The Nickelodeon Express
Last weekend I went to Parque de Atracciones in Madrid! It is so unbelievably easy to get to. Back home it’d be at least an hour drive to the nearest theme park. The metro ride was about 30 minutes long and an easy waltz over to the park’s entrance.
The first thing we saw upon entering was the Nickelodeon Express! I was enchanted. And frankly my day was already made. The ride was a small train of about 6 or 7 cars that went around the Nickelodeon Zone of the park. Each car had a different Nickelodeon character on it: Tommy Pickles from Rugrats, Jimmy Neutron, SpongeBob, Dora the Explorer, Wanda from Fairly OddParents. It was my childhood-self’s heaven. Who am I kidding, I’m still obsessed! I could hardly contain my excitement choosing which car would carry me off to a far-away land that SpongeBob and many others call home. His pineapple under the sea was in sight. We were off.
I was intrigued by this Nickelodeon Express for a myriad of reasons, first and foremost being its design. The departure station, if you will, was designed with Taj Mahal-like arches and orange or desert-like color. It felt simultaneously fantastical and arabesque. And Greek? There were lyres at the apex of the arches. The mish-mash of styles signaled something awesome. Second, I was struck by the emphasis on Nickelodeon. The “Toon Town” of the Madrid park is sponsored by Nickelodeon! I had no idea that world of my youth existed in present-day Spain. It was interesting to see a conglomerate other than Disney command attention. Thirdly, the characters. I can’t remember the last time I watched an episode of Jimmy Neutron let alone seen that show referenced literally anywhere. What a blast from the past. And I mean that in the best way. It was comforting. Here the entertainment of my childhood was alive! In America, it’s as though some of it never happened. Though I must give a shout-out to Target for its recent Nickelodeon-inspired t-shirt and to SpongeBob. Because, SpongeBob.
So, we were not the oldest people on line for the Nickelodeon Express. Come on, there were so many parents older than us. But I was definitely relating most to the 2-feet-tall toddlers sandwiching us in line. I definitely smiled as much as they did on the ride too. The train took us above and around the Nickelodeon Zone. We didn’t just see SpongeBob’s home, we also saw the Nickelodeon Shop, the SpongeBob-themed sprinkler playground (Juegos de Agua), the Magneto de Jimmy Neutron, a replica of the Holland Tunnel that is part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ride—Licencia para conducir de las tortugas ninja—(the tunnel wasn’t real, I know for sure because there was no traffic in sight), and a “New York” street. I was simply fascinated by this park’s construction. Five minutes later we were dropped off at the Arrival Station, which is also the Departure Station, and ready to go deeper into the park.
As we walked further in there were podiums with pictures of Nickelodeon characters, primetime spots for photographs. Snapped a few, of course. With Patrick Starr. The food stations throughout the park are worth nothing here. They were clearly influenced by all things American culture. One cafeteria, La Posta Burger, was decorated with the black and white tiles typical of a 1950s American diner. The color scheme also recalled these diners with the sea-foam green and dulled yellow. Another cafeteria highlight: Ford-T. Nothing about Ford-T, however, resembles the Model Ford-T. As I write this I’m thinking that the photographs inside could have been from the 1920s, so perhaps that’s where they connect the theme to the restaurant. The place reminded me more of Disney’s Animal Kingdom with a wooden, this-is-fake-order-your-food-using-a-number interior, bamboo poles, and plant-life.
Major highlight: the Raffaello Photo Booth. We put one of two euros in, the machine kept spitting the second euro out, and we never got back the first one. So, we left the park without the beautifully crafted canvas of ourselves by Rafael that we deserved.
We waited two hours to go on the El tren de la mina rollercoaster. I thought I was crazy for waiting that long, but there wasn’t much else I wanted to ride. The coaster lasted about a minute, but it was worth it. I could not stop laughing hysterically because of the girls behind us screaming the entire time. It may be the craziest rollercoaster I’ve ever been on (note: I refuse to ride ones that go upside down, too high, etc.). I’m still proud of myself for doing it. If you like being dropped from high altitudes, flying high above Madrid, hanging upside down from a cart, and going around and around on a ride called Vertigo, you’ll find things you like here! And if you like objects and wandering, you’ll be pleased as well. The gift shops did not disappoint: SpongeBob t-shirts, mugs, pencils, towels, stuffed animals, plates, bowls, cutlery, magnets………….. Minions abounded! Minion everything. And they had a bunch of Star Wars things.
All in all, Parque de Atracciones is quite similar to amusement parks in the USA. You are inundated with capitalism. I haven’t fully gotten over the euros I spent on the games trying to win prizes. But the day ended perfectly. On line at the Casa de Bob Esponja, I couldn’t stop smiling. I was going to go inside of SpongeBob’s pineapple house and meet him! He was dressed as Frankenstein for Halloween. I gave him a hug, we took a photo, and went right on into the gift shop to purchase the photo. You’d think I was right at home.