My Top 10 Surprise Packages

 

Over the years I've travelled around the U.K, Europe, and in a few cases even further in anticipation of doing lots of great rides. What's just as satisfying, if not more, is coming across a great ride you had no idea would be great before riding. A surprise package where you come in with few expectations, but leave wanting to do it again.
This list shows the top 10 surprise packages I've discovered, based on how good the rides were, and how big a surprise it provided. Looking down the list there's not that many U.K. rides, and a slight bias towards China. I think that's a reflection of the information I have available, rather than the ride quality. Hopefully though I'll keep discovering wonderful rides like the ones listed in the future.


10) Alice in Wonderland:
Blackpool Pleasure Beach

W
e start out with a ride that wouldn't be as big a surprise if I rode it for the first time today, as it's now reasonably well known, but it was a complete surprise when I first rode it over a decade ago.
When I first tried it I'd always assumed it was just a little kids ride, and would have probably have overlooked it if someone else hadn't wanted to ride it. What we discovered was a good fun dark ride, with some of the most psychedelic uses of U.V paint ever, that's now always on out to do list when we visit Blackpool.


9) Tianjin Water Park:
Next it's over to China, where it wasn't just a ride, but a whole park that came as a major surprising discovery. When planning my trip to Beijing I decided to take a day out at the weekend to visit Tianjin amusement park. While planning this I spotted a few rides in a nearby leisure park called Tianjin Water Park. This included a spinning coaster that wasn't even on the roller coaster database until I reported it. When I got there it turned out Tianjin amusement park had been closed down for a major urban redevelopment, so a park I had down as an optional extra was suddenly the major park of the day.
Due to the fact it's a ride I'd never heard of until I spotted it on google maps I wasn't expecting more than a few shabby funfair rides at the far end of the leisure park. Instead it turned out I'd made a nice discovery. It was a small park, but everything was beautifully decorated, and it had a very nice selection of rides to try out. It ranks up there with the better smaller amusement parks I'd done, and one I'd want to do again if I went to Beijing again.


8) Apollo Wheel:
Happy Valley, Beijing

For the next ride we're staying in China, and heading over to Happy Valley in Beijing. This is one of the more widely reported on parks in China, so I thought I knew what all the rides were. This one though provided a huge surprise.
It looked like another swinging disc variant, that I've tried before in numerous variations, so I wasn't expecting anything new from this. what I didn't realise was this was a giant version. It swings out to a much higher height, that creates a fast and thrilling descent on the downwards swing, which added a whole new dimension to the thrills.
I've now tried other variants of the giant Frisbee, and I would rank them as one of my top 3 types of thrill ride. I'm desperately hoping we'll see one of these variants in the U.K. some time soon.


7) The Bobsleigh:
Efteling

Next it's over to Holland, to a corner of Efteling, where there are quite a few rides that could fit on this list. There's the Piranha Rapids, that rank as one of the best old school style rapids I've ever done, Fata Morgana, the best attempt to emulate the Pirates of the Caribbean formula I've encountered, but the ride that stands out as the greatest surprise was the Bobsleigh.
I'd done a couple of bobsleigh coasters, built by a different manufacturer, so I thought I knew what to expect from a different variant. A fun, slightly above average family coaster. Instead I got a surprisingly thrilling ride that tares through the trees at a great pace. I was genuinely surprised I'd heard so little about this ride before, and are really disappointed there aren't more of these rides to try out.

 

6) The Hangover:
Liseberg

Back in 2001 I went on one of my first holidays without my parents with the European Coaster Club, touring parks around Scandinavia.
I didn't have as much access to information as I do now, but there were still a lot of things I was looking forward to One ride I hadn't given much thought to though was one at Liseberg called The Hangover.
It was an inverted version of the Boomerang coaster. Having already done the Missile at The American Adventure I wasn't expecting much new from this. Instead I got a highly thrilling coaster, that I still rank highly all these years later.
It started winching you up a vertical hill lift, before dropping you back down it, on what's one of the best drops I've done, you then tear around the track at an intense and thrilling rate, before being taken up the second lift, in order to return back the way you just came. It's a shame there were a load of ongoing maintenance issues that limited this rides appeal to parks. That was also one of the main reasons this ride was sold on, but seeing as it was replaced by my all time favourite roller coaster I can't really complain about that.

 

5) Alpine Coaster:
Park Szczesliwicki

My memories of The Hangover and Scandinavia serve as a reminder of how coaster counting has become such a phenomenon. I remember in 2001 celebrating the 500th coaster of one of the older members, and that seemed like a nice lifetime target (it's still mine).
I'm not aiming for the 1000+ amounts some people now achieve, but I still like to seek out some of the more obscure counts, which has led to some nice discoveries like Tianjin Water Park and this.
It's a full circuit alpine coaster, at a ski centre in Warsaw. It starts out pretty good, but really picks up at the end where if your brave enough to go easy on the brakes your rewarded with an amazing out of control sensation as you fly around the last turns. It's well worth seeking out if your ever in Warsaw.

 

4) Area 51 Alien Encounter:
Movie Park, Germany

Movie Park was another park that was a surprise package in itself. I hadn't read a huge amount of positive stuff about the park, but I really liked it. It helped that it had a good number of surprise packages in the ride line up, my favourite of which was Area 51.
I'd read almost nothing about it. Even on the parks website it didn't look like more than a splash boat ride, and even when boarding the ride I wasn't expecting more than this. Then I found out the outside hill lift didn't lead to a path to the final drop, but took you down another drop in to a huge dark ride area. A very good dark ride depicting a cheesy 50's B movie. It also has 2 good thrilling drops, unlike many scenic rides where the drops are rather tame. I went from not knowing anything about it to riding it multiple times.

 

3) Nemesis:
Alton Towers

I suspect a lot of people will react with mocking and disbelief when they see Nemesis named as a surprise package. Unlike the other rides listed it's not an attraction where I went in expecting a good ride. There's no doubt this ride blew away my expectations though, not just stepping things things up a level, but rocketing things in to the stratosphere.
Bear in mind I first rode this on a family holiday back in 1994. This was before I could afford to subscribe to coaster club magazines, and the internet wasn't standard in most homes. Obviously we'd heard about one of the world's top roller coasters. At that time though the most advanced looping coaster I had ridden was the likes of corkscrews and boomerangs, so we were expecting something a little more exciting than them. Instead we were completely blown away by a ride that stepped things up, setting the standards that even looping steel coasters today aspire to. It's possible one day I'll ride a steel coaster that will finally beat Nemesis in terms of quality, but I don't think anything will ever be able to blow me away like Nemesis did.

 

2) Murder, The Exhibition:
Budapest

Having just done a ride I first did 19 years ago it's on to one I only discovered a few months ago. I'd not even heard of it until I found a small leaflet in the lobby of my hotel. I was expecting a small tourist museum, like I've done in various places. Basically one or two rooms with some glass cases with exhibits based around a theme like chocolate, toys, gambling, weapons or torture equipment. Yes, I've done museums dedicated to all of those. It was in one of the main tourist areas, so we decided to pop in, as it looked like a nice bonus.
What we found instead though was an hour long attraction, not dissimilar to the formula used at the Dungeons attractions. You went around in groups, around themed scenes listening to commentary played through headphones. Each scene is dedicated to a different notorious killer. There are scenes dedicated to historic characters like Al Capone and Jack the Ripper, but the really scary parts where more modern killers like Ed Gein are discussed. This includes some both and scary and disturbing moments as we learn about what they did.
You've got great theming, great story telling and some great innovative ideas that make this a must do for fans of horror attractions if your in Budapest.

 

1) Badachu Bobsleigh:
Beijing

We finish this list back in Beijing, outside the main City, in one of the large parks towards the edge. The park itself was a great discovery. I'd initially considered it as a possible bonus, but ended up on the itinerary after an overnight trip to Shanghai had to be cancelled due to transport problems. Badachu is a beautiful place, where you walk through beautiful scenery while seeking out various Buddhist temples located on the way up the hill. I'd rank it as my favourite place I visited in China, thanks to a combination of the scenery and some nice rides located in the park in the form of a large zip line, and an amazing bobsleigh ride.
There was a brief mention of a bobsleigh in my guide book, but I wasn't expecting more than a small example, that might be a bonus credit if it was a full circuit. The bad news is it wasn't a full circuit, the good news was it was an amazing ride, that if I was to count as a roller coaster would be one of my top 5 coasters. For starters there's the sheer size. It descends a huge distance, taking around 10 minutes to do. When you factor this is with the spectacular location it has an epic feel. Also adding to the thrills is a real sense of danger, with very sharp corners that require sudden braking, with no soft grass landing if you did come off. At one point you even have to bobsleigh over a rickety bridge over a valley.
It is a real hidden gem, that is still overlooked and not widely reported on today. If you ever are in Beijing, even if you don't have a spare day to do the whole park, it's only a short bus ride from Shijingshan amusement park, so I would highly recommend seeking this ride out..