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Nights in White Satin- The Trip

Moody Blues Dark Ride at Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

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Nights in White Satin- The Trip Busch Gardens picture

Hard Rock Park's signature dark ride is Nights in White Satin- The Trip, a near-Disney quality--and quite trippy--attraction that's based on the Moody Blues song.

Arthur Levine 2008. Licensed to About.com.
Special note: Hard Rock Park declared bankruptcy the same year that it opened, in 2008. The Moody Blues ride only lasted one season. The following is a review of the closed ride.

With its groundbreaking melding of classical and rock music, its evocative imagery, its haunting and plaintive melody, and its iconic station in the rock canon, the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin" is ideally suited to be reinterpreted as a theme park dark ride. Hard Rock Park and its collaborators, the Sally Corporation, have done a masterful job creating an immersive, dream-like soundscape that brings the song to life. With its eye-popping visuals and stunning effects, Nights in White Satin- The Trip is near Disney quality--and quite trippy.

Nights in White Satin- The Trip Up-front Info

  • Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 2.5
    Dark scenes, a few skeletons, and psychedelic theme may frighten young children. Ride can be a bit disorienting.
  • Attraction Type: 3-D dark ride
  • Height restriction (minimum, in inches): 42 unless accompanied by a supervising companion.

Nights in White Satin Ride Video

See the attraction in a ride-through video produced by its designer, the Sally Corporation.

Getting to the Ride is a Trip

Located in the British Invasion section of the park, guests pass through what appears to be a giant psychedelic album cover and towards a spinning, mesmerizing black spiral. With Moody Blues cuts playing in the background, the queue includes some band and ride curios such as a Mellotron (a keyboard that preceded the synthesizer and helped define the Moodies' signature sound), a torso onto which colored lights are projected, and a larger-than-life white knight (minus the satin).

Ride operators distribute 3-D glasses (the chintzy cardboard kind, not the plastic ones) and tell guests, with nary an ironic wink, to "have a good trip." Black lights make the 2-D, Day-Glo-adorned walls shimmer and invariably cause 3-D-bespectacled trippers to reach out and grab the illusory images floating in the air. A spinning vortex room, an amusement park staple, leads to the ride's loading area. The tricked-out, brightly painted vortex is all the more disorienting when approached with 3-D glasses. Those who'd rather skip the spinning barrel can take the "Chicken Route," a hallway that that bypasses the vortex.

The loading area accommodates two vehicles at a time. Each vehicle has two benches and can handle up to six passengers. After the safety bar lowers and a ride-op clears the vehicles, the trip begins.

Wait for the Gong

Semi spoiler alert: As with any attraction, particularly one as unique as Nights in White Satin- The Trip, you may want to skip the description that follows until you've experienced the ride.

The song, which was first released in 1967 and clocked in at nearly eight minutes, was re-recorded by the band. It picks up at about the midway point of the original version. (I miss the signature flute and bass interlude, which is omitted.) The onboard speakers are superb and provide a sonic underpinning for the heady atmosphere.

As Justin Hayward sings, "Nights in white satin, Never reaching the end, Letters I've written, Never meaning to send," ethereal 3-D specters--in white satin, apparently--greet passengers. A bleak and barren landscape then slowly fills with bright colors.

Like the inscrutable song, there's no linear story or literal meaning to the attraction. Sometimes the lyrics seem connected to the visuals and effects; mostly, however, the sights, sounds, and sensations wash over riders in a stream of altered consciousness. Impossibly vivid Peter Max-style cubes and peace signs spin in midair; pulsating globules that appear to have been hijacked from the light show of a circa-1969 Grateful Dead concert explode and bring a rain of droplets onto passengers; blasts of air compete for attention with stylized renderings of free-spirited dancers. Whoa! It's heavy, man.

Nights in White Satin makes great use of an old dark ride trick, the speed room. (A holdover from the If You Had Wings attraction it replaced, the Buzz Lightyear ride in Tomorrowland at Florida's Walt Disney World includes a speed room.) The cars slowly move forward in a domed room onto which an enveloping movie depicting forward motion is projected. Much like a motion simulator ride, this creates the odd sensation of moving in sync with with the film and into its surreal imagery.

Towards the end of the ride, after the Moody Blues intone, "But we decide which is right. And which is an illusion," there is a great scene built around the song's trademark gong finale. I've probably revealed far too much already. You'll have to experience it for yourself.

The mythical nights in white satin may never reach the end. But the attraction does. While a never-ending ride would be absurd, it would have been great if the four-plus minute attraction could have been nearly doubled to fit the original song's length. It's so much fun, so weird, and so well done, it begs for more. And it would have been fascinating to see what the ride's designers could have done with an expanded palette. Then again, this is one trip that can easily be rebooked by getting back in line.

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