Florida 03/22 – Animal Kingdom + Epcot

Day 4

It felt so great to be back in the car again today. Two days of public transportation had made us miss the comfort and convenience that only comes with having your own 4 wheels.

Animal Kingdom

This made it easier to part with $30 for Disney parking, as did the fact that you can park hop with the same ticket all day. I mean $30 isn’t all that bad for all day parking (8am-midnight) on Disney property, I’ve seen more offensive parking prices for much less return.

What you do have to contend with though, if you bring the car, is the massive walks from the parking lots to the park entrances. It was a long and hot walk at Animal Kingdom, but it would be far worse later.

Soon though we arrived at the entrance, and it was far more impressive than the one at Hollywood Studios.

Also more impressive than Hollywood Studios was the park’s centre point, the beautiful Tree of Life. Both these photos also show how green and pretty the park is, for the most part at least.

It’s Tough to be a Bug

Speaking of the Tree of Life, that’s where we headed first to check out It’s Tough to be a Bug.

This 4D cinema, inspired by A Bug’s Life, was great fun, but I think I prefer it the least out of all the 4D cinemas at the resort, Disney World has a strong 4D cinema game.

It was really funny watching half the audience launch out of fire exits after Hopper showed up and things got intense though.

DINOSAUR

Then it was my turn to get scared on the amazing Dinosaur.

I love everything about this ride.

The entrance building full of bones, the wonderful cheesy information videos, the intense loading area that got me even more nervous than I already was. I really am a big baby when it comes to getting jump scared in the dark.

Then the main ride itself, damn! Dinosaur sits right on the limit of being too much for me but never crossed that line. I had such a great time aggressively bouncing around, shouting “that’s not our dino!” and laughing until it hurt.

Best ride at the park (Everest was closed) and probably one of the best at the Resort (Everest was closed).

Kali River Rapids

Because ‘(Everest was closed)’ we walked past it with a tear in our eye and headed to Kali River Rapids.

While visually very impressive, Kali was neither all that wet (it was hot) or all that impressive as an actual rapids ride.

After Kali we took a long walk, almost back to the park entrance, to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar.

I know even less about Avatar than I did about Star Wars, but once again first impressions are very strong, how does this even work?!

Avatar Flight of Passage

We ended up at Flight of Passage first and not wanting to get lost in Pandora, it’s a bit of a maze, it was time to check out the land’s star attraction.

Well not before queueing over 2 hours for it…

At least there’s lots of interesting things to look at, while you’re outside at least.

The ride itself though, it was pretty cool, but certainly, in my opinion, not worth queueing over 40 minutes for. Flight of Passage is essentially a very high tech and fancy flying theatre attraction and no matter how much tech you throw at it or what film is being shown that style of attraction will never really do much for me.

It’s a must ride for sure, but easily a one and done attraction and one that would be best to catch when the queues are low, if they ever are.

Na’vi River Journey

Then it was time to check out Pandora’s other ride offering, Na’vi River Journey.

After a much shorter queue, around 45 minutes, we took our seats on this boat ride around a Na’vi rainforest.

It was alright, I think Heartline summed it up perfectly with the statement “a sit down and some blue”, because it was a nice way to rest our legs, and the Na’vi are blue.

Nothing really happens, it’s very short, there’s not all that much to look at and there’s only 1 animatronic, she’s very impressive though. Once again a one and done, probably not worth queueing more than half an hour for.

With that, with Everest being closed and us not being all the interested in doing the animal stuff, our time at Animal Kingdom had come to an end. Opinions?

A half day park indeed, a beautiful one though, with an insane dark ride I wish we could have ridden again.

Thanks to being ahead of schedule, we treated ourselves with a quick trip to Disney Springs to grab an Earl of Sandwich. I remember really enjoying the one I had at Disneyland Paris, and this one was even better, certainly worth the speed run of Disney Springs.

Epcot

It turned out we really needed those calories too, because the walk from the Epcot parking lot to the park entrance was insane. A solid 10 minutes of brisk walking on unshaded concrete, not the greatest of starts.

Admittedly all was immediately forgiven once we entered the park though, because damn, Epcot visually might just be my favourite out of any Disney park.

Spaceship Earth’s gigantic geodesic sphere surrounded by all the other funky retro futuristic buildings in the distance is just an incredible first impression and I’m happy to say this level of visual quality continues throughout the park.

Spaceship Earth

Speaking of Spaceship Earth, we are here, let’s ride it.

I loved it. I couldn’t shut off the part of my brain that was saying, “you’re riding Disney history in a massive sphere, holy crap.”

Then when I thought it was over, I was shown a picture of my sweaty face superimposed onto a crude vision of the future and that’s exactly how this ride got escalated from fantastic to iconic.

Mission: SPACE (Intense/Orange)

Then it was time to experience one of the most physically intense attractions Disney have ever built, and it was awesome.

I’d watched many Disney YouTubers say that they can’t ride Mission: SPACE any more because it makes them unwell. I just dismissed them as being weak, but now I can see how if you weren’t used to high G forces this might end you.

Mission: SPACE is a 4 person interactive motion simulator attraction, but not your standard boring motion simulator. No, this one puts you in a centrifuge, puts screens an inch from your face and places controls inches from your chest, so it really feels like you’re in a cramped space craft.

Then it applies sustained strong positive Gs (up to 2.5) during key parts of the experience. These moments sync up perfectly with the screens to create an incredibly realistic and intense ride.

I loved it and if we had enough time I would have certainly ridden it again.

Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Next up we journeyed into imagination with Figment.

I’m quite torn on my opinion of this ride.

On one hand it’s (for better or worse) an iconic part of Disney and Epcot. But on the other hand in its current state the ride is pretty unpleasant. I’m not able to prioritise one over the other so in short it’s alright.

Living with the Land

You’d think that sitting down in a boat for 15 minutes to go float around some greenhouses would be a waste of time, but you’d be wrong.

Firstly, Living with the Land feels very Epcot, with its emphases on innovation in the farming industry. Secondly, the dark ride sections are fun. Lastly, a 15 minute sit down after standing all day is amazing.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

I would however let you say that The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a waste of time.

The only thing I can remember about this omnimover attraction is that it wasn’t good.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

Keeping the trend of disappointment going, we headed to Mexico to ride Gran Fiesta Tour.

After having to power through an overcrowded building to find the entrance, and after queueing in an extremly cramped queueline, we finally took our seats on what can best be described as Mexican Small World, but it’s worse, and Donald Duck’s there. I can’t recommend it.

Frozen Ever After

Next we headed over to Norway to go see Elsa, but her ride was currently experiencing a delay in operations and the castle gates were closed.

We spoke to a cast member outside who was both friendly and helpful. She told us that they were working hard to get the ride open again shortly and in her opinion it wouldn’t be that long of a wait. A very refreshing answer in an era of every single park not wanting to give out any helpful responses in case they are wrong and they get fired or something.

This delay gave us a reason to stroll around the Norway section of the World Showcase, which I thought looked great.

Not that long later the queue reopened and we were 3 of the first people to head through the gates.

While there certainly are issues with the ride – I don’t really like the face projected animatronics, you can tell it was held back by having to reuse the layout of Maelstrom and there’s no clear progressive story to the ride, I still loved it anyway.

I’m a huge fan of Frozen, its songs and its characters, so to see the franchise with its own ride, even if it’s a bit flawed, made me happy.

Test Track

We had fully accepted that we both didn’t need to ride Test Track, nor would we have time to ride it. Thanks to the queue being exactly the right amount of time that we needed to kill before the night-time though, we figured what the hell.

This ended up being the best decision ever because Test Track is awesome.

The create your car bit, which I didn’t even know was thing, was tears of laughter levels of funny.

Then the main ride itself was far more intense than I was expecting, with the indoor section being far longer than I was expecting. All the while our created car kept popping up on screens to make everything even funnier.

Test Track kicks ass and was the perfect way to end our day at Epcot.

We ended up missing a little of the night-time show, but it wasn’t all that great anyway so it was nothing to get upset about.

I really enjoyed my visit to Epcot and unlike Animal Kingdom I really could see myself spending a whole day there.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 5 of my Florida trip report, where we visit Busch Gardens Tampa and ride the incredible Iron Gwazi.


Florida 03/22 – Hollywood Studios

Day 3

After a decent night’s sleep, which you’d expect after doing 12 hours of the Magic Kingdom running on fumes, it was time to visit a park that had a certain amount of stress attached to it, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios

The stress obviously came in the form of would or wouldn’t we get to ride Rise of the Resistance today? and this led to us making a slightly silly mistake in regards to our shady hotel shuttle bus.

Much like yesterday the bus dropped us off at the transport hub outside Magic Kingdom. Not knowing how connections worked from here to Hollywood Studios we asked our bus driver. His reply was something along the lines of, ‘Disney’s internal transport is screwed because of Covid, it will be a major faff and will take almost 2 hours. But… I can drive you straight there for a tip!’

I think deep down all 3 of us knew he was lying to our faces but in the stress of the moment and honestly not knowing how we’d even think about getting there we opted to pay the man.

About 5 minutes later and after several near misses (he was driving like a madman so this extra bit of money making wouldn’t affect his schedule) we arrived at Hollywood Studios.

MuppetVision 3D

Where we tactically decided to tick off MuppetVision 3D as we walked past it.

I’ve wanted to watch this show ever since I first heard of it many years ago, and it didn’t disappoint! The main show was great, as you’d expect from The Muppets, and the surprises and 3D elements only helped to enhance it.

Then it was time to get serious and venture into Galaxy’s Edge.

Confession time, I have not seen a single Star Wars movie, nor am I attached to the franchise in any way whatsoever. Did this stop Galaxy’s Edge from absolutely blowing my mind? It most certainly did not!

I can only imagine the joy Heartline (he’s a huge fan of Star Wars) must have been feeling because I was completely awestruck by the detail and scale of this land.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

Enough about how great the land is, let’s go fly a spaceship.

The insane levels of detail from Galaxy’s Edge continue into the interior queueline of Smugglers Run, the land’s lesser but still amazing ride. And don’t even get me started on how amazing the animatronic is for Hondo Ohnaka.

The ride itself, the best kind of motion simulator, is great fun, with the interactive elements and complete immersion making it feel so real and epic. Oh and yeah remember, this is the lesser of the Star Wars rides…

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

So let’s go ride the main event!

Yes, Rise of the Resistance was open and could be experienced from a stand-by queue, which wasn’t 9 hours long.

It was almost 3 hours long however, but needs must, I reckon this one will be worth it.

And oh man was it!

I’ll say the absolute minimum that I can in order to convey my thoughts but not spoil anything because RotR is so much better when you know nothing.

First off, it’s so much more than just the main ride part.

The moments from being batched into the first preshow section until you board the official ride vehicle are ridiculous. Awe, intense excitment, legitimate tension and fear, wonder, it’s so good, I was beyond buzzing by the time that it came to take my seat in the actual ride.

Then things got even better!

Rise might be the best dark ride in the World and I promise you that I’m not saying that lightly or without experience.

Breathtaking in more ways than one, a technological marvel from start to finish and an ending that I promise will blow your mind.

The three of us left Rise shaking with excitement and spent the next 20 minutes talking about what we’d just experienced, the sign of a fantastic dark ride.

After a bite to eat, which turned out to be a fatal mistake, it was time for another fantastic dark ride.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

With a trip to the Chinese theatre to ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

This massive trackless dark ride, with many surprises, was amazing, and that’s coming from someone who stepped off RotR an hour ago.

The animated styling is adorable, the use of screens and projections are handled in a way that doesn’t distract from the experience, the surprises the trackless system throws at you are pretty special and I don’t know if it’s just me but I found the whole ride really funny.

I just wish I wasn’t dealing with stomach issues from the previously mentioned fatal mistake because I’m sure I would have enjoyed it even more.

We only got one ride on Runaway Railway throughout the entire trip, due to it always having a queue and sharing the same park as RotR, which is a shame because I’d have to loved to have ridden it again.

After dealing with said stomach issues, getting some water and doing a stock take. We came to the conclusion that due to Hollywood Studios having the longest queues in the whole resort that it would be impossible to finish the park today. This caused us to fall back on an old favourite technique of just doing the shortest queues first and seeing how the cards fall.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

This technique led us to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which technically was the shortest queue on park (of things we needed) but was still almost 2 hours…

We spent the queue researching how we were going to get to Epcot later for our bus pick up.

While there was no way it would take 2 hours to get from the transport hub to Hollywood Studios, our shady bus driver was correct in saying that transport between the Disney parks was a faff.

Oh yeah, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, it was fine, not as good as the Paris one was. Only in the respect that I prefer the rock show theming more than cardboard cutouts of signs.

Upon leaving Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster we concluded we had just enough time to ride Slinky, if the stated queue time was correct.

Slinky Dog Dash

It wasn’t, it was even shorter.

Which meant it was now time to ride a Mack multi-launch at a Disney park.

Slinky Dog Dash is great fun and honestly far more impressive than I was expecting.

Disney and Mack have found the perfect medium between family friendly Toy Story coaster and probably the best coaster hardware on the planet to create something special.

Slinky has decent airtime moments, fun laterals, some positives and the launches are quite punchy too.

I liked it, and if it wasn’t pegged at 3 hour queues from opening to almost close every day I would have loved to have ridden it again.

Hollywood Studios then…

As a park, other than Galaxy’s Edge, there’s almost no atmosphere other than it’s busy and too hot.

As a ride line up though, in my opinion, it’s the best on resort, in terms of both numbers and quality.

Now let the faff begin.

We left Hollywood Studios and spoke to a cast member about the plan we’d seen online about getting from here to Epcot and if he agreed with it. He did, because quote, “there are no buses to Epcot”.

With that we jumped on the Skyliner and took far too long, via several hotels, to arrive at Epcot’s World Showcase.

We arrived at park kicking out time, so in order to know which stampede to join the back of to get to the bus park out the front, we asked a cast member. Her reply was something along the lines of, you shouldn’t have travelled here on the Skyliner, you’re not allowed to walk through Epcot to get to the front at this time, you’ll have to beg security at this check point to let you through.

Her opinion wouldn’t change even after we explained we were told to come this way, so we walked over to the security lady to beg.

“Come straight on through guys, have a good night!”

Well that was easy, not really sure what the issue was…

After a slightly hurried walk through Epcot (spoilers!) we got to the bus park with enough time to ask a transport cast member about our plans for tomorrow.

We needed to be at Animal Kingdom for opening in order to make the most of our day, yet our shady shuttle bus wouldn’t be able to get us there any time near opening.

Can we easily and quickly get from the transport hub to Animal Kingdom?

After a few seconds of thinking and several stutters the reply was no. Let’s just take the car.

Thank you for reading, click here for day 4 of my trip report where we visit the beautiful Animal Kingdom and the fantastic Epcot.


Florida 03/22 – Magic Kingdom by Mega-Lite

I think it’s fair to say that many coaster enthusiasts, become said enthusiasts, after visiting Florida at a young age on a once in a lifetime family holiday. If not, Florida is usually the first real port of call for any up and coming enthusiast. What is not so common is making your first trip to Florida when you’ve already ridden nearly 1000 coasters and have already travelled most of the coasting World.

In other words what I’m trying to say is, once again, me and Heartline have done things against the grain. Would this tactic end up dampening our opinion of Florida? Or would tackling it with experience make things more rewarding? Let’s find out…

Day 1

In a continuation of our sentiment from our last trip, where it appeared that everything was out to get us, our travel to the US wasn’t without issue.

It started with me, Heartline, and his wife meeting at a very reasonable time to get to Heathrow and get our business sorted before our 11ish flight.

But then, there was traffic on roads that in 10 years of driving I have never seen traffic on. Followed by the M25 and M4 barely moving, leading to us being much later than we planned for.

This was an issue because you had to have a negative covid test before they’d even let you check in for your flight. Thinking we’d have all the time in the World, we planned this for this morning, now however this wasn’t ideal. After much faff we left the test centre with not much time to spare, but then had to wait 40 tense minutes for our results.

When we finally got our results we were the last 3 to check in for our flight and then had a stressful 20 minute walk to the gate, where thankfully boarding had been delayed 15 minutes.

The flight itself (American) was fine and soon we landed in Miami.

Yes, Miami. Heartline could probably write articles about how to save money when booking trips and this was his latest tactic.

Did it save money on a trip that normally costs many thousands? Certainly. Do I ever question his ways? No. Did the drive from Miami to Orlando suck? Oh God yeah.

We’d be staying in one of those do it yourself fully kitted out holiday apartments for the duration of our trip. Yes it was pretty dated, yes I broke the aircon on the last night, but I thought it was pretty cool how it had everything you’d ever need contained within its walls.

Day 2

After barely sleeping, which I put down to excitement crossed with time zone differences, it was time for our first day in Florida, and we were starting with the big one, Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

The resort we were staying at had a very limited (and pretty shady) bus service that ran to a very limited number of stops. Magic Kingdom was one of them and not wanting to pay the insane money Disney wants for parking we opted to give it a try.

Thankfully the bus was mostly empty (which was unexpected) and in the back row offered more airtime than most B&M Hypers.

What would be an issue several times though was the limited bus service combined with the overly complicated and mostly useless internal Disney transport systems. We will get onto the issues we had later, because this morning at least things were quite easy.

The bus dropped us off at the transport hub and then we boarded the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

While it has taken me almost 1000 coasters and many other trips to make it to Disney World, I have been interested in the Florida parks for years, so this monorail ride felt rather special.

As was seeing this for the first time in person…

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Awful picture, but it doesn’t matter, we’ve made it to the Magic Kingdom.

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Apparently I’m not jaded enough yet because this view still hit me pretty hard.

Wanting to get away from the castle crush, we completely accidentally found ourselves entering Tomorrowland. Where we stumbled onto the first attraction we could understand where the entrance was…

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

The Carousel of Progress.

20 minutes of Disney history and animatronics, not much more I can say really, I thought it was awesome.

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Upon leaving the Carousel of Progress we were presented with one of Florida’s legendary rain storms. Thankfully this would be the only one that would happen while on this trip, well while we were in parks at least…

Not really knowing how to react to the rain storm we scrambled over to Space Mountain.

Where apparently everyone else had the same idea, leading to 40 minutes of dodging warm rain outside and 15 minutes of being soggy inside.

Space Mountain

This kicked way more ass than I’m still prepared to accept.

The extremely lacklustre Japanese Space Mountain had me set up for a gentle and uneventful coaster in the dark. Only for Magic Kingdom’s example to absolutely wreck my World.

This thing throws you around all over the place and was honestly so much fun, and that’s coming from somone who’s ridden most of the World’s most intense coasters.

If I had to be picky though, which I do, it’s Disney, it was a bit of a shame that the very impressive theming from the lift hills didn’t continue throughout the entire experience.

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PeopleMover

Yeah we spent our entire morning in the land of tomorrow and next up was the rather awesome PeopleMover.

Disney history mixed with linear induction motors, what is not to love?

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Not to throw shade on anyone who plans their Disney vacation down to when you’re allowed to go to the bathroom next, but our plan was a bit less structured.

We left Tomorrowland, with no clear plan on where we’d end up next, enjoyed the walk, commented on how stunning the park looks and next thing we knew we were standing outside the Haunted Mansion.

Haunted Mansion

It would seem our plan of not having a plan sometimes pays off, as we somehow walked straight onto the Haunted Mansion despite the queue being listed as something hefty.

Thanks to Tokyo Disney putting their Haunted Mansion into its Holiday flavour in early September, this would be my first time experiencing the real Haunted Mansion, and my God was it fantastic.

Sitting on my own really soaking in the atmosphere of this Disney legend I felt the hairs raising on my arms. I don’t think I was scared, just in absolute awe of what I was experiencing. I don’t think it was quite as impressive as Phantom Manor though.

I would have loved to have ridden it a second time but we had other rides to experience and we’d never find ourselves lucky enough to stroll right onto it again.

No picture? No, the Haunted Mansion broke my phone and I wouldn’t resolve the issue until we were most of the way through the queueline of…

Big Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain.

Damn you Paris Big Thunder for making all future Big Thunders seems unimpressive in comparison.

Credit where it’s due, Florida Big Thunder is better than the Japanese one, but neither come close to the French version.

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Country Bear Jamboree

Wanting a sit down and some air con we next headed over to the Country Bear Jamboree.

Much like the Carousel of Progress it was great fun to take in some Disney history and watch the animatronics. Unlike the Carousel of Progress though, the audience were absolutely losing their minds watching the gang of animatronic bears, adding an extra layer of entertainment to the experience.

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Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid

As great as it was meeting the bears, I think it’s about time we go and meet a Disney Princess. Sadly none of my favourites have rides at the Magic Kingdom, so we settled for Ariel.

Journey of The Little Mermaid is an omnimover dark ride and if I’m honest I wasn’t all that impressed with it myself.

The queue was pretty impresssive (I’ve read somewhere there’s a hidden Mickey that only shows for a couple of hours 1 day a year in there too), but the ride itself felt a little basic.

I guess if you compare it to the old school Fantasyland dark rides it stands out, but with how modern it is I kind of expected more from it.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

I knew exactly what to expect from PhilharMagic though (after seeing it in Japan) and yet it still managed to blow my mind. Seriously this show is an absolute must watch for any Disney fan.

The Barnstormer

I guess we can’t put it off any longer, we better go ride The Barnstormer.

This seriously ranks up there in the list of bad decisions I’ve made in order to boost my coaster count.

Queueing far too long for a poorly themed and badly riding Vekoma Junior at one of the most impressive parks on Earth felt wrong at the time and doesn’t feel much better now.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

But you can’t argue with success, and upon entering the very long queue for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train we were but 1 credit short of completing the park.

The queue for this coaster sucked, it was barely moving (got even worse near the end), had ginger teens making a scene and had almost nothing interesting to distract you.

As for the coaster itself though, visually, my God this thing looks impressive, the level of theming and detail is ridiculous. As a piece of ride hardware though, it does almost nothing, the swinging cars add almost nothing and I wasn’t the only one coming away thinking “was that it?”

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Pirates of the Caribbean

Running out of time now before we needed to get our place for the night time castle show we were missing 2 attractions that we wanted to ride, Pirates and the Jungle Cruise.

With that in mind we adopted a tactic that worked for us in Japan. Sprint to Pirates 30 minutes before the show starts, assume the listed queue is a scare tactic, experience the attraction, feel smug and then make it back with time to spare to watch the show.

It worked before and it worked again.

No matter how many impressive dark rides I experience, Pirates never fails to leave me speechless. The sheer scale of some of the sets is ridiculous, making it so easy to believe you have been transported to another World and aren’t just floating around in some warehouse.

Talking of the scale of things.

When we made it back to the castle area for the show, there was more people than I think I’ve ever seen in my life already waiting and even more flowing in.

All the credit in the World to the Disney staff for keeping this organised and safe, I’ll come back to praising them again in a bit too.

Hilariously the show ran into technical issues at the end of the big countdown, leading to confusion but good spirits.

Once it restarted (10 minutes later) though it was incredibly good and at times was as impressive as Disney Dreams in Paris.

Yes that’s right, Paris Disney has/had a more spectacular castle show than even the big boy in Florida. We won’t even mention the Tokyo one…

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Back to praising the Disney staff now. How do you get many thousands of people out of the park in an orderly manner? Extremly quickly apparently.

This was good news for us because it’s time to reference back to our stupid hotel shuttle bus.

Tonight’s only pick up was not long after the castle show finished, in the Epcot bus park…

This meant getting out of Magic Kingdom as quickly as we could in a sea of bodies, then switching monorails at the transport hub, then sprinting from the Epcot monorail station to the bus park with seconds to spare. Stressful, but I won’t lie, quite fun.

And that was our day at Magic Kingdom, did it live up to my high expectations? Yes, I think it did.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 3 of my trip report, where we visit Hollywood Studios and ride the insanity that is Rise of the Resistance.


Belgium 10/21 – Walibi Belgium

Day 2

After waking up from one of the deepest sleeps of my life, it was finally Kondaa time.

As we got in the car and started to make our way to the park though things weren’t looking fantastic. It was raining heavily and the internet told me it wasn’t going to stop raining heavy until about 2pm.

“It’s their grand re-opening weekend, surely they aren’t going to want to close or open with no rides.” “Yes, but, then again, they recently flooded and maybe heavy rain makes them nervous now.” Statements to that effect were exchanged on the rather nervous and slippery drive to the park, until we finally arrived in the mostly empty car park we last visited in 2016.

Let me briefly interrupt the flow of this report to recount our rather underwhelming visit from that year.

The park as a whole was fine, probably the nicest in Belgium at the time, Challenge of Tutankhamon was amazing, the rest of the park was not, end recount. Yeah, in 2016 the park didn’t have 1 decent coaster, now however they very much do and we could see it from the slightly flooded car park.

We equipped our waterproofs, prepared our bodies, then jumped out of the car (straight into puddles…) before making our way to the park entrance.

Due to Covid restrictions we had to walk through an uncountable number of flooded cattlepens, while there was no queue…

I’m not sure why, when there was no queue, we couldn’t just bypass this, but either way my shoes were now breached and we were at the park entrance.

There were no signs announcing ride closures due to the weather, only slightly damp but still friendly staff members welcoming us into the park.

Rain still pounding down, waterproof blocking 70% of my vision, rain on his glasses blocking 95% of Heartline’s vision, we blindly stumbled across the entire park using Kondaa’s seductive lifthill as our only waypoint.

When we got to the coaster itself though it was clearly not operating, as evidenced by the 10 or so Walibi staff members standing outside getting soaked.

It wasn’t quite 10am yet, it might not be the weather stopping Kondaa…

As we were thinking this we saw Tiki-Waka going up the lifthill with people on, move!

Tiki-Waka

Tiki-Waka is the park’s new (to us) Gerstlauer Bobsled.

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Note, all pictures in this report were taken later in the day, when the rain had calmed down.

On our last Europe mega trip we had a running joke that every new (to us) Gerst Bob we rode was the best ever, the streak would sadly end today with Tiki-Waka.

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It’s good fun don’t get me wrong, it’s just much less intense than the likes of Heiße Fahrt, Van Helsing and Prater’s Gesengte Sau and as evidenced by my short review left far less of an impression, even after several rides in the wet and dry.

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Upon leaving Tiki-Waka, we noticed Kondaa was running, and with people! Walibi you absolute lunatics, not only are you unphased by heavy rain despite being flooded a few months ago, you’re also happy to run an Intamin Mega in it, when did Belgium get this good? 1st July 2021.

Kondaa

So Kondaa then, yeah, it’s amazing and I love almost everything about the experience. This Intamin Mega Coaster has transformed the park and with the help of Ride to Happiness put Belgium on the map as one of the best coaster countries in Europe.

Thanks to the park being almost empty today, I ended up riding Kondaa 21 times, so hopefully that means I’ll be able to give a pretty solid review.

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Let’s start with the theme. I love it.

It’s one of my favourite themes for a coaster actually, theme the coaster itself as some form of creature (good or evil), we get caught up in it’s business and get taken on the ride of our lives.

As best I understand (and want to believe), Kondaa is a mythical creature living in its kick ass Aztecy, jungley temple home. We bastard humans go in, create issues, steal baby Kondaalas. This angers Kondaa and we’ve done it now lads, we’re going on the ride of our lives.

The theming in this new area is amazing, I love Kondaa’s temple, the design of the creature (and its babies), the coaster station, the train design, even the design of the shop. Everything is great and far more than was expecting from Walibi after the terrible design choices they used for Untamed.

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Now for the coaster itself. Oh it’s good.

It’s worth noting now though that for better or worse Kondaa’s ride experience differs depending on where in the train you are sitting.

For example, in the back row, Kondaa’s 160ish foot twisting drop at 80 degrees is incredible and never stops being terrifying.

But the following massive airtime hill provides the strongest ejector airtime when you sitting towards the front of the train, it is really good in any seat though.

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Next up is an element that’s rather unique, and very RMC, an outwards banked airtime hill. At first I wasn’t all that impressed with it, instead wishing they had done 2 back to back standard airtime hills. As the day went on though (and the rerides counted up) I started to really enjoy the strange and unique forces it provided. I’d advise letting your body go limp as best you can to really get the most out of this element.

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Following the outwards banked airtime hill is the World’s only non inverting cobra roll and I have very similar feelings about both elements. At first I thought the non inverting cobra roll looked great but was pretty lacklustre to experience, but I came round to enjoy the airtime and whip the element provided towards the end of the day.

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Unique(ish) elements out of the way, it’s now time for Kondaa to become the airtime machine we all wanted it to be.

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Straight after the non inverting cobra roll is another standard airtime hill that provides strong ejector, followed by some fun twisty stuff. Then it’s yet another standard airtime hill before you rise back up into possibly my favourite element of Kondaa, the twisted double down, which provides silly sideways ejector airtime and is impossible to prepare for.

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The final standard airtime hill of the coaster is next, once again providing strong ejector airtime. Then, after a whippy turn around, it’s time for Kondaa’s extremely fun ending sequence. 4 tiny bunny hills in a row, with the first and last twisted to the left, all 4 providing a sudden and hilarious jolt of ejector that’s certain to make even the most hardcore enthusiasts smile.

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21 laps in a day and I would have happily done more, I think that alone speaks of the quality of Kondaa, what a great coaster and investment for the park.

Challenge of Tutankhamon

To take a break during our seemingly never ending laps of Kondaa, we visited one of my favourite dark rides in the World, Challenge of Tutankhamon, and my God, they have made it even better.

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Now I don’t know when they did it, but the park have refurbed the entire ride and it looks brand new in there. All the scenes look and sound fantastic and effects I didn’t know existed are now back in operation, it made me so happy to see that this wonderful trackless dark ride has been given the love it deserves.

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Popcorn Revenge

Speaking of very impressive dark rides…

It was time to experience Popcorn Revenge for the first time.

Heartline had been saying the name to me for months but for whatever reason I never did the research into what exactly it was. I think this was the right decision because not knowing what I was about to experience really added to the suprise of this fantastic interactive dark ride.

Popcorn Revenge is cute, it’s funny, it’s shocking, but most of all it’s just really good fun.

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Fun Pilot

As the rain began to calm down a bit we next went to add Fun Pilot to our count.

Credit where it’s due the park clearly made an effort when they added this family Zierer in 2019, it’s really well presented, for what it is at least.

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Le Palais du Genie

With the park mostly empty, Kondaa laps already in double digits, all the new creds ticked off and Popcorn and Tutankhamon already ridden 3 times each, we next decided to go revisit some of the better stuff from our last visit, starting with Le Palais du Genie, the park’s Madhouse.

This almost seems unfair, but it appears the park have also refurbed the Genie’s Palais since our last visit because the attraction we were presented with was far better than we both remembered.

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Loup Garou

Next we went for a lap of Loup Garou, the park’s Vekoma woodie, one of only two in the World.

I didn’t think much of it last time, but somehow it’s even less impressive now…

The thought of Kondaa sharing the spotlight with an RMC on a similar scale to Twisted Timbers or Untamed is too strong for me to ignore.

Give us Twisted Garou please Walibi.

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Calamity Mine

The last ride on our revisit list was Calamity Mine, not because it’s any good, but because you can get some great pictures of Kondaa from its queueline.

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Speaking of Kondaa, we ended our day at the park with a queue less marathon with the beast, taking me to 21 laps in a day and Heartline to 22, there may have been an emergency toilet visit at some point.

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And that was Walibi Belgium, and the master class in how you go from underwhelming to one of my favourite parks in Europe.

Add a World class coaster, add a great family coaster, add an amazing trackless dark ride, refurb your incredible trackless dark ride and refurb your not as incredible not trackless dark ride. Ok, so that may be a bit specific and a rather expensive tactic but the results speak for themselves.

I had a fantastic day at Walibi Belgium today and I’m very excited for the future of the park.

We had been soaked to the skin for almost the entire day, so spent the whole drive to the Chunnel drying off, feeling ruined, but victorious.

Thank you so much for reading.


Belgium 10/21 – Bellewaerde + Plopsa Coo by Mega-Lite

Less than 3 weeks after our epic 3 week Europe trip (which you can read about here) it was once again time to get up too early and make our way to the Chunnel.

The main goal of the trip was to visit Walibi Belgium and ride Kondaa, a goal that was not possible during our mega trip due to the park being closed for months after severe flooding in July.

The park was set to reopen this weekend and we figured why not add a couple of other parks on and really make something out of it.

Day 1

Call it Kondaa excitement, but for some reason I was barely able to sleep the night before the trip, meaning our already early start was even more unwelcome. This did have the advantage of putting me in a dream like state during the first day of the trip though, which I think may have been a good thing.

Bellewaerde

The first park of the day and trip was Bellewaerde, a park that me and Heartline had previously visited in 2017 and not thought very highly of.

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I don’t want to get too carried away this early in the report but it appears not only Plopsaland De Panne has improved since our last visit but instead the entire country’s park scene. Whenever I’d exclaim “when did Belgium get good man?” to Heartline he’d always reply the same, “1st July 2021”, the day Ride to Happiness opened.

Bengal Rapid River

So it turned out during our 2017 visit that we missed a few attractions that are apparently Bellewaerde staples, so in order to keep the World happy we checked out some of these attractions today.

The first of which was Bengal Rapid River, a Vekoma rapids ride, and fair play to the critics, it was good fun, aided massively by the funky segmented boats.

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Wakala

Next up however was the real reason for our visit, the park’s brand new Gerstlauer Family Coaster, Wakala.

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As you’d expect from a Gerst Family Coaster, it was great, but I think the park deserve a lot of praise for just how impressive the ride as a whole is presented.

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The soundtrack is fun, the theming looks great, as do the station, trains and queueline, the spike over the water looks fantastic, the location amongst the trees is a treat, hell, I even like the colour choices for the track and supports.

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It was about now that I asked aloud, “when did this park get good?”, oh yeah, 1st July 2021.

Het Magische Huis van Houdini

After a leisurely stroll around the admittedly very pretty park we came upon a ride that had been eluding us for a while now, Houdini’s Madhouse.

We missed it last time we visited, we missed it a couple of times in the US, but now it was finally time.

Despite not understanding the plot at all (90% language barrier, 10% no really what the hell is happening?) I thought it was alright, a mid tier Madhouse maybe, that’s still a good compliment.

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Jungle Mission

Finally, on the new to us list, was another ride that people were upset we missed in 2017, Jungle Mission.

Jungle Mission is like a combination of Disney’s Jungle Cruise (without the skipper) and a river safari, and it was great fun. Live animals, special effects and animatronics, what’s not to like?

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Huracan

The final attraction we chose to experience would be our only re-ride of the day, Huracan, the park’s custom Zierer Force.

Me and Heartline both knew we enjoyed it in 2017 but were unsure if we’d got the best out of it due to rushing and being upset with the park at the time.

It turned out we were right, because Huracan is in fact great fun and is a coin flip away from being the best coaster at the park versus Wakala.

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With that we were done with Bellewaerde and what a massive improvement today’s visit had been against our 2017 one. Operations were great, staff were friendly, the park looked fantastic, Wakala exceeded my expectations, the rides we missed before were great and it was awesome to experience Huracan as it was intended.

This time I filled out all the forms we needed to come home tomorrow on the drive from Bellewaerde to Plopsa Coo, I’m so glad this is a thing of the past, but it did make the drive fly by.

Plopsa Coo

We had planned to visit Plopsa Coo on our mega trip 3 weeks ago, but thanks to the park changing the day we wanted to visit to a private event while we were on the trip, we were unable to.

Now I’m not quite sure what I was expecting the park to be like, but small, mostly empty and located in a stunning location wasn’t it.

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The park had also been a victim of flooding in July, thankfully though they were not as badly affected as Walibi. It comes as no suprise really when this beautiful sight was on the park’s doorstep.

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Vicky The Ride

After flashing our passes to a friendly lady at admissions, we entered the park and immediately made our way to the park’s Gerstlauer spinner, Vicky The Ride.

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I’ve yet to ride one of these (Gekion Live excluded) that is better than “fine”, and Vicky was no exception. I do really like the design of the station building however.

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DinoSplash

Heartline, in a stroke of genius, decided it would be funny to try out the insane looking blue slide (see below) of DinoSplash. Neither of us understood the complicated weight restrictions displayed so just decided to wing it and ride together, leading to an honestly terrifying but extremely fun ride.

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Halvar

Next it was time to check out the park’s star attraction and my second ever (out of the 4 in the World) Vekoma MK-700, Halvar.

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While it’s no Megablitz (Wiener Prater), Halvar was great fun and a nice sit down as you speed around amongst the trees single file on this terrain coaster.

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Bobsleigh

Well, looks like we’ve completed the park already, do you fancy a ride on the Bobsleigh? Sure.

This was even more intense than the water slide…

Too much responsibility was put in the hands of the rider, which in my case is never the right decision.

So you pick up your collapsible Bobsleigh at the bottom of the hill, I swear I picked up the kids sized one. Then you sit on it, which I’m certain I was doing wrong. Before you’re pulled up the hill by some sketchy cable system, all while my Bobsleigh keeps trying to fold in half again and is repeatedly bouncing off the sides of the trough. It was the perfect combination of so funny I couldn’t breathe but also “oh God I’m going to die.”

Thankfully on the race down the hill the situation had slightly improved, which of course led me to going full speed, which almost led to me dying several times.

All in all, a fantastic experience from start to finish.

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And the perfect ending to a very enjoyable visit to Plopsa Coo, “damn man, when did Belgium get good?” “1st July 2021.”

Thank you for reading, click here for day 2 of my trip report, where we ride the incredible Kondaa and Walibi Belgium becomes one of my favourite parks in Europe.


Europe 09/21 – Holiday Park + Wild und Freizeitpark Klotten

Day 23

Here it is then, the final day of an over 3 week super holiday flying around Europe, because none of the rest of the World wanted us. I know I say this every time but this trip easily goes down as one of the best ever and I’d had an incredible time visiting loads of new parks and revisiting old favourites.

Almost as punishment for having such a great time though, the final day of the trip didn’t exactly live up to expectations.

Holiday Park

The day started with a revisit to Holiday Park.

It turns out I never wrote a trip report of my first visit in 2016, but it’s fair to say I’ve never really been a fan of the park. The too long didn’t read summary would play out as such…

Rude staff, not a great atmosphere, they didn’t want to run Expedition GeForce leading us to cut a day short at Europa Park to return and the ride line up without GeForce isn’t good.

Today though, things would be even worse…

Warning! This is going to get ultra descriptive and ranty, but trust me it needs to.

We arrived at the park entrance and much like at some of the other expensive chain parks (Magic Park Land + Jacquou Parc) we got burnt to a crisp in the slow moving completely unshaded cattle pen queue.

During this slow moving queue I’d been reading the Covid safety signs that were everywhere in the entrance plaza. You must wear “a face covering” at all times indoors and while queuing for and experiencing the attractions. You didn’t need to wear “a face covering” while just strolling around in the park.

I bring your attention once more to the phrase, “a face covering”, because it was for this reason I wore my standard mask I’d been wearing all trip. Had they said here that a medical mask was required I would have got one out of the car, exactly like at Phantasialand.

The reason the queue had been moving so slowly is they were checking Covid vaccination certifcates at the front. You were given a wristband for showing one and this enabled you to visit indoor attractions and the shops.

Me and Heartline were given the all clear and a wristband from a man at the front of the queue, all while I’m still wearing my normal mask.

Tabalugas Achterbahn

This wristband enabled us to ride the park’s (new to us) indoor coaster, Tabalugas Achterbahn.

The staff member at the entrance of the building nodded and waved us inside at the sight of our wristbands and soon we were at the coaster, where the operator once again checked our wristbands before letting us on, oh and I’m still wearing the same face mask by the way.

I make this the 6th Zierer Force Two that I’ve ridden, I’m not proud.

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Then it was time for the big one, the reason we’d even returned, the (once) incredible Expedition GeForce.

We strolled over to the ride, I’m buzzing to get back on (what used to be) one of my favourite coasters in the World.

The queue is moving slowly, of course, this is Holiday Park, what do you expect?

When we got to the station stairs though it was clear why things were moving so slowly. One of the two members of staff running the ride was being an absolute word I can’t say here, getting into arguments with everyone for everything and just generally throwing his weight around, thus completely killing the already awful throughput of the ride.

Then it was my turn, for both the final chapter in the medical mask saga and to the face the wrath of this idiot.

I’m standing at the airgates, the coaster train is rounding the final bend in its return to the station and then it happens.

“You’re not wearing a mask”.

“I am”.

“Yeah, but it’s not a medical mask.”

“It doesn’t say anything about needing to wear a medical mask at the park entrance”.

“It’s the law.”

“I’ve worn this same mask countless days in Germany and no one has once said that.”

“It’s the law, you can’t ride the coaster.”

“I’ve literally just ridden Tabalugas indoors and I’ve been given a wristband to say I’m good, are you saying your other staff members have done wrong?”

“It’s the law, you’ll have to leave, get a mask and then come back to ride.” He points as though he wants me to leave back through the queue while wearing my apparently unsafe mask.

“So I’m safe to walk back through the queue but not to ride the roller coaster?” He panics slightly.

“No… you can walk through the coaster, but you can’t ride.”

With that, I left.

I went to guest services, both to get a mask and question what had just happened.

The lady inside gave me a mask and although she agreed my normal mask was fine she wasn’t all that interested in hearing me complain about the idiot over at GeForce.

Expedition GeForce

All medical masked up now I returned to the coaster.

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I caught Heartline on his way mid mini marathon.

“You all sorted now?”

“Yeah man.”

“You haven’t missed much, it’s running bad.”

And he was not wrong…

Almost 7 months later (yes I’m slow at trip reports) and I still can’t 100 percent be sure what the exact cause was, but to say Expedition GeForce plummeted out of my top 25 would be an understatement.

I pin the blame halfway between the coaster itself running no where near how it ran in 2016 and the fact I’ve ridden over 800 coasters since.

Either way, it was real poor. The airtime moments were now meh and the boring stuff inbetween was even more boring.

Just to add insult to injury, upon my return to the coaster, I noticed many guests not wearing medical masks and some not wearing any at all…

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After 2 laps I’d had enough, both of what’s left of Expedition GeForce, and the park itself.

With that, it was time to leave, but even that’s too much for Holiday Park.

We got back to park entrance but couldn’t see any way to exit. People were pouring in through all the turnstyles, the exit gates were locked and the staff were ignoring us as we stood there.

So we walked into guest services, where we were blanked again and once again found no exit.

With no other option we just powered back through the turnstyles into the sea of people, with the staff still ignoring us…

Let’s get the hell out of here.

For the record I’ve emailed the park countless times now asking them to justify any of the crap we faced that day and so far (7 months later) I haven’t recieved anything, not even an insincere apology.

Wild und Freizeitpark Klotten

The 2nd park of the day and the final of the trip would be a park that’s been the butt of many jokes ever since I started taking travelling seriously. “They went all that way for just a Gerst Bob?!” Well today was our turn, but in our defence they have now added a dark ride…

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I think it’s fair to say the park has a rather special setting, perfect for calming down after the shambles that was Holiday Park.

After a rare bit of language related miscomunciation, we purchased our tickets and made our way into the park.

Just after you passed through the turnstyle, but just too far away to see when you are buying tickets was a hand drawn information sign, which was informing vistors that today the dark ride would not be in operation, dirty.

There was nothing at all in the ticket area or on the ticket window itself, nothing on the website and the lady at the desk didn’t tell us anything to that effect, Klotten are happy to take your money before telling you what’s operating apparently…

We stood at the sign for a while seriously contemplating walking back to the desk and asking for a refund, in the end though we decided to press on.

Heiße Fahrt

And head straight to the aforementioned Gerstlauer Bobsled, Heiße Fahrt.

Klotten need to count themselves damn lucky that Heiße Fahrt is as good as it is, because thanks to this coaster alone I almost forgive the park for their dirty tactics.

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This trip had the ongoing joke that every Gerstlauer Bobsled we rode was the best yet, well, with the expection of Van Helsing, Heiße Fahrt is the best in the World.

I think the picture below speaks a thousand words but this coaster goes way harder than I thought the hardware allowed. It’s a truly out of control experience, that feels like it’s going way too fast, throwing you around far too much, oh and then there’s actual freaking amazing airtime, which for a Gerst Bob is insane.

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Don’t take my word as proof though, or even the above picture, ask Heartline, who managed to lose his hat on the ride in circumstances that still puzzle us to this day.

Zum Rittersturz

With the dark ride closed, the only other attraction worth riding in the park was Zum Rittersturz, the park’s giant elevator lift flume ride.

The ride was better than I expected to be fair, it featured a small indoors section which was fun, the drop itself was great and thankfully we didn’t get too wet.

On our way to exit we spoke to the lady at the admissions desk about how we might be able to get the hat back, not even Google translate could help make sense of what was being spoken however.

Upon returning home and emailing the park in German, we got a response saying that many black hats are lost daily and we are welcome to come back and search through the box of black hats to find Heartline’s, 7 months later and I’m still not sure if this is parody or not. At least we got a response however, unlike Holiday Park…

Then it was time to head back to the Chunnel and back to reality, at least for a couple of weeks.

Thank you so much for reading.


Europe 09/21 – Fraispertuis City

Day 22

Today was the penultimate peril, and what better way to spend it than popping back into the place where it all started (France) and visiting a park that had become a bit of a legend.

Fraispertuis City

Fraispertuis had been on the cards, and then removed, countless times over the last few years, but now, today, it was finally time to experience one of France’s most elusive parks.

Call it me wanting to be extra positive because it was the second to last day of the trip, call it me being in a good mood because I hit 900 credits here, call it my broken body enjoying a slightly slower park visit, call it what you want, but I really enjoyed my visit to Fraispertuis today.

In my head I had visions of Fraispertuis being a bit like Parc Spirou, in other words, very busy, very hot and rather unpleasant to exist in. Thankfully though, as we arrived in the very empty and rather damp car park it became clear that this wouldn’t be the case. This was further confirmed when we were welcomed into the park by the friendly staff working at admissions.

Timber Drop

First up was the park’s nicely themed El Loco, Timber Drop.

This would be the 3rd one of these that I’ve ridden and by this point they do absolutely nothing for me, at least Timber Drop is nice to look at.

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Ronde des Rondins

Next up was Ronde des Rondins, which was just next door to (and probably more fun than) Timber Drop.

I think you can clearly see here too that Fraispertuis is a rather pretty park.

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Grand Canyon

We saved the best coaster for last though, my 900th coaster, the best coaster at the park, the last Soquet of the trip, the amazing, Grand Canyon.

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Grand Canyon might honestly be one of the best Soquets ever built. It isn’t content with you just sliding around in your seat like most other Soquets, oh no, Grand Canyon is determined to throw you about in all directions, including a very unexpected moment of vicious ejector airtime. Combine this madness with nice theming, an awesome looking train and headchoppers and I’m proud to have this coaster as one of my milestones.

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Thanks to the park being empty, we had finished all the coasters in about 20 minutes. So in order to get the most out of the park we decided we’d try some of their other attractions.

Golden Driller

Starting with the rather terrifying Intamin drop tower, Golden Driller.

This 200+ foot tall tower ride gives you 4 different options for how you’d like to experience your terror, normal sitting, sitting and tilting, standing and tilting and sitting uncomfortably legs dangling and tilting.

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I was only brave enough to try the 2 sitting options but I really enjoyed it, the views up there are pretty special and this style of Intamin drop tower always delivers a powerful drop.

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Cactus

The last attraction we chose to experience at the park was the Cactus.

This drop tower, manufactured by BEAR, had a very different way of instilling terror in its riders. Instead of taking you up hundreds of feet and then dropping you back to Earth, the Cactus instead features “a trick” during the ride sequence where the entire gondola violently tilts. It was honestly terrifying, even more so for the men on board, but so funny that I find it hard not to recommend riding it if you have the time.

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With that we were finished with Fraispertuis, and what a nice visit it had been, friendly staff, nice atmosphere, fun rides and a beautiful setting, it certainly went some way in giving France the send off it deserved for all the quality time we had spent there this trip.

Then it was time for a revenge mission…

Heartline had taken it personally that we’d failed to ride the chocolate dark ride at the Swiss Museum of Transport 11 days ago thanks to most of Europe now being roadworks. This caused him to basically rearrange the second half of the trip in order to return, and today was that day.

A 3 hour drive from Fraispertuis took us back to Lucerne, and to the museum, this time with plenty of hours left in their operating day.

We exchanged our vouchers (the only evidence of our previous failure) and were given a time slot to ride.

Swiss Chocolate Adventure

After being given a digital translator (which didn’t work very well), we travelled down in an industrial sized elevator to the basement level where you board the ride.

How was it then?

The ride system itself was almost exactly the same as other massive trackless dark rides, think Rise of the Resistance or Symbolica. So the technology itself was very impressive and easy to appreciate.

As for the actual experience though, to put it simply, it wasn’t for me. I should have known going in, being that it’s part of a Museum, but the ride itself quite literally plays out like a Museum on wheels, very expensive and impressive wheels.

Nothing takes advantage of the trackless ride system, the sets (mostly screens) could be experienced exactly the same on foot, I guess the only advantage of being on the ride is saving time walking to the next set.

It wasn’t all for nothing though as they do give you some free? chocolate at the end, which instantly wins my approval.

Either way, we’d ridden it now and our revenge tour was a success.

High on chocolate and the strongest cola I’ve ever experienced (at the cost of a remortgage in the gift shop), I spent almost half of the very long drive back to Germany filling in all of the various forms the 3 of us needed to return home tomorrow.

We weren’t done yet though.

Thanks for reading, click here for the final day of this epic trip report, where we witness the death of Expedition GeForce, I get very angry at Holiday Park and Heartline loses his hat at Klotten.


Europe 09/21 – Movie Park Germany

Day 21

3 weeks into the trip now and it was time to pay a revisit to Movie Park Germany, continuing our quest of riding all of Europe’s new Intamins.

On our last visit in 2017, despite the park and its attractions not blowing me away, I still walked away with a good opinion of the park. It turns out the park is quite consistent in this because today would go down the exact same way.

Movie Park Germany

Exactly like last time, we arrived in the car park to the smell of sewage and the sight of a rusting SLC, this time though we knew the park was more than just this awful first impression.

Studio Tour

Once inside we made our way straight to Studio Tour, the aforementioned new Intamin. I know they had to because the show building was located there, but Studio Tour’s location in the park is really strange, hidden in the far right of the park, behind the children’s area.

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Let’s get it out of the way early, if you were to judge the park’s newest investment as just the roller coaster ride system used, which you shouldn’t, then you’d probably walk away pretty disappointed. It’s fairly tame, rather short and really could have benefitted from the use of a drop track.

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If you are able to appreciate Studio Tour as a full package though, then you’re going to have a great time on this highly themed, charming, complex family coaster on a wacky journey around the Movie Park Studios. You’ll have an even better experience if, unlike me, you are aware of the park’s history, because they have gone to great efforts to throw in loads of ‘easter eggs’ for the fans which is pretty awesome.

Is it the best coaster at the park? No, but it is an excellent addition to a park that even now feels like it needs more things to do.

Excalibur – Secrets of the Dark Forest

Next up was a ride on the recently(ish) rethemed rapids.

I’m happy to say when changing the ride from Mystery River to Excalibur that 70% of the great theming survived, as did 60% of the character. Regardless it’s still a great example of an Intamin rapids and well worth riding.

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Van Helsing’s Factory

Then it was time to reunite with an old favourite.

You know how during this trip report I’ve been finding the greatest Gerstlauer Bobsled yet on a regular basis? Well you need to exclude Van Helsing from that discussion (let’s go with the logic that it’s fully enclosed) because it is the greatest Gerstlauer Bobsled ever made, is the park’s best coaster and I love it.

I loved it before, but somehow experience has made this thing even better. How they managed to make something this insane that doesn’t crack 30 feet tall or 30 mph is ridiculous. Heavily themed, an amazing soundtrack and stupidly intense, Van Helsing is amazing.

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Star Trek: Operation Enterprise

This made me feel a little bit sad.

I may have let my inner Mack fanboy sway my opinion when I first rode and ranked Star Trek: Operation Enterprise. That or somehow it’s now riding considerably worse than in 2017? Maybe a bit of both?

Either way, today, it really wasn’t doing all that much for me.

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Then we sort of hit a wall of things to do.

Time Riders (John Cleese dark ride) was closed for Covid, the immersive tunnel was closed due to Covid, Halloween set up or it didn’t exist anymore. We didn’t want to ride the SLC, because of course we didn’t. We didn’t want to ride Bandit, in case, unlike last time, it was now the worst wooden roller coaster on Earth.

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So in other words, we had many hours left in our day, with 3 things worth riding. Star Trek (which wasn’t riding well), Studio Tour and Van Helsing.

Credit to the park, we decided to stick it out, and I’m glad we did because it all came together quite nicely in the end.

At around 2/3 we took advantage of the Covid tests the park offered in their car park. We needed a negative test to get home in 2 days and were quite worried about how we’d go about getting it done.

I’m not sure how much credit can go to the park for this but the guys running the test centre were incredible. Thankfully English was spoken, the process was super quick, they couldn’t have been more helpful and about 20 minutes later we were now cleared to return home, not before 2 more days of coasters though.

Job done, let’s celebrate with a slushie.

Oh crap, we forgot to ride Area 51…

Area 51

Much like with Excalibur, I think I preferred Area 51 before it was rethemed, when it used to be Bermuda Triangle. Don’t get me wrong, it looks amazing now and is still a great ride but there was something legitimately unnerving about the previous version that I really enjoyed.

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Now, let’s go get that slushie.

Despite feeling like we’d run out of things to do several times, we’d once again had a good day out at Movie Park Germany. I think it’s fair to say that I wouldn’t rush back until the park add another major investment but I once again left the park with a good opinion of the place.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 22 of my trip report, where we visit Fraispertuis City and manage to get back to the chocolate dark ride at the Swiss museum of transport.


Europe 09/21 – Efteling

Day 20

I’d been exicited about a return visit to Efteling from the very moment I left the park after my first ever visit in 2016. The park had left a great impression on me and I immediately rated it as one of my favourite parks in the World.

Today’s return visit however wouldn’t feel anywhere near as impressive as before, thanks mostly to a lack of maintenance and a rather impressive decline in staff quality, the park felt far less special and magical than it had 5 years before.

Efteling

Symbolica

The day did start very strong though with our first ever rides on the brand new (to us) Symbolica.

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In a park home to 2 of the best dark rides ever built, they have managed to best both with this incredible, massive, trackless dark ride around the Palace of Fantasy. In fact, I’m feeling bold enough to say that, hands down, Symbolica is now the best ride in the park

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Like the other 2 outstanding dark ride offerings from the park (Droomvlucht & Fata Morgana), to attempt to explain the experience would do it a massive disservice. I think therefore it would be better to say, my first ride through on Symbolica I wasn’t able to take anything in because I was that awestruck by what I witnessing and on all my re-rides I was never not blown away by how awesome the experience is. If none of that made any sense, is it good? It’s good.

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It would upset me (slightly) to learn after my return home that a few rather important effects that the ride opened with were not in operation on my visit. These missing effects may have made the difference from Symbolica being considered one of the best dark rides in the World and it actually being the best dark ride in the World. This was just the beginning of Efteling’s attractions missing effects today but it bothers me more that they are already letting their new star attraction fade away.

Droomvlucht

Droomvlucht was next and I’m so happy to report that even after 5 years of travelling the World riding some of the best dark rides out there, Efteling’s suspended offering into a World of fantasy is still one of the very best. It’s just a shame some of the effects weren’t working…

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Villa Volta

Then it was time to visit Hugo over at Villa Volta.

Unlike Droomvlucht, time, and the existence of the always incredible Hex at Alton Towers, have made me rather jaded of the once pretty awesome Villa Volta. You sit through far too many minutes of preshows, that not even the locals are paying attention to, to finally be presented by a completely average Vekoma Madhouse. It’s fine, but not the legend I once viewed it as.

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Raveleijn

Next up, disappointment.

After spending far too much faff trying to reserve a slot to watch the show, only to be presented by a mostly empty arena, it was time for us to watch Ravelijn for the first time ever.

I think 3 factors are to blame for my lack of enjoyment, lack of maintenance, meaning the show wasn’t operating as it should, Covid stuff, meaning it was operating even worse than it could have and my high expectations for what many people call one of the best park shows in the World.

Bottom line, nothing exciting happened, and then it ended. I seriously hope that when Covid is gone and the park remember how to maintain attractions that it can return to its former glory, if it was ever that impressive to begin with and I haven’t been misled from the start.

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Fabula

Speaking of misled…

Fabula, the replacement to the incredible PandaDroom is far better than people have given it credit for.

Is it better than PandaDroom? No.

Did PandaDroom need replacing? No.

Is Fabula a fun, cute, 3D film with many nods to the past attraction? Yes, and I enjoyed it.

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Max & Moritz

Next up was the final of the new (to us) attractions we’d need to experience today and it came in the form of the duelling Mack Powered Coasters, Max & Moritz.

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Neither coaster was all that impressive on its own, but as I package I quite enjoyed Max & Moritz. The station theming is pretty impressive, the on-board audio is a nice addition and both coasters were at the very least fun.

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Fata Morgana

After some lunch, which was pretty great (you can’t deny the Kaassoufflé), we made our way over to the fantastic Fata Morgana, the park’s legendary water based dark ride.

Much like Droomvlucht, with the exception of a few effects not working, Fata Morgana was every bit as wonderful as I remembered it.

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Vliegende Hollander

What wasn’t as wonderful as I remembered it was Vliegende Hollander.

Either I’m remembering it wrong or the previously incredible dark ride section that begins the ride has had quite a few effects deactivated. This really mattered because the coaster section somehow felt even more pointless this time around.

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Joris en de Draak

Then came easily the biggest disappointment of the day, they have ruined Draak…

A coaster that I adamantly defended as my favourite GCI and one of the best woodies in Europe was running absolutely awful today.

Slow, enough to ruin the duelling aspect and take out 90% of the airtime, and fun.

Rough, not the good kind, but the kind that gives you an instant headache.

This awful ride experience was also preceded by the worst operations I’ve ever witnessed at Efteling. We were left sitting in the train for over 5 minutes while the staff chatted to each other and with every passing minute I could feel the magic of the experience fading away.

Oh and before we move on, the amazing fire breathing dragon doesn’t even work anymore…

Vogel Rok

With Draak instantly dropping 12 places in my wooden coaster rankings, I really needed something to cheer me up. Thankfully Vogel Rok was kicking serious freakin’ ass today and might honestly now be the best coaster at the park.

Way more forceful than I remember from 2016 and featuring more effects than I remember from back then, Vogel is the only coaster to have improved between visits.

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Baron 1898

After a few more rides on Symbolica, we checked the time and discovered we had just enough to get a lap of Baron in before Aquanura started. So we sent Heartline’s wife to go find us a nice viewing spot as we jogged our way over to the park’s B&M Dive Coaster.

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In 2016, with just over 100 coasters to my name, I thought Baron 1898, as a coaster, was pretty forceless and uninteresting. In 2021, with 900 coasters to my name, I was right.

Not discounting the amazing theming attempts and the awesome soundtrack, Baron as a coaster, really doesn’t do much for me at all.

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During the Aquanura show, which was great as always, I was thinking to myself is it me or the park to blame for today’s visit not being as impressive as before. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably a bit of both, but more so the fault of the park for a lapse in maintenance and staff quality. Either way I really hope they can turn it around soon and that I when I inevitably return in the future the park can blow me away again.

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Thanks for reading, click here for day 21 of my trip report, where we visit Movie Park Germany to check out their new Intamin.


Europe 09/21 – Plopsaland De Panne

Day 19

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.

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.