NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
Friday 23 November 2018 may seem an insignificant date, but it wasn’t for shopaholics. And although I don’t consider myself a shopping addict, I do remember that Friday. It was the most recent edition of Black Friday. This American phenomenon has made its way to Europe during the past few years and it’s an ideal day for bargain hunters. Even theme park enthusiasts may be able to save a lot of money on Black Friday. In 2018, I bought a ridiculously cheap ticket for Walibi Holland (which comes in handy, as Walibi will be opening its long-awaited RMC coaster Untamed soon) and a 43 euro annual pass for Bobbejaanland. Yes, that’s right: I’m a proud annual pass holder at Bobbejaanland in 2019. Yay!
But wait, why on Earth would I buy a Bobbejaanland annual pass?! I haven’t visited this (very mediocre) Belgian theme park for ages and I’m definitely not planning on going there monthly from now on. Of course I’d like to ride their new triple launch coaster this summer, but after that I’ll probably skip Bobbejaanland for the next 5 years. So tell me… why? The answer is simple: benefits. After all, the annual pass for this Belgian park includes a lot of discounts and free access to many other amusement parks across Europe. In Madrid, for example, you can save 97.65 euros if you want to go to Parque de Atracciones, the Madrid Zoo and the impressive Parque Warner. And since the Spanish capital and its local amusement parks were on my agenda in 2019, that Bobbejaanland annual pass came as a gift from heaven. Visiting amusement parks shouldn’t be the most expensive hobby on Earth.
It’s Tuesday 11 June and we are going to Parque Warner Madrid. This park belongs to the imaginary club of big European theme parks. Yes, Parque Warner is big. Most themed areas have an impressive size and the park’s skyline is filled with majestic rides. Parque Warner even looks like Disneyland Paris in many ways: the park can be found near a European metropolis and they built a train station right in front of the entrance. The goal was to attract thousands of guests via public transport. However, Parque Warner’s early years were even more disastrous than Disneyland Paris’. Attendance levels were very low right after the park’s inauguration in 2002.
Nowadays, Parque Warner counts as one of the most visited parks in Europe. The park attracted nearly 2.2 million visitors in 2018, which is more than Parc Astérix, Alton Towers or Phantasialand. Nevertheless, there’s also bad news: the train station in front of the entrance has been closed a few years ago. As a result, a direct train connection with the city centre doesn’t exist anymore. The alternative is a train – bus combination or the direct bus that leaves from the Madrid South Station (Estación Sur, also known as Méndez Álvaro). We chose this bus and I’m highly recommending it. The South Station is easily accessible by metro, the bus ride takes just 25 minutes and the rate for a return ticket is only 8.50 euros. There are cheap combination tickets (with admission to Parque Warner included) available as well.
An admission ticket isn’t needed with our Bobbejaanland annual pass, but there’s one tiny problem: nobody seems to know Bobbejaanland here. At the ticket booth, two supervisors must be called before we’re handed our free admission tickets. We then make our way through a huge mass of loud children (the school travel season is in full swing in Spain, yay) and we enter Parque Warner Madrid a few minutes later. Welcome to Hollywood Boulevard.
Hollywood Boulevard has everything you’d expect in a Main Street. There is a Starbucks, the boutiques are filled with Warner Bros merchandise and bombastic film music is played throughout the area. Hollywood Boulevard guarantees a nice first impression, but we don’t spend much time here. We’re mainly at Parque Warner because of its attractions and that’s why we walk towards Super Heroes World at the back of the park.
This area contains two impressive B&M roller coasters and Superman – la Atracción de Acero is the most famous one. Just like you’d expect from a B&M coaster, the ride has a brilliant layout with excellent inversions and powerful curves. It’s also incredibly smooth, so it should be ranked among Europe’s best roller coasters. Yet, the ride doesn’t get the love it deserves. The paint has faded and the station could use a thorough cleaning. Besides, Superman’s capacity is terrible. The ride is in a 1-train-operation all day long and the staff works at a Spanish pace, which results in a waiting time of approximately 40 minutes. That may not seem unbearable, but it’s way too long during an uncrowded day. Another downside is the ride’s location: Superman has been placed completely outside the park and it’s almost impossible to see the ride from the pathways. In the past there was a viewpoint to admire the coaster from up close, but it has been closed down. What a shame.
Unfortunately, the operations at Batman – Arkham Asylum are similar. That means that lines are considerable and the queue moves rather slowly. Nevertheless, the slow pace is mainly due to a virtual reality system which has been implemented in 2017. And as you may know, such VR goggles almost always cause drastically slower operations. I am not a fan of it (we are definitely skipping the VR version today) but I have to admit that they did a fine job with virtual reality. The middle rows are reserved for VR and they’re filled with a separate queue, while rows 1, 2, 6 and 7 are used for regular rides. That means that we’re still able to enjoy the sublime frontseat view and this B&M’s brutal backseat power. Batman may be a standard coaster, but I think it’s brilliant. It’s got a strong layout with decent G-forces and the smoothness is remarkable. Parque Warner also created a magnificent queue, which makes Arkham Asylum’s atmosphere considerably better than Superman’s.
Super Heroes World is doing a fine job when it comes to roller coasters, but there’s more. This zone also contains a top spin, a wave swinger and a triple S&S tower with a height of over 100 metres. There used to be a Batman simulator as well, but the entrance to this attraction remains firmly locked nowadays. That’s a pity, but all in all this area is awesome. The dark theme is unique, the facades look good and even the arcade games don’t bother me that much.
Coaster fans find their thrills at Super Heroes World, while water lovers should make their way to the Old West Territory. This is the next themed land on our route and it contains two major water rides. The least interesting one is Cataratas Salvajes, a basic version of the classic shoot-the-chutes. Up, down, splash… that’s the simple idea behind this attraction. Spanish theme park designers didn’t spend a fortune on decoration, which makes this ride look unbelievably bland.
Luckily, the second water ride looks a whole lot better. I’m talking about Rio Bravo, a ride manufactured by Intamin. This flume ride was integrated into a huge mountain range and they also created a pretty decent station building. At first glance, Rio Bravo looks amazing, but unfortunately theming levels drop dramatically (pun intended) during the ride. If I had to clarify the meaning of ‘lost glory’ with an attraction, Rio Bravo would be the perfect example. The boats look old, paint has faded and special effects don’t seem to work anymore. It’s a huge difference compared to the similar Wild West Falls Adventure Ride at Warner Bros Movie World in Australia. Everything that makes the Down Under version so awesome has completely disappeared here in Madrid. Very sad.
Rio Bravo isn’t the only attraction that looks great at first, but turns out to be a big disappointment. The nearby Coaster Express even makes me forget the disappointment of Rio Bravo… in a very painful way. No really, I’m serious: if you’ve ever thought that Wodan is a bit shaky or that Tonnerre De Zeus has become rough, Coaster Express will prove you’re wrong. Everything suddenly seems relative if you’ve ridden this torture machine. I have to admit that we are assigned to the back row, where wooden coasters usually are at their roughest. But the pain this coaster delivers is simply unbearable. In short… don’t be fooled by its great looks or hold on very tight. A ride on Coaster Express is downright horrible.
Old West Territory doesn’t contain any unforgettable rides (at least not in a positive way) but please note that the area looks fantastic. That also applies to the adjacent Cartoon Village. This is one of Europe’s largest children’s areas and 29-year old Glenn recognizes loads of Warner Bros stars from his childhood. Those famous characters include Scooby-Doo and Tom & Jerry. These characters got an interactive shooter dark ride (which unfortunately is just a bit too simple and 2-dimensional) and a family roller coaster built by Zierer. And although that Tom y Jerry is a standard model, I do appreciate the original picnic theme.
I expected scorching heat in Madrid, but unfortunately that isn’t the case today. It’s a cloudy day with temperatures of approximately 22°C. This means that there’s little need to ride soaking water attractions like Rápidos ACME. I remember it as a very entertaining and hilariously themed rapid river, but also as a very wet one.
Fortunately, there are dry alternatives. One of those alternatives is a ride on Correcaminos Bip Bip. This Mack YoungStar Coaster was opened in 2009 and it’s nearly identical to Pegasus at Europa-Park (this Spanish version features an extra helix, though). Let’s start with the good news: Correcaminos Bip Bip is just as smooth, powerful and fun as its German counterpart. Unfortunately, theming is very limited. The ride was decorated with cheap rocks and plastic cactuses, but it’s easy to notice that the theming was created on a budget. The coaster lacks a good viewpoint and the queue looks like it was designed by a Six Flags park. Too bad… my childhood heroes Roadrunner and Coyote deserve better than this.
Correcaminos Bip Bip is the only new roller coaster that Warner Bros has built since my previous visit in 2006. As a result, you might expect my coaster bingo to be complete again after this ride. But that’s not the case. The 16-year old version of me wasn’t that daring at all. For instance, I didn’t want to ride any Boomerang coasters at that time. And of course, Parque Warner’s bigger version frightened me even more. Today, I’m finally ready to overcome my fears. Giant Inverted Boomerang, here I come.
Nowadays, roller coasters don’t scare me anymore. Stunt Fall, however, is an exception and tension rises at the time we’re nearing the ride entrance. ‘It’ll be over before you know it’ is the pep talk I’m giving myself. And indeed: a ride on a Giant Inverted Boomerang doesn’t last exceptionally long. But with a height of 60 metres, a total of 6 inversions and a top speed of more than 100 km/h, it does contain a lot of thrill. The best parts are undoubtedly the vertical drops. The inversions, on the other hand, seem less intense than expected, which may be due to the ride’s overall smoothness. Stunt Fall is certainly not the nauseating machine that I imagined it to be. No, this is just an excellent thrill coaster that provides a lot of fun on a limited surface. Too bad that Parque Warner hasn’t done any effort to add theming. In its current form, Stunt Fall actually looks like a Six Flags ride.
Stunt Fall brought us to a themed land called Movie World Studios. Sounds pretty cool, but the theming level isn’t that consistent. The area features an unthemed Giant Inverted Boomerang, a Splash Battle decorated to cartoons, an Old-timer tour with film sets and some New York-style facades. And as if that combination isn’t strange enough, we can also check in to a haunted hotel. Hotel Embrujado is Parque Warner’s Mad House and it seems to be a fusion of Tower of Terror and Phantom Manor: the story line includes a dusty hotel and a creepy-looking bride. Nice theme, but unfortunately the overall experience is quite uninspiring. The pre-show offers little action (especially if you don’t understand the Spanish narration) and the main show features minimal decoration. Definitely not the best Mad House in Europe.
We watch 2 minutes of a stunt show featuring The Joker and Batman, but the performance is too awkward for words. This makes us realize that we don’t need to see any other show at Parque Warner. Instead, we opt for some re-rides on our favourite roller coasters. I’m obviously not talking about Coaster Express – my back still hurts due to that first ride – but Superman and Batman both deserve a second round. Queues are still considerable and operations didn’t improve compared to this morning, but hey… a half-hour wait for these heavenly thrill machines shouldn’t be the end of the world.
It’s 7.30 PM and we board the bus that brings us back to the city centre. Clouds have completely disappeared, so we leave Parque Warner under a clear blue sky. That’s nice, but it doesn’t change the fact that the park failed to amaze. That came unexpectedly, since Parque Warner offers one of the most complete ride collections of any European park. It’s quite unique to find two B&Ms, a Giant Inverted Boomerang, three water rides, a gigantic children’s area and some elaborately themed areas within one single park. Yet, Parque Warner seems to suffer from bad management. As a result, paint is fading, operations are poor and the quality of recent expansions isn’t on par with the original line-up. These things may not bother an average Spanish visitor, but I’m rather disappointed today. The current Parque Warner performs remarkably weaker than the version I encountered in 2006.
Parque Warner did not live up to my expectations, that much is clear. So let’s hope that the second park of our trip performs better. Read about it my report about Parque de Atracciones de Madrid soon. To be continued.