Coasters of China – Part 3: Window of the World

by Jill Morris

Window of the World
Kaifu, Changsha, Hunan, China

Credit: Jill Morris

Window of the World is described by locals as the “old” park; in fact, the faculty member who drove me there told me it was probably “50 years old.” However, the park opened in 1997 so while it is certainly older than a lot of parks in China, it is still pretty new by American standards.  Window of the World is themed to famous world landmarks. They generally are not integrated into the rides themselves, but instead are separate photo opportunities scattered around the park. Window of the World is located directly off of a major freeway that travels through Changsha, so if you are in the city you may very well see the park from the road. The other parks in the Changsha area are either outside the city or not visible from the road (featuring small rides).

We visited during the week and the park was virtually deserted. In general that is a good thing, but as some Chinese parks do, Window of the World has operators wait until trains are at least partially full until dispatching. Therefore, a coaster might look like a walk on but you still might be waiting a really long time for the actual dispatch. We waited longer for the coasters than for the flats, which seemed more popular with the locals (this might change when their new coaster opens sometime next year). This also makes it pretty impossible to marathon any of the rides in the park because you need to wait for other guests to show up.

Credit: Jill Morris

The first coaster I rode here was a Zamperla Motocoaster called Speed Shuttle. This is actually quite a bit of fun, and was the coaster that I enjoyed most at this park. It is not terribly tall or fast, but anything going much taller or faster wouldn’t be very comfortable in these restraints anyway.

The park has a knockoff Gerstlauer Sky Roller, and though I went on it several times I do not believe it is possible to completely roll the seats over. Despite this, it’s a fun little ride that you shouldn’t miss, not least of all because the Chinese riders seem to try to keep their seats as steady as possible while foreign riders attempt to get the seats to tip as much as possible. The contrast is quite funny. (You will see this on teacup rides as well—Chinese guests tend to not spin them while foreign guests will.)

The spinning coaster was closed the day that I visited. I don’t honestly know if it would open later in the day or not (the map did not make this clear, nor were there signs; the cars were covered though, so we assumed that it would at least be awhile before it opened). Therefore, we went to ride the second coaster that was opened, the SLC knockoff called “Suspended Coaster.”

Credit: Jill Morris

This one is manufactured by Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides manufacturing. I much prefer Golden Horse rides to these. Although the Beijing model had incredibly padded restraints, there will be major issues for most Americans who attempt to ride this particular coaster. When we tried to board we were immediately stopped by a ride operator who would not allow us to choose the front seat despite being the only people in line. She then pointed to me, said “fat” (along with a gesture and puffed up cheeks), looked to the student I was visiting with, said “tall,” and made us ride in the very back. He is a little over six feet tall and I wear a women’s size 12, for reference.

The ride operators were incredibly surprised that I could ride at all, apparently. The restraint locked just fine, but it seems to be procedure here that for most Chinese people the restraint locks in its smallest setting. They were all very surprised that it would lock further up or that the computer would clear it. The same was true for my student, who was apparently too tall for the restraints.

The seats (other than the back) all had booster seats installed so that the restraints would fit even tighter on average (very small) Chinese guests.

Despite fitting, this was incredibly uncomfortable. The padded restraints do help with the head shaking that is normally a problem on an SLC, but the bones in my hips were wider than the hard plastic seats (a problem that weight loss would not fix), so I was actually perched up on their edges. We had to wait a long time for the train to dispatch, and these plastic sides dug into my hip, butt, and leg bones throughout the ride. This is the only Chinese roller coaster that I have been on that I would never ride again. I had similar issues with the size of the seats on flats that were manufactured by the Beijing Jiuhua company as well (I always fit but it was not comfortable), so I would not recommend these rides for anyone my size or larger. Of course, you can always try if you want the credits, but I am not sure that some of these rides are worth the effort or potential embarrassment.

Credit: Jill Morris

The park is in the process of building an S&S coaster. It was supposed to open this year, but was still sitting in a field with camouflage over it when I visited. Fortunately, since that time it has started being constructed and may open next year. It will be a very good addition for this park and should bring back a lot of business to it.

The theming here is not as good as at the newer parks, however, the park makes up for it with beautiful tree cover throughout. During the summer it is incredibly hot in Changsha, so having shade to walk under is fantastic. Although Chinese amusement parks don’t have many souvenirs in general, this one mostly sold some small toys (including some great My Little Pony knockoffs called “Little Horse”). The park does have some statues that are meant to be Disney-esque, as well as a castle.

The rides here all have cubbies for cameras and bags, and people use them (including with expensive items). Since only one train’s worth of guests will be allowed in the station, this is generally safe.

There are some excellent restaurants outside of the park (within walking distance), and it is easy to get a taxi out front as well. Have your destination written in Chinese and you should not have any trouble getting to or from Window of the World even though it is not yet on the subway system.

Up next: Shanghai Disneyland

Coasters of China – Part 2: Happy Valley Beijing

by Jill Morris

Happy Valley Beijing
Chaoyang, Beijing, China

Credit: Jill Morris

Happy Valley Beijing is available on the Beijing subway system. This makes it very easy to get to (it has its own stop, which has some fantastic art related to the park). The B&M flyer here might be a clone of Superman, but it goes around and through a mountain and feels completely different. Like Fantawild, Happy Valley is very well themed, but is more based in thrills and has a lot more coasters. Happy Valley is slightly more expensive than Fantawild (though this might be because it is in a bigger city), but offers a late-afternoon discount. Be aware, however, that many rides will close at 4 p.m., so do not think that it is possible to ride all the coasters on the afternoon ticket. It is cheaper because some rides will be shut down.

On the day we visited, it was thunderstorming when we arrived, but after a quick discussion with the gate agent (she really wanted me to understand that no rides would be open till the thunderstorm stopped), we went anyway. I was immediately struck by theming, again. Chinese companies invest a lot in these parks. They all feel very new and very well developed.

Credit: Jill Morris

The rain stopped, there was a rainbow, and some of the rides reopened (only briefly, though, as some would be closing soon). I was surprised to find out that some of the indoor rides would not be open later even though everything outside was closed, so the ride opening and closing times here are much more strict than at Fantawild. (I was especially sad that the Air Race, one of my favorite flat rides, was closed despite being inside during the storm.) At Happy Valley, there are opening and closing times for all major rides on their website, and you should assume they will be followed. To ride everything, you should at least plan on spending the morning and early afternoon at the park. You won’t be able to visit in the late afternoon and ride everything, though you will be able to wander around, take photos, and experience the park.

The centerpiece of Happy Valley is Crystal Wings, a Superman clone that circles a mountain-side city. The coaster feels completely different thanks to the theming, and there are many good things to be said about how the park has themed and maintained all of their rides.

The park also has Extreme Rusher, an S&S launched coaster, which is in a section of the park themed to cars and speed. This had closed by the time the storm was over, so I can’t speak personally to how it rides. To get this credit it is best to go in the morning or early afternoon.

Credit: Jill Morris

The Family Inverted Coaster is also a B&M, and it is one of only two family inverted coasters by them in the world (both in China). This is an excellent little ride, and I was initially more excited to ride it than Crystal Wings.

The park has two Vekomas. One is fairly standard SLC, but given that SLC-looking coasters are often knock-offs in China, I appreciate that they installed the real thing. It is also called Golden Wings in Snowfield, which is a beautiful name that reflects that it is painted white. The ride goes through some fairly thick trees, which also helps with the experience.

Their second Vekoma is a mine-train model called Jungle Racing (it is not a racing coaster, however). It also goes through the woods. I was almost crazily excited by this ride because you can ride in what is normally the “zero car” in mine train coasters actually shaped like a train. Regrettably, the pillars that hold up the roof on the train engine are metal and not padded and adult-sized humans will knock their elbows and head into them while riding. On Jungle Racing we were allowed to ride with our backpacks and other bags, which seemed strange, but we were not allowed to leave them on the platform. Other rides had cubbies or allowed bags to be left on the platform.

Credit: Jill Morris

Like Fantawild, Happy Valley seemed to only let one train’s worth of guests into the station at once (though, given the low crowds, no rides were running two trains). As such, safety of personal items was not really a concern. (I have gotten comfortable leaving my DSLR places in China that I definitely would not in the US, but only in parks that are fairly empty with high security.)

I visited the park in 2018, and so the B&M hyper was currently under construction when we were there. One of the big differences between Chinese and American parks is how easy it is to walk into construction sites by accident, so if there is construction going on at a park be careful. (We walked onto the site for Flight of the Himalayan Eagle Music Roller Coaster completely by accident while looking for a path around to the front of the park that no longer existed. We quickly backed up and went around the long way.) Be careful. China expects its citizens to take care of themselves in these circumstances. In any case, this ride is now complete, stands 157.5 feet tall, and has a splash effect.

Credit: Jill Morris

Happy Valley has a lot of flat rides that are well maintained and worth a ride, but be sure to not miss their Intamin Flying Island that is called Energy Collector. This platform is raised on an arm. You stand around on the platform without restraints, so when it changes direction or begins to go up and down it can actually be a little scary. It also provides fantastic views of the entire park. They are a rare enough ride that it shouldn’t be missed.

Happy Valley is accessible directly off of Line 7 from the Beijing subway and has its own stop, the Happy Valley Scenic Area station, which is right outside the front gate.

Up next: Window of the World

Coasters of China – Part 1: Fantawild Adventure and Dreamland

by Jill Morris

For the past three summers of work as an associate professor of English at Frostburg State University, I have spent a month in Changsha, the capital of the Hunan province in the People’s Republic of China. When my department chair first asked me if I would be interested in this trip, I checked RCDB (the Roller Coaster DataBase) and found out that there were parks in the area, so I partially agreed based upon the fact that Changsha had multiple parks to visit, and I was assured that travel within the country was relatively easy. What follows is not just information about each park I’ve been to, but also general travel tips for China and ideas about how to get the most out of visiting amusement parks there.

Fantawild Adventure and Dreamland
Shifeng, Zhuzhou, Hunan, China

Credit: Jill Morris

Fantawild is located outside of Changsha, reachable by taxi or Didi (China’s Uber service). Fantawild is one of the large park operators in China and is currently expanding. This location now has three parks, with their Oriental Heritage park opening shortly after I left this past summer. Fantawild is a theme park complex with incredible theming. One of the things I noticed in Chinese parks is just how largeeverything is. Perspective is used much less often to make buildings look larger than in parks in the US.

Because the Hunan province gets very hot during the summer, the two parks I visited had many indoor attractions, including multiple 4D attractions and dark rides on par with Universal’s rides.  When I visited, a ticket  that got us admission to both parks was about $30 USD. It was a very hot day, so the parks were fairly empty despite it being a holiday weekend (the Dragon Boat Festival). Locals will tell you that you have to spend several days to experience everything at Fantawild. However, we were able to ride the coasters and several other rides in half an afternoon with little trouble. If I go back I will want to spend more time there because I missed some of the dark rides and we did not see any shows, but it was over 100 degrees F, so I did not experience lines or waits and was able to see all the rides within the time frame we had.

Credit: Jill Morris

This Fantawild location has a lot of coasters that are by familiar manufacturers. My favorite is Jungle Trailblazer, a Gravity Group woodie that is incredibly twisty. Built in 2016, this is not the tallest or flashiest ride at the park, but it is incredibly smooth and is the only woodie I have had the pleasure to ride in China. Since most Chinese parks are relatively new, they don’t have many older rides like woodies from decades past. However, they are building smaller woodies that provide great laterals and airtime to fill this gap in many of their parks.

The other coaster in Dreamland is a Vekoma boomerang with the hilarious name Stress Express. This is a newer boomerang, also built with the park in 2016, and offers a fairly smooth ride, especially for the model.

Credit: Jill Morris

In the Adventure part of the park, there is a Golden Horse mine train called Vesuvio Volcano and a Golden Horse suspended looping coaster (SLC) called Flare Meteor. The mine train has nice theming and is a lot more fun than the SLC. However, if you are going to ride a knock-off SLC in China I highly recommend Golden Horse over Beijing Jiuhua Amusement Rides Manufacturing. Golden Horse has larger seats and is overall a better match to the original SLC than the Beijing Jiuhua model.

I can’t overstate how beautiful these parks are. Every area feels incredibly well done, and I look forward to visiting the Oriental Heritage park this next summer. The new park not only promises a new Vekoma coaster, but also rides that share a lot of information about the history of the local area. Changsha is the birthplace of Chairman Mao (be sure to visit Orange Island near downtown to see a statue as well as some beautiful gardens) and also the location of the Hunan Provincial Museum where you can view Lady Dai, a world-famous mummy. Fantawild’s newest park in Changsha celebrates this heritage and hopes to educate foreigners and locals alike about this history.

Credit: Jill Morris

Operations notes: Fantawild only allowed one train’s worth of people (or two rafts on their shoot-the-chutes ride) in the station at a time. Cubbies are in use to protect your belongings. On days with one train operations, this means that valuables such as phones can be left in the station in a backpack with few worries (the Chinese students I traveled with acted like I was a little crazy for worrying at all).

Outdoor queues at Fantawild have seating and lots of mist machines. The seating is especially nice, though unlikely to appear in the US.

Fantawild sometimes closes early (6 pm the day I visited), so be sure to double check an operating calendar before visiting. Sometimes rides will close off their queues early before closing, but if they get cleared out before closing they will reopen them and let some more people in.

Up next: Happy Valley Beijing

Mid-Atlantic Parks Are Open for the Holidays

The parks are open again! We are so fortunate to have holiday celebrations at all the major parks in the Mid-Atlantic.

Here are some tips to make your visit more delightful!

If you have tips of your own to share – please email eringas@aceonline.org.

Holiday in the Park at Six Flags America runs through January 1st.

Included with a 2019 or 2020 season pass, or a membership

What’s new this year? Firebird is operating, so there are FIVE roller coasters to ride! The park is featuring three new shows – “Saving Christmas” – a holiday stunt show, “Dancin’ Through the Holidays” in the Crazy Horse Saloon, and “Behold, the Messiah” in the Grand Theatre.

What’s to know? The front part of the park is fully decked out for the holidays. The Gotham City area of the park is not operational for Holiday in the Park.

The food? New food items are sprinkled throughout the park, so check out all your favorite eateries.

More information: https://www.sixflags.com/america/special-events/holiday-in-the-park

Winterfest at Kings Dominion

Included with a 2019 or 2020 season pass

Two roller coasters are operating this year – Dominator and Twisted Timbers, both weather permitting.

Special Extras:

Outdoor ice skating is available for an additional fee. It is cheaper when purchased online before arriving and does sell out commonly.

Carriage rides are available for an additional fee.

What will the kids enjoy? Holiday shows with lots of energy, and cookie decorating in Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen (available for an extra fee).

What’s new to eat? Holiday food items are available at all restaurants, so check out the website for many options: https://www.kingsdominion.com/play/winterfest/attractions

More information: https://www.kingsdominion.com/play/winterfest

Christmas Town at Busch Gardens

A Christmas Town ticket is required. Discount tickets are available to passholders/members.

Enjoy rides on THREE roller coasters – Grover’s Alpine ExpressVerbolten, and Invadr – plus many more rides.

What’s new? Traditions Tree Maze features 500 trees near Festhaus.

More info: https://buschgardens.com/williamsburg/events/christmas-town/

– Elizabeth Ringas

The Day Without a Coaster

Attendees pose for a group photo in front of Fun Land of Fredericksburg’s new go-kart track, Thunder Speedway. (Credit: Elizabeth Ringas)

Who doesn’t dream of playing like a kid again? Fun Land of Fredericksburg offered 28 ACE members that feeling of euphoria and endless fun with no worries on Sunday, October 13th, while hosting Play Like A Kid, a follow-up event to Fall Thrillfest. Fun Land of Fredericksburg was recently recognized in 2nd place as the World’s Best FEC (family entertainment center) by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards, so we knew a great day was ahead. But what to our wondering eyes, was a dark and quiet coaster when we arrived. The bad news was confirmed, the coaster had experienced a maintenance issue and was awaiting the arrival of a part from Italy, but the great news was that there is so much to do that we always run out of time.

Playing air hockey at Fun Land of Fredericksburg (Credit: Elizabeth Ringas)

With our all-we-can-ride-and-play wristband (at an amazing price by the way), we enjoyed the indoor attractions. including a clip-and-climb structure, bumper cars, mini bowling, and tons of video games. Attendees were seen battling on Mario Kart & Guitar Hero, playing air hockey, and riding a snowmobile together. When the clock struck noon, all the outdoor attractions opened! The queue was immediately full of anxious ACE members waiting to experience the new multi-level go-kart track, Thunder Speedway. Intermittent rain didn’t dampen our day because rides opened again once the rain stopped. Batting cages, a round-up, scrambler, and go-karts for younger children filled our short time until lunch was served.

Ready to race (Credit: Elizabeth Ringas)

All-you-can-eat pizza, wings, and fries satisfied this hungry group with lunch. Regional Rep Elizabeth Ringas welcomed all and awarded a few door prizes donated by Fun Land before General Manager (and co-host of our podcast, Ride With ACE) Clint Novak shared insight and future plans from behind the scenes at Fun Land.

To continue our behind-the-scenes look, Clint took us on a lights-on tour of the newest addition, Mortician’s ­­­Nightmare, a new maze in their Fright Land. Fright Land is a new expansion that tripled the haunted offerings. New this year is a large tented outdoor maze that takes guests into the depths of a Morticians Nightmare as well as a custom-designed escape room. The escape room is a great example of the creativity required of a small FEC to maximize revenue in a limited space because they adapted two party rooms into this dark and challenging game.

The evening concluded with another round of door prizes and a randomly drawn participant from the mini-golf tournament. Thank you to all who joined us and for the extreme hospitality that Fun Land of Fredericksburg offered ACE. If you are passing through Fredericksburg, Virginia, stop in and enjoy the ACE discount to catch a ride on Twist-n-Shout.

– Elizabeth Ringas