Sunday 20 November 2011

Theme Park Credentials

I thought it was about time I outlined my theme park credentials, and in particular which are my favourite parks from around the world. I've been to 18 parks across 3 continents. I'm lucky that I grew up in an area of Australia with easy access to our local parks, and that my parents took holidays which visited parks in America.
Starting of with Austrlian parks, I have been a frequent visitor to the 3 Gold Coast parks: Dreamworld, Movie World and Sea World. I know these parks backwards. Dreamworld and Movie World are particular favourites of mine, which have memories ranging from my early childhood through to last month. I have also just recently visited Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast, which is a small but fun family park. When I was young I also visited the now defunct Australia's Wonderland in Sydney, which was also a great little park. And the very short-lived Leyland Brothers World.

With my family growing up we took 2 separate U.S. vacations which visited two of the world great theme park hubs, Southern California and Orlando. Across the 3 trips we visited Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, SeaWorld and the 4 parks of Walt Disney World. I would put Disneyland and Magic Kingdom as the best theme parks that I have ever been to. While there were some other fantastic exprences in other parks, those two parks are still the standard that I judge all others by. People who know me know that I go on and on about how much I love Disney parks.

Finally my beautiful wife and I travelled to Europe last year and visited 4 parks while we were over there. They were Prater, Europa Park, Legoland Billund and Tivoli Gardens. All of these parks were wonderful for different reasons, but I will always hold Europa Park and Tivoli in my heart as two of my favourite parks.

So there you go, that's my theme park background. I have lots of parks I still want to see, and I want to visit a few of these parks again, but I think that might be a post for another day!

Friday 11 November 2011

Commonwealth Games 2018

Today it was finally official that the 2018 Commonwealth Games are going to be hosted by the Gold Coast. This will is a huge win for the Australian theme park industry as it will bring thousands of international visitors into the area which is home to the 3 major Australian parks Dreamworld, Movie World and Sea World. All 3 parks are currently in the midst of major redevelopments with major rides and new experiences either just completed or in the pipeline.

Dreamworld has just opened it's second new ride for the year, and a major drawcard, in the Buzzsaw. They have also just announced a major partnership with Dreamworks to be completed in 3 phases over the next year or so. You can see the local news report here:

Movie World has completed the track of their new multi-million dollar Green Lantern Coaster. This is predicted to open in December (by Boxing Day at the latest). They have also closed a couple of their older attractions (the Looney Tunes River Ride, and the Batman Adventure The Ride 2) with the suggestion that they will make way for exciting new attractions. It is also rumoured that the oldest major coaster the Leathal Weapon is going to be getting new smooth trains, and also potentially a retheme!

Sea World is currently working on incorporating the Nickelodean licence that they acquired in the last 3 months (which used to be owned by Dreamworld). They are currently producing a "spectacular" parade based on Sponge Bob Square Pants, and working to incorporate Dora into their current child friendly zone. Sea World promises to boom most from the Commonwealth Games, given it's close proximity to the heart of the Gold Coast.

Lets hope we see the good times keep rolling as we get closer to the Games in 2018!!

You can read more about the Commonwealth Games win here

Thursday 3 November 2011

Europa Park Terenzi Horror Nights 2010 vs WB Movie World Frights Nights 2011

Today marks one year since my visit to Terenzi Horror Nights at Europa Park in Rust Germany, and since I have recently visited the local equivalent, I thouhght it would be fun to Review the 2 experiences head to head. I've broken the events down into clean comparable parts, and for fairness I will treat each part equally when giving the final verdict.

Movie world do a good job with redesigning the entrance of the park for Fright Nights. They cover the main gates, add lots of the smoke and add lights to the fountain. It is a good mood setter. At Europa Park, you enter through a side enterance of the park, which itself is not exciting at all. However, to get in to the main part of the event you MUST go through a maze. This works as the perfect mood setter for the night, as you are suddenly your scare cherry is popped without you getting a choice. It is the perfect way to start a night like this.
Verdict: Europa Park

Movie world had a few good lighting effects, some smoke and some roaming scare actors. It didn't ever feel spooky and at times it almost felt family friendly. It did not help that the night we went was extremely busy. Europa Park had a lot more smoke, a lot less light and a lot more scare actors. This made for a much better experience in the park, because you could never relax. On the night we were there (which I would assume was a quiet night), there would have been 1 scare actor for every 10 guest roaming free in the park. When people were scared and "attacked" by actors, it wasn't just one, it was sometimes 3 or 4. They also had a better variety of roaming actor. Ghosts, zombies, chainsaw killers, crashed stunt drivers, trailer trash, clowns, etc. You couldn't wait to be left alone, but when you were left alone you were just as scared because you know it would be long before they were getting you. The low number the night improved the atmosphere greatly.
Verdict: Europa Park

When we went to Movie World, it was an incredibly busy. This meant that, we didn't get a map when we entered the event. Luckily (because I am a theme park nut) I had printed out maps for our group before we came, and boy were they useful. There were very very few signs at all with the location of the mazes. Because of this a couple of the mazes which were in unusual spots outside the normal park (Zombie Apocolypse and Saw), were almost empty at the start of the night. Europa park was better, but not much better. Getting into and out of the event was difficult and badly signed. Inside the venue, it was much better than Movie World. When we left, it took us 30 minutes to find the exit, and part of the way through the exit we took a wrong turn into the back stage area. Both needed more signs, and more maps.
Verdict: Draw

In terms of the rides running during the halloween events, Movie World wins hands down. Even though they shut the 3 major rides at 9 o'clock, which left only the Scooby Doo spooky coaster running for the last two hours, there was far more choice of rides at Movie World. Having said that because of the crowd, the lines for rides made them prohibitive. We waited for over an hour to ride the Scooby Doo spooky coaster, which we only wanted to do because it is so much better at night (I know that sounds stupid for an indoor coaster but it's true). The Superman Escape had much more than an hour wait when we arrived, and it wasn't worth waiting for. At Europa Park, there was only really one ride going which was Pegasus the smallest of their coasters. Having said that, we rode it twice with an total wait time of about 3 minutes. Is having 1 ride with no line better than having 4 rides with hour long waits?
Verdict: Movie World (Just)

The night that we went to Europa Park, there was not shows operating. When we went to Movie World there was two major shows, of which we only saw one. I must say from all reports, we made a mistake. We heard good things about the "Damned" aerial show, but we decided to make time for the Vampire Burlesque show. I can't say this strongly enough, it was dreadful. In a night which is so short, with such long lines it was a mistake to wait for this show. I am extremely tempted to give this section to Europa Park because this show was so terrible.
Verdict: Movie World (Just)

This is where the two parks differentiate themselves. I want to be clear, this is not about quantity. Europa park had more mazes, and shorter lines for mazes. Forgetting all that, the mazes at Europa Park were better. Not just a little bit better, but a LOT better. Heart-poundingly, running for your life, terrifyingly better. The mazes we saw at Movie World were formulaic and recycled. They had good scares, but nothing beyond what you would get in a haunted house. The Europa Park mazes where almost dangerous at times. You could feel the tension in every room of every maze. So scary that you would choose to hang on to people that you didn't know for protection. We did run as if we were running for our lives. They also had very different structures from each other, you didn't feel like you were walking around a warehouse at any time. The maze in the specially grown corn field was the absolute highlight of the night. I still have nightmares about that.
Verdict: Europa Park (Easily)

Final verdict
I know that 3-2 looks incredibly close, but really it isn't. If I could choose between the two events, it would be Horror Nights 100 times out of 100. Movie World Fright Nights had it's plus's certainly, however the main advantage of it (the rides) is ruined by the fact that Movie World over sells tickets to this event. It has potential and I enjoyed myself, don't get me wrong, but I would say that it is half the attraction that Terenzi Horror Nights is. I wouldn't hesitate to go again, if I was even remotely close to Germany in october. I will probably go to Fright Nights again, but I will definitely try and find a quiet night.
Winner: Europa Park Terenzi Horror Nights 2010!!!!!