Fränkisches Wunderland: Bavarian park will entertain but not frighten the younger set
By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 19, 2009
Fränkisches Wunderland is a Disneyland-style amusement park in Germany that is a must-see destination for young folks in families stationed in the Oberpfalz region of Bavaria.
The park, about a half-hour drive from Grafenwöhr or Vilseck, is a lot closer than the places promoted by Outdoor Recreation, such as Legoland, near Munich, or Geiselwind, near Würzburg. And the 12-euro entry fee won’t break the bank.
The park is divided into four areas — Baby Land, Fun Land, Kansas City and Märchenwald (Fairy Tale Land).
Baby Land is a place that will appeal to younger visitors. It has attractions such as carousels, slides, swings, trampolines and bouncy castles.
Next door, in Fun Land, there’s a sort of inflatable climbing wall for those slightly older. A massive dragon slide will test those with a fear of heights, although the ride down is not particularly exciting. When we visited, youngsters considered a giant red heart they could bounce on, much like a water bed, one of the highlights.
Kansas City is an Old-West ghost town, with plenty of shack-like structures, a stage coach and pony rides to set the mood. Some adult Americans at Grafenwöhr remember visiting the park when they were children, so Kansas City has had plenty of time to get that authentic ghost-town look. According to the park’s Web site, workers started building Fairy Tale Land in 1973 and Kansas City was added in 1977.
The heart of the ghost town is populated by rabbits and donkeys. Although there are no locks on the doors to the rabbits’ pens, staff members will intervene if you catch the rabbits to pet them. The town’s other inhabitants include mannequin cowboys and Indians (you can shoot them with toy guns in the saloon) and real humans, also dressed to fit the part.
Kansas City is home to the most visible structure in the park — a large Ferris wheel that can be seen from Autobahn 9 and features seats shaped like covered wagons. There’s also a water-pistol shooting gallery and a whiskey-barrel ride reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s tea cup ride at Disneyland.
It is also the location of the park’s most thrilling rides, which include a reverse bungee that propels riders upward (not operational on the day Stripes visited) and the Kansas City Express — a roller coaster that has plenty of thrills for youngsters but won’t make them queasy. The Kansas City Express was easily the most popular attraction at the park for a group of Americans in the 9- to 14-year age bracket. These roller-coaster virgins rode the Express at least 10 times before they got their fill.
A more leisurely ride takes youngsters through an area populated by dinosaurs and into Märchenwald before heading into a tunnel filled with clowns and fairground music.
The land of fairy tales is built on a pine-covered hillside, and it is a pleasant stroll up to an adventure playground at the summit. On the way up, check out the small cottages on your right and remember to push the buttons next to the windows. If you do that, you will set off the clockwork dolls inside who re-enact fairy tales such as "Hansel and Gretel," "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Snow White." The commentary is in German, but youngsters should be able to guess what’s going on.
Perhaps the only element of danger in the park is the Sommerrodelbahn, which takes adrenalin junkies down the hill from Fairy Tale Land. If you are big enough and fail to use the brake on the corners, you can get the sled up on two wheels at times.
From Grafenwöhr, take B470 to Autobahn 9 and head south. Leave A9 at Exit 46, head toward Plech and follow the signs to Fränkisches Wunderland. From Vilseck, head west on local roads to B85, which runs into A9 and then follow it to Exit 46. You can also follow back roads to Plech and the park.
The park is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from April 4 to Oct. 4.
Adults enter for 12 euros, children between 3 feet and 4 feet, 6 inches pay 10.50 euros; those shorter than 3 feet get in free. The cost includes the rides, but some attractions, such as the shooting gallery, cost extra.
The park has several restaurants including a beer garden near the front entrance, a sit-down Western-themed restaurant that sells ice cream and cold drinks in Kansas City, a Cafe Mexico, a Gold Mine Saloon and barbecues in the Indian Village.