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  1. SeaWorld San Diego 25/11/23 ( Quite a few photos here https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/seaworld-san-diego ) Sea World San Diego is a place I haven’t visited since about 2007, and back then the ride lineup then consisted of Journey to Atlantis, Shipwreck Rapids and a rubbish simulator named Wild Arctic. But now they have COASTERS™ (Though I missed Tidal Twister by a few months, the memory lives on at one of the press a penny machines) And I've always been intrigued by Manta…. A one day ticket doesn't come out cheap since you get hit with a high admission price and a full whack for parking, but tbh I didn't mind, it's a decently decent park. I started off one with I was low key excited for…Arctic Rescue. Aside from one of them, all of these Intamin straddle coasters are all pretty decent. And the one in San Diego has three launches. The station was shoehorned into a bit of the building that previously held the simulators, and they have just installed platforms etc straight in. Thought it looked a little rough. The trains totally aren't Jet Skis that have had little wheels added to make them look like snowmobiles. But the coaster, pretty good! It's not the outright intensity of Juvelen/Yukon Quad, its perhaps more on par with Namazu, but still enjoyable quick transitions and pops of airtime...Imagine a longer version of Jet Rescue with a few more elevated hills. There is some Arctic base theming scattered around the ride, like a helicopter, a few dome roofed buildings, rocks, and patches of grey and white gravel on the ground to give the impression of snow. The ride itself is all in its own compound so non riders basically can't watch it. I got the following pics from the skytower and from out the opening of the load station. Nearby is Emperor , a B&M Dive Coaster. There's really no theming to speak of on here. Just truckloads of gravel under the ride, and even things like the pathway fences and the station platform look like it was all just 'hardware store' type construction rather than something themed around diving penguins. They were only running a single 18 person train too. But with the bad out of the way lets get to the good. It's a solid layout up there with the best, and seems a lot more inversion focused than the other ones, and no slow points breaking up the ride...3 inversions, almost 4 actually. The vertical first drop leads into your standard Immelmann, then a tall overbanked turn that borderlines on a cutback. From there is an unusual element that is sort of like a roll meets incline loop. The closest comparison I can think of is the knot element on Flug der Damonen. From there its one last corkscrew and into the brakes. Action packed from start to finish, with that tall first drop with the holding break providing enough intimidation factor. The park also has Electric Eel...Another Premier Skyrocket. You can go read my Busch Gardens trip report for my thoughts on this. Great coaster, and at least this one had some effort put into the presentation. It was on the way to I took a ride on Sky Tower. These things never seem to be open at the SeaWorld parks, and they charge extra for some reason🤑. It was a good overlook over the park, but who thought it was a good idea to put contravision film on the windows. It was like being on a bus, and it meant your photos come out really murky (and it disrupts the view in general), kind of defeating the purpose. And finally Manta. You can tell this was more of an old school Busch attraction, because the theming was very detailed, and a lot of effort was put into the landscaping, with a large area of the ride actually sunken into the ground. The coaster more or less plays out like the middle bit of DC Rivals, with small hills, quick twists and helices, so firmly a family thrill coaster. The first launch is interesting. The ride pulls out of the station into a darkened room, with a tube of scrim surrounding the track, with projections of manta rays swimming around and dramatic music. The train actually rolls back and forth a couple of meters each way a few times, in sync with the screens, creating a sort of sensation that ocean currents are moving you about. Doors open, and it actually accelerates with a bit of a jerk down the first launch. The first bit of the ride dives and weaves around the queue area, with a good head chopper under the bridge too. At this point, I dont think Mack had perfected the rolling launch, so halfway through the ride you slow for a MCBR, only to get launched back to full speed again, which certainly felt awkward. The final half had more twists and hills, and was out in the open, surrounded by the flamingo exhibit. The other ride I was interested in was Bayside Skyride , another upcharge. This one actually just runs outside of the park, giving you views of the marina and Fiesta Island. Most of the other rides are for kids, and they are all pretty cute, though how many rides need to have "rescue" in the name lol? In particular I thought the teacups looked pretty well done. And a Jellyfish themed wave swinger! It seems so obvious yet nobody has done one before to my knowledge. I did check out some of the animal exhibits too, and they are well done, but didn't devote a whole lot of time to them given I had other plans for the evening I was there. As is it was, doing a couple of laps on each coaster took me through to late afternoon. In particular I liked the Sea Turtles. And I thought the entrance area was well done too with elaborate giant coral structures, and touch pools. But what is wild is that literally in the past few weeks they have demolished all that, even though it only went in a few years ago! (Reddit) Overall thoughts on the park, still pretty good, but I think the two newest coasters could have had more effort put into the presentation. The ride lineup is well balanced, maybe a dark ride. I'd also say they should round out the kids area with a proper kids coaster, but in park they were heavily promoting Sesame Place, so it seems like they are encouraging families with young kids to go there for that. Put this park on your Californian itinerary if you like launch coasters or want to try a dive coaster!
  2. Universals Islands of Adventure https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/islands-of-adventure (For all the pics) Ah, nice to be back at one of my favourite parks. Well themed, good mix of dark rides, water rides and thrills, and pretty well considered in terms of having plenty of things for kids scattered throughout. I've been here before, so less urgency to see everything (I skipped over the water rides), that will make this trip report a bit shorter. For those unfamilar with the park, it has a few themed lands: Port of Entry. The "main street" of the park, with a bit of exotic explorers theme, with plenty of gags. Marvel Super Hero Island: Built before the whole MCU thing / Disney, its a real animated looking area with oversized cutouts and stylised buildings. And because of the terms of the licensing agreement, Disney cant use these characters in their parks lol. Toon Lagoon: Errr, more comics I guess, but these are the ones you'd see in newspapers, like the Phantom, Popeye (But no Garfield or Peanuts it seems!) Jurrassic Park, needs no introduction, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Islands of Adventure was a good park, but just didn't get the attendances it needed. Potter turned all this around. Lost Continent. The only non IP zone in the park, but part of it was swallowed up by Potter, and the two attractions it DID have are now closed. Hopefully this gets redeveloped. Seuss Landing. The most kid friendly area of the park, wonky and full of colour. But lets cut to the chase, everyone probably wants to know about Jurrasic World Velocicoaster Yep it lives up to the hype, a highly themed, properly intense launch coaster from Intamin that is just a polished experience from start to finish. The story goes that in their quest to further thrill guests, Jurrasic World have decided to build a roller coaster in a raptor pen, where you can see them up close. The queue is well themed, a highlight being the medical room where a couple of raptors are in a crush getting their daily check up, and the room actually smells like antiseptic. There's also windows onto the launch track, with transparent screens showing raptors chasing each launching train. Just before the station you have to put your stuff in a locker, activated with your park ticket (and if your ticket is on your phone, they give you a card with a barcode to use instead. The final bit of the preshow is hilarious, with Owen the raptor trainer ranting about how the whole concept of a coaster in a raptor pen is a terrible idea and you should all leave, and Claire the manager saying it will all be fine and perfectly safe. There's a separate queue for the front row in the station, with not too much extra wait due to the speed they dispatch, so its worth doing once or twice. My tip, front right is the best seat, because on a few of the elements that side seems to get banked up more. As for the coaster. Before the launch is section with raptor pens either side of you, with screens showing them thrashing around inside, bumping the cage walls etc and workers keeping them at bay with cattle prods. A good launch leads into an Immelmann with strong airtime at the top (think DC rivals loop), dive down steeply into a rocky tunnel (and the rockwork on this ride is really good, with sharp spiky bits that you feel like you're going to hit. Next comes a dive loop, followed by a bunch of quick twisted turns, transitions, and a couple of airtime hills all crammed in. You are constantly rising and falling and avoiding rocks, so there's a real element of surprise as you work through this section. There are a few raptor statues perched on the rocks, but they sort of blend in, so you really have to look for them. Eventually you hit the 2nd launch, which really spices things up. A top hat with ejector leads to a steep drop, a high speed S bend at ground level, and then a very long zero g stall which has you hanging upside down for a few seconds. Next comes a 720 degree helix, but the 'helix' is interruped with elements, so theres this fake out reversed banked turn, then a wave turn (imagine a sideways airtime hill) And then for the wild finale, a speed hill over a lake, followed by the "mosasaurus roll", which is like a more agressive version of the roll on ST, really dunking you down and throwing you to the side, so you cant help but grab the bar. A quick couple of turns and you hit the brakes. I think the name of the element is a gimmick though. I get the feeling the intent was that there was supposed to be a jaws style animatronic jumping out of the water when the train goes past. They totally should do that. Pretty awesome overall, the two halves have their own character. Fast transitions and confusion on the first half, big grand elements on the 2nd half. Hagrids Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure A real 1-2 punch with the park having this as well. Imagine the fun of Jet Rescue spread out over 1.5km of track. The park is onto a winner, with it consistently having a a posted wait of 60-90 mins. Again though they tend to overstate, i saw a wait of 70 min but it was more like 45. The first bit of the queue is themed well too, full of magical creature classroom stuff. By magic they have duplicated flying motorbikes for everyone to join hagrid on for a lesson on magical creatures in the forbidden forest. The final room in the queue I thought was clever, Imagine standing under a deck, with people riding motorbikes and doing doughies above you. They used some form of projection to simulate this. Ocassionally too you'd see silhouettes other creatures like giant spiders appearing to walk above you. Loading is done by a moving conveyor, so this ride really does have huge capacity, its just that demand is high too because its a good ride. The first bit has a short launch then a drop down then a bigger launch, and a few quick turns at ground level. Eventually the track enters hagrid's hut, when a blast ended skrewt (imagine a giant double ended scoption shooting fire out of its ass) shoots smoke at you. With that you launch again, up into an airtime hill through a castle ruin, down a curved drop into a tunnel, more ground level turns, another launch, and even more turns. Already at this point the coaster part has been pretty substantial but there is more to come. The track continues into a short foggy tunnel through a rocky outcrop, with a crashed car on it, surrounded by cornish pixies. Well they have designed the sightlines well here, because the shape of the outcrop is good enough to disguise a vertical reverse stall, like a little baby tower of terror. Obviously you get to go up higher in the front seat, but i never got that sadly. You travel backwards, with a high speed track switch sending you up into a helix, and by the time you have had a moment to process all that you have reversed into a show building. In the show building, the walls and ceiling appear to be writhing with devils snare vines all around you. Great concept, but you can see the shed roof and trees ''cutting off" at the ceiling line quite clearly here, which undoes some of the immersion despite the money they would have spent. But a couple of seconds later, the whole track drops a few meters (Much like Thirteen at Alton or Namazu at Vulcania), and you exit the darkness into the open air. Then one last launch, the most powerful of all. The coolest feature is a trail of light and smoke along the side of the launch, giving the impression of rocket fuel (or in this case "dragons breath" giving you the power needed to accelerate. A couple of final high speed turns and you hit the brakes, and join a conga line of 3 or 4 trains rolling into the unload station, also with a conveyor belt. Overall this ride is excellent. Good level of intensity on the coaster bit, and the way it hides both the reverse stall and the drop tracks as suprises on the way, integrated seamlessly into the pacing works really well. The level of theming is high for the most part, aside from perhaps the indoor show building (from the outside it looks like a shed too, guess it needs more trees to cover it?) As a final note, I saw perhaps the most chaotic good, but non condonable behaviour ever at a park. On one of my rides i was in the singles queue, but it was moving slow. You get most people in even groups, which can make this line crawl. A group of people ahead of me decided to cut into the main queue sneakily. I was thinking they were just line jumping, but of course, I was not going to cause a scene and complain. But, the plot twist came when they were at the front. When the grouper asked them how many, each of them said one, one, one, one. Net result, was that 8 people got cleared from the singles queue in the space of a minute lol. Skull Island: Reing of Kong This is the only other 'new' ride for me was this. It's an immersive tunnel attraction, or rather a few of immersive tunnels in sequence. You ride in a tour bus that stops in long cylindrical rooms with screens either side. There's also a motion base, so at each of these points stuff happens on screen, before you drive off into the next. The studio tour at Hollywood has an abridged version of this (Where the tour shuttle will drive into a building shake table with screens either side) The queue is well themed, through a dark temple. A highlight is this giant worm in a glass cabinet moving about, a taste of all the other mutant things you'll see on Skull Island. You board your tour bus and from there set out on your jungle expedition. The next few minutes can be described as various battles and attacks from giant creatures, with a liberal amount of water being squirted at you every time something gets decapitated or shot, ugh. Overall, decent I thought, but I think the limitations of the bigger vehicles and the longer time spent at each screen makes it feel a bit less frantic than other screen based dark rides like Spiderman or Transformers. Incredible Hulk Coaster Tell a lie, technically this is 'new' since they replaced all the track since I last visited. The queue has been totally refreshed and looks great, with lots of neon scientific equipment, too bad you cant take pics, since the lockers are before you enter the queue, so no phones. Onboard, the launch tunnel has been fitted out with LED screens, showing energy pulsating around the train before you launch. Forgot how darn intense this ride is, with positive G forces that dont let up, and huge elements. And of course that zero g roll straight out of the launch tunnel is a great start to the ride. Cat in the Hat A bit of a sleeper hit. This ride goes through the story of Cat in the Hat, with the words being recited, with each scene being an animated version of a page of the book. A real delight actually. **** A note on food. I had the "Green eggs and ham". Basically potato gems, with scrambled eggs (with chives to make it green) and diced ham and some cheese. Actually a filling breakfast option. Amazing Adventures of Spiderman Always a favourite, and now in 4K (I've done the 4K version in Japan, good to experience it in English) Still holds up well, and the re animated sections have more background gags to spot. Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey A great ride from a physical standpoint, after all, being flung around on a robotic arm whilst following a track is real technical achievement. But since then, the newer Harry Potter rides have done a bit better in terms of storytelling, leaving this one feeling a bit chaotic. I guess you cant blame them, this was the first HP ride ever built, so it seemed like they were trying to fit as many things in there as possible. Quiddich? Dragons? Dementors? Still a great ride, just wish more parks would do them, and with more themes (At this point, I think its only WB World Abu Dhabi that has done one) **** These days you can now get 'warm butter beer' in the area, but I thought it tasted like white hot chocolate mostly. I had a laugh that Heathcliff was mentioned....Heathcliff comics are absurd: And thats IOA for another decade likey.
  3. Parc Asterix Featuring Toutatis - 2/6/23 https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/parc-asterix Aside from Disney, if you’re a theme park fan in France you’ll probably want to visit Parc Asterix, about 60km north of Paris. This year seemed like a good time to visit with the debut of Toutatis, which was being massively promoted on billboards throughout the Metro system in Paris. It’s a great, but very busy part, that does a fine job of combining impressive rides (and there are heaps) with good theming. If you only have a day you can use their Filotomatix express pass option, and they also sell 1 shot passes too. The website suggests you need to download an app to use Filotomatix, which becomes an embuggerance because the app isnt available to non French Google/Apple accounts, however in the end you dont need to worry because you can use the system through a browser. The throughput on rides is good, but because the park is so popular it can get long lines. I did get a fair bit done from 10am till 7pm. Onto the rides. Tonnere 2 Zeus This ride feels like a distant relative to Ghostrider, fast paced and wild, though this one was revamped by Gravity Group rather than GCI. It also has a backwards row like on Leviathan, no charge and no real extra wait but I skipped over since they can be a bit much on a bumpy ride. The layout is good, first drop into a tunnel, a few hills and a double down with plenty of air. Highlights included a 90 degree banked hill (essentially half of a high 5 element) and a helix towards the end of the ride. OzIris Really good, with a layout that is more interesting than your average invert. Seemed to climb and dive much more steeply, so good variation between near misses at ground level/sense of speed, and flying high. Starts with a steep first drop that nests into the terrain a little, before whipping up into a dive loop, then an overbanked turn and a loop. After the loop it did something unusual where the track kept going downhill (imagine the first inversion on Viper SFMM in reverse), picking up speed through a tunnel, before an immelmann. Then comes another overbank turn and steep drop into a tunnel that goes ‘underwater’. The ride finishes in double, with a zero g roll, and an elevated helix, then a drop, another zero g roll behind the station (with a cool near miss with the edge of the building), and finally a forceful ground hugging helix. Overall, a dynamic ride! Goudurix Gout du Risque, the ‘taste of danger’. A bit of worry going into this one, since it's often regarded as one of the worlds worst coasters, but I found it on par with other Vekoma loopers (Like Blue Hawk at SFOG) and SLCs of the same age. Does have some real bumps at the bottoms of loops however. Features an interesting Butterfly element which is like a really disorientating pair of inverted top hats, a butterfly loop, and a classic double corkscrew (RIP Sea Viper) Menhir Express Mack log flume with a cool coaster style drop partway through. The station and splashdown area is really well themed, but most of the course is industrial style troughs and a couple of ‘sheds’ , so a mixed bag. Trace du Hourra Awesome fun. I love bobsleds, and this one is enormous, with quite long drops, and helices, including a few that get tighter as you go downhill, increasing the force. Bobsleds are thrilling in their own way because they do feel pretty out of control, so when you pick up speed you get this sense of nervousness…Is it going too fast for this turn coming up? Capacity is great too, they had multiple trains running and could get them loaded in under 30 seconds. Romus Et Rapidus Ok rapids ride. The station is well themed, but it mostly seems quite open and surrounded by grass and the huge holding pond, so felt a bit underwhelming thematically compared to the rest of the park. Managed to stay dry until a damn rouge wave came in through the side and got me right at the end. Pegase Express Cool concept. Mixed execution. The ride is a lot like Firechaser Express at Dollywood, with forwards and backwards portions. The ride is themed like an ancient greek rail network, where you ride through the sky on a pegasus. The station has hilarious station theming, with a departure board showing some strange destinations for trains. Starts with a gentle launch out of the elevated station, helix, drop, and finally the main lift hill. The main coaster has a series of rolling hills and turns, over the top of the rapids, its like a family version of ‘hyper coaster’ in terms of style. Its a bit plain and open like the rapids ride, especially since you are running along the edge of the car park. There’s a good diving drop through a billboard, and you come around into an enclosed dead end show building themed like a temple. Good idea for a theme, but it looks weird sitting up on unthemed stilts. The door closes behind you, and a projection mapped head of medusa comes to life and in a fit of rage, blows you out the temple backwards. From there, more hill and turns back to the station (quite a long backward section) till you reach the track switch at the end and return to the station. Oxygenarium This is a family raft slide, but with a fully sealed boat so you can ride it fully clothed. You wont get wet at all. The theming is fun, with huge oversized air pipes coiling around, and the sound of droning air blowers in the station. The lift conveyor has plenty of theming, with whirling gizmos, and enclosed tunnels with electrical arc effects and giant cables. The slide down is fairly short, felt shorter than mammoth falls, but foam pads on the slide cause the bottom of the raft to grip on one side, causing a bit of spinning. It all concludes with a helix, which you get a nice view of in the queue. The final splashdown leads to a slow, gentle drift back to the station. SOS Numerobis Run of the mill Zierer kiddy coaster. Le Carousel du Cesar Went on here intending to get in the giant Obelix, other passengers beat me to it, so I had to settle for a horse. Epidemaïs Croisière Quite a long tow boat ride through various static scenes from Asterix. I think this would have been one of the earlier rides at the park, and I guess you'd have to have a real appreciation for the comics to 'get' it. Vol D’Icare This is good. Design wise, it reminded me of a cross between a standard family coaster, and one of those Gerstlauer bobsled coasters, so lots of quick turns, sharp drops and so on. The vehicles are nicely themed as winged baskets, truly representing the flight of Icarus, and the ride itself is well themed too, surrounded by Greek ruins. Discobelix I was told this had a good effect of a flaming cauldron at one end, but sadly this was switched off first thing the morning. The station looks good, with the disko seemingly ripping through and knocking out columns. Le Defi De Cesar Oh boy, a madhouse, I love these. I think operations were pared back 'due to covid' and never fully reinstated, since it had several preshows, but on my ride they just took us in through the exit, did the ride, and out the same way. Either that or they plan to close it in the near future. Was a walk on compared to many other busier attractions. The story is that you have been recruited to Cesar's army, and are being sent out on a warship. The ride chamber is elaborately themed to represent this, with windows containing screens so you can see whats going on outside. You set off from the port, encouter Asterix and Obelix, and your ship is sunk, and this is where the ride starts tumbling around. I liked it, it was a creative way of doing a madhouse beyond the usual "the room is magic and turning upside down" type storyline. La Rivière d'Elis Pleasant little onion boat ride through some gardens, with quite an elaborate stone mountain as the centerpiece. Always amazes me to see minor rides like this in Europe with theming budgets bigger than some of our local major rides. Main basse sur la Joconde (Hands off the Mona Lisa) TIL That the Mona Lisa is called Joconde. An awesome, big stunt show. Some villains steal the mona lisa whilst it is being shipped in a high security van at a port. Four bumbling policeman fail to stop the theft, and spend the show chasing the villains. A witness to it all, a tradie painter tries to help out too. So the whole show is about the painting changing hands between the three, with cartoon style fighting and action, for example one of the villains escapes down a sewer, a giant round style cartoon bomb is tossed down a manhole behind them, boom, and then the painting pops with a "whooop" sound effect, up out of the hole and is caught by one of the good guys. Well choreographed, and some good practical effects like entire buildings being blown apart too. L'Aérolaf It’s best described as a floorless observation tower, inside a fancy looking steel frame. It's technically not an upcharge, but before you board you buy a drink/snack to take on the ride, and these are priced much higher than the rest of the park. I did it anyway since you get good views of the coasters at this end of the park, and quite a generous amount of time at the top, a good 5-10 mins. Attention Menhir ! I dont speak French but this was a good show. The preshow is at a campsite where Romans are plotting an assault on the Gauls village, you can see the shadows of the characters in the tents plotting. You then move into the main 4d show, which is a hilarious cartoony battle between the Romans and the Gauls, with plenty of giant rocks and arrows flying about in 3D. The show used a technique i have never seen before where actual lasers are projected onto the screen, so they could do stuff like stars flying when characters fight, or hypnotic rings around eyes when they were angry / ‘powering up’. L'Aventure Astérix Short walkthrough with some sculpts of the Asterix characters and some history about the creators. A highlight was a model of the park, with pointer showing which comics each attraction was based upon. Toutatis Top 10 ride here! The well themed station building sits under an earthy mound, decorated with carved standing stones. Inside the building, things look even cooler, with load area sitting in a dome shaped chamber, with light pulsating between the gaps between stones. At the front is a carved face of Toutatis, with eyes that glow with energy each time a train dispatches. The trains are very open and comfortable, with elevated seating and an overhead lap bar offering a great feeling of freedom. A short drop leads out of the station into the first launch in a well themed trench evoking memories of Taron , which offers a good kick of speed. Numerous overhead walkways provide great views for bystanders, as well as a few head choppers. All those coasters that have below ground sections in concrete trenches that resemble a dirty motorway underpass, take note! A turn to the right out of the launch leads into a unique take on a Zero G Stall. This one is more like a barrel roll that switches directions halfway through, providing a bit of hangtime. A wide turn and a dip down leads into a bunny hop that has been tilted to the left, a miniature version of the outward banked turn. It’s all very unique and sets the tone for the ride ahead. The train effortlessly turns onto the launch track, and it is here where things become wild. Normally multi pass swing launch coasters cop a bit of flak. After all, you are taking what was a 2-3 second period of extreme acceleration and dragging it out over a longer period and distance. Not necessarily that satisfying for those who want to be pinned against the backrest. Toutatis changes all this, with 2 short banks of LSMs in valleys, with an extended speed hill in between. Quick punches of acceleration and positive g’s alternate with negative g’s on the hill. It transforms the launch into something else akin to a bucking bronco, becoming wilder on each pass. This launch is also well themed, with giant logs forming head choppers The high speed track switch means there is no pause in the pacing, so on the backwards trip you are sent up a straight reverse spike, offering great views of the layout ahead and floating airtime. With the 3rd launch you are sent up over a top hat, cruise over the apex, before descending into a beyond vertical drop. Again, more airtime. A high speed turn leads into my personal favourite element, a Zero g stall. The sensation of travelling upside down, floating in your seat for close to 3 seconds will never get old. A long ground hugging u-turn has a “speed hump” halfway through the turn lifting you out of your seat. From here there is a bit of classic Intamin, with an ejector airtime hill, and a snappy S curve. Next comes a wave turn, with floating ‘sideways’ airtime combined with the sense of being pushed outwards off the track. Diving down of the wave turn is another low to the ground high speed turn that passes around the queue area, transitioning directly into a barrel roll that tries to dunk you out of the train with a statue underneath as a near miss, immediately leading into an overbanked turn. The ride finishes off with a double up. That last sequence is pretty rapid fire, so its quite an unhinged feeling finale. Operations on the ride are solid. A countdown screen in the station helps operators keep an eye on the time, and it was not uncommon to see trains loaded and checked in 30 seconds flat. Overall, it’s an incredible package of the ride. It offers all the sensations a coaster fan would love, it’s full of variety with not a single repeated element, it’s got the theming, it’s got the comfort and it’s got the operational efficiency. Closing thoughts, it's worth a whole day, and maybe even half more if you want to take in more of the park and do re-rides. Would highly recommend doing it with an express pass. The French really do have a great sense of humour, and it shows through here. And some of the in between themed areas are incredible actually. Would have liked more time to explore them, and perhaps eat at the giant fruit restaurant, or the circus restaurant... And a lot of the smaller attractions I'd totally come back and do since they seemed to have a bit of love in the theming department too, rather than merely being filler. More pics here https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/parc-asterix
  4. Grona Lund + Bonus Mountain Coaster at Hammarbybacken So I still have do my trip report for Liseberg and that's Scandinavia sorted, but I probably won't get to that until sometime in January. In the meantime, i’ll smash this one out before i head away for christmas. Grona Lund is really one of a kind, located in the heart of Stockholm. https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/grona-lund The site is perhaps comparable in size to a Bunnings, or say 2x the area of LPS, but in that space there's 8 coasters, 4 drop rides, dark rides, heaps of flats, several eateries, and it's just so tightly packed in 3 dimensions and pushes the boundaries of clearance envelopes. Line too long on one ride, cool you can walk across the park in 2 mins to something else! The park is on two sides of a laneway, with a bridge connecting each side. One part has mostly kids rides, the rest feels like sideshow alley at the royal show, except everything is better. To get there you can take a tram (and the ABBA museum is right next door) but the best way is to get a public ferry (Pendelbåt) from Slussen. Just tap your credit card to pay the fare. You get a great visual on the way in. Previously it was a pay per ride or wristband type park. Now they limit attendance into 5.5h sessions that you pre book. I was worried that it wouldn't be enough time but it was plenty of time to get heaps of rides, and in addition you get two jet passes included, and waits weren’t that bad because of the capacity cap. Still, I bought 2 sessions on separate days so i could do daytime and evening, so it worked out to be the most costly park of the trip, though i definitely got my moneys worth. The park also has concerts included with admission on certain days, and they actually get major acts. Toto...Tom Jones...Pixes for instance coming up. Monster Obviously was going to kick off with this one. B&Ms newest inverted coaster. I have been following this project for years, ever since it was announced as “project blue harvest” back in 2017, and ive literally been holding off on a Scandinavian trip until this ride was open. It kept getting pushed back and pushed back, and of course there was Covid, but finally opened in 2021. You win some you lose some though. This coaster opened, but a few weeks before my visit Balder at liseberg closed for retracking…bah! The theming was fun, monsters have come up from a subway station.the safety video was done like an old Scooby doo cartoon meets MTV. The queue takes an interesting route up and down stairs through some buildings. As for the coaster, you rise up from underground to the apex of the lift hill with great views of the harbour, before hurtling down a very steep drop. You skim over a garden into a zero g roll then a forceful inclined immelmann. Next comes a corkscrew high above some buildings, before some more turns and a tight helix which also attempts to smack you into a building One more corkscrew follows, before a turn into a short tunnel, which had a bunny hill that would chuck you upwards and forward in your seat. Never felt that sort of airtime on an invert. One final turn and it hits the brakes Wowee What makes this special is the way you get the sense of height by being above the crowds, but you also get the near misses with buildings on all sides Ikaros Another ride I was eager to get on was This drop tower is an Intamin Sky Jump, that has tilting seats that have you freefall face first. Honestly one of the best drop towers I have done. The tilt at the top makes the tension just that bit higher A great thrill seeing the ground rushing towards you, and the addition of the seat rotation just before the brakes makes it just that little bit more dynamic. It seems like a bloody complicated system with long hydraulic rams. Why didnt they just have a pivot and rotate the seats like a freespin. Seemed to have less of a queue than the other drop rides, despite only having one side open, so i guess its perhaps a bit intimidating for most. Insane Ah, the infamous ZacSpin. 3rd one I’ve done now. They definitely are a ride that I find quite intense and nerve racking and even stressful in parts. On the smaller dips at the start your car stays fairly upright, so the forces feel amplified because you are being yanked up and down rather than following the hills predictably. And of course the drops are freaky because you change direction so half of it is always backwards and you feel frontal acceleration rather than just vertical. Once you get to the 2nd level it gets quite intense, and the curves are so tight that the forces are quite strong. Still did it a couple of times. You wouldn’t want the ride to be any longer. I think the reason this one is “worse” than the other designs is because it is quite compact still, so the turns are not quite as drawn out as they should be. Counter intuitively, if you did a scaled up version of the same layout, some of the jarring and rapid changes in force would be smoothed out. Twister So many of us have ridden Leviathan now so you know what Gravity Group wooden coasters are like. This one is SO compact, the turns are almost getting like a wild mouse, and it runs a short little 6 car / 12 person train to deal with it. So many near misses, and the layout is a tangle full of quick drops and ground hugging turns. Afterwards, I came to the conclusion that it is basically a wooden version of a rollerskater in terms of scale, though perhaps a little more intense. Good fun and runs well. I liked how the queue line had posters with some of the great wooden coasters around the world, it’s almost like they were trying to say “hey, this wooden coaster is a legitimate attraction, not an old rattler”, it could also be because they are trying to sell tickets to Kolmarden, because the last bit of the queue had a video promoting wildfire. Kvasten Vekoma Family invert that is more intense than Escape from Madagascar, but less intense than the SFC 450 (TNT, Orkanen, MWs forthcoming etc), so it was alright. The station was the best themed in the park, a really cool witches house full of detail, and a cacking spiel from the witch whenever the train departed. And there was even some theming around the base of the helix, and a kid was engaging in satanic worship. I love the airtime hill that runs the length of a section of boardwalk. Fits in so well with the park and its fun whizzing over the crowds. This is a ride to use Jetpass on because it's popular but only has 1 train. Jetline My hot take is that there are no bad Schwarzkopf coasters, and this is no exception. A thrilling layout with big drops and smooth turns and helices and heaps of near misses both with itself and other rides, all perfectly negotiated without jarring. One thing i found interesting with the layout is that it had a couple of big drops that broke away from the main layout and crossed halfway across the park, rather than being like a traditionally travelling coaster where everything is contained in a fairly compact footprint. This has the highest capacity in the park, waited 2 mins max each ride. Vilda Musen So normally if you were building a ride, its a strict rule you don't attach to another manufacturer's ride structure, since then you open yourself to issues of liability if one ride has an impact on the other. Grona Lund evidently offered enough dollars (or maybe its because Schwarzkopf are extinct now) because they built a mad mouse style Gertstlauer bobsled coaster onto the existing structure of Jetline. The layout was decent, despite being heavily driven by being able to snake through the other coaster. Still had all the staples of this ride model, nice curved drops, sharp turns, helices and even some good little airtime hills. This is another highly popular ride, so good to book your jetpass on this one. This might be some of my favourite theming too: Kärlekstunneln So if you were ever dreaming up a list of generic amusement park rides, you might say roller coaster, merry go round, ferris wheel, ghost train and ….tunnel of love. But has anyone actually ever seen one of these anywhere? Grona lund actually has one, complete with a heart shaped portal at the start of the ride. Wasn’t sure what to expect, was it going to be animatronics and pink coloured scenes of people getting frisky? A big dark tunnel where people can kiss in the darkness? Turns out it was more like a ride through fairyland, with dioramas of magical creatures, fairie amongst the toadstools and so on. Just stuff that was "pleasant" and "happy" and "peaceful" to use some adjectives. The ride path is so narrow, so all the scenes have to be behind glass because i guess modern day guests would just reach out and break stuff. Tuff Tuff Taget Imagine a kiddy coaster more gentle than a wacky worm, with a bit of wild mouse thrown in. Turns out a lot of 20-30 somethings ride this for a laugh, so no shame in riding. Nyckelpigan Another one of those oval shaped Zierer kiddy ladybird coasters. Veteranbilarna Quite a pleasant little car ride, mostly rode to get some pics of Nyckelpigan. Pettson o Findus Värld Walkthrough house based on the works of a Swedish children's writer. Aimed at kids with some bits and bobs on the walls around the house you could switch on and off and make noise with. Wholesome fun. Bla Taget My other hot take is that most ghost trains are overrated and rarely warrant repeating. I mean have you ever ridden one and thought "Wow that was awesome lets go again". Yeah maybe if its haunted mansion, but most of the low budget ones are so formulatic. This one did have an outward banked turn and some innapropriate theming to save it at least. Katapulten The rare S&S combo tower. Imagine you took Batwing and crossed it with Supreme scream. So you launch up, come down with some airtime, bounce and sort of stop halfway up the tower. You then are raised slowly to the top, held, and then finish off with a fast downwards launch. So its a longer ride cycle, and you get to experience two ride types in one. Surprised this model isnt the default over the conventional space shot at more parks, its more fun! Eclipse I quite enjoy starflyers, its just a shame there’s no way to take a camera to capture the wonderful views. One thing i thought was cool was how the ride base is on an elevated platform, but the queue line comes up around the middle of the tower (So the queue isn't on the outside like trident). So you get a good view of the ride rotating around you and rising up: Fritt Fall Evokes memories of space probe 7, good classic Intamin drop ride, with spectacular views. One side had the stand up tilt seats, which have more of a bicycle seat you sit on rather than a proper seat, and it tilts forwards a few degrees before the drop (Sort of redundant now that they have Ikaros), but the feeling of your legs hanging vertically makes it a bit more thrilling and feels more exposed. Lyktan Ended up riding this just to tick off every tower ride. This one is the smallest of the lot, a rotating Zierer family drop ride with a VERY random program of drops and lifts. Lustiga Huset A very long, very awesome fun house. I had everything, bridges, multiple slides, multiple turntables. And the punters love it, this is the first time ive ever queued for a fun house! At the end you finish off with a really long slide ridden on a mat from the top floor that concludes with an airtime hump at the end. A finley tuned operation, with conveyor belts taking the mats to the top, staff members setting them up for you, and an automated system dispatching you. Clearly everyone loves the slide so they have focused on optomising it. There were a few spin and spew rides I didn’t do, and for some reason I couldn’t be arsed doing the upcharge ‘house of nightmares’ walkthrough. So in 5.5h on the first night I did everything i wanted to, and if you were pressed for time and its not too busy you could do the park in that time frame, but booking a 2nd night made it much more relaxed and I definitely got to enjoy myself and Whats wrong with this picture? And now they have acquired the car park next door and have another coaster planned. If it’s anything like Monster it’ll be a hit. Grona Lund is a true icon in the theme park world, very unique, and a must if you are in Stockholm. ********************************* Bonus, the Mountain Coaster at SkiStar Hammarbybacken https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/skistar-hammarbybacken Hammarbybacken is an artificial hill formed by waste spoil from various tunnelling and construction projects over the years. During the winter they use it as a ski slope. During summer its mostly used by runners doing hill training, and grass skiing. But just prior to my trip i found out it even existed, and they were opening a Mountain coaster. This one is by Sunkid (Brandauer) and instead of a track like the Wiegand ones, its a single rail so feels pretty exposed. Access was easy, its not far from the city centre. You can catch a bus to the stop near Bauhaus Sickla, and then walk about 500m along some local pathways and across a pedestrian bridge to reach the facility. These have a reputation for being crazy, and indeed the one I rode in bavaria a few years ago was. This one wasn’t quite so intense, but still good fun. Had a few wide back to back turns that followed the slope, and towards the end was a bunch of downhill bunny hops that give a little bit of air. I purchased a 3 lap ticket, which was plenty. Wasn’t hard to get the speed to max out with a ‘no brakes’ , and it was fairly uninterrupted since i arrived first thing and had it practically to myself. Towing to the top is achieved by attaching a spring loaded rod to your sled. At the top it actually detaches quite hillariously and skitters across the ground as it reels itself back in. I dont think youd want to stand in the way! They also had a ropes course, and artificial snow tubing. If you've not done this style of mountain coaster it's worth a look.
  5. Linnanmaki 25th July 2022 https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/linnanmaki Linnanmaki is the #1 park in Finland, located just 2km north of the city center. And its for a good cause. The park is run by a not for profit and all proceeds support child welfare work. In fact, if you arrive in Helsinki via boat (I caught the night ferry from Stockholm) you can quite clearly see the skyline of the park in the distance. In particular, the skyloop really stands out, but you can see the white painted drop tower, and even the tophat for Taiga if you really squint to the left of the striped crane. Various tram lines serve the park from either side, so it’s easy to get to, but the park itself is located on a hill in the middle of a public park so there is a little bit of an uphill walk to the front gate. In terms of size, the park is about 250x250m, so it’s about ¼ the size of say DW, but has heaps of rides packed in. It's definitely an amusement park, though most of the kids rides have a circus sort of theme, and most of the bigger rides have vague themes/names based on Finnish mythology. Turns out I misjudged the entry time so was there an hour before rides actually started, so took the time to wander around the outside and get some photos. Linnanmaki offers wristbands for 45 EUR, or individual ride tickets at 10 EUR each or 45 EUR for a 6 pack. (So for most visitors you’d clearly get the wristband, I mean I did 16 separate rides, plus some re-rides so it’s easy to get your moneys worth) Tagia has a deal that if you use two ride tickets, you can skip the line. But if you already have a wristband, then a single additional ride ticket allows a skip. So later in the day I forked out 45 EUR for a 6 pack, reasoning that 7.5 EUR a pop was a good deal to get plenty of rides on a top roller coaster that I probably won't be back to ride for at least a decade or more. When the gates opened i made a quick beeline for Taiga. What to say? This has to be pretty close to the world's best launch coaster (Haven’t ridden Velocicoaster though) Such a varied layout, great pacing. Beats Maverick, beats Taron. From the station there’s a decent initial launch into a zero g winder, which is like this 90 turning corkscrew but it banks outwards at the top so heaps of hangtime. Then you pitch sideways into a big curved drop down a hill, and some snappy jet rescue style transitions between some turns, a good start which lines you up with the 2nd launch. Then it really kicks into gear, hitting 100km/h along a launch that dramatically crosses over a major pathway. Then into a great tophat with great views due to being at the edge of the hillside. Following that is a long zero g stall, quite unusual travelling upside down for so long but magically floating in place with the train. Floater soon becomes ejector as there is a tiny dip at the exit of the stall which doesn’t look like much in POVs but is as aggressive as some of the airtime on Skyrush. A 3rd inversion, an immelmann follows, before another big banked turn, a snappy transition then a helix above the station. A brief moment of respite as you do some s bends high in the air, but that all goes out the window with an aggressive dive back down the hill, that really catches you off guard. At full speed at the bottom of the hill is a bit of a wave turn giving some unexpected air. You finish off with a long drawn out corkscrew that dunks you out of your seat like the final inversion on ST, then you cruise around the final turn into the brakes. What an adventure. It’s a tangled mess like Taron so it’s hard to follow which way you are going to go. Switches between thrilling and outright furious, and the gentle moments in the course are set ups for quite aggressive moments. At the exit is a nice gift shop, positioned on the edge of the hill with some big windows I heard Salama can get long lines so i went there next. A custom Maurer spinning coaster. Had heard it was underwhelming but i thought it was fine. Had a suitably confusing layout, combining several high banked turns, quick drops and so forth. The track layout was good but it could have perhaps spun a bit more. Visually its not the prettiest thing since it was built above the existing rapids ride, so it has a lot of heavy supports spanning over the rapids below. The rest of the rides, in no particular order.... Tulireki Ugh, turns out Mack can occasionally have a stinker. This is like a wild mouse with banked turns and a helix, so it’s like Mack were trying to replicate a Gerstlauer bobsled. But it has the “e-motion” suspension system, which just makes it rough, and in particular at the bottom of the drop clunks down so you get a nice bit of spinal compression. One and done for me! Ukko A Maurer skyloop just like Buzzsaw / Project Zero. Do you need me to review this again? As a bonus as soon as I joined the queue they called for a single rider so I was in and out in 5 minutes. Apparently the name is the Finnish god of the sky and thunder, but then the theming was this hippy yellow submarine type deal which made no sense but looked fun. Kirnu These free spin / Zacspin coasters can be polarising, but if you have misgivings, this ride is the one for you and is nowhere near as intense. I think what helps is that its a lot shorter and the main curved drop is much more drawn out, so you get a fun flip, but not the repeated sensation of being thrown up and down and shoved back and forth. (Now i dont mind the full sized ones of these btw ) The feeling is really like being swept around on a top spin and doing a single flip. Made sure i got 2 rides, left facing foward and right facing backwards. I think forwards leaving the station is a little scarier because you cant see the first drop. Vuoristorata Your spine can get readjusted on Scenic Railway, but this thing is brilliant. It's a classic wooden side friction coaster with a brakemaster riding onboard. The layout is a fairly standard layout, an oval with a cross over in the middle so it makes a double figure 8. The airtime is variable depending on your brakemaster. On one lap i sat at the front and we must have been going a little too fast on the double down and i was well and truly chucked out of my seat. And its just a fixed lap bar so a momentary freak out when it happened. Was running 3 trains quite efficiently so I got a few rides. Linnunrata An indoor family coaster built inside an old water tower. The queue line reminded me of those 90s lasertag places or watching escape from Jupiter. But you were made to wait outside and rushed through this part, likely 'due to covid' The ride is one of those Zierer family coasters with a very long train (like this) and it had two lift hills, so was a reasonable little journey, and was quite dark for many parts so was actually not half bad! On the way were quite a few strobes, and big foam planets hanging from the ceiling, the usual space coaster stuff. Did a couple of laps because it was good. Panoraama Rotating observation cabin. Clean the windows please! Pikajuna A powered mine train type coaster, but if was a bit naff, a fairly basic layout with a couple of helices, though they did make the effort of making the station look like a giant train (So is it meant to be like the train is giving birth to a baby train, who knows?) Hurjakuru Under Salama is this rapids ride. Normally the top of the hill would be the last place you'd build a rapids, and what was even crazier is that the high point of the ride was at the lower side of the hill, which meant the end of the course was essentially in a huge ravine. Yeah it was ok, the foggy tunnel at the start with viking theming was probably the highlight, and i guess being in more of a deep gorge for the rest of the layout made it feel like more authentic rafting. Kingi Another moser drop tower, with rotating seats. These are a little weaker than the intamin counterparts because the brakes start so high up the tower, so you dont get as much freefall, and the braking is more drawn out and less forceful. The theming was great, this curtsey medieval look. The staff had no hustle so the wait felt longer than it should have. Kammokuja This was a spooky walkthrough, but you wore a special type of chromatic 3d glasses that would make all the blacklight murals appear to 'pop' off the walls. Hocus Pocus Hall at Chessignton was like this too. No actual scare actors, though a couple of basic animatronics would jump around when you walked past the trigger. Was ok. Kyöpelinvuoren hotelli This was a ghost train/haunted hotel, but it was a bit newer than the classic ones many parks hold together with duct tape. Given it was newer, the quality of the theming was a bit better, the lighting had more polish and it had some nicey animated projected screens too. A solid B+. Rinkelli A big ferris wheel, with great views of several of the coasters. Seemed very popular so a bit of a wait. Taikasirkus This is a family dark ride through a circus, so if you have clourophobia or globophobia steer well clear. The vehicles were little 2 person 'eggs' suspended from an overhead track, and these could rotate just like the disney omnimover, so you would face certain scenes. The scenes were all quite cute and well done, basic movements in the characters brought them to life. I got a giggle from the clown sweeping up elephant dung. Maisemajuna A mini monorail that does a lap around the park, so another good opportunity to take some photos. Overall, it’s an excellent park with a lot to hold your attention. I rode heaps and heaps but still only did less than half the lineup, so it represents excellent value for money. If you are in this part of the world Helsinki is a nice city, and Linnanmaki is worth the effort. No i didn't ride this. Also, I should give a special shout out to the food, they had a proper indian restaurant. And the taco place near Kingi was decent too. Almost 300 photos here: https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/linnanmaki
  6. Sarkanniemi is an amusement park in the city of Tampere, about 90 mins by train north of Helsinki. https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/sarkanniemi-amusement-park Easy trip and a bargain at only 9 EUR! I got into the city around 8. The park is about 2km from the main station, so I just wandered across the city centre and took in the sights till opening time. It is located on a peninsular on the lakeshore, and part of a broader tourist complex that has an observation tower (Similar to the ones in Canberra/Sydney) kids farm, aquarium, art gallery and planetarium. Your ticket includes all of these things. With more time to kill I wandered around the adjacent marina and got some photos. The main draw for me was of course Tornado, a rare example of an Intamin SLC . There’s a decent selection of other rides, and perhaps the highest density of Zamperla rides you’ll see anywhere. The entrance to the park isn’t exactly the most inviting… So, kicking off with Tornado. It’s so unique heading into an underground tunnel and finding a station cut into the rock. It feels like a themed attraction, even though its entirely utilitarian design. Should have called it “missile” or something like that. I had heard beforehand it was rough as guts, but it was running “fine”, not perfectly smooth, but not bad for something built 20 years ago. Starts off with an average first drop into a forceful loop, a straightaway in a tunnel, before a forceful cobra roll. A lazy banked turn that threads through the loop leads into a downhill section of track into another tunnel. Hidden inside is a barrell roll through the top of the station cavern. You come out on the other side, and into another barrel roll, which just about everyone gets this photo of: So yeah, pretty good, the layout feels a bit formulaic, as you can see from the aerial image, just elements plugged in one after each other. It has my favourite ride colour scheme ever too. Some nerd pics include the wheels, and the video AI system they use for checking if the restraints are closed. I think next i headed to Boom, a Zamperla drop tower. It’s a bit like Inferno at AW. It doesn’t really hit true freefal because you are attached to cables the whole time, it kind of just “goes down fast”. You have to give the engineers credit for doing the difficult thing of making the whole tower rotate rather than just the car. Turns out a lot of the rides didn’t really open till 11 so had some time to kill so wandered around the Angry Birds area and went on the Kantii X Kantii car ride. Nice views of the lakeshore but the thing must be 40 years old. Vauhimato was also here, an early model Zierer kiddy coaster. Hey where have i seen that train before? Realised that the observation deck and aquarium were already open so I headed back out of the park and had a look at them. It was getting close to 11, so i headed back down to go back into the rides area, and at this point the weather started to turn. I reasoned if it was raining I’d do Koskiseikkailu rapids ride. As far as rapids go, it was on par with Bæver Rafting at Farup. Basic concrete channel in the woods with not a whole lot of theming, though i did think the entrance waterfall did have a bit of this very Finnish mid century modern style to it: The rain got really bad as I was exiting. So i parked up at a Cafe near the Doghill Fairytale Farm and had an early lunch. The area was quite nice from the perspective of "Lots of wholesome stuff for kids to do" When the weather started to improve I continued with the park. Motogee Actually pretty fun! Gave this a couple of laps. It's a Zamperla motorbike coaster, and it in fact uses a cable launch like superman, but the difference is it's a simple electric motor rather than hydraulic. Has the right amount of speed, and relatively tight turns, so it feels quite zippy. And because most of the course is downhill, it never loses pace. Hype Premier Sky Rocket 2, and I love these things. A punchy launch, really fast vertical twist, good pop of airtime as you transition at the top, then a fun heartine roll. The 2nd half rapidly picks up speed as you dive down again, with more air in the non inverted loop. So despite looking quite simplistic from the outside, it's quite forceful and varied. I swear whoever did the theming from this borrowed from Bounce Inc. High Voltage A Zamperla power surge. Despite having these at LPM and AW, I've never thought I'd have the stomach for one. Anyhow, its actually not too bad, its sort of like being on Tailspin with the flipping seats, but in this case you aren't controlling the spinning. So nothing unbearable, its bark is worse than its bite, but Im not sure if I'd bother with one again. Trombi I last did one of these Volare flying coasters years ago at Canadas Wonderland, and it....wasn't good. The park was quiet so i did 3 laps over the course of the day to really cement my opinion on the thing and see if there was any way to enjoy it. The issue is that it has turns as fast and as sharp as a wild mouse, but you are in a flying position in a car that isnt very comfortable, so it is a ride of endurance. This is one ride where trim brakes would help it. If you just cruised through slowly, it would actually be somewhat enjoyable. I think looking down rather than straight ahead makes it a bit more comfortable, but overall it's just a bit of a failed concept to be honest. Tyrsky Zamperla Disko coaster with a cute dolphin theme. The setting was nice since its on a peninsular out on the lake. Sort of rode by accident, since I went up to get a photo, saw they were loading and it had no queue, so, what the hell. Tukkijokki quite an old school flume ride. It start off with a lift hill and then follows the terrain with several small drops working down the hillside, and at a couple of points you come quite close to Tornado. A second lift takes you to the big drop. Interesting for the proximty to tornado but it wasn't a particularly attractive ride. Some kids thought it was a stand up coaster. The park is reasonably compact. It was still raining sporadically so I did some re-rides and took plenty of photos, but eventually called it quits around 4 when i was getting a bit cold and damp, so headed to my hotel for a nice hot shower and a sleep. More photos of the park are here: https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/sarkanniemi-amusement-park Overall, it's a decent park. Operations were good, didn't really seem to wait long for anything, and they even had 2 trains going on Tornado despite non existent queues. Overall its a well balanced lineup, with higlights being Tornado, Hype and MotoGee. If you are going to PowerPark its on the way, and even if you aren't its a cheap and easy day trip from Helsinki.
  7. The next park on my list in Scandinavia was Tusenfryd (Thousand Joys) https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/tusenfryd Initially I wasn't going to Norway at all, but it turned out a couple of things I wanted to do on a planned day in Gothenburg were closed, so I got a cheap flixbus ticket and got on the bus at 5am for a day in Oslo. The bus had me in Oslo by 9, that was enough time to grab a quick brekkie then backtrack to Tusenfryd. A regular urban bus goes there, only took about half an hour and the bus was quite frequent, so no problems using public transport. The park is stretched out along a hillside with rocks and boulders....very Nordic! In fact the hill is so steep some escalators take you up to the park from the entry gates. So my first ride was Speed Monster. Remember back in the mid 2000s when everyone was getting Intamin hydraulic launch coasters, including us? Tusenfryd got one too. It's the best thing here and I did several laps throughout my visit due to the good throughput. The launch is powerful as you'd expect, straight into the pretzel like Norwegian loop, which has a good flick and twist at the top. The pace continues as you make a big turn through some trees, before a good ejector hill. The finale is good too, with a corkscrew and a couple of good twisted airtime hills that have some good laterals. The next ride was HuriHuri, which opened this year. It's a zamperla spinning coaster and could best be thought of as a slightly more sophisticated version of those SBF spinners. Mild family thrills. Throughput was terrible. The gates at the end of the platform were not automatic so the op had to go close them manually. It reminded me of the op having to attach the plastic chain on sea viper....x4! You can see the queue that built up after I exited. The other big draw of Tusenfryd, a Vekoma wooden coaster that has had both GCI reprofile it and now has Gravity group trains. Looks good on paper, long drops down the hillside, big camelbacks, fast pace. But it's absolute trash. Gave it a go front and back, in the back you can literally see the cars full on bouncing up and down and shuffling like crazy. Bahhhhh Continuing into the park I headed down the hill into the Viking themed zone, which had 3 big rides. No real wait for SuperSplash.....a Mack super splash. It wants to be a water coaster with its camel back, but it's more like a shoot the chutes. You ride in a huge 16 or 20 seater boat. Lift hill, small dip, gradual U turn, and then the main drop and floater hill Mack water coasters are known for, with a splashdown that gently spritzes you. The other water ride is Ragnarok, a Hafema rapids ride (They built the rapids at Universal Singapore, and at Phantasialand) It has a bit of Viking theming but it's all foam and not that well maintained so it's peeling The rapids themselves are great, some good turbulent sections, a whirlpool where you pick up speed as the track goes around a spiral before a curved drop out the middle. There's also a 2nd drop that's damn steep too he 3rd ride in this area is Thor's Hammer, a 4d motion base dark ride by ETF. It had a good vibe walking in because the whole thing is underground. The motion is pretty gentle compared to the Six Flags JL rides, Spiderman, Transformers etc. I couldn't really follow the story, imagine a few screens with Viking guys battling. The media on the screens was top quality, like Hollywood standard, but I guess because the screens are so small (think smaller than JL at MW) you didn't quite get that sense of awe. That and the fact its not in 3D. The intermediate scenes were nice enough too, there was one nice bit with a troll forest. So in conclusion I think to work these motion base rides need to have huge sets to really envelope you. Lunch was down in the Viking area too, they had a stand sponsored by the local dairy company, selling flavoured milk and toasties....Was like being at the royal show/ Ekka! Moving on, they had Western Express, a Roadrunner clone but it was on a metal base frame. Yep yep yep. I wandered up the back of the park and saw the foundations of the Gerstlauer suspended coaster. I was too big to ride the world's smallest coaster, Dvergbanen. Took one look at the upcharge haunted house and couldn't be arsed. They had a couple of other flat rides such as a space shot and another zamperla giant discovery called spinspider, but wasn't in the mood for a nauseating flat. I finally reached the last coaster, Loopen, an older Vekoma loopscrew, so called because it has both a loop and a corkscrew It has a fairly compact layout, but the fan turn was so jarring on your back. A graceless ride I do not remember fondly at all. Spinemelter 3000: ******************** As for the park, before my visit I was told it was Six Flags Norway and it is true in a way, it was a bit run down in places, a lot of bitumen pathways and chain link fences. Have a look at SF Saint Louis in comparison and that's the vibe I got. They are in the midst of giving the park a facelift, with two new themed zones, Route 66 and Expedition Lost Kingdoms. In amongst all that they also have a bit of a Viking Zone, and a Wild West zone, and a bit of fairytale kids zone, but the wierd thing is they dont actually have names for these area, or promote them on the website like they do for the other two areas. https://www.tusenfryd.no/en/oppdag-parken/planlegg-ditt-besok/temaomrader It mostly seems to be new signage on some attractions, and some face lifted buildings, but I Think because all the in between spaces are all bitumen and chainlink the intended vibe of the zone doesn't carry through. Eg in route 66, where are all the American road signs? I finished up mid afternoon with some more rides on Speed Monster before taking the winding path downhill instead of the escalator for some interesting photos. (And the photos of this park can be viewed here https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/tusenfryd ) And then back on the bus to the Oslo city centre to spend the remainder of my day, eventually getting a coach back to Gothenburg at 11pm, just as the sun was setting)
  8. Legoland Billund Monday 11th of July 2022 https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/legoland-billund for plenty more photos. So I’ve just returned from 3 weeks in Scandinavia. The first park I visited was Legoland Billund. Normally I’m not that into Legoland, I went to the one in Windsor because it was included in the Merlin Pass I had at the time, and I went to the one in Japan because I had an unexpected free afternoon (and basically wanted to ride the Mack Submarine Ride) , but they are just ‘okay’, a bit expensive and not really that engaging unless you are a kid or a real Lego fan. But, it almost felt rude to be doing a theme park trip in Denmark and not pay a visit to the original Legoland. This one is actually better than the rest and has a few rides that make it worth a trip even if you are a thrill rider. I arrived at 9 and stayed till 4, but would have had no problem staying right through till close at 7. I had a hire car to make this part of the trip a bit easier, its about a 3 hour drive from Copenhagen, with a spectacular crossing of the 18km long Great Belt Bridge. But you pay accordingly for using such a big piece of infrastructure, the toll works out to $50 each way. Intentionally left early so I could hop out and have a look around. Still I arrived well before opening time. The park has a wait time app and I’d already looked at it a couple of times in the preceding days to see what got bad waits and started my day on those rides. Flying Eagle is a Zierer Family Coaster with nice theming and cute little animals everywhere. As a coaster its pretty good, maintains it speed, and had this one bit with a few S bends. If I was after a standard model family coaster this would be it. It’s just a shame it has only one train, because it gets smashed with crowds. Next I kept moving towards the back of the park, but saw X-Treme racers had no line so I ducked into that too. It’s a larger model of a Mack mouse, so starts off with a big drop, does a few switch backs, couple more drops, couple more switchbacks and then done. Fine for what it was, but it’s just a mouse right? The cars do look pretty cool with their Lego Technic theme. Next door to it is the Lego Movie World, which is quite new and looks great. Apocalypseburg Sky Battle is a flat ride (but seemingly a popular one) however again I was ahead of the crowds so no wait. It’s what you’d get it you crossed Tailspin with an enterprise, so you are simply spinning around, with wings you can tilt to make your seat flip. It felt a bit harder to get it to work, but you can usually get a couple of spins in one direction before it runs out of momentum, and then tilt the wings the other way to get some more spins. The main attraction is Emmets Flying Adventure - Masters of Flight A flying theatre like Sky Voyager, but the difference is that instead of the seats being pushed out towards the screen, you load facing the back wall and the whole row rotates to face the screen. The ride takes you out of cloud cuckoo land (complete with vanilla scent) one Emmets “Triple Decker Flying Couch”, but then the Duplo aliens attack, so cue a chaotic flight through various lego movie scenes. Great fun, but it definitely has a lot more movement than your usual flying theatres where you are gently flying over landscape. This had much more diving and spiralling. I didn’t ride Unikitty Disco Drop, but loved how it looked. By this point I was at the back of the park at one of my most anticipated rides, Polar X-Plorer, a Zierer ESC with a drop track. The theme is like an Arctic base where they are investigating animals, and there are various panels on the walls with scientific information, environmental messages etc. The ride is a bit more punchy than you’d expect! It carries momentum like a full sized coaster, with good speed off the first drop, pops of airtime and forceful turns. You then come around into the ice mountain seen in the middle of the ride (And they didn’t bother doing rockwork inside, they just painted all the framing and mesh black). Overhead is a screen with lego explorer people hammering into the ice, when all of a sudden you hear a crack and the whole section of track you are on drops about 5m, and stops at the bottom, linking up with the rest of the track. From here the track comes out of the mountain, but its basically at ground level now so all it can do is some tiny dips till it gets back to the station. But on the way as you re-enter the building you pass some windows looking into the Penguin exhibit. Which I decided to check out next. Ice Pilots School originally opened as Power Builder, and is a robocoaster ride. They made an attemp to theme it like a Hangar you’d see in some remote location for arctic flights which was nice, but overall the attraction doesn’t scream at you from the outside. Are they trying to avoid it getting overcrowded? It does seem like it could run into capacity issues. Here, you use a touch screen to program a motion sequence for your arm, get onboard, and try it out. Of course i picked the most extreme ones i could, so the arm is catapulting you all the way over the top, or spinning around on the spot whilst making your seat twirl too. It probably only goes for about a minute, and some of the movements are a bit forceful, so the cycle they give you is enough. Looping back towards the front of the park I passed the Temple. Every Legoland has this and it’s pretty meh. Imagine something like Buzz Lightyear with rotating cars and laser guns, except the sets are just bland lego egyptian themed and the guns work poorly. But it tends to just be a walk on most of the time due to the capacity of the ride system so fine for a diversion. I think at that point I opted to eat early (Park opened at 10) sinceI heard food places get bad lines (Which turned out to be true walking around a couple of hours later): Found a place selling the signature “Lego Fries”, which tasted about as good as they looked. I got in the queue for Vikings River Splash the river rapids ride. This is another ride I’ve seen and been interested in, since it it has a vertical lift and splashdown. As far as rapids go, its fairly gentle, and you wont get wet. Most of the theming was viking related humour that would appeal to kids (Eg 3 stone statues singing “We will rock you”). The lift hill comes halfway through the ride on this one, plus of course the vertical lift at the end. It’s just a shame the final drop doesnt spin you like the one at Califorina Adventure. Overall a good fit for the park though. Dragen had a bit of a line so I went for a lap on the monorail and got my bearings for the rest of the park (It’s in a bit of an L shape) I try to do observation towers around midday since it means the sun is out of the way for most of your photos and the tower itself isn’t casting strong shadows across the park. LegoTop is it, but only about 30m high, so it’s good for a view over Miniland, but the actual coasters are at the other end of the park so you dont really get a good overview of them. However up there I spotted Ninjago and realised that was one of my other priorities to ride. Ninjago is a Triotech dark ride with 3D glasses, but instead of guns you swipe your hand above a sensor and use that to direct your shots. Felt like it had a moderate level of control, though quite a few stray shots. It can be finicky, you have to hold your hands 10cm above the sensor, which can feel unnatural and some kids struggle with it. The queue was a series of interconnected dojo rooms, which carried through into the ride itself. The story I wasn’t really familiar with, but at each screen there were hordes of skeletons or bad ninjas and even dragons you were shooting at. A couple of scenes used projection mapping onto rockwork. There were still a few more things I wanted to ride. Ghost - The Haunted House is a fairly kid friendly haunted house walkthrough, with some interactive dioramas and a mirror maze. The finale of the ride is actually a little drop ride (High capacity frog hopper really) where you are ‘levitated’ by a mad professor and then dropped. Seems like is a Merlin special, becuase a lot of the Dungeon attractions they run have this ride, as well as Sub Terra at Alton Towers. Visually it’s nicely done overall but could have been a more coherent experience Piratbade is one of those Mack towboat rides that actually goes through a substantial enclosed dark ride. Quite liked this actually, it was mostly static with the odd lighting effect, but nice and relaxing and quite popular. More parks need the slow scenic boat rides IMO At that point I was over near Dragen, the Mack powered coaster, so waited about 30 mins for that. I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one but I thought it was pretty cool! It starts off with a dark ride section through castle scenes, eg the kitchen, the jesters court, the wizards lab and of course an encounter with a dragon. It’s a powered coaster, so once you reach the dragon it actually picks up speed along a long straight (I guess the closest thing to a family launch coaster with 1997 tech), climbs a bit of a hill then does some helices in rocky area with shrubs and vines. The coaster portion was short but you know what I didn’t mind and thought this was better than the other Dragon coasters at other Legolands. At this point I was getting close to the time I had to leave. I went back to Polar X-Plorer for a second go at the back of the train, still good Back at the front of the Park is Atlantis, one of Merlins Sea Life aquarium, but with an entirely too long pre-show where you watch an average 3D animation of you going down below, dragged out by the fact all the story telling has to be in 3 languages (accomplished by the 3D interior of the sub having cartoon speakers labelled with the Danish, English and German flags) The actual aquarium was well themed and larger than I expected, with many gummysharks and tropical fish. I do wonder about the messaging of having all those lego models in the tanks…plastic in our oceans I rounded out my visit at Miniland. This one was mostly focused on Denmark, with a bit of Scotland, Norway and I think Germany, they also had a section of worlds tallest buildings with model of the Burj Khalifa, Shanghai Tower, Mecca Royal Clocktower. Really nicely done, I liked the oil drilling rig, and the working port with the various moving boats. A lot of the other usual world wonders you’d see at Legoland had been spun off to be located along the Minibade self drive boat ride, but you can still see them from the walkways around that ride. I wouldnt have minded doing the Lego Canoe flume ride but the sun was beating down a bit and I didnt feel like waiting 40 mins. Overall, I had a good visit despite the crowds and got a fair bit done there. The one thing they needed to fix was the F&B lines. They were spilling out everywhere, and to add insult to injury a lot of the vending machines were broken so I couldnt just grab a drink that way. As for what I’d do to improve the park? Tough to say, it’s quite complete as far as family parks go, they have enough water rides, enough dark rides, enough flat rides etc, and enough in terms of unique flagships. I filled up several hours, and of course if you are kid you are going to want to do the splash battle, more of the flats, the driving school etc. Maybe a really small duplo coaster like the one in Windsor to take pressure off Flying Eagle? As always, you can see more detailed photos of the whole park here: https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/legoland-billund After finishing at the park I drove an hour up the road to check out Elia, which was once featured in a Tom Scott video. From a distance the steps look normal sized but they are more like climbing the tiers in a grandstand. Its supposed to let off a jet of fire once at random times, but didn't when I was there.
  9. Hello everyone! Last month I attended the 2018 Euro Attractions Show, which is the IAAPA European event reuniting most of the professionals in the industry. I was covering the show for French website CoastersWorld.fr resulting in several interviews starting with these two: First of all I had the great privilege of meeting Sascha Czibulka and Camiel Bilsen of Intamin. Sascha is the company's Executive VP and has been with Intamin for 17 years, while Camiel is their promising young designer and has been heavily involved in the making of Hyperion. Highlights include: - Going for a bolder approach to design Hyperion and staying ahead of competitors (4:58) - The strengths of Intamin's new track design (5:55) - Intamin's new seat and lap-bar (7:18) Secondly, I also approached James Swinden who was recently promoted to Lead Engineer at Great Coasters International. In a more concise interview, James discusses various creative and technical aspects of designing wooden coasters. I very much thank him for his accomotation and patience doing this report, his serious dedication to his work truly shows I hope you'll enjoy these interviews. In any event, feedback/criticism is always appreciated. More interviews will be coming up, including one with Vekoma's lead engineer Benjamin Bloemendaal! He's arguably the mastermind behind Vekoma's spectacular renaissance and gave excellent insights into his job and the process of coming up with exciting coaster designs Some extra pictures from the event: Model of the Takabisha clone currently in construction in New Jersey
  10. Last September, I was in Berlin for this year's Euro Attractions Show as a reporter for French website CoastersWorld. As part of my coverage, I made several interviews with representatives of coaster manufacturers. Here are the first two of these! First, James Swinden of Great Coasters International gives his insight into his company's way of building wooden coasters. I really appreciated his sincere passion for his job, and for a professional still very early in his career, his answers were very articulate and accurate! Second, Sascha Czibulka, Vice-President of Intamin, gave me a 16-minute long interview that really exceeded my expectations! His answers were superb, detailed and very informative His account of how the hydraulic launch system had been created for Knott's Berry Farm was particularly valuable. Really talented senior executive who knows his work very well. If you're interested, there's some more to come: - Maximilian Roeser of MACK Rides talks about the manufacturer's lastest coasters, including DC Rivals! - Chuck Bingham of Martin & Vleminckx discusses the challenges and rewards of building wooden coasters in China. - Chad Miller of The Gravity Group tells us the story of how he became a coaster engineer, and the most important aspects of a woodie according to him. (hint: airtime!) - Peter van Bilsen gives the reasons behind Vekoma's remarkable comeback. I want to thank all people involved in these interviews. The interviewees of course, but also all of my CoastersWorld mates for their precious help in the making of these videos. This was a wonderful experience meeting and interviewing all these professionals, and I hope you'll like the resulting interviews
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