Attraction Review: Is Phantasialand The Best Theme Park In The World?


If you're into your theme parks there's a high chance you've heard of Phantasialand. Located in Bruhl, North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany, Phantasialand is a mid-sized regional theme park that attracts around 2 millions visitors per year. Alongside what is soon to be three resort hotels, the park has seen rapid growth and development over the past 10-15 years, with essentially the entire park receiving a bit of a face-lift with the addition of new attractions, world-class theming and of course, world-beating new roller coasters that have all worked in tandem to put Phantasialand on the map as one of the best theme parks not just in Europe but in the entire world. 

And I get it, when you've got the Disney's and Universals of the world who are generally considered to be industry leaders when it comes to theme park, it's a bit of a bold statement to make for what is a fairly small regional theme park in comparison to these global theme park industry behemoths. Which is what I wanted to get into a little and explore here today. What exactly is it that, for me, leads Phantasialand to stand out above the rest as the best theme park in the world? What does it have that the Universal Islands of Adventures and Tokyo DisneySeas of the world don't? And for the things the park does have that those aforementioned titans of industry also offer, what is it that makes Phantasialand's better?


Let's kick off with a biggie: theming. It's quite hard for me to describe why the theming in Phantasialand is so good without you having actually experienced it for yourself but I will give it my best shot. Due to the fact that the fact is in such close proximity to local housing, the park have a bit of task for themselves in that everything they do and build needs to be soundproofed. Whilst this is a barrier, it actually means the park turn to more creative design solutions which in turn birth fixes unseen anywhere else in the world meaning its wholly unique to Phantasialand and innovative and oozing with creativity to boot. One such solution is that the park itself is slightly sunk below ground level, so in turn the world around you quite literally swallows you up and immerses you in whichever themed land you might find yourself in. It can actually be quite claustrophobic at times, with the walls towering in over you and enveloping you in their own unique Phantasialand brand of adventure, but with that comes a whimsy and magic unlike anything else I've experienced in a theme park. To truly be able to forget the outside world exists in such an exhaustive way when in reality the housing estates and town centres are *literally right there* is an absolutely incredible feat. 



And then there's the imagination and detail that come with all of the lands. Like I mentioned previously, the park is currently in a pretty huge rehaul so there are some areas of the park that are lacking in this immersion slightly (*ahem* Wuze Town *ahem*) but even those aren't bad, they're just not as mind-blowingly excellent as the rest of the park and thus stick out a little. The park is a pretty small footprint, so the way the park is landscaped to use every square inch of space to maximum effect is breathtaking. I'm thinking here of the vista looking out over Chiapas where we can marvel at the incredible forced perspective of a Mexican village that truly feels lived in, the ever-looming presence of the park's dragon mascots visualised here with a dragon statue in still-life that looks as if it has just smashed through the fence. And of course Klugheim, with its MC Escher illusion style layout that makes it impossible to tell which staircase or path leads where which only serves to amplify the sense of mystique and wonder about the land itself. 

And that's just scratching the surface - I could write an entire book on the gloriousness of the theming present in this park. Yes, parks like Tokyo DisneySea match this for immersion and detail but I think consideration if one were to compare the budgets, time and space at hand for the two projects it's easy to understand why Phantasialand is the more impressive of the two. To be able to say a regional European theme park has theming on offer that rivals that of the Disney parks is incredible, yet true. 


I'm literally listening to the park soundtrack whilst I write this and it still gives me goosebumps even on my 1000th listen. For me the music in Phantasialand is a huge part of what I love about the place and has become a staple in any playlist of iconic theme park soundtracks. Personally I have a real adoration for folklore and fairytale and I've spoken before about how I feel European parks and the way they implement theming and storylines has a deep-set affiliation with this because of our country's histories with storytelling. It's interwoven with the way we experience escapism and adventure and I think Phantasialand's soundtracks really encapsulate that feeling. It's epic and exciting, just there are tones of underlying foreboding, much like the classic European fairytales of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. In Europe we don't like to sugarcoat everything in a happy happy joy joy Disney or Hollywood kind of way and this is definitely something my personal theme park musical tastes lean in to. 



I know this is true more-so of IMAscore in general as opposed to being an exclusively Phantasialand thing, but the listening to the park's soundtracks at home get me so much more hyped up and flood my brain with feelings of excitement and immersion that I get when I visit the park itself than I do if I were to listen to say, the Sinbad's Storybook Voyage ride soundtrack from Tokyo DisneySea. Don't get me wrong, it's an attraction soundtrack I absolutely adore, especially being a huge Alan Menken fan already from the music of the Disney Renaissance animated movies of the 90s, but it just doesn't have me feeling the same way. In fact, the only soundtrack I can think of that comes close is the Port of Entry music from Islands of Adventure which I'd argue has that same undercurrent of intrigue and secrecy found in the Phantasialand soundtracks and probably wouldn't sound out of place in the park itself, which I guess makes sense!


I'm going to try really hard and have this section not just fall into the trap of me gushing about how fucking incredible Taron is but please forgive me if we enter that territory, it simply cannot be helped. Although with the addition of the still-unconfirmed Velocicoaster at Island of Adventure in Universal Orlando and TRON being rolled out to Magic Kingdom after its success in Shanghai we are beginning to see the bigger parks turn their attention back to thrills, there's still something that feels like it's holding back a little with the Disney and Universal coasters. Obviously we've had things like Duelling Dragons and Hulk at IoA, but aside from (awesomely) themed station buildings these coasters are unthemed. The likes of Taron and Black Mamba at Phantasialand do something incredibly impressive that even with newer additions I'm yet to see a Disney or Universal park do, and that is to fully theme a high-intensity thrill coaster from start to finish, and have it work to the coaster's advantage without detracting from anything. 




I believe this is because Phantasialand go for a more avant-garde interpretive approach with their thrill-coaster themes as opposed to the more literal narrative style we find at Disney and Universal. Black Mamba slithers and snaps wildly among the dense African landscape, matching the movements of its namesake predatory hunting snake and Taron takes the form of an ethereal mythical beast wreaking havoc on a gloomy Norse-mythology inspired village, stealthily and malevolently rushing through the sleepy streets and over rooftops. The coasters don't get bogged down in the literal interpretation of why we're here and what is this vehicle we're riding and they're all the better for it as it opens the door for gorgeous coaster and train designs and exquisite surrounding theming and landscaping to deliver best in class ride packages that are as thrilling and intense as they are stunning and immersive. 



And that's not to forget the supporting line-up - despite not matching the two headline coasters for thrills that doesn't mean each of the other coasters at the park do not bring something wholly unique and exciting to the table. Phantasialand seems to say if you can't be intense, be weird, and boy do the supporting coasters deliver on that front. Raik provides a perfect supporting family attraction to Taron's more extreme nature and entangles perfectly with the Taron track, providing a physical ride hardware extension of the aforementioned Escher-esque labyrinthine traits of Klugheim; Winjas Fear & Force perfectly encapsulate the mischief and whimsy of Wuze Town in coaster form and Colorado Adventure is arguably the true wildest ride in the wilderness with an absolutely mad ride emulating a cowboy clinging on for dear life on the back of a bucking bronco in a rodeo. Each supporting attraction does its damnedest to be as memorable as the thrilling headliners, each with a distinct USP and oozing rerideability. 


Aside from the obvious little kiddie rides, there aren't really any attractions at Phantasialand that don't go out of their way to be memorable and unique in their own right. Why have a simple rapids ride when you can build River Quest, a multi-story rapids uniquely themed to a haunted castle (?) that serves surprises around every corner and has first time riders jaw-agape for the entire duration; why just build a log flume when you can build a log flume with the steepest drop in the world including backwards sections, dark ride sections, airtime hills and a banging soundtrack; why just build a shooting dark ride when you can build the cutest shooting dark ride ever complete with adorable mice that come along for the ride that smells deliciously of chocolate and has a theme so eccentric and unusual that no other park in the world could pull it off to the point where it becomes an iconic attraction of the park. You see what I'm getting at right? Every. Single. Attraction. Has something it does that nothing else in the world does and therefore makes it special purely for its singularity. 



For a park to be home to 'best in the world' attractions for pretty much every ride category from family dark ride to water ride to thrill ride and then some and for a park's supporting line-up of attractions to be as memorable and wonderful as their headline attractions is an incredible feat, and for that feat to be achieved by a regional European theme park even more so. The passion for innovation and creativity demonstrated by Phantasialand with every new attraction, every new land and every redevelopment is second to none in the world, and delivered to such a high calibre every. Single. Time. 

Lastly, which I believe is a crucial factor here and one not often considered when discussing what makes a park the best in the world, is value for money. We can talk about Disney and Universal til the cows come home, but I very rarely see a comparison of ticket price or room rates in accordance with the quality of offering. Phantasialand, simply put, is the best value for money theme park in the world if you consider the world-class quality of the product in question. Regardless of ticket price, it's pretty plain to see that Phantasialand already offer a product that rivals that of Disney and Universal parks around the world, but to do so at a small fraction of the cost to guests is really extraordinary. As they've been the parks I've compared Phantasialand to the most in this post, let's consider the prices of Tokyo DisneySea and Universal Islands of Adventure for a sec. TDS is £60 for one day entry and IoA is £90. Compare that with Phantasialand whose gate price averages out at about £40 and it's a no-brainer which park is the better value. 


I understand that TDS and IoA offer something slightly different in terms of offering - most obviously in the dark ride area and while I would argue that Phantasialand more than make up for that in the roller coaster, thrill ride and water ride area I would agree that the big thing lacking from Phantasialand in order for it to confirm its position as best theme park in the world would be a world-beating, multi-SFX and highly themed dark ride. Given what the park have delivered over the past decade or so I can't imagine it's something the park wouldn't be able to pull off but as of right now it's not something I've heard that's in their plans for the future, but here's hoping it's something they will consider soon!

___

Amazingly this post isn't sponsored by Phantasialand, I just, really, really love the place and had a lot of feelings that I wanted to get out into a blog post. It really is the best theme park in the world for me and I consider myself so lucky that it's so accessible for me. It's a park I'm always planning my next visit to even as I'm leaving the gates and always the first park that springs to mind for me in terms of quality across the board. 

What do you think? Do you agree that Phantasialand is the best theme park in the world? If not, what do you think is instead? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to have a chat!

Talk later xoxo,

6 comments

  1. They could never build a dark ride better than Hollywood Tours

    ReplyDelete
  2. I visited Phl. Over 20 times and I even get enough 😁

    ReplyDelete
  3. I need to go. Sounds PERFECT. Highly themed, interpretive coasters. Top of my list to visit.

    ReplyDelete