It used to be that amusement parks represented very idiosyncratic reflections of the community in which they were located. I grew up going to Astroland and Steeplechase Park in Coney Island. Granted, I was very young when those places were still special, but they did then and even now still radiate a special feeling that can only mean "Brooklyn." When I moved to the Glens Falls area of upstate NY about 20 years ago, The Great Escape still had the special home town feeling of its progenitor Story Town, which I also remember having visited as a child. Since then, The Great Escape was sold to Six Flags. What it gained in more sophisticated rides, it lost in uniqueness, as it began to resemble countless other American amusement parks.
Tivoli Gardens, located in the heart of Copenhagen, surrounded by high brick walls, is nothing, if not unique. The word "Gardens" is not a meaningless part of the park's name, as the grounds are quite beautiful, landscaped immaculately and colorfully. It's not a big park, but there is no wasted space. That is not to say, that all the space is packed full of detritus. Much of the space is given over to the afore-mentioned gardens. The rest of it is given over to rides, games and food.
Coney Island used to be known for food and Disney, in Orlando at least, is noted to have some good food, but most amusement parks suffer from food that tends to be ordinary at best. Not so for Tivoli Gardens, which claims two restaurants with Michelin stars. The Paul is located within the heart of the park and is the province of an Englishman, chef Paul Cunningham. Serving cuisine with a modernist flair, The Paul is set in a glass salon. The other Michelin starred restaurant of Tivoli Gardens, Herman, is situated along the periphery of the park, within the ornate, Turkish inspired hotel, The Nimb. Thomas Herman's cooking is inspired by the techniques and palate of France and provides a supremely elegant, tasty and delightful experience. In addition to the stars, there is a multitude of other restaurants running the gamut from fancy to basic, including the international chains Wagamama and The Hard Rock Cafe. We stopped at one fast food place for a light snack. It turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. While it was not particularly fast (the food was not sitting there pre-made), it was very, very good, ranging from a Danish hot dog in a mini-baguette to great fried potatoes to a super fry-roasted chicken. The chicken, was especially delicious. It was fried without a coating, but had a perfectly crisped exterior, moist and juicy interior and spot-on simple seasoning. I'm not sure that simply prepared chicken can be better and still taste of chicken.
As wonderful as the food and the gardens are and as important as they are to keeping people happy once there, the main draw of Tivoli Gardens remains the rides. By American amusement park standards, there aren't many, but the rides they do have are generally very good ones, including some, like Vertigo, which are amongst the very best I've ever been on. In Vertigo, the concept is that one is flying an acrobatic airplane doing all sorts of loop-di-loops and spins. While the ride is truly an incredible thrill and adrenalin rush, perhaps the most anxious part of it is waiting in line directly underneath the ride. The mesh netting seems scant protection from the planes that appear to be diving right for you, pulling up just at the last moment!
Vertigo may have been my favorite ride, but it was far from the only great one there. Daemon is a superb roller coaster set in a mock Chinese village. The Golden Tower provides a great view of surrounding Copenhagen before dropping one in a sudden and rapid free-fall and the Dragon provides a whirling dervish of an experience, twirling one over and under in addition to round and round. Even the bumper cars seemed more fun than usual.
Had we not had our son with us in Copenhagen (we took him there on our arrival in Copenhagen and just before we left on his 11th birthday sandwiched around lunch at Herman), we might have eschewed it as being something for kids and not for adults. That would have been a mistake, as I think my wife and I enjoyed it as much as our son. It has been quite some time since I have enjoyed an amusement park as much.