Let me take you to a Park in France that is very near to my heart and that still struggles to get the visitor numbers it deserves despite starting in it’s 30th Season in 2019. I’m talking about what is currently known as Walygator Parc, located in France near the borders of Germany and Luxembourg. The history of this place is somewhat difficult to retell because it changed hands at least 5 times so far and operated under 4 different names. Considering it was on the verge of bankruptcy at least 2 times it is a small miracle that it still exists. It first opened to the Public in 1989 with an overall Smurf Theme and changed ownership and name for the first time barely 2 years later because of financial issues. This did help the Park a lot since it was now part of the Walibi Group, which was the reason of the first name change so early on. In the late 90’s the entire Walibi Group was bought by what would later become the current Six Flags company. and in 2003 most signs of the Smurfs where removed and the 2nd change of name happened. It was now known as Walibi Lorraine which fitted much better into the naming scheme of the other Walibi Parks.
Starting with 2004 things began to get really messy. Due to financial struggle in the entire Six Flags chain the decision was made to sell off almost all of their European Parks. Arguably the most tragic chain of Events happened in 2006. First the then still Walibi Lorraine was sold off once again, this time to a group of Investors. Around the same time the rest of the Walibi Parks where sold to a large, french leisure company that also got the rights to the Walibi brand itself. They are still operating and expanding the other Walibi Parks with great success to this day. Considering what they had achieved in both the Belgian and Dutch Walibi Parks along Parc Astérix I strongly believe that we could have a really strong and well visited Walibi Lorraine today if it had been sold with the rest of the Parks. These events pretty much made the, as of now, last change of name necessary. The new name Walygator was implemented for the 2007 Season alongside a new mascot and a retheming of some of the Parks areas. In 2010 Walygator saw it’s largest addition of a new ride in the entire History of the Park, a B&M Inverted Coaster called “The Monster” that they got used from Japan. Being on the verge of Bankruptcy the Park was sold to a different Investor Group in 2013 and then a, hopefully last time, to the current owners, Aspro Parks, in 2016.
Ever since Aspro Parks took over Walygator the main focus appears to be to properly maintain and restore the Attractions that are currently there. Their Wooden Coaster “Anaconda” is getting a lot of attention since it got rough and slow over the years. A first section following the first drop and part of the first hill where retracked for the 2018 Season which helped to give it back some of the much needed speed. For the 2019 Season they are currently working on a larger section of the last turn since that became the most painful section due to the increased speed. Aspro also introduced the magician Tim Silver to the Park who gave it a much needed Show that can easily compete with other Parks that probably have a much bigger Budget. I really hope that Aspro can finally bring Walygator the success they so much deserve.
I first visited all the way back in 1996 around my 10th Birthday, and I still remember a few things about that visit. I fondly remember that I didn’t ride Anaconda at the time because it was the first time I saw a Wooden Coaster in my life and somehow it scared me. To this day it is the only Coaster that did that for me. Instead I rode “Comet”, their Vekoma Corkscrew Coaster, a lot with my dad, and while it wasn’t the first Coaster that took me Upside Down, it was at least my first vertical Loop. The last thing I can remember is a Earthquake Simulator called “Sysmic Panic” that sadly isn’t around anymore. It had a Temple Theme to it and guests where seated in 2 rows around the edge and facing the middle. The Ride would then shake the riders around, I also remember that it had water effects, but the rare videos I can find don’t show it. This Simulator was a one of a kind Attraction that was build just for the Park by a company that specializes in Lift Systems for Off Shore Platforms. Guess it wasn’t reasonable anymore to get spare parts at some point. I then revisited in both 2017 and 2018 and do plan to visit again this year at least once for the Halloween Event. The first revisit was because I wanted to finally get that ride on “Anaconda” and to tame “The Monster”, and one of these Coasters ended up being a disappointment, the other turned out to be a insanely good experience.
Let’s begin with “Monster”, it is the biggest reason why most people even want to visit the Park. As mentioned above it is a B&M Inverted Coaster that previously operated as “Orochi” in Japan’s Expoland. The Layout is a clone of Cedar Point’s “Raptor”, but they decided to not install a Mid Course Brake Run when it was moved to France. First Impressions are as terrible as they can get. The Station is a bare bones metal structure that doesn’t even have a roof, the paint scheme with white as the main color and a light pink for the tracks spine is unchanged from it’s days in Japan, it sits on an otherwise empty patch of land with just some grass under it and it’s fenced off with what is usually used to temporarily fence off construction sites or events. I get it, this sounds terrible and you might expect a bad ride experience at this point, but it actually is my favorite Inverted Coaster. It is fast, smooth, roars like a proper B&M should and it is brutally intense to the point that people greying out on it multiple times aren’t rare. The lack of the Mid Course Brake Run takes any possibility of controlling the trains speed for the second half away and that second was never designed to be taken at the speeds that “The Monster” can reach on a good day. It looks like a ugly piece of trash, it gives insanely good rides and it truly is a reason to visit Walygator if you have the chance to do so
The experience with “Anaconda” is pretty much the exact opposite. It opened with the Park in 1989 and was at the time the highest Wooden Coaster in Europe, first beaten in 2001 by “Colossos” at Heide Park in Germany. Even though several higher Woodies opened on the Continent over the years “Anaconda” still manages to be in the Top 10 for height. Your experience begins with a impressive fake tree with a giant Snake hanging down on it, the queue line then takes you through a small forest area to a simple, yet fitting wooden station building. Depending on when you visit and how late it is in the day might get your first sign that something isn’t right once you enter the station. I mentioned previously that “Anaconda” got slow over the years, and to make sure that the train makes it through the layout they often close down several cars of the front portion of the train and fill them with weights, on hot days they might remove some of them to open up those seats again. The first drop can be somewhat decent when you sit in the back and after the retracking of the first valley you actually pick up some decent speed, but what follows is a boring layout with a bunch of airtime-less hills that in some cases even have anti rollbacks installed on their tops. Did I mention that “Anaconda” is a painfully slow ride? I honestly do hope that the money and work they are putting into this ride will eventually result in a really good and fun experience, but as it stands it’s just not a good experience.
The third large Roller Coaster that Walygator has to offer is yet another opening day attraction. “Comet” is a compact Vekoma Corkscrew Coaster packing in a a vertical Loop and two Corkscrews in into a small area. A very rare sight, at least here in Europe, is the Arrow train that pretty much all old Vekoma Coasters originally used. Most Parks that still have one of these Coasters did upgrade to a more modern train over the years to improve the ride experience. But I would argues that “Comet” doesn’t even need a different train, it is still a really smooth ride with only a single, somewhat jerky transition, and even that isn’t too bad if you ride in the back. I honestly don’t know if it is because of maintenance or just luck, but I really love the fact that this old Vekoma stood the test of time to proof that not all of them are bad. This is just how I imagine all of these now rough Coaster’s once where when new. “Comet” is my guilty pleasure Coaster, not only is it my first vertical Loop, but I also happen to like the color scheme, and the classic track profile is just as iconic as the old school train
As far as I know the only Show Walygator has to offer is a Magic Show by Tim Silver, and what a Show that is. I only saw the 2018 version called “Origins: The Dream of a Magician” and I got the permission to take Photos during the Show. It was recently announced that they created a new Show for the 2019 Season. With almost 1 Hour it was a very long Show, however it never felt boring. It ranged from your classics like splitting people in half or levitating them, helicopters appeared suddenly on Stage, all the way to Tim being impaled by a giant drill. There was also some interaction with the audience. With “Monster” this Show should be your 2nd main reason to visit Walygator
In terms of Water Rides you get your classic Log Flume in both a small variant for kids and a bigger one for the entire family, both feature a simple layout with a single drop and even the bigger one isn’t anything special. Their Rafting however is a entirely different league. It’s called “Dino Raft” and is as much Jurassic Park as it can get away with while not having to pay for the license. The Jurassic Park Main Theme is playing in the entire Dino World area, there are, sometimes large scale, Animatronics all throughout the area and most of the Rafting gives you a convincing feeling of being in a jungle. If you decide to climb in one of the rafting boats you should be prepared to get really wet, if you are lucky you just get a bit of water on you, but if you are one of the unlucky ones you can get drenched here. You should really only ever ride this on a hot day.
The rest of the Attractions is mostly a solid mix of Flatrides covering all ages and Thrill Levels. You get classics like fairly normal carousels and Tea Cups, more thrilling rides like an S&S Space Shot Tower and a Zamperla Air Race and they have classics like a swinging ship. More laid back experiences like Monorail or the Tow Boat Ride across their lake that features scenes from around the world with their crocodile mascots, more or less a outdoor take on Disney’s “It’s a small World” idea. It is the closes to a Darkride Walygator has and without exaggeration it takes close to half an hour to complete the ride. Younger Coaster Fans in the making can take a ride on their Wacky Worm, complete with the giant Apple and a Croco themed Frontcar. A somewhat more unique experience is the “Sheriff Academy”, a interactive 4D Cinema. Guests are seated on horses and inside wagons and are equipped with a gun. While you watch the 3D Movie the horses and wagons move along with the action and at several points you have to shoot at the bad guys on screen. It is a fun little thing that looks a bit like a backyard home cinema, but it get’s the job done. Plus it’s inside of one of the very few remaining Smurf buildings from the early days of the Park.
Of course not everything can be good. While their “Terror House” does look very impressive from the outside, it is sadly one of the most boring Scare Maze / Haunted House type of attractions around. It is way too bright inside, none of the scenes have any shock value and you are done with it in just a couple of minutes. It couldn’t even scare my mom and it is nothing you need to have seen. Another point of complaint is the Quality of the Theming. You have some extremely great looking areas like the Dino World, some decent looking areas like the Space Area or the entrance for “Anaconda” and on the other end of the spectrum you have terrible looking things like “The Monster”. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind a unthemed coaster too much as long as it’s a good one, but they really need to give it at least a fresh coat of paint and a roof for the station. And the difference in quality of how the several areas and rides look is just way too big. There is still room for improvement here, and I guess Park officials know this, but I have seen worse.
I had only one meal here, so I can’t talk about the quality of all their food, but sadly the one I had wasn’t good. I had half a chicken with fries and a fruit salad for dessert. While the fries where at least on par with most fast food chains, the chicken on the other hand was so dry that it almost felt like eating sand. I didn’t finish it. The fruit salad was a bit too bitter for my liking, but you could at least eat it. I don’t remember the remember the price of it, but it was acceptable for the portion size, but not for the quality of it. I highly recommend to bring your own food.
Overall Walygator is better than a lot of people say it is. They have 2 Roller Coasters that are either really great or at least very solid, a wooden Coaster that could be fun is refurbished right, and I might add that they are heading in a good direction with that one and they have an outstanding Show. Their collection of Flat Rides is very solid and covers all ages and interests. However there is clearly a lot of room for improvements, like i.e. with the Theming of some areas or the food. With just 25€ for an Adult Ticket Walygator is among the cheapest Parks in Europe, Parking is 5€ per vehicle. Due to the smaller size of the Park and often low attendance half a day might be enough to get everything done, but you can easily have fun for the entire day here as well. In general I can recommend to visit Walygator.
Links & Additional Information:
Official Website: https://www.walygatorparc.com/
French Fansite about the History: http://walygatorparc.free.fr/
Photo Gallery for this Park:https://dive-loop.com/photo-galleries/walygator-parc/
Disclaimer: Ticket, Food, Parking and a Fastpass for my 2018 visit was covered by the Park. This however had no influence on my opinion of the Park.
I got permission from the Artist Tim Silver to take Pictures during his Show in 2018. Pictures you can find in this Review or anywhere else on this site where approved by him to be published.