I love the thrill of extreme rides. That feeling when you free fall and your stomach feels like it has been left suspended in the air behind you is a rush I live for. Growing up, Wonderland theme park was the choice of outing at every excuse my big sister and I could muster. I mourned the closure of Wonderland in 2004 and have habitually checked the news for any whispers of a reopening since. The Gold Coast, meanwhile, has established itself as the nation's leader of amazing amusement parks while Sydney has been left behind.
The iconic giant mouth at the Luna Park entrance.
In my pursuit of adrenaline seeking, I pushed aside Sydney's humble icon, Luna Park. I have visited the park on and off over the years, for school excursions or when international friends came to town. Aside from the views it just didn't attract me. On my search for vomit inducing, theme park fun, I overlooked and underestimated this little park. Yet, in recent years, I have come to appreciate Luna Park for the glorious, fun icon it is (some may prefer this to the vomit-inducing thrill). While the rides may not make me scream with fear (it's not you Luna Park, it's me, I'm very hard to thrill) a recent visit to the park reminded me how even the simplest rides can make you laugh. A lot. Especially when you take someone who has never been on a ride before.
Ease yourself into the day with a paced rotation on the Ferris Wheel. Take in the spectacular harbour views from 40 metres up. On Saturday mornings, from now until September 28th, you can experience High Tea on the Ferris Wheel, courtesy of ALTUM restaurant. You can book for your unique, and literal, High Tea here
The Wild Mouse rollercoaster still remains a prominent feature of the park. Looking at it you may wonder where the thrill comes in. Well for starters, folding my giraffe legs in half to get into the cart was quite a spectacle. This rollercoaster is ye olde, steadfast kind. There are no high tech mechanical restraints here, just a simple lap belt. The climb starts and ends, a little too quickly for me. Yet, I found myself looking down as the Wild Mouse climbs and realising it's a little higher up here than from the ground, and the views up here are like those found on the Ferris Wheel. I got lost in the view while the rollercoaster took its first plunge. Surprisingly I did experience a little stomach drop, perhaps as I was not paying attention, and I found myself giggling with glee for the remainder of the ride. The turns on that rollercoaster are jerky. If you ride in the cart with another grown adult be prepared to encroach on their space.
Take a spin at Dodgem City. You can ride solo or in pairs as you bump and zip your way around the track.
Raise the adrenaline on The Hair Raiser. The Hair Raiser is a 50m high tower that takes you slowly up to its peak while you sit upright, feet dangling below you. I love anything that makes me feel small, and this ride accomplishes that. The views, once again, are amazing. The thrill of the ride comes from the drop that occurs with no warning. One second you're enjoying the Sydney skyline, next you're catching your stomach as you fall to the ground. Though the drop did not make me ill, it did make me laugh.
Back on solid ground, the Tango Train is a classic ride that will have you in stitches as you laugh your way forwards, and then backwards (if you choose the "wild" line), as you rotate around. A word of advice: choose your seat wisely as it will be the difference between pleasure or pain. This ride may cause bruises.
As an adult, I still find myself rushing for the swings when I take the kids to the park, then I remember that parks are predominately for the enjoyment of children and I step back and enjoy the smiles on the kids' faces while I nab turns in-between their swing stints. Well, Luna Park now provides a guilt-free swing session for those big kids at heart. Above the Tango Train lies the newly acquired Volare. The highest Wave Swinger in Australia!
Luna Park is filled with rides that will send you into a dizzy spell, especially if you ride them back to back. The Rotor is one that has been around since the park's conception. This gravity-defying ride sees you stuck against the wall like The Amazing Spider-man
. For those who dare you can twist and turn your way upside-down on the wall - though you will find yourself spun out even if you remain upright.
If you are like me and want to keep the light-headed rush going, I recommend you follow up The Rotor with the Tumble Bug. You are propelled backwards and forwards, round and round, side to side and up and down. After the Tumble Bug, take a moment to slow down on the Carousel. Even adults can find enjoyment on this retro ride.
Once you have caught your breath, head deeper into the park to Coney Island. Step inside and back in time. Coney Island Funny Land is described by Luna Park as an old school funhouse. There are silly mirrors that warp your image in the Mirror Maze, moving floors to navigate on the Turkey Trot and Wonky Walk, Giant Slides to hurtle down, Barrels of Fun to quick step through and a Joy Wheel to test your strength. Coney Island is also home to Australia's largest collection of pinball machines. Coney Island is a fantastic time-warp to fill up an hour or so in your day.
After you have satisfied your inner child, continue to the back of the park. The kid rides are down here but there are also a few more attractions for the adults. While I enjoy the thrill from freaky rides, I am not one inclined to put myself in creepy situations to freak myself out. For those who enjoy the thrill of haunted houses, Mystery Manor is sure to satisfy.
If you are still on the search for that vomit-inducing fun then I recommend you try the Moon Ranger. This giant pendulum will see you turning, 360 degrees, 20 metres above the ground. You will somersault forwards and backwards, over and over again. If your first turn does not make you ill then ride it again.
The Spider is also down this end of the park. You will found yourself spun in several directions, laughing as you whirl.
Crazy Cars, U Drive and the Whirly Wheel are all kid-friendly rides down the back end of the park. None of which I have frequented since childhood, but my nephews assure me they are "lots of fun".
From July 5th - 22nd, coinciding with the school holidays, Luna Park will host Winterfest. There will be an ice rink set up for you to whirl and twirl some more, and you can celebrate Christmas in July with a visit from the big red man himself, Santa. There will also be a selection of wintry treats to feast upon. The best news is that the ice rink will be for all riders to enjoy!
Luna Park also offers an array of sideshow attractions such as Laughing Clowns, Basketball, Hi Striker and Gone Fishing. Try your hand at winning a prize to impress your date or your friends. There are also plenty of food stalls and even restaurants including Altum Restaurant and Hungry Horse. If you prefer to pack your own food you can store it in one of the lockers for the day. Hiring a locker is a great idea, especially if you have kids in tow. The park is quite compact meaning that grabbing something from your locker does not involve a half marathon.
An unlimited rides pass really is the greatest value for the day. Every rider under 130cm will have to be measured, with their shoes on, to determine which wrist band they will sport. Yellow riders are over 130cm and have access to all of the parks' rides (though Whirly Wheel and U Drive have a maximum height and weight restriction). Green riders are 106 - 129cm and have access to most rides (sometimes with an accompanying adult) while Red riders are 85cm - 105cm and have access to around 10 rides, 3 of which they can enjoy without an accompanying adult.
Next time you're in need of a laugh, or if you're looking for something to do this school holidays, explore Sydney's iconic Luna Park. There's more to it than the iconic giant mouth.