Hello there TPR, LoneRider here. This past summer I was lucky enough to land an internship working with a railroad contractor, and while the experience was not quite what I hoped, I did manage to see some new places and try some new things: eating beef tongue, operating an excavator, and fulfilling one of my life goals of driving a train (okay, it was a pickup with hyrail gear, close enough!).
Since a majority of the internship was spent in St. Paul, I was able to visit Nick Universe and Valleyfair, the two major Minnesota parks, for the first time. So buckle your seatbelts and make sure you brought a clean pair of underwear, because you're about to embark on one of LoneRider's world-renowned in-depth photo trip reports, featuring ride experiences, critiques, and more pictures than you could ever possibly want or care for.
So, without further ado, let's get started with the most animated park on the planet - Nickelodeon Universe.
Now, as I mentioned, I had never gotten to visit the park when it was Camp Snoopy, but from what I can tell, I'm very happy that I waited until the renovation to visit. I was impressed with my first visit to an indoor park; the place was extremely vibrant and had a great atmosphere. While most of the foliage is fake, it made the park very inviting and made it feel alive. Since everything is so squished together, the theming for each ride couldn't be too intricate, but it was enough for what they were given.
From a rides standpoint, I was also impressed with the number of unique rides Nick Universe had (Brain Surge, Jimmy Neutron, Avatar, Shell Shock). It was refreshing going to a park and seeing some rides that are less common. It was also my first time riding a Eurofighter, Gerstlauer spinner, Tivoli, and Intamin Halfpipe, so it was nice to add a little spice to my credit line-up. My favorites ended up being Avatar, followed by Rock Bottom Plunge and Shell Shock. All of the rides were at least solid, but even a young thrill junkie like me can only take so much spinning/flipping in one day, so if you're not big on spinning, you'll be left with only a few options.
As for expansion purposes, or for future plans for the park, I'm not really sure how they want to handle it. With space at a premium, I don't see any feasible plans for expansion. A feasible future addition I could see the park making coaster-wise is a Gravity Group mini wooden coaster, which would absolutely be a winner since those seem to be Gravity Group's niche, but that would take a titanic amount of crafty engineering and alterations to make it work, so I wouldn't expect any big flashy new coasters in the park for a while.
While the park was very nice and perfect for what it needed to be, it would take a LOT of convincing for me to make the 3.5 hour trek up for the park alone. If you're in the area, however, and you thoroughly enjoy cartoons and coasters (like me), it's worth a few hours stop. Paying $75 for some gifts and then returning the items but not getting my money back was not worth it though...
Onto the pictures!
Needless to say, I was kind of pumped. Cartoons and roller coasters? Heck yeah!
Working out on the railway all day sure beats you down. A few hours here should put some pep back in my step.
Even though the ropes course was not finished when I visited, it still looked pretty good, especially since they had to build it on top of an existing ride.
Long, fast slides are also a lot of fun, but I cannot imagine the kind of static charge I would build up going down one of those. I’d come out at the bottom looking like Electro from Spiderman.
The overall atmosphere in the park was just really vibrant and inviting. The buildings and rides, even with all of the different themes and colors, blended very well with each other. Although, I am colorblind, so for all I know, the dominant colors in the park could be bright pink and mud brown.
One final overview shot of the park. If I’m ever in the area again, you’ll be sure to find me wasting a few hours here.
The Valleyfair trip report will be up soon. Remember, questions/comments/concerns can add to a report, so feel free to let ‘em rip!
Well, since I'm here at the mall, I might as well give the original big coaster a try.
What can you really say about the Orange Streak? The train is a mile long, the coaster runs over the entire dome, and some of the shaping on the curves and hills made me nervous.
However, the coaster is pretty fast-paced, the layout is very unique, and it is perfect for the families with young coaster enthusiasts. It isn't a heart-stopper, but it is an excellent family coaster and I had fun during my ride, age and 6'2" frame be damned.
Like a loser, I was the only person in line Rock Bottom Plunge at opening. What can I say? I was excited for my first Eurofighter. =D
The only spot I noticed any sort of roughness was during the turn into the final helix, but it was pretty minor. I've gotten worse knocks to the head getting out of bed in the morning.
Can't excavate to make a proper footer? Just bolt it to the mall floor.
Engineering - hey, if it works, it doesn't matter how it looks.
Going into the ride, I had heard that Eurofighters were known for being a bit on the rough side, and that Rock Bottom Plunge had soured a bit since it opened, so I was a little cautious. However, I had no problems with the ride at all. There were a couple of rough transitions (mainly from the fact that the single train does not have any extra cars to 'stabilize' it, resulting in it shaking slightly as it navigates curves) but nothing that would detract from the experience. I did notice that the back is smoother than the front, and the middle seats were smoother than the outside seats, so if you are that bothered by a little roughness, the middle seats in the back should ensure the smoothest possible ride. While it is not an OMFG mind-blowing ride, it ends up being a fast-paced compact coaster with some solid forces. If you think this is a rough ride, you REALLY need to get out more.
While not the biggest drop in the world, going beyond 90 degrees is a heck of a way to start off your day.
A small pop of airtime, just to wet your whistle.
Flying through the overbank turn.
Up into the funky zero-G roll. It started off like the zero-G roll on Batman The Ride but ended with some crazy hanging action.
It kind of looks like when I screw up a zero-G roll in No Limits, but it was totally fun!
Rock Bottom Plunge peeking out over the trees.
While the first half of the ride is fast and exciting, the second half was a little lackluster, but since the ride is so short, it isn't that big of an issue.
I have to give a lot of credit to Gerstlauer. Not only did they managed to make a pretty good ride inside a very compact footprint, they also did it inside of a darn shopping mall.
I was keeping my expectations rather low going into Shell Shock, since not only had I heard from previous reports that the spinning gimmick was rather tricky to figure out, but even when you did, you weren't able to spin very much.
A quick side note - I loved that each ride had a solid amount of theming. I might have been worried at first that with all these different themes smashed together, the theming might have been skimpy on some rides. Each ride, however, was packed full of little details that made them memorable. For example, the pizza stall control panel = awesome.
It took me a bit of experimenting on my first ride, but I managed to get the hang of the spinning technique rather quickly. My first ride I managed a few spins and some wicked hangtime brah. With each ride I got a little better, so once you get a little experience under your belt, the ride becomes more enjoyable. Still, I'm not a huge fan of these "gimmick" rides; while an interactive ride is cool, I saw plenty of riders struggling to get the technique down, so instead of enjoying the ride, they spent most of the ride trying to figure out what the heck to do.
Thanks to working out every day and having some great stamina, I was able to really put my whole body into the swinging motion for the entire ride. I was pretty exhausted by the end of each ride, but I had some pretty insane rides.
And for anyone who says it's impossible to get the seats to spin or keep spinning, on my final ride I hit a sweet spot right off the bat and literally spent the entire ride spinning while the ride op counted the spins over the intercom and the queue line cheered me on. 26 spins in a row - not bad for my first day at the park.
Normally, drop towers are a "no-way-in-hell" kind of ride for me, but Splat-o-Sphere ended up being a great ride. It was just tall enough to provide some nice views of the park and give you the funny feeling in your stomach without being overly intense.
With V2 at Great America being one of my favorite rides, I wanted to see how Avatar compared to it. It ended up feeling more like a supped-up Disk-O more than anything else, but I loved the heck out of the ride. The feeling of acceleration is awesome, and hitting just the right spot heading up the tower can make you spin like crazy. As with most rides, the cycle feels too short, but the ride is just pure fun. I kind of wish more small parks would install a ride like this instead of a Disk-O.
With a couple of personal firsts out of the way, let’s knock out another one with some awesome Intamin action.
Unfortunately, the ride has its drawbacks. The retractable platform takes an eternity to get in position at both the beginning and end of the ride, and the lower capacity resulted in my longest waits of the day. That wasn’t helped by the fact that some monstrous apocalyptic thunderstorm rolled through during the afternoon and brought the whole park to standstill.
A little material for the control panel enthusiasts out there.
See that Code Orange leaflet in the upper left corner? It probably reads something like “Super mean evil scawey thunderstorm that eats babies and jaywalks in vicinity – suspend operations until further notice”.
With all of the rides stacked on top of each other, there are times Nick Universe feels like the Grona Lund of the United States.
BrainSurge is another unique ride at Nick Universe, and I enjoyed it a lot as well. I liked that there were a good variety of interactive rides that let the riders customize the ride to their liking – it adds to the overall experience. My view on the ride was also helped out by a young single rider who rode with me and was determined to scare me. I let him use the joystick during the ride and the result was a laugh-inducing flip fest.
While I loved Rock Bottom Plunge, I unfortunately didn’t enjoy the park’s other Gerstlauer creation as much.
I like spinning coasters, and the Fairly Odd Coaster had plenty of twists and turns and had a pretty high constant speed, but something needs to be done about a couple of the track connections. There were a couple of shockingly jarring moments that reminded me of an SLC. I still liked the coaster, but it was still rather short, and my back and kidneys were not big fans of the surprise spine-busting moments.
A bit of an overview of the first part of the Fairly Odd Coaster.
Don’t worry lift hill enthusiasts, I didn’t forget about you guys.
Since it has been a MOA staple for a while, I had to give Ghost Blasters a try as well. And here I was introduced to the Nick Universe severe weather storm policy.
With the thunderstorm o’ doom swirling nearby, Nick Universe’s answer was to halve the capacity of each ride, so Ghost Blasters was sending out one car loaded, one car empty. My guess was that, in an emergency, there would be less guests to evacuate from the ride. Whatever the reason, watching completely empty cars being dispatched was tough to watch, especially since the wait time increased dramatically.
Anyways, Ghost Blasters was some good, clean Sally shootin’ dark ride fun. It wasn’t quite the same as blasting murderous turkeys at Holiday World, but certainly enjoyable.
The new Hard Rock Café was still under construction during my visit. Thus, a little steel framework porn for you really kinky wackos out there.
Thanks to TPR, whenever I see food, pictures have to be taken.
Wait, what does that sticker say?
This might be the ultimate fantasy for coaster enthusiasts. Along with an Intamin-RMC giga wooden with 83 ninety degree turns where they ride with the Victoria’s Secret models in bikinis.
Of course, I couldn’t miss stopping in to see the Lego store. It was almost amusing to see that some parents were more excited to be there than their children.
The park was awesome, the store was awesome, everything was awesome!
(Feel free to start singing out loud at any time)
Buried somewhere under that pile of unacceptable amounts of wetness are a couple of happy riders.
Dan would absolutely love this. I haven’t seen him in a while… what the heck has he been up to? Somebody EMAIL DAN!!! and ask him what he’s been up to recently.
I have to take a moment and again mention how awesome the landscaping is around Nick Universe. There are some seriously cool looking locations in the park like this that you don’t see even at some larger outdoor parks. A little effort on the overall setting of the park and not just the rides can make a huge difference. Hopefully some more notable parks out there take note.
I love me a good log flume, so there was no way I was missing an indoor flume where you can potentially window shop during the ride.
Log Chute was a longer flume ride with a couple of nice drops and a good speedy finale, so add another positive note to Nick Universe.
Being in a strange and foreign land, it was comforting to see some relics from back home in Wisconsin (a whole 30 minutes away).
All bow down to the great Peep Overlord. Praise his divine and marshmallowey greatness!
[i managed to snap a couple of nicer Rock Bottom Plunge pictures during a clear spell.]
That first drop isn’t very big, but boy how I love my steep drops.
It’s hard to beat a good, forceful vertical loop.
A bit of an overview of Rock Bottom Plunge.