Holiday World & Splashin' Safari (USA)
Holiday World and Splashin' Safari is located in the modern yet charming town of Santa Claus, Indiana. It is two parks in one. Holiday World is a 100 acre themed amusement park filled with rides for all ages, from gentle rides for the smallest children to thrill rides and award winning world class roller coasters. Splashin' Safari is a ... 23 acre water park filled with a wide variety of exciting water slides, water coasters, wave pools, a lazy river and many other fun features that range from the mild to the wild. With an operating season of May through October, attendance has been over 1,100,000 visitors per year and grows steadily each season. Each year sees new attractions, new improvements and more ways to enjoy your visit. They were the first park in the world to offer free unlimited soft drinks, available in both parks. Free sunscreen and free use of inner tubes are available in Splashin' Safari. Parking is free, with accommodation for RVs and busses. Trams circle the main parking lot, offering rides to and from the front gate during busy times and periodically throughout the day. Handicapped parking is readily available.
The park's website is full of helpful information. You can find the operating schedule for the season, and hours of operation for each day, height and weight restrictions for individual rides, accessibility guides, and far more. A list of park rules for safety of all guests is available. When looking for nearby accommodation during your stay, you can check the website for local camping, RV or cabin rentals and hotels/motels nearby. Information is available for all major rides and attractions, and video is included for most of the major rides. Food menus along with nutritional and allergy information can also be found. Blogs, press releases and occasional contests are available. Details of available shows can be read to help decide which ones you'd enjoy seeing. Tickets are available online, although discount tickets can be purchased locally at some of the area shops and attractions. There are webcams available, and the daily local forecast is shown. Group discounts and company picnics are available, and information can be obtained from the website. I have found the wealth of information to be useful on many occasions, and have also pointed quite a few people toward the site to help with any questions they may have. In addition to the website, the park is on Facebook and Twitter, with daily and often several times a day updates on contests, weather, and other information. They have a phone app for iPhone and other smartphones, which is useful when planning your trip or while you are already in the park. In the summer of 2011, several Wifi hotspots were added through the park as a courtesy and convenience for guests.
Also added in 2011 was the 'cashless' payment system. Money can be added to either a gift card or a bracelet that can be used throughout the park to pay for food and souvenirs. Both the gift card and bracelet can be topped up for reuse. This system is very helpful for ease of payment throughout a visit. It also helps with never having to worry about money falling out of your pocket.
The park has always been a family owned and operated business, with the third generation now running the park and members of the fourth generation in training With a slogan of "#1 For Family Fun", every guest is treated as a guest, not a customer just there to spend money. Any member of the family who is at the park, and a few are there daily, is out and about greeting guests and checking on park cleanliness and operations. Pat Koch is out daily, including her birthday, with her broom, sweeping the park and helping keep it tidy. The park has won numerous awards for their friendliness and cleanliness. With company cornerstones of safety, service, cleanliness and friendliness, they strive to make sure every person who walks through the front gate has an incredible, memorable visit. I have noticed other parks aren't as friendly or as clean, on the occasions I have gone elsewhere for a visit. I have always left a visit to Holiday World and Splashin' Safari feeling my every need and want was thought of and catered to.
Safety and comfort are important at Holiday World and Splashin' Safari. First aid is readily available, along with certified EMTs stationed at the water park. Shade is available, and on hot days extra air conditioning is available, in addition to the many air conditioned buildings already in daily use, so people can cool off. Height restrictions that are in place for guest safety on rides are enforced. Lost Parents is the service that can reunite little ones who have wandered off from parents, without extra worry to the child by saying it is the child who is lost. If a possession goes astray, lost and found can be checked to see if someone has turned it in. Extra wide paths make it easy for large numbers of people to be able to walk safely from attraction to attraction. The paths are well lit for times when the park is open late enough for it to be dark or near dark. Lockers are available in both parks to stash things you may not want to carry around all day, or to store your belongings while you are enjoying the water. I have found all these (and many others) safety features ensure an enjoyable day because I can relax, knowing if a potential problem should arise it can and will be quickly and easily taken care of.
The park celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2011. Originally Santa Claus Land, the park was opened August 3, 1946 by Louis J. Koch. At that time, the park featured a restaurant, toy displays, a toy shop, themed children's rides, and Santa. Although not the world's first amusement park, it has been called the world's first theme park. After returning from WWII, Louis J. Koch's son, Bill, became head of Santa Claus Land. He then married Santa's daughter, Pat, and they had five children. Over the years, more rides and attractions were added, some of which are no longer there because times change making those attractions obsolete due to lack of interest, yet some are still part of the ever expanding park, bringing a nostalgic charm to a modern park. In the early years, the park was open all year around, and families would flock there in December so children could see Santa. However, as mall Santas became popular, a decline in post summer attendance brought the decision to close during the winter months. In 1984, the park's name was changed to Holiday World, with the addition of the 4th of July and Halloween themed areas. Each of those areas were changed from the park wide Christmas theme to reflect their own holidays, with rides and games painted and the names changed to fit their themes. Music in each of the three areas was chosen to reflect each theme. 2006 saw the addition of the Thanksgiving area of the park as part of the commemoration of the 60th anniversary. Although some visitors were reluctant to see the change from all Christmas to various holidays, overall it was well received and loved. Incorporating so many different themes offered a wider variety of ideas to be developed over the years. At first, at my young age, I admit I was one of those who wasn't crazy about the idea as a kid. Now, as an adult, I love it and hope to see more holidays added as time goes on.
All employees are trained to know their position to the fullest level in order to be able to be helpful and ensure all guests have a positive experience with that particular ride, game, meal or shopping. On the rare occasion someone didn't have an answer to a question, or wasn't able to help me at that time, and I have been to the park at least once a summer my entire life, every effort was made to get the information or help needed. I have seen many occasions where an employee will go far above and beyond the call of duty to be helpful or extra kind.
The food is amazing, high quality and definite value for price. Of all the pizza I have had in my life, theirs is by far my favourite. Pizza can be found in both parks. There are seventeen restaurants/snack bars between the two parks, offering a wide variety of food ranging from healthy to not so healthy but oh so tasty. Cotton candy, nachos and pretzels can be found at several locations, and hamburgers at more than one spot. Some of their restaurants specialize in specific types of food. For example, Barbeque USA has barbecued pulled pork sandwiches, barbequed pulled chicken sandwiches and barbecued ribs that not served anywhere else in the park, Plymouth Rock Café serves up traditional dinners that include fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, baked ham, roasted chicken, baked turkey, prime rib, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese and many other choices you would find in a family dinner. They are an amazing treat, and are far beyond what anyone might think amusement park food should be. The Alamo serves up tacos, burritos, Spanish rice, refried beans, and many other amazing south of the border treats. Mrs. Klaus' Kitchen has a wide variety of incredibly mouth watering delights including fudge in many flavours, gourmet cookies, caramel apples, fudge apples, really big cupcakes and other treats to dazzle your taste buds. I always buy some fudge with the intention of eating it after I get home, but I end up sampling it minutes after purchasing it because I just can't wait. Ice cream can be found in more than one location, but for a fun way to cool off, head to Udderly Blue Ice Cream for a great tasting treat that turns your lips and tongue blue. While you cool off, you are sure to feel like a kid again.
Some allergen free, gluten free, and lower fat foods are readily available, but anyone may order special meals ahead of time and come back for them when they are ready. You may call ahead, order upon arrival, or speak to any member of the food management staff with requests and questions. A printable version of the healthier options and allergen friendly menu is available on the website. This is very helpful, with so many people needing to be careful with what they eat.
As of 2011, Holiday World has four roller coasters. The Raven, named for Edgar Allen Poe's poem and part of the Halloween section, is a wooden roller coaster built in 1995, and was named 'Ride of the Year. It has held the #1 roller coaster spot for four years and has been in the Top 20 roller coasters every year since, generally in the Top 10 and has won numerous awards since it was opened. Not only is it an engineering marvel with amazing twists and turns, but the way it was designed to fit the terrain of the park and give the rider a sense of flying through the trees makes it even more incredible. It has a capacity of 700 riders per hour. I have ridden The Raven enough times to have been able to sit in each seat position, and I personally feel they all offer an incredible ride. The rush of sitting in the front is fantastic, and the added air time of the back seat is definitely worth trying to get to sit there.
The Legend, which takes its name from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, is also located in the Halloween section. Built in 2000, it was named 4th best roller coaster in the world in 2002, and remains in the Top20 wooden coasters in the world, as of 2011. With a capacity of 550 riders per hour, that is lot of people a day being given the chance to feel as if they are being chased around the park by the Headless Horseman. Although I haven't had as many chances to ride this one as The Raven, I absolutely love it and look forward to many more chances to ride.
The Voyage, a wood and steel hybrid coaster with a wooden track, opened in 2006 as part of the opening of the new Thanksgiving section. At 6,442 feet, it is the second longest (as of 2011) operating wooden coaster in the world and the 6th tallest. It holds numerous records and awards and has been featured on "The Travel Channel's Extreme Terror Rides 2 Death-Defying Drops: The World's Scariest Summits and Plummets". With a capacity of 1,200 riders per hour, the wait to ride isn't very long. There are many twist and turns through the beautiful surroundings, and some clever 90 degree banked turns. I will never forget my first ride. I was so overjoyed I just wanted to sit in my seat and revel in the moment, but I knew I had to move so the next person could experience the joy. It is one of those rides where you could ride it all day, every day and still be as thrilled after the hundredth or even thousandth ride as you were with the first.
The Howler is a steel coaster for junior coaster enthusiasts and their families. Located in Holidog's fun town, The Howler debuted in 1999. At 300 feet long with a maximum height of 15 feet, it offers just enough of a thrill to get the youngest kids interested in coasters without being too scary. With adorable trains made to look like Holidog, it is a very friendly ride. I have not ridden it but I have been told it is great fun.
Other rides for bigger kids and adults range from mild to wild thrill rides. Over the years some have come and gone, some have endured over time, but the owners add new rides to either Holiday World, Splashin' Safari or both every year or two.
Frightful Falls is a log flume which offers a peaceful, relaxing log ride before climbing ever higher to plunge you nearly four stories to the water below. It is one of my favourites, not just for the relaxation before the final plunge, but because it is a great way to cool off on a summer's day.
HalloSwings allows riders to fly through the air on this one of a kind design swing adorned with bats, witches, ghosts and pumpkins. It looks amazing lit up at night.
Lewis & Clark Trail offers a leisurely ride around a track on a replica antique car, or a chance for the littlest of drivers to practice their skills.
Pilgrim's Plunge is a classic 'shoot the chute' ride with the distinction of being the world's tallest water ride, as of 2011. Boats are lifted135 feet into the air by an 'open air elevator'. After a brief pause, there is a rapid, thrilling 131 feet at a 45 degree angle, offering a huge splash of water and a great way to cool down. After Splashin' Safari is closed for the season, Pilgrim's Plunge continues to operate on Holiday World's schedule.
Revolution is a zero gravity 'human centrifuge' ride, allowing riders to stand and feel as if the force might pull the through the wall they are leaning against. Not for the faint of heart, it really is safe. I love this one and could ride it several times each visit.
Liberty Launch is a seven story double shot type of ride where compressed air shoots riders into the air before gently and gradually lowering them. Another ride that is not for the faint of heart, I have not been able to ride this one out of fear (I am a roller coaster kind of girl) but everyone I have ever known to ride it swears it is great fun.
Scarecrow Scrambler is a classic scrambler ride, slinging riders here, there, and everywhere as it spins around. Truly a family ride, it offers just enough of a thrill to be fun but not enough to be scary for the little ones.
The Freedom Train is Holiday World's original ride, offering a pleasant ride for everyone, from the youngest of riders to the kids in their 90's and beyond. It is a 1/4 scale model that chugs along a 1/4 mile track through larger than life statues of beloved characters in Mother Goose Land. Enjoy a trip around as you hear some of your favourite childhood stories. No one is ever too old to relive the magic of childhood on this ride.
Turkey Whirl offers a chance to spin until you are dizzy and giddy with giggles as you ride in a giant turkey on this classic tilt-a-whirl ride, and Rough Riders is a fun twist on the bumper cars ride. You get to choose a horse or buffalo to ride around in as you bump into other riders.
Raging Rapids offers four minutes of splashes and twists through a flooded western town called Boulder Canyon, a tunnel, and white water rapids, offering a great chance to cool down on a hot day. There is also the possibility of being drenched by a curtain of water as you go through the town's saloon if you happen to be in the right place at the right time on your journey. Those who don't wish to ride can shoot sprays of water at riders as they go along.
Among the many other rides I haven't listed, new for 2012 will be in the 4th of July section and they are naming it Sparkler. It will be a 65 foot vertical swing ride. All seats will be double seats, so children as small as 36" may ride with an older family member.
For the smallest of guests there are two dedicated areas just for children's rides, and other rides scattered through the park. Some are set with height or weight restrictions that make them kid only rides, and some are designed for families to be able to ride with the little ones.
Rudolph's Reindeer Ranch is located just inside the front gate of the park, and offers Comet's Rockets (a rocket ride), Dasher's Seahorses (how fun to ride on a seahorse!), Prancer's Merry-Go-Round) (a small carousel just for the youngsters), Dancer's Thunder Bumpers Junior (bumper boats for children), Reindeer Games (a three story drop ride for the whole family), and Rudolph's Round Up (a sleigh ride for the family). Although some changes have been made since I was young enough to play in this area, just peering into it is enough to melt the years away and make me wish I was a kid again.
Holidog's Fun Town is another area for the kiddies, located in the 4th of July section. The Freedom Train track encircles the Fun Town. Inside this area you will find Holidog's Treehouse (three stories of interactive climbing fun for the whole family), Just For Pups, (a smaller version of the Treehouse, just for the smaller children), The Howler (roller coaster), Doggone Trail (jeep ride on a track, made for children), and Magic Waters ( water spray fun park). This is a fun area for the little ones, but entertaining enough to keep parents and older siblings busy and having fun.
In Splashin' Safari, there is a wide variety of ways to cool off and have fun. All slides, rides and pools are fully staffed with highly trained life guards who enforce all rules for safety, while keeping a constant watch for anyone who needs help. There are also several restaurants and seating areas available, and areas of deck chairs for those who want to work on their tans, or just take a break from the action.
If you are looking for total relaxation, head over to Bahari River, and float lazily along on the current, with a waterfall that will cool you even more as you pass under it. This ride is loved by adults and kids alike.
Congo River is another lazy river, with a mushroom that pours water over those who pass under it. I love floating around and cooling off on this very relaxing escape from the heat. I have loved this one since the first year it was installed at the park, and look forward to it on each visit.
Monsoon Lagoon is a family play area packed with over sixty ways to get wet. From water slides, to water wheels, water guns, water curtains, to geyser jets and more, you are bound to find many ways to have fun. The best part of it is the giant tipping water bucket that drenches anyone under it when it tips. It is my favourite part of Monsoon Lagoon.
Kima Bay is another play area, but monkey themed. It offers more than 100 water play items. There are seven water slides, more than 125 water jets and a 1,200 gallon bucket that tips every few minutes. It is great fun.
The Wave offers six foot waves for fantastic fun. Choose to stand in the deepest end for the maximum effect, the middle for a gentle effect, or at the very shallow edge for slight, lapping waves. I have even found that the littlest of children love this wave pool, if they are at the edge. Run time is 15 minutes with breaks in between for safety. I generally take a turn in the deep end, middle and shallow end on each visit, because I enjoy the effects of each one.
Bahari is the other wave pool. Larger than The Wave, it offers sprays, geysers and jets for more fun. Suitable for all ages, this giant wave pool offers hours of fun. With occasional breaks in the action, you can still enjoy being cool and splashing around while waiting for the waves to begin again.
Bakuli offers a thrilling rafting ride as you go through a dark tunnel. Suddenly the bottom drops out from under you, and you find yourself spiralling dizzily in a giant bowl, on this seven story tall ride that is sure to quickly become a favourite.
Otorongo is three waterslides in one. All three are enclosed, fast and dark, yet each offers a uniquely different ride. Each slide has its own name, 'Otto', 'Ron' and 'Go'. Whichever you choose offers a four story ride on a double inner tube that is sure to get your pulse racing.
Watubee gives four riders per raft the chance to launch themselves on a nonstop twisting and turning adventure after climbing up a tower to start. I absolutely love the ride itself, but am not crazy about climbing the tower. It isn't overly taxing on the body to climb it, but a fear of heights makes it an uncomfortable journey for me. Once I am in the raft and experiencing the thrill of the ride, I am as happy as can be.
Zinga, at eight storeys tall, is a combination of water slide and the back and forth excitement of working your way through the large funnel. You start out in the darkness of the water slide, then pop out into the sunshine and 'half pipe' your way through the funnel. Very exhilarating!
ZOOMbabwe propels riders down ten stories of fast back and forth action, steep drops, twists and banked curves in nearly 900 feet of darkness before a huge splash at the end. It is the world's largest enclosed waterslide (as of 2011) and offers amazing fun for all who try it.
Wildebeest, new in 2010, is the world's longest water coaster. Offering 1/3 mile of amazing wild uphills, twists, turns, drops and many more surprises. A conveyor belt lifthill prepares you for a four story drop that makes the heart race and brings a smile of joy to your face. However, its reign as the World's Longest Water Coaster is to be short lived. Set to open for the 2012 season, Splashin' Safari has announced Mammoth, which is set to be the new record holder. It will be much longer and wider, with six passenger boats that are round and nine feet in diameter. This design will give riders the chance to face forward, backward or sideways as they trek through the twists, turns, channels and tunnels of what will be a truly amazing water coaster.
There are several other water slides and rides in Splashin' Safari. There are also dedicated children's play areas, called Crocodile Isle (two shallow pools connected by two body slides), Butterfly Bay (shallow wave pool) and Safari Sam's SplashLand (interactive shallow pool with eight body slides) All three are designed to give maximum fun for the little ones, in areas where they can play without being unintentionally knocked over by the bigger kids.
Should you forget your bathing suit or beach towel, or change your mind and decide to go for a swim once you reach the park, both are available for purchase in the gift shops. If shopping is more to your liking than rides, there are many shops scattered through both parks, selling a wide range of items including ornaments, coffee mugs, pens, toys, shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, stuffed animals, candy and more. You're sure to find a fun souvenir or something to add to a collection, along with gifts to give at Christmas, with all the many, many baubles and delights on display in the shops. I could easily spend hours wandering the shops, looking at everything. I especially love the ones in the Christmas section, where I can look to my heart's delight while listening to Christmas music on a hot day.
Bavarian Glassblowers offers guests a chance to watch glassblowing demonstrations as items are hand blown in house. A large variety of glass items are for sale, and the glass blowers can work with guests to find the perfect item. The artistic way the glass blowers have honed their craft, and the way they can make such delicate items from a blob of molten glass is astounding. Next to the glass blowing are display cases with antique toys, Abraham Lincoln artifacts, and other delights for children of all ages. Take a nostalgic wall through years gone by, and enjoy the airconditioning as you see this amazing display.
Shows have always been a big part of Holiday World's entertainment. Although the types of show have varied over the years, you are sure to find a few (or all) to be enjoyable. From country to gospel to old time rock and roll or beach music, there is musical entertainment everywhere. For the kiddies, Holidog's Beach Party is singing and dancing fun with Holidog and friends. Every time I think I have a favourite, I see another one. They are all amazing, and enjoyable, making it hard to decide which is best.
The high dive show has been a part of the park for many, many years, running yearly other than 1992 when it made way for the Bungee show. You're sure to get wet if you sit in the first few rows, as the dive team takes you through the history of the sport from the 1920's to the present, with bathing suits from all time periods. Comedy is a big part of the show, yet you truly get to see the skill and bravery of the dive team, making it amazing for everyone who watches.
There are lots of games of skill, and an arcade area, where you can win prizes. Holiday World prides itself on having up to the minute prizes based on what is popular each year. Even walking through the park gives many opportunities to see beauty and snap pictures. The flowerbeds are lovingly tended and there are interesting statues, decorations and things to see everywhere you look. With trash cans readily available and a grounds crew that is dedicated to keeping their reputation as the cleanest park in the industry, you only notice the landscape and the trees of the surrounding area.
Meeting new friends is always fun. Holidog, Safari Sam and George the Eagle all look forward to meeting people and having their pictures taken. They all wander the park, saying hello and waving. Of course, the big man himself, Santa, is at the park every day it is open. In addition to photos, there is story time with him a few times a day, and you can often catch him making his rounds of the park, as he greets everyone with a smile.
Of all the parks I have been to, Holiday World and Splashin' Safari is the one that I have felt the most welcomed, the most appreciated, and enjoyed the most. There is something about knowing you are seen as a person who matters and not just someone with money to hand over that makes me want to go back again and again. Also knowing they do everything they can to keep costs down and the freebies they offer are a great bonus. This truly IS a park for the whole family, from the smallest of children to the great grandparents.
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Zoomarine (Guia, Albufeira, Portugal)
On my recent holiday to Portugal it quickly became apparent that going out of season in early October had it's negatives as well as positives. On the plus side, it was blissfully quiet and uncrowded and screaming kids were in short supply. On the downside---well screaming kids were in short supply and my daughter was obviously missing ... company of children her own age. At 'almost' seven I'd imagined playmates on the beach while I watched on from behind my kindle on a sun lounger. Mostly, this didn't happen and after two days of building castles and jumping waves a teeny bit reluctantly (I know, awful mother) I decided a day trip was needed.
I'd seen Zoomarine advertised from the moment I stepped off the plane at Faro airport, it's clearly one of the area's biggest attractions. I hadn't paid that much attention at first, as I hadn't really planned on doing any trips other than maybe a water park, but after browsing the leaflets at the hotel (and dismissing some awesome sounding historical tours with regret) we decided this sounded like a good one to go for. We booked through our hotel and paid 75 Euro for two adults and one child plus transfer pick-ups right on the doorstep. We could have booked it at numerous tourist information/car hire points dotted around the resort we stayed in, Alvor, and probably in hindsight could have got a better deal. Similarly, if you're more organised than me, you can book online with a little discount.
Getting There/ First Impressions
The big ZooMarine double-decker picked us almost exactly to the second of its due time. My daughter insisted we sat upstairs which at first caused a little worry. It was a pretty old, tatty looking vehicle and I couldn't swear by the safety of the driving around some pretty narrow roads. However one plus point was we got fantastic views of the beautiful scenery. ZooMarine is situated in Guia, just west of Albufiero and took around an hour to get there from Alvor due to the windy journey picking up fellow passengers. Coming home took half as much time, mostly due to the fact that there wasn't THAT many other passengers, the first indication that the park wasn't going to be particularly busy. This was also apparent by the lack of queues to enter the park once we arrived, and we sailed right in. One thing that did concern us was our return journey of 4pm. As it was almost 11 am then, we wondered how we would fit everything in.
Once through the park gates and after bypassing the obligatory photo opportunity (which I think was CGI dolphins as no bored parrots were in sight-just a blank blue screen) we were faced with a beautiful fountain and an impression that this was a very clean and well-kept park, an impression that continued throughout our visit. You're handed a map and a list of animal show times as you enter, so the first thing we did was plan what we wanted to see and when. At this point we weren't all that sure what exactly ZooMarine was, although it soon became apparent it's a mixture between Sea World, a water park and a tiny fairground. We'd brought along our swimming costumes and towels so our first priority was to locate the lockers and get rid of them until later but despite following the map and after walking in circles for 10 minutes and still not locating them, we opted instead for staking a tree near the pool, removing our valuables and leaving our belongings there. This seemed to be what most people decided to do. During our search we did notice there were toilets everywhere, drinks and food stands in abundance, a place to hire kiddie carts for smaller children and a lovely shop.
Zoomarine has several shows on offer and at the time of our visit there was a Dolphin, Sea lion, Parrot, Birds Of Prey and an intriguing sounding 4d cinema experience. With our list of times we planned our day, deciding to miss out Birds Of Prey to make sure we fit it all in. The Dolphin show was due to start shortly after arriving so after ditching our bags that's where we headed.
Now, I'm thirty-four years old and have never seen dolphins before, and to be honest I was a little worried about how I would feel about seeing them perform. The arena was pretty huge but as the park was very quiet there was plenty of good seats left. We were treated to a warm up by a surprisingly impressive man dressed up as a pirate before the show opened with a synchronised swimming team. They were really very good, elegant and beautiful but what everyone wanted were the dolphins and by the time they arrived my daughter was beside herself with excitement. We were all blown away by these stunning animals. I'm no expert but they seemed very happy and loved, it was touching to see the relationship between them and the trainers and it brought tears to my eyes. The dolphins made brief appearances throughout and I got the feeling this was to ensure they weren't overwhelmed or overworked. In all the show lasted around half an hour and featured more of the gorgeous synchronised swimmers. ZooMarine do offer the opportunity to swim with the dolphins away from the public (romantically named Dolphin Emotions) and while I would've loved to do this, the 150 Euro per person cost was beyond me (bizarrely there's currently an offer for over 50's to get half price on this experience right now, so it's worth checking).
The next show we decided on was the Parrot show and to be honest we wished we hadn't. The best thing was the same warm up guy as before, this time masquerading as a magician. The actual show had a story that while in Portuguese was clearly along the lines of how to behave in the countryside but the two actors were irritating beyond belief. The parrots mainly sat at the back and mostly refused to do anything they were bidden. This was the one let down of the day.
The Sea Lion show wasn't particularly one I was excited about, but proved to be as good as, if not better than the dolphins. After warm up guys Oscar winning comedy routine as a cowboy we were treated to a musical theatre style show revolving around the campest ship wrecked sailor ever and a feisty explorer. Again, the sea lions participation was minimal and thoughtful. The whole thing was absolutely hilarious, I loved it as did my mother and daughter and not once did I feel uncomfortable with the sea lions involvement. I'm fairly sure they enjoyed it too.
The final show was the 4d cinema and I can't recommend this enough. I've never seen such stunning 3d cinema (the 4d coming from a small squirt of water at the audience). Themed around climate change and its effect on animals, it was extremely hard-hitting and powerful without saying anything at all or being patronising and preachy.
Other Attractions and Facilities
As well as numerous animal shows Zoomarine also has a small amount of animals dotted around in enclosures such as alligators and turtles, although they seem to blend in so seamlessly to their surroundings it s easy to miss them. An indoor aquarium is home to some impressive sea life and we really enjoyed this, although it could have done with wider walkways as despite the park being quiet it was still a little squashed.
There's a small fairground that is specifically aimed at younger children and consists of a small mini roller coaster, a pirate ship, a train ride, an impressive carousel and a Ferris wheel. Because the park was so quiet my daughter was able to run on and off the rides without queuing at all, although I imagine in peak season the waiting time would be ridiculous. We all went on the Ferris wheel, which is one of the safest looking I've seen despite its enormous size and we were treated to some breathtaking views.
The final element of ZooMarine is a sort of Water Park. There are two 'wet' rides, the crazy rapids ride that sees you float through sprays and fountains in a barrel shaped vessel and a large water slide on which you ride a dinghy. While you don't need to change into swimwear for these (we didn't) you will get very wet! The rapid river ride was funny, especially with my mum on board who had to be coerced on but enjoyed herself despite getting the worst soaking and the slide is awesome. Again, during our visit we were straight on these rides without queuing but signposts declaring hour long waits at the entrances indicates peak season will be a very different story.
Sadly we didn't get time to make use of the pool which had a lovely children's play area because of our early return journey and ideally we could have spent another couple of hours here. We stopped twice for drinks and ice cream at very reasonable prices and my daughter got a huge slush in a plastic keepsake container for 4 Euro, which seemed good value. We didn't eat, but had we wanted to there was the usual theme park fare to choose from. There are also plenty of picnic areas and unlike in Britain they don't have issues with you taking your own food. One thing I did notice was the incredible amount of toilets! I can't see huge queue's occurring even in high season. The whole layout of the park is very friendly towards children and the disabled and being pretty small, everything is easily accessible. Our final stop was the airy and beautifully air-conditioned shop, which had an assortment of souvenirs at very reasonable prices. My daughter managed to pick up a cuddly dolphin and furry purse for six Euros.
We ended up having a brilliant day at ZooMarine. Even my mother, who generally hates theme parks due to the fact she doesn't go on rides, thoroughly enjoyed it here. In fact I think this is ZooMarines great appeal, it really is a place the whole family can enjoy. The shows are genuinely entertaining and well thought out and the animals appear happy and loved. Warm up guy stole the show though...he really earned his pay the day we were there and there wasn't a single person in the audiences who wasn't laughing. He made everyone feel at ease and happy. The 4d cinema experience is something I'll remember for a long time and has set a very high bar for future 3D cinema visits, which pale beside it.
The grounds themselves were a pleasure to be in and I liked that everything was in close proximity. This makes ZooMarine particularly suited to families with very young children, or those who struggle with mobility. It was immaculately clean and well kept with an amazing amount of facilities. Some people may find the smaller number of attractions a negative, but we definitely found there was enough to spend the full day here and in fact we enjoyed the relaxed approach we were able to take rather than feeling overwhelmed and rushed. We would have loved an extra couple of hours to relax at the pool, and perhaps ZooMarine need to consider this when they make their transfer schedules.
While we had a fantastic day, I can see this was largely due to the timing of our visit and I can see it being pretty much a different experience during July and August. I Imagine ZooMarine will be packed then and the smaller number of attractions may be an issue then along with waiting times. I'm also undecided at how much teenagers would enjoy ZooMarine and feel it's aimed more at families with younger children. The only other slight negative I noticed was a lack of shaded areas. We visited in early October, and even then the heat was unforgiving. Sunscreen is a MUST as it's easy to not notice yourself burning as you travel around the park and some nice shady seating might have been nice.
Overall we enjoyed Zoomarine far more than we anticipated and were impressed with everything, apart from the dire parrot show. My daughter claims it was her favourite day in Portugal and even my hard to please Mum enjoyed herself immensely. If you're visiting the Algarve out of school holiday time with young children, then I highly recommend ZooMarine, although advise you to shop around for discounts and to check return transfer times, possibly making your own way there! At around £70 for our party, it wasn't a cheap day out but worth every penny and once there we hardly spent a thing. A Five Star day out and well worth a visit.
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Wroclaw Zoo (Wrcolaw, Poland)
Wroclaw Zoo Opening in 1865 Wroclaw Zoo is the oldest zoo in Poland and also one of the largest in Europe. The zoo houses over 4000 animals of 600 different species, many of which are protected or are extinct in the wild. I was lucky enough to be able to take a trip to the zoo on one of my adventures to Wroclaw and this was my ... experience.
While visiting some friends in Wroclaw they suggested that we take a trip to the Zoo as they know how much I like animals. The zoo is about a 40 minute drive from where they live and is located just outside the city of Wroclaw. As we approached the zoo I could clearly see a big sign simply saying "Zoo" with a picture of a lion, at this point I was feeling like a big kid with excitement building up inside as we were nearly there, however my excitement had to wait as the zoo does not have many parking spaces so we ended up driving round for a further 30 minutes to eventually find a space for the car in a local park. This now meant that we had a 15 minute walk to the zoo, however it was a nice day and the scenery was nice to walk through too.
When we eventually arrived at the Zoo entrance we were greeted by some massive gates and above these was the big Zoo sign that I had noticed as we drove past. To either side of the gates were the kiosks to pay for entrance. The price for an adult was 25zl (Polish zlotys) which is approximately just over £5 depending on the exchange rate. A student ticket was 21zl and a child 17zl. I thought these prices were very reasonable considering the prices of UK zoo's I have visited in the past. Little did I know that once I had been round the zoo I would come out thinking these prices are actually excellent for the size of the zoo and the variety of animals kept there! The staff on the gate didn't speak much English but they were polite and smiled while they served us.
Upon entering the zoo I noticed some gift shops to either side of us along with a few little ice cream shops and a couple of cafe's. In front of us there was a large map board showing where you are and a map of the zoo. We looked at the map and decided to walk to the left and move around the zoo in a clockwise direction, mainly because I was excited by the look of the bear encounter and wanted to see this first. Walking around the zoo we saw the usual zoo animals, dear, lions, tigers, reindeer, monkeys, elephants and giraffes to name a few. As we walked I noticed how all of the enclosures were very big and the animals had plenty of space to roam free without looking like they were being forced to be on show to the public, it was very clear that if they didn't want to be sociable with their visitors then they have lots of hiding places and dens to escape the eyes of admirers. Luckily for us most of the animals were out and about and enjoying the lovely sunshine. All of the enclosures had water supplies and food available for the animals and it was obvious to see that the animals are all very well looked after and in great condition.
After about 20 minutes of walking round we came to a big bridge over what looked to be a huge grassy area with a lot of trees in it, as we walked across this bridge we looked down and could see brown bears roaming free in their massive enclosure which even has a small river/stream running through it. As we were looking at the bears we could hear movement in the tree tops so we looked up to see small monkeys bouncing around in the tree tops above the bears below. At first this concerned me as I didn't want the monkeys to get eaten by a bear, however looking around I could see the monkey enclosure not too far away so they were safe and not always on the loose with the bears if they didn't want to be, I just hope none of them fall out! Continuing our walk around we came across more deer's and some antelope as well as some bird aviaries housing anything from budgies to owls, separated of course.
About half way around the zoo we decided to stop and have a burger and a drink at one of the many cafes. We sat outside as there was plenty of outside seating and relaxed in the sunshine with a slight shade from the big umbrella on the table, ideal if you have kids and want to keep them cool. The prices in the cafe were quite cheap, for 3 of us to have burgers, chips and a coke it came to a total of around 30zl. The food was cooked nice and tasted very nice.
After lunch we continued our walk around the animal enclosures and also some more bird houses and a reptile house, these were all the standard things I would expect to find in a zoo. Also at Wroclaw zoo they have a large building which doubles as both a reptile house and kind of sea life attraction. There are two floors, the lower one has various fish tanks and aquariums with sea life in them and the 2nd floor is home to many varieties of snakes, big spiders and lizards to name a few. Next door to this building there is also a butterfly walkthrough house which you enter through some heavy plastic flaps to be greeted by a large room full of lovely plants and trees and fluttering amongst them loads of very pretty butterflies, I enjoyed this feature although I did find it a little warm especially as it was also warm outside.
Another feature at the zoo I had never seen before and really enjoyed, although I am lead to believe that there is a zoo in the UK which now has this feature too and this is the Lemur walkthrough. This is a very large enclosure which you enter through a door which you then have to wait for it to close to be able to open a second door to get in to the animals. Once inside there is a pathway which leads through to the exit doors. There was a zoo keeper sitting inside the area and a small wooden fence running along the edge of the path with children and at one point me sitting on it watching the Lemur bouncing around in the tree tops above our heads and occasionally being brave and getting close to their human visitors, but never close enough to touch, saying this there is a sign saying that you must not try to touch the animals. We spent about 10 minutes in here although I could have spent longer as they were so cute and it was so rare to be able to be so close to them.
As we made our way past the last few enclosures I noticed a petting zoo which of course I had to go and have a look at, I'm sure my friends thought they had brought a child with them, however once we were inside the petting zoo they were quite happily feeding and fussing the little goats as well. Around the edge of the petting zoo were pens containing pigs with their piglets and also a few with different varieties of sheep in. You are allowed to feed these animals but they are not on the loose like the goats.
After the petting zoo we decided it was time to leave as we had spent a good 4 hours here and we were due to meet some other friends. Which is a shame as I would have quite happily gone round the whole thing again! The exit of the zoo is in the same place as the entrance and leads back out onto the main road ready for the mission of a walk back to find the car.
I really enjoyed my trip to the zoo, even if I was 27 at the time! It made me feel like a big kid again and I really enjoyed seeing so many animals looking healthy and looked after well with plenty of space to enjoy a run around if they wanted to and also plenty of shady areas for the hot days. If you have children they will love to see all the animals in this environment and there are also a few play areas placed around the zoo. I found it very interesting to read about the different animals on the boards that are located by each enclosure, they are mainly in Polish but there is an English translation underneath this. The food we ate at lunch time was very good and great value for money considering tourist attractions usually push the prices up more. Overall we spent at least 4 hours in the zoo and I'm sure we could have spent a couple more there too which I think is excellent value for money with such a low entrance fee. The zoo is easily accessible by a regular on time bus service from the city centre and if you are driving it is very well signposted too.
If you're ever visiting Wroclaw then definitely give this place a visit!
Thanks for reading :)
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Theme Park / Zoo International
Theme Park / Zoo International / Parc Zoologique de Fréjus, zone du Capitou, 83600 Fréjus, France, Tel: 049 811 3737
Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover / Theme Park / Zoo International / Adenauerallee 3 / D-30175 / Hannover / Tel (+49) 511 28074 163 - Somewhere in the vast sub-continent, deep in the jungle, stands an imposing palace. What is perhaps more surprising is that this palace is to be found in Hannover.
Theme Park / Zoo International / Duinrell's Amusement Park means days of splashing good fun for the whole family. Beautifully located in the splendid woods and dunes of Wassenaar, there's a wide range of attractions in store for young and old. Info:+31 (0)70 51 55 155.
Rue des palmiers / Theme Park / Zoo International / BP 171 / 4089 Port El Kantaoui / Hammam Sousse / Tunisia - After experiencing an exhilarating descent in a tire down the Crazy River who could resist the fantastic, four track, Foam Tobogan.
Theme Park / Zoo International / Oasis Park, conveniently located in Port El Kantaoui, is home to thousands of botanical species and numerous rare and exotic birds and animals.
Theme Park / Zoo International / Water fun for the whole family!
Sea World / Theme Park / Zoo International / Orlando / Florida / USA
Address: Rue de la Médina / Theme Park / Zoo International / Yasmine Hammamet / Tunisia / North Africa / Telephone: 216 72 240 111
Theme Park / Zoo International / Discovery Cove, located adjacent to SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida. Swimming with dolphins is the most popular attaction. Reservations: 1-877-4-DISCOVERY.
Address: Benidorm / Theme Park / Zoo International / Spain - Cool off at this large water theme park. Something for the whole family.
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