I'm way late with this one. A lot of unfortunate life circumstances and a hurricane that never actually got to our part of the state have screwed all of my plans / days up. Hopefully I can get back on track here...Episode 4 - "Turning Toverland Upside-down", or, "If You Don't Get Injured You're Not Doing It Right"
The third day of the Europe trip took us to, basically the middle of nowhere. But there happened to be a theme park in the middle of this nowhere! It's Toverland!
The new entrance, and the new logo, fitting with Toverland's pivot to a true fantasy-themed park.
Toverland is, quite simply, one of the most unique theme parks I've ever visited. Efteling is great, some of the later parks on the trip are great, but there is just so much to talk about when it comes to Toverland. So I shall!
For those of you that don't know, Toverland started life as a strictly indoor family entertainment center, because the park's owner wanted to get around the cold weather seasons and operate in some capacity all year. Toverland got popular and started to expand, and recently, they've set their aspirations on becoming a world-class European theme park, with a goal of one million annual visitors. They're getting there, for sure - in 2018, they had over 800 thousand!
Troy (TROY!!!) is now one of the prettiest parking lot coasters in the world. But it's still a parking lot coaster.
For our group, a lot of us didn't know what to expect. Some of us, like myself, were experiencing Toverland for the first time. But for others, it was the first time they had seen the park since their most recent expansion, so it was almost like seeing a brand new park!
We arrived and met up with Hanno (Hhappy) who was joining us for this park and the next. But when we got there, we weren't sure what to do! Eventually, Robb and Hanno found the park's new main entrance, and then they found the management.
It's a true arrival experience! I've come to understand that it was inspired by the Port of Entry at Islands of Adventure in Florida.
The management took us back for some filming on Fenix, the park's new B&M wing coaster. We all got a whole bunch of rides, and Andy even got a "zen ride", where he got to have an entire train completely to himself!
Phoenix phlies! I mean... Fenix flies.
Fenix is pretty fun, though not as fun as that other Phoenix I really like! It was my first wing coaster with a dive drop. The hill after the drop actually gives some decent airtme, and the spiral after the Immelman was pretty intense! Plus, unlike Wild Eagle, the vest harnesses allow for some slack, which means your lungs won't get crushed during the ride. The seats were comfortable, and secure, though having not ridden many wing coasters I often found my legs inadvertently hitting the safety bars attached to the inside seats.
It's so GAW-GIUS.
But really, what makes Fenix awesome is its setting. Fenix is part of Toverland's most recent themed expansion, Avalon. The entire area is decked out in intricate rockwork, fantastical theming, Disney-style forced perspective, and lush foliage absolutely everywhere.
You can't climb the tower, but you can admire it.
After our quick filming session on Fenix, the park was opened and we were just sort of set loose. Groups split up, while Robb and Hanno went around the park getting new footage on all of the rides. I sort of floated between groups.
The other attraction in Avalon is Merlin's Quest! It's two-thirds outdoor boat ride, one-third indoor dark ride. I had literally zero idea what was going on, but neither did anyone else, so I didn't feel bad.
You can also catch a great establishing view of the Flaming Feather restaurant. I absolutely adore green / living roofs!
Next stop was D'wervelwind and, help us all, that thing is nuts.
I wish I could stop gushing over how pretty (almost) all of the coasters are around here, but you're just going to have to deal with it.
Everyone says, "oh, it's just a Mack spinner, what could go wrong", and let me tell you, everything did. For one thing, I had no idea which direction the train was facing in the station platform, so I got in the back car thinking it was the front. And then, in the back car, you get whipped and dragged over every hill and turn. Plus, if you end up in an unbalanced car like I was, you spin and spin and spin! All while some interesting magical fantasy soundtrack plays out of speakers right in front of your lap bar!
Ten out of ten. Best ride. Best ride. We did it multiple times and I regretted it every single time after the fact, but I don't regret it now.
Theme park, or real life fantasy meadow? It's like the rides don't even exist.
Next on our checklist was Booster Bike. Booster Bike is the first Vekoma motorbike coaster, a system which originally saw use in smaller parks but has since gotten a big upgrade in the two Tron Lightcycle coasters at Disney parks in Florida and China.
Originally the ride was just themed to motorbikes (obviously), but then they decided to put eyeball stickers on the fronts of each seat and play fairy dust sound effects before the launch. I guess that makes it fantasy-themed now?
It was fine. Much like Python has for Efteling, Booster Bike has a bit of historical significance for Toverland so it's worth keeping around. It certainly looks gorgeous, with all of the theming around it now.
Finally in the outdoor area, we have Troy (TROY!!!). For many years Troy was considered to be the best coaster to come out of Great Coasters, but it's since been beaten out by Knight Valley's mountain wooden coaster, and others.
Troy is probably the only attraction in the park besides the ropes course to still be surrounded by mainly flat, open land. It could really use some screening to bring it in line with Fenix and D'wervelwind.
Here comes an unpopular opinion! I actually liked Joris en de Draak better than Troy! The station fly-by was great and there were some cool pops of air, but I didn't get a whole lot out of Troy. An interesting thing happened though - as we were waiting in the station, the operations folks dropped from two-train operation to one-train. We could actually see them run the second train through the circuit, stop it on the transfer table, and actually push the table to the side so that the first train could run like normal again. The whole process only took a few minutes!
The wild Ryan stares at the wooden coaster, contemplating his existence.
Now, let's take a walk inside...
Toverland's original bread-and-butter were its indoor areas and its amazing playgrounds. Is it socially acceptable for adults to play on these? Does it even matter? Just go have fun!
We first made a stop inside the Wunderwald building, the park's first indoor expansion. We immediately headed over to Maximus' Blitz Bahn, the park's Bobkart attraction.
Bobkarts are basically powered alpine slides. The vehicle runs in an open trough and you can control its speed. Unfortunately, Blitz Bahn ended up being the longest wait of the day - I believe we waited at least a half hour for it. That being said, I finally got to ride a Bobkart! I've been wanting to ride one of those for years and it was totally worth it!
Up, down, left, right, forward, backward... This flume has it.
Staying in the same area, we putted over to Expedition Zork, the log flume. Expedition Zork (nee Backstroke) is one of those interesting log flumes that uses turntables to change the directions of the logs. You turn backwards at the top of the first lift, go over the first drop backward, turn forwards in the middle of the second lift, turn ninety degrees at the highest point, and go over the largest drop facing forward. Plus, it runs both indoors and outdoors! It was really fun and even when you ride in the front (like I did) you don't get wet enough to have soggy socks all day.
On some log flumes like this one, the splash channel is actually elevated above the main water source.
We moved over to the Land von Toos building to satisfy the needs of the credit whores on the trip and took a spin on Toos Express, one of the park's original attractions and a custom Vekoma junior coaster. For what it was it was actually really fun and we got two laps!
No, Toos Express is not on the Coaster Poll. No, we won't be adding it.
The group I was with then wandered back over to Avalon to try out the new Flaming Feather restaurant. I had a really good burger there! We were then informed we were leaving early, so I bugged out of the restaurant to poke around Fenix and take some photos.
Of course, I had to get another one of the Flaming Feather because it's probably my favorite theme park restaurant I've ever seen, at least in terms of architecture.
With time winding down I ran over to the ropes course, but unfortunately there wasn't enough time for me to participate. I found some others and patiently waited for the rest of the group to take their turns. I was certainly not disappointed, as there were a wide range of emotions from the ropes course crew, including...
And that was it for Toverland! I freaking loved this place. It's probably the most unique theme park I've ever been to, and I say that even after experiencing all of the other parks on the trip. Toverland isn't even twenty years old, and yet, here they are, growing and changing into something beyond the scope of their original vision. The staff and management were so good to us, and despite us visiting on a summer Saturday, crowds were beyond manageable. If I were to make a "bonus" stop in the Netherlands before another trip, I'm honestly not sure which park I would go to! They're all so cool!
Enjoy some more photos...
These rides may be brand new, but they look like they've belonged here for years.
Dive! Dive! Dive!
I wish I could get this close to roller coasters in the United States without signing a "you might die and we won't be held responsible" waiver.
Bridge to Toverland.
So, how exactly did this park look ten years ago again?
Only a few of us were able to keep up with Kristen on this thing. I was one of those people, though not without a big bruise on my calf. Elissa told us that if you don't get injured at Toverland you're not doing it right, so, successful rite of passage for me!
Normally you don't want theming from other areas to be seen from where you're standing, as it breaks immersion. However, all of Toverland's themes work so well together, so it fits!
How about some stealth marketing?
Even the indoor building fits right in!
Thoughts and musings:
- Weirdly, I rarely rode any of the park's coasters more than once, with the exceptions being Fenix (for morning filming) and D'wervelwind (twice total). I guess I was just so enthralled by taking everything in! I even missed some areas like further inside the Land von Toos, and further in the Magische Vallei area near the rafting ride. More fun for next time!
- I know that generally things in Europe are better than the United States, but the stairs in the park, especially in the Fenix queue / platform, were ridiculous. They were steep, narrow, and slippery. I know I'm young and shouldn't be complaining but there were a few times were I almost tripped and fell down.
- Of course, I'm obsessed with the number of playgrounds and play areas in the park. It's part of what makes it so unique.
- I was recently doing some research on the park for another project, and going back to see Theme Park Review's visit from 2005 in the park index. It's astounding how much this park has changed. What used to be an open field behind Booster Bike is now a wonderful landscaped themed area and I just love it.
- Do I think that Toverland will be on the level of Efteling in terms of attendance in ten years? I'm not sure. But I absolutely think that they will break one million visitors, and sooner than you think. I have so little bad things to say about the park. They may not have anything that would make us go nuts with excitement, but everything in the park is so lovely and it makes it a wonderful place to spend time.
Thanks for reading! Next time... Walibi Holland, The Grafitti Lover's Paradise!