by Sine Thieme, a writer and mother of four who is new to South Africa and busy chronicling her experiences on her blog, Joburg Expat.
Whew! It is a balmy evening in Joburg and I’m glad to be finally sipping wine with my feet up after an entire day at Gold Reef City. This was our first excursion there in the nine months we’ve lived here, seven kids in tow. It was a pleasant surprise. Even though I generally find amusement parks extremely tiring and would much rather spend the day poolside with a good book, this one I can recommend.
First off, it is very modern, with beautiful landscaping, and not in any way dated like some other parks I’ve been to. Also, the rides are so well built around each other, sharing the same space, so to speak, that only small distances have to be bridged with a minimum of walking. You can easily cross from one end to the other in 10 minutes. The entire place resembles Disney World, but on a much smaller scale and with a theme of – fittingly – gold mining. In fact, the park is built around an old mine shaft which you can even take a train into.
There is a central town square with shops and restaurants, surrounded by a host of rides, a 3-D movie theater with special effects, an animal farmyard, a hands-on science center that is quite good, a train museum, and the obligatory Ferris Wheel (a fast one!). A hotel is enclosed within the park, and you will even find a casino next door (or, for the more culturally inclined, the Apartheid Museum across the street).
The rides range from the very scary (Anaconda, Tower of Terror) to the wet (Raging River Rapids), nauseating (UFO), and child friendly (everything in Kiddies Corner). Almost no queuing at the ave swing. The best part is the price (we paid R1,120 or $165 for nine people and parking was free, plus the food prices in the park are very reasonable as well).
The worst part were the lines. At first I thought this was due to my infinite wisdom of choosing December 27, a holiday, for our outing, but I’ve since heard that it is almost always this crowded. As a result, it seemed like we spent most of the day waiting. In perhaps the worst combination of African patience and English queuing, South Africans seem to have no compunction about waiting one and a half hours for a two-minute ride on the Anaconda. While this might be a character virtue, it doesn’t work out well in self-limiting the overcrowding of an amusement park. But since the park was so easy to navigate, it was also easy to split up into different groups, so that those who insisted on plunging (face downward, mind you!) from the Tower of Terror could go and settle in the line, while the other – saner – half of our group had fun with the lesser-crowded attractions. All in all, a great summer holiday outing!