I’m not going to lie, when I was a kid I loved amusement parks, especially the roller coasters. The bigger the drops, the faster the turns, the better. But as I got older I stopped going to them. It’s not that I equated amusement parks as being a thing “just for children.” It’s just that I grew out of them, and cultivated new loves and interests.
But then there was Denmark’s Tivoli Gardens, the second oldest operating amusement park in the world. Everyone I had spoken to, everything I had read said that Tivoli was different, that it wasn’t like any other. I was dubious for sure. In my opinion, an amusement park is an amusement park. The long queues for rides, the high thrill, fast paced rides that hurt my back and neck as an adult, yes, I did grow out of amusement parks in that regard. However, I had read that Tivoli Gardens was a cultural experience. I missed out on visiting on my first trip to Copenhagen back in 2015 and with my second visit there back in the summer, I wasn’t going to miss out again. So plans were made to go there after my cruise. I even booked a hotel that was less than a 10 minute walk from the front entrance gate (even though it meant not staying in my beloved Nyhavn neighborhood).
Having now been to Denmark twice, it’s safe to say that the Danish people have a lot of stuff down pat, including their efficiency with operating amusement parks. Without it, things may have been worse-more crowded, longer lines-but on a Thursday night in the summer, it was still quite crowded but not unbearable.
The first ride I went on was akin to Disney’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, a roller coaster but not the crazy, over the top kind that many modern roller coasters are. It looked old, it sounded old, but it was loads of fun. After that first drop, the laughter, the smiles were infectious. It was impossible even for me, battling a cold since the day before, not to have a good time. And the best part was that a worker actually RODE on the train cars and served as the brakes for the cars!
My favorite ride of my visit to Tivoli was the swings. You might be thinking, swings are swings. But oh no, not the case. The Star Flyer takes riders up to a height of 260 feet (80 meters)! It truly is one of the world’s tallest swing rides and offers you a complete 360 view of the Copenhagen city center. I had seen and done so much on my cruise to Northern Europe. But one of my favorite moments of the trip might just have been circling around from such an immense height and seeing such gorgeous views of one of my favorite cities in the world. A big sadness was not being able to take pictures but you’re required to have nothing on you, even anything in your pockets. Hopefully those gorgeous sweeping views of Copenhagen are something I’ll carry within me for quite some time.
I didn’t go on a ton of rides, something my 12 year old self would have undoubtedly scoffed at. But for the ones I did ride, I enjoyed myself immensely. And what I enjoyed even more was the people-watching at an amusement park in a country whose culture is so very different from my own. Plus of course, those million dollar camera shots of the famed Moorish Palace at night.
On a return trip to Copenhagen, I’m not sure if I’d “need” to visit Tivoli again (unless I’m staying at the quite pricey Nimb Hotel which is located inside the park). But it’s one of those travel experiences I’ll always cherish.
Tips for visiting:
-Tivoli isn’t just home to rides; it features world class entertainment too, including the Tivoli Ballet Theater. Check the website for the most up to date offerings.
-There is a two tier price system for visiting. There’s the entrance fee for Tivoli, but then there’s the matter of rides. You have the option of either purchasing a ticket which includes both your entrance fee as well as unlimited rides, or you can buy tickets for the rides you actually want to go on; tickets a la carte range anywhere from 1-3 per ride. There are ample machines throughout the park to purchase tickets but it will boil down to either money (do you want to be as economical as possible) or time (having the unlimited ride ticket means you are not having to constantly stand in lines to purchase more tickets). Originally I had thought about just doing the a la carte option as I hadn’t planned on going on many rides. But with more limited time (I visited Tivoli in the evening after my food tour earlier in the day), I just decided on an unlimited ride ticket. Maybe it was somewhat money wasted, but when traveling, sometimes time is money.
-Being Europe, cigarette smoke is everywhere (i.e. no special designated smoking sections). Just be prepared for it, especially if coming from the United States where that is thankfully not a thing anymore.
-You could not have more options for eating than you do at a place like Tivoli. I ate at the Biergarten (go figure, German food in Denmark) but it was quite tasty for amusement park fare. If you have a lot of time to spend in the park, I do recommend doing your research in advance and deciding on the place you really want to eat at. I will say the ice cream offerings were amazing.
-Young or old, just enjoy yourself. I promise you will.
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