Who would have known that Gardaland has its own winter event, Magic Winter, that runs throughout December and early January. Gardaland, home to Raptor & Oblivion: The Black Hole, is another theme park owned by Merlin Entertainments and located next to the beautiful Lake Garda in Italy. I’ve wanted to travel to the Italian theme parks in a very long time, and Gardaland has always been up there ever since they built Raptor back in 2011.
I was incredibly excited when this was planned in as part of New Years trip to Europa Park with my friends. Whilst there would have been a strong case of FOMO if I hadn’t gone on the trip, I was already in need of an escape from my daily life as well as the rollercoaster of a year in 2019. The best way to end a year is by going abroad and visiting some theme parks (well, the ones that are open that is!) Gardaland in particular was a big surprise for me! I already set my expectations low after a few people warned me of overselling fastracks, queue jumpers and more. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the place as much as I did!
I feel like Gardaland’s Magic Winter event was a truly magical experience, and given it was the end of December, the Italian sunshine still shone brightly during the trip. So here are some of my favourite highlights…
Gardaland Magic Winter Song
If there’s one thing that will remain prevalent in my head from this trip, it is the incredibly catchy theme tune for the Magic Winter event. Go and give the YouTube link above a click. This was played across the whole park which did provide a rather magical and festive feel.
However, in the ‘themed’ areas which are more of a darker theme including Raptor, the original soundtrack was playing alongside the catchy Magic Winter song. This was slightly annoying in my eyes as I couldn’t really immerse myself in the area without casually singing along to the Magic Winter song. I spent 2 days at Gardaland and I think I could recite the entire song!
It has taken me 8 years but I finally rode Raptor – and it did not disappoint. I loved the transitions between each element of the ride, the first drop takes your breath away and the near misses towards the end of the ride makes for a fun and thrilling ride experience. Much prefer the back row to the front, especially with that pull off the lift hill into the first drop.
Gardaland is quite an odd layout so trying to make your way to Raptor was slightly confusing in my eyes. However we found the entrance and I was eager to get myself on the ride. The queue line was a maze of conga line fences, and as we went when the park was relatively quiet, this wasn’t an issue for our group. You can get some pretty decent shots of the ride within the queue, and I think Wing coasters are very photogenic!
Despite it being late December, the Italian sunshine really added to the trip for me. It was reasonably cold so of course, you needed to wrap up warm but the sunshine has that effect where you can’t help but smile. When you are on holiday, there is no better feeling than enjoying a day out in the sunshine.
The main plus was being able to take photos, and enjoy the gorgeous views of the surrounding areas. The Lake Garda province of Italy is simply stunning to look at, and even better when you are heading up the lift hill on one of the main coasters. The horizon showing off the snowy topped mountains (Monte Baldo and Monte Pizzocolo) made the scenery even more beautiful.
If there is one tip I can give you, don’t read up or watch any POVs of this dark ride. It is better to experience this ride without knowing exactly what happens! For a Merlin Entertainments owned theme park, I was incredibly surprised that this exists here in Gardaland. I would have placed this in another European park, and purely for the sheer theming as soon as you start walking through the queueline.
I know the pirate theme is seen a lot at theme parks, and can become very saturated. However, this is now to become one of my favourite dark rides alongside the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean. Yes, it is not to the same standards and I didn’t have a clue about the storyline, the ride itself was enjoyable and offered some pretty impressive set pieces that created an immersive experience. Whatever you do, do not miss out on this ride if you are visiting Gardaland in the near future.
Possibly my favourite restaurant at Gardaland, and that wasn’t due to 4 members of our group enjoying the delights of the refillable beer lanyards they purchased! Whilst I simply forgot to photograph my food (eating was a priority at this point), the standard of food here was exquisite. Freshly made to order, the food quality was good and prices were reasonable, depending on your budget. If you are ever in need of a good place to stop off for food, come here to Merlin Stube.
I ordered a ‘Sir Paul’, aptly named since we were dining in a medieval style restaurant, which consisted of 3 chicken legs & a portion of chips. It was scrumptious but as soon as we discovered the desserts on the menu, we all grabbed the chance to buy one. The one dessert that caught my eye was the Tiramisu, rightly so since I was in Italy. You’d think the portion size would be small… oh no. The dessert sizes were sizeable and perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth. I can feel myself drooling over it now as I write this.
I had a great time exploring Gardaland and seeing what it has to offer. I’m already thinking about returning during their Summer season so I can grab the next 3 creds that were shut during my trip, and see how the park differs during the summer compared to the winter – is it really as bad as some people say? Plus, there are other Italian theme parks on my hit-list including Mirabilandia and MagicLand.
Have you been to any of the Italian theme parks?
Do you prefer the Summer season or the Winter season at theme parks?
That’s all for now!