europe quick trips
Walibi Belgium theme park looking to expand on the fun
By GREGORY BROOME | Stars and Stripes | Published: July 12, 2018
Walibi Belgium is a quintessential theme park, with all the good and bad elements that particular genre of family entertainment suggests.
For fans of the classic theme park experience, Walibi delivers the goods. It’s packed with a diverse and expansive roster of thrilling, imaginative rides, including vintage and state-of-the-art roller coasters, refreshing water-based adventures, carnival-style staples and lower-key options for the less adventurous.
The various attractions are neatly clustered around the central walkway, where the fleeting glimpses of rushing rides and the sounds of screams coalesce into the total immersion that all good theme parks create.
Visitors with a lower tolerance for theme-park artifice and excess, however, will likely be overwhelmed at Walibi. During a recent visit on a sunny June weekday, the park was overtaken by throngs of uninhibited children sprinting and shrieking through the common areas when they weren’t jamming into queues and pushing wait times for the premier rides to the one-hour threshold. The park indulges further in the worst of industry cliches with mundane and overpriced food options.
All told, a day at Walibi will likely confirm whatever bias a visitor brings to it, rewarding the aficionado while vindicating the skeptic. To its credit, however, the park isn’t content with that ambivalent status.
Walibi is in the process of an expensive, multiple-year revamp that will eventually divide the park into a collection of distinctly themed areas, a format that industry leaders Disney and Universal have adopted with great success. The first such entry in that project, called Exotic World, opened this summer, and it appears to have already had a rejuvenating effect.
Exotic World is designed and executed beautifully, with spacious walkways, soothing water features, towering tiki statues and lush vegetation in keeping with the area’s pseudo-tropical theme. The vista is dominated by the bright, sprawling tracks of Tiki Waka, a fun and appropriately tame family roller coaster that ferries riders through, over and around the stunning Exotic World landscape. The area’s comparably mellow vibe is a welcome contrast to the relentless exuberance elsewhere in the park.
Walibi is already worth a visit for any theme-park enthusiast. If the park complements Exotic World with similarly sophisticated lands over the next few years, as is its plan, Walibi’s appeal as a tourist destination will expand in equal measure.
DIRECTIONS: Walibi is located at Boulevard de l’Europe 100 in the town of Wavre, Belgium, about 30 minutes southeast of Brussels. Depending on traffic, it can be reached in 3 ½ hours from the Kaiserslautern Military Community and 2 ½ hours from Spangdahlem.
COSTS: An adult ticket for the day costs 37.50 euros ($43.75); children under 1.4 meters (about 4 feet, 6 inches) enter for 32.50 euros; kids under a meter enter for free but won’t be able to ride many of the park’s signature attractions. See promotions and other discounts at the park’s website.
TIMES: The park is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. nearly every day in July and August, then shifts to a limited, weekend-focused schedule in the fall and closes for the winter in early November. A daily calendar is available at www.walibi.com.
FOOD: Eateries of various prices and quality are scattered throughout the park.
INFORMATION: The park’s comprehensive website, www.walibi.com, is available in English.