Back in June, I attended the SA Travel Blog Awards and was lucky enough to win a spot prize – 2 return flights with Fly Blue Crane. The airline is only a year old and is the first airline launched by a woman. Yes! to strong women.
My anniversary was coming up so I decided to cash in my prize. Fly Blue Crane flies to Johannesburg and a few smaller destinations (Kimberley, Bloem, Mthatha & they add more destinations as time goes by). I really felt that I’ve seen most of what Kimberley has to offer, my partner has done Bloem a few times and Mthata wasn’t even added to their flight plan when we were looking.
We decided to go with Joburg. I’ve been to Jozi many times for work but I really don’t know it very well. We initially planned on seeing the Cradle of Humankind but then we decided to be a bit frivolous – why not spend a weekend at Gold Reef City? I’m not sure how this idea came to me, I suspect it might have been those sneaky adverts on the side of my Facebook feed. Also, a lot of hotels were mysteriously booked out (duh, school holidays – not sure how I forget this EVERY year)…
Gold Reef City seemed like the perfect destination to have some fun – hotel, theme park, restaurants, casino – and best of all (in my opinion!), no need to drive! We made the booking directly through the hotel website 30 days ahead of time and got a discount at the Gold Reef City Theme Hotel.
We parked at the Cape Town International Airport’s long stay parking (cost about R330 for the weekend in P4). Did the customary Mugg & Bean breakfast although, I swear, that’s the last time. The service there is way too slow.
Finally checked in at the Fly Blue Crane counter for our flight that stops in Bloemfontein – picks up some people and then goes on to Joburg. There were actually 2 flights that were going to Joburg (one stopped in Bloemfontein and the other stopped in Kimberly). I randomly chose the Bloemfontein-stop. Bad idea as the Kimberly flight took off at the correct time and our flight was delayed due to a technical fault!
The staff were very apologetic. Anyway, once they were ready, we quickly boarded and were on our way. The seats were comfortable and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a meal (all halaal) when leaving Cape Town and then another when leaving Bloemfontein. The pilot managed to make up some time and we ended up arriving only a half hour later than we were scheduled too. We grabbed our bags, thanked the lovely Fly Blue Crane staff and off we went.
Gold Reef City Theme Park Hotel
I would recommend taking an Uber from the airport to the hotel. Tripadvisor had some other suggestions but save yourself the trouble.
We got to the hotel when the theme park was already closed, which was a waste unfortunately. We were checked into our room quickly although I was surprised that I had to pay an extra R25 tourist tax. The concierge explained when was breakfast, when to get our bands to access the park and how to arrange for shuttles to the casino. The staff were always warm and friendly.
Our hotel room was nice and big. I really liked the clean, modern décor. The bed was incredibly comfortable and the shower was the best. One thing that was missing was a bar fridge. I enjoyed the free biscuits and chocolates (probably a bit too much).
On TripAdvisor, I read that some of the hotel guests tend to make a noise when they come in from an evening of partying. I can attest to this as I was woken up on the first night by a group laughing jovially. I wasn’t too annoyed as they quietened down as soon as they got to their rooms. The second night I slept without being woken by any noise.
Breakfast is served at the restaurant Barney’s. It’s exactly what you’d expect at a hotel breakfast. It was amazing and I can’t even remember how much I ate. Sadly, they didn’t cater for halaal guests but I am (and was) more than happy to swap a sausage for 4 waffles (or more). The weekend involved a lot of food.
The hotel is inside a theme park and doesn’t have many separate (exclusive) amenities. I was very disappointed that the pool was closed although I felt like I was notified but just forgot about it. I wanted to trade in the windy Cape Town weather for the Jozi heat.
Gold Reef City Casino
On our first night at the hotel, we freshened up and grabbed a free hotel shuttle to the Gold Reef City Casino. Straight up, I don’t gamble. I don’t understand throwing your money into slot machines – I’d rather play Dance Dance Revolution or that game where you hit the alligator (which I did). I appreciated the fact that the centre opens all night so there was always activity if you wanted it. We had our anniversary dinner at The Raj. The place isn’t fancy at all but they are priced as if they are! I can’t believe they don’t give rice with their curries. Anyway, Gold Reef City Casino is almost exactly like Grand West Casino – same type of crowd, same food, same movies and theatre available.
On our second night, we ate at KFC (glam I know!), Vida E and Milky Lane. It was a junk food kinda weekend!
Gold Reef City Theme Park
Being a guest at the hotel means that you get free entrance to the theme park (well, you are staying inside a theme park but you need a band to go on the rides).
I love theme parks but it was never some sort of goal to go to Gold Reef City. The first question on any Capetonian’s lips is basically “Is it better than Ratanga?”.
That’s difficult to answer as I’ve grown up with Ratanga. I know what to expect there and I’ve seen it shrink into its current state. So, in terms of rides, Gold Reef has cool ones I’ve never tried before. I especially liked the Miners Revenge, the 4D show (even though the mini-movie was cheesy) and the Golden Loop. The Anaconda was closed so I can’t comment on that.
What I really liked about Gold Reef City Theme Park was all the other things: the entertainment, tons of places to eat (Mugg & Bean, Anat, to name a few) the science center, petting zoo, gold panning & melting, and some old houses and trains that have been turned into museums etc. I also really liked the coffee-chocolate at the chocolate shop.
We were warned that the theme park was going to be full as it was school holidays so we made sure to go on all the rides first. When it got busy and hot, we checked out the other attractions. We also chose to do the mine tour which cost us R100 per person. I’m really happy that I did, it was fascinating.
The Mine Tour
So for those that don’t know, Gold Reef City Theme Park & Hotel are situated on an old mine. We had to wear hard hats and were given flashlights. We descended in the mine-shaft (creepy) and were allowed out on the 2nd floor (80m underground). It was pretty cold underground!
I could hardly believe that the mine goes down another 200 floors! It really made me appreciate the things that miners go through. Especially back in the day with no electricity!
I found the escape route particularly fascinating. If the mine were to collapse, from the bottom to the top, the miners would have to do 50 000 + steps on the stairs. Of course, it’s probably unlikely that it would ever collapse in such a manner (I hope).
…….I had a truly awesome weekend at Gold Reef. It was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had. It was fun, carefree, jovial and all round, pretty fantastic. I have to say a big thanks to Fly Blue Crane as I would have probably never gotten to experience Gold Reef without them.
Don’t worry Gautengers, I will be back to experience Maropeng and the inner-city life another time!