Blown away by a Vortex

History of the Theme Park Kings Island

Kings Island’s history begins, interestingly enough, with that of another amusement park, Cincinnati’s Coney Island, which was badly damaged by a flood in 1964. Since the future expansion areas were also limited, the idea of relocating the park to a new site was considered early on.

Things really got rolling in 1969 when the park was taken over by the locally based Taft Broadcasting Corporation, which saw Coney Island as an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of its television programmes, especially the Hanna Barbera cartoons. Gary Wachs, the son of the owner of the park at the time, was given the role of building the park on a 1600 acre site northeast of Cincinnati.

America’s finest Amusement Park moved and became part of a much larger project. With Disneyland in Anaheim and the two Six Flags parks in Texas and Georgia, there was admittedly still very little competition, but the trend towards new theme parks was there and they planned big from the outset. The four themed areas Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera, Rivertown, Oktoberfest and Coney Island, all starting from International Street with its dominant replica of the Eiffel Tower, were to shape the park in the future. Interestingly, it was the latter area that was King Island’s unique selling point, since it was here that roller coasters, amusement arcades and classic rides were built.

Tour of Kings Island

When you enter the park, you immediately find yourself on International Street with its large fountain in front of the Eiffel Tower. To the right and left of the fountain, a number of shops and cafés invite you to take a stroll. All around are the entrances to the individual areas, as well as to the large theatres and the park catering. The Eiffel Tower, designed by Intamin, towers over everything and offers a wonderful view of the entire park.

Invertigo

You can currently ride a total of 14 roller coasters at Kings Island. I would like to start with the roller coaster that was themed to Nicolas Cage’s film Face/Off back in the Paramount days, but now only bears the manufacturer’s roller coaster model name: Invertigo.

A total of five examples of this roller coaster were built, but currently only four of them are still in operation. This is basically the suspended version of a timeless roller coaster classic – the Vekoma Boomerang – but Invertigos wouldn’t be Invertigos if they didn’t have even more special features. First of all, the seating arrangement allows you to reverse the proven experience in its order, and you can also watch your fellow riders while doing so.

The ride through Cobra Roll and Looping is, as usual, extremely intense and absolutely brilliant. As with Tornado from the former Danish amusement park Sommerland Syd and Diabolik Invertigo from the Italian Movieland Park, the ride characteristics are quite impressive. Basically everything is smooth and even small bumps are only present to a very small extent, which is why at least for me the ride was a lot of fun again and therefore offers a high repetition factor. Especially with a waiting time of 0 minutes, this is an absolutely worthwhile experience.

Congo Falls

When the Action Zone theme area was launched in 1999, no effort was made to integrate the Spillwater Congo Falls, built in 1988, into the theme. So it continues to shine in all its glory, while the rest of the area resembles computer graphics from around the turn of the millennium and in the meantime doesn’t quite want to fit into the park in its colorful appearance. Unfortunately, Congo Falls also joined the list of water attractions still closed in April, which is why I sadly had to forgo a ride with a heavy heart.

Drop Tower

Fortunately, however, right next to it is the Drop Tower, which is the highest gyro drop tower in the world. Wait a minute, we know that slogan from the Lüneburg Heath, don’t we? That’s right, because Scream from Heide Park Soltau still uses it all too often. In fact, the ride length of the 7m smaller tower in Kings Island is a good 9m longer at 80m than the 103m tower in Lower Saxony. Of course, this is no comparison to the much taller Highlander from Hansa Park, which premiered just on the day of my visit; but the tower, as we all know, is not a Gyro Drop, but just a competing product. The Drop Tower at least is absolutely, 100% good – height record or not.

The Bat

Somewhat inconspicuously hidden in the farthest corner of the park is the suspended coaster The Bat. The name is a tribute to the very first suspended coaster in the world, which stood at another location in Kings Island – but more about that later. Opened in Paramount days as Top Gun, the coaster was renamed Afterburn for the Cedar Fair takeover. The aircraft carrier theming fits quite well with the Arrow Coaster’s elevated station and the far too long queue, yet The Bat really needs a little bit of theming right now. A few gravestones, a forest, maybe a crypt with an organ playing animatronic and it would be perfect.

Instead of boarding the Vampire roller coaster at Chessington World of Adventures, however, we find ourselves in Mason, Ohio and, after some delay, finally board the classic suspended coaster train.

The ride on The Bat begins immediately with the entrance to the lifthill. We make our way up through an aisle and enjoy the view of the neighboring Great Wolf Lodge resort for a brief moment. Once at the top, a banked turn awaits us at lofty heights before we plunge down a straight-line drop. Just above the bottom, this then transitions into a right turn, whereupon lateral forces push us beautifully outward. Shortly after, we change direction in a climb and are neatly transversed in the subsequent turning maneuver before we plummet to the ground another time. Close to the ground, we now steadily change direction at a fast pace before we come across a downhill helix in a wide clearing. With a lot of momentum we now tackle the way back. Over hill and dale we make several detours back to the station. It seems that the rhythm of the directional changes has increased once again. After a last detour, we reach the braking section, where we swing out cheerfully for the time being. Shortly afterwards, we reach the station again.

I like suspended coasters, but The Bat fell short of my expectations. Although the ride is incredibly fast and the swings are remarkable, the ride is ultimately a bit too predictable for me. Here, a repeat ride in the late afternoon would probably have made sense to be able to give a final verdict, but unfortunately it didn’t come to that. Nevertheless, The Bat offers the proven suspended coaster fun and thus submits itself to the list of ultimate family coasters. It’s a wonder that there are so few examples of this type of coaster.

Banshee

Right next door is Banshee, the latest inverted coaster from B&M. Built in 2014, the ride scores points mainly for its height and length – less popular, however, is the ride’s restraint system, which, similar to the Wing Coaster from the same company, relies on a belt system instead of rigid restraints.

The ride on Banshee begins with a short left turn, after which we already climb the ride’s lift. We pass through the ride’s first loop before arriving at the starting height of 167ft and immediately entering a steep turn. We approach the ground without any consideration for losses and then cross the first valley with a lot of pressure. In an oversized dive loop we slowly turn upside down before we plunge down a half loop. Now we enter the equally oversized loop with a lot of pressure. A long zero-G roll skillfully turns us once around our own axis, whereupon the transition to the next element is immediately initiated. In the world’s only Pretzel Knot we follow the course of an oversized pretzel and see the world upside down twice. This is followed by loop no.2, which is a lot more intense than the first one due to its much smaller proportions. Afterwards we spiral upwards in a steep turn, at the end of which we immediately enter an in-line twist. Here we turn once around the axis of the track, refusing to follow the heart line. Then we enter a downward helix very smoothly. With a little pressure on our feet, we then say goodbye into a right turn, whereupon the braking section of the ride is already waiting for us.

Banshee is a quite nice inverted coaster with great pacing and an exceedingly solid ride track. Unfortunately, ride element follows ride element, so that bigger surprises fall a little by the wayside. The ride itself is fun, and especially convinces in the evening hours.

Delirium and Viking Fury

Fans of large swings will get their money’s worth with the HUSS Giant Frisbee Delirium and the nearby Viking Fury boat swing. While the HUSS ride does what all swings of this size do, the Intamin Bounty Viking Fury scores especially with its location and the rather long swinging phase. It’s just a shame that the operator here has to do half a climb each time before the swing can be set in motion.

Adventure Express

With the best view of the Banshee roller coaster, the Adventure Express makes its way through the dense undergrowth in Mason, Ohio. Kings Islands Mine Train is one of the last examples of the manufacturer Arrow Dynamics and promises, like Thunderation from the amusement park Silver Dollar City the day before, an extremely exciting and family-friendly ride.

This also starts immediately with a series of right and left turns, which lead us out of the station in the direction of the lift. The whole thing is underpinned by a small drop, as well as several straights and two short tunnels, both of which are quite nicely themed. The first lift is characterized by several slanted archways, but otherwise the theming is discreet. At the top, we quickly pick up speed in a downhill right turn before we cut a building in a left turn and gain some altitude. A classic Bavarian curve follows, followed by an extremely crisp helix just before we enter a tunnel. Here we change direction once before we leave it again in a right-hand bend. Back in daylight, we take a left turn through a valley and gain momentum for a small climb. At the end of it a kind of temple ruin awaits us. Inside we meet the second lift of the ride, accompanied by music and rhythmically drumming animatronics. After this design highlight, the end of the ride awaits us after a short right turn.

Even though the Adventure Express is a bit anticlimactic in its storytelling, the ride on the two-stage Mine Train is simply great entertainment. The ride is extremely fast and has some really nice passages, which are also nicely staged by the existing design elements. Sure, the ending with its “Now you will pay!” announcement is a bit silly, the Terrain Coaster at least is not.

The Racer

When Kings Island opened, the double wooden roller coaster The Racer was the star of the theme park, after all, the roller coaster was the longest, highest and fastest roller coaster in the world at the time. The industry was also amazed at the time when Kings Island staked all its cards on a new roller coaster. The success in turn proved the theme park right and led to a renaissance of roller coasters – now everyone wanted to have the fastest, highest and longest roller coaster in their park.

The ride on the two lanes of The Racer roller coaster begins immediately with the front turn, whereupon both lanes meet after a few meters and climb the lift hill together. During this time, the passengers have enough time to spur each other on, which also strengthens the team spirit in their own train; after all, they want to win together. As it usually happens, the first train plunges into the abyss, while the second has just reached the crest. After a powerful valley, both tracks lead over a rather low hill with a subsequent bunny hop before they separate from each other on the crest of the following hill. While one side now continues to the left, the other side now bends to the right. With momentum and all kinds of airtime we now go through another valley including a hill, at the end of which the rear turn awaits us. Where we managed to follow the other train quite easily so far, it now becomes a bit more difficult on the return to the station. After another downhill and a great airtime hill we come across the already completed track. Now we race parallel to it over a series of smaller airtime hills before we finally disappear into the woods at the height of the First Drop and are even confronted with a white tunnel on the braking section. Shortly after that we enter the station again.

The Racer is addictive. The ride on the racing coaster with its many airtime hills and the out and back design is simply great fun, which is why, thanks to the low crowds and the use of both tracks, I made it my mission to ride the roller coaster until I would eventually win. A lot of bad luck led to seven rides in a short time, after which I gave up the action; after all, the rest of the park still wanted to be explored.

Coney Mall

In the Coney Mall area in Kings Island you can still find some treasures from the Coney Island time. In addition to the well-known US classic Scrambler, you can also ride a Monster from the Eyerly Aircraft Co. Here the ride is similar to a Schwarzkopf Monster, except that the eccentric cannot be lowered and therefore only two gondola arms can be loaded at the same time. Due to the construction, this quickly leads to longer waiting times, but this can easily be topped by the loading process itself. The nacelles are too high during loading. However, there is a remedy, because the front part of the gondola can be folded down and then serves as a staircase, which makes it easy to get in and out. Once folded up and secured, however, the seating position in the gondola is not quite as comfortable, as you sit relatively flat on the ground. The ride cycle itself is then also a bit too short and not very revvy, which is why I can only recommend a ride when the crowds are low. It is at least nice to see that Kings Island cares so much about their older rides.

Flight of Fear

Passing the wave swinger Zephyr, we now head to the indoor roller coaster Flight of Fear. After having just missed the spaghetti coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, I was even more excited about the indoor version of this ride, which played a major role in the use of LIM modules on roller coasters. The queue at least puts you in the right mood for the subsequent space flight, which I was able to spend as a single rider in the front row thanks to a closed seat next to me.

Unlike the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster from Walt Disney Studios Park, the launch takes place directly out of the station. With full speed, we immediately enter the extremely pressurized Cobra Roll, before we whiz across the hall floor after two headstands. After a pressure-packed valley, we immediately go up a Sidewinder before cruising a bit through the upper part of the ride. After several swerves, we are then slowed down a bit in a block brake before heading into the lower part of the ride. In a constant up and down motion we spiral down continuously before we change direction after a wide left turn. Quite swiftly we now approach the hall floor once more, whereupon we make another change of direction. After two more steep turns close to the ground, we find ourselves upside down for the fourth time in a corkscrew, whereupon we reach the braking section and soon find ourselves in the exit station of the ride.

Flight of Fear is a very solid roller coaster with a nice track design and a great setting; it’s just a pity that the hall was a bit bright thanks to the incoming light and the ride has no other effects except for the darkness. In addition, the ride is a bit jerky, just like Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast from the theme park Six Flags Over Texas, which is why you can only be very happy to have experienced it without the originally installed shoulder restraints. A ride in the evening would certainly have been beneficial here, but the waiting time at this roller coaster was a bit too long for me for a second ride.

Kings Mills Antique Cars and Wind Seeker

The nearby vintage car ride Kings Mills Antique Cars could show the longest queue on my visit day, after all, it was also the novelty from this year. The ride was built in the spirit of the 70s – so it resembles the original vintage ride Les Taxis with its internal combustion engine.

At the rear turn of The Racer roller coaster, a true monster towers into the sky. The Windseeker is a Mondial Rides ride that gives you a similar view as a Funtime Star Flyer, but with rigid bars instead of filigree chains. The result of this is probably that the ride always stops immediately in stronger winds due to undesirable ride characteristics, as it did on the day I visited. Interestingly, however, the Windseeker opened again shortly before closing time, but I didn’t take the chance, because I didn’t want to miss a night ride on a legendary roller coaster, but more about that later.

Vortex

Before that, however, we turn our attention to the also very legendary Arrow coaster Vortex, which unfortunately had its last season this year. It was the first roller coaster with six rollovers and at the time of its opening it was the highest roller coaster in the world – two records that went hand in hand for a long time. Without the extremely maintenance-prone suspended roller coaster prototype The Bat, on the other hand, it would probably never have come into existence.

When The Bat first swung its wings at Kings Island in 1981, none of the people in charge at the time probably expected that just six years later the next roller coaster would be standing in its place. The swinging bat rocked without mercy through the minimally inclined curves, which in turn led to problems at the welding seams. Shock absorbers on the carriages reduced the swing; but this was again accompanied by very high wear and tear. Last but not least, the brake mechanism, thanks to its decoupling from the rail, was also decisive for the premature end of the ride, as the swing of the cars led once again to increased wear.

All the problems of The Bat roller coaster were taken into account in the design of the XLR-8 roller coaster from the Six Flags AstroWorld theme park and Big Bad Wolf from Busch Gardens Europe. However, a rebuild of the complete track was rejected for cost reasons.

Instead, a large part of the existing infrastructure was used for the Vortex roller coaster. The already existing station house including sidings, as well as the already existing foundations shaped the new roller coaster.

The ride begins with a short right turn in the direction of the lift. This then transports you to the starting height of 148 feet. At the top, you can enjoy the view of the Diamondback and Mystic Timbers roller coasters for a short moment before you plunge into the abyss after a right turn. With about 55 mph we now shoot through the first valley. Far above the park visitors we then complete a rather wide turn, which also leads us quite elegantly through a dip. On a longer, sloping straight we now take a run-up for the two loops of the ride, which are driven through intensively as usual. Interestingly, these have been set very high. After a short uphill and a tight right turn we find ourselves in the first braking area of the ride. Here we reduce our speed to a minimum before we plunge towards the ground once more. In an exceedingly bizarre way, we now enter the first corkscrew, which awaits us in a curve with a very strong lateral inclination. Now we see the world upside down two more times as we make our way between the two loops. In a wide right turn we then glide over into the Batwing – an inversion element where first a half corkscrew turns into a half loop and vice versa. Thanks to the clever use of the terrain, the Batwing is a real eye-catcher, which adds to the already incredibly aesthetic look of Vortex.  After a long left turn, an upward helix awaits us before the ride soon ends in the brakes. Here we have to wait for some time, because interestingly enough Kings Island operates the ride with all three trains despite the low crowds.

Vortex was an extremely good roller coaster that still ran very well even in its final year. The brilliant start, the unusual inversion sequence and the special aesthetics of the ride spoke for themselves. I am very glad that I was able to ride it in its final year of operation and would have been very happy if it had been kept for a few more years. Nevertheless, I am already looking forward to its successor. The area is large and Kings Island will certainly make good use of it.

Shake, Rattle & Roll and Backlot Stunt Coaster

Past Shake, Rattle & Roll – a HUSS Troika from 1975 – I was drawn to the Backlot Stunt Coaster. The coaster opened under Paramount times as Italian Job: Stunt Track is a special effects coaster from Premier Rides and can, as the name suggests, fall back on some special effects. At the same time, the compact layout also offers some other moments of surprise.

The first one follows right at the beginning of the ride. The launch in the direction of the parking garage, where you then spiral upward in an increasingly narrow helix, is a brilliant and, above all, breathtaking start. So far, I have never been pressed into the seat as hard as I was here. After the 900° helix, you only have a short time to catch your breath, as the downhill run immediately starts at a high gradient. In the valley, we now pass police cars, billboards and containers in small, barely inclined swerves. At the end of the passage we change direction in an Immelmann turn before climbing up a hill. After a short right turn swerve, we plunge into a valley once more in a wide left turn. Shortly after, we climb the track to the big special effects scene. With much fanfare, a helicopter attacks and a fire effect triggers. Shortly after, we are accelerated into a tunnel. A steep curve, leading to the right, follows before we make our way to the light at the end of the tunnel after a change of direction. The ride through the drained water basin follows, after which the end of the ride also awaits us after another curve.

The Backlot Stunt Coaster is an extremely worth experiencing roller coaster with nice ride elements and effects. The ride is extremely fast and also surprisingly intense due to the launch into the triple helix. In any case, the former blockbuster coaster is quite a big deal at Kings Island!

Planet Snoopy

Planet Snoopy is, without much exaggeration, probably the most remarkable children’s land in a theme park far and wide. Originally opened as Happy Land of Hanna-Barbera, this area has been skillfully entertaining its target audience since the 1970s. Over time, this area was expanded again and again before Paramount claimed large parts of the themed area for itself with the children’s channel Nickelodeon. In the year of the takeover by Cedar Fair, the remaining Hanna-Barbera rides were also redesigned, so that from then on there was only one huge children’s area with Nickelodeon Central. When the license agreement with Nickelodeon expired in 2010, it was decided to focus on the well-known Peanuts characters, just like in the other parks of the group.

Great Pumpkin Coaster

As soon as you enter the themed area, you come across the Great Pumpkin Coaster. This is a small family coaster from E&F Miler Industries from 1992, which has a quite compact layout and may only be used by families with smaller children. Because of this and a generally somewhat longer waiting time, I decided against a ride.

Boo Blasters on Boo Hill

The interactive dark ride Boo Blasters on Boo Hill originally opened as Scooby-Doo! and the Haunted Castle in 2003. At the time, the Mystery Machine ride followed two-dimensional scenes featuring characters from the popular Hanna-Barbera series, where you could trigger your own effects and even unmask the villain at the end. Now, however, there are only ghosts. This continues to be exceedingly cheesy and nicely done, but the spirit of the original attraction is unfortunately not captured by Boo Blasters on Boo Hill. Kids won’t care much, but for the adults with nostalgic feelings, I recommend a visit to the Spanish theme park Parque Warner, where you can still experience the original concept of the dark ride today.

Woodstock Express

Right next door is the Woodstock Express, the smallest of the four wooden roller coasters at Kings Island. The ride through the compact layout of the roller coaster, which is completely painted in blue, begins after a short right turn with the ascent of the lift hill. Once at the top, the ride immediately descends the first drop. With a speed of about 35 mph, we pass through the first valley, whereupon a turning curve awaits us at a lofty height. After another downhill we whiz over a small speed bump before we cross the wooden structure and enter another turn on the other side of the ride. Now we race a bit over hill and dale before we dive into the wooden structure below the first turn and follow the course of it. Back in the open air, we dive into a small dip, whereupon we find ourselves already on the braking section of the roller coaster and the extremely fun wooden roller coaster ride soon comes to an end.

Surf Dog and Flying Ace Aerial Chase

Past Surf Dog – a rare Zamperla Skater Coaster – we now head to the suspended family coaster Flying Ace Aerial Chase. Funnily enough, the layout is a tried and tested classic from Vekoma, but this time with free dangling feet. Accordingly, the ride starts with a short turn out of the station, whereupon the lift hill is already waiting. Immediately we complete a left-leading steep turn with subsequent upward helix, cross a short valley and a wide right turn near the station. Over a hill we cross the course we have just covered, whereupon we lose some altitude in another helix. A left turn follows, whereupon the braking section is already waiting and the quite pleasant ride comes to an end – for children, at least, the ride is first class.

Race for your Life Charlie Brown

The same applies to the ride on the neighboring log flume Race for your Life Charlie Brown. Although it only has one descent, the rest of the ride is all the more convincing with its fast whitewater passages. Here, at least, you don’t bob around in the canal for minutes on end, but rather whizz through it very smoothly. At the end, an all-drenching shoot awaits you whereupon you can step out of the boat very happily. Superb!

Mystic Timbers

The newest wooden coaster at Kings Island to date is Mystic Timbers, which became famous thanks to its advertising campaign and the question “What’s in the Shed?”. Unfortunately, however, the mystery surrounding the shed has led to a certain hype, which in turn could not be fulfilled according to first reviews, because roller coaster fans worldwide expect a naturally breathtaking world novelty after an Alton Towers-esque announcement and just not a showroom.

The ride on Mystic Timbers starts with a short right turn, whereupon after two smaller dips the lift hill of the ride awaits us. Having reached a height of 109 ft, we immediately descend a steep curve. With a speed of now 53 mph we race through the first valley, whereupon we climb a rather high hill. After a left turn, we then plunge to the ground another time. Close to it, we now race over a series of bunny hops and even cross the park’s rapid river. At a fast pace, we now go over hill and dale in constant changes of turns, while being lifted out of our seats in the most delightful way. Interestingly, the descents and ascents are now getting higher and higher before we set off for the turning curve, diving into a tunnel in the process. The ride now continues with some momentum through a longer valley, whereupon we start the return journey to the station. Still close to the ground and with fast pacing, we go over the rapid river once more, whereby the frequency of the airtime hills increases more and more. For the finale, the track bends a bit to the left and to the right before a larger climb leads us directly into the shed. Here we find the maintenance house and afterwards the aforementioned showroom with projection mapping and numerous effects. After the station has been released, we enter it and the ride comes to an end.

Mystic Timbers is a really good GCI woody with fantastic pacing and breathtaking airtime moments. The ride is simply outstanding until the end. Compared to all of the manufacturer’s European wooden roller coasters, Mystic Timbers goes one step further, so it hardly bothers that they meant it a little too well with the ride in terms of marketing; although the secret of the shed is actually a pretty nice feature. Mystic Timbers, at least, is my new favorite GCI.

K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad and White Water Canyon

Much of the K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad’s route runs through the woods at the back of the park. While riding the steam train, you have an outstanding view of the wooden roller coaster Mystic Timbers and the Rapids Ride White Water Canyon, which was unfortunately closed during our visit. In between, the train stops at the Soak City water park, which also serves as a connection between the water park and the amusement park; however, you can also reach it on foot along the huge Picnic Grove picnic area.

Diamondback

Kings Island has been home to the B&M Hyper Coaster Diamondback since 2009. It is the first hyper coaster with a water splash as the brilliant finale of the ride.

Shortly after leaving the station, we climb the 70m high lift hill of the ride. With the best view of the showbuilding of the former HUSS Giant Top Spins The Crypt (Tomb Raider: The Ride) and the wooden roller coaster Mystic Timbers we immediately plunge to the ground. With a lot of pressure we cross the first valley, whereupon we climb a193 ft tall camelback. With good airtime we cross the crest and immediately plunge towards the ground again. Here we turn left and race over another airtime hill. Immediately we make a turn at a dizzy height. This is followed by another airtime hill. Very close to the ground, we then enter a powerful upward helix, at the end of which the block section awaits us.

Parallel to the first hill, we plunge to the ground another time and immediately glide over two more hills. In a very compact helix we increasingly gain altitude before we enter the splash finale of the ride. After a short climb, we immediately find ourselves in the final braking section of the ride.

Diamondback is a fantastic hyper coaster. The ride characteristics are terrific and the airtime is insanely good. There is absolutely nothing to complain about here; it’s simply a great ride!

The Beast

The fourth and final wooden roller coaster in Kings Island is The Beast. The longest and probably most legendary wooden roller coaster in the world has been the reason to visit Kings Island since 1979 – after all, the ride, which was designed and built entirely in-house, broke all records in the roller coaster world. It was the longest, fastest, highest and above all most breathtaking roller coaster far and wide.

It begins relatively harmlessly with a wide turning curve. Shortly after, we reach the lift hill. Once at the top, we immediately plunge down into the first tunnel of the ride. With a slight lateral inclination, a left turn close to the ground follows before we dive far into the forest after a camelback. Following a short climb, we head towards a wide right-hand bend. On a longer straight we then gain more and more speed before this is immediately taken away from us again by a trim brake. However, the descent on the ramp is not yet over and so we quickly pick up speed. In a left turn we then drive into a longer tunnel. Always close to the ground, we then continue through a very wide right-hand bend and continue to pick up speed. A short climb then leads us to the second lift hill of the ride.

Once at the top, we can enjoy the panorama for a bit before we increasingly gain speed on a ramp with a gradient of only 18°. With rising speed, the lateral inclination also becomes greater, which becomes necessary for the spectacular double helix finale of the ride. In the transverse 540° helix we now go through two tunnels at breakneck speed before we start our way back. Parallel to the first drop, we then approach the long braking section of the ride and soon the station.

The Beast is without question an interesting and good roller coaster. In fact, it is perhaps a bit too long and it is not really exhilarating compared to today’s wooden roller coasters. Nevertheless, it is and remains a fan favorite and that has one main reason: When it gets dark, the predictable beast falls into a breathtaking frenzy of the senses. With no sight of anything, the ride travels through the forest at breakneck speed with a mighty thud – an extremely breathtaking experience.

Pictures Kings Island

Conclusion Kings Island

Imagine visiting a theme park with 14 roller coasters and all of them tested are good. Then imagine yourself in a beautifully designed park landscape with numerous nice looking areas. Add to that an exceedingly low crowding with the simultaneous use of all rolling stock. Cedar Fair, you got me! Kings Island has done it to me and I am completely thrilled.


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Riding a roller coaster at Mount Fuji

The History of Fuji-Q Highland

Fuji-Q Highland at the foot of the majestic Fujiyama, the King of the Mountains, is one of Japan’s most famous theme parks, with four record-breaking roller coasters waiting for the masses of park visitors to storm them. The fact that outside of these roller coasters there is a rather shabby, but in part also very likeable, amusement park is of no significance.

It all began with an ice skating rink in 1961, and with the construction of the Fuji-Kyūkō Line in 1964, the park was renamed Fuji-Q Highland and expanded into an amusement park. Since then, the park has been operated by the railway company Fujikyūkō Co Ltd. (Fujikyū for short). In 1986, the park was upgraded to a resort with the construction of the Highland Resort Hotel. Although the original skating rink, in the middle of which the legendary roller coaster Moonsault Scramble was built at the time, no longer exists, the resort remains true to its roots. In winter, skating is possible on several rinks, including an oval-shaped stadium in Conifer Forest outside Fuji-Q Highland, which is used for festivals and concerts in summer. Two museums, as well as two other hotels and an onsen complete the resort.

Tour of the park

After checking in at the park’s hotel, we were drawn through the Ville de Gaspard et Lisa – a French-style shopping and food street, including Café Brioche, a terrific boulangerie that is perfect for breakfast – towards the main entrance of the theme park. Three of the four big roller coasters are located here. The exemplary Japanese now dutifully follows the floor markings and then gets into one of the queues; stupidly, this is one of the reasons why the rides increase in waiting time very quickly. The smarter park visitor, meanwhile, reaches into his wallet and buys priority passes at a small stand between the Mad Mouse roller coaster and the Panic Clock flat ride, which are available in such small numbers that they are sold out very quickly. So it’s a case of the early bird catches the worm, and consequently you can be happy about getting on all the roller coasters in just one day.

Do-Dodonpa

We start our tour of Fuji-Q Highland with the launch coaster Do-Dodonpa, which has undergone a significant makeover over the past year and now boasts a 49-metre vertical loop instead of a top-hat. At first approximation, this is nothing bad in principle – a nice loop can be the highlight of any ride – moreover, the speed of the air launch has been increased from 172 to 180 km/h and the acceleration phase has been reduced from 1.8 to 1.56 seconds; all this sounds quite promising and already too crazy to be true for most park guests.

That makes you all the more excited about your first ride and suddenly, as an experienced roller coaster enthusiast, you ask yourself questions you haven’t asked yourself in a long time: “Isn’t the acceleration of the launch already too much to handle?”. You then enter the launch tunnel and shortly afterwards the countdown to the launch sounds. Before you know it, you have advanced 60 m and are travelling at 180 km/h; that was fast and surprisingly smooth for around 4.75 G. However, the gradient of the launch is maintained and the train loses its speed steadily and very quickly. Even the short dip that follows cannot stop this behaviour. The train then makes its way through a very wide right-hand bend towards the loop, which is driven through very pleasantly. A short left-hand turn is followed by the first brake section. A strangely transverse right-hand turn then leads you back to the station.

Luckily, we had bought a priority ticket for Do-Dodonpa, because after four hours of waiting, the disappointment about the uneventful ride would have been many times greater. Sure, the launch does a great job – but it only does so for 1.56 seconds. The rest of the ride is unfortunately not worth mentioning.

A strong opening in the first act is of no use if the rest of the piece is dull. It’s a shame that the predecessor, Dodonpa, had a second element in the form of the bone-crushing top hat, which had a decisive influence on the ride and thus invited visitors to ride it again. Accordingly, the update of the roller coaster here is unfortunately an improvement for the worse, and the fans of the old ride at least will not like it any more than I did after my first ride.

Takabisha

It’s a good thing that the Takabisha roller coaster is right next door. Built by Gerstlauer, an expert in steep descents from Münsterhausen in Swabia, the ride impresses with the steepest of all descents worldwide and other tried and tested elements. So nothing can go wrong here, especially since you’re travelling in the classic, shoulder-bar-equipped, Eurofighter cars.

The ride begins with a tight left turn, followed by a short but extremely steep drop. With a lot of pressure, you cross the following valley and elegantly throw yourself into a 180° left turn, which is followed by a wonderful heartline roll. This then leads into another left turn and soon into the first block brake. Via a mini-drop à la Karacho from the Swabian amusement park Erlebnispark Tripsdrill, you then reach the launch area of the ride, which accelerates you extremely powerfully over a longer period of time. Actually, it would be wrong to say that Takabisha has the better launch of the two launch coasters of Fuji-Q Highland, but Takabisha has the better launch.

This is followed by an oversized corkscrew, reminiscent of a top-hat, before you approach an extremely interesting element at full speed, and at the same time you are riding through a valley with wonderful intensity. The element in question is the so-called banana roll, a kind of cobra roll in the shape of a banana. The turn within the element takes place at the highest point, which results in an interestingly twisted exit. This is followed by a classic corkscrew that transports the car across the ride to the other side. This game is repeated again over a twisted and airtime-embroidered hill, before the entry into the second braking section awaits after a short ascent.

Inside the metal hall you now complete a 180° turn, whereupon the ride’s vertical lift is waiting to be climbed. The lift transports the passengers steadily to the maximum height of 43 m, so that they can enjoy the view on the subsequent descent; before the 121° steep drop, there is a short holding brake to generate an effect similar to that of the Dive Coasters from the manufacturer B&M. A few seconds later, the car is gently carried over the crest and then falls rapidly to the ground. At the same moment, interestingly enough, the onride photo is taken from far away – surprise, surprise (after all, you’d rather expect a photo of the ride going through the valley, which wouldn’t capture the facial expressions of this WTF moment)!

The drop keeps its promise and so the car rushes powerfully through the valley ahead. With a lot of momentum, you climb a hill, turn around your own axis and dive into a dive loop. This is also the prelude to a visually impressive double turning manoeuvre, because you now change direction again in an inside-top-hat before you climb an Immelmann loop. On its exit, the final brake awaits the passengers and soon the station of the 1000 m long roller coaster.

Takabisha is an all-round successful roller coaster from the manufacturer Gerstlauer, which is particularly convincing thanks to its launch and the significant steep drop in the second half of the ride. The banana roll is also an extremely interesting element that pulls you back and forth wonderfully. The riding characteristics are brilliant thanks to the classic cars. All in all, this is a roller coaster that absolutely lives up to its waiting time – as you could queue just as long for the ride here in Europe; in general, the queue is moving quite fast.

Fuji Airways

Admission to the Fuji Airways Flying Theatre is somewhat less rapid, as it always takes place at intervals. Built in 2014 by the manufacturer Brogent Technologies, the ride stands out above all (in the pre-show) for its absurd humour. Then in 2016, the film used was enhanced with 6K drone flight footage from the surrounding area and the inclusion of the gondolas from the nearby Tentekomai rollover ride. So they don’t take themselves too seriously here at Fujiyama, and so you glide over the landscapes with great enjoyment and perform an extremely impressive rollover in the middle.

Fans of this type of simulator will be thrilled; for me it was the first encounter with such a simulator and I thoroughly enjoyed the flight with Fuji Airways. The movements were fluid and the images shown were visually impressive; it didn’t really bother me that you could see the edges of the screen. Only the ride itself was a bit repetitive and generally a bit too long – but before the enthusiasm could die down too much, the roll over occurred and suddenly my enthusiasm was back again. All in all, a very nice ride at Fuji-Q Highland that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Tentekomai

In the same vein, one may also dare to take a ride on the Gerstlauer Sky Roller Tentekomai, which once again takes up the story of the fictional airline Fuji Airways and thus also does not take itself quite so seriously. The gondola rotation was easy, so you could get to the roll overs (if you want) quite quickly, however, the ride was over just as quickly. It took all the longer to clear the ride, which wasn’t too bad because of the crowds on the first day of the visit.

Thomas Land

We pass the Wave Swinger and the Shining Flower Ferris wheel, which is relatively small (only 50 m high) for a Japanese park of this size and now head for the children’s area of Fuji-Q Highland. This is based on the children’s series “Thomas & Friends” and was the first of its kind at the time. Since 1999, Thomas and other actors from the Railways Series have been transporting visitors across the island of Sodor. Sometimes even in alternating shifts, because on Thomas and Percy’s Fun Ride the locomotives are changed several times a day.

Otherwise, you feel like you’re in the middle of England. There is a pub ( which is unfortunately only a decoration), a tea room and much more to discover. In the middle of it all, four of the well-known locomotives are ready to be photographed and the fat inspector is of course also represented. In addition, the area is extremely well set up with a variety of rides, including the dark ride Thomas’s Party Parade (including turntable and switch), a very smartly integrated 3D Maze, a children’s log flume, a 3D cinema, and the L-shaped children’s roller coaster Rock ‘n Roll Duncan.

Mini-Fuji

At the back turn of the Do-Dodonpa roller coaster we leave Thomas Land and immediately find ourselves at the Mini-Fuji. There is a small slide here in winter, but otherwise this corner of Fuji-Q Highland lies largely unused. It is all the more interesting that you can actually climb this small mountain, which gives you a great view of the surroundings.

Adventure Land of Kaiketsu Zorori

At the foot of the small mountain is the star flyer Tekkotsubanchou, which fits in perfectly here with its construction site theme. Right next to it, you can explore the Adventure Land of Kaiketsu Zorori. A small, child-friendly funhouse with all kinds of interactive elements stretches across a 700 m² hall.

Ultimate Fort 2 und Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear

Nearby are two notorious indoor attractions; famous and infamous above all as the queues tend to reach their capacity limits by lunchtime. The Ultimate Fort 2 is an interactive walkthrough in the style of an Escape Room, where you have to carry out a seemingly impossible mission – the chance of success is about 0%, out of 100000 attempts usually only one group makes it. The second attraction is the Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear, a scare maze in the style of a run-down hospital with a running time of about 20-30 minutes; advertised, however, are 50 minutes, making the maze one of the longest of its kind.

Nagashimasuka

Interestingly, there is another maze right next to it with a much shorter run time. Our eyes, however, are drawn towards the elevated Hafema rapid river Nagashimasuka and its cute and mean winky cat design. The nasty aspect of these cats can only be seen from here; otherwise the ride is extremely inconspicuous. Even in the station, the degree of wetness seems manageable, as if Nagashimasuka is a simple round boat slide.

But this illusion is clouded; as soon as the ride’s high lift has been climbed and the boat has raced down the first incline, you are wet, or rather soaked, because the short braking distance causes quite a high wave to crash down on the four unsuspecting occupants. The boat then slides down a 670° helix, at the end of which another wave awaits. Now mostly soaked, you bob along a wide curve, pass the lift hill and another turning curve. This is followed, quite surprisingly, by a double drop. Here, too, some water sloshes into the round boat, but the ride is far from over and you land straight in a whirlpool, which is again very typical for the manufacturer. Those who have already completed a few rides of this kind will know that at the end there is usually a wave front waiting for the passengers, which can moisten them quite efficiently: This is also the case here!

The way back to the station is now through a classic rafting channel on the back of the once so friendly looking cat statues, here correspondingly in the angry version. Along the way, you pass a volume meter that switches on additional water effects at the edge of the path if the volume is loud enough. After a wide turn, the extremely wet ride comes to an end, whereupon we were invited to a photo session with our two Japanese passengers (who had asked us in a friendly way if we wanted to ride with them) in front of the two waving cats – in typical Japanese pose, of course.

Nagashimasuka is an extremely great rapid river, which is absolutely convincing due to its very high degree of wetness. The multitude of elements makes the rafting ride absolutely worth experiencing and the double drop alone makes the ride a must-do. Interestingly, you can also try the ride in winter, but then additional protective walls are attached to the gondola.

Voyage dans le Ciel (avec Gaspard et Lisa)

Right next door is the station of the roller coaster Voyage dans le Ciel (avec Gaspard et Lisa), formerly better known as the Hamtaro Coaster. But interestingly, the suspended coaster has an eventful history as the first flying coaster in Japan: Originally opened as Birdmen in June 2000 with flying gondolas very similar to a Zamperla Volare (but with only two seats side by side), it didn’t take long until the first incident happened – during an emergency stop in May 2001 – and the ride was subsequently closed for two years. As a result, the ride was fitted with new gondolas and has since become a child-friendly entry-level ride.

After you have squeezed into the two-seater gondolas (with seats behind each other), the ride can begin. A chain lift transports the rather bulky gondola to the starting height of 23 m. From here, the ride begins with a left turn and then a right turn. Then a left-hand bend and a right-hand bend take you steadily downwards, before a small dip and a hill follow. After a short ascent, the first block brake is reached, whereupon you complete a left-leading downward helix around the Red Tower freefall tower. This is followed by a short left turn, which turns into a beautiful descent at the Spillwater Cool Jappaan. The ride’s second block brake then awaits you beneath the lift hill. In a wide left turn, past the Fuji-Q Highland pedal monorail, you approach the last brake section of the ride, whereupon the thoroughly enjoyable ride soon comes to an end.

Eejanaika

Arriving at the entrance near the Fuji-Q Highland Station, we had to tackle a very special steel colossus – as most visitors do here from the very beginning, because the ride is always crowded quite quickly due to its location directly at this entrance. We are of course talking about Eejanaika, the second delivery of a 4th Dimension Coaster – at that time, it was the first delivery of the manufacturer S&S. The basic layout is very similar to the prototype ride X from the American amusement park Six Flags Magic Mountain, but the gondola rotation was increased a bit at the request of Fuji-Q Highland. The ride is also somewhat larger and has a significantly lower capacity.

However, this is not due to the optimised dispatch process, where passengers prepare for the journey in separate boxes (all loose items and also shoes are placed in lockers) and also not due to the triple bar check, where you also have to become active yourself (probably for legal reasons), as well as the final show interlude before the train leaves the station. It is simply due to the fact that the train only has five gondolas on each side.

Once cleared, however, the ride begins quite quickly and in a 180° turn you immediately find yourself in the supine position, slightly upside down. You then reach the lift in a backwards position before it takes you up to a height of 75 m while lying on your back. Although this happens very quickly, you still have enough time to take a good look at the surrounding mountains – but not at Fujiyama, which is directly behind you.

A short pre-drop gets the wagon group going and aligns us again in the original riding position before we are then directed head-on towards the ground or towards the row in front on the next crest. We then maintain this riding position for a large part of the vertical slope, but turn over once in the lower third so that we complete the following valley looking slightly upwards. In the inside rave turn, the direction of travel of the rail is now changed once, but we always experience the element in the horizontal position, just before the exit of it is reached and we perform a short somersault. The train itself, now hanging under the rail, goes down a slope and then turns around its own axis in a zero-G roll, while we race forward through the dense forest of supports and avoid a rollover in the roll with a 360° turn around our own axis. Facing forward once more, we then enter an over-inclined turn, at the crest of which we are turned towards Fuji-Q Highland. Continuing with a view ahead, we cross a powerful valley alongside the station. On the hill that now follows, the track changes its orientation in a fly-to-lie element and we cheerfully turn 180°. Leading backwards, we then pass a valley and immediately climb a hill at the end of which the entrance of the outside raven turn is waiting. In this variant of the rave turn, we are also kept horizontal while the train changes its driving position and thus continues hanging under the track. At a significantly high speed, we now race towards another fly-to-lie element, which, in combination with the gondola rotation, pulls us back and forth quite a bit. Shaken and stirred, we find ourselves in the braking section and shortly afterwards in the station.

Eejanaika is the most intense roller coaster I have experienced so far. The ride is extremely powerful, robs you of your sense of direction in an absolute way and is surprisingly smooth in its ride characteristics (apart from the last ride element). You are simply not beaten up, even though you are sitting in the train with your legs spread apart in Pasha style. The minimalist, yet quite complicated, restraint reinforces the ride and the respect for it immensely, even if you have already experienced it once. And even now, several months after the ride, my verdict of the ride is simple: Eejanaika is awesome!

Cool Jappaan

Eejanaika does not need any more praise than that, and so we quickly move on to the neighbouring ride, the Shoot the Chute Cool Jappaan from O.D. Hopkins. This ride is identical to the one in Nagashima Spa Land; however, it has a shelter on its bridge with some of the windows missing. The ride itself is slightly less wet than its sister ride, so you don’t get flooded until you reach the bridge. However, you should urgently ride in a poncho – although the staff are very happy if you don’t – because the water here (as in the rafting mentioned above) is unfortunately not really clean and leaves strange stains on your clothes, although this circumstance may only have been present temporarily – at least I thought it could be better.

Panic Clock

Past the Red Tower, an S&S Turbo Drop with a very shallow ride, the path takes us back to the large plane of Fuji-Q Highland. Here we meet the Panic Clock (or PaniClock, as it is written on the ride itself), a Vekoma Air Jumper. A further development of the Sky Flyer from the same company, the ride has gondola carriers with classic SLC seats instead of two open-plan cabins, where passengers are only secured by a lap bar. On this ride, passengers enter and exit on a straight plateau, and before the ride begins, the floor is lowered and the gondola carriers are hydraulically angled so that – unlike the related Fabbri models – the seats are all on a similar circular track. Both arms of the ride then start to move in opposite directions, which is why you keep meeting each other in the valley and in the loop. After 6 full rollovers, the ride ends again. Unfortunately, the ride characteristics are not optimal for this type of ride thanks to the given freedom in the SLC seats. Visually, however, the ride is convincing all along the line.

Much less appealing, however, is the makeshift tent in front of the old Moonraker back wall (which – for whatever reason – was simply not disposed of). Here you can experience the Fujiyama and Dodonpa roller coasters (i.e. Do-Dodonpa before the conversion) as a virtual ride. You sit in the original trains, get wind blown in your face and experience the ride, complete with VR goggles and headphones, almost exactly as if you were just getting on the ride a few metres further on.

Mad Mouse

On the other hand, there is the Mad Mouse roller coaster in Fuji-Q Highland, which we of course love to get on. The two-seater cars are all loaded at the same time and are then gradually sent on their way. As in Greenland, however, this is done very quickly, so that one wonders once again why the Spaniards in Parque de Atracciones de Madrid simply can’t manage it on their Wild Mouse Vertigo.

The ride begins with a tight right turn into the lift hill of the ride. Once at the top, there is another right-hand bend and then the first dip. After a short incline, a right-hand bend is also negotiated and a subsequent dip awaits the passengers. After this, you quickly pass through a block brake and then a fast combination of right and left turns, each briefly interrupted by three short straights. Once you reach the other side of the ride, the first hairpin bend of the ride follows. After a few (Big Apple-like) waves, you then reach the ride’s second block brake. Here, too, there is a hairpin bend. On a short descent, you immediately pick up some speed, after which you race through the third hairpin bend.

On the following straight you pass through another block brake, but instead of going into a hairpin curve, you take a lap around the inner courtyard of the ride. After another block brake, however, you change back to the familiar driving behaviour of a wild mouse and ride through four more hairpin bends at short intervals before reaching the next brake. Now you make your way in quite wide right turns, each interrupted by longer straight segments, through the forest of supports of the ride, before some waves break up this behaviour again. After a narrow right turn, the waves increase and shortly afterwards you reach the final brake of the quite nice ride. From then on, the only thing left to do is to somehow heave yourself out of the wagons.

Tondemina and Evangelion World

Once you’ve managed that at some point, there’s nothing standing in your way for a ride on the neighbouring Giant Frisbee from the manufacturer HUSS. Except perhaps the fact that the Frisbee Tondemina is only distinguished from other specimens of its kind by its massive advertising for the pizza company Pizza-La. In this respect, a visit to the absolutely wild classic Japanese tea cups, the equally classic horse carousel or even the interactive experience Evangelion World around the well-known anime Neon Genesis Evangelion is recommended.

Fujiyama

Now let’s move on to the last roller coaster of Fuji-Q Highland, the King of Coasters himself: Fujiyama. Built by the Japanese manufacturer Togo and with a height of 79 m and a length of more than 2 km, the ride shows off wherever it can, which is partly due to the paint job on the trains. And yet the ride is surprisingly compact, which makes the former record holder look almost filigree. Interestingly, most opinions about the ride are mostly negative – time to change that.

After taking a seat in the very comfortable train, which is however equipped with a strange bar, the ride can immediately begin. Far above the visitors, we pass through a tight turn and immediately reach the lift hill of the ride. This takes us steadily up to the aforementioned starting height, where we now stay for some time. A friction wheel battery then gets the train going a bit, so that, after a short right turn, it plunges into the depths, carrying the passengers into the air. In the valley, you then return to your original seating position and experience wonderfully pronounced G-forces. After a long climb, you complete a wide turn with (theoretically) excellent views of the volcano of the same name. On the following crest, you take off from your seat once more and experience airtime as it is written in the book. When you reach the valley, you would like the airtime moments to go on forever; how nice when shortly afterwards a camelback actually takes you into the air.

With a beautiful pacing, you now cross an elevated turn below the lift of the ride. After the subsequent valley, a slightly left-bending ascent follows, which then leads into an airtime-embroidered double-up. From then on, you race along the support structure of the turning curve through hill and dale. You then leave the aforementioned curve via another peak and drive in a straight line through the following valley. In a steep curve, which later tapers more and more to a turning curve, you quickly build up height, just before you shoot down to the ground and remain there for a long time. At breakneck speed, you pass through a long straight and a right turn close to the ground before the train turns towards the sky again. Still at an extremely pronounced speed, you now pass through a series of hills that zigzag their way through the steel structure of the roller coaster. This is delightfully wacky and causes a broad grin on the faces of the passengers. After a total of 5 hills, you start to climb a hill for the last time on a straight section of track, but instead of a descent, the final brake of the ride is awaiting you. With a good amount of airtime and at a speed that is actually much too high, you are now slowed down to a standstill. Shortly after, the station is reached.

Fujiyama is a magnificent roller coaster that knows how to lift its passengers out of their seats. The ride in the Fuji-Q Highland is breathtaking, while never repetitive and knows how to surprise even the most avowed roller coaster fan during the ride. In this respect, I really like the ground-hugging curve in the last third of the ride, but also the totally crazy last hills have their charm; the core component of this roller coaster, however, is and remains the pronounced airtime during the ride. And there is plenty of it, which is why Fujiyama is the best roller coaster of Fuji-Q Highlands for me and also the best roller coaster of the entire tour. In any case, the amusement park is not exaggerating by singing the praises of the roller coaster as the King of Coasters in a continuous loop. Moreover, the waiting time here almost flies by.

Pictures Fuji-Q Highland

Conclusion Fuji-Q Highland

Fuji-Q Highland is a very strange amusement park that looks really run down in parts. On the other hand, the park has really nice corners and some very great rides. Unfortunately, everything here is concentrated on the Big 4, i.e. the roller coasters Takabisha, Do-Dodonpa, Fujiyama and Eejanaika – the rest of Fuji-Q Highland is partly extinct. Now, however, we were also lucky to experience the park on two empty days (although the second one wasn’t needed and I didn’t ride any other attraction apart from the rapid river); on a full day, a visit is only worthwhile without a free pass, as then you can hardly manage anything outside the big 4 and possibly not even these. From the afternoon onwards, possibly even earlier, the announcements of the attractions whose queues have now been closed become more frequent. Towards the end, there’s nothing left to do but ride the teacups or take a spin on the horse carousel. Nevertheless, I’ll gladly visit the park again.

 


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Nagashima-Mania

The history of Nagashima Spa Land

Nagashima Spa Land came into being as an addition to the resort near the city of Nagashima, which was developed in 1964. Located directly on Ise Bay, Otani Natural Gas Co, Ltd hoped to find a natural gas deposit in 1963 when they came across a hot spring while exploring for natural gas. The temporary bath that was then built quickly proved extremely popular, and Nagashimakankokaihatsu Co, Ltd was established in the same year with the aim of developing the spring, now known as Nagashima Onsen, for tourism. In November 1964, the bath was opened to visitors, followed a month later by the Nagashima Hotel. In 1966, the resort was further expanded with the opening of the second hotel and the Nagashima Spa Land, including a jet coaster.

The Nagashima Resort quickly became more popular, which is why the third hotel followed as early as 1970. The resort now consists of three hotels, the Nagashima Spa Land amusement park, the Nagano-no-Sato gardens, the Anpanman Children’s Museum, the large Mitsui Outlet Jazz Dream Nagashima outlet centre and the Yuami-no-Shima hot spring. Every year, around 5.8 million visitors come to Nagashima Resort.

Tour of the park

If you arrive by bus, you land at the side entrance of Nagashima Spa Land, located between the hotels and the outlet centre. From here, a path leads directly to the spacious children’s area, including a covered playground. In addition to a large number of child-friendly round rides and two small log flumes, there are two children’s roller coasters.

Children Coaster

The oldest of the two children’s roller coasters at Nagashima Spa Land is the very inconspicuously placed, medium-sized ladybird ride by the manufacturer Zierer called Children Coaster. As usual, you ride two laps through the figure-8 layout and enjoy the manual braking towards the end of the ride.

Oh, it’s beautiful here. In addition to the tried and tested fun of the time-honoured children’s roller coaster legend, characters from the classic English children’s book “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” have also found a home here. Peter Rabbit has been the mascot of Nagashima Spa Land for ages, but it was only in 2012 that a roller coaster was dedicated to him.

Peter Rabbit Coaster

The ride on the Peter Rabbit Coaster from Hoei Sangyo begins with a wide left-hand curve in which you gain a few metres in altitude, which you immediately lose again in a somewhat narrower right-hand helix. Once you reach the ground level, you go full steam ahead after a change of direction through a curve that is just as wide as the one at the beginning of the ride. At this point the track leads straight into the station and through it. After another lap through the track course, the very nice ride ends.

Viking

Before we get too far away from Kinderland and its park mascot Peter Rabbit, we are immediately drawn to the double monorail with its two tracks running in opposite directions. Actually, on the way there, we are drawn to a completely different, extremely imposing set of rides, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere else on this planet: the Viking boat swing conglomerate.

When I first came across Nagashima Spa Land, I was immensely impressed by the Japanese people’s love of swings. Whereas in some European amusement parks there are two, at most three, boat-swing-like rides, here there is the full programme in its maximum range, including three boat swings, two rotating swings and an overhead boat swing. From that moment on, one thing was clear to me: I have to go there! And more importantly: I have to ride them all!

Because let’s be honest, who cares about the longest roller coaster in the world when there are two gigantic boat swings far above a third, normal-sized boat swing? That is insane and, above all, simply terrific.

After the success of the small boat swing in 1980 and the success of the large HUSS double ride in the Toshimaen amusement park, Nagashima decided to go one better and built an equally large boat swing in 1986, also in a double ride. Now, it is somewhat difficult to trace how far the three existing large rides in Nagashima Spa Land, Toshimaen and Samsung Everland are related to each other, because although the boats are all built in the same way and are each located above various facilities, two of these rides are considered to be double rides of the HUSS Traumschiff. This is understandable, as the ride looks at first glance as if two somewhat larger ship swings of the Pirate model have been placed directly next to each other and connected to form a boat. However, the double Viking is called Twin Flying Bounty in Intamin’s reference list. The reason for this is probably the bankruptcy of the Arrow-HUSS company towards the end of 1984, after which the company reorganised itself in 1986 as HUSS Maschinenfabrik. In the intervening years, planned rides were built by other manufacturers (e.g. Ninja at Six Flags St. Louis).

But what is a Traumschiff/Twin Flying Bounty like to ride? It’s nice; the ride is actually not earth-shattering, as the basic construction itself is already incredibly inert, but seen as a whole it’s pretty nice. It’s a huge attraction of unbelievable proportions that is accessible to all park guests and doesn’t let anyone get off dissatisfied – a crowd pleaser of the highest order, so to speak. Taken together, the ship’s swing collection has a total capacity of 380 people (160 people per boat in the large swing plus 60 people in the normal-sized ship’s swing) per synchronised ride cycle. All in all, this means an hourly capacity of up to 5,000 people, which is certainly still necessary during the Golden Week and many other days. On emptier days, one of the Flying Bountys sets sail at least every 15 minutes.

Jet Coaster

In the meantime, you can take a nice panoramic ride on the aforementioned double-track monorail that runs in opposite directions. Here you have a wonderful view of the lake and the small forest that you are circling. The park railway, a go-kart track and the oldest roller coaster in Nagashima Spa Land, the Jet Coaster, are located in the forest.

Secured only by a belt, we immediately climb the lift hill of the time-honoured lady. Now far below the treetops, we pass through a long right-hand bend, where we immediately plunge steeply to the ground in a completely untypical manner for a classic jet coaster. We climb the following hill in the same way before we take another right turn. This is followed by a somewhat flatter gradient with an even flatter ascent diagonally through the ride. The ascent then leads into a left-hand bend one level below the first bend, which is consequently ridden at a somewhat more leisurely pace. This is followed by a last exceedingly brisk descent that leads into a slightly longer straight above the lake. A final hop leads us to the station level, whereupon we also reach it after a left turn and the obligatory braking section.

The Jet Coaster is an extremely charming roller coaster that is particularly visually appealing with its framework structure. The ride through the forest is extremely fast and knows how to thrill its passengers with ease. So much so, in fact, that the longest queue was here on the second day of the visit, thanks to the unfortunately existing one-train operation. Apart from that, however, it’s a beautiful old and extremely ride-worthy treasure from the house of Togo.

Space Shot and Flying Carpet

On the other side of the forest, a somewhat rare sight awaits visitors, right next to a more common one. While the S&S free fall tower triumvirate called Space Shot is still a very rare sight, a ride on a suspended flying carpet is the only one outside the Danish amusement park Tivoli Gardens. Both rides are quite convincing.

Shuttle Loop

Just like the ride of the next roller coaster, whose layout can be perfectly described with the words launch, loop and reverse. You’ve probably already guessed, it’s a Shuttle Loop from Schwarzkopf. As with every roller coaster from Münsterhausen, it doesn’t take much to create an all-round satisfying ride experience, and so the ride is unusually puristic compared to the (so far) only European ride (Psyké Underground in Walibi Belgium). That’s enough, because the ride is absolutely perfect as it is, which is why you’ll want to get on again and again, and more than once in a row.

Looping Star

The same applies to the sister ride, which is only three years younger. The Shuttle Loop was apparently a great success, so that another Looping Star was ordered in Münsterhausen and the roller coaster was interestingly placed right next door.

The ride in this classic of German engineering begins quite confidently with the ascent of the lift hill. From a height of around 24m, you immediately plunge towards the ground in a steep curve to approach the only inversion figure, a loop, at full speed. With a lot of power, you then pass the element that gives the ride its name, after which you shoot upwards again to make a turn at a lofty height. But the peace and quiet doesn’t last long, because immediately the wagon group throws itself towards the ground again, which can lead to unexpected airtime, especially in the rear part of the train. In the opposite direction to the first gradient, you gain a little height again and then reduce it efficiently parallel to the lift hill. Since a straight line with a constant lateral inclination is a bit strange to ride, you are straightened out in between, but without taking into account the principle of turning around the heart line; but there are other roller coasters in Nagashima Spa Land for that (like the Ultra Twister). Leaning to the left again, you ride through another curve before you enter a hill and approach the ground again. This is followed by a fast-paced right turn, which then takes you into the braking section of the ride.

Corkscrew

Interestingly, the rival product from Arrow has been situated directly opposite the Looping Star since the year 2012. In 1979, the Corkscrew coaster in Nagashima turned its passengers upside down twice. Interestingly, it is one of four identical rides that started operation in Japan that year – all probably inspired by the first inversion coaster in Asia, the Corkscrew at Yatsu Yuenchi.

The layout is quickly reproduced. After leaving the station via a small incline, you ride through a tight turning curve, which then transfers you to the ride’s lift. Having reached a height of about 21m, you leave the lift in a short dip, whereby the necessary lateral inclination for the following turn is already generated in the same move. Once the turn is completed, the train plunges towards the ground, which leads to a pronounced airtime, especially in the rear part of the train. Now the train roars powerfully through the first valley and shortly afterwards shoots up a hill. This then quickly turns into a longer downhill curve, in whose transverse valley the train enters the corkscrew. Absolutely skilfully, the train now turns over twice. The exit of the second corkscrew then leads into the final turning curve, whereupon the brakes are already waiting.

The ride on the Corkscrew is great. Nowadays the ride is nothing earth-shattering, but in 1979 it was enough to make the masses stand on their heads. Unfortunately, the ride characteristics were below the manufacturer’s average – but that hardly matters. All in all, the ride fits perfectly into its very strong field of competitors, which is why you should definitely take a ride or two; where else would you find so many idols of the late 70s in the same corner of a park?

Past a typical Japanese scary house and an excellent Star Flyer, the path now leads us to the other side of a gigantic steel structure, which we save for later. Here we turn left and follow the wide main path into a dead end, where the Flying Coaster Acrobat is waiting for us.

Acrobat

Attracted by the appearance, we quickly find ourselves in the spacious waiting area below the station and decide to go to one of the two sides of the station. After climbing the stairs, we are immediately assigned to a row, whereupon we stow our personal belongings and valuables in lockers belonging to the rows. Nothing unusual as far as that goes, but at the end a security scan including a metal detector awaits us. After we have proved that all our bags are empty, we are let through to the gates and can immediately board our preferred aircraft.

As soon as the starting position is reached, the ride can begin. We reach the ride’s lift via a switch, which takes us up to a height of 43m. Once at the top, we plunge into a steep curve to the right towards the abyss. In a wide radius we now float through the following valley and immediately climb a hill, which turns out to be the starting position for the now following Pretzel Loop. Without mercy we now plunge down, stand overhead for a short time and then watch the spectacle lying on our backs in reverse order, almost being killed by the G-Forces. Once again at high altitude, there is enough time to take a short breath, because now we cross the element we have just completed in a tame left turn. But before we know it, we are spinning around our own axis in an inline twist and hurtling towards the ground in a right turn. In a corkscrew we cross the Prezel Loop once more and soon have a look at the station of the roller coaster from behind. After a short ascent, we reach the middle block brake section of the ride, which, however, releases us into the second part of this without any major slowdown.

In a right-hand bend, accompanied by synchronised water fountains, we shoot across a lake. Similar to a Bavarian curve, hill follows dale and at the end of the curve there is even another inline twist waiting for the passengers. Still in this great flow, we find ourselves in a left turn, which unfortunately leads us straight into the final brake.

Acrobat is the tamer of the two Japanese flying coasters, but that doesn’t mean that the ride doesn’t try to beat you to death with the forces at its disposal. It just does it a little more subtly. While Universal’s Flying Dinosaur has one element after the other, Acrobat still has enough time to devote itself entirely to flying. This has its advantages and the ride itself seems a little more harmonious. Especially the part after the block brake is quite impressive and offers wonderful insights for the rest of the park guests. In general, the ride is wonderfully open and can be seen from all sides, so that even more guests from the nearby outlet centre will switch to the Nagashima Spa Land amusement park. It’s worth it, at least, because Acrobat is a really ingenious flying coaster in Nagashima.

Bobkart

Right next to it, the Wiegand Bobkart double track has been in place since 2004. On a length of 822 and 797m, both lanes theoretically duel each other. For the time being, the track runs parallel through a very bumpy left-hand bend. The driving comfort increases significantly with the steadily increasing speed, the fun in turn through the numerous waves on the now following straight. After another left-hand bend and just as many waves, the two lanes now separate from each other.

While the right lane now turns into a short right-hand bend, the left lane continues straight ahead. In a wide left-hand bend, the right-hand lane now steadily builds up height, whereupon the left-hand lane is crossed on another undulating straight. The competing lane meanwhile devotes itself to a right-leading upward helix, whereupon both lanes run parallel again for a short moment. This quickly changes and so both tracks separate at an sharp angle. There is a reason for this, because in the following downward helix of the right lane, the left lane comes towards you. The left lane circles the helix, but then runs parallel to the track you have just completed in the right lane. After a wide right-hand bend and a short straight, the left-hand lane meets the right-hand lane again, which in the meantime has only passed through a longer straight, and both enter an upward helix in parallel.

On an elevated part of the track, both tracks now cross the just completed and future track before entering a left turn along the station. Following a downward helix to the right, both tracks then continue on the ground. After a left turn and a 180° turn, both tracks reach their destination.

The double bobsleigh track is quite impressive, but the ride itself is only okay. Admittedly, you get a bit distracted by the rides surrounding you, but the ride over the numerous bumps is unfortunately also a bit repetitive. Although you could also look over them if the bobs ran parallel. Of the total of 28 bobsleds per side, unfortunately only about 5 were running on the first day of the visit – which was perfectly adequate in view of the crowds – and these were sent on their way one after the other per side. Whereas at the beginning both sides were served, shortly afterwards only the right lane was running. That was a pity, but also understandable, after all you can vary the capacity of the rides according to the rush in no time at all. Overall, the left lane was a little better than the right lane, but all in all, both lanes offered a good ride.

Ultra Twister

Directly behind the ride is the station of the Ultra Twister roller coaster. The standard model of the manufacturer Togo also awaits us in Nagashima, but here in a somewhat less colourful paint scheme than in the Greenland amusement park, but with ingenious lighting effects. Since we had already ridden 12 laps of the ride in Greenland, we knew what to expect and got on with pleasure.

After the car has been checked, you approach the transfer element at the rear end of the track. This is then turned by 90° degrees, which is promptly followed by the ascent in the vertical lift. Having reached a height of 30m, the car crosses a very narrow crest and plunges rapidly down a steep 85° gradient. There is intense airtime in every seat, but especially in the last row. The following and quite narrow valley is driven through with extreme pressure, while the following airtime hill skillfully tries to throw you off. With strikingly high speed, you now race through a heartline roll that couldn’t be more beautiful. Shortly afterwards, you climb a small incline, at the end of which you reach the first braking section of the ride.

In a second transfer element you are now brought to the lower lane, which you follow backwards from then on. On a short descent you then steadily increase speed before the car is turned upside down a second time. As soon as the station level is reached, the third and last roll of the ride follows. Shortly afterwards, the second braking section is reached and the ride on the Ultra Twister draws to a close.

Also in Nagashima, the tube roller coaster is completely convincing. The interplay of vertical acceleration is just wonderfully brutal and always worth experiencing. Especially since the end stops are not quite as hard as in Greenland, which makes the ride all the more inviting for repeat rides. Unless you don’t burn your shoulders on a visit to the Joyful Waterpark, which you should definitely plan to do so, and torture yourself accordingly on a night ride through the ride. Nonetheless, this is also totally worth it, because the illuminated ring elements enhance the visually very appealing ride even more.

Steel Dragon 2000

Equally appealing is Steel Dragon 2000. Built at the turn of the millennium, Steel Dragon 2000 is Japan’s largest roller coaster, with a height of 97 m. Even more impressive, however, is its length of about 2.5 km, which still makes it the longest roller coaster in the world. There are rumours that the roller coaster The Ultimate from the English amusement park Lightwater Valley will be extended, but until then there will probably not be a longer roller coaster.

The ride on the Steel Dragon begins with a small dip out of the station, followed by a short right turn. The first lift chain is then waiting to take us up to a height of about 50 m, where we change to the second lift chain, which in turn takes us up to an impressive 97 m. Once there, we descend very quickly. We pass through the first valley at 152.9 km/h, and the train starts to vibrate. Unfortunately, this vibration is transmitted to the passenger, which is why you can only be happy to shoot up a 76.8 m high hill shortly afterwards. After a moment of shallow airtime, another valley of terror awaits you.

The ride through the second valley is also no fun at all and so I was happy to find myself on the third hill of the ride. This hill is only 64 m high and leads the train into a special combination of curves. In a wide steep curve, one approaches the bottom and immediately shoots up an inclined clockwise helix. On the way into the following valley, a change of direction takes place and a second, now counterclockwise, huge helix follows. With steady pressure, the smile on your face slowly comes back and you may slowly forget the crappy start of the ride. In the process, you race through a ground-hugging and bloody long left turn along the large shopping centre. However, you don’t notice much of that, after all, you’re still going at a breakneck pace. It’s just a shame that after a long bend and two small curve swings, the ascent into the block brake awaits.

On the block brake, which is placed very low in relation to the overall height of the ride, the speed of the train is reduced considerably before it descends into a series of continuous camelbacks. Here the train passes two tunnels and six crests, each with valleys at different heights. On each hill you take off in a wonderful floating airtime. Shortly afterwards, however, the braking section is reached and the ride comes to an end.

The Steel Dragon 2000 is not a bad roller coaster, but it doesn’t meet my personal taste. I really enjoy the ride from the entry into the long curves, but the vibrations in the first two valleys are so nasty to my stomach that I only did one more repeat ride during the two days of my visit. I’m interested to know what the ride would have been like in the original trains, as the trains built by Morgan were much more solidly built and therefore shouldn’t have started vibrating so quickly. The trains built by B&M, which were added in the tenth year of operation of the ride, are by no means bad and allow a much freer ride, but they do not correspond to the original.

They must have had their reasons – I don’t have a comparison with the previous state of the ride anyway – so it’s not that bad. It doesn’t stop anyone from doing a marathon on the ride, and if the start of the ride wasn’t so messed up, I would do it too.

Arashi

The Free Spin coaster Arashi on the other hand is simply no fun. The ride is inharmonious and absolutely hard. The rollovers are all generated only by the forced rotation of the gondola carrier, otherwise the ride here would be a leisurely scenic ride very similar to the new concept by the Swiss engineering firm Ride Engineers Switzerland, which will soon be realised at Schwaben Park. Unfortunately, the whole thing is no comparison to the competing product from Intamin, which is less squeamish even in the smallest version and fortunately dispenses entirely with technical aids for rollover – interestingly, although the ride on a Zac Spin is hard on the edge, the harmoniously superimposed movements make it much more pleasant and interesting.

Rock ‘n’ Roll

In fact, the Rock ‘n’ Roll ride shows that even forced somersaults can be ridden in a reasonably harmonious way. A friction wheel causes the individual gondolas to rotate, whereupon the passengers (depending on the load of the gondola) do one somersault after another.

Paratrooper and Telecombat

The Paratrooper next to it is similarly interesting, with its wheel rim tilting horizontally during the ride. Otherwise, the ride is typical for a Twister-like round ride, so it goes up and down in free-swinging gondolas, over and over again. This one was built by Technical Park, as was the Telecombat next door.

Wild Mouse

The ride portfolio in this corner is then complemented by the water ride Jet Rescue of German production. This is fitting, as the Wild Mouse is located right next to it in a double version, just as it could have been at a German funfair. Of course, it’s only real with the matching ticket booth and Schuko sockets. The attraction resembles one of the many Wild Mice from Mack Rides and therefore invites you to take a ride or two; after all, you can ride the ride in a mirror image – at least if both rides are running on the same day. We were lucky and were able to ride one of the two tracks on each of the two days we visited.

Free Fall and Frisbee

Unfortunately, we had no luck with the Free Fall, a first-generation free-fall tower, and therefore had to forego a ride. Fortunately, there is a park version of the HUSS Frisbee directly opposite, which is always a guarantee for a successful ride. In Nagashima, however, things were a bit different – the fast spins were missing – and so the ride was a trivial swing, which not even the showman Robrahn from Bremen could undercut. A pity, because the little Frisbees are usually always a big deal.

Shoot the Chute

When one of your favourite rides bitterly disappoints you, it takes another favourite ride to put you back in a good mood. It’s a good thing that the Shoot the Chute of the Nagashima Spa Land amusement park, designed by O.D. Hopkins, is next door. As one of the first rides in the manufacturer’s Figure-8 design, the 30-metre-high ride is impressive, especially with its merciless wetness. Normally, in a spillwater, you are usually wet, but not soaked, by the time you reach the bridge over the run-out section, but this changes abruptly when you pass under the bridge. Here, however, it is the case that the boat creates such a high wave when it dives into the pool that it absorbs all the energy of the boat and thus decelerates the boat considerably so that the water has enough time to splash down on the passengers. You don’t get out this wet even from Valhalla of the English amusement park Blackpool Pleasure Beach and even there the degree of wetness is known to be like jumping into the Irish Sea. So everything is just right here and the name of the ride really lives up to its type – only why the first rows have to wear life jackets is beyond me, but luckily we were sitting a bit further back.

Something that has never been clear to me personally is the success of the Looping Starships from Intamin. In the looping fever at the beginning of the 1980s, the Bremen company HUSS developed an overhead boat swing in which the axle of the ride was driven, making a large number of rollovers and other rides possible. Only a short time later, the Weber company, also based in Bremen, followed suit with a similar ride. Intamin, on the other hand, planned an overhead boat swing that lives up to its name and uses a classic friction wheel drive to keep the ship moving until at some point it manages to roll over very narrowly.

Space Shuttle

It’s interesting when you realise on your own body during the ride that this is exactly what makes the Looping Starship the best representative of its kind. It’s as if a normal boat swing just keeps accelerating, so you suddenly find yourself at angles you wouldn’t otherwise experience. At some point you manage to do a headstand and are afraid of getting stuck upside down. Shortly afterwards, the next, somewhat quicker somersault follows. A moment later, the long deceleration phase begins and you change direction again in all possible angles of inclination. Wonderful! I am absolutely thrilled with the ride. The design of the Space Shuttle also speaks for itself. It’s just a shame that none of them have survived the test of time in Europe; at least not in their original version. So dear Movieland Park team, please buy a suitable counterweight and the corresponding shoulder restraints. It’s worth it, I promise!

Giant Frisbee

The rest of the ride portfolio consists of a wave swinger, an Italian-made swing up with far too narrow gondolas, and a giant frisbee from HUSS. The latter just does its thing – like every other Giant Frisbee from the same manufacturer. It’s okay.

White Cyclone

A glance at the clock on the 90-metre-high Aurora Wheel tells us: it’s time for wood. We are happy to comply and accordingly head for the entrance to the large white-painted wooden wall with the charismatic name White Cyclone.

The ride in the PTC trains begins with a wide left turn around the waiting area of the ride. We constantly lose height to gain enough momentum to enter the lift hill. This then takes us to a height of 42 m, where we then have a moment to enjoy the magnificent view of Nagashima Spa Land and Ise Bay. After a left turn, however, we rapidly descend to the ground. With the finest shake, rattle and roll we cross the first valley and then climb a high airtime hill. The exit then leads into a gigantic, constantly tapering helix far above ground level. Here you ride a little over hill and dale until you leave it at some point after a rapid dip over a hill.

The hill in question seems to be almost as high as the entrance to the helix, but based on the existing speed, it shouldn’t actually be the case. Visually an interesting trick in any case and so we plunge down again in a wonderful play of forces. Another airtime hill follows, as it is written in the book, before we disappear in the forest of pillars. In a very wide upward spiral, we now steadily increase in altitude metres before we reach the same kind of helix we already experienced a few moments ago. But instead of diving down briefly and then gaining height, we climb metre by metre up the wooden structure before then reaching the block brake of the ride.

After the fast-paced first part of the ride, the train plunges to the ground again. With gusto we pass under the valley of the first descent, conquer another airtime hill and dive into the wooden structure one more time. Inside the first helix we now go through a wide left turn before we are surrounded by wooden beams again. We then cross the ride over two hills and make our way along the outer edge of the roller coaster. Below the lift hill, the train disappears under the wooden construction for the last time in a wide left turn. Shortly afterwards, we reach the braking section of the ride and soon the station.

White Cyclone was a great wooden roller coaster with great pacing, lots of airtime moments and a well-tuned acceleration curve. In addition, the roller coaster lived on the shake, rattle and roll like hardly any other wooden roller coaster in the country, let alone any other wooden roller coaster I have already ridden. While I can understand that the roller coaster is now undergoing a makeover by the company RMC – because the layout offers many possibilities that have not yet been exhausted – on the other hand it is a pity that one of only four wooden roller coasters in Japan will disappear as a result. At least the basic structure of what was once the best roller coaster in Nagashima Spa Land remains and will be used in the future best roller coaster in the park. So we can be curious!

Pictures Nagashima Spa Land