Valhalla has now officially reopened at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and we were lucky enough to attend the official media day on Wednesday 10th May for the relaunch of the park’s iconic water-based dark ride.
Having first opened to the public back in June of 2000, Valhalla has become a staple part of the park’s ride line-up and has won a number of Golden Ticket Awards for the world’s best water ride. At the end of 2019, however, Valhalla closed in view of a major £4 million overhaul which would see the ride’s reopening delayed by nearly 3 and a half years due to factors including the pandemic and additional costs incurred by the ride’s ‘re-imagining’.
On 10th April 2023, Valhalla finally reopened for technical rehearsals (a term commonly used outside of the UK), meaning guests could once again step aboard their very own Viking longboat and traverse the storm tides towards the Norse afterlife. Although the ride’s reopening didn’t quite get the most favourable of first impressions, Blackpool Pleasure Beach worked hard to ready Valhalla for its official re-launch, which has finally seen the ride fully reopen to the public for the very first time since September of 2019.
The media day for the re-launch of Valhalla was an incredibly exciting and unique opportunity. Our day began with check-in at The Globe Theatre, next to the park’s entrance, at 10:00 where we received our media pass lanyards, a rather special Valhalla themed goodie bag, a food and beverage voucher for the newly reopened Loki’s Bar and a day pass for the park so that we could stay and ‘play’ (as it were) following our first ever experience of Valhalla.
We then made our way through into the bar area for teas and coffees, as well as an official welcome from the park’s marketing team. Here we waited for around half an hour whilst everyone settled in and mentally prepared themselves (with a poncho or two) to get absolutely drenched on their first ever experience of the newly re-imagined ride. Following the settling in period we were lead out to experience Valhalla by one of the park’s management team whilst hearing a whole host of different facts and trivia about the ride. This included the fact that the ride lasts 6 minutes from start to finish, spans nearly half a mile in length and is (to ours and others’ confused surprised) the park’s “wettest roller coaster”.
Upon arriving outside the front of Valhalla (which has changed significantly since the re-imagining) we were greeted by: three Viking warriors in full costume (the same ones pictured on Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s promotional images for the ride); the park’s CEO, Amanda Thompson OBE; the park’s Director of Creative, Design & Experience, Adam Slevin; and the Blackpool Pleasure Beach marketing team. We were then invited to have pictures with the Viking warriors & pose for a separate group photo taken by an official photographer atop the Flying Machines.
Prior to the ride’s official opening, we heard a speech from Amanda Thompson OBE who described how the wait was finally over and that the ride’s re-imagining and technical rehearsals had now reached their conclusion. She also offered her own opinion on how she felt we would be very impressed with the final result and that we would all almost certainly come off not wet, but drenched – she certainly wasn’t wrong!
Following the speech, we finally began to make our way through the queue line and into the station ready to experience the new iteration of Valhalla for the first time! The first thing that became evident as we made our way towards the station was just how much effort and attention to detail has gone into Valhalla’s re-imagining. Everything from the surrounding theming to a giant, mist-engulfed Valhalla sign photo opportunity captured our eye as we walked ever closer towards the entrance to the station.
Once inside we got our first glimpse at just how much change has taken place. The whole interior of the station building is now fully enclosed and sports Valhalla Viking vinyls on the walls as well as beautifully designed, ornate wooden chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The boats make their way through the station on a conveyor belt whilst riders climb into the boats. Eventually it was our turn to board the ride and start our journey into Valhalla!
As we began to make our way into the ride’s show building, the first change came into view. The beginning of the ride features a brand new scene in which you’re greeted by a Viking warrior named Ivar. Ivar advises that a journey can never be glorious when embarked on in fear. As you turn the first corner, LED lights illuminate a mist covered Valhalla V logo high above you and epic music plays out around you. The dogs previously featured on the right prior to the first lift hill are still in place, but appear far more ‘cute’ than threatening. Everything else contained within this scene remains the same.
It’s at this point that you notice the second major change. Although no longer working, the ride’s former giant trommel now features skulls surrounding the lift hill with their eyes illuminated by LED lights. The previous projection-mapped Odin head has also now been replaced by a giant, ornate wooden display of Odin’s face (the same as the one featured on the first official poster for the ride revealed last year) which spouts smoke as you pass under it.
You then reach the top of the lift and begin to make your way forwards past a beautiful display of lanterns enhanced by mirrors to make it feel much larger than it actually is. The display sits on the right and replaces the former giant animatronic face. Following this there is a skeleton jump scare on the right as Ivar advises that the afterlife can be full of unexpected things. Following this you make your way into the fire room, which keeps the same ‘fake fire’ effects on either side of the trough, and then onwards into a dark tunnel filled with slits of red light on either side which are said to represent the “river of life”.
The boat reaches the turn table and we were introduced to a brand new scene where a friendly face of Odin morphs into one of vengeance, as we’re advised to “turn around”. This is probably the most notable change so far and signifies the end of an era for Valhalla’s previous backwards drop. Dropping forwards does however give those riding the chance to experience yet another new (but rather wet) scene, before making their way into the infamous ice room.
The ice room has been redesigned to feature a brand new female Viking warrior on the right (believed to be Freya, the goddess of war) and a host of frozen Viking warriors on the left, as well as other new additions such as another Viking warrior just before the second (much bigger) drop and the front of a Viking long boat covered in a snow storm.
You then descend the first major, very steep drop and get absolutely DRENCHED! The water vortex remains and additional water cannons ensure you get absolutely soaked, before making your way up to the top of the second lift hill. The dangling cluster of skulls still remain at the top and, upon reaching the top of the lift, you drop into the trough and pass a giant ‘grim reaper’ statue.
All effects following this including the rolling spiked barrel, the flame lit arrows, the air cannons and the dropping logs (which again ensure you get drenched) remain in place, however new scenes including a rig of chiming bells and four rigged, flying demons add yet an even darker twist to the ride experience.
You then descend the third and final drop into what is arguably the BEST part of the whole ride experience – the fire room! All real fire effects previously featured within the room remain and the infamous ‘ring of fire’ now features once more (which really catches you off guard). You pass through the final fire engulfed room, passing two gigantic (easily 20 ft tall) stone Viking statues and make your way back out into daylight!
In total, we managed to experience five rides on Valhalla during our action-packed visit, noticing something new each and every time we did. The ‘new’ Valhalla is certainly much darker and more sinister in tone with the ride experience being far more story driven throughout. The ride also features more effects and set pieces than it did previously and feels far more immersive and adult in tone. The new ‘guided’ approach also adds further depth to the overall experience and helps riders feel much more included in the storyline of the ride as a whole.
Overall, Valhalla feels very different now to how it did prior to closing and the changes made help to refresh the ride for future generations to enjoy, ensuring its sustainability and reliability are maintained as a focus for Pleasure Beach moving forwards. It’s clear that the park has taken a lot of care and time to ensure they create a ride experience worthy of the ride’s legacy, and in our opinion this has definitely been the case.
Following our ride (or rides in our case) we were invited to sit back, take stock and relax with some well-earned food at Loki’s Bar, which has now reopened to the public for the first time since the ride’s closure. The rotisserie chicken mixed with the beautifully cooked, fluffy roast potatoes, gravy and stuffing went down like a treat and the overall quality of food felt to a very high standard indeed, surpassing any normal expectations you would have for UK theme park food. We were also invited to help ourselves to some delicious special edition Valhalla donuts which had been specially made for the ride’s launch – spoiler alert, they were absolutely delicious!
During our visit, we also checked out this year’s merchandise and brand new gift shop, which sees the park’s former ticket office converted into a purpose-fitted gift shop. This year has seen the introduction of a whole host of new merchandise, including themed car air fresheners, new Valhalla products, Big Dipper 100 special edition merch and so much more. The quality of their merchandise is something Blackpool Pleasure Beach have become very well known for in recent years and this year’s new additions definitely maintain the same level as their predecessors.
Overall, we had an absolutely incredible time visiting Blackpool Pleasure Beach for their Valhalla media day. Finally being able to step back onboard the park’s iconic water ride concludes nearly four years of speculation and excitement for many regarding when the ride will open and what we could expect from the re-imagining, ultimately answering that highly debated question – “what DOES lie inside the park’s gigantic, stony-faced show building?”. We would like to give a huge thank you to Blackpool Pleasure Beach for inviting us to attend and we can’t wait to hear everyone else’s thoughts and feelings regarding Valhalla’s re-imagining in the months ahead.
Will YOU be brave enough to Brave The Adventure? Let us know on our social media channels.