Star City – A Quick, Cheap, Weekend Trip

Metro Manila is one of the last places in the world that would come into your mind when you come across the word “theme park”, and even when it does, it’s usually Enchanted Kingdom in nearby Laguna province that most people would think about.

We do have the Star City within the CCP Complex in Pasay, which has been around for quite a while. And while it does have a reputation as an overgrown “peria”, we finally decided to see for ourselves if it deserves that reputation or not on one weekend.* Peria, a Filipino word derived from the Spanish, refers to a small town carnival.

Star City, as it turns out, is a curious hybrid of a real theme park, a carnival, and an overgrown arcade. You won’t find anyone playing Tekken there of course, but you get the arcade-style basketball hoops, games where you throw rings into bottles, and a roller coaster – meaning there is an element of each of the three that you will find there. It is also split between an outdoor and indoor section, and it’s actually sort of like Seoul‘s Lotte World, but on a very tight budget.

It is basic and “small scale” as far as theme parks go, but it did have more variety of rides and attractions than I initially expected, but then again my expectations may have been very low to begin with. It does boast of the country’s only snow making machine in its Snow World attraction (real snow mind you, not some other fancy stuff), as well as the country’s only inverted roller coaster, as far as I know. Combine that with a reasonably cheap entry fee, and you get a good option for a fun weekend with the family (especially if you have kids), that is accessible – geographically and financially – for the average Manileno.

However if you are looking for something that would even come close to a Disney or a Universal then don’t even bother…they’re not even in the same universe. You’ll be much better going the extra miles to Laguna, or saving your money to go to Hong Kong or Singapore to see the real thing.

However, if you just want to have some fun rides and a reasonably good time, without having to leave the city, and without the weight of heavy expectations, then Star City is good enough to take the boredom out of boring weekends.

I was surprised to see a thick crowd at the entrance. But then again, entry is cheap and for most local folks, it’s a good deal.

The first section of the park that you get to are rows of “tiangge”-style stalls, selling cheap clothes, accessories and other bargain stuff. It looks far from classy, but it does help lower your expectations from the beginning (which I guess forms part of their strategy).

Like a carnival, there are big stuffed toys to be won here, for some of the games.

This section of the park is somewhat of a cross between a carnival and an arcade.

Bump cars are always popular where ever you go. Star City has two such rides, one strictly for kids (picture here), and one for adults.

The bump boats also attract a long queue. There is no “kids only” version of this though, and rightfully so.

The exit from Snow World, one of the main attractions. Snow world is a giant “freezer” that houses a snow making machine (producing real snow, not some fancy fake stuff) and enough ice to allow you to go “tubing” down a slippery slope. It’s like a small version of Singapore’s Snow City, and is the only place in this country where one can experience a few minutes of winter.

The other main attraction, a rather small and compact (though it still makes people scream) inverted roller coaster called the “Star Flyer”.

The Star Flyer sends passengers up in the air, inverted…

…and takes them to several quick turns and twists.

The park also has a rather low flume ride called “Jungle Splash”.

Star City’s outdoor section.

I first came across this wave-like ride in Seoul’s Lotte World. I forgot what it’s called.

One of the newer attractions, Pirate Adventure

The outdoor food court, right next to the Pirate Adventure

Inside the Pirate Adventure. There was no way I could stabilize my camera on a moving boat in the dark interiors. I was about to hit the delete button on this photo but thought for a second that there’s something interesting in it, but that’s just me.

One of several rides in the park’s indoor area.

Peter Pan – a “walk through” attraction on the second floor. This one was made really for small kids.

The Darling family, inside the Peter Pan attraction.

London, from a “tinkerbell’s-eye-view”.

The kiddie section on the second floor has several of this coin operated rides normally found in arcades…

…as well as a “Little Tykes playground” filled will all kinds of Little Tykes stuff – a sure treat for toddlers and young kids.

There’s also a “fish spa” at the ground floor.

Manila Bay from the bayside of the CCP Complex, just a few blocks away from Star City.

* All photos taken last May 2012, with Olympus E420 and Zuiko 14-54mm f2.8-3.5.

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* New photos added from my second visit to the park last October 2012. Photos taken with Panasonic Lumix LX5.

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