NEDERLANDS // ENGLISH
It’s Wednesday 12th June and our trip to Madrid is coming to an end. After discovering a surprisingly nice city and the rather disappointing Parque Warner, Brussels Airlines will fly us back to Belgium tonight. To end in style, we spend this last day at Casa de Campo. This huge park is located west of Madrid and it’s a beloved day trip for both locals and tourists. It’s a place for hiking and sunbathing, but Casa de Campo is also home to the Madrid Zoo and Parque de Atracciones. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that visiting Parque de Atracciones is today’s main goal, but the park’s gates won’t open until noon. Therefore, a visit to the nearby zoo seems ideal to fill in the early hours. Of course, it’s far from ideal to see an entire zoo within 60 minutes. But thanks to our Bobbejaanland annual pass, this short meet-up with zebras and elephants is free of charge. Yay.
Admission to Parque de Atracciones is also free with that annual pass. Yet, it seems a lot easier to access this park than it was at Parque Warner and the zoo. At those parks, nobody seemed to know the Bobbejaanland pass. At Parque de Atracciones, however, a super-friendly employee lets us in without asking any questions. Her cordial Bienvenidos and the beauty of the entrance area immediately create a fantastic first impression. Seriously, although Parque de Atracciones is known as a non-themed amusement park, the Main Street is beautiful. This avenue features lots of fountains and lush greenery, while movie soundtracks create a perfect atmosphere. The only downside, though, is today’s abundance of noisy school groups. Or am I just getting old?
Thousands of school kids are currently entering the park, so it seems a good idea to visit the star attraction as early as possible. I’m talking about Abismo, a brightly coloured roller coaster that can be seen from afar. Abismo is a SkyLoop built by Maurer Rides and, because of its layout, it can only run with one train. As a result, capacity is limited and queues move rather slowly. The line still looks short during this time of the day, but that’s actually not the case. Spanish visitors consider queue jumping as some kind of national sport. Every school group seems to send one sprinter ahead. When his/her 20 classmates arrive a little later, they crawl under and over the fences to join their friend. It’s an unbelievably annoying custom and staff members don’t seem to care at all. Fortunately, the two of us are quickly asked to fill in an empty row, but I’m already annoyed to death at that moment. You’ve been warned: Spanish queues are often more spectacular than the ride itself.
Fortunately, in this case the actual attraction is pretty spectacular as well. Abismo is an unusual ride. Its biggest eye-catcher is the vertical lift hill, but this is also the least fun part of the ride. It’s uncomfortable and the first inversion, which is actually integrated into the lift hill, lasts too long to be considered pleasant. On the other hand, as soon as the train starts gaining speed, Abismo is awesome. It’s a smooth coaster with powerful curves and two amazing airtime moments. If I just try to forget the first 30 seconds, it’s actually a very solid roller coaster. Short, but to the point.
Abismo can be found at Zona del Maquinismo, the park’s thrill area. It’s home to the most sensational roller coasters, but it also features some classic flat rides. In desperate need of dizzying theme park fun? Then take a ride on the Frisbee, the Top Spin or the Disk’o. One of the area’s only attractions that isn’t aimed at thrill seekers is Cueva de las Tarántulas. This interactive dark ride is a bit tucked away, but it seems quite amusing. Unfortunately we aren’t able to ride it today: this attraction is closed for maintenance.
Fortunately, the dark ride’s closest neighbour is open. And interestingly, it makes use of the same theme: giant spiders. I’m talking about Tarántula, a spinning roller coaster manufactured by Maurer. Decoration is very limited, but Tarántula is a great ride anyway. It isn’t filled with special effects like Winja’s Fear & Force at Phantasialand and there’s no brilliant onboard soundtrack like there is at Toverland, but damn… what a powerful ride. Tarántula is full of surprisingly deep drops and it’s incredibly fast. There was a 30-minute wait, but this Maurer creation was worth every second of it. Great roller coaster.
Phaedra loves log flumes a lot, so a ride on El Aserradero can’t be missed today. This isn’t the most iconic log flume on Earth, though. The layout is rather simple and theming is once again very limited. Don’t get me wrong: El Aserradero provides the ideal way to cool down on a hot day and it’s nicely integrated between 3 spectacular roller coasters, but there are definitely better log flumes.
Those 3 spectacular roller coasters are Abismo, Tarántula and Tornado. This inverted coaster used to be green from head to toe, but it’s a totally black affair nowadays. Due to this monotonous colour scheme and the very simple station, Tornado isn’t beautiful to say the least. Yet, it’s mainly the ride experience that counts and I can be moderately positive about that. This Intamin is not as smooth as a B&M, but still runs a lot better than Vekoma’s classic Suspended Looping Coasters. Tornado also offers a varied layout with 3 inversions and it’s placed in a dense forest. Not the best ride in the world (or in Spain…) but it isn’t bad either.
Since this park is called Parque de Atracciones, I expect an amusement park rather than a theme park. And that expectation is correct. We’ve come to the right place for roller coasters and other rides, but theming isn’t exactly the park’s strength. Notable exceptions are La Jungla (a copy of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, which unfortunately remains closed today) and Nickelodeon Land. This children’s area is located in a quiet corner of the park and it looks fantastic. In fact, thanks to its natural environment, I like this Nickelodeon Land much better than its namesake at Movie Park Germany. This area is themed to SpongeBob, Dora The Explorer and The Ninja Turtles and it’s ideal for the youngest visitors. Besides, it’s also an interesting place for roller coaster enthusiasts aiming for a coaster bingo. That includes me: I’m also riding the Paw Patrol roller coaster and the hilarious suspended coaster Padrinos Voladores.
I love coaster credits, but I wouldn’t do anything to get a coaster bingo. So if there’s a 90-minute wait for the Wild Mouse, I don’t mind skipping it. Besides, I’ve already ridden Vértigo at the time it could be found 1.500 kilometers closer to my front door. This was the left half of Bobbejaanland’s Speedy Bob, which used to be a duelling roller coaster. And although it can be found in a nicer climate nowadays, the actual experience remains identical.
Parques Reunidos doesn’t only exchange roller coasters between its parks. Occasionally, they also buy brand-new rides. Bobbejaanland, for example, is opening Fury this year and Parque de Atracciones got TNT Tren de la Mina in 2012. It’s obvious that this family-style roller coaster was themed to a mine train, but don’t expect too much from it. The huge (and beautiful) entrance gate was already there, the loading station isn’t special and theming is rather limited. TNT is a great ride, nevertheless. Gerstlauer delivered a remarkably smooth coaster with powerful curves. Unfortunately, I mainly remember the ride’s poor operations. Today, Tren de la Mina is operated by two grumpy, incredibly lazy ladies. Their security checks are the slowest I’ve ever witnessed and they make absolutely no effort to fill in empty seats. To make things even worse, they refuse to add the second train. As a result, we spend no less than 75 minutes in the extremely boring queue. One week ago, I was at Europa-Park – perhaps Europe’s most efficient amusement park – and the contrast is astronomically big. Shame on you, Parque de Atracciones!
A water ride a day, keeps overheating away. That’s a fact, but I actually don’t feel the urge to get soaked today. It’s hot, but I don’t want to board a plane with wet clothing tonight. That’s a pity, because Parque de Atracciones has two great water rides in its Zona de la Naturaleza. These are Los Fiordos and Los Rápidos, a beautifully themed shoot-the-chutes and a rapid river which winds through a forest. Water lover Phaedra does take a ride on Los Rápidos and she tells me that it isn’t that wild at all.
As a monorail enthusiast, I am pleasantly surprised by Parque de Atracciones. Their Zeppelin ride is unique, it traverses a large part of the park and it offers some unexpected views. These attractions always make my day more complete, so it’s nice to conclude our afternoon at Casa del Campo with this. Afterwards, we say goodbye to Parque de Atracciones. Although we still have time to get a second ride on Abismo (or to defy that crazy queue for the wild mouse), we actually prefer a cocktail in the city centre of Madrid. Cheers.
Some readers may realize that this report sounded more positive than the one about Parque Warner Madrid. That’s true and it’s easy to explain why: Warner Bros once created one of Europe’s best theme parks, but unfortunately it didn’t maintain that high theming level in recent years. As a result, Parque Warner feels somewhat dated nowadays. Parque de Atracciones, on the other hand, promises an amusement park with no frills and that’s exactly what we get here. The park has a good range of rides, the atmosphere is great and just about every age group can enjoy themselves. Don’t get me wrong: I definitely don’t think that Parque de Atracciones is the best theme park in Madrid. But all in all, this park provides more value for money than Warner Bros.
Parque de Atracciones is often considered as the Spanish version of Bobbejaanland. I could agree with that statement. It’s not worth the travel to Madrid, but if you find yourself in the area… well, then it’s a nice place to spend your afternoon. Still, unless a huge B&M roller coaster is opened within the next few years, I probably won’t come back any time soon.