Halloween at Gardaland - Trip Report

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Only now do I have enough time to sit and properly write this trip report. Apologies I’ve put it off so long!

Gardaland - Trip Report and Review
This October I finally visited another of my bucket list parks - Gardaland in Italy. I’d heard somewhat mixed reviews about Gardaland, some people said it was great, some said it was awful, but I was quite optimistic going in. One of the first things you notice about this park is it’s beautiful location: I stayed nearby and so had a chance to explore the rest of Lake Garda. In particular the Malcesine Cable Car (about 1 hour drive out from Gardaland, but still overlooking the lake) had some absolutely stunning views - if you have the time I’d highly recommend doing more than just the park!

Day 1: 
To enter the park, you have to cross under a road through an odd tunnel packed with multi-coloured LEDs. It’s quite odd, but definitely effective at night! The first day I visited the park was absolutely packed - the entrance plaza was full of people! It was very easy to use the U.K. Merlin Annual Passes to get in; you get to use a side gate (meaning less messing checking tickets) and they had no problem giving us the expected 50% off discount. 

Oblivion The Black Hole Review
At 10:00, the gates opened and I immediately headed to the main reason for my trip - Oblivion: The Black Hole. Immediately after opening Oblivion was extremely quiet, so I squeezed in two front row rides first thing. I found that Oblivion had the most atmospheric area in the entire park: everything surrounding it looks appropriately space-age, and the music was awesome. This was also my favourite area at night due to the lighting. Oblivion sits on a hillside, meaning that you get even more of an impression of massiveness from it (the helix especially is great to watch trains soaring above your head). Oblivion is a fairly simple ride experience: lift hill, huge drop, Immelmann, airtime hill, helix, roll and then brakes. The highlight element is undoubtedly the main drop - on the front row the hang time is brilliant, but on back row you get some beautiful ejector airtime. I preferred Oblivion’s first drop to Krake’s (Heide Park’s Mini Dive Machine), even if Oblivion lacks the splashdown and has a less memorable Immelmann. The airtime hill on Oblivion also provides some unexpectedly strong air, some of the best on a B&M in my opinion. The roll at the end provides some nice hangtime, though this element perhaps fell below my high expectations. The operations on Oblivion were good throughout my visit, however I noted that some of the staff seemed a quite uninterested and bored. Oblivion: The Black Hole currently sits about Number 8 in my top 10 - a solid ride, a worthy sequel and my favourite dive machine so far.

Mammut Review
Next up was Mammut, a fun Vekoma Minetrain. Mammut has some pretty nice theming with a mountainous landscape in both the queue and ride itself - only thing was that the adverts in the queueline did somewhat break the illusion. One nice aspect of Mammut is how long the ride is: with three lift hills, Mammut has a long ride time that does make the queue seem worth it. The actual ride itself is pretty good, albeit rattly. The back car provides some reasonably good airtime for a family ride, so I’d recommend riding there. Another aspect of this coaster I liked was the awesome views out onto Raptor and Oblivion: The Black Hole. The high capacity also lead to short queues (a pleasant surprise).

Raptor Review
Following Mammut, I hit the second major ride of the trip - Raptor. The queue advertised 45 minutes... why not? 2 hours later I’d more or less lost my mind. Whilst the queue does have some nice theming, it’s mainly soul draining cattle pen; if you’re visiting, definitely take your phone and use their free WiFi to avoid boredom. Raptor has its own themed area, set upon a small hill - this makes it a focus of the skyline, although not quite as dominating as Oblivion. The area is very concrete (in traditional Merlin style), but I feel it works well to give the feeling of a military facility that has been invaded. Despite this, it must be horrible on a hot Summer day - there’s very little shade. I got to ride Raptor mainly on the back row, and didn’t have time to experience the front. Raptor’s first drop is unique in that, unlike other wing riders, it drops straight down. This provides some great forces, even if I marginally prefer the wing over drops on Swarm and Flug Der Daemonen. Raptor is undoubtedly the most intense wing rider I’ve ridden - despite it looking sluggish offride, this ride is relentless. The first roll provides awesome weightlessness, the in-line twist gives great hangtime and the corkscrew has a cool sensation between the two. The helixes on Raptor are also quite intense and were an unexpected highlight. The inline twist’s near misses were probably my favourite point of the ride - they feel extremely close, especially when riding at night! Raptor is very nearly my favourite wing (topped only by Flug Der Daemonen, mainly due to its insane airtime hill) and a must ride if you enjoy The Swarm.

By this time my group was starving, so we headed for some food. The food was really good, possibly my favourite theme park food I’ve had - on both days I had pizza which was really good. If you’re visiting I would probably recommend the Captain Hook Trattoria as it was quite quiet and was pretty good value for money.

Shaman Review
We followed up lunch by heading to Shaman, the newly rethemed Vekoma looper, which had also had VR added. Shaman runs it’s VR differently to Galactica and more similarly to the Europa Park VR coasters - 2 cars on every other train were dedicated to VR, so regular guests were able to access the ride much faster (as the other seats weren’t even running headsets). This resulted in long and slow VR queues, but a main queue that moved at a pretty reasonable pace (much better than Galactica’s system in my opinion). The ride itself is a fairly standard Vekoma looper, however it employs Vest trains which eliminate the head banging which makes classic Vekoma rides so unbearable. The loops are surprisingly forceful, and final helix has some pretty cool water effects that makes it a much more interesting finale. I thought Shaman was a solid ride and definitely one of the best classic Vekoma loopers.

Space Vertigo Review
Space Vertigo was up next. This Intamin drop tower was super forceful despite its short height. The majority of the queueline is outside, however the last section is an odd, 80s style space station. It’s clearly not new, but the lighting and atmosphere was surprisingly great - certainly one of the only things during the trip that was just kind of weird. My only complaint about this ride is the strange metal structure at the top of the drop. It’s not well maintained (very dusty and has cobwebs) and obscures the great views of the park and the lake at the best point of the ride.

I Corsari Review
We next returned to the pirate section of the park to ride I Corsari, a ride I’d heard was essentially a Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” rip-off. However, unlike Disney’s ride, I Corsari is completely underground. Your journey starts with a long walk down a lot of stairs. The queueline is pretty nicely themed, though some of it looks a little dated. Eventually, you board your boat and start your journey with a drop in darkness whilst ominous music plays. The next scenes are a little blurry to me, but I distinctly remember an animatronic parrot that I found stupidly funny (it’s voice was clearly pitch shifted up, and it sounded like gibberish as I don’t speak Italian). Another scene I remember is one where a demented human-loch ness hybrid rises out of the ocean and shakes its head at you a bit. Scary. The last scene is a massive pirate ship battle with some cool water effects as well as smoke. This ride is perhaps a little dated, but honestly it's so impressive yet charming that it more than compensates for its flaws.

Rameses Review
My last new ride for the day was Rameses, the shooting dark ride. The facade for this ride looks pretty impressive... however, the ride falls flat. Some of the scenery inside is good, however the transit system is an endless tracked dark ride. This means there’s no sense of isolation or fear whatsoever throughout the ride. I also found the guns weren’t exactly precise, meaning point scoring was more down to pure luck than skill. Whilst it was one of the shorter queues of the day, I found Rameses underwhelming.

I ended the day with my first Raptor night ride on the back row. I found this to be even better than in the day - this ride is relentless and at night it seems to run even faster. This helped firmly solidify as one of my favourite rides out there. 

Getting home was a struggle. Gardaland has a very badly planned car park - when everyone tries to get out at once, there are insanely long queues. If you've ever experienced Thorpe Park at Fright Nights, I believe it's a similar situation to what happens there. If you’re visiting BE WARNED. You’re best to either stay way past closing or leave earlier to avoid this issue.

Day 2:
Day 2 was mainly spent on night rides and rerides. This time we decided to purchase some fastracks, as we were warned it would be extremely busy (the park was open til 10:00pm for its yearly Halloween Party). We started off by reriding some of the best rides from Day 1 - Oblivion The Black Hole, Raptor, Mammut and Space Vertigo. We now decided to take the time and ride some of the smaller rides we’d skipped on Day 1.

Flying Island Review
First up was the observation tower, Flying Island. As well as offering some beautiful views of the park and stunning surrounding area, Flying Island is unique in that there is no glass separating you and the outside world (which really helped me whilst photographing the park!). Flying Island is especially good for viewing Oblivion - you can get some lovely panoramic shots of it. 

Transgardaland Express Review
We followed this by riding the Transgardaland Express, the park’s train. I may only have ridden this to get more photos and eat lunch, but it was better than I expected. Most of the ride is what you’d expect - travelling around the park, some nice views of rides here and there. However, halfway through you go through an indoor section. This indoor section is another plain weird, but beautifully comical, part of Gardaland. It’s so loud and bright, and the animatronics look just bad enough to be both hilarious and terrifying. That said, everyone else on the ride didn’t seem too traumatised so they must be doing something right.

After a quick reride on Shaman (non-VR once again) we watched one of the many shows on offer at the park. The show building Gardaland have is quite massive, at least big enough to fit 1000 people if I was to guess. The show was all in Italian, but I found it pretty enjoyable with a mix of singing, dancing and performance acts (such as acrobatics). It was also a good way to relax for a bit, especially seeing as we were planning staying until late into the night. 

Shaman VR review
After some deliberation, I decided to finally try Shaman’s VR. As mentioned earlier, the queue is very slow for VR - if you’re in a rush, don’t bother with it (I found non-VR better anyway). Shaman’s VR sequence is decent: there’s not as much of a story as on Galactica’s though and thrame rate at the start wasn’t brilliant (this however was resolved by the time the actual coasting section of the ride started). It does have some nice visuals though. Shaman's coasting section is just about fine for VR, however being unable to anticipate banking and transitions does make it a little rougher than riding non-VR. I’d argue Galactica overall is a better VR coaster, however Shaman is much superior in terms of operations and a generally more suitable ride for VR (it does at least add another reason to ride it again). 

After an I Corsari reride and some quick food, it was time to start using our fastracks. 

Jungle Rapids Review
Our first fastrack was for Jungle Rapids, which was extremely quiet at the time. We enjoyed this ride so much we rerode it immediately. The actual rapids itself is fairly tame - it certainly doesn’t soak you, but you do get some moistness. What I loved however was the theming: It’s very detailed. There’s a volcano which you travel through and see some kind of cult, featuring lots of smoke and awesome lighting. The rest of the theming is almost reminiscent of Wild Asia at Chessington, if Wild Asia wasn’t shut and Wild Asia didn’t look completely run down. It's a bit out of the way but another ride worth riding!

Fuga Da Atlantide Review
After our unexpectedly positive experience with Jungle Rapids, we rode Fuga Da Atlantide. Honestly, I possibly would have skipped this ride if I didn’t have a fastrack. When I got into the area however, I realised that this was possibly the best themed ride in the entire park. True, it got me absolutely soaked when it was dark and cold, but GEEZ is this ride beautiful. The sculptures and theming blew me away - I thought it was better than any water ride in the U.K, even Valhalla. The ride has two main drops, both of which are awesome. The space between the drops is a much more leisurely meander around the area, which somewhat kills the pacing, but allows you to see how awesome everything looks. The night lighting made it look especially great - Oblivion and Fuga probably had the best night lighting in the park. Overall, a pretty wet ride, but the amazing theming makes it a must ride. We headed on, blind to the fact I was about to ride my new most hated coaster...

Blue Tornado Review
Blue Tornado looks innocent. It looks like a regular SLC - mediocre, but not too awful. Hell, it’s maybe even pretty offride. And there’s that extra helix, that should surely improve it? WRONG. This ride is so utterly painful that it’s the first ride I’ve ever been on that I never want to even consider riding again. We chose Row 2 in an attempt to minimise pain experienced. This ride isn’t too rough in terms of actual track shakiness, however the restraints make it a nightmare to remember. Every transition, your head is smacked on the horrible bulky restraints. If this has vests, it might have been bareable. With the current OSTRs however I spent the entire ride clinging to my head, trying to save myself. The extra helix ironically is the only part that’s near OK. If visiting Gardaland, avoid this coaster at all costs (unless you’re a serious masochist). 

After this it was more reriding, but at night. First up was Mammut (better at night in my opinion, as it was running a bit faster), then Raptor (which I had already ridden at night once). Space Vertigo was probably the most similar ride in the day and night - no real speed difference, but more unique views at night.

Next up was Oblivion. Oblivion, as aforementioned, has some great lighting that really helps bring it to life at night. I got back row on this ride for the first time throughout the trip, and it was brilliant. The extra speed, lose restraint and darkness lead to the drop being insane - it’s the first time I’ve ever felt like a coaster was about to eject me. If you get to ride one ride at night at Gardaland, make sure it’s Oblivion on the back row.

We ended our time at Gardaland with one last ride on Flying Island, to relax and soak in the views of the night cloaked park-and that concluded my time at Gardaland.

Gardaland is absolutely an amazing park, maybe even a must visit for the B&Ms, though there is still plenty to do other than Oblivion and Raptor. Raptor was my favourite of the trip due to its relentless layout, with Oblivion close behind. Make sure you don’t miss Shaman and I Corsari - they might not look amazing or be talked about much, but they’re well worth a ride or two. Fastrack is useful if you’re visiting on a busy day, but try to buy it early on. Last thing... avoid Blue Tornado at all costs. That ends my trip report, I hope you enjoyed!

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