere on the show ground was absolutely fantastic, and a delight to stand back and watch. Loughborough fair is not just for thrill seekers, instead offering something for all the family to enjoy. But don’t just take our word for it – check it out for yourself in our video below!
Blackpool Pleasure Beach have become notorious for their early-season opening, allowing thrill seekers to enjoy the whole park over a month before the Theme Park season kicks off for the rest of the UK. From the 7th February to 20th March 2016 the park will be open at weekends, offering half price (£15) tickets when booked online in advance. We made a trip to Blackpool for the opening day, Sunday 7th March 2016.
Arriving at the park it quickly dawned on us that it was very windy and that this would surely affect ride availability (particularly the Big One) throughout the day. Not deterred by this we put our coats on and joined the disgustingly long queue to pick up the tickets that we’d already bought and paid for. If there’s one thing that we wish Pleasure Beach would improve upon it would be their ticketing system – it’s 2016 – why can’t we just print off our tickets at home and walk straight through the turnstiles? Flaming-o-land manages it very well!
Anyway. It’s always nice visiting a park on opening day as all the staff are still really enthusiastic and haven’t yet recieved their first pay cheque and realised how much of a struggle their year is going to be. The park is open from 11am – 5pm however the rides seem to open on a staggered basis based upon whenever the hell they can be arsed to get them going. – Yes this sounds sarcastic but it seems to work and helps get guests flowing around the park, and we love the whitty banterful charm of the way the park is run.
So the bit you all want to see – the missing bridge:
The Tom Sawyer Bridge has been a part of the park for as long as we can remember, and it’s demolition has sparked great speculation over whether or not a new coaster could be coming to the park in the near future. If rumours are to be believed we could be in for Mack Multi-Launch coaster similar to that of Blue Fire at Europa Park and Helix at Liseberg. If the park was to also remove the Grand Prix ride we’d have a massive space on our hands ready for something huge. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the bridge was just totally shagged after all these years and the only option was to remove it, but we’ll remain optimistic!
Time for some rides
Infusion. Love it or hate it, it’s the newest coaster at the park and it does offer something none of their other rides do, and is a fantastic place to eat a cheese sandwhich before going to Specsavers. We were pleased to see it running on two trains and with a really good dispatch rate.
Fast forward a bit, we managed to get on everything that was open and were having a great day. Even the Zipper Dipper Blue Flyer was riding well.
Now we should probably touch on a few of the rides that were not open. When we picked up our tickets we were told that Avatar Airbender, Spongbob’s Splash Battle and the Gallopers would not be operating. Unfortunately there were a few more to add to that list, including; The Big One, Steeplechase, Wild Mouse, Valhalla which were closed and Alice, Avalanche, Grand National, Big Dipper which all either broke down or opened late.
Yes, this is disappointing, but we must bare in mind that the park has a very short closed season to get the rides stripped and re-built, and a large factor was the high wind speeds, not to mention we only paid £15 to get in. On the off chance, we left a comment at Guest Services at the end of the day and ended up having our wristbands re-validated for a free return trip before 20th March. Fair play to PB, their customer service on the day was excellent.
A few more photos
All in all we had a fantastic day out. We love the traditional “what you see is what you get” feel of the park and that genuine sense of fun that the park conveys. The staff were certainly doing a great job and we left with free tickets for another day. Well done Blackpool!
Check out our video of the day and if you enjoy it, please share this post with your friends!
Winter always used to be a dull time for the UK attractions industry, with the country’s Theme Parks all closed and many other tourist attractions and funfairs all finished for the year. So when Winter Wonderland first opened it’s gates in December 2007 nobody could have predicted the impact it would have had on the industry.
Winter Wonderland has grown rapidly, in all senses – with each year seeing more rides, more attractions and more visitors. 2015 is no exception, and is infact the most notable shake up of the event in it’s history, with over 60 large attractions, 22 more than were present in 2014.
Situated in London’s iconic Hyde Park, Winter Wonderland boasts something for everybody, with plenty of Christmas spirit thrown in! From fairground rides to live shows, festive treats to ice skating, the event offers a huge range of entertainment all suited to the winter theme.
Whilst the event is very well dressed up, for us the heart of it will always be the fairground. With rides travelling to the event from all over Europe, this is surely the best funfair in the UK. Whilst the purists amongst you may be screaming “WHAT ABOUT HULL AND GOOSE?!” at your screens, we do firmly believe that Winter Wonderland is in a league of it’s own. Whilst Hull fair and Nottingham Goose fair are indeed incredibly large fairs in the UK calendar, they lack the coherant theme, enterainment, layout and presentation of the Hyde Park event. Oh, and did we mention that Eberhard’s AirWolf is there?!
Where else in the UK can you see a Mondial Inferno? Nowhere! This classic ride has instantly been a hit with the British public, most of whom have never seen a ride like it before. Other notable rides at this year’s event include Lagerin’s Huss Breakdance from Germany, Schneider’s new Hangover Freefall Tower, Hart’s Huss Top Spin, Mannings Capriolo 10 and Dotremont’s KMG XXL. Also new for this year is the world’s largest mobile ghost train – Daemonium.
There’s literally loads to see and do, too much to write about in one short article. Interestingly the Irvin family have actually purchased three brand new rides just for the event – these being a Waltzer, Extreme and Dodgems. Meanwhile, coaster fans are spoilt for choice with both Eberhard’s Wild Maus XXL and Mellor’s Ice Mountain – the world’s first entertaining Reverchon ride.
The good news is that you don’t need to pay to get in – you just pay for the attractions that you want to ride and/or experience. This means that you can bring Grandma along and she can happily toddle around the market stocking up on knitting needles whilst you’re busy shouting horrific swear words and pooing yourself 90 meters in the air on the Hangover tower. Prices are best described as “London prices” which roughly translates to “bloody expensive” , but hey, it’s Christmas – and it is worth it for the atmosphere alone.
Winter Wonderland runs from the 20th November 2015 to 3rd January 2016 and is open from 10am-10pm. Access is recommended via the Marble Arch tube station.
You may remember some time ago, (well, 3 months ago actually) we embarked on a massive crazy super awesome European Theme Park and Funfair trip. You may also have heard of the phrase “good things come to those who wait”? Well – thanks for waiting.
Here are some of the photos from our trip. Some of the videos are also online, in which case please follow the links. Stay tuned for more features and write-ups from our time away.
20th July 2015
Our first visit to Tilburg Kirmes.
21st July 2015
We visited Efteling (Nehterlands) to check out their new B&M Dive Coaster; Baron 1898.
21st July 2015
Following our day at Efteling we stopped off at the Uden Kirmes; an average sized fair with nothing particularly noteworthy at, still, it was good to see the Sound Machine.
22nd July 2015
This utterly bonkers German park is set in the site of a never used Nuclear Power Plant. The star attraction is a Starflyer ride inside a cooling tower. Entry is around 15 Euros and includes unlimited ice cream, chips and drinks!
22nd July 2015
Ask any coaster geek about Movie Park and 99% of the time they’ll tell you it’s a terrible park not worth bothering with. We ignored this advice and spent an afternoon there and actually really enjoyed it!! The coasters themselves are truly awful BUT the theming is fantastic and it was a nice immersive experience on the whole with some interesting attractions thrown in – notably an indoor rapids ride and a great Gerstlauer bobsled coaster in the dark.
23rd July 2015
The best advice we ever took was to visit Phantasialand. It is without doubt the most visually impressive park we’ve ever been to, with some incredible rides with plenty of “secret” elements. This album includes some construction pictures of their new for 2016 rollercoaster “Taron”.
24th and 25th July 2015
This is probably one of the most talked about German fairs by us UK Enthusiasts, so we were thrilled to finally visit ourselves. Unfortunately the fair was closed all of Saturday due to bad weather so we didn’t manage to see everything we wanted to, but did get a few photos the night before.
25th July 2015
The final funfair of our summer Eurotrip was Duren Annakirmes. Notable attractions include the new Apres Ski XXL and Wild Maus XXL (the one that comes to London every winter)
26th July 2015
Knowing that we had approximately 3 hours to spare before our plane home we stopped off at BillyBird Park (Netherlands). This is a strange inland-beach style attraction aimed at families and young children. The star attraction is an ABC Rides solar powered rollercoaster, which was actually surprisingly fun.
And that’s a wrap! We hope you enjoy the photos and/or videos. More videos are yet to come so be sure to check back for further updates. If you have any questions about our trips and how we do them then leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.
If you’re reading this then chances are that you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Ask any theme park or ride geek and they’ll be able to tell you – probably in graphic detail – all about their first experience of a big ride. There’s something quite special about that feeling of terror as the adrenaline races through your body, but unfortunately that feeling does seem to fade over the years as you become “immune” to fear through experiencing so many rides.
So what can we do to scare ourselves?! Well – we head over to Wales for an action packed day of ziplining, swinging, climbing and jumping to see if we could get our adrenaline racing once more.
The day consisted of the following activities:
All in all the cost of the activities totalled just under £150 per person – so it’s not cheap – but we thought it was worth it just to be able to try something a bit different.
Now, I don’t know if it’s just because we’re so used to coasters or not, but none of the 5 ziplines we did really phased us that much. There was a very strong focus on health and safety (as you’d hope), meaning that a lot of potential psychological fear of falling to your death is instantly eliminated. Zipworld titan has three medium sized ziplines, each of which having four “lanes” so that you can race your friends down to the bottom. The scenery and landscape underneath you was truly beautiful on these zips, and varied muchly between the three lines. Nothing too scary at all really, but very enjoyable. Zipworld Velocity is probably the scarier of the two attractions, as it features Europe’s longest and fastest Zipline, for which the riders are hung in a lying position for maximum aerodynamic-ness. You’re provided with safety goggles, which at first seems quite humorous, but you quickly realise how important they are when being pelted in the face by flies and other bits of flying shit at 100mph. This is the most expensive individual activity, coming in at around £60 per person just for the two ziplines. Worth it? Yes and no. We’re glad we did it, but wouldn’t rush to do it again.
The Powerfan Plummet and SkySwing are both located at the same place – Treetop Adventure – not far from either of the ziplining attractions mentioned above. This is where things got scary. The PowerFan Plummet was almost certainly the highlight of the day. To put it simply, it’s a massive tree (106ft tall infact), with a few metal pegs hammered in and a platform built at the top. After being harnessed up you take to the tree and use the metal pegs to climb your way to the top. This is a terrifying, gruelling experience. After what feels like 5 hours, you accidentally look down and let out a small fart of terror as you realise how high you are. Following this you look up and let out another fart of terror as you realise that you’re still only quater of the way up and there’s no easy way to chicken out now! Eventually you do get to the top (in reality the climb is probably about 5 minutes long), and you get some time to pull yourself together and man up before being clipped to a rope that in theory will prevent your death as you jump off the top.
Whilst this was easily the most terrifying thing we can remember doing in a very long time, it was well worth it. The freefall sensation alone when jumping off is incredible. The SkySwing is basically just a huge swing – you get strapped onto a metal bar (it’s not comfy at all – wave byebye to fertility) – and winched up to the highest point. When you get to the top you pull the release chord yourself and begin the swing. Great fun, pretty scary, worth doing.
Both of these activities combined cost around £30, so definitely the best value for money all day and quite possibly the best activity all day.
The final activity to round off the day was Bounce Below. Located at the same site as Zipworld Titan, Bounce Below is a network of “trampolines” inside a cave. We say “trampolines”, but in reality it’s a series of bouncy nets on three different levels connected by slides and webbing to climb. Really good fun, but an injury waiting to happen.
And that’s that! If you’ve read this entire article then chances are you’re interested in doing the activities too – if you do have any questions then please comment and we’ll get back to you. Below is our video of the entire day condensed into just a few minutes – please do watch and leave us a comment!
Oh – one more thing! They actually let us, and encourage, the use of GoPro cameras. They even provide helmets with GoPro mounts if you ask them for one. As theme park fans we’re not used to such loving treatment! On that basis – this entire day gets a big FIVE out of FIVE fictional stars. Well done Wales, you were fun.
For some reason, the UK is scared of getting wood. Why exactly? We don’t know, however we do suspect it has something to do with the fact that for most people their only point of reference to allow them to form an opinion are the old rickety things at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Whilst they may seem like great rides to enthusiasts, the general public do seem to assosiate the Blackpool woodies with pain or danger. For this reason it seems that UK parks see wooden coasters as a risky investment – but this could be about to change.
Europe already houses a selection of the world’s finest woodies – ranging from Troy at Toverland to Balder at Liseberg. Whilst it is easier than you might think to fly out to these parks, it’s a timely and often costly exercise. So when Tayto Park in Ireland announced that they were building a huge wooden coaster for the 2015 season we got very excited.
The ride, named the Cú Chulainn Coaster, has been manufactured by the Gravity Group, the company behind the famous “Voyage” ride at Holiday World and features the new Timberliner trains (which, unlike standard wooden coaster cars, have wheel assemblies that can steer and provide a smoother ride). Over 800,000kg of yellow pine was used in the construction, 100 tonnes of steel and over 700,000 bolts – producing a ride with a 32 meter drop and a track length of 1082 metres. All very impressive statistics, but what we really wanted to know is how does it ride?!
Luckily we didn’t have to wait long to find out. Being members of the European Coaster Club, we received an invitation to visit the park on Thursday 4th June 2015 for the Media Launch of the ride, ahead of it’s offical opening on Friday 5th. A quick visit online and we’d booked our flights, £10 each way with Ryanair – it really is that simple. After what seemed like the shortest flight in the history of the world and a 15 minute drive in a hire car we arrived at the park and were faced with an incredible view of the new coaster.
To be totally honest, we were a bit skeptical that the ride would be any good. In photos it does appear as though it’s a fairly plain layout without much emphasis on airtime or twists. What we didn’t expect was to be proven so wrong. The Cú Chulainn Coaster is awesome.
Right from the moment we entered the queueline there was something magical about it, perhaps hightened by the fact that the wood was so new that anything you touched caused a storm of sawdust to appear. Everything looked so fresh and new, even down to the shiny red trains. Speaking of the trains, they’re strange little things! They almost look like they’re made out of Meccano, and at first feel as though the lapbars are going to pin you in too much and ruin the airtime. Again, we were proven wrong on this!
So, after taking your seat in the 24-seater train and being locked in with a lapbar that swings down from the side of the car, the train begins to climb the lift hill. The first drop is amazing, very steep and smooth without that jarring feeling a lot of woodies have at the bottom of a drop as the train’s wheels slam back down onto the track. The drop leads into a tunnel with a hidden airtime hill, which at the speed you’re going gives substansial ejector airtime and sets the tone for the rest of the ride. In pictures it may look like the track is just a giant figure 8 but you’d be wrong to assume that. This coaster has so many unique and exciting moments packed into it, and lots of airtime.
The inversion? What Inversion? There was a lot of talk about the Cú Chulainn Coaster having an inversion, with some sources even claiming the whole ride was “inverted”. Unfortunately this was just a bit of a marketting tool, the ride doesn’t actually feature any inversions but does have an overbanked turn. To be honest, this turn was probably the only disappointing part of the ride, as it was a little rough and “shunty”. Don’t get me wrong we enjoy a good shunt but it did disturb the McDonald’s breakfasts that were still digesting in our bellies. We were led to believe that this roughness was being worked on and that the overbanked turn shunt should hopefully be a thing of the past soon – there was actually work being carried out on it after our preview session ended.
The ride was due to open the next day, Friday 5th June, but in the end didn’t actually open until Saturday 6th – why exactly we don’t know, but it is assumed that it was to allow for finishing touches to be made to the ride.
Tayto Park’s new coaster is very very good. It’s smooth, it’s fast, it has lots of sudden changes of direction, airtime and it feels like a really long ride. Is it the best woodie we’ve ridden? No, but it comes close. Is it the best woodie within easy reach of the UK? Definitely. Fingers crossed that the ride is well received and that it nudges UK parks into considering wood themselves. Interestingly we did see management from Drayton Manor at the media day talking to the Gravity Group – take that as you will – but it’s promising.
The rest of the park is great! It’s small and attractions are currently quite limited, but it is clear the park is heading in the right direction. As well as the coaster, Tayto Park also opened eight other attractions this year including a Zamperla Air Race and “The Rotator” – a 360 looping swing ride. We strongly recommend that you visit and see the park for yourself. Really, it’s easier than you think to do in a day or as part of a weekend trip. We’ve plenty more to say but don’t want to ramble on too much, please do leave a comment with any questions.
First things first, let’s start this post about Alton Towers in the traditional way – with a photo of Nemesis.
Nemesis of course now in its 21st year of operation, and still riding like a dream. The question is, though – is it really one of the best coasters out there, or is it just something that UK enthusiasts like to cling to? We’re undecided, it’s definitely an awesome coaster, but for us Black Mamba at Phantasialand is just that bit better… Anyway – more on this debate in a future dedicated post I’m sure.
The plan for this post was initially to take a load of photos around the park and provide you with a rich and varied gallery of images taken on a sunny April afternoon. Unfortunately this didn’t go quite to plan as we spent most of the day taking photos of Nemesis and forgot about the rest of the park – oops. Oh wait – here’s a photo of the Corkscrew!
Towers looks set for another great year, and is still pulling in the crowds despite the reduced opening hours and staggered opening of rides on quieter days. This was also our first chance to see the Octonauts Rollercoaster Adventure – a Zamperla kiddies coaster located in Cbeebies land. Described by some as a “glorified wacky worm”, the coaster is a small figure 8, but to be fair it does look really good and they’ve done a pretty decent job of the theme and audio to match.
Now that’s enough of our rambling on – check out the photo gallery below to see a few shots from our day out.
The West Midland Safari Park is one of those places that you can just keep coming back to – it’s got a certain nostalgic value to it and a much more “relaxed” feel than you get when visiting “proper” Theme Parks. We recently visited the park to check out their new attraction; “The Land of the Living Dinosaurs” – billed as the largest animatronic dinosaur display in the UK. Once we got over the disappointment that the dinosaurs weren’t actually “living” at all [who’d have thought it?!], we thought the display was fantastic.
Click on the photo below to open up the full gallery!
Blackpool Pleasure Beach seems to be a bit of a Marmite park – you either love it or hate it. Unfortunately a lot of the people who do love it do seem to struggle to present themselves in a polite manner and as such it won’t take you long to find defensive arguments on coaster-forums of people defending the park as if it’s their only child. That aside, we think it’s great!
Pleasure Beach offers a complete line-up of rides, which – for February – is very unusual for a UK park. We had a fantastic day out, despite the cold. Click on the photo below to open the gallery!
It’s at this time of year that we always stop and think; “Where the hell has this year gone?!” This is typically followed by a mild spell of depression as we ponder over the things we didn’t manage to achieve throughout the year as well as a frantic realisation that you’d better start your Christmas shopping soon.
Thankfully, Hyde Park Winter Wonderland always shows up to save the day.
The 2014 event is has now kicked off and offers the biggest and best variety of rides and attractions to date. For many UK based enthusiasts, this is the first time they will be able to lay eyes on a KMG XXL in the flesh, and what a treat they are in for. From flat rides to coasters, circuses to bars, Winter Wonderland seems to be the perfect family event.
As much as we’d love to ramble on about how great Winter Wonderland is, we know what you really want to see is some photos and videos. Well, friends, you’ve come to the right place! So turn up your speakers, sit back, and enjoy our exclusive video of this awesome event.
Contains spoilers! Don’t read if you don’t want to know what happens!
It’s been a while since I’ve written on here, and wow, hasn’t the season gone fast. It’s hard to believe that the UK’s Theme Parks will be shutting up shop in 2 or 3 weeks time for winter. As the rides all start to undergo their annual maintenance, us enthusiasts are left alone to shed a few tears as we realize that escaping from the ‘normal’ world has become even harder… and if this is you, fear not – I’ve got a post coming up showcasing the best ways to get a thrill off-season!
Anyway, that’s all to come so let’s not dwell – the best few weeks of the year have arrived! Attractions up and down the country have decked themselves up for Halloween, boasting of scares worse than your nightmares and extended opening hours into the night.
Perhaps the two most popular of these Halloween events are “Fright Nights” at Thorpe Park and “Scarefest” at Alton Towers. We headed to both of the events to check them out…
Warning! Contains spoilers!
We headed to Fright Nights for the opening day, Friday 12th October. This year Fright Nights take place between 12th-14th October, 19th-21st October and then 26th Oct-4th November. The park is open from 10am through until 9pm, an hour earlier than in previous years when it has stayed open until 10, booo. The main thing we do like about Fright Nights is that the entry price includes entry to the scare mazes (excluding The Passing, more on that later), however entry itself is a little complicated. If you own a Standard Merlin annual pass, there is a £5 surcharge to get into the park during Fright Nights, and you ‘must’ book in advance. Premium pass holders get in free, but also ‘must’ book in advance, although we didn’t and were let in fine – of course we were – they want our food and drinks money! It’s nice to see that Merlin (the company behind Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and almost everything else in the UK), have opted for the useless approach of ticketing information on their website, whereby you need to fill in a variety of boxes and select various options before being given a price for a specific day, which changes depending on how early you book it, or whether you intend to pay on the gate or not. To conclude, if you’re thinking about visiting the park during Fright Nights and don’t have an annual pass, click here to see what Merlin will charge you!
Having entered the park we crossed the bridge towards the main dome. It was nice to hear a bit of spooky music for ambience, however this is about all you get in terms of Halloween theming around the park. This was my second time visiting Fright Nights, following a brief visit last year, so I don’t have a very big hall of reference to draw upon in terms of theming in the past, but the park did seem vary bare. Don’t worry though, this was my only real complaint of the day, there was definitely more that impressed me than didn’t.
The Scare Mazes don’t open until 3pm at Fright Nights, so we spent the first few hours on the coasters and having a look around. It was great to see that most members of the ride staff had horror make up on, which really added to the spooky feel. Certain rides had switched their regular soundtracks and jingles for special fright night equivalents, however not as many as in previous years. In terms of rides, most were running well – Samurai and Slammer are however both out of action for the entirety of Fright Nights. As a side note, there have been a lot of rumours pointing to the removal of slammer at the end of the season, which has been in bits for the last few months, however contrary to this the ride was operating test cycles during the day.
Anyway, I know the reason you’re all here is to read the maze reviews, so without further a-do…
“Chaos reigns in the Asylum as some of the most disturbed and dangerous patients roam the building, lurking in hidden corners and tormenting anything in their way. Wind through the eerie corridors but watch your back!”
The Asylum is located in ‘The Showcase’, which if you’re stood outside looking at the exit to the Nemesis Inferno gift shop, is the building to the left of it. The story is that you are entering a mental Asylum full of killers who are gunna get you. The whole thing is essentially one big strobe light and mesh fence maze similar to (but not as effective as) the ending to Terror of the Towers at Alton.
The queue line soundtrack for this maze is a-maze-ing (little joke there), but seriously I thought it was the best soundtrack of the day. After queuing you are batched into groups of about 10 and form a conga line with your hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you to enter the maze. This is obviously hilarious to watch because nobody wants to go at the front or the back, which causes a flustered panic until the person in question realises the whole queue are watching them and quickly try to look cool. After a quick safety briefing and the obligatory Merlin photo which you could later buy for an extortionate fee, the group enters the maze.
The first thing you notice in this maze is a weird kind of ‘open plan’ feel. The route is mainly defined by mesh fence which you can see through to other groups ahead of you, and the whole thing is dimly lit so you can always see something. Mirrors on the walls give a few people a scare before they realise it’s themselves they are looking at which is always funny to watch. There are strobe lights throughout the maze which are surprisingly disorientating, along with the scented smoke which smelt of some kind of decay. The actors in this maze were great, jumping from behind curtains, around fences etc. A lot of the time they would jump from behind and then join onto the back of the group. They even had a ginger dwarf jumping up and grabbing your legs.. pretty scary!
Asylum’s finale is possibly what it’s best known for – you leave the main ‘room’ with the strobes and fences in and enter a long thin corridor to the exit. Just before the exit there are a load of hidden actors who jump at you and pretty much chase you out of the door, where a crowd of people are usually gathered outside watching. There’s often a man with a chainsaw in this final scene, however we went through twice and didn’t get him – apparently they can’t use it all of the time because of the build up of exhaust fumes inside..yes it’s a real chainsaw! *without the blade on..
“Venture into a disturbing crime scene, full of dark and terrifying secrets that have lay dormant for 50 years. Investigators have shut down the area for fear of unleashing The Curse and sending everyone to a watery grave Angry souls do not rest easy!”
The Curse is located in a bright white marquee in the Neptune’s Beach area of the park. Words cannot describe how out of place and just plain rediculous this maze looks from the outside, to the degree that I’m sure that if an elderly couple were to visit the park they’d probably assume that a wedding reception was taking place, not a horror maze!
Don’t be fooled by the exterior though, this is a very dark and effective maze. The theme is kind of hazy, with many people thinking it was meant to be themed to a boat lost at sea, however it is apparently just an old crime scene. I won’t hold this against Thorpe though, I think all the confusion just added to it. The maze is full of dark narrow corridors with actors popping out from various doorways and windows and from round corners. At some points the route got so dark that it was impossible to navigate, our group managed to open the fire escape thinking it was the exit, to which the actors hilariously tried to direct us away from whilst staying in character.
To be quite honest, there’s not a lot more I can tell you on this one, it is what it is, a dark sequence of corridors with people jumping at you. One room was particularly effective though, where it was literally pitch black with actors grabbing arms randomly. Despite the simplicity and no major moments, I enjoyed this maze.
“From the twisted minds that brought you the World’s most terrifying rollercoaster, comes the World’s most extreme live action horror maze, SAW Alive! Come face-to-face with live actors in 6 blood-curdling rooms based on the iconic traps from the SAW films!”
Unlike the rest of the Fright Night mazes which are temporary attractions, Saw Alive opened in 2010 as a permanent year round Horror attraction at Thorpe Park. This was, until the 2012 season when the park decided to close the maze and reopen it only for Fright Nights. The queue was probably the longest of all the maze queues throughout the day.
Like Asylum and Curse, groups of ten enter the maze in conga-line format. The maze consists of 6 ‘scenes’ which are based from scenes in the Saw movies. The theming is quite good, especially in the first bathroom scene which most people will recognise from the first Saw Movie. There were a good amount of actors littered through the maze, notably a fair few scantily clad women tied up, which did not go unnoticed ;). The actors with the pig face masks on were particularly scary. Asides from the fit girls and recognisable scenes, I can’t say that this maze was really that good. None of us came out with anything interesting to say – I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it just lacks something. If you haven’t done it before though it’s still worth a go.
“Only the bravest inmates will volunteer as test subjects in the chilling and disturbing laboratory where the latest project,Experiment 10, seems to have taken a sinister twist for 2012. Beware of the mutated test victims as you experience your deepest, darkest phobias. You’ll be gassed, confined and left screaming for a way out of Experiment 10’s deadly grasp”
Experiment 10 is really good. Chances are that if you’ve done a few horror mazes you’re now used to the format of joining a conga line and walking through dark rooms as people jump at the group. Maybe this has become a bit samey? Then Experiment 10 could be the one for you. Introduced in 2011, the maze is now in it’s second year and seems to get the most favourable reviews of all the Thorpe mazes. It’s the first maze which doesn’t require you to hold onto the person in front of you, and this really does make you feel more exposed.
The maze is situated within the Arena in the center of the park. From the outside it looks like a few shipping containers bodged together, when in reality, it is just a few shipping containers bodged together. When it’s your turn you’re batched into a group and wait outside to be called in. An actor posing as a mutilated test victim storms out and shouts at you to get inside, there you are briefed and sent through into a small dimly lit room with an actor stood at the end. The room fills with smoke in a way that many people have said make them think of the holocaust, and it’s at this stage you can tell that everyone around you are already terrified. The lights go out for a few seconds and when they come back on the actor is up in someone’s face.. simple but effective!
You’re then shouted at to come through to the next area, where you are physically grabbed and pushed in one of two directions. The group is split in half, and they make an effort to spot who your friends are and make sure you both end up going different directions. You’re then all locked into small rooms, on your own, in the pitch black. There are 10 or so rooms so everybody gets their own. The room is about the size of a wardrobe, however I am sure that when I was locked in the interior wall of the room disappeared, as stretching my arms out and moving about I couldn’t feel anything. Anywhos, you’re then left in the room for what feels like forever, with actors banging on doors and making noises all around you. It might not sound it, but it really is scary. You start to hear other people being let out of their rooms around you in a random order. I wasn’t let out until last because I’d smiled at an actor on the way in so she thought it’d be funny to leave me there for longer. “You won’t smile at me again will you!”.
On leaving the individual rooms there are two routes through the next part of the maze. If you were in a room on the left, you walk through a corridor with low ceilings and various stuff hanging down. If you were in a room on the right you crawl through a small tunnel. The group then all met up together in the next room before going on, however I have heard from others that when the maze is well staffed you often do the whole maze on your own or with just a couple of other people with you. The next room was full of smoke and very dark, an actor in an electric wheelchair was whizzing round next to the group, bumping into things. He then sprang out of his chair straight into someone’s face, which was pretty effective.
Onwards through a mini-mirror/strobe maze (If in doubt, use a strobe maze) and into a room with a big screen in. In this room we see a video of a man with a circular saw cutting a girl in half. As he does so blood, (well, water) sprays out into the room. The man with the saw walks off screen to the right, which is when everyone notices a doorway to the right of the screen. It really was an every man for himself ending – as an actor with a saw jumped out of the door people were literally pushing and shoving their way to the exit.
Overall a really good maze, you really do feel the adrenaline pumping, especially in the individual rooms. It is short in terms of scenes/distance travelled but I don’t think it needs any more to scare the pants off of most people!
“New for 2012, prepare to be tried, tested and sentenced to death in The Passing, a uniquely interactive, intensely horrifying experience that will terrify even the bravest of thrill-seekers to their core.”
The Passing is new for 2012, and the only maze at Thorpe that has a surcharge of £3 to experience. The maze is located in the back of the X:No Way Out building and is accessed from the Slammer area.
Prior to experiencing the maze, the only thing I knew is that we’d have bags of some kind put on our heads, sounds a bit unhygienic? Anyways, this maze has the slowest throughput I’ve ever seen, so after waiting for about 30 minutes in a queue of about 30 people we were summoned inside in a group of 10. Alike Experiment 10, you are not required to form a conga line on this one, so it’s another every man for himself struggle maze. A man with a torch walks around us, telling us we’ve all been sentenced to death. He was doing pretty well at this, until a woman in a high vis jacket walked in with a camera for a souvenir photo.. thanks Merlin. On to the next room, where there is some kind of exquisite coat rack with a load of what look like top hats on. At this point everyone gets one placed over their heads. The front of them is made of some kind of fabric mesh, so you can still see out, just not very much.
You’re then moved on into the next room, which I assume was meant to replicate the inside of a coffin in the ground, as there is a screen in the ceiling which shows people coming and standing at the edge looking down on you. After a short video two tunnels open up at the end of the room. A woman dressed as ‘Death’ from Family Guy split the group into the two tunnels, whilst everybody was fighting not to get in last. It really would be hilarious to see night vision CCTV from inside those tunnels. I ended up in the left tunnel, which was pitch black and had a bit of a slide in it. Somehow one of the girls we were with who was sent down the right hand tunnel ended up ahead of us in our tunnel, yet the rest of the people in her tunnel had gone, so this provided plenty of confusion.
It was by now that we’d all realised the bags don’t really stay in place on your head and they were either twisting round or falling off. On exiting the tunnel you end up in a pretty standard dark corridor horror maze, not really too dissimilar from the feel of The Curse. There’s a rotating tunnel in there, but it wasn’t rotating when we went through so it was a bit poo. The interesting part is that none of this is happening in the conga line so everyone is running around trying to avoid being last. After a few more turns through what seemed like a bit of a mundane maze we open a door to what is meant to be the exit. A woman in usual Thorpe Park uniform takes your head bag and gives you a certificate of death and tells you to leave through the exit round the corner. We walk around the corner and open the door into a room lit with UV lights. Look back down at your certificate at this point! We didn’t, but it turns out there is UV writing on them telling you to rot in hell, or something equally as friendly and nice. The lights go out and “Oh wow I didn’t expect this at all [sarcasm], the maze hasn’t ended?”. A door swings open and you enter a room with loads of black plastic strips, like the doors they have in the store room at B&Q, hanging down. After walking through this with actors popping out all over the place we were soon at the real exit. This was a really enjoyable ending, however after hearing from others it seems that we didn’t see it at it’s best. We literally walked about 4 meters through the black strips to the exit, whereas it seems a lot of people ended up walking around them for ages and ending up back in the UV room and doing it all again a few times. Not sure if this is the intended ending or not but it sounds quite cool.
It’s a strange one, there’s no denying that it is very scary in places and bits of it are really well done, but asides from the bag head novelty I can’t say the maze really did it’s job that well. Saying this, the others in my group found it to be terrifying and really wanted to do it again, so it obviously worked for some people!
This concludes the mazes at Thorpe. As night fell the park was mainly flood lit, not a great deal of spooky colours or smoke or the like, some described it as a bit of a car park feel. I didn’t really think it was too much of a problem though. Swarm looks amazing at night with the LEDs on the trains, along with the fire effect on the fire engine which is now operational, sometimes. A final feature of the night was roaming actors around the park who were ‘escaped prisoners’, chasing screaming girls around and jumping from various corners and dark places. The only downside was that all of these actors went around the park together so there was a chance that if you weren’t in the right place at the right time you wouldn’t see them at all.
Overall, though, this was honestly the most enjoyable day I can ever remember having at Thorpe Park. Definitely worth a visit!