Monday, May 28, 2007

Phantasialand: The Happiest Place in the World

I took my family to Phantasialand last weekend, and let me tell you, if Disney is the happiest place on earth, then Phantasialand is truly the happiest place in the world. At least, I imagine that’s their slogan, since everything else there is heavily influenced by the Disney Imagineers’ art.

If you’ve never been (and I doubt you have), think of it as Disney-like at less than half the price. Naturally for a reduced-priced experience, you expect for there to be certain accommodations in the way things are. For one thing, its stock of costumed characters have been wearing the same outfits since 1960, and they’ve acquired a smell of sweat and stale failure that cannot easily be forgotten. Also, the food is as expensive and unedible as you’ll find in any amusement park, and every employee is extra-surly just to be sure you get the optimum parkgoing experience.

The architecture is truly unique, although this building reminded me of something. I never could bring to mind what, though.
For accommodations, the Chinese-themed hotel is definitely a wonderland of sight, sound, and impossible-to-find rooms. We ended up sleeping in the hallways after wandering lost for six hours and bathing in the enormous pool, easily the size of three hot tubs end-to-end.

And in what other park could you hope to see an MC Escher-inspired character spraying water?

But enough about the atmosphere. Here are the exciting attractions you can expect to experience in Phantasialand:

Mexicans of the American Southwest: Okay, the actual name of this was The Silver Mine, but it’s essentially a South-of-the-border version of Pirates of the Caribbean. You get in a slow-moving train and pass by sleeping Mexicans, miners hard at work playing cards, and an attack on a fort by banditos where one of them is firing his pistol at you while downing a bottle of tequila. Kind of like riding through a campaign ad for Tom Tancredo.

Ghostly Rickshaw: Exactly like the Haunted Mansion, except with Chinese-themed characters. All it needed was the elevator and the funny tombstones. Oh, wait, it had the tombstones.
Tower of Horror: I don't know the name of this, but basically you went up in a big tower and got dropped in a terrifying manner. Sound familiar?

1001 Arabian Nights: After boarding flying pirate ships (take a guess at why), you go into the dragon's mouth to enter the cave of wonders and meet this Arabian mainstay:
No, I don't know why, either. Kind of a good synopsis for the entire Phantasialand experience.

Race for Atlantis: Hosted by "Mr. Noodle’s brother Mr. Noodle" (of Elmo fame), who played the part of Neptune. I go the strong impression they bought this ride second-hand. It lifted you up in a big boat in front of an Imax screen, which then vibrated until you had to go to the bathroom. I still can’t figure out why my younger child was too small to ride this. We waited 40 minutes for this crapfest, too, making it even worse. Can you tell I didn’t care for it?

Temple of the Night Hawk: After this ride (think Space Mountain with electronic images of flapping green birds all over), my 7-year-old asked me what a night hawk was. My 4-year-old replied that “it was the green light thing that they do to make it seem more spookier.” I asked him if he thought that the ride was scary, and he replied “not really.” Apparently he wasn’t paying attention to the safety features, because I was terrified.

Tittle-Tattle-Tree: One of the few completely original rides in the park, this thing was just a big bucket that flew up and down over a span of 30 to 40 feet like a yo-yo. I enjoyed it, but the promise of tittle went largely unfulfilled.

Swan Boats: I have no idea what the name of this attraction really was, but it was a big boat that drifted lazily around a long course, with no rapids or sprays or anything. I took a picture, and trust me, it was lamer than it looked (in the background you can see the dragon's mouth entrance to the Cave of Wonders):

Two-Story Carousel: This claimed to be “the largest 2-story steam-powered carousel on the continent!” While it was quite nice and impressive, I had to wonder: how many contenders are there for that title? Isn’t that like trying to get into the Guinness book of records for “most times having wounded own genitals with cheese grater while humming Hawaii 5-0 theme”?

Haunted Playground: Right in the middle of the park there is one of the most boss playground I have ever seen, full of giant slides and swinging bridges and other cool stuff. It was also abandoned. Apparently it’s haunted by the souls of disappointed children or something.

Stone River and The Wash Basin: This was basically two big log flumes, like you might find at Dollywood or your finer Six Flags parks. Overall a pretty good ride. As a bonus feature, it made my wife yell a swear word at its climax, which is usually far better than I can accomplish (insert sexual prowess joke here).

Colorado Adventure: I’m pretty sure this was Big Thunder Mountain, ripped whole cloth from Disneyland with the expectation that their lawyers probably don’t go to other theme parks all that much. At least, Phantasialand better hope they don’t.

If you ever get the opportunity, I urge you to go to Phantasialand, the happiest place in the world. At least it is until Disney has it shut down.