After my first and only (rather awful) trip to Plopsaland De Panne in 2017, I was slightly nervous about returning. You can read my previous trip report for the full details of what went wrong but the TLDR version is, terrible operations and rude staff meant we were unable to complete the park and we had a miserable time not doing so.
That being said, nothing was going to keep us from returning in 2021, as the park, to I think everyone’s surprise, opened one of the most exciting roller coaster additions in recent memory, in the form of Europe’s first Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster, The Ride to Happiness.
Plopsaland De Panne
We arrived slightly later than opening, thanks to the worst McDonalds in the World, and two things were immediately apparent, it was HOT and The Ride to Happiness looks absolutely stunning and has completely changed the skyline of the park. Infact, it has changed EVERYTHING about the park, but we will discuss that as we go on.
The Ride to Happiness
Oh boy, let’s just throw it out there before we get too carried away, The Ride to Happiness is now my 2nd favourite roller coaster in the World (out of 918), is completely insane and unlike almost any other roller coasters on Earth.
Let’s start with the theme, it’s incredible, and without a doubt helps to make the coaster as iconic as it is.
Themed around the extremely popular Belgian electronic dance festival, Tomorrowland, The Ride to Happiness goes all out to create, in my opinion, a truly fantasy like experience that really gives a character to the coaster.
The entrance plaza is beautiful, and with the aid of the amazing soundtrack and the ridiculous looking coaster track hanging high above, really makes you feel like you are being welcomed into something special.
Continuing this perfectly is the queue for the coaster, which first leads you through a fantastic looking indoor queueline. This is where you first meet the “sexy robot lady”, who is going to be our tour guide on our Ride to Happiness. During this indoor queue you walk past awesome looking steam punky, Tomorrowlandy machines that are creating various elements (fire and snow are the only ones I can make out) that will be referenced later.
Following this you briefly head outside, everyone skips 90 percent of the outside queue by stepping over the shin high fence, you walk up “The Stairs to Happiness”, before heading back inside for another small indoor queueline, where you once again meet the “sexy robot lady”.
Then after another quick trip outside, you arrive at the ride station, where you finally come truly face to face with the “sexy robot lady” herself, in one of my favourite coaster stations ever.
There she is, and pictures can’t do her justice, in person she looks more alive than most of the guests waiting at the airgates. She is the main character of The Ride to Happiness, and she knows exactly how amazing and game changing her coaster is. All of her beautiful ramblings are wonderful, but 2 of her statements seemed directed at me personally, “your life is about to change” and “embrace this change”.
This would all be dumb, and a little patronising, if it wasn’t 100 percent true, because The Ride to Happiness is just that good, and here’s why.
The coaster starts with a snails pace Heartline/JoJo Roll, that combined with the immediate spinning of the ride cars is absolute bliss. The hangtime is mind blowing and taken to the next level when your World (currently upside down) begins to spin around you, it’s nuts and probably too much for some, but I love it.
Then it’s time for the first launch, which you pause before taking. Thanks to this pause, the swelling of the fantastic on board audio and the fact the cars are still free spinning this launch is incredible and hits fairly hard. Depending on various factors you may barely spin as you take the launch, or you may spin to the point of not knowing what’s happening.
No matter how you take the launch though, it ends with an incredible vertical top hat element, with brutal ejector airtime, especially towards the front of the train. Don’t feel bad in the back though, because the drop out of this element is best experienced towards the rear of the train, where it’s now your turn to get violently ejected.
Now is a great time to once again mention that the cars are free spinning. Ejector airtime is one of the greatest feelings on Earth, experiencing it sideways or backwards is even better and the beauty of The Ride to Happiness is you never know what’s going to happen.
Speaking of, next up is 3 back to back inversions (banana roll, loop & zero g), that perfectly blend together in an absolute mess of what the hell is happening? Spinning while inverting doesn’t sound great to many on paper, but trust me, it’s awesome. Your body feeling all the normal forces of these perfectly excecuted inversions, while your eyes and brain can’t begin to work out which direction you are moving is something else.
The coaster’s second launch isn’t all that powerful, it’s used only to continue the insanity, it does feature a pop of airtime mid launch though which is very welcome.
Next up is my personal favourite element, the step-up under flip, words can’t even do justice to the insanity this inversion provides while seated in spinning cars, it is absolutely outrageous and stands out as so on an already bonkers coaster.
Following this madness is a large airtime hill that exits into a snappy left hand turn. You always get a nice pop of air on this hill, but what you really want is the stars (and car) to align so you take the hill facing halfway between backwards and to your left. This way you’ll get viciously ejected up and to the left and will remain PINNED there until the coaster finishes turning left. Sounds complicated, but just trust me, The Ride to Happiness gained even more bonus points when I realised it could throw you out of the seat and hold you there, it’s an incredible feeling.
Your Ride to Happiness sadly comes to an end not long after this, but not before 2 more back to back vicious ejector airtime hills.
And there it is! Hopefully I’ve said enough to both sell you on why I love both the coaster and the theme so much, if I haven’t, I’ll steal a line from the park’s website, “In short, an experience not to be missed”.
We rode The Ride to Happiness 16 times today and would have happily ridden it more if it wasn’t so hot and the coaster didn’t demand a break after every 4 laps for recovery.
Oh wait, Plopsaland has other rides too, and two of them at least are actually pretty cool.
Heidi The Ride
Let’s start with Heidi The Ride, the park’s twice cloned small scale GCI woodie.
Last time we visited, thanks to previously mentioned issues, we were only about to get 1 lap and unable to form a real opinion. This time though, after several laps, I can officially reveal, it’s good.
Bos van Plop
Either through lack of research last time, or not having enough time last time, we completely missed the park’s only dark ride, Bos van Plop.
Thankfully though, this time, we able to take a ride and I’m glad we did because I honestly enjoyed this cute old school boat ride themed to the Studio 100 character Plop.
Anubis: The Ride
We should have left the memories alone in regards to Anubis: The Ride.
The park’s previous star attraction and quite possibly my previous favourite ride at the park now feels completely redundant (and rattly) after the opening of The Ride to Happiness. At least the station building looks amazing, on the outside at least…
I think the list of things we opted to ride other than The Ride to Happiness, on a very quiet day, perfectly helps show another way that The Ride to Happiness has changed everything for the park.
The place has changed from a family park, with (maybe) 2 good coasters, into a park that is going to draw visitors from all over the World, desperate for their Ride to Happiness.
This leads to 2 other ways the park has changed thanks to The Ride to Happiness.
For better or worse, Plopsaland was 90% coaster fans today.
For most certainly better, operations and staff morale were hundreds of times better than when I last visited. This may have been a fluke, but I’d like to put this down to the park being proud of what they have now and being eager to show themselves off to the hundreds of thousands of new visitors that their outstanding new coaster is going to bring in.
In short, Plopsaland De Panne is now most certainly a park not to be missed.
Thank you for reading, please click here for day 20 of my trip report, where we visit Efteling, only to discover that it’s not as good as it was in 2016.