River View Park: A Traveling Amusement Park Arrives in Sabaneta

River View Park
River View Park
River View Park
River View Park

We were taking an ice cream break while walking Viviana’s adorable Yorkie, when the call came in.

Viviana’s friend, by the same name, was heading to River View Park in Sabaneta with Andrea, another friend, and wanted to know if we’d like to join them.

Until then, it’d been a quiet, relaxing Sunday afternoon.

Despite feeling tired, I was too curious to pass up the chance to see a traveling amusement park in Colombia. Besides, I had no idea how long it’d be around.

Carpe diem!

The Super Shot Tower (left) and Pirate boat (right) were the two rides we managed before the lines grew too long
The Super Shot Tower (left) and Pirate boat (right) were the two rides we managed before the lines grew too long

A few hours later, we arrived in Sabaneta, the two Viviana’s, their friend Andrea, and I. Andrea parked the car, and we walked over to the entrance.

In order to access the rides, you had to buy credit on rechargeable plastic cards, which are sold at the entrances to the park.

For starters, each of us bought 20,000 pesos ($10) worth of credit. This would be enough for a ride on each of the five most thrilling rides, which were all priced at 3,500 pesos ($1.80).

The girls were more interested in going on all the rides, while I was content to walk around, take photos, and soak up the atmosphere.

The last amusement park I’d visited was Universal Studios in Orlando, with my family, a few Decembers ago.

Of course River View Park is on a much smaller scale, but it was still my first amusement park experience in Latin America.

We’d arrived around 5:30pm, or two and a half hours after the park opens on the weekends.

This turned out to be fortuitous, as we’d later learn, because the lines were long, but manageable at the time.

Super Shot Tower, our first ride of the night
Super Shot Tower, our first ride of the night

Our first ride was the Super Shot Tower. We waited in line a solid 45 minutes, as the day gave way to night. By the time we were pulling down the safety harnesses on the ride, it was early evening.

The tower was small enough that I wasn’t too anxious about riding it, but once it began rising up like an elevator, I felt a tinge of nervous excitement.

I’m guessing it’s about 30 to 40 meters high, and when it reaches the top there’s no delay before the release, and we plunge in an exhilarating free fall.

I felt my cheeks rise up from the force of it, and then we came to a gentle stop before gliding to the bottom. A 45-minute wait for a 4-second ride.

Andrea (left), and the two Viviana's in front of the Pirate ship ride
Andrea (left), and the two Vivianas

Next, we moved over to the Pirate ship, another ride I knew I could stomach, because it only moved back and forth, instead of in nauseating circles.

The law of lines at amusement parks states the longer the line, the better the ride. By that logic, the Pirate ride wasn’t the most popular, as we only had to wait about 15 minutes before we climbed aboard.

The ship began slowly rocking back and forth. “Easy, I can handle this,” I thought.

As the inclination of the ship increased, my stomach began to feel it. It was a fun kind of uneasiness.

Enough to get a thrill, but not so much that I was counting down the seconds before the ride ended.

The Fire Ball ride is the only one to get fully inverted
The Fire Ball ride is the only one to get fully inverted

Next, the ladies set their sights on the Fire Ball, a closed loop roller coaster that’s the only ride in River View Park to get fully inverted.

I waited in a food line with one of the Viviana’s while the other two when to hold a place in line.

Five to ten minutes later, while we were still waiting for churros, they returned to say the line was far too long. It was about 7:15pm, and the crowd had swelled after dark.

The estimated wait time for the Fire Ball, which I’d call the most extreme of the rides, was and hour and a half.

Thankfully for me, none of us had the desire to wait that long for a ride. I’d already told the girls I’d wait that one out.

The "pulpa" or octopus ride as one of the Viviana's called it
The “pulpa” or octopus ride

Next, they went to scope out the line for the 6-pronged whirly ride that flung people around in little cars while moving its arms up and down.

It was another ride I planned to skip, but again, the line was far too long, winding its way around for about three blocks, in one girl’s estimation.

Instead of leaving right away, I suggested we walk around the park and see what else it had to offer.

A few of us took a walk through a labyrinth of mirrors, to a thumping stream of reggaeton music.

Finding your way was harder than it looked, and while Viviana did a great job, I still credit two little girls who helped point us in the right direction toward the end.

Upon leaving the labyrinth, the other Viviana and Andrea were picking out silly oversized glasses and hats to wear for a funny photo booth.

We joined them, and the four of us had four photos taken, at a cost of 8,000 pesos ($4). Extra copies were 4,000 pesos ($2) each.

Set a new record for the night on the mechanical bull, and win a prize
Set a new record for the night on the mechanical bull, and win a prize

Like any good amusement park, there were plenty of carnival games where the men could win their ladies stuffed animals.

I was tapped to win giant tigers and Rastafarian bananas for all three girls, but it’d have to wait for another night, because once Viviana and Andrea spotted the mechanical bull, they got in line for a ride.

The record for the night so far was 36 seconds, which seemed hard to beat judging from the steady stream of men and women being flung off of it.

If it weren’t for my bad back, I’d have wanted to give it a try too. I think the average time on the bull was about 8 seconds, regardless of whether it was a guy or girl.

By a quarter past 8, we were all getting hungry, so we left the park for Sabaneta’s main plaza, and the restaurant to the right of the church, famous for its giant bunuelos.

River View Park is easily accessible via a short five minute walk from the La Estrella metro station. The amusement park is in town from June 14 to July 28, 2013.

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  1. A small traveling amusement park? How about instead covering Parque Norte, the sizable amusement park in Medellín for your readers? This is a traditional amusement park that encompasses over 1.7 million square feet and is open year-round in Medellín (but closed Mondays). It has roller coasters, water slides, bumper cars, a lake and a bunch of other rides. Parque Norte is conveniently located close to the Metro Station Universidad. While Parque Norte doesn’t compare to the large amusement parks in the US, it still has several nice rides and Colombian women all seem to like it. I have been to Parque Norte several times and it can be a very fun time, especially for a family with kids. Parque Norte is also utilized for events of all kinds including theme events during holidays such as Halloween and Christmas as well as musical concerts that are scheduled throughout the year.

    I searched the Medellín Living site and didn’t see Parque Norte covered at all in any of the blog posts or lists of things to do over the past 4+ years. Parque Norte is one of the top 10 attractions in Medellín in terms of number of visitors each year, so I believe it should be covered in a travel blog site focused on Medellín.

    Parque Norte is missing in most of the gringo Colombia travel guides – for example it isn’t found in the pathetic Lonely Planet Colombia guidebook that is justifiably poorly rated on Amazon or the Viva Colombia Adventure Guide that isn’t much better than Lonely Planet’s guidebook. Parque Norte also isn’t found in the National Geographic Colombia guidebook and Dave’s Medellín Travel Guide sold on this site and also misses this popular attraction in Medellín. Unfortunately all the Colombia guidebooks I have seen really are not very good and miss so many of the best places in cities in Colombia – this is one example of the many things missing. The only gringo travel guidebook that includes Parque Norte that I am aware of is the Michelin Colombia guidebook.

    Have you been to Parque Norte?

    • I’ve been aware of Parque Norte since arriving in 2009, but I’ve never paid to go inside.

      To be honest, I didn’t see any big rides from the outside, and I chalked it up to being a better experience for kids than adults. Since you think so highly of it, I will check it out and write a post.

      It could be the greatest park on Earth, but I that wouldn’t take anything away from my experience at River View Park Sunday. The atmosphere was fun, and it was absolutely packed with people.

      • I’d suggest trying to go during one of the theme events or concerts as there will be more people and also try to go with some Colombian women as they really like some of the rides – you’ll have a better experience.

        The water ride is perhaps the best ride and something you wont find in a traveling amusement park. They also have boats on the lake with some nice views. Roller coasters are pretty tame compared to roller coasters in the US. A couple of rides are also kind of intense (try the Kamikaze ride) and not really for small kids. I have been to two of the traveling amusement parks in Colombia and Parque Norte is a step above. That’s why Parque Norte is popular with over 500,000 visitors each year. Some of the rides are specifically targeted for kids so a good experience for those with kids. Parque Norte won’t compare to Universal Studios in Orlando in the US but it is still a decent experience, especially during theme events or concerts.

        Fast food in Parque Norte wasn’t all that great so I wouldn’t recommend eating there. A better place to eat would be In Situ in the nearby botanical gardens.