What would you do? Creating a new family attraction
By Robert NilesMany families love theme park vacations. But how much do families actually do together when visiting a park?
Published: May 26, 2010 at 10:20 AM
Some families walk into the park together, then split up, as Mom and the teenager run for the thrill rides, and Dad and the toddler walk over to a show. Other families stick together, but only interact while they're waiting in line. On the rides and in the shows, they're each experiencing the park as individuals.
Walt Disney's famously reported wish, when he sat next to the Griffith Park merry-go-round, watching his daughters ride, was to create a place where families could play together. But how often to families actually get to do that in a modern theme park, where riders are individually strapped onto roller coasters and show-goers are admonished to please remain quiet during the presentation?
This is the reason why I love Legoland California's Fun Town Fire Academy. Here is the best example I've yet found in the theme park industry of an attraction that requires that a family play together.
Fun Town Fire Academy isn't a ride as much as it is a competition. Up to four people are assigned to each fire truck. Once inside the truck, two people pump a handle to power the truck down a track, while another person "drives" the truck. Once you get to the end of the track, everyone scrambles out of the truck to fight a "fire" in the adjacent building. Two people will work the handles on the water pump, while two others will aim the hoses at the target on the building. Once your teams sprays enough water into the target, it's back into the truck to drive up the track to the starting point. First team to finish "wins."
You can't ride this ride alone. And you can't ride this ride without working with your teammates. Fun Town Fire Academy brings families together in active play like few other theme park attractions I've experienced. Unlike shoot-'em-ups such as Toy Story Midway Mania - another ride that values teamwork - Fun Town Fire Academy provides engages your body as well as your wits. Pumping those handles can be hard! (That's definitely the grown-ups' job.)
The only down side? If your family has some, uh, problems - this ride will expose them. I've seen some cringe-inducing moments in line here, as a few parents and kids on the ride have turned on family members. (Winners seem to turn as often as others.) Of course, I've seen plenty of families get angry with each other elsewhere at theme parks, too. Families inclined to fight are going to fight, and always will find some excuse, I'm afraid.
But we shouldn't let the bad examples of a few keep the rest of us from enjoying a wonderful family experience. So here's my "what would you do?" challenge to you this week: Create a theme park attraction concept - in the spirit of Fun Town Fire Academy - that gets families playing together. It doesn't have to be a physical competition such as Fun Town Fire Academy. But it should promote teamwork and a shared experience for all.
I can't wait to read your ideas!
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