What would you do? Creating a new family attraction

May 26, 2010, 10:20 AM · Many families love theme park vacations. But how much do families actually do together when visiting a park?

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 at Legoland California

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!

Replies (8)

May 26, 2010 at 10:31 AM · I'm submitting an idea on the theme park apprentice and one of the attractions will be training for a flight on the Enterprise from Star Trek. Families(or multiple families) will be able to work together in the attraction. I'll be able to submit more details when i post it in the "discussion".
May 26, 2010 at 12:52 PM · Disney has these cool console games, Kingdom Hearts.
And there is this really neat place called Wizard Quest (www.wizardquest.net) I've been to a few times. It's 2 or 3 floors of interactive puzzle solving, mazes, climbing, etc. You could try it alone, but it is definitely a team thing if you want any chance of beating it.

Why not do something like Wizard Quest, but use Disney characters with a role playing story line similar to Kingdom Hearts.

May 26, 2010 at 2:12 PM · Robert... have you ever been to Stone Mountain park in Atlanta, GA?

It's kind of a theme park. Anyways, I loved the activities you could do there that were great family together experiences. I wished there would be a similar location in Florida.

Some activities at Stone Mountain...
- a HUGE ropes course
- pedal boats
- petting zoo
- a hands-on activities barn where you shoot each other with balls
- hiking trails
- simple train and boat rides.

PLUS! I had so much fun there, I didn't think of it later that these were all "healthy" fun, activities

May 27, 2010 at 3:04 AM · Family-powered bumper cars. One person navigates by pushing a button to go forward, backward, right or left; one person actually drives it, but must do so based on the navigator's instructions (if navigator says "right" and the driver turns left, they go nowhere). The rest of the family has to pedal, actually pedal like in paddle boats, to make the bumper car go anywhere. They must also pedal in the correct direction as the navigator, forward or backward, or once again they go nowhere, and this leaves them open for attack from other family-powered bumper cars where the family is actually working together. The family with the most attack hits and the fewest recieved bumps wins a free family picture of themselves in the bumper car.
May 27, 2010 at 4:42 AM · I would create a HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3d family ride that put guests in the middle of the expirence.It would be kind of like the simpsons ride at Universal Studios Florida
May 27, 2010 at 12:15 PM · A virtual reality / motion capture indoor attraction based on "Avatar" where every family member represents a character (the avatars) from the movie, and each one tries to stop the bad guys from destroying the forest.

Tampa, Fl

May 27, 2010 at 6:48 PM · Disney Quest has some great attractions for families to work together.
May 28, 2010 at 8:45 AM · Great idea, and I think we're going to start seeing more theme park attractions being built that are interactive and require the rider's to be involved. Mission:Space at Epcot is a good example, although the actions involved are pretty basic, push a couple of buttons, whoohoo!

I had an idea a while back that I posted to my blog invovlving an interactive 4D motion simulator, built around the characters Remy and Linguini from the Disney/Pixar Ratatouille movie. The premise is that you are Remy, and you're under Linguini's hat, pulling his hair to make him do the different motions required. It would take everybody on the ride, 4-6 people, working together to prepare a dish in the kitchen. Each person would have a pull cord similar to the ones used for Toy Story Mania and would have to pull it when instructed via voice or a special noise or an indicator light. There would be smells from the kitchen, heat, motions and other chefs yelling orders to you all while you're attempting to manuever Linguini to prepare the dish. At the end, once the dish is prepared, Skinner, the diminutive, tempermental Head Chef, would come over and taste your creation, giving you a surprised approval, or an angry disapproval ordering you to try again.

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