Hard Rock Park – Rock & Roll Heaven

Before you even enter Rock and Roll Heaven you have to cross the lengthy bridge over the lagoon which provides ample viewing area of the thrills that await. There’s a small island before reaching the mainland with a snack bar, and you might even see the park’s resident swans nearby.

The first thing you’ll see on your right are the crimson roofs belonging to The Kitchen Below, one of the park’s better looking walk-up food service locations, with seating locations on a patio overlooking an R/C Boat set-up in the lagoon.

Just ahead are the area’s four main attractions, arranged closely around one another as if in a small plaza. On the left is one of the entrances to the Malibu Beach Party. This is one I would definitely say to skip, unless you’re really starved for entertainment. There’s a plot here involving some sort of win a date contest with the beach babe, but to watch it in person it’s really much more avant-garde than that, so long as you define avant-garde as “an incoherent collection of 20 sec. sound bites from various pop culture songs to set up a bad one-liner.”

“Loud” is, I think, another way to describe it. There were some okay elements of audience interactivity before the show started which the other shows didn’t have, and they ended with an okay diving stunt with a pool of flaming water, but really, if you don’t want to look like a total putz, skip this one. The one redeemable quality for me seeing it was right before the show started I noticed Maximum RPM starting up and was able to snap the pictures of its only test run of the day, which I otherwise probably would have missed…

Sandwiched between the Malibu Beach Party seating and the main midway is Rock and Roll Heaven’s other thematic idiosyncrasy, Reggae River Falls. This thing really belongs in a water park, because there is no way to approach it without getting soaked head to toe. I was surprised to see as many parents let their kids go in it as I did, since they’d be left with a waterlogged child for the rest of the day and the weather wasn’t warm enough to necessitate it anyway. One thing of interest is the music that plays throughout the area was also recorded with a steel drum version which fades in as you approach Reggae River Falls. Similar is true with other areas of the park as well.

Opposite that is R&R H’s main restaurant, Taste of Paradise Grill. For dinner we split a coconut shrimp (and fries) with sweet & sour and some sort of Jamaican dipping sauces, plus a tray of fruits and some soda. The fruit was reasonably priced considering the market for fruit these days, but once again it was mainly the drinks that were setting us back, since the shrimp w/ fries, were only a little more than $5 together, and were fresh and tasty, especially with the free sauces.

The restaurant itself is quite nice, with plenty of indoor table space which is something you really don’t see at many parks. The bathrooms also had an added feature, a ‘slow mirror’ which really confused the heck out of me.

If you continue onwards, the rest of the environ is mostly a winding pathway alongside the lagoon back to where we started with a couple of crafts booth and games with a tropical flair. But if you’re in Rock and Roll Heaven you really came for one thing: Led Zeppelin: The Ride

At the entrance to Led Zeppelin is a giant, double necked guitar that uses water as its strings. Run your fingers over them and it’ll play a note, and supposedly if you do all of them it’ll start playing Stairway to Heaven but I was having a hard time getting that to work. There’s a small section of winding outdoor pathway amid tropical palms with the coaster’s rise into the midcourse block brake towering overhead, and then the queue enters the lower level of the station. It contains numerous murals and other pictures and memorabilia on its blue walls with gold trim, including several flat screen TVs playing Zeppelin concerts as well as fans to keep everyone cool. Thankfully this was nowhere near ever needing to be used today. Take some stairs on the right side of the room and you’ll find yourself on an open air (but still covered by the roof) switchback ramp that takes us up to the main station area, and also offers some tasty views of the first half of Led Zeppelin. At the top of the ramps, we enter the station.

The station splits up into five different rows, each correlating to its own preshow room named after one of the band members plus a Swan Song room, with numbers denoting each seat on the train. There was an attendant at the entrance assigning seats, although they were extremely easy on requests that it almost defeated the purpose since everybody was requesting the front or back rows.

When the doors to your room open everyone fills in to a small, dark preshow room with the same numbers on the floor. You get a five minute preshow that starts off with a brief introduction to the band, followed by a couple of interviews before a music video plays the first couple minutes of Whole Lotta Love. It’s not just everyone standing, watching the screen at the front of the room, when the concert starts up the walls change to make it appear as if you’re in a giant amphitheater, later with small ‘lighter’ effects, and by the last minute of the song there are many more special effects filling the room. The problem, as you can imagine, is that on a day like this with short lines, having to go through this preshow over and over really becomes repetitive especially when it’s the same thing over and over. Although supposedly it’s not keeping us from riding the ride and is just an alternative to waiting in line more, but with only two preshow rooms running at somewhat long intervals between one another I have to suspect that the preshows weren’t dispatching up at optimum capacity. What I do like about the preshow, however, is that it can really help build up anticipation for the ride itself, which I imagine would be even more effective on a day with long lines. When the song first starts up it’s a cool feeling knowing that before it’s over you’ll have gone from just standing there in a dark room to having completed a 150 ft. tall B&M coaster with six loops.

The doors to the preshow room open and the music follows you into the Zeppelin shaped station. The crew here are great, cheering us as well all race in to take our seats, giving us high fives as we pass. The trains are standard B&M sitdown, unfortunately not the open-air, tipped back design found on Wildfire, but these do come equipped with a decent sound system in front of each seat.

The all clear is given in a timely manner, and the train rolls forward to begin its ascent up the lift hill. The music follows us up on some exterior speakers before it’s finished. There’s a brief moment of silence before the on-ride speakers are triggered halfway up to begin the final part of the song.

Waaaaaay… down… INSIDE…

Just looking from offride you can tell that this lift hill is much steeper than a standard B&M lift, and as you’re going up with the restraints you can’t do much else but look up at the clear blue sky above as you listen to the music.

Woman, Youuuu… neeeeeed…

This lift hill moves very quickly and silently as well, getting to the top in what feels like mere seconds. And then-

DA-DUMDa-Dummmmmmmmm

There, laid out in front below you is Zeppelin’s imposing first act, a tangle of vertical loops, cobra rolls and zero-g twists, with nothing but a bottomless, 150ft. drop between you.

Loooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeeeeee…………..

Yes, please! The front seat is worth it just for that dramatic view that is underscored perfectly by the music, but the back will have you lifted off your seat for several seconds as you dive down the surprisingly steep first drop. The vertical loop comes next, offering quite a bit of hangtime as you fall back down to the ground.

Surging right back up into the cobra roll, this is probably my favorite element offering two quick inversions located high above the ground. This isn’t a coaster you ride to be impressed by the subtleties in pacing or the intensity of direction changes… it gets its kicks just by making you think ‘wow’ as you soar through colossal inversions that leave you feeling downright puny, kind of that same wonder when you stare out into the starry night and think about just how big it all is, only in that case you’re looking down, not up, to see the sky!

Zero-G roll next, again nothing intense, but you wouldn’t be expecting high g-forces from an element that promises (and delivers) none anyway. The back row seemed to capture the ‘zeroness’ of this element better, but my last ride in the front went through this element perfectly as well.

Not wanting to give you a moment to look at things upright, the train glides through another vertical loop. This one I was slightly disappointed by, because I was expecting the smaller size and tighter radius to result in this being a faster paced, positive g-force heavy element to contrast the slower, more impressively size first loop, but instead it takes it at about the same relative speed resulting in an element that only feels like a lesser version of what we’ve already ridden.

Next is an inclined helix that offers a slight change of pace as it keeps its speed up all the way through. It dives back down to the ground through the many palms surrounding the coaster’s entrance as we get our picture snapped, and then back up into the midcourse brake. This hill is somewhat unusual in that instead of being shaped like a continuous, parabolic curve, it’s actually very flat, with a much tighter crest into the brakes that provides a very brief but strong moment of airtime if you’re in the front seat.

I hate to get negative but I kind of have to. The music at this point has become fairly repetitive and it doesn’t really add much to the second half of the ride experience to make up for any lulls, such as on the Eagles. And the second half needs an extra boost to make it finish as strong as the first part to make up for the lack of height and slower speeds, but instead of tightening up the pacing or intensity, it all stays pretty much the same, if not slowing down.

The trim brakes grab a bit more than they need to, and the helix off the midcourse is taken very slowly, although you do at least get a bit of a good sensation of building speed before it dives the rest of the way down and into the corkscrew. There was also a odd vibration that seemed to stem from one very noticeable bump in the middle of this turn, resulting in a surprising amount of ear banging from a ride this new. I almost have to wonder if there was a slightly offset footer in this area that caused the track to not fit completely as it should to account for this, since the glitch was visibly noticeable from the back seat.

In any event, the corkscrew is good and quick, and the final upward helix is a fun way to finish off the ride, but nothing particularly breathtaking. If I have one, somewhat major problem with this ride, it’s that it starts off strong but after the first four elements it more or less diminuendos until the final brakes. That said, it starts off strong and really uses the music in the first half to add to the anticipation and excitement that I could put it as number 15 in my steel coaster list.

Next: The Park After Dark

Previous: British Invasion

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