Roaring Timbers debuts at
Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park
AT: Tim Baldwin
PHÚ QUÕC, Vietnam — Opened February 1, Vietnam’s first and only wooden roller coaster is a twisted marvel. Sun World Hon Thom Nature Park has some unique attributes as well — the biggest is that it is on an island in the Gulf of Thailand in which visitors can only reach it by cable car or boat. The world-record cable car system is nearly five miles long. Once visitors arrive at Hon Thom Island, they experience a tropical paradise.
Attractions are not plentiful, as compared with actual theme parks spread throughout the globe, but Roaring Timbers is unquestionably the star attraction.
“With Hon Thom Nature Park, being surrounded by natural beauty and lush jungle, we thought that a wooden coaster would fit extremely well into this environment and both blend in and stand out within its environment,” said Daan Duijm, director of operations and set up, Sun World Group.
Because of the island terrain, Great Coasters International, Inc. (GCII) had interesting topography in which to craft something very special. Hills and sloped embankments add to the character and flavor of Roaring Timbers.
“The terrain was a bit challenging when it came to the overgrowth of the trees, grass and shrubbery,” said GCII President Clair Hain, Jr. “However, the view is absolutely beautiful. Adding the wooden coaster to the area just made it more enjoyable.”
With more than 75 steel coasters in Vietnam, citizens and tourists are likely familiar with a roller coaster experience. A handful are installations from the amusement industry’s power players in terms of steel coasters. Most, however, are of the family variety. A woodie is a whole new animal for the people of Vietnam.
“All our visitors loved the experience; its unique in Vietnam and an experience which many visitors have only seen on TV in Europe and in the U.S.A.,” said Duijm. “It’s been great to see the look of amazement on the guests’ faces when they first see the twisted tracks made from wood, and then to see that excitement increase when their journey starts.”
The design was created and engineered by Skyline Attractions for GCII.
"Roaring Timbers was the second centerline done using some of the newer software techniques that we've developed,” said Dustin Sloane, director of creative processes, Skyline Attractions. “This allowed us to get a little more aggressive with some of the shapes and transitions in a way that we wouldn't have been able to before."
“Roaring Timbers features 14 hills and 14 exciting crossovers that pass over or under another section of track, making this one of the most twisted wooden pieces of art in the world,” said Sun World Group Chief Operating Officer Brad Loxley.
The ride stands at 106 feet tall. From the top of the lift, a glimpse of green hills and the cable car transportation system off in the distance is brief before riders entering a curving and heavily banked initial plunge. With speeds of 50 mph, passengers roar through almost 3,000 feet of track. Those who have their senses intact can see palms and beautiful views of the blue waters of the gulf just beyond the coaster. The first drop is a 106-foot curving dive.
“My favorite moment is the first big drop after the lift hill, which banks almost 90 degrees and drives you toward the ground and through the wood structure of the coaster,” said Duijm.
For Sloane, he told Amusement Today, "My favorite part of Roaring Timbers is its use of the terrain, and I like that it has a mix of classic GCII elements as well as a bit of a new-age, modern twist to it."
“Each GCII project has a unique trait since we design to the topography and utilize the area we are given,” Hain said. “Building on an island is a first for us — which we hope for many more. Once you get to the top of the lift hill and see the view: Wow!”
Enthusiasts familiar with GCII’s work will find the company’s trademark features of airtime pops, directional changes and swooping curves. Taking full advantage of the topography, several moments hug close to the ground, while other maneuvers use graceful turnarounds rising skyward. GCII’s signature Millennium Flyer trains serve as the rolling stock on Roaring Timbers. A palette of browns and earth tones accent both trains, complementing the colors of the station and surroundings. Each train dispatched can seat 24 riders.
Hon Thom Island features white sand beaches and coconut groves. The nature of the island is kept unspoiled as possible. Aquatopia, a water park on the island, opened in 2019.
Sun World, the entertainment brand of Sun Group, is a series of amusement parks and entertainment complexes in Vietnam. Under this umbrella is Sun World Ba Na Hills, Asia Park, Sun World Fansipan Legend, Sun World Halong Complex, Sun World BaDen Mountain and Sun World CatBa Cable Car.
Peppa Pig Theme Park rides inclusive, accessible
AT: David Fake
Special to Amusement Today
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Every corner of the new Peppa Pig Theme Park, which officially opened on February 24, has been crafted with preschool children in mind. From their first roller coaster rides with their parents, to free fair games for the whole family, to an all-terrain course where they can pedal tricycles through a sensory-rich trail, Peppa Pig Theme Park is full of big, “oinktastic” experiences and adventures for small children and the big adults in their family alike. There is even a colorful splash pad that celebrates jumping fun in Peppa’s favorite, “muddy puddles!”
Through every experience within Peppa Pig Theme Park, children (here referred to lovingly as “little piggies”) and their families will snort, giggle, and, for many, create their family’s first theme park memories together with the help of Peppa and her friends.
But Peppa needed a little help from more than just her friends on the Peppa Pig Show to ensure that her new park would be enjoyable, inclusive and accessible for all children.
Back in November 2021, the still-under-construction park shared its commitment to open as a Certified Autism Center to media at the IAAPA Expo in Orlando. The park, along with Merlin Entertainments, its parent company, also announced it had been working closely with Antonio Zamperla S.p.A. and Technical Park to modify the attractions coming to the park to be inclusive and accessible for all children. Merlin and Technical Park revealed its newly designed ride vehicle for Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride, which allows for increased accessibility for children with wheelchairs.
The official press release from that day said, “Little piggies and their families will be able to ride to the sky to enjoy brilliant views from Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride. They will enjoy this ride from whimsical baskets crafted to look like a hot air balloon with baskets specially designed to allow children who use wheelchairs to roll into them without needing to transfer from their wheelchairs. Merlin Entertainments’ creative and project delivery team, Merlin Magic Making, along with the ride manufacturers, worked closely to develop this adaptation to a fan-favorite ride to ensure more children could experience it safely along with a grownup companion.”
In addition to Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride, the park’s marquee water play attraction, Muddy Puddles Splash Pad, has also been developed with kid-friendly accessibility in mind. The ground is specially graded for wheelchair use and several heights of water play elements have been choreographed for the enjoyment of all guests and all abilities. This includes a tunnel of water hoops that can be navigated in a wheelchair and additional interactive splash surprises at varying height levels.
Back on dry land, explorers will discover additional fun adventures, sized with the same guiding principles and accessibility in mind. Children in wheelchairs can maneuver and explore the sensory-rich trail of Peppa’s Pedal Bike Tour without leaving their own wheelchairs. The enchanting, greenery-covered maze walls of George’s Fort have also been mapped out to all ADA guidelines and standards.
Even the counters for the free-to-play games in the Fun Fair section of the park have been constructed at accessible heights to be easily enjoyed by everyone.
Over at Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster, the park wanted more than a traditional oval-style children’s coaster and Zamperla’s roller coaster engineering team answered the call. They updated and expanded their classic Family Coaster by adding a kid-sized launch to the middle of the experience, making the end result a unique attraction.
Zamperla refers to this as a Family Coaster Lift & Launch 155 model coaster with one, 22-passenger train. It is 14.5 feet high, has a length of 508 feet and reaches a top speed of 16 mph. Despite its short length, there are quite a few Zamperla features and elements packed into the coaster. These include a booster tire lift, a vortex spiral, wave curves, a launch, a downward helix and magnetic brakes.
The coaster also features a transfer bench that easily attaches to the vehicle, allowing riders that require wheelchair access the ability to slide over the bench and into their seat.
“Our roller coaster division is constantly working to ensure that the largest number of guests possible can enjoy our attractions,” said Alberto Ferri, Zamperla’s roller coaster division director.
Adam Sandy, Zamperla’s roller coaster sales and marketing director, said, “This coaster saw us go back to the drawing board in a lot of ways. We not only added the launch, but there were several additional technical improvements. Our Family Coaster system now features individual lap bars, magnetic brakes, and booster tires for the lift and launch. Most importantly, the chassis saw significant improvements that reduce the cost of ownership and time required for annual non-destructive testing.”
“This project was a lot of fun,” said Ferri. “We really enjoy projects like this. This is the largest pig we have designed for one of our coasters, but our team has experience with detailed theming and it was a unique challenge. Plus, we have enjoyed updating our classic Family Coaster so it remains state-of-the-art.”
The park didn’t end its quest for inclusivity with simply providing little people and wheelchair accessibility. Peppa Pig Theme Park partnered also with the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) to open as a Certified Autism Center.
To earn this accreditation, the park has conducted staff-wide autism sensitivity and awareness training and co-developed a sensory guide that features a review of every attraction, providing insight on how a child with sensory processing issues may be affected by each of the five senses.
Because all the attractions and playscapes across the park have been built with accessibility in mind, the park has also developed an accessibility guide, available for use as planning tools to help all families be aware of the many services and access options available so they can plan the ultimate day of adventure for their preschoolers. The sensory and accessibility guides are available for families at Guest Services as well as online.
What else can be experienced within Peppa Pig Theme Park?
In addition to Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride, Muddy Puddles Splash Pad, Peppa’s Pedal Bike Tour and George's Tricycle Trail, George’s Fort and Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster, there are two play areas, Rebecca Rabbit’s Playground and Grandma Pig’s Greenhouse.
There are also three more ride installations, such as: Grampy Rabbit’s Dinosaur Adventure, Mr. Bull’s High Striker and Grandad Dog's Pirate Boat Ride.
The best part of all the attractions in Peppa Pig Theme Park is that grown-ups can enjoy each of these rides with their little ones — no child swap is ever necessary!
All ages and sizes are also welcome at Mr. Potato’s Showtime Arena for live entertainment and The Cinema, where little and big alike can catch some of their favorite episodes of Peppa Pig (or catch some Zs!).
The park’s restaurant, Miss Rabbit’s Diner, is a sit-down, quick service location that offers a menu for hungry “little piggies” and their families consisting of kid-friendly foods and adult fare. The selection of American bites offered range from classic family favorites, handheld sandwiches and snacks to an assortment of fresh healthy choices and delicious desserts.
Miss Rabbit’s Diner has plush, comfy booths as well as traditional seating inside a large, air-conditioned space decorated with all the favorite characters and scenes from the Peppa Pig show. Outdoor seating is also available with great views of the playful park including the Pirate Island Sand Play area and Peppa’s Pedal Bike Tour.
Single-day admission tickets to Peppa Pig Theme Park are $34.99 if purchased on the date of arrival and can be bundled with admission to Legoland Florida Theme Park as a Two-Park, Two-Day Ticket, starting at $134.99 when purchased in advance online. The full walk-up gate price, if purchased the day of visit is $149.99.
In addition to Peppa Pig Theme Park, Legoland Florida Resort consists of Legoland Florida theme park with more than 50 rides, live shows and themed attractions inspired by popular LEGO brands and characters, a year-round, seasonably heated water park with more than a dozen family water slides, and three uniquely themed on-site hotel accommodations. The resort is located a short 45-minute drive from Orlando and Tampa.