Plopsaland De Panne
“Did this Belgian park just open Europe’s best roller coaster?”
Belgium has long been one of Europe’s least interesting coaster countries. Germany, Sweden and Spain have a long heritage of great coasters and even the Netherlands have become increasingly interesting during the past decade. As a Belgian coaster enthusiast, I was slightly jealous because of all the B&Ms and the Intamin machines that were built in other parts of Europe. However, the Belgian coaster era has finally begun. It all started when Bobbejaanland opened Fury in 2019, but the most anticipated novelties didn’t come until 2021. Walibi Belgium presented its amazing Kondaa in May and Plopsaland opened The Ride to Happiness by Tomorrowland on July 1st, just in time for the summer season. Covid restrictions may make it harder to travel abroad, but 2021 is actually the best year ever to be stuck in Belgium.
Plopsaland De Panne started as a children’s theme park, so it’s no surprise that most coasters are rather simple. K3 Roller Skater and #LikeMe Coaster are standard coaster models manufactured by Vekoma and Zierer. Their ride experiences aren’t exceptional and the same goes for the theming. If you’re interested in getting a full coaster bingo, I’d recommend riding the Roller Skater early, though. It’s themed to a famous Belgian girls band and the capacity is rather low, so it’s not uncommon to see a 45-minute wait for K3 Roller Skater. Another popular ride is De Draak (the Dragon), a Mack powered coaster. It features an incredibly beautiful station and it’s got cool interaction with the park’s log flume, but that’s it.
Anubis was Plopsaland’s first thrill coaster when it opened back in 2009. The ride was built by Gerstlauer and it includes one of the most powerful launches I’ve ever experienced on a roller coaster. The rest of the layout is filled with tight curves and three inversions, but the joy depends on your seat in the train. Overall, the front seats deliver a surprisingly smooth ride. The back seats, however, tend to be pretty shaky.
If you’ve ever ridden White Lightning at Orlando’s Fun Spot, you may recognise Heidi The Ride. Both rides have a similar layout and they’re both built by GCI. This American manufacturer definitely lives up to its name, as they usually deliver great coasters. I thoroughly enjoyed every ride I made on Joris en de Draak, Troy and Wodan. In fact, I even consider these rides as some of the best wooden coasters on Earth. Surprisingly, Heidi performance turned out to be a little underwhelming. This Swiss-themed coaster evokes an excellent woodie feeling, but there’s hardly any airtime. Was this due to my seat in the middle part of the train? I’ll need a second ride soon to find the answer.
Tomorrowland is one of Belgium’s most famous brands. This dance festival usually takes place in late July and it attracts crowds from every corner of the world. Now, Plopsa and Tomorrowland have collaborated to create The Ride to Happiness by Tomorrowland, the biggest ride investment in the park’s history. The ride was needed to get rid of Plopsa’s childish image. The park really wanted an extraordinary ride that didn’t exist in Europe, so they opted for Mack’s Xtreme Spinning Coaster. The layout is nearly 1 kilometre long and it consists of two launches and five inversions. The most unique feature are the vehicles, which are able to spin during the whole course of the ride. This means that literally every ride is different.
Let’s cut to the chase: The Ride to Happiness is fantastic. I was afraid that it would be a nauseating experience without any repeat value, but I was so wrong. The ride’s smoothness is remarkable and I was also amazed by the powerful launches. But what makes this ride really stand out, is its unpredictable nature. Besides, the theming is also worth mentioning. Tomorrowland is known for its fairy tale-style scenery and Plopsaland managed to recreate that atmosphere. The queue and the station have a certain Steampunk vibe and they even installed a cocktail bar at the entrance of the ride. I can’t wait to re-visit during a hot summer day to see the new area in full glory.
The roller coasters are the park’s highlights, but Plopsaland De Panne also boasts a total of three water rides. I’m talking about a Viking-themed Splash Battle, a small-sized Mack SuperSplash with an original lift system and a log flume. Especially the log flume is worth mentioning, as it recently received a major overhaul. This used to be a castle-themed attraction, but it’s called DinoSplash nowadays. The attraction’s eye-catcher is an enormous volcano, which houses both of the ride’s drops. Queues may get pretty lengthy, but DinoSplash definitely counts as one of the best rides at Plopsaland.
As Plopsaland is still mostly focused on families with young children, the park features loads of small carousels and family-friendly flat rides. Some of these rides were put in an indoor area called Mayaland. Plopsaland is one of the few Belgian parks which operates year-round, so these indoor offerings are unmissable for the park. Unfortunately, the only dark ride (Bos Van Plop) fails to impress in every way. The ride system feels outdated and the animatronics look odd. I really hope that Plopsa will invest in a world-class dark ride one day.
WORTH A VISIT?
Many enthusiast already classify The Ride To Happiness as one of Europe’s best roller coasters. So yes, yes, yes… you should travel to Plopsaland De Panne as soon as possible! The park is mostly filled with mediocre attractions, but the new coaster kicks ass in every possible way. Beware for crowds, though. Plopsaland is a major tourist destination for Belgians, so it may get very busy during school holidays. Besides, a majority of Plopsa rides don’t reach high capacities, so queues are often considerable. If you’re able to avoid the crowded season, I’m sure Plopsaland delivers a wonderful day out.
DORPSPLEIN & MAYALAND
KASTEELPLEIN & DINO-ZONE
K3-ZONE & MEGA MINDY
ROX & PRINSESSIA
PIRATENZONE & ANUBIS
BOS VAN PLOP & BOERDERIJ
Did you get the chance to ride a Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster yet? Is a dance festival a fitting theme for a theme park attraction? Are you part of Team Happiness or Team Kondaa? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.