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Oktoberfests and Losing Blackpool Virginity

JoshC.

Giga Poster
2020 was going to be the year I ticked off 'bigger' European parks I hadn't got round to visiting - Europa Park, Port Aventura, Heide Park and Blackpool for example. Obviously plans have been hit hard, but fortunately, Blackpool remained a constant (didn't think I'd ever say that!). So a couple of weeks back, I was finally able to hit up Blackpool for the first time...yes I know, I'm a bad UK goon.

Either side of the jaunt from Surrey to Blackpool, I also hit up the start of Thorpe's and Alton Towers' Oktoberfest events, to see what they were like. It also turns out that Blackpool decided to hop on the Oktoberfest bandwagon, but as that was only on Saturdays, and I was there on Thursday, it alas meant I wasn't going to get a hattrick of knock-off Oktoberfest events.

So, onto Day 1, Thorpe Park's Oktoberfest...

Oktoberfest was a surprise event really, only announced a couple of week's before it started (though I'm under the impression the park had hoped to do one for quite a while). It was always going to be interesting how the park would do a completely new event in weird times. And when all's said and done, they've had a good crack at it, but it does kind of miss the mark.

The park have transformed the pathway that runs alongside the very-much-closed Ghost Train into the main Oktoberfest area. In many ways, it's nice to transform a dead area of the park into something good, but the fact remains that it is a pathway, so it's a little bit on the cramped side.

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They have some nice signs around though.

The area has a few stalls, selling different German market-inspired things (bratwurst, beer, hot chocolate, pretzels, etc). It's less Oktoberfest and more German Christmas market in some sense.

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They area outside the Ghost Train entrance and shop is a little beer section, serving Spaten and Becks. The park also sell plastic steins you can have it served in (though, they weren't actually there when I visited on the second day of the event).

The "lack of readiness" was very much felt across the area, with staff bringing out benches during the day. And a couple of days later, the Ghost Train entrance sign was covered with a "beer bar" sign too.

What particularly took to biscuit for me with the area was the bratwurst stand:
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Which, at time of visiting, was only accepting cash! Crazy really, given the circumstances, and not even a sign to say so. Fortunately this has now changed, I believe.

Annnnnd, you've got to love how this external company hasn't even got the German flag on it! Whoops.

The area also has a stage on it, where on Fridays and Saturdays (when the park is open till 8pm, unlike on the Tuesday I visited, which was a 5pm closure), they have live musical acts perform..
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It takes up a lot of space, and with the addition of many extra benches since taking this photo, I do feel it's a bit too cramped for a major pathway of the park! Also, fun fact: Thorpe actually own that stage, but the last time they used it was the year they bought it, all the way back in 2015!!

To give some entertainment, though, the park have a group roaming round the area, playing some music and interacting with guests...

These guys are the park's Furchtar Band (furchtar German for terrible). So the point of them is that...they are bad. I didn't quite realise this when visiting, and was left rather confused by the whole concept. Still am to be honest...

On top of the Oktoberfest area, the park also have transformed other parts of the park. Mostly this is by audio changes, which cut in and out over regular audio at the discretion of the operator on a lot of rides. I guess the idea is to create a random-but-exciting vibe, but it kind of just didn't really work - either stick with the themed overlays or not in my opinion! Both Detonator and Rumba Rapids seemed to have constant Oktoberfest audio playing, however. Detonator's was all around terribly mistimed yodelling as the car goes up (which sounds exactly like the Cliffhanger game from The Price is Right, for anyone slightly older on here..) and a terrible caricature German voiceover. Not quite sure if it was meant to be bad, or if I just really didn't like it. And Rumba Rapids has been renamed 'Oompah Rapids' to celebrate, and features generic Oktoberfesty music...
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Seamless.

And that's basically Oktoberfest in a nutshell! As I said earlier, it didn't really hit the mark for me, and I'm sure that's not helped by the fact that the event was still being finished off, and that I didn't go on a weekend when more entertainment was around. BUT, there is hope for the event. There was definitely a more positive vibe around the Oktoberfest area, and the park can certainly capitalise on that. I do hope they try it in future years, hopefully when things like social distancing are less of a concern, and they can try and move it to less cramped areas of the park. So whilst not off to a running start, it definitely has potential in the long run!



The next day involved the long jaunt from Surrey to Blackpool, and we arrived in the early evening, giving us a chance to look round the 'wonderful' Blackpool, and then get well rested for a day at the Pleasure Beach. Our B&B was quite close to the Tower, so we had a wander down the beach, stopping of briefly at each pier to have a look around. I was the only one in the group who had never visited Blackpool before, and my days, I didn't realise quite how tacky the whole place is. I've never majorly been enticed by Blackpool, which is why it's taken me so long to get up there, and just wandering round the place just reaffirmed my decisions.

Our wandering ended with us on the South Pier, so a couple of us could collect the spinning wild mouse cred. We approached it and...it looked very closed. Ride switched off, no operators, no one in the booth outside the ride to buy tickets. Oh no, a spite already? We wandered back down to the open ticket booth and asked if it was open. "Yeah" was the response. "Ah, there's no one there at the moment". "Oh, give me a couple of minutes". A quick call on the guy's radio and a few minutes, and huzzah, the cred was running. Tickets bought, we wandered over and realised an engineer had turned the ride on and was running just for us - how nice! I had my own discount Hot Dog @Howie / Lawnmower @HeartlineCoaster moment, albeit in the UK where the person running the ride made sense!


And for now, I'll leave it there. Coming next time, the bit everyone wants to read - the thoughts of a Pleasure Beach noob...
 

Howie

Giga Poster
Still reeling from the fact you haven't been to Blackpool yet! ??

Ps - Cliffhanger was my favourite game on The Price is Right! ?
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
Still reeling from the fact you haven't been to Blackpool yet! ??

Shocking isn't it! My logic had always been 'I can do the 4 hour drive to Blackpool, or I can spend a couple of extra hours and be at a European park which excites me more'. And the latter always won out (admittedly I'm gutted to have never gotten Wild Mouse and I expect Valhalla will never be the same as the stories I've heard, but no real regrets really!).

Whilst waiting for the park to open (11am weekday openings naturally) we did the outdoor mini golf not far out of the park. Would recommend if you haven't done before - pretty damn decent!

Entering the park was easy and straightforward, which is nice during Covid times too. We decided to head straight to Icon, after one of the group had been spited by it last year due to it closing at lunchtime and not reopening on a previous trip. Imo Macks do benefit from warming up, but I was happy to get the ride done to make sure we at least got the cred.

Sadly, Icon did fall a bit flat for me. It's got a couple of nice little pops of airtime, but they're just that - little pops. The launches are weak and don't do anything for me. And the rest of the layout just meanders really - twisting here and there, but not doing anything that really excites you? It's obviously great in that in goes round so many other attractions, but it does seem to have harmed the ride experience. Even worse (although I guess lucky in other ways!), Icon closed in the early afternoon and did not reopen for the rest of the day, despite multiple failed test runs. Ooft.

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I wish I could blame the dreary Blackpool weather for the quality of my photos, but honestly, I just use my phone's camera and I'm rubbish at take photos :p

Next stop was the obvious one to get done - Big One. I'd heard many horror stories about the ride's one train operations, so it was nice to be greeted by an empty queue. The ride itself was, well, almost boring. The first drop is just there and doesn't do much, and the rest of the course just trundles around like a quick monorail frankly. There's no denying the imposing nature of the ride, nor the success it has bought Blackpool, but for all it's hype, it just does nothing. Oh, and the retracked section is painfully rough. Blackpool was 0/2 so far for me.

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So Big I couldn't fit it all in

The plan was to then tick off the Nickelodeon area. Unfortunately, Nick Streak was dead for the day, and so came the first spite. Blue Flyer was running, and is cute for what it is. We also did the Dora boat ride thing, which was a bit of a laugh to be honest. The rest of the area had nothing of interest, bar the log flume, but looked a bit too much of a soaker tbh..

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As you can see, the park was SUPER busy. And that big orange spiteful cred certainly didn't stand out against the greying clouds either...

Avalanche was attempted, but broke down after a short wait. Big Dipper had a long queue (and was only loading every other row; the only cred on park to do so, which was odd). With all this pain being experienced, it's only apt to go for a ride on the wonderful standard SLC that is Infusion. Like every sane goon, I hate SLCs. The only exception is Energylandia's one, which I actually found bearable, and possibly would re-ride one day.. To my surprise, however, Infusion wasn't terrible! Don't get me wrong, it wasn't good, in fact it was bad. But it's by no means to the level of awfulness I've done on others. Would I ride it again? No. Would I complain about it like I do most other SLCs though? Nah.

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Blackpool's rides are actually reasonably nice to look at tbf.

Trying my luck, opted to go for Grand National, another ride with a notorious reputation for being rough and uncomfortable. Lady Luck shone down on me, and I was gifted back row on the left hand side. And, wow. It was bloody brilliant! Didn't find it in any way uncomfortable. Fantastic airtime. Corners were great fun. It's everything a classic woodie should be imo. It definitely wasn't smooth, but rather the 'rough round the edges, but in a good way' type experience. Perhaps back row is the best place to ride? And if it is, I got doubly lucky with another back row ride on the right hand side at the end of the day, which again was brilliant. So yeah, whatever people's issues are with Nash, I've had the joy to not experience them.

A spot of lunch at the chicken place was had, whilst enjoying the wonders of the fountain show, which was fountainy. A quick ride on River Caves followed, which is alright for what it is I guess, before braving the long and slow moving Big Dipper queue. Well, I say long, it was only 20 minutes, but by far the longest queue of the day. To be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe after how unexpectedly fab Nash had been, my hopes were raised, but really it did little for me.

Taking a break from the creds, we continued to the classic Blackpool attractions vibe and went over towards the dark rides. Ghost Train done first. First off, the hot topic: is this a cred? I see why some would say so, but for me, nah. I'm cred-hungry, but not THAT hungry. The Ghost Train itself was...okay. Keeping in mind it's age, it's great, but I guess I'm not a big fan of the corniness of those types of Ghost Trains. I much more enjoyed the Alice ride, which generally felt better done and much more interesting to be in.

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Tempted to say this IS a cred now to make up for the Nick Streak spite...

Venturing back towards newer stuff, it was time for Wallace and Gromit. I'll be upfront here: I'm not a big W&G fan. I think I've watched one of the short films, and it just wasn't my thing. However, there's no denying that the ride itself is, for the most part, really well done. Great animatronics and effects, perfect length and well paced too. It all just seems to work. It's a bit disjointed where it seems to jump between films, and there's one scene towards the end which is basically just black walls and feels very out of place. But for the most part, a really solid experience.

After the dark ride interlude, it was back to the creds. Avalanche was back open, and was ticked off. My second Mack bobsled, and this one was a bit better than Parc Asterix's one due to there being less breaks to slow down the flow, but it suffered by feeling short as a result. A trek up several flights of stairs for Revolution followed, and it was another ride I'd heard a few horror stories about. Fortunately I actually enjoyed it. It's not the most comfortable thing on earth of course, but the launches are fun, the loop is okay, and thanks to it basically being a straight line, there's minimal head bashing / neck breaking side action.

The last cred, well, creds, to get was Steeplechase. Sadly, another spite came about: the red track wasn't running. Curse you Blackpool; red's my favourite colour too. So instead I went for the Yellow track: took me a little by surprise to be honest, was a bit faster than I anticipated. Nothing special of course, but a nice solid bit of fun! Whilst the rest of the group opted for another ride on Big One, I decide to go get the green track of Steeplechase - as I said, I am a bit cred hungry, and I'd rather that than a monorail. ;) Unfortunately, it was cleaning time for Steeplechase, so by the time I got on the ride, the rest of the group had got on Big One, which was a 3 train wait - jeez, they took their time cleaning!

By this time, it was 4pm (where did the time go?!). A wander through the maze thing, rides on Skyforce and the train, as well as the aforementioned second go on Grand National closed the day.

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By the time of the train ride, Icon was little more than a nice-looking statue.

All in all, Blackpool was a pleasurable enough day out. At 6 hours long, it was a stretch to get everything done, but we managed it (bar the obvious cred spites and the currently under renovation Valhalla). Everything was on minimal capacity, but for the most part, staff were running the rides well, so can't grumble, given it was a quiet day. To be honest, I still don't get the enthusiast hype about Blackpool, and I'm not really itching to go back any time soon (even to get the missing +2), and I don't see the 4 hour drive replacing any more flights any time soon. But there's no denying it was a decent little day out.


Coming soon, the final act: more Oktoberfest at Alton Towers!
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
Disappointed that nash didn't murder you, to be honest.

Because of your disdain for Nash, rather than a disdain for me I hope... ;)


Anyways, a few words on Towers..

We'd stayed the night at the main hotel (due to it being a Thursday night, it was on off peak rates, so rather cheap). We had dinner at Roller Coaster Restaurant, which I'm a fan of despite the prices and, in absolute honesty, mostly average food. Was very weird having a table to ourselves because of social distancing, but did make for a nicer experience I guess. Hotel dealt with social distancing well today, especially during breakfast.

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We even saw Galactica testing as we arrived to the RCR

As for the day, started at Dark Forest, owing to Th13teen's dreadful capacity because of Covid (I think it probably manages between 8-10 people on average per train?). I like Th13teen for what it is, and it's aged nicely. I'm also a fan of neighbouring Rita. I see it as a (vastly inferior) baby Taron, so always get a kick out of riding it. Never find it uncomfortable either.

The park wasn't that busy, and being open till 8pm, it meant getting everything done was easy. Longest queue we encountered was probably 40 minutes for Smiler (not that I went on it - rough beyond rough, and I haven't so much as entertained the idea of riding it since my last go in 2017..). Was also nice to see the extension queues for Nemesis open, though I never quite appreciated how long that was - quite the workout! Getting another ride on Nemesis solidified my love for Oz'Iris even more though - as much as I think Nemesis is brilliant, it's definitely showing its age, and I do prefer Oz'Iris' layout.

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The lesser seen angles of Nemesis' first drop

Another eyebrow-raising opinion of mine is my love of Duel. I'm an absolute sucker for shooting dark rides; genuinely think every park should have one in some form. So versatile and fun, and can work in any setting! Definitely one of my favourite rides on park, although I had shocking round and only got like 15,000 on our first go. Disgusting.

One ride I'm not a fan of though is Wicker Man. Admittedly the ride seems a lot faster this year compared to the last couple. But even then, the layout does little for me...it's just not that...good? You just meander round, and don't really do much? We got an evening ride on it, and it was the first time I'd experienced anything worthy of being called "airtime" on the ride. But it wasn't worth it considering how rough this damn thing is. It jackhammers its way round most of the layout and left me feeling a bit headachey frankly. Lord knows what's happened to it, but it was definitely worse than any of the Blackpool's ancient woodies..

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The Wicker Man looks alright in the evening.

Now the big thing: Oktoberfest! I was really impressed with the whole set up. It's obvious they've put money into the event and making sure it's well staffed. Lots of roaming entertainment round the Mutiny Bay and Oktoberfest area on the front lawn. Decent selection of food and drink. I'd say the low point of the event was probably the entertainment on the main stage, surprisingly. It wasn't bad, it was fine, but it was the weakest entertainment on offer in my opinion. Maybe the acts needed time to bed in / iron out any nerves? But yeah, a little bit of a low.

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The little entrance arch to the area is a nicer touch!

I'd say Towers' Oktoberfest was certainly a more polished, more refined event compared to Thorpe's offering. You can tell they've had more time and money put into the event. And it definitely helps that they have access to a LOT more space compared to Thorpe. If they can even keep a similar level for next year, I'd be extremely happy.

And that's that. It had been a long time since I'd done a long day at Towers - the last time I was in the park when it was dark was Scarefest 2012. And I suffered the effects of Blackpool and had the starts of a wonderful cold developing too. But it was great fun, and a solid little trip. So, as I believe the Germans say (albeit usually with alcohol rather than a hot chocolate)...
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Prost!
 
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Matt N

Strata Poster
Great series of reports; really enjoyed reading! Especially interesting to see your first timer’s perspective of Blackpool!

With regards to Towers, I must admit I agree with quite a few of your sentiments!

For starters, I loved the Rollercoaster Restaurant, and I’m glad that you seemingly had a good experience there!

I too rather enjoy Thirteen, and despite having hated it for years, I’m also fully with you on Rita after my most recent ride; I rerode it a few weeks back for the first time in 4.5 years, and I thought it was absolutely terrific! Fast-paced, full of airtime and no pain whatsoever! Had the queue been shorter, I would have gone straight back round for another go! I also had good fun riding Duel on my most recent visit, although I’m flabbergasted at how high your score was compared to mine (I got 3,100!)!

Your comments regarding Wicker Man worry me, however; when I last rode in July, it still seemed relatively smooth like it was in 2018 (definitely the smoothest woodie I’ve done), and the raw pace and airtime of it wowed me like it never has before and actually made it my favourite Towers ride by some distance, as well as my #2 UK coaster behind Icon. I have a very low roughness tolerance, so if the pain level is worse than Grand National and Big Dipper, as you say, then I am very nervous to reride, I must admit, as I personally found those two coasters too rough to enjoy, particularly Grand National.

As an aside, none of your Alton images are showing for me.
 

Hixee

Flojector
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Social Media Team
Just as a heads up @JoshC. - your images aren't displaying properly from your Google account. I think (although can't be sure) that this relates to the permissions. Either gotta make them fully public, or host them elsewhere. :)
 

Nicky Borrill

Giga Poster
You should have ridden Smiler, I hated it up to the last 2 years and I’m ashamed to say it’s really grown on me!!!!

On Nemesis, did you know that today’s ‘extension’ queue is nowhere near all of the ‘original’ queue line? It used to be much longer in that first section, but the biggest part missing is after you pass the station entrance, it used to carry on into the woods near where Galactica’s lift now stands, the highlight being the part around nemesis’ cutback before the loop, you used to be so close you’d feel so much wind from the train and felt like you could reach out and touch rider’s feet.
 

JoshC.

Giga Poster
Just as a heads up @JoshC. - your images aren't displaying properly from your Google account. I think (although can't be sure) that this relates to the permissions. Either gotta make them fully public, or host them elsewhere. :)
Oh wow, what a noob. This is what happens when my laptop is broken and I try and link all my photos through Google accounts..! Hopefully fixed - thanks (and thank Matt for pointing it out too!).

I too rather enjoy Thirteen, and despite having hated it for years, I’m also fully with you on Rita after my most recent ride; I rerode it a few weeks back for the first time in 4.5 years, and I thought it was absolutely terrific! Fast-paced, full of airtime and no pain whatsoever! Had the queue been shorter, I would have gone straight back round for another go! I also had good fun riding Duel on my most recent visit, although I’m flabbergasted at how high your score was compared to mine (I got 3,100!)!

Your comments regarding Wicker Man worry me, however; when I last rode in July, it still seemed relatively smooth like it was in 2018 (definitely the smoothest woodie I’ve done), and the raw pace and airtime of it wowed me like it never has before and actually made it my favourite Towers ride by some distance, as well as my #2 UK coaster behind Icon. I have a very low roughness tolerance, so if the pain level is worse than Grand National and Big Dipper, as you say, then I am very nervous to reride, I must admit, as I personally found those two coasters too rough to enjoy, particularly Grand National.

I should add, there was a typo - I meant I only got 15,000 on Duel, not 150,000! I usually get 30-50,000 though, so very bad run. As Heartline says - yellow/orange lights all the way!!

I've never been a fan of Wicker Man, and the rough rides certainly doesn't help that. Everyone else in my group was fine with it though. So maybe it's a bit of a marmite thing at the moment? Seemingly I've had some weird experiences given my love of Nash and okay-ness of Big Dipper, so who really knows what the deal is there?

You should have ridden Smiler, I hated it up to the last 2 years and I’m ashamed to say it’s really grown on me!!!!

I never really enjoyed it that much on any of my previous rides. Just at a point now of I've got the cred and I don't have much of a reason to do it again, so why put myself on a ride I don't enjoy? My same logic with Colossus at Thorpe, any SLC, etc. It's like with food - if you don't like something, you wouldn't keep eating it...coasters are no different!
 
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