Free fall towers are a classic among thrill rides. Most of theme parks have at least one. The basic model relies upon a vertical structure on which are hooked seats where passengers take place. A carrier takes the seats up to the top and then release them. The drop allows passengers experience the weightlessness typical of a free fall, then the brakes slow the vehicle down before reaching the ground.
To further improve the overall experience, many variations and improvements have been applied to the basic model by amusement ride engineers over the years. A very popular variant is the “space shot” tower where a pneumatic lift is launched from below upwards before falling down.
Considering the type of seats, there are classical sit-down, stand up and tilting models.
Although the traditional drop tower is set outdoor, that’s not the only possible scenario: there are also some noticeable indoor towers examples, often featuring stunning dark/light visual effects during the ride.
Let’s have a glimpse of the best and most peculiar free fall towers spread across Europe.
[nextpage title=”Space Vertigo (Gardaland, Italy)”]
No. 5: Space Vertigo (Gardaland)
Built in 1998, this Intamin Drop Tower is only 40 meters high, still it’s widely recognized to deliver a uniquely intense experience.
The backstory is based around a moon base attacked by some kind of alien virus. Riders, after walking inside the space lab, featuring lights and video effects, shall prepare themselves to escape with a jump in the hyperspace, so they sit along 4 gondolas which are lifted to the top of the tower. After holding there for several seconds, they free fall towards the ground. As Space Vertigo is a not-very-tall tower, brakes activate very close to the floor and the slowdown is pretty harsh, to let the riders believe they’re going to hit the ground while experiencing an intense airtime feeling during the fall.[nextpage title=”The High Fall (Movie Park Germany, Germany)”]
No. 4: The High Fall (Movie Park Germany)
This Intamin drop tower at Movie Park Germany is what we could call a hidden gem, settled in the Old West area of the Cinema-inspired German amusement park (formerly owned by Warner Bros and now part of the Parques Reunidos group).
The High Fall is technically an Intamin Floorless Tilting Gyro Drop and it’s the only one of his kind in Europe. Guests do not sit on regular seats: they ride a floorless saddle with their legs and feet hanging instead. The circular gondola rises slowly up, turning as it goes, giving the guests a good all-around view of their surroundings. Then, after reaching the 60 meters top, each seat tilts forward so that riders literally face the ground and the gondola plunges downwards at 90km/h.[nextpage title=”AtmosFear (Liseberg, Sweden)”]
No. 3: AtmosFear (Liseberg)
Built over the structure of old Liseberg’s observation tower, AtmosFear is an Intamin ride which opened in 2011. With its 116 meters of height, this Swedish drop tower owns the title of Europe’s tallest free fall attraction. Riders take place in a gondola which encircles the tower carrying 36 people at the same time. The journey headed for the top lasts 100 seconds and passengers have the chance to admire the view in a false sense of tranquility. When on top, the gondola is released and riders experience a 50-meters free fall before the magnetic brakes slow the vehicle down.The fall reaches a speed of nearly 110 km/h leaving riders breathless for 3-seconds of pure thrill.[nextpage title=”Mystery Castle (Phantasialand, Germany)”]
No. 2: Mystery Castle (Phantasialand)
Themed as a haunted medieval tower, Mystery Castle is an indoor vertical ride manufactured by Ride Trade, settled in German theme park Phantasialand.
The ride itself is preceded by a walkthrough inside the gothic castle, where guests meet ghosts and monsters performed by real actors.
Light and sound effects witnesses the presence of an evil host while riders take place in 6 different gondolas, each of which carries up to 8 passenger and run on rails attached to the inner walls of the tower.
The vehicles first are shoot up towards the 65 meters high roof, then they fall down, then up and down again and again for a 45 seconds exciting ride.[nextpage title=”The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Walt Disney Studios, France)”]
No. 1: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (Walt Disney Studios)
More than a simple free fall tower, Disney’s Tower of Terror is an immersive experience inside the Twilight Zone‘s atmosphere.
Opened in France in 2007, following the similar models existing in American Disney parks, Tower of Terror looks like a 1930’s hotel abandoned after being struck by a lightning that created a dimensional gap through which one of the hotel’s elevator rushed into another dimension together with its passengers.
The queue line itself it part of the attraction, thanks to perfect 1930’s scenes outside and inside the “hotel”.
Tower of Terror doesn’t use common gondolas but special elevators which run up and down through the floors allowing riders to see the daylight outside every time the hotel’s shutters abruptly open. In addition to that, it’s worth to mention that the motorized fall-like mechanism of the elevators turns out to be faster than a normal gravity-based free fall. Last, but not least, the ups and downs sequence changes from one ride to another, so guests can never know what to expect.