Share thoughts, photos, and reviews from visits to Carowinds or any other amusement park
In May I was fortunate enough to get to visit two fantastic and unique parks, Efteling in the Netherlands (about 50 mi/80 km south of Amsterdam) and Grona Lund in Stockholm, Sweden.

I took a lot of photos which can be found here: Efteling and Grona Lund.

Efteling was first up and it has been a bit of a bucket list park for as long as I've been aware of some of the parks outside of the USA. It was a cloudy Wednesday in May but the rain held off all day so we were treated to virtually no lines. The park is gorgeous, built into a forest with a lot of gardens and water features. Since there were no crowds, we were able to do everything we wanted (some things multiple times) with the exception of Villa Volta, the Vekoma mad house, which was down for scheduled rehab.

Droomvlucht (Dreamflight) - We knew this was one of the most popular rides in the park so we headed here first in case it was crowded. I knew nothing about it but was stunned. Even though it's 23 years old, the simple beauty and imagination of this ride probably make it my all time favorite dark ride. The cars are suspended below the track and gradually ascend as they go through each scene, some of which are really trippy and surreal. The score that accompanies the ride is perfect. It's an incredibly relaxing ride. Then, near the end, I was taken completely by surprise as the cars rapidly spiral downward in an almost roller coaster-like descent. Definitely one of the highlights of the park.
Joris en de Draak (George and the Dragon) - The coaster I was looking forward to most was Joris en de Draak, a pair of GCI racers. I really loved them and this was the ride we rode the most and ended up marathoning to finish the day. The natural comparison is of course Lightning Racer, which I also love and would put this ride on par with. Lightning Racer is larger and makes better use of the two tracks by adding in the head-on dueling elements, but Joris is more intense. There was one segment that I found to be surprisingly intense for a GCI.
Bob - I've never met a bobsled I didn't enjoy until this one. This 1985 Intamin seems to have seen better years as it jarred my back pretty good in a couple of spots.
Baron 1898 - One of the most recognizable new coasters of the last few years thanks to its steampunk inspired mine shaft themed lift. The ride itself is fun but nothing special at all; a very short B&M dive coaster. The theming is phenomenal, though. The queue does a fantastic job of building anticipation as riders are introduced to the ominous owner of a gold mine (the Baron obviously) who sends them down into the shaft. The individual car queues are behind giant doors so that the ride vehicle is never seen until the doors open to enter the empty seats. Very well done.
Spookslot (Haunted Castle) - This was the only attraction we experienced that was not very good. On this one you stand and watch an animatronic show set to music. It's very dated (which is no surprise since it opened in 1978) and it was pretty difficult to see what was going on even with very few other people in the room as the sightlines were not great and there were reflections off the glass.
Fata Morgana - A fairly amusing albeit standard boat dark ride themed to One Thousand and One Nights.
De Vliegende Hollander (The Flying Dutchman) - Easily the best water coaster I have been on. It's been a while since I was so surprised by a ride. The beginning of the ride is extremely simple yet extraordinarily effective; you seem to slowly float quietly through a very dense fog (think can't see your hand in front of your face thick) then there is a bright light, a thunderstorm, and a holographic ship that turns real. Suddenly the car drops then rises and stalls out until it hits the anti-rollbacks on what turns out to be the lift hill. This scared the absolute hell out of me. After that comes the main coaster portion which is great and substantial unlike some water coasters that are barely coasters at all.
Python - Vekoma clone of the Carolina Cyclone and other Arrow loop-loop-corkscrew-corkscrew-helix rides. Obviously I was terrified of a Vekoma looper from 1981. Stunningly, with the new Vekoma trains and vest restraints and what seemed like some very good maintaining of the track, this was actually an okay ride! I would even do it again if I went back.
Vogel Rok - Another Vekoma, another surprise. This is an indoor Vekoma with lap bars. I was expecting something small (think Skull Mountain at Great Adventure), but no, this thing has full-size Vekoma track and hits 40 mph. It's really dark, really smooth, really fast, and a lot of fun.
Carnaval Festival - Efteling's take on A Small World, which even more obnoxiously takes a variety of world cultures and reduces them to one or two dumb stereotypes.
Stoomcaroussell - Another great surprise. I knew the park had an old steam carousel, but I had no idea just how cool it is. The carousel is from 1895 and is located in a giant palace. The room containing the carousel has great lighting and ornamentation and even a bar! It was a tad reminiscent of the Circus Circus scene in the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The steam engine still drives the ride, though I believe it is powered by electricity now. Unlike most carousels, the horses on this one rock forward and backward. I hate to say it Knoebels, but I might have a new favorite carousel.
Sprookjesbos (Fairy Tale Forest) - This is the original park attraction, a large forest to walk around and get lost in with scenes from a variety of fairy tales within. We did not have much time inside as we wanted to get rerides on the coasters but I can see how it would be a lot of fun for kids to play in and I wish we had a bit more time to explore all of the stories contained in it.
Pagode - One of the most iconic images of the park, this was the first Intamin flying island that I been on. The flying island is basically a twist on the observation tower; instead of going straight up, the cabin is lifted from below by an arm that allows it to swing around in a wide circle. Very cool.


On to Grona Lund...

Grona Lund is one of the great urban amusement parks of the world. Living without a car in NYC, I've really come to appreciate these more and more as I have traveled. Stockholm consists of 14 islands, one of which is Djurgarden, the old royal hunting grounds, which contains an enormous park, a zoo, museums, and Grona Lund. It is a short walk from the Ostermalm district of Stockholm or a quick ride on the 7 tram. The 130+ year old park is extremely space constrained, with only 15 acres to work with (compare that to Efteling's 494). That has not stopped the park from cramming in a remarkable amount of rides, restaurants, games, and shops in this space. Coasters wind over midways and intertwine tightly together. It's incredible to see, and a great example of how physical constraints can result in something unique and creative.

Grona Lund can get insanely crowded, and unfortunately we were there on a Saturday. The lines were out of control in the afternoon, but the park has an interesting policy of not allowing re-entry without paying again, so we actually left and came back that night and found the place completely dead, allowing us to ride everything we wanted plus rerides.

Jetline - A superb Scwharzkopf non-looper that zips through other rides and has a pretty great tunnel. Very smooth and intense with lots of quick direction changes and the block brakes barely slowed the trains when we rode it. Simply awesome and I wish there were more rides like this out there.
Twister - Unsurprisingly the star of the show, Twister is one of Gravity Group's shockingly intense family woodies. I put it on the same level as Wooden Warrior and both rate very highly for me. Wooden Warrior has more airtime but Twister was longer and more interesting with the extremely tight space the coaster is worked into.
Kvasten - I guess good Vekomas is a theme of this trip. We waited 45 minutes to ride this family suspended coaster which seems like borderline insanity, but it's actually pretty fun, though very short. More great interaction with other rides and the midways.
Nyckelpigan - A junior coaster with ladybug trains. Yep, just like in Rollercoaster Tycoon.
Insane - I had never been on an Intamin ZacSpin and was not looking forward to it. My fears were justified. This is a very violent ride that I did not find very pleasurable.
Vilda Musen - An excellent Gerstlauer wild mouse that I believe is completely custom in order to fit the ride in, which makes it a lot more interesting for those of us who have been on countless standard model wild mice.
Eclipse - The park's Star Flyer has incredible views of Stockholm.
Fritt Fall - Two sides of this 260 foot tall second generation Intamin free fall tower have regular cars and two have stand-up cars (like Acrophobia at Six Flags Over Georgia). I did the sit down side and I think the second generation Intamins are some of the best free fall rides out there, so like its sister ride Pitt Fall at Kennywood (RIP), I loved it.
Lustiga Huset (Funny House) - This fun house dates back to 1883 and it will make you weep for America, because it's the best damn fun house I've ever seen. It goes on forever, pulling out every trick in the book from moving floors and walls to crazy ramps, mirrors, spinning wheels, spinning barrels, and it ends with a big mat slide down a tube!
Blå Tåge (Blue Train) - This dark ride dates back to 1935 though it has been renovated a couple of times so I'm not sure how much of the original is left. Either way it's a top quality ghost train which I would probably put on par with the Haunted Mansion at Knoebels.
Karlekstunneln (Tunnel of Love) - The Tunnel of Love is another historical ride, built in 1917. I think it's mainly for kids but it was all adults on it when we were there at night. There are a lot of really bizarre scenes. Everyone's boat got piled up near the end of the ride and people had to manually pull themselves forward using the side walls. Pretty hilarious.

These parks are both amazing. Not to be missed if you are ever in Holland or eastern Swedden.

It was not just a coaster trip, so if you have any interest in any of the other tourist stuff, I also have photos from Munich, the Netherlands, and Stockholm.

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