First observation of Barcelona is that they are serious about wanting to secede from Spain. I am skeptical of media coverage when it comes to these kind of things because it usually shows a lot of the “crazies” for ratings, but I will say in Barcelona these people seem dead serious. There are Catalan flags all over the place with no Spanish flags in sight, a lot of the buildings all over the city have secession posters in the windows, and pro secession banners hanging from the balconies. And it wasn’t like this was in one secluded area of the city, this was literally all over the place.
Anyway, we took the train from the city to Port Aventura which was convenient, however it is a long commuter train clocking in a little over an hour and a half. Port Aventura resort is far away from the city and is billed as more of a destination than a local’s park. You do get to ride by some neat looking (probably) expensive beach towns along the way. We were surprised to see the Port Aventura dedicated train station was pretty ghetto, it was basically just a sign that says Port Aventura with a platform and it was all beat up with some graffiti. Very different kind of welcome than the Marne La Valee/Hong Kong Disney/Shanghai Disney/Vivo City Universal transit stations.
To get to the park we walked down the walkway, past the El Paso hotel, and under the welcome bridge. You get some good views of the Ferrari World rides on your way into the park. After that there is a really long walkway that leads up to the promenade where the entrances to Port Aventura and Ferrari Land are. The entrance area is pretty nice, very reminiscent of a Sea World/Busch Gardens type affair (which makes sense as the park was originally a joint venture between Tussad & AB and then later was sold to Universal, and was later sold to other developers).
We first went to Ferrari Land to get that out of the way. I’m a bit torn on this park being a separate gate, I mean its clearly money grab, but they did put some effort into other attractions in it to try and flesh it out a little bit. Obviously the big draw is the Intamin rocket coaster which actually uses LIMs to launch instead of the hydraulic system. This apparently was a good idea as Red Force did not break down the entire time we were there unlike TTD, Kingda Ka, and Xcelerator which still constantly break down every time I visit those parks.
Ferrari Land also has a flying theater and a screen based dark ride, both of which were pretty crappy to be honest, and they both shared the same queue building which seemed to confuse a lot of the GP as to which ride they were in line for and if they were going on the same ride twice. The park also has a fully electric Autopia type ride called the Maranello Grand Race, a few kiddie flat rides, and a junior coaster. There is also a food court and a gift shop with extremely expensive Ferrari branded merch (though that is to be expected considering it is Ferrari).
Overall my impression of Ferrari Land was a resounding “meh.” It reminds me of those parks in Dubai: yes it is nice, its clean, its relatively well themed, but its generic and lacks atmosphere. It was clearly designed by one of those generic theme park design companies, built by some generic developers, and the place seems to lack a soul. It doesn’t help that its basically a giant commercial for some company where 99.9% of people don’t ever have any chance of buying their product. I get that Port Aventura World wants to be a destination and needs to expand to make that happen but building a whole park that is tethered to one theme (a generic racing theme at that) IMO probably wasn’t the way to go.
Anyway after three or so hours in Ferrari Land (the queues were actually quite long) we made our way into the main park. Once again the entrance area gives off the Sea World vibe, you enter through a mediterraian style village which is quite nice. Upon entering the park you realize that this park is going to be huge, though it has a SWO vibe it is much larger. Furious Baco weaves in and around the parks entrance area but from what we had heard it is very rough and we didn’t want to ruin our day, so we saved it for the end, so we took a brisk walk all the way to the back to ride Dragon Kahn and Shambahla.
Once again this park is huge and its nicely wooded, so even though it took a while to get back there there was a lot to look at along the way. When we finally made it into the China section we headed for Dragon Kahn. I had been looking forward to this ride for a long time but went in with realistic expectations: Kumba used to be one of my favorite B&Ms but now due to age the roughness has dropped it down my list by a lot. Dragon Kahn was about as expected, it was clearly showing its age with heavy vibrations and the ride overall wasn’t as intense as Kumba, but I’m sure it was a great ride 10+ years ago.
Next was Shambahla which was absolutely fantastic. I have been on AC, Behemoth, Fury, Goliath SFOG, Goliath Laronde, Hollywood Dream, Intimidator, Mako, Nitro, Raging Bull, and Silver Star, and I would rank Shambahla as my favorite of the B&M hypers without any doubt. It was smooth, had great airtime, relatively well themed, the turns had some intensity to them, and great views from every angle both from on and off the ride.
Looking through my pictures one thing I am remembering now that I found interesting is that Port Aventura, being a destination, a lot of the signs are in four languages: Catalon, Spanish, French, and English. I’ve always found that funny about European parks because it doesn’t seem necessary, does a sign really need to say “Sortida Salida Sortie Exit”…I’m pretty sure everyone in Europe knows what exit means in multiple languages lol. They also seem to have a lot of French tourists visit this park as some of the places we went the employees greeted us in French (hey I’ll take that as a compliment haha).
Next up was the Mine Train and honestly I don’t remember much about this ride other than it having a really long line (a pretty common theme on our trip as all of the big parks were crowded). We kept walking through the Mexico section, which was really well themed, past the large Intamin Drop Tower and into the Western USA themed section. Once again the theming in this area was fantastic and I’d put it up there with any Disney or Universal park (the theming of the area, not so much the attractions themselves). My wife and I just kind of walked around and checked out the theming while the rest of our group rode Stampida (of course the young me would have ridden it, but nowadays that is a big hell no). I believe the Tomahawk coaster, which is a smaller Gravity Group coaster, was in this section as well. That was fine nothing amazing but not bad.
We then walked around the Sesame Street area which was huge and really well themed, as well as really crowded. We rode the roller skater which had a 30+ minute line, quite a big commitment for a roller skater but my friend needed to add it to his count.
We then looped back around to the front and got in line for Furios Baco. This Intamin wing-rider thing is infamous in the enthusiast crowd for being extremely rough so we purposely saved it for last. The first thing that’s noticeable about Baco is its absolutely massive queue: the first section is a giant queue house that is literally in a vineyard, then there is a massive shaded outdoor queue house, then you walk through some hallways into another huge set of switchbacks, then walk up some stairs to a second level where you are met with another huge queue house, then go through some more themed hallways before finally reaching the station.
The line for us was about 45 minutes and used maybe 1/10th of the actual queue that was built, I don’t know what the hell they were thinking building so much queue but I could not imagine actually waiting through the entire thing. Even though its well themed its so long that it would be torture.
We rode in the front row and I actually thought the ride was pretty good. Granted, if I were in a rougher seat further back I probably would have hated it, but in the front it was bumpy but not horrible at all. The launch was just the right speed, not too intense but not slow at all, the elements were fun, there was some airtime, some inversions, and some nice lateral G’s, and the ride was over pretty quick before it could get bad. Overall I’d rate it as my second favorite coaster in the park behind Shambahla. The ride is themed to a vineyard and while I don’t understand the story at all it was kind of funny to exit into a gift shop filled entirely with bottles of wine.
Overall Port Aventura is big and extremely well themed. Some of the major attractions (such as Dragon Kahn and Baco) are clearly past their prime and losing popularity due to roughness, they could use a few more big coasters to flesh things out a bit, and Ferrari Land is pretty meh, but the theming is really good and Shambahla is really f*cking solid. I definitely liked this park better than Warner Bros World.
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