Gröna Lund is one of a number of parks in Sweden that was forced to remain closed throughout 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. One might have expected the loss of an entire season worth of income to have resulted in the proverbial hatches being buttoned down, but park management decided otherwise – taking advantage of the downtime to complete a 450 million SEK investment (~€44.3 million) centred around a brand new inverted coaster from Bolliger & Mabillard. Needless to say this addition made the park an essential stop during what was otherwise planned to be a relaxed six-day sightseeing break in Stockholm.
Since its reopening last year the park has operated using a pay-one-price model with two daily sessions: one from 10:00-15:30 and the other from 16:30-21:30. In the intervening hour all attractions are closed and the park is emptied out. Limited capacity for each slot ensures the best possible guest experience, and so it was for us today; on a gloriously sunny Friday we experienced a peak wait time of twenty minutes and managed to clock up a grand total of thirteen rides despite taking time both for a coffee break and a lunch break. I suspect someone in full credit whore mode could easily have hit twenty different rides without issue.
The change of business model means that those seeking to clock up large numbers of attractions no longer require a wristband. Instead, members of the European Coaster Club can use their club card to claim one free admission ticket per year from the ticket office (valued at 525 SEK, or €50.60). Regular visitors should bear in mind that this not the same location where wristbands were collected in the past; it is a standalone building located a few metres away from where the Slussen to Djurgården ferry docks. (If you haven’t taken the ferry to Gröna Lund at least once in your life then you’re missing out, as the view on approach is really cool. The picture above doesn't do it justice.)
Once through the gate we made a beeline for Monster (#3030), the first new B&M in Europe since the highly-regarded Valkyria premiered five hundred kilometres away in August 2018. The ride is accessed through what (without the signage) could almost be the front door of a corner house. Stairs head upwards into the first section of the queue, followed by a two-storey descent to a below ground boarding platform that has been themed to look like a subway station. (An elevator is available to accommodate those whom stairs present a difficulty; this can be accessed through the ride exit.)
The ride itself is the second-shortest example of its type in existence, but as ever with statistics this matters even less than the opinions I share in my trip reports; what counts is the ride layout, and this is where the park has come up trumps, unequivocally making Gröna Lund great again (sorry, I had to. I’ll get my coat, provided of course that the FBI haven’t taken it away as part of an investigation).
A gentle left turn out of the station leads to a standard lift, albeit one whose central support structure has been seeded in the middle with multipurpose greenery, a nice touch that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. During the ascent sections of layout can be seen to both left and right, and at the apex passengers are treated to a spectacular if brief view of the Stockholm skyline, looking out at Skeppsholmen, Kastellholmen, and Gamla stan in the distance.
The initial curved drop descends to within a few feet of the boardwalk. A gentle rise leads into a zero gravity roll, followed in short order by so-called “junior Immelmann” – a tightly-banked horseshoe turn that is one of the best features of the layout. A corkscrew to the left prefixes a 270 degree helix, a second zero gravity roll, and the highlight: an airtime hill in front of Lustiga Huset that is as unexpected as it is brilliant. Close encounters with other rides along the route add icing to what was already a delicious cake. We found that the front seat had a slight edge over the back for visual impact, but both ends of the train were superb.
After a quick detour through Kärlekstunneln (covered in depth in my 2016 report) we arrived at Ikaros, a 95 metre high Intamin Sky Jump and one of just two examples of the type in operation, the other being at Busch Gardens Tampa. The fancy marketing name describes a free fall tower with a unique gondola that tilts to place riders in a face-down position before the catch car releases. I’ve had some difficulties with tower rides in the past, and while the worst fears are more than a decade behind me now I won’t pretend that I was entirely comfortable boarding this one. I need not have worried, however; the restraint felt extremely snug and secure (as well it should), and the drop was much less intense than I’d expected it to be, feeling less aggressive than the initial descent on a Giant Inverted Boomerang. I don’t think that I’d be willing to queue for a long time to ride again, but I’m not at all sorry to have finally experienced the genre for myself.
Next up was Katapulten, a 55 metre high S&S Combo Tower installed at the park in 2004. The air-powered ride experience still holds its own after almost twenty years, and in all honesty I’d argue it to be superior to Ikaros as it does far more – a standard cycle includes both upward and downward sequences, and lasts more than twice as long as its newer and more glamorous neighbour. It’s telling that the same basic product is still on sale more than two decades after its introduction.
Attraction number five became Lustiga Huset, a fun house that I’d argue to be one of the finest examples of the genre in operation today. It’s certainly one of the oldest, having premiered in 1917 – and there’s a great mix of effects, including a moving staircase, sloped walls, moving floors, wobbly bridges, slides, a rotating barrel, a crooked house room, a cakewalk, and the pièce de résistance – a mat slide where guests are launched by the seat area tilting forward.
After an enjoyably smooth lap on Jetline we made our way into the queue for Eclipse, a 122 metre high Star Flyer that until relatively recently shared the height record for the type with the Texas SkyScreamer. Since then it has been thoroughly eclipsed (apologies again) by a number of rides, including the Orlando Skyflyer, the Bollywood Skyflyer, and the Allgäuflieger. All three of these machines claim to be the world’s tallest on their respective websites, and though I’d love to use these pages to settle the matter conclusively I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a big enough measuring tape. The view from the top was spectacular, and the ride was fun, but it didn’t feel any different to the many smaller examples I’ve ridden over the years. I really can’t see a whole lot of value in parks continuing to chase the height record with this style of ride – once you go past 100 metres or so can anyone really tell the difference?
Following a lunch break we made our way to Kvasten, the first installation of what is now a production model Suspended Family Coaster from Vekoma. Fifteen years after its premiere it remains a respectable ride, albeit one that isn’t quite as smooth as it was when new – there were a few definite bumps on course. Today the train was interacting with a fire effect close to the House of Nightmares that I’d not noticed on previous visits, though a local enthusiast tells me that it has been there since day one. It’s most obvious from the midway; the gentle puff of warm air is easily missed by those on board.
With that done we made our way to Blå Taget, which a well known enthusiast site has loosely translated as “awesome ghost train”. It’s hard to argue with this assessment, and indeed the unique nature of the design is what makes it special. It features both the usual animatronics alongside under-floor effects and pushers in the back of the seats that deploy at key moments, not least at the point where passengers break out into daylight in full view of the midway. It’s fun to watch cars in this area; you can definitely tell the difference between first-time riders and veterans.
I didn't feel the need to renew my acquaintance with either of the park's kiddie coasters, and had less than zero interest in a lap on Insane. That left two other coasters on my shopping list today: Twister and Vilda Musen. Both were running very well today. I particularly liked the new(ish) yellow-painted track on the latter, which I'd argue to be a significant upgrade over the original dark blue.
The last ride of the day was Lyktan, a Zierer-built family drop tower with a rotating gondola similar to the indoor tower rides at the Plopsa parks. There was a really unique programme in use here, making me wonder if the ride was being operated manually; the start was as normal, but part way through the car started wiggling up and down even as the rotation continued. The experience was definitely a novelty, if not something I’d classify as life-changing.