2021 – Summary
On a personal level I’ve found this year significantly worse still. Though 2020 came as more of a shock, I still remember the optimistic days of thinking we’d be right back at it again in 2021. Instead it was just one long drawn out tease that sapped away any real hope of that being anything close to true. I came within a week of hitting yet another new longest drought of not riding a new coaster, at 183 days between the two seasons. As I sit here writing this, I worry that soon enough that figure will be threatened once more.
The major US trip that was deferred from last year got stressfully re-planned and re-booked 3 consecutive months in a row based on vague promises that were never delivered. It was of course cancelled once more and the outstanding balance still looms over us to this day. As summer drew to a close it became clear that we had to take matters into our own hands again if we were to keep this hobby alive and kicking.
And admittedly that part went extremely well, with the longest and most intense European road trip of all time doing all of the heavy lifting for 2021, finding some highlights in old parks and new. While I’d usually prefer to spread the load a bit throughout the year, the grab it while you can attitude seems to be the most successful in the current climate. But how successful was it in terms that matter; numbers?
Better. That’s 134 new rollercoasters for me, which is a fair amount more than last year even with the pre-covid headstart that it had. Better still, there were 49 new to me park visits, which even manages to top 2019 in terms of raw establishments visited, quality varying greatly of course. Ah, 2019, those were the days.
Something not included in these graphs is the fact that I managed to spend 34 days of this year visiting theme parks. That figure just sneaks past last year and spending over a month doing what you do best on an annual basis is always something to be pleased about.
Now that quantifying everything has made me infinitely happier, let’s talk about some highlights.
Favourite Coaster in 2021
Honourable mentions – Luge Lou Bac Mountain, Abyssus (Energylandia), F.L.Y. (Phantasialand) and Kondaa (Walibi Belgium)
The clear winner for this year and the rollercoaster that has had by far the biggest impact on me in what feels like forever was the Ride to Happiness. It delivered on so many levels ranging from intensity to re-rideability and the overall presentation of the attraction just struck a chord with me that makes the whole experience just that little bit more personal and special. I was scared by how good this ride was, the thoughts it put into my head while thinking about how to even rank it. That probably only happens a handful of times in the life cycle of an enthusiast.
Favourite Dark Ride in 2021
Honourable mentions – Le Kinétorium (Jardin d’Acclimatation), Vienne Dynamique (Futuroscope), Volcans Sacrés (Vulcania) & Popcorn Revenge (Walibi Belgium)
After narrowly missing out on a top spot 6 years ago, Efteling are back with a win. The competition might be a little lighter this time around, with no signs of five-time winner Disney or my secret love Fantawild, but let’s not that let that detract from how good Symbolica was. The magic of the park combined with the magic of the trackless ride system results in an effortlessly joyous experience. I only wish we had taken the time to visit it much sooner when all of the special effects were operating to their fullest extent.
Favourite Park in 2021
I’m going to break my own unwritten rule here, because I can. In spite of all the cold, hard numbers pointing to this being a stronger year than the last, I’m looking at the list of all the new-to-me parks visited this year and feeling very little inside. And this is a very important factor for me when it comes to ranking theme and amusement parks – a sense of longing. Do I miss it? Do I want to go back there right now? How did it make me feel?
What made the numbers up this year was an unhealthy amount of flying visits to short-stay establishments, with the primary purpose being to bolster the count. It’s the nature of the beast for what I do with my free time at this point, but I’d much rather give the honourable mentions to parks that have significantly improved during a revisit (the Belgian beasts) than to somewhere based solely on having not been before, which has honestly never been an issue up until now.
The place that invokes the strongest emotional reaction for me this year is Fantasiana. It made the mentions back in 2016 up against some incredible hard hitters. In 2021 it stands out from the crowd as a true gem of a park that in my eyes can do no wrong.
Favourite Cred Hunting in 2021
And here’s where we truly celebrate the bolstering of the count, the times when the process of visiting far outweighs any genuine reasons to like the parks involved. On a trip that went harder than ever before, there was one particular day with unrivalled intensity. We visited six different establishments in the space of around 15 hours (and over a height differential of 2000m) and in the process set a personal best for riding the most new rollercoasters in a day – one that’s infinitely more satisfying than being achieved in a single large park.
The record could of course be broken again in a much more pedestrian fashion, if I ever even make it to Cedar Point that is – let’s see what 2022 brings to the table.