Few parks on the planet have experienced 18 years of change like Toverland has.
In fact, you don't even have to go back that far. I visited Toverland on the 2016 TPR trip, and between then and 2019, they'd built two new themed areas -- including one that added a full-size B&M in a huge expansion into what was once a barren, swampy field.
What sets Toverland apart from some other parks that have grown very quickly -- including one that will show up later in this TR -- is that it all feels very organic and responsible. Toverland started as an indoor FEC-on-steroids in 2001, and over the years new attractions have been added at what I'd call a reasonable pace. A second indoor area and a Vekoma launch coaster in 2004. A GCI woodie in 2007 -- their first full-size thrill coaster, a huge step for the park. Magical Valley (and a Mack spinner) in the early 2010s. Then, in 2018, the outdoor expansion -- Toverland's biggest yet.
There really isn't any US park that would serve as a fair comparison to Toverland, but the closest one I can think of is Holiday World. Both parks started as small family attractions, and still primarily cater to families. Both parks are independent theme park operations, growing and making big expenditures very carefully. Oh, and both parks have a B&M wing coaster, though you'll have to read on to see which one I prefer.
We made our way to Toverland immediately after departing the Efteling hotel, arriving early in the morning for some ERT and filming on Fenix -- the aforementioned B&M. We split off after that to tackle the rest of the park, finding that crowds were surprisingly manageable for a Saturday in the middle of the summer. We had about six hours of free time in the park, which you might think would be enough for Toverland, but I could have used another hour or two. Unfortunately, some combination of bus driver rules and weather concerns (thank me later for keeping it all north of the park) brought about a group vote and a departure at 4PM. I missed an attraction or two, and didn't finish all of my planned photography, but that's OK -- I've got a photo set from 2016 to pull from also. So, this post is going to be a hybrid, sort of like the Efteling TR -- mostly from this year, but I'll mix in the older photos to fill in some gaps.
There's one more thing to mention. Toverland's more than a theme park -- it's also a giant playground. There are lots of ways to have fun. There are lots of ways to injure and/or soak yourself. And we're going to try out most of them. So prepare for a lot of old-school TPR fun in this trip report -- we're all acting like kids here!
On to the ride reviews...
Fenix: This ride deserves a lot of credit for its beautiful setting in Toverland's new Avalon area. It's among the best themed B&M wing coasters that I've been on. It's not a big, plodding hulk of a ride like Gatekeeper -- it's somewhat compact, and hits its elements without much wasted time in between. You can definitely feel some intensity on this ride, and I like the overall layout. Unfortunately, I did have a problem with a rattling/bouncing, even when taking the inside seats. It was starting to get to me by the 3rd or 4th ride. That may just be an unfortunate limitation of the wing coaster design, since it's happened on pretty much every one that I've been on. With that aside, I like Fenix, and it will probably slot in as my 3rd favorite wing coaster -- behind Wild Eagle at #2, and Thunderbird at #1. Yep, Holiday World gets the win.
Troy: Still one of my favorite GCIs, but it's just not the same without the old theme song. It just isn't. The layout is very good -- it's a nice assortment of the things GCI is good at, with a fun station fly-by, and a rare-for-GCI straight floater airtime hill. It's just one old-school theme song away from greatness. I should also note that Troy began an unfortunate trend on this trip of top-tier rides at various parks running just one train. In fact, as AJ noted in his TR, they pulled the second train off of Troy while we were queuing. Didn't hurt us then, but did keep me from getting a second ride later in the day.
Booster Bike: The precursor to Tron is still running strong at Toverland. I'm not a huge fan of the seating style, but I can handle it for this short ride. It's a fun family attraction with some decent airtime and a kid-friendly launch.
Dwervelwind: Massively underrated. I enjoyed it in 2016 and loved it even more in 2019. In fact, our group was expecting a one-and-done, but we ran back around and got in line for a second go! Mack spinners need to find their way to more parks -- kick the tired old spinning mice to the curb, please. Also, this ride is themed to a tornado, which means I automatically have to like it.
Toos-Express: It's a Vekoma junior coaster that used to be called Boomerang. It was, by default, the best coaster named Boomerang that ever existed. It is still a perfectly acceptable family/kiddie ride.
Maximus' Blitz Bahn: A rare Bobkart! It's fun. It's like riding a powered alpine slide. It's also a capacity nightmare, so I think this is getting moved up to "first ride of the day" on any future trip to Toverland.
Expedition Zork: Who doesn't like a double-drop reversing-turn-table log flume? I rode this as Backstroke in 2016 (skipped it for pictures in 2019) and I simply wish more parks had lengthy, reversing flumes like this. They are a lot of fun, and they're fairly common in the Benelux.
Merlin's Quest: The other new attraction in Avalon, it's a gentle boat ride that traverses underneath Fenix, and also includes a very nice indoor dark ride section.
Ropes Course: Way too easy. A four-year-old could complete it. *ducks barrage of tomatoes and/or other random objects*
As the Toverland pictures begin, we find our TPR group searching for the park's new entrance...
Welkom in Toverland! The entrance is that way, and it's ... not where it used to be.
So, flashback time! In this 2016 photo, you'll see a massive group of same-shirted school children, all lined up to enter the park.
Here's where they were going to be entering -- the original Toverland entrance at the south end of the main building. (2016)
But in 2019? No kids on the path. No queuing to get into the building.
In 2019, the entrance is here -- the main gate of Port Laguna. Welcome!
Port Laguna is the park's big new entrance area, and it contains everything you'd expect to find in an entrance area. Restrooms, guest services, shops, etc.
The Solaris tower is now one of the park's landmarks. It almost feels cliche to mention it, since literally every single Toverland trip report since Port Laguna opened has mentioned it, but there's an obvious IoA vibe here.
It's also got a bit of a water park vibe, which I'm totally OK with.
There's a small stage area somewhere over here.
I think they do shows up on that pirate ship. Nothing going on right now, though -- we're in the park before it's actually open.
And here's the reason why -- we're on our way for some early morning rides on Fenix!
Check out the sword in the stone -- perfectly lined up with Fenix's Gatekeerer-esque elements behind it. This is the big reveal you get when you first enter Avalon, and it's brilliant.
Yep, it's called Fenix.
Looking for the entrance to Fenix? It's somewhere around this whimsical looking tower.
Here's the actual entrance -- though you go to the left, not through the round hobbit-esque door.
Fenix's queue and station are fantastic works of art. Toverland really stepped up their game with this. They aren't just looking up to Efteling -- they're saying "hey, we can do it too."
So, I think I rode Fenix five times in total.
Fenix slots in at #3 out of the 6 or 7 wing coasters I've been on.
Most of the group got probably 2-4 rides on Fenix.
Here's Colin taking what may be a solo ride! As AJ noted in his TR, I got one as well. There are some past TPR trips in which people have intentionally queued up 10-20 minutes for solo rides during ERT sessions, and I got one on Fenix purely by accident.
Fenix rides high -- and you can see one of the Merlin's Quest boats underneath it.
Coming through one of the inversions.
That's all for Fenix from the morning session, but there will be a few more Fenix pictures near the end.
And now, it's off to the next attraction, and we're going to get there in classic Toverland style: by running perilously like children across swinging bridges.
Oh, the crazy Toverland fun was just getting started.
This is Merlin's Quest -- our next attraction, and the other ride in the new Avalon section of the park.
Here's one of Merlin's little friends, as seen in a set piece in the ride queue.
Looking down from the queue at the loading station. We were among the first to challenge Merlin's Quest after the park had officially opened. We might have actually been the first riders.
POV shot from the front of the boat!
Here's another one of the boats, so you can get an idea of what we're riding.
We're going to go through a stone arch tunnel...
...and then enjoy this wonderful view of the Fenix station area.
Underneath the Fenix station is an indoor dark ride section, which was quite nice. This photographer failed to obtain anything even remotely usable from inside, so you'll just have to take his word for it.
After Merlin's Quest, we headed over to a /slightly/ older section of the park. Here's my current favorite tornado-themed roller coaster: Dwervelwind.
Mack spinners are awesome, and easily my favorite type of spinning coasters.
Dwervelwind also has a really good layout -- with some steep drops and sharp curves.
That means that even if you don't get spinning too much, the layout is still fun. But if you get spinning, as we did during our two rides, it can get kind of crazy.
Not far from Dwervelwind is Booster Bike -- Vekoma's first motorbike coaster. The seating arrangement is, to me, a little awkward. (2016)
A new generation of bad-ass bikers has emerged. (2016)
Waiting at the front -- the launch is up next.
A Booster Bike train launches away -- right into the fist airtime hill. (2016)
Picking up speed on the Booster Bike launch track.
I do think I prefer Booster Bike to the Zamperla version (i.e. Pony Express at Knott's).
Random Booster Bike riders of all ages!
Preparing for another Booster Bike launch.
...and away they go.
I jumped on ahead of my group, and got off the ride in time to get some pictures. Stacy and Daniel look like they need a little Vekoma in their lives.
A whole bunch of TPR people having fun -- which is kind of what we do.
Hands up or hold on?
AJ's going more for the Superman pose.
Alright, continuing the credit run at Troy. Which, to me, will always be TROY!
Or, I guess, TROY! the ride.
There's a joke in here somewhere about a group of TPR people and a trojan horse.
Sometimes it's better to just leave the jokes unwritten...
...because I often worry about what I'd have to write if I were captioning things accurately.
There's girl power, and then there's TPR girl power!
So, theme song aside, Troy remains one of my favorite GCI coasters. (2016)
It's among GCI's taller coasters at 104.5 feet. I think either Wodan or Wood Coaster take the top spot.
It's got your big, sweeping elevated turns -- on this date, amidst a dramatic cloudy backdrop.
But it's also got this element -- a straight floater-air hill. That's a rarity for GCI, and it's one of my favorite parts of the ride. (2016)
The big curving drop is about what you'd expect.
All of the elements are taken at fast pace, and there's never a dull moment on the ride.
Not a ton of great photo angles, at least from inside the park, but there are a few in the queue. (2016)
There are a few decent views of one of the curves near the north end of the ride.
There are even a couple of four-years-ago TPR people in this shot. (2016)
Back in 2019, Daniel and Barry are clearly excited for a ride on Troy.
One more overview shot of the lift hill. (2016)
This might be my favorite picture from the 2016 visit to Toverland -- a Tarantino-esque walk from a group of charter bus drivers. (2016)
With most of the coasters out of the way, now it's time to have a little bit of fun. Have I mentioned that there are lots of ways to have fun at Toverland? (2016)
Just outside of the main building is this large water area, with bridges and rocks and small pathways. It's almost like something out of a video game. (2016)
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put on your bravest Super Mario face and traverse the platforms without falling in. (2016)
One missed step might send you knee-deep -- or worse if you lose your balance. (2016)
Somehow, this kid brought a raft all the way out to the splash zone of the log flume. Now how is he supposed to get back? (2016)
Don't swim. Unless you fall in, because then you might not have much of a choice. (2016)
So, let's give this our best shot. We'll start with these two precarious bridges.
Daniel showing some confidence on the swinging bridge.
Caroline is full speed ahead!
Barry, losing his balance, reaches for the rope ... which might be a bit of foreshadowing ...
Ryan's just trying to get off that bridge as quickly as he can.
Stacy makes her way across, and we're on to the next challenge.
Colin's found us a raft.
This was set to be our first experience with a raft on the 2019 TPR Europe trip.
It would not be the last.
This is all important practice for later. Maybe try to work on the whole 'balance' thing?
Colin and Barry seem to have a good system.
But this is the best system of all -- Colin stands there looking regal, and everyone else does the work for him!
Anyway, congrats on not sinking the raft. You'll have a tougher time with that at our next park...
Heading indoors, we're gonna get our BobKart on. (pic from 2016)
Colin goes BobKarting.
Stacy goes BobKarting.
Ryan goes BobKarting!
David BobKarting goes!
BobKarting goes AJ!
Goes Caroline BobKarting!
Barry does something.
Daniel pulls up the caboose.
This is a look at the second of Toverland's two buildings. The BobKart loading zone is at the left side of the picture. (2016)
There's also a carousel in here! (2016)
There's a huge indoor play area, with slides and climbing areas. The log flume trough is in the foreground.
Toverland's mascots also call this area their home -- putting on a show that I likely would not have understood even if it were in English.
How about some more ways to injure yourself? Barry's going to try out the rope swing.
Daniel is a little more comfortable with it.
Kristen's probably done this once or twice before.
Moving over to the older building, here's a view from way up high -- looking down at the loading station for the Vekoma junior coaster. (2016)
I took these pictures from the platform that houses the park's wet-dry slides. When I rode one down in 2016, I remember getting ... a little wetter than I'd intended. (2016)
Underneath the coaster is the Toverhuis: "where little witches and young wizards discover their magic powers." It's an interactive walkthrough attraction, with magic wands that you can use to activate various effects.
So, here's the last coaster of the day -- Toos-Express.
I rode it in 2016 as Boomerang, but no, Daniel, it doesn't count as a second credit just because they changed the name.
Proof that my friends have checked another stupid box on their stupid checklist.
Expedition Zork is a really funny name for a log flume.
It used to be called Backstroke, which makes sense, since it spends a good chunk of the ride going backwards! (2016)
A log of anxious guests exits the log flume station...
...with a TPR boat right behind them.
Thankfully, we didn't break the flume -- but somebody did. Expedition Zork had multiple backups on the lift hill, leading to downtime at various points of the day.
Another TPR group gets flumed.
The ride's first drop is a short one in the indoor section, but it's not just size that matters -- it goes backwards!
Trying to catch rider reactions on a backwards-moving drop is pretty tricky.
Nonetheless, I had some success.
When I look at this picture, and everything in it, I just think ... man, what a weird, messed up, awesome place.
A /third/ group of TPR riders is on the flume, and they're making a splash.
Meanwhile, these guys are kicking up quite a bit of water.
You're only halfway done, though...
...because this flume takes its second half outside! (2016)
Expedition Zork has a much larger, forward-facing drop outdoors. (2016)
Big log flume drops are always great for some reaction shots...
...and also great to catch the splash at 1/1000 sec.
Ducking your head completely under the log is ... an interesting strategy.
A wall of water emerges.
And when the splash has cleared...
...the two children were nowhere to be found.
Toverland: it's magic.
TPR log #1 hits the bottom of the drop, as Troy looks on in the background.
For Andrew, Andrew, and Chris ... hopefully an acceptable amount of wetness.
It's a long way down from here.
Choose your emotion: screaming, or cringing?
That moment where only the hands are visible.
Ow, right in the face!
...you OK, Daniel?
(he was ok)
The last group makes the climb up the lift.
Everybody smile and say "Zork!"
They kicked up some water.
But it looks like it was enjoyable.
"Now get me off this thing, I'm hungry!"
At lunch time, we headed back to Avalon to visit the park's newest restaurant -- located inside this lovely little green-roofed shack.
It's called The Flaming Feather!
Here's the inside -- quite nice, in my opinion.
I ordered the Merlin's Plate, which is a bit of a random assortment of things. Probably needed another item or two to be a full lunch.
The Magische Vallei (Magic Valley) section of Toverland is one area I didn't have time to explore at all in 2019. Thankfully, I did explore it a bit in 2016, so I'll share some pictures from then.
This is the park's rapids ride, called Djengu River. (2016)
It's a very well-landscaped rapids ride, though it doesn't look particularly thrilling -- or wet. (2016)
This is a really interesting picture, in retrospect. See the open area behind the rapids trough? That's where Solaris now stands -- the centerpiece of Port Laguna. (pic from 2016)
On Djengu River, you might run into a few trolls. (2016)
Near Djengu River, there's also an extensive area of hidden pathways, rockwork, and waterfalls.
If you want, you can even brave some pathways that the water falls right on top of. (2016)
Yep, I went through here.
Yep, I got a bit wet. (2016)
The Magic Valley area sits right in between Avalon, Port Laguna, and the indoor sections of the park.
Like so many other sections of Toverland, it's one big water-filled obstacle course. (2016)
There are dry ways to get from Point A to Point B, but where's the fun in that? (2016)
Booster Bike marks the southern boundary of Magic Valley, with the log flume and big outdoor pond play area also nearby. (2016)
On this busy day in 2016, kids cooled off in the water while watching coasters go soaring past. (2016)
Booster Bike flies over the lush landscape of Toverland. (2016)
It's so lush, I even found a frog in a pond over near Troy! (2016)
Want to jump around on a bouncy thing? Have at it!
Sorry Kristen, but Daniel's really catching some air.
And now, we come to the ropes course. The one obstacle course at Toverland that's actually so dangerous they do strap you in. (2016)
It's set up about 20-25 feet above ground level, and there's a plethora of challenges to tackle. I think it's about 10-12 different elements. (2016)
If you're bold, charge on ahead like Daniel.
If you're not as bold, perhaps take a moment to collect yourself on the big cargo net.
...Barry, I said collect yourself.
I don't think you're doing this right, Barry.
Ooh, nice recovery.
Now, we'll watch Barry as he continues to tackle the challenge of the Ropes Course, as I attempt to photograph him doing so with various other rides artistically placed in the background.
Barry travels across the swinging plank things.
He's found some confidence as he heads out on the tightrope!
See, this doesn't seem so bad...
...woah there, watch your step!
Finishing up on the giant log-o'-death. Great job, Barry. I promise nobody's going to judge you for falling off the cargo net.
So, with the Ropes course having taken up a bit of time, we had less than an hour to go. Some people went back for another ride on Troy, but with one train ops and a decent line, I decided to get a few more pics of Fenix.
Fenix is a very photogenic ride with a plethora of fantastic photo angles -- I'm only scratching the surface in this trip report.
However, Fenix wouldn't be the only thing catching my eye behind the camera. The clouds were starting to look a bit stormy.
We'd known that thunderstorms -- possibly strong storms -- were in the forecast. Would our 4PM departure get us out in time?
As Fenix continues to soar, we'd soon have an answer to that question.
But first, a few more views of this very attractive B&M wing coaster...
...and the awesome theming that surrounds it.
It's a sword. In a stone. We've all heard that story.
A quick glimpse of Fenix through the trees.
The overall color and design is very similar to Gatekeeper, but better. Also, I really want to stop mentioning Gatekeeper, because Gatekeeper sucks.
More fun on Fenix, as we head to the end of the course.
Yes, there is actual airtime on Fenix!
Spiraling into an inversion, in that weird wing coaster way.
What do you call this element without a keyhole? Is it just a barrel roll?
Fenix and Merlin's Quest -- Toverland's newest rides.
So, just 15 minutes to departure, what do I see looking north from the far end of Avalon? Well I'll be -- I've gone storm chasing in the Netherlands! That's a wall cloud.
To be clear, "wall cloud" refers to this lowering of the cloud base. The main part of the thunderstorm was to its right.
Was a tornado about to form? Were we in imminent danger? The answer to both questions is no -- I saw no signs of rotation, and the storm was moving northeast -- away from us. Still, it was likely a very strong storm, and some unlucky rural area further north of Venlo was probably in for it.
Coasters and weather, together!
One last view of the wall cloud, and with just ten minutes until 4PM, it's time for a sprint to the bus -- you do not want to be late!
A final look at Troy as the storm rolls on behind it.
Could I have used another hour or two at Toverland? Sure. But as you'll see in the next update, I ended up having a very productive evening.
So, see ya later TROY!, and see ya later, storm clouds. We're done at Toverland. Onward to Amsterdam!
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