Jungle Jack’s Zoological Garden

Powell, just slightly north of the city of Columbus, is home to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Covering an area of ​​234 hectares, the park offers everything that appeals to the common friend of animal parks, as well as amusement park enthusiasts, golf veterans and water park fetishists. In other words, the park offers something for everyone, but the individual components are more interesting for one or the other group of people. The experience can further be spiced up by a bunch of up-charge attractions.

The really promising water park Zoombezi Bay and the golf club Safari Golf have their own gate and are therefore a topic on their own. In this report, we concentrate on the actual animal park, as well as the amusement park Jungle Jack’s Landing. Since the zoological garden opened its doors in 1929, we start with the older amusement park, which startet in 1886 as the trolley park Wyandot Lake.

In the 1940s, a showman bought the grounds to use it as a winter storage. A short time later, the theme park Gooding Zoo Park opened. In 1956 the roller coaster Jet Flyer premiered, which still can be experienced today as the Sea Dragon. After the death of the showman in 1983, the park fell into the hands of the city of Columbus, who then leased the park to Funtime Inc. (then operator of Geauga Lake, Darien Lake and Lake Compounce). Renamed to Wyandot Lake, the park was taken over by Premier Parks in 1995. From 1999 the park belonged to Six Flags. When Six Flags stumbled right after the turn of the millennium, the park was sold to the nearby Columbus Zoo for $ 2 million in 2006. The zoo expanded vigorously and pumped  $ 45 million into the former amusement and water park.

However, since the zoo wanted to open the amusement park area sometime in the spring – but not for the local Spring-Break –, I could not visit this area of the park. The park itself was quite busy and the weather was without any doubt just fine. Regarding the water park, I can still understand it somehow, but in case of the quite manageable-looking amusement park not really. The first drop of the roller coaster Sea Dragon looks quite delicious – what a bummer. 

The animal park itself ressembles a mixture of Tierpark Hagenbeck (the old zoo of Hamburg) and the Erlebnis-Zoo Hannover. The enclosures are big and well designed. Unfortunately, you couldn’t find any animals. Many enclosures weren’t used at the time of our visit or simply closed for renovations. The zoo expands rapidly, but the offer is not.  

Incidentally, the zoo is known for the first gorilla birth in captivity in 1956, which was also the start of a very successful breeding program. The gorilla lady Colo died at the age of 60, which made her the then oldest gorilla in human care.

The zoo director Jack Hanna, who ran the park between 1978 and 1992, was also well known. He was important for the current orientation of the Zoological Garden and ensured the dismantling of the show cages. As an animal expert in numerous television programs, he became known nationwide (he is also the reason why the amusement park section is called Jungle Jack’s Landing).

The park is divided into North America, Polar Frontier, Asia Quest, Shores and Aquarium, Voyage to Australia and The Islands, Heart of Africa and Congo Expedition. Every themed area look gergeous. You should definately have a look at the bear enclosure, the bat enclosure, and the steppe of Africa. However, the aquarium also included in the park name is less worth visiting, as it lacks a bit of content and therefore lags quite far behind a local Sea Life Centers, as well as the great tropical aquarium of the Tierpark Hagenbeck.

The zoo and amusement park Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is a very recommendable zoo with small deductions in the B-note. For the entry price of $ 22  you just get the minimal basics, whereas the Zoo-It-All Experience Package with visits to all the side attractions and the theme park for $ 10 more would certainly have left a fairly round overall impression. In addition, the many empty enclosures clouded the impression a little bit. Nevertheless, a visit in conjunction with the adjacent water park and the theme park is highly recommended; I really would not be averse to this combo and will probably come back sometime.

Zipper-Dee-Doo-Dah in Cleveland

As I’m currently in Ohio for business, I took the chance to visit the I-X Indoor Amusement Park in Cleveland this Saturday.  Since 30 years, the fair takes place in the International Exposition Center (short I-X Center). The name Amusement Park fits in very well thanks to the one-time admission fee and the additional show program. Nonetheless, the I-X Indoor Amusement Park is a typical American funfair. The highlight of the event is the weather independence of the fair and the interaction of many rides with the hall’s ceiling.

Most rides come from the Baker Bros. Amusement Company. Rockwell Amusements, Swika’s Amusements and Reithoffer Shows each provide a roller coaster. In total, the funfair hosts six roller coasters, three of them for children. However, they were not my reason of visiting. I wanted to finally ride a Zipper.

Like the Tilt-a-Whirl and Sizzler, the classic from Chance Rides is indispensable in any US funfair – the oval with the pulleys at both ends has been sold a good 200 times since 1968. And even in Europe you could find a Zipper in the past; on the downside they are very rare.

The ride itself resembles the one on a top spin: it rocks, swings and sometimes wildly rolls over. Only a nacelle brake does not exist; you leave everything to chance. The speeds during the journey are usually constant: The main arm rotates at seven revolutions per minute, while the steel cables make at least four revolutions. At the turning points, a short acceleration kick follows every time, which – with a bit of luck – puts the gondolas into a proper rotation. Since you are only secured by a comfortable lap bar, holding onto the handrails is definitely a good thing.

The ride in the narrow cages is definitely not for tall people. With shoe size 11 you also have problems placing your feet properly. People with a weak stomach will quickly reach their limits through the whole swinging thing – especially towards the end of the journey. The zipper itself, however, is a masterpiece of engineering of the late 1960s. Even before the great looping fever of the 70s, Chance Rides turned the fairground world overhead. Unluckily, our ride on the Zipper was somehow tame. In the end, we rocked more than we did anything else.

Luckily, there are plenty of other options at the Indoor Amusement Park, but due to the crowd, we concentrated on the Fabbri Kamikaze. This Italian ride offers some longer head-over stays at the top of the ride – in spite of the over the shoulder restraints – and wonderful hang time during the fast looping sequences. You basically lift off from your seat, whilst the stations drive throughs you will be pressed neatly into your seat. What a machine!

In addition to the small Zamperla Spinning Coaster and the little Pinfari next door, the roller coaster G-Force turn out to be one hell of an adrenaline machine. This small Wing-Coaster-Butterfly from A.R.M. Rides is a lot of fun in a rather small package. After having taken a seat in the 16-passenger train, it raises leisurely up a way too steep straight. Arrived at the top, the train then latches out quickly. In the next second, you fall very fast to the ground. The transition between the much too steep lift and the ascending straight after is the only highlight, as the name of the rollercoaster proves itself. After experiencing the G-Force on your own body, the train swings back and forth and fastly comes to a stop again. If ever Sunkid Heege would produce such a ride 😀 . 

The I-X Indoor Amusement Park in Cleveland is a pretty cool funfair. The choice of rides is quite balanced and offers something for every taste. On our visiting day, the indoor amusement park was pretty crowded, but the weather outside was also a mess all day. If it is a bit emptier you can definitely have a lot of fun here, I really liked the fair itself. The mood was great and the gimmick with the hall’s ceiling basically upgrades every ride to a maximum.

On a sleigh ride with Heidi

Without a theme park the trip from Germany to England is somehow too long and too boring. Since I was already visited Efteling just before Christmas and I had to go through the winter hustle and bustle without a ride on the Bobbaan, I drove to the Belgian coastal town of De Panne, where Plopsaland De Panne holds its Winter Plopsaland Event for more than 10 years. 

The main reason for the visit was the roller coaster Heidi – The Ride, which I could only visual inspect during my last visit. As the theme area of the wild sleigh ride was still under construction, the area resembled a gray concrete complex rather than a colourful Swiss village. I was also very curious about the restrictions during the park’s winter operation.

The first impression of the event was quite positive. The park is very nicely decorated and even has a Christmas plop at every corner of the park. However outside the entrance, this design gets very repetitive. On the other hand, the number of rides in operation is significant. Winter events are nice and good, but if nothing is in operation you can skip the event. In the morning, it truly looked like that. In the afternoon, all rides – with exception of the park’s log flume – where in use. Even the Star Flyer welcomed its guest. Due to the high winds, the ride is kinda scary. 

From the top you have a good overview of the region, the park and the wooden roller coaster Heidi – The Ride. By the late afternoon, the queue on the roller coaster was very short, therefore it was not a problem to try each of the 12 seats; some even double or triple. Towards the evening, the ride became more popular and the park noticeably fuller.

In a short dip you leave the station, whereupon the lift hill of the ride is climbed. Once the maximum height of 22m reached, you immediately plunge down the curvy first drop. Close to the ground, you are now swerving from one side of the ride to the other in a wild s-curve manoeuvre. This is followed by a double-up element with a double-down element ensuing. Unfortunately, the three hills here are very shallow and the airtime is quite low. Back on the ground level you immediately shoot up into a turnaround where the banking of the track increases steadily before you fall down to the ground. Rushing over hill and dale the track is now running parallel with the already experienced one.

After two fairly high hills follows a slightly twisted S-curve hill, which flows into a small double-down. In a tunnel, you now whiz over a very, very small hump before you are pushed to the right side of the in a small curve. This is followed quickly by another very flat hill, before approaching in a short left-right corner combination the break run of the ride.In the same building as the station, you quickly cross the transfer track for maintenance before reaching the station in a 180 ° turn. If you are lucky, say goodbye to Heidi and her friend; during my visit the screen was not in use.

Well, how should I judge the roller coaster?! After my first rides I was really underwhelmed – it took a very long time until I was ok with the coaster. At the same time, I do not want to blame the not yet retracted condition of the ride in the morning, as in the afternoon the ride was quite similar. For me, the ride is a little bit too short, which is also due to the fast paced sections near the ground-level, especially at the end of the ride (which I don’t really like). After a great first drop and the amusing S-curve, the ride loses its pressure. The ride catches itself somewhere in the middle and offers plenty of fun in a series of airtime hills, but before you know it the finale of the ride already starts. 

But one thing must be left to the coaster: It just looks gorgeous and it fits the park’s audience perfectly. The wild sleigh ride is indeed family friendly and due to the fast dispatch – which is also due to the interestingly placed luggage rack (a chest in the middle of the exit platform) – family members don’t have to wait to long, when another one is currently riding. Overall, Heidi is a great ride for the whole family. 

As far as the winter Plopsaland is concerned, I can fully recommend it. If the weather cooperates, you can easily spend a few hours with no waiting times within the whole park. In conjunction with the swimming pool Plopsaqua you can spend with ease the whole day in De Panne.