Feria de Navidad Valencia

28th December 2023

My final trip of 2023 began life as a relaxed short break in the Spanish capital of Madrid. I planned a full day in both of the major parks, and nothing else – the idea being to get a coaster fix while also recharging personal batteries after a very busy Christmas period both at home and at work. In mid-November I pushed the proverbial go button, confirming flights, hotel accommodation, and a rental car – then promptly put the paperwork aside until closer to the time.

Ten days before travel I decided on a whim to look for any fairs within a reasonable driving distance. There was nothing listed in the immediate area, but further digging revealed a smorgasbord of options along the eastern coast of the country, with three particularly large examples located in Alicante, Murcia, and Valencia. Younger me would have found a way to get to them all, and indeed middle-aged me had a serious look at the logistics of doing just that – but it’d have meant a lot of extra driving when tired, defeating one of the main reasons for travelling in the first place.

On the other hand, all three of the fair cities had direct flight options from Dublin. After some back and forth, I decided to change my outbound flight to Valencia, enabling a visit to the one with the most interesting selection of coasters without too much extra driving. As an added bonus, this meant that I could also drop into the local Hard Rock Café, taking me a step closer to my nerd goal of visiting 100 active locations within the chain. (I have been within sight of this target for over five years now, but it remains elusive due to an enormous number of closures. At the rate things area going it’s entirely possible that I’ll get to 100 defunct branches in the next few years.)


My flight landed on time, and against all expectation I managed to complete both immigration and car rental in less than twenty minutes. As such I was well ahead of my most optimistic projections when I headed to my hotel, where I hoped to abandon my rental car in favour of public transport for the balance of the evening. Unfortunately other people had apparently had the same idea as me; the hotel lot was full, and while there were some on-street options I decided that I might as well drive to the Feria de Navidad and worry about parking later. This worked out, though I can’t say I recommend it to those retracing my steps; driving in Valencia at rush hour is not for the faint of heart, due to a preponderance of enormous roundabouts where the road markings are regarded as advisory. On a happier note, however, the fairground had all-evening parking available for just €1 – a very pleasant surprise.

Dragon

There were four main rides on my to-do list, and I figured that I might as well do them in the order that I found them. That was how my evening began with Dragon (Angel), a single-helix Zamperla powered coaster with an unusually elaborate lighting package on the station. The eye-catching appearance was augmented further by brightly-coloured balloons that the operator attached to restraints as they were checked. The ride wasn’t particularly memorable even by the usual standards of the type, though that may not have been deliberate; the motor in the lead car was audibly groaning as it struggled to lift the train to the apex. Fortunately it survived long enough to complete an eleven lap cycle, even managing to haul us through a cloud of bubblegum scent that was disgorged into the station at the half way point in a spirited attempt to make all those on board feel ill. (€4)

The main attraction for the evening was Jet Star (#3101), a SDC-built knock-off of the famous Schwarzkopf product that has been touring the Spanish fair circuit for as long as most of us can remember. I’d heard through the grapevine that the copy lacked the refinement of the original, but as a card-carrying coaster enthusiast the temptation to try it myself was too strong to reasonably resist. Despite its name, the copy is based on the Jet Star 2 from the 1970s rather than the classic Jet Star, albeit with several minor differences:

  • An S-turn has been added between the station platform and the base of the lift.
  • The final helix ends on an inclined straight leading to the brake run, rather than on the brake.
  • The power rail on the lift has a unique design.
  • The three-bench cars look like a stretch of those found on the Galaxi rather than the Schwarzkopf rockets.

The ride is accessed using a combined entrance and exit station located on the right hand side of the structure. Today there was a substantial queue for front seats which I decided, perhaps unwisely, to ignore – choosing instead an open back. This contained two seats sharing the same overhead lap bar, though I found I needed both of them due to extremely limited leg room. I suspect anyone over the six foot mark will have the same problem; I could only wedge myself in place half way between the two headrests by fully manspreading (which is forbidden by legislation on local public transport.)

Jet Star

The overall comfort level on board is respectable enough, provided you exclude the turn immediately after the first drop, but it’s fair to say that the experience isn’t even close to what you would get from a classic Schwarzkopf; it’s not as smooth, as fast, or indeed as forceful; I decided against a second lap because I didn’t think it was worth the money. Grumbles aside, however, it is good to see a travelling coaster aimed at adults that isn’t a Reverchon/Zamperla mouse, and for that alone we should all be grateful; it’s just a pity that the result isn’t a better ride.(€5)

Hit number three was one of the three figure eight spinning coasters owned by Vicente Bañuls. The fact that a showman would buy three of the same machine speaks volumes about the way the funfair circuit operates in Spain. It’s not unusual for all three to be open simultaneously, and while they are generally in different locations it’s also not unheard of for multiple instances of the same ride to presented at the same location. Either way, I have a sneaking suspicion that Megabross (#3102) may have been adjusted after it left the SBF factory; from the moment of dispatch I was treated to what was without question the best spinning I’ve ever had on a ride of this type, resulting in blurred vision and fits of giggles. The result was brilliant; it’s a shame the other eleventy billion examples of the genre don’t run quite as well. (€4)

The last credit of the night was Dinosaurioo (#3103), a thoroughly ridiculous oval with tyre drives and a height differential of about three feet. Though stretching the definition of a roller coaster to breaking point, it does meet the rules, and even if it didn't it's great fun. Riders are treated to a few slow forward circuits to get started, after which the experience kicks into high gear. I found myself hanging on for dear life as the train crashed its way around corners at speed, and that was just the beginning. The operator kept up a running commentary that I couldn’t understand, but I certainly could understand when he started attacking passengers on the moving train with a compressed air gun and a series of different inflatable baseball bats. At one point we switched into backwards mode, again at the same breakneck pace. The total cycle time ran to about five minutes, representing excellent value for money. (€4.50)

I felt moderately queasy after disembarking, but decided that I couldn’t leave without at least a token ride on Super Ratón (Purple). Despite a substantial queue I ended up in a car by myself, as the restraint was stuck closed on the left hand side of my car. The resultant spinning was powerful, if inadvisable given that I was already feeling a little unsettled, and by the time I disembarked the only thing I wanted to do was head for my dinner.

Super Raton