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Most relaxed and most stressful theme parks

Matt N

CF Legend
Hi guys. I was reading the Merlin-bashing thread earlier, and I noticed a really interesting series of posts that @Benenen made in that particular thread talking about their recent trip to Alton Towers, in which they made numerous comments inferring that Alton Towers is not an especially relaxed park visit for them:
Like many of us on this site I'm quite anal and militant when visiting parks and I've never felt relaxed and not stressed when at Towers. Even this week when it was dead and I knew I had 2 days I was still in such a rush. I'm not like that at other parks, it's just a Towers thing.
My disappointment stems from the fact that Towers is never a chilled day.
The full series of posts I'm referring to begins here: https://coasterforce.com/forums/threads/wtf-merlin.38748/post-1132260
(I hope you don't mind me name-dropping you here @Benenen... if you do, I'll happily edit the post)

Their post really inspired me, and it got me thinking about some of the more relaxed and more stressful theme parks I've ever been to. So with that in mind, my question to you today is; what are the most relaxed and most stressful theme parks you've visited? What parks feel like a nice Sunday stroll, where you're as chilled as you can be? What parks feel really stressful to be in (for any reason)?

I'll get the ball rolling with my choices...

For most relaxed, I'm going with Paultons Park. We visited this park during the summer holidays, yet we surprisingly got on 14 rides within a park day of a little over 6 hours. And that was with at least 2 hours of that, possibly getting on for 2.5-3 hours, spent not riding anything; I can't remember exactly, but my photo history from the day suggests that we spent a good hour just aimlessly strolling about taking in the surroundings, we spent a good hour eating a sit-down meal in the Tornado Springs restaurant, and we probably spent another solid 30 minutes in downtime when you add on the good few minutes we spent having drinks and cakes outside Cobra while we watched the ride go round, as well as the stroll we had through the gardens later in the day. We got in a pretty incredible ride count (my second highest ever!), yet it never once felt like we were rushing; the whole park just felt so relaxed and stress-free to be in the whole time we were there!

For most stressful, I'm perhaps controversially going to go with Disney's Magic Kingdom. Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely park, but I wouldn't say I felt overly relaxed in there at all. I can't pinpoint one particular thing that made me feel this way, but there were a number that could have contributed. The sheer crowd levels in the park made me feel pretty anxious; it feels like you're packed in there pretty tightly, and I felt like I had to remain hyper-aware of where I was stepping for the entire time I was there. Queues were sometimes pretty long (often approaching, or even at times exceeding, 2 hours), and I felt like I was slightly rushed trying to get on everything, although FastPass+ was admittedly a big help here. And something about the whole atmosphere made me feel a bit stressed, and I can't quite place my finger on what. For some reason, I'd also say that MK felt more stressful than even the other 3 Disney parks; I'm not even sure why, it just did for some reason.

But what are the most relaxed and most stressful theme parks you've visited?
 

SilverArrow

Certified Ride Geek
I haven't personally been there but I feel like lots of people are going to say Fuji-Q due to their rain policy! I have heard lots of horror stories about ride closures there.

For me it mostly depends on four things, how busy it is, how bad the cred or ride anxiety is, how bad the operations are and what the vibe is like/how pleasant the place is to be in.
 

Nicky Borrill

Strata Poster
I have to throw Phantasialand in there with the most relaxed, but only during Wintertraum. (More or less) Every time I’ve been I’ve stayed on site, apart from the odd day trip. Every visit but one has also been during Wintertraum, and I (almost) always feel really relaxed, usually in the knowledge that I have 2 or 3 days on park, with very little queueing, so I just soak up the atmosphere.

However, Phantasialand also gets my most stressful vote, but only in the summer! I visited once in the summer, it was hell on earth, that park simply does not have the square footage to accommodate the kind of crowds it can attract in nice weather. (Or at least it didn’t on this day.) People everywhere, nowhere whatsoever to sit down, litter on every surface, nowhere near enough food stalls, with hour long queues just to get food, massive queues for every ride… And to top it off, and quite strangely, shorter opening hours than Wintertraum, much shorter… It either closed at 5 or 6!!! No way we could do everything in this small park in one day. It was only saved by the fact that, in summer, the Taron ERT was in the evening, on an already warmed up Taron. 😍😍😍

Sadly, despite how insanely good River Quest is, I don’t think I’ll visit outside of Wintertraum ever again. :/
 
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Rob Coasters

Mega Poster
Most chill

Pettitts Animal Adventure Park
Wicksteed Park
Paultons Park
Pleasurewood Hills
Parc Astèrix
Drayton Manor
Adventure Island - while a very small park with long hours, lately I've found myself to frequently leave the park for short periods to catch a break
Blackpool Pleasure Beach
Thorpe Park
Chessington World of Adventures
Fantasy Island Ingoldmells
Legoland Windsor
Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach - please get rid of the three hour timeslots
Alton Towers

Most stressful
 

Jamesss

Hyper Poster
For me parks are only stressful if I wasn't expecting them to be stressful in the first place.

For that reason the most stressful park for me was Walibi Holland because I expected it to have reasonable crowds but it was absolutely heaving. I remember standing in the queue for Lost Gravity for 20 mins and not moving an inch, thinking that I would never get all the coasters done. Ended up bailing and buying their fastrack thing so I could relax a bit more.

I expected Magic Kingdom to be stressful, but because I expected it, it ended up not being stressful because I planned well for it. Had an excellent, pretty relaxed day, and got everything done.

Most relaxed for me was probably Europa Park. You know that everything there will have excellent operations so was just waltzing from one ride to another without even looking at the queue times. I don't remember anything breaking down over my 3 days there. Everything seemed to work flawlessly.
 

Nitefly

Hyper Poster
It doesn’t quite address the question asked, but the most miserable theme park experience ever would presumably be Hollywood Studios on a hot busy day, arriving early morning without Genie+. It wouldn’t be worth it. Everything brick-walled with 90+ minute queues, very aggressive heat and otherwise relatively very little to do.

Magic Kingdom is chock full of people but it’s masterful at its ability to handle crowds and offer a variety of things to do, like nowhere else.

All of the Disneyworld parks require some form of strategy to attack them on busy days, or you could have a bad time.
 

Indy

Mega Poster
The most relaxed park for me is easily Europa Park. I still haven't ridden everything after multiple visits and I don't even care. It is such a beautiful park full of nooks and hidden gems to be discovered that I am not even concerned with getting on everything. I'm happy to take the time to sit down and eat at a relaxing pace or grab a beer in the biergarten and listen to live music. It is such an enjoyable day every time.

The most stressful is pretty tough as there are a handful of strong contenders. La Feria Chapultepec had quite possibly the worst operations I have ever seen. Warner Brothers Movie World was extremely busy with mediocre operations that had me really sweating whether or not I would get on everything. Six Flags Fiesta Texas seems to always open with half the ride lineup, which always has me stressing on what rides I'm going to miss out on during the visit. However, for the winner, I'm going to go with a pretty controversial pick and say Efteling. The entire park was so incredibly busy and the operations were less than stellar. Furthermore my only visit was last summer and I'm pretty sure their Covid measures actually made the situation worse. Easily the worst I have seen. To make matters worse, I somehow managed to find myself around pretty obnoxious people in almost every queue. For a park that gets such rave reviews, I found it nearly impossible to enjoy.
 

Nicky Borrill

Strata Poster
The most relaxed park for me is easily Europa Park. I still haven't ridden everything after multiple visits and I don't even care. It is such a beautiful park full of nooks and hidden gems to be discovered that I am not even concerned with getting on everything. I'm happy to take the time to sit down and eat at a relaxing pace or grab a beer in the biergarten and listen to live music. It is such an enjoyable day every time.

The most stressful is pretty tough as there are a handful of strong contenders. La Feria Chapultepec had quite possibly the worst operations I have ever seen. Warner Brothers Movie World was extremely busy with mediocre operations that had me really sweating whether or not I would get on everything. Six Flags Fiesta Texas seems to always open with half the ride lineup, which always has me stressing on what rides I'm going to miss out on during the visit. However, for the winner, I'm going to go with a pretty controversial pick and say Efteling. The entire park was so incredibly busy and the operations were less than stellar. Furthermore my only visit was last summer and I'm pretty sure their Covid measures actually made the situation worse. Easily the worst I have seen. To make matters worse, I somehow managed to find myself around pretty obnoxious people in almost every queue. For a park that gets such rave reviews, I found it nearly impossible to enjoy.
Efteling was a horrible day for me too. Absolutely packed and red hot, with poor ops and rides breaking down left right and centre.

The entrance is beautiful, but pulling up to it that day, my first thought was that it looked like a refugee camp, massive groups of school kids / clubs absolutely everywhere, and with the tent in the background too.
 

Will

Strata Poster
I guess it comes into expectations (christ, I sound like my Mum...) and what you go into the day at the park hoping to accomplish.

I go to Alton (on non-busy days) to chill so it's not stressful at all.

I think 'the London parks' - Thorpe especially, are probably the most infuriating we have here. I can feel my blood pressure elevating just walking into the Dome. I find Blackpool can be quite irritating (particularly if you're trying to get run it) and Fantasy Island is also upsetting to generally be at.

For the love of God, do NOT try to cred run Efteling or Europa or you're in for a bad time. There's just too much there - and that's a good thing.

DIShonourable mention for Walibi Holland, Parc Asterix, Port Aventura or anywhere else where Fastrack is basically a necessity. No love for any of those parks.

But our ULTIMATE winner has got to be Disneyland Paris. My God, I feel sorry for those parents.
 

Rachel

Hyper Poster
I have a box ticking approach to visiting theme parks for the first time so honestly I find most first time visits stressful, unless there’s only a small number of must do rides or i have more than one day there.
However thinking back on my own personal experiences, parks I found particularly stressful were Parc Asterix, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Canadas Wonderland.
Parks that didn’t fell stressful were Efteling, Knoebels, Hershey Park and Hansa Park.
 

TilenB

Strata Poster
I'm going to go with a pretty controversial pick and say Efteling
Oh, I'm with you on this one. The first time I went was with an Efteling-fan friend on an overcast low season weekday with showers in the forecast (that did materialize later in the day). It was great, the crowds were at a very reasonable level and we managed to do everything and ended up the day chilling in the fairytale forest and eating pancakes at Polle's Keuken. Then I went back a few days later for some re-rides, when nice and sunny was in the forecast. And it was absolutely miserable, queues were massive for almost everything (I was semi-saved by the SRQs, but they only offered those on Bob and Baron at the time) with some of the rides (notably Joris) having reduced capacity compared to the previous weekday. It was just stressful and not enjoyable at all.

Another good shout for a stressful park goes to PortAventura. If the park is even remotely crowded, their fast pass system is designed in a way that clearly shows that what you've bought is vastly inferior to what you could've bought if you were willing to shell out double the money on your visit. At least the crowds weren't as bad to result in some proper cred anxiety, but I was still majorly bummed I only ended up getting two rides on Shambhala due to them running a single train and allowing unrestricted access to the front of the queue line to anyone with a fastpass.

Ocean Park Hong Kong deserves a special sort of award for how just stressful my visit was, despite the park being moderately quiet. I got there early in the morning, rode Hair Raiser and the powered cred next to it and it started raining, so they closed down all of the outdoor rides. Okay, understandable, so I went to check out all of the animal exhibits in the upper part of the park. Then it stopped raining, but it still took some considerable time for the park to start testing anything. I parked myself in front of the Mine Train that was testing at the time, but it didn't reopen, so I set off to explore the rest of the rides and grabbing the Dragon cred, as it was scheduled to close for maintenance in the late afternoon (few hours of afternoon maintenance was odd as well, but alright).
And then at some point after doing the looper, they closed down all of the outdoor rides again due to non-existent rain. I took the tram to the bottom section of the park, walked by some panda enclosures and grew extremely cred anxious, as I still needed to get the Mine Train. I exited the park and hopped over to the nearby 7-11 to grab some drinks and snacks, re-entered the park that still had everything closed due to 'weather', took the cable car back up the mountain (in hindsight it didn't make any sense that thing was operating if the weather was bad enough that everything else closed down - if I had to evacuate a ride, this one would be by far the most difficult one to access) and by some act of God, they started re-opening the rides at about that time.
I power walked to the Mine Train that has luckily reopened and finally got the cred after spending 7 hours in the park. The crowds were yet to materialize back to that forgotten section of the park, so I managed to grab two more rides before getting tired of waiting around for 5 minutes between very VR impacted ride cycles.
The remaining hour and a bit of rides being open again was far less stressful and I spent most of my time re-riding Hair Raiser. On which for some reason I couldn't stay in the station for a re-ride, but they gladly waited with the dispatch as I walked all the way around through the queue. I can only guess they really cared about me getting enough cardio on the day.

As for the most relaxed parks (or park visits) that I've experienced, I think these are a good shout:

Europa Park - visited 3 times, didn't spend more than a day on any of my visits and I'm yet to have a stressful moment in the park

Formosan Aboriginal Culture Village - such a great location and a gorgeous park to just walk around. There's plenty of gardens, a huge aboriginal village (I guess it's in the name, lol) to walk through, very wooded and amazing views from the cable car that connects the park with Sun Moon Lake. Oh, and it provided a great break from the Taiwanese Summer heat being pretty high up in the hills. The rides aren't up to much, but they're mostly wonderfully themed (apart from the random fairgroundish indoor bit) and it's just an ultimate chill park from my personal experience.

Hong Kong Disneyland - Oh, the protests (or whatever caused the crowds to be that light) definitely helped here. Walk-ons everywhere and everything was still operated at an extremely high capacity, because it's still Disney at the end of the day. Definitely a very relaxed experience after a pretty hectic and horrid one I've had in DLP when I was 12

Erlebnispark Tripsdrill - A mini Europa Park. Tons of stuff to do and a very relaxed atmosphere all around.

Janfusun Fancyworld - For anyone that's been arsed to read through the Ocean Park novella above, this was a completely different experience on a day with arguably worse weather than what I experienced in Hong Kong. The park was very quiet in the morning, then it rained for a bit and the place became virtually dead. They kept the rides running as long as it wasn't literally pouring down (as it messed up with the sensors on the brake run) and ran around the train with a mop to clean whichever seat I decided to sit on while marathoning the B&Ms by myself. Oh, and while it was pouring down I could pass my time riding the 90m tall Ferris Wheel, which was definitely an interesting experience.

BillyBird Park Hemelrijk - Not much of an actual theme park, but an extremely chilled out place by the lake. It doesn't make sense for them to have any mechanical rides, but it was a part of what made the experience so great for me.
 
I think Alton Towers is more stressful because of how the park is laid out. Trying to get as many coasters in before the park closes consists of trying to quickly get over to the other side of the park. Take Thorpe Park, it’s quite a small park and if a time ride changes it’s quite easy to move to another ride, whereas at Alton Towers you either wait or travel a distance to next good attraction.
 

opivy028

Roller Poster
Most chill for me would be Indiana Beach. Went a bunch as a kid but not til after I’d already done big parks like Six Flags Great America and Cedar Point. Indiana Beach had very little wait for anything besides Lost Coaster (real low capacity), and was generally a chill summer vacation spot where most families would be coming down for a week or more at a time, doing some time at Indiana Beach and also chilling lakeside etc.

One thing I’ve managed to avoid in life is busy theme park days. My fam growing up always tried to scout the right times to visit, so I’ve never really had to deal with too much craziness amusement/theme park wise luckily enough, and I’ve carried that into adulthood with how I schedule my trips.
 

JoshC.

Strata Poster
This is such a difficult thing to answer, because it can entirely depend on crowd levels. Efteling for example is a park I would call relaxed, but I've had a particular day filled with school trips that was a nightmare and just stress. So I'll try and pick parks which I think would be relaxed/stressful regardless of visitor numbers...

Relaxed
Linnanmaki - The park is well designed and has rides that are designed to cope with its crowds. Go variety of rides, good indoor and outdoor selections, good food. It's a nice city park on the outskirts of a city, creating a surprisingly relaxed and chilled out atmosphere.

Hellendoorn - A spacious park with a good variety sprinkled all across the park. Nice green spaces too.

Stressful
Fantasy Island - The worst parts of a theme park mixed with worst part of a seaside resort. The market and arcade is just noise and eurgh.

Drievliet - Awkwardly small space and just weird and annoying. Probably slightly basing this on the fact I visited when a million school kids were there which didn't help, but in general, I think this park would just be annoying and stress.

Parc Saint Paul - Visiting the park feels morally dodgy tbh
 

Furiustobaco

Mega Poster
Alton Towers springs to mind for me as the most stressful, limited opening hours and long distances between rides always make me time conscious, I believe if you don’t use your time efficiently there you could probably miss out on a lot.

Least stressful for me is Europa. They tend to have good opening hours in proportion to the crowd levels (they extend park hours if it’s crowded), the park also seems to barely experience downtime on their rides, I’ve only seen like 2 ride breakdowns in like 10 days of visiting over the years. And both were fixed in less than 15 minutes. The park having the best operations in the world also help, pair that with some pretty scenery. It’s really hard not to have a good time at Europa.
 

sjparrington

Roller Poster
Magic Kingdom is definitively the most stressful park I've been to, moving around was an exercise in frustration. I think part of the difficulty might have been that it had been something I'd wanted to do since I was a child, sky high expectations and it didn't quite meet them. I think Disneyland Park in Paris is a nicer overall experience, even if it doesn't have as many attractions.

Thorpe Park might be the most relaxed I've been, every time I've been there I've managed to get my fill of what I wanted to do. Now that I have an AP it's even more relaxed because it'll be repeating things I've already done.

@Nicky Borrill I'm really glad to hear Wintertraum at Phantasialand is relaxed, I'm planning on going for my birthday in November. 😁
 

caffeine_demon

Strata Poster
Relaxed: Just about anywhere that isn't unexpectedly busy, and you don't have any "cred anxiety".

Stressed - Just about anywhere at halloween - early 2000's, you could get all the coasters done during the day, and then all the haunts in the evening, and still have a couple of hours spare - now, the coasters are all hour+ queues AND you need more than 1 day to get in all the haunts
 

English Coaster Guy

Roller Poster
Matt, don't want to go off topic here but I've got a twist on it for ya.
How about the Theme Park that has the facility to be both incredibly relaxing and incredibly stressful at the same time...

Port Aventura.

When the sun is shining, it can be pure theme park bliss. Particularly if you grab a foot long of beer and walk up through Polynesia (rainforest vibes), from the Mediterranean area of the park up towards China. In about 15 mins you can see 3 different themed worlds all done incredibly well, all before a sunset ride on Shambhala, often having the train to yourself (at certain points during the year).

However.

Throughout the day, you will become unbelievably stressed with the queuing. Not because you queue for hours and hours, but as a result of the cattle pen queue lines combined with bus loads of Spanish school kids who absolutely LOVE queue jumping (and screaming their heads off for no reason). Horrendously stressful.

Back on topic, most chilled theme park for me is Busch Gardens Tampa, what a place.

Most stressful, Thorpe Park. When it's busy at Thorpe Park, or on Fright Nights, genuinely couldn't pay me to go. Loads of chavs vandalising stuff, smoking in queue's, queue jumping. There's just no escape at Thorpe Park IMO. No large open spaces to take you away from it, nor any coasters that are worth being stressed out for. Knob heads everywhere a lot of the time at Thorpe. Me no likely. Which is a shame, because I LOVE Stealth.
 
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