We happened to be in the Florida panhandle this week and were only a few hours removed from OWA in Foley, Alabama. So we notified some nearby family and hit up this Zamperla prototype park on the Alabama Gulf Coast. This park is home to a few coaster credits and an excellent selection of flat rides. Let’s take a look at this 100%-Zamperla park!
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The park’s signature attraction is the Zamperla looping coaster named Rollin’ Thunder. While the ride made for an absolutely spectacular centerpiece for the park, the actual ride experience was quite different from your usual modern coasters. More on that later.
We’ll start with the park’s Compact Twister Coaster, named Crazy Mouse. We had ridden this small variant of the usual Zamperla mouse on a county fair in California a few years back and we were excited to ride another one!
Since Zamperla has quite some flat rides in their portfolio. The Park at OWA is a great showcase of the variety of flat rides from the manufacturer:
Next, we got a ride in on the park’s nicely manicured Zamperla Family STD Coaster, named Southern Express. There’s not much to the ride, but it certainly looks nice. Which isn’t always the case for kiddie coasters:
The park is also home to the reincarnation of the classic enterprise flat rides. The Zamperla Endeavour provides a modern, floorless version of the ride that hydraulically locks the vehicles from swinging during the inversions. (Something that was problematic on the original kind of ride). This is definitely one of my favorite flat rides out there right now:
Now it’s time to really dive into the park’s bread and butter roller coaster: Rollin’ Thunder. This is Zamperla’s attempt at a compact looper and is a copy of the Luna Park Thunderbolt. The ride has a vertical lift of 35m tall, which is accompanied by a vertical drop. The layout is home to 4 inversions along a 681m long track.
We’ll start with the ride’s vertical drop and vertical loop. The drop has a sudden descent and is actually quite forceful. At this point you can definitely already sense that it doesn’t track very well but it doesn’t hurt. The 30m tall vertical loop is shaky but has a nice moment of hang time.
The Zero-G-Roll however, is a completely different story. This is where the coaster’s flaws first truly present themselves with a nasty transition and crazy shaking of the train. The fact that it’s a single car with 9 seats (3×3) without any sort of pivoting in the vehicle becomes blatantly obvious here. Luckily the 25m tall element does make for great pictures:
Next up is the ride’s Overbanked Curve, a simple but fun element. This ride scores high in the airtime category and you can get a nice pop of air in the right seats. Like pretty much any element on the coaster, it does shake more than any modern coaster should.
The next element may have been a tad rough (what else is new?) and at this point in the ride we just laughed uncontrollably because we’ve ridden better Jinma Rides/Golden Horse coasters than this. Luckily the restraints offer quite some freedom helping with minimizing any pain experienced on the ride. The Dive Loop coasts inverted for a second before beautifully swooping down by the entrance of the park.
The ride’s layout is actually pretty wonderful, the real detractor is simply how poorly it tracks. It’s hard to put it to words but it’s almost hard to believe this is the same manufacturer that has made all these great spinning coasters and one of our favorite motorbike coasters: Dinosaur Mountain. The second half is pretty ferocious and throws in two very snappy airtime hills, followed by a quick shuffling corkscrew. This coaster certainly leaves a wild impression.
Despite repeatedly telling ourselves we couldn’t handle a re-ride, we did end up riding three times. The layout is solid and the ride is wild. It’s one of those “so bad it’s good” kind of ride experiences. There is no doubt that it makes for a spectacular centerpiece and for a region that is certainly devoid of any major coasters, it is a perfect thrill for the park and its audience.
Overall, I was actually quite impressed with the park. A pretty complete lineup of rides for a young (2017) regional park. They have enough to ride to kill a few hours and ticket prices were very decent. The next natural step for them would be a water ride beyond the kiddie splashpad they’ve got. The indoor water park is a good start. While it’s terribly out of the way for us, we’ll be back if they open another coaster!