Early June I had planned a work trip to Madrid for a conference I was attending. The conference itself took place on Friday, leaving the following weekend wide open. My girlfriend flew in and we spent the weekend eating Iberico ham, strolling through the city and… riding roller coasters!
Every coaster enthusiast knows the two main amusement parks in Madrid: Parque Warner and Parque Atracciones de Madrid. Although Parque Warner is significantly bigger and has two B&M’s, we decided to visit Parque Atracciones instead. Before you get mad at me, hear me out! It takes a long trip to get to Parque Warner and we only had two days off in the city. Traveling to Parque Warner would cost us a lot of valuable time and a lot of hassle (taking a few metros, a train and a bus is not exactly a fun relaxing trip). Additionally, I had been involved in a pretty bad car crash just days before and I still had a sore neck as a result from the impact. I didn’t want to travel all the way to Parque Warner to find out that I couldn’t handle the g-forces. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.
So, off we went to Parque de Atracciones! This park opened in 1969 and is therefore one of the oldest amusement parks in Spain. Its holding company, Parques Reunidos, owns over 50 parks in more than 10 countries, such as Bobbejaanland in Belgium, Mirabilandia in Italy and Movie Park in Germany. In contrast to Parque Warner, Parque de Atracciones is located close to the city center of Madrid and is easily reachable via metro or other forms of public transport. Just take the metro line 10 to Puerta del Sur and hop off at the Batán station. From there it only takes a 5-minute walk to the entrance.
First thing we noticed when entering the park was that there weren’t any park maps. We were kinda bummed out by this, as its a nice small collectable and I always try to take one extra for Thibault. Luckily the park isn’t that big so we didn’t really need one to find our way around. Second thing we noticed that the entrance area was kinda empty. No fun mascots, no theme park music or no main street area. We thought that perhaps this had something to do with the fact that we entered the park through the back entrance (which is more close to the metro station) but we also had this feeling with the main entrance. This didn’t ruin the start of our day though: we quickly realized that we’re so spoiled having Europa-Park, Phantasialand and Efteling within driving distance.
As we walked by the park’s Nickelodeon area, we stumbled upon TNT Tren de la Mina, a Gerstlauer mine train coaster. After waiting quite a while (later we saw that the ride’s second train laid dismantled in the transfer track station), we got seated in the back row. The coaster turned out pretty fun! I liked the pace of the ride and especially loved the 90 degrees banked turn. You don’t see those very often on family rides like these. Downsides were that the capacity is just too low when they’re only running one train and that the layout is rather short. Major upside: my neck was doing great! Up to the next ride.
We started walking around for a little while and somehow ended up in the line for the Zeppelin attraction, a Zamperla ride that features Zeppelins that ‘fly’ around the park. We normally wouldn’t spend our time riding these quiet types of rides but it was a fun way to see a bit more of the park. We enjoyed the sun and were treated by some nice views on the park’s scenery and Abismo. No complains here.
After we got out our Zeppelins, we entered the Maquinismo area and got in line for wat we thought was Tarántula. We quickly realized that we were wrong and that we were about to embark on a journey through Cueva de las Tarantulas. I had absolutely no idea what the hell we were signing up for. It turned out to be an interactive dark ride. While fun, it’s absolutely not suited for people with arachnophobia, as spiders are crawling out of every corner of the ride. The shooting system didn’t work that well and the theming was minimal but we both found the ride to be amusing nonetheless.
We then skipped the line for Tarántula and went straight to the farthest corner of the park where Tornado is located. We joined the line and became somewhat irritated with the ride operations. I don’t think I ever saw such slow operations despite having 3 operators on the platform. Perhaps it’s the Spanish laid-back nature (which I otherwise love), but this was night and day different from parks like Europa-Park, Cedar Point or, even closer to our home, Walibi. Some operators worked highly inefficient and just sauntered back and forth on the platform. As a result, 5 minute intervals between opening of the restraints and dispatch of a train were not rare. The operators were really friendly though, so that helped us cope!
Enough petty complains, back to Tornado. As some of my favorite coasters are made by Intamin (most noticeably Expedition GeForce and Millennium Force) I was eager to experience this Intamin inverted. You heard that right: Intamin inverted! It’s rare to see Intamin loops and even more so when inverted, so you can image our curiosity while heading up the lift hill. To my surprise, the ride was smoother than I expected. Only the corkscrew was a bit rough but, to be honest, I’ve yet to come across a non-B&M roller coaster with smooth corkscrews. The layout of Tornado is rather simple but all in all it’s a good ride and I would have certainly ridden it again if the operators picked up their game or if they added another train to the tracks. Both didn’t happen, by the way.
We started to get hungry so we got some hotdogs. To my surprise, the majority of park staff didn’t really speak or understand English. Communication was therefore a challenge, however, Google Translate saved the day. With a full belly we entered the line for Tarántula, the park’s spinning coaster by Maurer Rides. Will I ever learn? (I once went on Colossos at Heide-Park after going ham on a all-you-can-eat pizza and pasta buffet. My expression on our ride photo was one of utter agony as I struggled to keep my lunch in my stomach for the entire ride time. Good times!)
For me, Tarántula is the best ride of the park. Yes, better than Abismo. Standing more than 25 meters tall (82 feet), Tarántula is one of the highest spinning coasters currently in operation. Immediately after seeing the ride emerge above the tree line, I fell in love with the layout. I especially found the two 90 degrees banked turns to be quite esthetically pleasing! Luckily my eerie feelings were confirmed when riding this spinning coaster manufactured by Maurer Rides. It has some steep drops, fast pacing and a few sets of intense curves banked turns. To top it all off, our car spun around like a record on steroids. Yep, Tarántula immediately became my favorite spinning coaster and by extension my favorite coaster by Maurer Rides.
With one major roller coaster to go though, we decided not to ride Tarántula again. I felt my neck becoming a little bit tired and I didn’t want to risk an injury so we decided not to overdo ourselves. We finished off our afternoon at the park with a ride on Abismo. Even thought the line seemed short, we spent over an hour waiting. Again, ride operations were unimaginably slow. It didn’t help that line cutters jumped in front of us all the time and that there constantly were people with fast passes getting priority access. I have to be honest though: I’m never nervous to ride roller coasters anymore but Abismo got the blood pumping through my veins. This ride (also manufactured by Maurer Rides) starts off with a vertical lift hill, taking riders to a height of 46 meters (150 feet). The lift then curves another 90 degrees backwards so that riders are now completely upside down to start the ride. Did I mention that you’re only restrained around the waist? The ride itself is smoother than I expected and offers a few exciting airtime bursts as well as opportunities for grey-outs or black-outs if you’re prone to those. Good coaster, but not my favorite one.
After Abismo we decided that we’d seen everything the park had to offer and that we’d head back into the city. We walked through the Nickelodeon area to the side entrance of the park and were back at our hotel to within 30 minutes. Sheez, talk about a short but highly exciting roller coaster trip!
I always like to conclude this trip reports like these with a quick lists of pros and cons. Here we go:
- PRO: The park is very easy to reach using public transportation. It’s therefore a great idea to combine a visit to the park with a morning in the city. We spent a lovely morning at Parque del Retiro.
- PRO: The park is enclosed by beautiful scenery, offering some amazing views. It’s also very clean.
- PRO: Even though it’s a relatively small park, it offers a wide range of attractions. All ages can enjoy at least a few hours here.
- PRO: Every staff member we encountered was so friendly to us! Thanks for that, guys and gals.
- CON: Slow operations + only one train on every roller coaster (except Vetigo and TNT Tren de Mina of course) = long waiting times.
- CON: It’s apparently very common to jump the lines and to smoke in the waiting areas. You wouldn’t last long in Belgian parks if you wanted to pull that off here.
- CON: The park’s beautiful scenery and surroundings had to make up for its theming, which was average. I particulary thought the small Eiffel Tower to be a weird fit.
- CON: English! I wrongfully thought that people in such a major city like Madrid have no problem with understanding and talking English. You generally have to talk very slow and be prepared to whip out Google Translate if you want to make your point clear.
- CON: There were not a lot of food options. Ofcourse you also have to take into account that most of the food stalls began to open a few hours after noon, when it’s finally lunch time in Spain.