Home » Bucket List Parks: Europa Park

    Bucket List Parks: Europa Park

    Early image of Europa Park

    In 1975, the family behind Mack Rides opened a park that would be, first and foremost, a showroom for their constantly innovating attractions. Mack Rides began in the late 18th century as a manufacturer of carriages and wagons, slowly but surely breaking into the amusement market in the centuries that followed. Franz Mack, who inherited the company in the 1950s, made the proposition after a trip to the theme parks of the United States: to open a park so picturesque, so beloved, where Mack Rides attractions can shine. Thus, Europa Park, a behemoth bucket list park, was born.  

    Early image of Europa Park
    Image: Europa Park

    Europa Park is appropriately themed to the continent of Europe, paying homage to countries like Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and England in themed areas that would rival those found at Disney or Universal. Comparisons may be made to Walt Disney World’s Epcot, in Europa Park’s themed foods, gorgeous walkways, and giant white globe centerpiece, but Europa Park operates a bit differently. Where Epcot has been criticized for its inundation of intellectual properties, with the loving-yet-biting nickname IP-cot gaining traction in recent years, Europa Park is filled with street performers and shows, all featuring characters original to the park. In addition, Europa Park—naturally, as a showroom for Mack Rides—has a far better-rounded ride lineup than the Florida park. 

    Steep Competition

    Image of Cedar Point from the lake
    Image: Cedar Point

    Europa Park has been awarded the title of Best Park by Amusement Today’s Golden Ticket Awards every year since 2014, but its biggest competitor is not Epcot. This park is frequently neck-and-neck with America’s Cedar Point, and lost to the Ohio park in 2013 by a margin of less than one percent. The parks are commonly known as the best in the world, with a very different set of offerings found at each. These two parks, though both beloved and outstanding in their own right, are not two sides to the same coin. Where Cedar Point is an amusement park in the truest sense of the word—midways and ferris wheel and thrill rides—Europa Park may cater to a broader audience. Yes, Europa Park is an amusement park. It’s also a garden. It’s also an eatery. It’s also a museum. It’s also a trip around Europe. It’s been said before that certain parks have something for everyone, but has never been more true than in the instance of Europa Park. 

    Europa Park is made great by its rides, but it is made unique by its beauty. The park’s 235 acres are bursting with flower displays, scenic walkways, and realistic storefronts. Though most sections are themed to countries in Europe, certain areas are more specific or story-driven. Take the fairytale-themed Grimm’s Enchanted Forest, which is shrouded in the shade of trees and spiraling staircases straight from a storybook. 

    FoodLoop restaurant
    Image: Europa Park

    The park offers an array of food options, and though the eat-around-Europe concept is a mouth-watering one, there’s one restaurant at the park that will be particularly alluring to any coaster enthusiast. FoodLoop features a menu not unlike anything else you’d find at a theme park, but what’s interesting is how the food gets to you, through twists and turns, S-curves and even vertical loops, right to your seat. There are a few FoodLoop locations around the world, but Europa Park’s was the first.  

    A Park of Prototypes

    Poseidon at Europa Park
    Image: Europa Park

    Europa Park has plenty to offer outside of its attractions, but I’d be lying if I said the ride lineup had nothing to do with my listing Europa Park on my bucket list. The park boasts 13 roller coasters, each more charming, unique, and thrilling as the last. 

    When Franz Mack opened Europa Park in 1975, he envisioned it as a place where his family’s manufacturing and innovation could be put on display, with full creative and financial control. That’s why so many of Mack’s attractions were first built at Europa Park. It was a testing ground, a billion-dollar showroom.

    Mack Rides may be most famous for their spinning coasters, of which you can find the first at Europa Park. Themed around Russian space travel and one of the longest (in ride time, not track length) coasters in the world, Euro-Mir is Mack’s inaugural spinning coaster. Later, rides like Cobra’s Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa and Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City would expand upon this idea in intricate theming and elements, but that’s all thanks to the ambition behind Euro-Mir. 

    Mack Rides is also known for its waters coasters, which can be found in the states at SeaWorld parks. These attractions are hybrid models, featuring sometimes short and sometimes extended moments of roller coaster-like twists and bends, most often followed by a splash-down of some sort, soaking guests. Two of these models can be found at Europa Park. Poseidon, the earlier of the two and one of the manufacturer’s first of the model, is dubbed by the park as, “a truly adventurous trip through Greek mythology.” Later, in the Portugal area of the park, Europa Park would add Atlantica SuperSplash. This water coaster, a near-exact clone of the Journey to Atlantis found at SeaWorld San Antonio, its only difference being a bunny hill after the main drop. It seems strange to the casual observer that one park would have two water coasters, but these two rides have very different goals they’re looking to accomplish. Where Poseidon focuses more on the roller coaster elements of the water coaster, providing a well-rounded and well-themed ride experience, Atlantica SuperSplash has one goal in mind: to get guests absolutely soaked. The latter ride is more thrilling, but also more of a one-trick-pony, with a massive 98-foot drop for guests to plummet down, but not much else. The two water coasters compliment each other quite nicely at the park.  

    Blue Fire Megacoaster
    Image: Europa Park

    Perhaps the most important prototype model to be born out of Europa Park came in 2009, alongside an all-new Iceland-themed area at the park. Blue Fire Megacoaster is Mack’s first launched thrill coaster, featuring four inversions and one LSM launch that catapults guests from 0 to 62 miles per hour in 2.5 seconds. Blue Fire is known as a good-not-great ride, and its launch is far from wild or record-breaking—Mack isn’t exactly known for their forceful launches—but the original ride got people talking…talking enough that Mack’s take on the launch coaster quickly became one to rival Intamin’s (see: Maverick at Cedar Point or the upcoming VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure). Iterations of this model can be found in Icon at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Helix at Liseberg, and Copperhead Strike at Carowinds. Even Slinky Dog Dash at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a more family-friends take on the model that Blue Fire incepted. 

    Not every Mack Rides model has been successful at Europa Park. Take Arthur, a fully-powered inverted family coaster. Powered coasters are unique in the industry, as they do not rely upon gravity in the way common coasters do, thus allowing them to meander through their layouts without fears of valleying, or getting stuck in one location of the layout due to a loss of momentum. Arthur has a sister coaster in Dubai, but has gained little traction apart from that. Another oddball at the park is Eurosat, more commonly referred to as the CanCan Coaster. This coaster is located in the French section of the park, within the massive globe. This coaster deals in more quirk than thrills, but that may make it even more enticing to a first-timer.  

    Arthur at Europa Park

    Rides like these aren’t failures on Mack’s part. No, they’re quite the opposite; these rides are signs of expansion for Mack Rides as a company. Best-case scenario for a new Mack model is that it makes it big time, like we’ve seen in their launch and spinning coasters. But worst-case? Worst-case is, Europa Park ends up with another ride that’s wholly-original, beautifully-themed, and can only be found there. This is a manufacturer that is taking big swings and accepting the big misses, because they’ve got some big wins up their sleeve, too. 

    In the name of innovation and growth, Franz Mack opened his mad scientist’s laboratory in the hills of Rust, Germany. Because of that idea—because there are no park executives to please or intellectual properties to uphold—Mack has created a park that can be precisely what they want it to be, from the massive rides on the midway to the flowers beside the queue lines. Because of that idea, Europa Park is regarded as not only a bucket list park, but the best park in the world.