Port Aventura and Parque Warner Madrid at Christmas

I recently went to the Christmas events at Port Aventura and Parque Warner Madrid, for my first visit to these two Spanish parks. A nice break from the cold weather, and it was very nice to get on some coasters while all the parks closer to home are closed for winter.

Port Aventura

I found Port Aventura to be a nice park – very big but all the various areas really well themed. It was really busy on both days at the park although I had fast track/express lane tickets for the first day which made things a lot more bearable. Some of the coasters also had single rider queues which were useful.

The highlight of the park for me was Shambhala. This was my first B&M hyper coaster and it did not disappoint. So much airtime! Following this there’s Dragon Khan which was a good B&M sit-down coaster (although not ageing that well). I also enjoyed El Diablo, an Arrow mine train from 1995. This just reminded me of the Big One so much – basically the same trains (Arrow hypercoasters basically just use the same train design as their mine trains), just listening to the train come in and park in the station sounded the same. Very odd layout though with 3 lift hills.

Port Aventura have also opened a new coaster this year, Uncharted. This is an Intamin multi-dimension coaster. I was expecting it to be similar to the studio tour coaster at Movie Park Germany – it was much better than this while still basically being a coaster/dark ride in one.

Unfortunately I think the park needs further investment into the ride line up. Their large woodie, Stampida, has the worst trains (by KumbaK, the same people who arguably ruined the Grand National when the ride system was computerised), it’s just so rough. New trains would probably help a lot. Furius Baco is also another poor coaster – it’s no surprise they only made one Intamin wing coaster. The launch is excellent, but the following short track has so much bounce and vibrations in the outer seats it’s just not pleasant.

Overall I think it’s a nice park, some good coasters, however if I was to return they’d need a major new coaster (a large thrill coaster, rather than something like Uncharted) and I’d want to visit when it was a lot less busy.

Ferrari Land

One evening after visiting Port Aventura I went to Ferrari Land. I’m not sure there is enough there really for it to be a separate park, although I understand it was originally intended as a new area in the main Port Aventura park but the sponsorship/deal with Ferrari stipulated it be a separate park. There are only two coasters here, Red Force and Junior Red Force. I didn’t get on the Junior version on my visit.

Red Force was running on two trains, with a limited capacity – the back car of each train was being left empty due to the wind levels. This means each train only has a capacity of 8 people, so even with fast lane tickets it was a long and slow queue. For it to succeed as a separate park it really needs a headline ride with a decent capacity. I enjoyed the ride, it’s an Intamin LSM launch – one of my favourites – although it doesn’t make it into my top 10 as I like a longer coaster.

Parque Warner Madrid

Following my two days at Port Aventura, I had two days at Parque Warner Madrid. These two days were much better as the park was a lot quieter – at some times some of the coasters were on 0-5 minute queues. A much smaller park than Port Aventura however really well themed. I do think it needs some investment into the rides – Coaster Express, the woodie, while it looks very impressive from off-ride, it just seems to go round in circles and not actually do much, this would be much better replaced with a decent woodie. The ride stations in some cases – Stunt Fall and Superman especially – are a bit tired and filthy, and just felt like they were in need of some TLC.

The highlight of this trip for me was Gotham City Escape. This is a new Intamin LSM coaster which opened earlier this year and has made its way straight in at number one of my top ten. I was worried it might not open on the first day here as it had stalled at the top of the top hat, just before the trim brake, while on a test run and was rescued nearly 4 hours later. Luckily it opened a couple of hours after this, and ran all of the following day.

Other highlights for me are Shadows of Arkham, a B&M Invert (Batman layout) which did not have much of a queue so I had plenty of rides on it. Superman, a B&M sit-down looping coaster similar to Dragon Khan, was also excellent.

Top 10 update

At the end of the year, I’ve been on 98 new coasters this season. (Rather annoyed that the few I’ve missed kept me from hitting the big 100). The top 10 has had a bit of a shuffle, and I think it’s pretty obvious now how much I’m liking the new Intamin LSM launch coasters, with 3 of them in the top 4, along with anything full of airtime. Although the Big One (Blackpool Pleasure Beach) has now left the top 10, it remains as my “rank zero” coaster, as it will always be my favourite ride even if objectively there are hundreds of much better coasters out there now.

1Batman Gotham City EscapeParque Warner Madrid, Spain
2ToutatisParc Astérix, France
3TaronPhantasialand, Germany
4HelixLiseberg, Sweden
5ShambhalaPort Aventura, Spain
6KondaaWalibi Belgium, Belgium
7UntamedWalibi Holland, Netherlands
8Ride to HappinessPlopsaland De Panne, Belgium
9ValkyriaLiseberg, Sweden
10GoliathWalibi Holland, Netherlands
Top 10 Steel – December 2023

1TroyToverland, Netherlands
2BalderLiseberg, Sweden
3Wild MouseBlackpool Pleasure Beach, UK
4Grand National (lifthill right)Blackpool Pleasure Beach, UK
5MegafobiaOakwood, UK
6Loup-GarouWalibi Belgium, Belgium
7Tonnerre 2 ZeusParc Astérix, France
8Wicker ManAlton Towers, UK
9Joris en de Draak (Vuur)Efteling, Netherlands
10Joris en de Draak (Water)Efteling, Netherlands
Top 10 Wood – December 2023