It’s great to travel abroad for theme park fun. Planning a trip to Sweden to ride Helix? Nice! Travelling to the Spanish coastline to have a look at those sexy curves of Shambhala and Dragon Khan? Yes please. Flying about 11 hours to visit Mickey Mouse in Japan or in California? I’d love to. But in this travel mania, we might forget that there are some fine parks in Belgium and the Netherlands as well. And honestly: I did forget that. During the past few years, I regularly visited Efteling and I went to Plopsaland once or twice, but that’s about it. Luckily, some of our local parks present interesting new attractions in 2016 and that’s a valid reason to rediscover those theme parks. I recently went to Bobbejaanland (which opened a surprisingly fun VR ride) and I’m planning a day at Walibi Belgium to test the unique Pulsar water coaster soon. Another highly anticipated novelty can be found at Walibi Holland. That’s why we enjoy this beautiful summer day to drive to the Netherlands. We’re about to lose gravity and I am pretty excited about that.
First things first: how to pronounce Walibi? That actually depends on the park you’re visiting. In Belgium, we actually say something like Wally-bee. However, in the Netherlands, Walibi is pronounced like Waah-Lee-Bee. Which one is better? Make your choice, because it really doesn’t matter at all. What does matter, is the fact that we are actually entering the park right now. While scanning my admission ticket, I realize that it has been 10 years since my last visit. The park offered a wild mouse at that time and some coasters had different colour schemes. Another major difference is the use of cell phones and social media. I know that this might sound shocking to some young readers, but a hashtag was just a useless button on a regular phone (that phone was even attached to a cable… incredible huh?). And it wasn’t that common to make pictures of your lunch or coffee break. But times have changed: cell phones and social media have even entered the amusement park business, including Walibi Holland. The park’s slogan is #Hardgaan, which can be translated to #Goingfast. This hashtag can be seen on my admission ticket, in every park map and even in colourful flower beds. Okay Walibi, I’m ready for a day of #Hardgaan.
I usually don’t visit a brand-new ride first thing in the morning, because that’s exactly what most people do. However, we seem to have picked a very quiet day and we don’t need to fear any long waits. That’s why we head to the newest member of Walibi’s coaster collection right away: hello there Lost Gravity. This ride is built in the right hand corner of the park, somewhere between the Canadian and the Far West zones. ‘Lost Gravity’ changed the area dramatically. This used to be a peaceful forest with wooden houses, but Walibi tried to create a trendy/funky/cool/young/whatever atmosphere with the new ride. Although I think it doesn’t fit within this specific area of the park, I actually like the visual appearance of ‘Lost Gravity’ a lot. The black and yellow tracks are a real eye-catcher and the industrial theme looks less cheap than I expected. Walibi added a few special effects (fire is always a good idea) and there’s even a DJ to make the queue more enjoyable. A coaster featuring its own DJ booth… perfection does exist.
Club beats and summer sun… what more do we need today? Oh right: a great rollercoaster experience would make it even better. Is ‘Lost Gravity’ that awesome coaster? Yes and no. During our first frontseat ride, I notice that the first drop and the following airtime hill are simply amazing. Unfortunately, this five-second sequence is the only memorable part of the entire ride. The mid course brake sucks every bit of speed out of the train. That’s why the last half feels very slow and not that interesting. Some people praise the ride’s hangtime, but I would prefer some extra speed and g-forces. Our second ride makes it even worse, because the ride seems less smooth in the back row. ‘Lost Gravity’ is definitely not a bad coaster, but I really hoped it to be better.
Warm Dutch summer days are as rare as rainy days in California. However, today it’s hot enough to ride a log flume early in the morning. That log flume is called Crazy River and staff are literally waiting for us at the loading platform. This is quite a large log flume, including a backward descent and a cool double drop at the end. Despite this fun ride experience, ‘Crazy River’ looks as if it could use some extra care. The decoration is old and that’s a huge contrast to the nearby, super trendy ‘Lost Gravity’. Why don’t give this ride an upgrade in the same theme as that neighbouring coaster? It would look a lot better and it would bring back some consistency to this part of Walibi.
Recently, scientists discovered a disease called get-rid-of-ride-ism. This disease is also known as Bobbejaanland’s Syndrome and Walibi Holland severely suffers from it. Over the last decade, the park said goodbye to many flat rides: a swinging pirate ship, the ‘Double Inverter’, a Huss ‘Rainbow’, a ‘Break Dance’ and the quite unique ‘Sherwood’s Revenge’… they all disappeared. To fill up all those empty spaces, Walibi created new squares, new picnic areas and a petting zoo where we literally can’t find one single animal today. After removing that many flat rides, it became cobsiderably harder to find twisting and turning fun. One of the few remaining revolving rides is a mad house set within a medieval castle. And dear people of the Netherlands; you should be very proud. You actually have one of the best mad houses ever in your country. It features a fascinating story, an impressive soundtrack and the theming is top notch. Of course, I am talking about Efteling’s stunning Villa Volta and not about Merlin’s Magic Castle at Walibi. The exterior is nice, but that’s probably the only good thing about Walibi’s mad house. And may I suggest to change this attraction’s name to ‘The Annoying Owl’s Castle’? Thank you very much.
Let’s talk about clichés. First one: wooden coasters are usually extremely rough. Second one: Vekoma coasters are usually extremely rough. But what happens if you combine those two clichés? In other words… if Vekoma built a wooden coaster, would it be so painful that you would end up at a hospital? Robin Hood gives us the answer: not necessarily. Just have a seat in the second row of a carriage and you’ll be just fine. It’s a trick I learned in the United States, where wooden coasters are often less enjoyable than in Europe. If you aren’t seated right above the wheels, ‘Robin Wood’ is actually a quite fast and enjoyable coaster. Unfortunately, I have to add that our second ride in the front seat is just horrible. After that ride, I totally understand why the station is empty during the afternoon.
Some areas at Walibi are surprisingly nice, other areas look terrible. The least attractive part of the park is called Speedzone. This area consists of an awful game gallery, a loud karting track and two flat rides without any decoration. It’s very uninteresting and that’s why I’d like to avoid Speedzone completely during a Walibi visit. There’s only one huge problem: you have to walk through this area to get to the park’s signature rollercoaster. No Speedzone would mean No Goliath. And that’s definitely not going to happen.
Location location location. Goliath clearly doesn’t care about that. The station of this ride is located at the end of a cul-de-sac and you have to make a considerable detour to get there. Luckily, this awesome rollercoaster is worth quite a walk. ‘Goliath’ is built by Intamin and it’s a meduim-sized mega coaster: the height is 46 meters and the top speed lies at 106 km/h. Despite these moderate statistics, ‘Goliath’ is still one of the best coasters in Europe. During this two-minute adventure, we enjoy a surprisingly steep first drop, a few seconds of perfect airtime, a unique Stengel-Dive and powerful curves. And although this green giant nears its 15th birthday, the ride is still incredibly smooth. No really… everything about ‘Goliath’ (including the non-existent queue) is awesome and the Dutch should be proud of this coaster.
Not every rollercoaster at Walibi is as impressive at ‘Goliath’. In fact, some coasters even deserve to be demolished right away and that’s definitely the case for El Condor. You could easily nickname this Mexican themed ride as ‘El Torture’ or ‘El Injury’: hell actually seems like a nice place compared to this Vekoma suspended looping coaster. I’m aware of the fact that ‘El Condor’ was the very first SLC and I couldn’t expect a prototype to be the best of its kind, but this is just way too painful to be in an amusement park. So dear Mister Trump, if you really want to build a wall at a Mexican border, please choose this Mexican theme area. Walibi will pay for it, I promise.
As mentioned before, Walibi doesn’t hesite to remove some rides from time to time. That’s why the Mexican zone used to offer more attractions, but nowadays it’s all about ‘El Torture’, an autoscooter, a nauseating flat ride and El Rio Grande. A simple translation may promise the biggest, wildest and most impressive rapid river in the world. But unfortunately, that isn’t the case. In comparison to Efteling’s ‘Piraña’ and ‘Fjord Rafting’ at Europa-Park, this actually feels like a gentle boat trip. There’s no need to fear enormous waterfalls or intense rapids. However, we still exit the ride completely soaked due to a simple garden hose which is added during summer months. That’s not a problem (it’s quite hot today) but this cheap addition can’t conceil the fact that ‘El Rio Grande’ is a very mediocre ride.
I’m visiting Walibi with some kind of rollercoaster virgin today. Steven’s coaster-count is at 10, so he’s really at the beginning of his coaster career. However, he already realizes that every credit counts and that’s why we ride kiddie ride ‘Drako’, which is located next to ‘Lost Gravity’. Steven also learned about the expression coaster bingo and he wants to obtain as many bingos as possible. There’s just one minor detail: I do not join him for a credit called ‘Speed of Sound’. I rode a Vekoma boomerang once and that was enough for me. It gave me a headache and I felt nauseous for the rest of the day. At that moment, I promised myself never to ride a boomerang again. And even though ‘Speed of Sound’ is one of the most beautiful boomerangs ever, I’m keeping my promise.
It’s an ideal amusement park day. Weather is wonderful and crowds are very low. It’s fun not to encounter any waits, but in some rare cases, a queue area can actually be more interesting than a ride itself. That’s definitely the case at Xpress – Platform 13. This ride was recently upgraded, but I didn’t expect much of it. I just don’t like it when parks add some theming to a ride and then try to advertise that ride as new. However, I must admit that Walibi did a fine job with ‘Platform 13’. The queue is designed as a scary subway station. This dark atmosphere is perfectly extended to the loading platform, where it feels like trains are passing by at high speed. The wait area and the station are actually so exceptionally powerful that the actual coaster feels a little underwhelming. ‘Xpress – Platform 13’ is an outdoor version of ‘Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster’. And although I adore that Disney coaster, the experience becomes a lot less intense if you remove the darkness, the decoration, the light effects and the onboard music. Don’t get me wrong: ‘Xpress’ is a fine rollercoaster and it’s even surprisingly smooth for a Vekoma. The only problem is the fact that its highly themed queue creates higher expectations.
Walibi is only open until 5 PM on weekdays, but there’s plenty of time for some re-rides. ‘Platform 13’, ‘Goliath’, ‘Lost Gravity’ and ‘Robin Hood’ are ridden for a second, third or even fourth time. Sounds freaky, but that’s exactly what newbie Steven likes. Unfortunately, our ‘Lost Gravity’ counter remains at two rides. This new coaster has some technical difficulties during the afternoon and that’s why I’m not able to give it another chance. Maybe a third ride would have been more pleasing than our pretty rough second ride? We will never know. Anyway: the fact that this Mack coaster didn’t amaze me, doesn’t change my opinion about the park. Thanks to low crowds, super friendly and hard-working staff members and lots of Goliath-rides, we truly had a great day at the Dutch Walibi. Although the park removed quite a few rides since the Six Flags era, it’s still a nice amusement park with plenty of rides for every age. That’s why I consider Walibi Holland as a perfect equivalent to its Belgian sister park. Walibi Belgium offers an extra high quality darkride, but it lacks a breathtaking rollercoaster like ‘Goliath’. Anyway: it really doesn’t matter. Both parks are located within a comfortable driving distance from Antwerp, so it’s actually a good thing that their offerings are totally different.
Is it ‘Merlin’s Magic Castle’ or do you prefer ‘The Annoying Owl’s Castle’? Would park visitors be better off if there was a wall at the border of the Mexican themed land? Should Walibi pay for it? Do you pronounce the park’s name as Wally-bee or as Waa-Lee-Bee? It really doesn’t matter, but one thing is certain: I genuinely enjoyed this day, the thrills and the weather in great company. #Hardgaan