Gold Reef City is a Johannesburg institution and as my kids have been nagging me to go for months, I finally succumbed early in the New Year.
I have to declare my bias: I hate theme parks, I dislike the rides (and am scared rigid by most of them) and I can't bear crowds, so now that we've got that all on the table, let's be positive for a moment.
Gold Reef City at least has a theme in keeping with its surroundings, recreating the atmosphere of Jo'burg during the gold rush of the 1880s and 90s, and the park's setting amid old mine tailings (residue) dumps is therefore particularly appropriate.
There is a wide variety of rides, and some of these are unique to the setting: such as gold panning and the Tower of Terror (pictured above) which drops a car of tourists 50m vertically down a decommissioned mine headframe, reaching speeds of 100kph. Having real life involvement with mining disasters, I gave this one a wide berth, but others seemed to love it ...
The entrance fee includes most of the rides and attractions, although certain activities such as the underground visit to a disused gold mine are additional, which is not unreasonable. Beware that the queue to get in - even on a quiet day like the one on which we visited - can take forever (we took nearly an hour), so if you're sensible, you'll book ahead at Computicket and save yourself that grief (see the link below). You are not allowed to bring in your own food or drink, so you need to factor this into your budget: there are plenty of food outlets to choose from, but it all adds to the cost.
As seems to be usual with theme parks, there is a height restriction on the rides, with a cut off of 1.3m. I can understand the logic, but this causes real problems when you are on your own and have two children which fall either side of this threshold. As a result, my daughter (1.32m) wasn't allowed on rides that my son was able to do and on which I was paradoxically allowed to accompany him. This meant that she had to wait by the entrance whilst we went on the ride, which poses a real security risk. OK, on the day we visited, it was quiet, so I could keep an eye on her, but had it been crowded, it would have been very possible for someone to accost her without me seeing what was happening until it was too late.
One highlight for me was the Giant Wheel which is a mercifully smooth ride and gives you an amazing and unusual view out over Johannesburg's southern suburbs towards the CBD in the north and the beautiful calabash of Soccer City to the west.
I think that one of the nicest ways to experience Gold Reef City is to stay at the Protea Hotel where a number of the buildings have been converted into 'period' accommodation, furnished in the style of the late 19th century. Once the theme park has closed and the hoardes of day visitors have dissipated, it's pleasantly atmospheric to wander around the park and imagine yourself back in (a sanitised version of) Johannesburg as it would have been during the gold rush. Staying overnight also allows you to avail yourself of the delights of the Gold Reef City Casino (also not a passion of mine) and/or attend one of the excellent shows at the Lyric Theatre which is also located in this complex.
Frankly I am about the last person in the world who should be writing a tip about a casino, since this is one gene from my Irish heritage that has completely passed me by. However, clearly they is a major drawcard for a huge number of people, so if you're visiting Johannesburg and would like to have a flutter, this is probably one of the better options to consider.
This photo is taken from the Big Wheel in the adjacent Gold Reef City theme park, and gives you an indication of the vast scale on which the Gold Reef Casino, entertainment complex and associated hotel have been constructed. It has the requisite ovr the top opulence that would would expect from a casino and borrows (loosely) from the period theme of Gold Reef City itself.
In addition to the casino, there are several restaurants and the small but very pleasant Lyric Theatre. The Lyric puts on some good shows - the very enjoyable 'African Footprint', for example, is a staple offering - which are usually musically themed, and provide a welcome counterpoint to the massed ranks of fruit machines and gaming tables.
Gold Reef City is a hotel/theme park styled in the old mining town era of Johannesburg and will be enjoyed by those with children as there is a theme park here with a few adventure rides etc. Also you can be taken down into the old mine shaft to see how gold was mined in the older days. There is quite a few interesting things to experience here and is probably a nice framework to understand the origin of Joburg. The Hotel accross the road also features a small theatre and casino for those interested. Gold Reef City can easily be incorporated in the same day if you would like to go to the Apartheid Museum as these two are situated next to each other.
Well Gold Reef City is both a Casino and a Theme Park Boasting the Best Roller Coaster Rides in Africa (My own opinion).
The Theme park has an abundance of adventures rides, gaming, restaurants, history, site seeing and tours for you to enjoy:
A Victorian Hotel and Casino with over 1600 machines, 60 tables and much, much more.
The Theme Parks operating Hours is from 09:30am to 18:00pm , well there after you can go to the Casino Section across the road which has great restaurants , Casino and Arcade section for the Kids.
Entrance Fee for the Theme Park is R90 pp for All rides , R70 for Minor rides and the Underground Mine Tours is an additional R60 pp. Senior Citizens over 60 pay R40.
So come on get cracking and get your family over here.
Gold Reef City is a big entertainment area built on the ground of a former gold mine. It is roughly divided in three areas: The theme park, the casino/restaurants/hotel and the Apartheid Museum (although the latter one is not a part of Gold Reef City). While the main tourist attraction is the Apartheid Museum, the other two are very popular with locals. In the theme park, you can buy a rider or a non-rider card, depending if you want to ride all the rollercoasters or not. The non-rider card entitles you to enter the park and take part in the smaller activities. What I think was the most interesting part here is the former gold mine. The gold mine costs a small entry fee (no matter if you are a rider or a non-rider). With an elevator, you are taken several dozen meters below surface and walk through the old pits and shafts. A guide will tell you about how it was to work in the gold mine until it was closed in 1977. Try it out to experience what was the base of Johannesburg’s wealth in the early 20th century.
For more information about other places in Gold Reef City, check out my restaurant Tip Boston BBQ and my tip about the Apartheid Museum.
Gold Reef City is a gem of a mine considering that it is located stone throw away from downtown Jo’burg. As a raison-d’être of the city it is a must on the “attractions” list. Unfortunately or fortunately, presumably depending on the age group of the visitor, the ticket combines the visit to the mine with the rides in the vicinity. If riding crazy machines is a passion of yours (chances are you are a teenager) this is the ultimate way of spending your time in the city combining pleasure and education. Otherwise it is a nuisance to be put up with. Older fashion roundabout “Viennese” style can give you enough time to look at the surroundings including future World Cup stadium and the notoriously dangerous inner city of Jo’burg.
I had done this tour before when at school. And then did it again in January 2007, with my husband.
We were in a group of 7, with the rest being English. The tour guide assumed we were English too, which we found funny, as he was Chinese, and was telling us about all these 'things' South Africans do.. not realising he had two in his midst :)
There was a poster inside the cave too, in a native language, and he translated it incorrectly.. we didnt want to say anything to him at the time, not wanting to embarrass him, and forgot to mention it at the end of the tour.
You don a hard hat and a lantern, and go down a few hundred metres into the earth, into unused mine shafts. It gets cooler and cooler as you descend.
The guide speaks of the history of the mine, how it came about, and the workings of it. We get a demonstration of a miner working on some rock with a very loud drill... and are able to photograph everything too, which is lovely.
At the end of the tour they take a group photo of you with your hard hat on and you can buy it for R25. We arent usually into these touristy-type things, but this time we took it.
If you suffer from claustrophobia, this is probably not a good tour to do. A highly recommended tour though!
I have come here many times growing up. My husband has been here once, in 2007 :)
It is a superb mix of old and new... showing what a historic gold mining town looked like (life size), offers exciting rides for young and old, has a variety of restaurants and pubs to dine at, and generally is the perfect getaway for the family for a day!
My two favourite tours are:
Underground tours of the goldmine
I also love the olden-day photos they take of you, dressed up in old fashioned clothing in a sepia colour photo... we didnt have one done this time due to time, might have one the next time!
Another time I came here we went on the ship.. which rocks from side to side. It is quite a scarey ride! One bloke just couldnt take it and vomited... erm... over the person sitting in front of him. NOT a nice thing. And very glad this took place after my ride! My brother and his friend did this ride about 7 times (are they mad or what?), and then after this episode... called it a day.
All-in-all, a lovely days outing for the family!
One of only a few theme parks in South Africa, Gold Reef City.
Comprising of a Theme Park, Apartheid Museum and Casino, is one of Johannesburg's most popular attractions.
Its a fun place to take the kids so they can experience the white knuckle rides there are on offer.
Alternatively you can walk around, and see the old Victorian Style buildings, see how gold is poured and even go down a mineshaft!
For the lucky ones out there you can try your luck at some gambling.
The Apartheid museum is located next to Gold Reef City, wich is a good place to spend to find out more about the apartheid era.
Forming part of the complex are 2 hotels.
The Casino Hotel, and also the Theme Park Hotel, so if you want to maximize your stay, you can always consider staying over in one of the hotels.
There are also a few restaurants to choose from, suitable for all tastes.
Fancy an exploration underground? Gold Reef City is part of the over 100 km long gold reef that lays below the city of Johannesburg. Escorted tours explore the underground and one can attend demonstrations as to how gold is "made".
Above the underground Gold Reef City provides a casino and entertainment park that attracts a lot of visitors particulary on weekends.
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