Everything that puts a smile on a child's face

Everything that puts a smile on a child's face

The Europa-Park in Rust near Freiburg, which attracted more than 5 million visitors in both its 2014 and 2015 seasons, is in the region where the borders of Germany, France and Switzerland meet. The predominant concept that underlies the design of this, Germany's largest theme park, is its division into 14 zones that have different themes. For the most part, each zone reproduces the specific characteristics of an individual European country by means of the use of authentic architectural, culinary and botanical features that are typical of the country in question. This also means that when the construction of a new attraction or a playground is planned, its basic theme or motif is already predefined to a certain extent.

The latest example that this approach has generated is the 'Würmchen Wies'n' playground in the Austria zone, a vibrant play area that employs a scenario that is reminiscent of a farmstead high in the Alpine region. The already existing population of trees has been preserved in order to offer cool, refreshing shade on hot days. The playground, which covers an area of some 200 m² is defined by a perimeter fence in which there is a low access gate designed especially for the little ones. Located on a slight slope next to the Brothers Grimm-themed 'Enchanted Forest', a host of farmyard animals are there to welcome the children. In addition to carefully modelled piglets, chickens, sheep and even caterpillars, the Big Bad Wolf and the seven little goats are also at home here, lending the whole a light-hearted and magical atmosphere. While their parents relax and retank their energies in the directly adjacent Seehaus restaurant, keeping one eye on the doings of their offspring from the elevated terrace that provides an unrestricted view over the whole 'Würmchen Wies'n', the children can freely romp and play to their hearts' content.

Perhaps the highlight of the 'Würmchen Wies'n' is represented by the 'Wurmelbahn' ball tracks. Constructed in 2014, the inclined 'Wurmelbahn' takes plastic balls with a diameter of some 5 cm on a journey under tree roots, around mushrooms and past lazily lounging piglets. The two curving tracks on the green hill can be used for solo runs or competitions between friends, siblings or parents and children who can thus contend to see whose ball reaches the bottom of the obstacle course first ‒ fun and entertainment are guaranteed!

Those for whom slides are the very embodiment of amusement will discover a slide that they will decide is their absolute favourite. It emerges from the jaws of the Big Bad Wolf and unlike less fortunate sheep, other little lambs will delight in whizzing from the mouth of the beast along the left-curving slide. Positioned around the half-timbered structure that is the origin of the slide and was present before the recent redesign are the figures of the seven little goats, inviting children to use their imagination and incorporate them into their play. There are a total of nine characteristic playground elements distributed across the area: a swing, a climbing net, a balancing beam, a see-saw, the 'Wurmelbahn', a roundabout, an interactive cuckoo clock hanging next to the entrance to the wolf slide that is activated when the doorknob is turned and two slides (the wolf slide and a slide for toddlers). The design department of the Europa-Park used the farmyard theme as the overall underlying idea for the various elements. The roundabout, for example, is shaped like a pig trough while the balancing beam has the form of a colossal caterpillar along whose back children can playfully practice their balancing abilities.

For the family-run concern, one important aspect during development of the concept was to ensure that the 'Würmchen Wies'n' provides its users with a comprehensive range of exercise options. The various play elements train different body regions, providing for fun during the diverse physical activities.

The surface of the playground is mainly composed of soft fall protection matting and artificial turf while there is also a small paved area. The planners liaised with the external playground company SIK-Holz based in Niedergörsdorf near Potsdam, which supervised and undertook the construction work on site. Most of the structures have been made from natural wood.

While their older brothers and sisters are busy getting their fill of adrenaline rushes on the 13 roller coasters that the Europa-Park can boast, the younger family members can let off steam in the 'Casa da Aventura', the home of the 'Quipse' cartoon characters who represent the various European countries. The three-storied, colourful Adventure House can be found directly next to the water roller coaster 'Atlantica SuperSplash' in the Portugal zone. This indoor soft play adventure area allows younger children to put their own sense of balance to the test ‒ whether creeping through the long tubes on a tour of exploration or braving the wobbly suspension bridges. The by-product of all this amusement is that they learn how to use their abilities at the same time. The open mesh climbing nets at the sides also ensure that they can train their coordination skills while still very young and discover the effects of their own bodyweight. The 'Casa da Aventura' also has a throwball target so that the little ones can train their ball skills and throwing accuracy. Soft fall protection matting and other safety features are provided so that parents can rest assured that their children (up to a maximum age of 12 years and a height of 140 cm can climb and run about without risk.

Ants as big as elephants, blades of grass as tall as skyscrapers, bees that zoom around like jet planes ‒ in the kingdom of the Minimoys nature itself is exciting and playing there becomes even more so. The most elaborate indoor attraction ever to be constructed in the Europa-Park is housed within a gigantic 16-metre-high dome on a magical island surrounded by two rivers and an enchanted forest. Visitors here will encounter a microcosm of superlatives. This large-size realisation of the detail-rich sets of star director Luc Besson's film trilogy concerning the adventures of the human boy Arthur with the miniscule Minimoys is a perfect reproduction of the peaceful, concealed world of these tiny beings. There are colossal ladybirds, mammoth frogs and immense caterpillars that fly, hop and crawl over mighty tree branches and massive rocks. In this new 10,000 m² theme zone, the real world and animated film merge to form a unique experience for the whole family ‒ and there are also tempting Root slides to be discovered within the Minimoys' Root Palace. Children up to the age of 12 years can slide right through the Minimoys' kingdom on the fantastic 11-metre and 13-metre slides. There is also a play area for toddlers in the dome.

Then there are the wobbly bridges, curved slides and the colourful ball pool in the Netherlands zone.

All these play areas in the Europa-Park are open all year round. In the next summer season, which will run from 19 March to 6 November 2016, three further playgrounds will also be available.

The adventure playground in the Spain theme zone is conveniently sited for guests staying in one of the Europa-Park's own five 4-star superior hotels ‒ here children will be able to revel in the water slides and the maze. The kids will be able splash around happily all day in the Hansgrohe Water Playground on Lítill Island in the Iceland zone. Beach and water play features can also be found next to the Portugal zone. There are beach chairs for parents, water slides for the kids, pumps, a climbing frame, explorer cave and much, much more. Antislip materials have been used wherever small children will be playing. And on hot summer days, what can be more invigorating than fountains that spring to life when buttons are pressed or handles are cranked and pumps that activate shower heads? And last but by no means least, children can cool off in the water playground in the Adventure Land zone with its fantastic water games and larger and smaller water features.

The Europa-Park has this year again been rated the 'Best Theme Park Worldwide' by a jury of experts while the German National Tourist Board has identified it as the most popular destination within Germany for foreign tourists. The exciting fairground rides, spectacular shows and the nine playgrounds briefly described here make this attraction the answer to every child's dream. This means they can thus even enjoy the various activities they are used to undertaking in their local playgrounds in what is Europe's favourite amusement park.   

 

The final word...

"In 2104, the Europa-Park invested a six-figure sum to create its 'Würmchen Wies'n'. Similar amounts have also been spent in previous years in the development of our playground features. At Europa-Park, we consider the construction of attractions designed specifically for young children and the installation of playgrounds to be both indispensible and a fundamental part of our concept," concludes Daniel Westermann, the Public Relations Officer of Europa-Park GmbH & Co - Freizeit- und Familienpark Mack KG.
 

 

Image: Europa-Park GmbH & Co - Freizeit- und Familienpark Mack KG


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