11 tips for fun at Europa-Park
My husband and I finally made it to Europa-Park last weekend, after almost 8 years in Germany. We parked in the shadow of the massive Silver Star steel roller coaster. My heart raced, my palms began to sweat, and I felt 20 years younger — I was simultaneously excited and terrified as a train of screaming park guests whizzed upside down 60 feet above me.
Within minutes, we were transported to a Bavarian town square. I posed for photos in front of a castle façade thinking, I’ve been here! This looks like Poppelsdorf Palace in Bonn! As we strolled farther into the park, the ooompah music quieted, and we smelled pizza crust browning over a wood-fired stove. We watched couples take selfies in front of Venice’s canals and realized we had arrived in Italy!
Nine hours later, we passed back by the Silver Star on our way out. We had ridden five roller coasters, eaten two meals and traveled to 14 countries (plus a couple of fantasy lands). Here’s what we learned during our day trip to help you make the most of yours.
1. Download the Europa-Park app and print the park map before arrival.
The official app is available for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Make sure you turn GPS on when entering the park to see wait times for nearby attractions.
Circle must-do attractions on the map to prioritize your day. The attractions are listed by area, not name or type of ride. I couldn’t remember the locations of the roller coasters I wanted to ride and ended up having to Google on my smartphone to find them.
2. Access free Wi-Fi or buy a voucher.
There are several free Wi-Fi areas in the park, where you can access the Europa-Park website and Facebook page without using data. Kiosks and shops sell vouchers for 1 euro, which allow for unlimited web surfing.
3. Buy the parking pass immediately.
If you came in your personal vehicle and are not staying at an on-site hotel, you must obtain a 5-euro ticket before you can exit the parking lot, which is available at all ticket booths and self-service kiosks near the entrance. It is tempting to put this off until later because you’re eager to get in line for attractions. However, the lines for parking tickets in the evenings are almost as long as those for the coasters. When you are ready to leave, you’ll be exhausted from your fun day and will not want to wait.
4. Arrive at opening and head straight to the middle of the park.
The main entrance and camping zones are at the lower left of the park, and the park entrance for resort guests is at the upper right, so the central areas are less crowded first thing. Austria, Scandinavia, the Netherlands and Russia are all good starting points.
5. Unless you have littles, then head toward the Minimoys Kingdom and Grimm’s Enchanted Forest.
These two whimsical areas have rides and immersive exhibits that will pique your children’s interest and generate excitement for the day. If you wait until evening, kids may be too tired to enjoy the fun.
6. Bring only what you need.
Though lockers are available, it is best to downsize from a big purse to a small cross-body purse for the day, which you can keep with you on almost all rides. Better yet, wear a jacket with zip pockets to store the basics you need, like your ID, credit card, euros, phone and keys.
Rent a locker for snacks and extra clothing layers. Play carnival games shortly before leaving because your giant stuffed animal winnings are unlikely to fit in the locker.
7. Pack something to keep everyone entertained in line.
Smartphones, tablets or books will keep kids and adults from getting cranky in line. There’s also a park scavenger hunt packet that you can print and bring with you (don’t forget pens or pencils).
8. Plan breaks to rest your legs and eat.
Since outside food and drinks are allowed, you can pack snacks and beverages to enjoy in designated picnic areas. However, dining options in the park are affordable and themed by country, ranging from street food to self-service eateries and full-service restaurants. If you want to have pizza in Italy, fondue in Switzerland or tapas in Spain, go mid-afternoon, between the lunch and dinner rushes.
9. Take advantage of the Baby Switch option when traveling with young children.
At select rides, one parent can hang with your bundle of joy while the other rides; then swap places without starting at the end of the line. Look for signs, and speak with the staff to access this benefit.
10. If you want serious thrills, do not miss Silver Star and Blue Fire.
These two steel coasters are the scariest rides in the park, and the line for Silver Star moves quickly. Silver Star is a typical coaster with an initial drop, loops and corkscrews. Blue Fire accelerates from the station, reaching 60 miles per hour in two seconds as the train barrels up and over an inverted "U" serveral stories high.
We waited almost two hours for the Wodan wooden coaster. Though only a few years old, it was quite jerky and far less enjoyable than rides. In hindsight, we would rather have waited to ride Blue Fire again. Wodan is worth only a short wait.
Though the Eurosat doesn't have inverted loops, the ride is in the dark and quite entertaining. The line moves quickly, so we rode it twice, as the first and last rides of the day.
11. Beware of early and seasonal closures.
During our visit, Silver Star and Blue Fire closed an hour early, as noted on signs near the main entrance. Many attractions — including Blue Fire, Silver Star and water rides — are closed during the winter season, which begins after Nov. 6. The park is closed for three weeks to gear up for the festive season and re-opens Nov. 26 with a medieval Christmas market.
A word of caution: Water rides are open through Nov. 6, and people are still riding them. I recommend skipping these, as you will get soaked and be freezing for the remainder of your visit.