When it comes to theme parks, Helsinki is no Orlando. It offers just one amusement park called Linnanmäki (“Castle Hill,” in English). About 1.2 million visited Linnanmäki in 2007 – that’s roughly the number of people in line for Space Mountain at any given time. But an amusement park doesn’t need to be a sprawling city-state to be fun. Here’s what you need to know about Linnanmäki amusement park and why I think it’s so cool.
1. It’s walking distance from the Helsinki central train station. Call it a nice 30-minute walk along a pedestrian/bike path that runs alongside the train tracks (don’t worry, Finnish trains are very quiet).
2. You can ride until you’re dizzy for less than 24 Euros. Just get there after 7 p.m. for an evening pass that includes unlimited rides. You might score an even better deal if Linnanmäki still offers discounts if you sign up for a loyalty card (the employees hooked us up with this advice).
3. The lines are short, so you can walk from ride to ride, just hopping between roller coasters at will. And this was in summertime, which should be high season.
4. There are six roller coasters among its 43 rides. You’ll find some splashy water rides, so beware on a chilly day! My favorite ride was Salama, a bizarre spinning roller coaster. I’d never been on roller coasters where you might face backward or sideways by spinning vertically, no matter where the coaster was pointed.
5. Linnanmäki has the best amusement park food ever. We found Cuisine World Kattila, which had six cuisines from around the world. But it seems Linnanmäki put a Finnish spin on much of it: For instance, I can’t imagine my late Grandpa Tony making his meatballs out of reindeer – but that’s what I had. They were delicious sprinkled with mint. And the server cracked me up by repeatedly calling them reindeer balls (now that, my friends, is the difference between speaking English very well and being fluent!).
6. The nonprofit organization Lasten Päivän Säätiö (Children’s Day Foundation) owns Linnanmäki. Adds a nice bit of feel-good to your plunge down the log flume, doesn’t it?