You'll 'marvel' at the lack of waiting in the world's largest indoor theme park

October 18, 2016, 10:55 AM · DUBAI — We all want that ultimate "Fastpass," the one that gives us exclusive access to the theme park with walk-ons to all rides, no queues for restaurants, no crowds to get in our way, the cost of this Fastpass? Apparently, it's 270AED ($72/£63) — the price of a standard entry ticket to IMG Worlds of Adventure on a Tuesday (plus flights and hotel, if you don’t live locally, of course).

The world's largest indoor theme park had been open for five weeks when we visited, and the taxi driver told us we were the only fare he’d taken to the park since it opened. The first thing that strikes you as you arrive is that you’ve just travelled half an hour from the creek in Dubai to a construction site. The theme park is complete (though the adjacent cinema still is not open), but the site around it is just desert and road construction. Next, you will notice the vast car park — as big as any at Walt Disney World — but devoid of cars. We arrived just after opening and with tickets pre-booked and printed from the website, we walked straight into the reception area, through security with no bags to check, and then into the park.

IMG Worlds of Adventure

The park has three themed lands and a central boulevard containing the Haunted Hotel walk-through attraction, plus shops and restaurants. In the park, you will find 12 rides, a 5D theatre, two play areas, a show and that walk-through. The park was open from 11am until 9pm on the day we visited.

Once inside the theme park we realised how empty it is. We walked along the boulevard towards the Haunted Hotel, and we’re the only ones on the street.

Empty street

The first of the three lands we visited was the Lost Valley, themed around dinosaurs. The area is gloomy and with minimal signage and with no crowd to follow, we walked up the exit to Predator, only to be told by staff to go round to the correct entrance. We did, and walked straight on to the Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter coaster. No waiting, get in the carriage, restraint pulled down, checked and off we go. Up at 90 degrees, over and down a short drop at 90 degrees then round a few loops and turns all over in less than a minute.

Our next ride was Velociraptor, a Mack Rides launch coaster. You load inside the theme park, but as the ride starts the doors to the outside open, the heat from the desert hits you, and you blast off onto the park's only ride that goes outside the building.

After that, we went on Forbidden Territory — which basically was Dinosaur from Disney's Animal Kingdom, with a slightly different story — and then finished the land with a ride on the Dino Carousel. Less than 30 minutes into our visit, and we’ve done four rides. So we’re off to Marvel Zone.

Marvel Zone is a brighter area themed to a cityscape containing five Avengers-themed rides. Still no queues, as we walk on to Avengers Flight of the Quinjets (think Disney's Astro Orbiter) and ride as a couple... with no one else aboard. Next, we go on Thor Thunder Spin, and the downside to an empty park arises. They need a minimum of 12 riders to operate this Top Spin ride, so we sit on the ride waiting for 10 minutes as attendants coax other guests to ride so we can start. After riding Thor, we have the longest wait of the day as we remain take a few pictures and a short video of the next group of riders on Thor before moving onto Avengers Battle of Ultron.

Thor Thunder Spin
Thor Thunder Spin

Marvel Zone
An empty Marvel Zone

Battle of Ultron is another walk-on. We pause just to take a couple of photos of the queue.

Avengers Battle of Ultron queue

'No queue jumping' sign
Not really applicable today....

After that dark ride, trips on Spider-Man Doc-Ocks Revenge, a Mack Rides a spinning coaster, and Hulk Epsilon Base 3D, a 360-degree theater show, quickly follow, then we were off to Cartoon Network.

Cartoon Network is a more child-friendly area of the theme park, so it was a little busier, populated by families with small children. Still no queueing for rides, though, as we walk onto Adventure Time - The Ride of OOO with Finn & Jake, a overhead monorail that takes you on a short tour above this land. Then we went on The Amazing Ride of Gumball, a short ride with laser-pointer shooters, but unlike Disney World's Buzz Lightyear ride, you can’t spin the car to get a better shot. After that, it was onwards to Ben 10 5D Hero Time. After a short wait for the current show to finish, we’re into the large, empty theatre where we have the row to ourselves. No need to move all the way to the end. There's no possible way to fill in all this available space.

Once back to the central boulevard, we make our way to the Haunted Hotel, as it only opens after 1:30pm. It’s well presented by actors in English, although not as creepy as the old House of Horror at Universal Studios Hollywood. Still, it’s fun to watch a few locals jump and squeal, not knowing what to expect or from where.

Haunted Hotel

So we’ve been in the park for less than three hours and we’ve done all the rides we want to do. (We’ve missed only The Powerpuff Girls – Mojo Jojo’s Robot Rampage spinner ride.) What next?

You can’t sit in the shade of a tree to relax and watch the word go by — there’s no sun and there are very few guests. How about getting a good spot for the parade? There is no parade. Let's grab some photos with the characters in Marvel Zone? No characters to be seen. What about a show, you know, one like Beauty and the Beast or Indiana Jones at Disney? There’s only one show with characters from LazyTown, and that doesn’t appeal. OK, we’ll look round the shops, then re-ride everything again.

At 4:30 pm, we’ve walked round the park at least three times. We’ve had enough of coasters for today, and we finally decide it’s time to eat. There are plenty of choices: sit down, fast food carts, Arabic, Indian, Chinese, Burgers, hotdogs, pizzas, popcorn — all available with no queueing. We decide to sit in a tuk-tuk and have samosas. Food cost are on a par with the water parks in Dubai, 15AED – 25AED for water or soft drinks, around 30AED for snacks and +60AED for meals. As we eat our meal, we decide we’ve had enough for the day and phone the taxi to collect us... in 45 minutes outside the entrance plaza.

The real cost of the ultimate Fastpass at a park with few guests and unlimited rides? You get bored pretty quickly. There’s no anticipation — no build up to the ride as you wait in the queue. The rides lose their value when obtained so easily.

IMG Worlds of Adventure may call itself a theme park, but just having the rights to and using IP does not a theme park make. Instead, here we get: staff, all in the same blue or orange polo shirts, wherever they were working, instead of costumes; no parades, shows or characters to promote the IP; and worst of all, no natural elements to add to the little amount of theming that exists — no trees and birds, no sunshine, no changing light from night to day. These elements help us ‘live’ in the environment we find ourselves in. But here, you always can see the roof over your head.

Marvel Zone and Lost Valley have great coasters that would be "A" rides at any theme park, but the whole park lacks elements that make it a memorable day out. Less than a week after visiting, our overriding memory is how empty the park was.

As reported on Theme Park Insider at the time of opening, the owners expect more than four million visitors in the park's first year. Whilst it’s hard to estimate how many visitors were in the park during our visit, I’d reckon no more than 1,000. Maybe the park is busier at the weekends?

But it’s never going to be the nearly 80,000 a week that would be required to get annual capacity up to four million. Now, add into the mix that three new theme parks will be opening very soon in Dubai, and that there are two well-established water parks all chasing the same tourists and local families, and I’d say the park would be closing for good after one season if it were anywhere else but Dubai.


Replies (29)

October 18, 2016 at 11:17 AM · Thanks for the trip report Andy!

I think this illustrates why IP isn't everything in theme parks today, despite what many of us might be feeling. Context still matters. We want to visit themed environments, not just rides in a mall.

Now, part of the context that is missing here is a critical mass for themed entertainment in Dubai. In that respect, the new Dubai Parks & Resorts, along with Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi, might help IMG Worlds rather than hurt it. If, together, all of these attractions lure more theme park fans to the UAE, maybe those queue will start to fill.

But, please, not until I get the chance to go and get on everything with no wait! ;^)

October 18, 2016 at 11:36 AM · Too much "blue sky"-ing by the people behind this theme park (as well as the others). No business wants to get started thinking business/attendance will be bad; every company wants to believe they are the best and customers will flock to their doors. But I see this happen all the time on a small scale in my town. Someone opens a shop and they are out of business less than a year alter because they had no customers. And the problem is these places don't research customer wants & needs, or perform critical feasibility studies on traffic flow and everything else that can affect them. And this theme park has done the same thing. Maybe the government of Dubai promised them thousands and thousands of guests everyday, but a good operational study might have shown them the truth. If they don't cut their hours and possibly close a few days a week, they will be losing money for their owners until Dubai gets more developed and starts bringing in more visitors who enjoy theme parks.
October 18, 2016 at 12:49 PM · This is the second trip report I have read for this park today. Both say the same thing. The attractions are quality, but the overall feel of the place misses the mark.
I was just looking over the website for the Bollywood Studio park opening soon at Motion-gate. My mental image of being in a Bollywood movie is frenetic energy. Lots and lots and lots of people in a small area - in a good way. Imagine how weird that place will feel if it's not bustling. I hope they are all successful, but you gotta get people through the doors, and IMG Worlds of Adventure seems to have a long way to go to hit 80K a week.
October 18, 2016 at 1:00 PM · For their business, theme parks are also locked by the old saying about realty market that states that there are 3 important factors: location, location and location... I know Dubai is a tourist destination, but is it a theme park destination? Can it compete with Orlando that have grown and evolved a lot since the opening of WDW? I don't know the answer, but Dubai is officially stating that it can compete with Orlando. However, the "build it and they will come" is no longer enough. Wait and see. Time will tell.
October 18, 2016 at 1:33 PM · I'm sure Disney is overjoyed that this place is empty. I know that the Marvel IP was licensed right BEFORE Disney bought them. They are probably excited, hoping that it will close and they can get their IP back.
October 18, 2016 at 1:42 PM · From what I've seen, it's not the attraction quality or the ambiance that misses the mark. I think people say it's 'not quite theme park' is because no-one's really there. Most people reviewing it are used to the hustle and bustle of bigger theme parks.

Personally, I think the entire problem is the location.

October 18, 2016 at 2:35 PM · Sounds like they could have learned something from the hard rock park in myrtle beach.
October 18, 2016 at 3:22 PM · Reminds me of the park in China that had to close from lack of attendance. The queue lines are unthemed. That's where they miss the mark. The place looks like the department store amusement centers. It needs a mall next to it.
October 18, 2016 at 3:23 PM · The UAE has quite a few carcasses of failed amusement parks, and Ferrari World has been empty since it opened. It's not a surprise this one is empty as well. The major water parks do great in attendance (though the smaller water parks, such as Dreamland in Um Al Quwain, are dying). The price is too high except for local Emiratis and Western expats (and there's been an exodus of the latter in the past year with the drop in crude oil prices). Tourists come to the UAE for the lap of luxury, and this park isn't up to that market. Russian and Chinese oligarchs just won't be interested in this park.

The real test will be the three opening by Dubai Parks & Resorts in the next three months. It will be interesting, especially since they will be all outdoors. My prediction:
Legoland: Decently successful. Emiratis (and their maids) will bring their kids to the park regularly. Should do well with annual passes if they market to the locals heavily.
Bollywood: Major failure. After the curiosity factor wears out in a few weeks, it will be a ghost town. Priced way too high for South Asians, who mostly make peanuts in the UAE. Emiratis and expats will go once and done. The attractions don't seem to have much repeatability (shows and screens).
Motion Gate: This is the make or break park for the whole venture. With the budget they have, I think they've done what they can to make this work (mix of indoor/outdoor attractions and various IPs) but I'm not sure it's enough. None of the IPs is a home run that would make it a sure-fire destination visit. I hope it succeeds but I got a bad feeling about this...

October 18, 2016 at 3:36 PM · Thank you for the trip report!

I don't think being indoors is holding it back, but they should have attempted to give guests a faux sky, such as how the ceilings are painted in a Las Vegas or Macau hotel, like The Venetian.

Also, I'd like to have seen maybe cobblestone or brick roads/walking paths, and a whole lot more in the way of trees and shrubs. Preserved palms look incredibly real, and high end artificial grass is amazing - not lime carpet or Astroturf at all.

The park doesn't need to be outdoors, but they should aim to give the guests that vibe.

It's really disappointing to see this, and I hope MotionGate does UAE theme parks proud, or the fat lady may be warming up her considerable pipes.

October 18, 2016 at 5:19 PM · Terrific review! I've always found haunted houses overrated. For creepiness, few things beat an empty queue or empty theme park. And Andy captured that perfectly in this review.

- Brian from Florida

October 18, 2016 at 7:36 PM · It kinda sad what happened so far with the IMG world of adventure park so far in terms of attendance. Based on some of the YouTube videos that I have watched of the park itself it looks like a great park to visit especially the Lost Valley and Marvel Zone. Again, like most people are noticing the prices are too steep right now & the location is terrible especially cause it's a distance from the other parks. I am personally rooting for these parks to succeed to help bring some well needed competition to make everyone including Disney to step up their game.
October 18, 2016 at 9:52 PM · This is all built in a country that a lot of people like myself will never visit due to the track record of human rights issues. I'll travel all over the world--and have. But not to a non gay-friendly country where many--like women, aren't seen as equals.
October 18, 2016 at 10:11 PM · One things so often missing from stories about tourism to Dubai is their extremely conservative society. This is a country where sexual relations outside of (heterosexual) marriage is punishable by lengthy jail sentences. Homosexuality can bring the death penalty. And, in some cases of rape, the victim is charged with the crime of sex outside of marriage.

This is also a place that doesn't accept criticism. If you defame the United Arab Emirates, you can be charged with a crime. This also includes anything written on social media.

October 18, 2016 at 11:07 PM · Great point Alex, as is the whole of the Middle East, with the sole exception of Israel.
October 18, 2016 at 11:47 PM · Great trip report. It is sad to see a brand new park with such low crowds, but I can't say I'm all that surprised. It looks like this park would be a very good regional theme park elsewhere, but sounds as if it is marketed as a tourist attraction in a region without the right type of tourism instead. Assuming the park is able to attract some of the crowd that will be visiting Dubai Parks & Resorts (provided those are successful), I could see the park doing about a million visitors in 2017, which would be a solid number had expectations been more modest. Also, while the theming is certainly not as good as the destination parks of the world, I would say it is far better than any North American park of similar size and scale.
October 19, 2016 at 1:43 AM · I went there and the Theme park is quality but location is far away from Downtown and Dubai! We paid like 50$ on taxi only. The whole area there is meant to develop and until then this park will suffer. Dubai Parks are Resorts is located in Jebel Ali, as well very far away from the city BUT very close to the MAktoum Airport and Abu Dhabi. it is all about time.
October 19, 2016 at 4:34 AM · Sounds like my visit to the Adventure Dome... I was one of the few people in the park. It also reminds me of Six Flags Great Adventure on an empty Fright Fest night where places in the park like Plaza Del Carnival and The Golden Kingdom, which have no scares, can be completely empty.
October 19, 2016 at 8:20 AM · I cannot say that I'm surprised that this park is empty. My opinion is it's location. Dubai residents and visitors do not match the amusement park demographic. And vice versa, the amusement park goers will not be traveling to Dubai - for many reasons such as costs and primarily culture. To echo what Alex posted - one curse word or touch of a stranger on the shoulder probably, would land you in jail. No thanks!
October 19, 2016 at 9:23 AM · It looks very sad, and reminds me of Las Vegas in the 90s, when they tried to open family friendly attractions like the MGM Grand Adventure Theme Park and attractions at the Luxor. They had some interesting attractions, but the theming and immersiveness was just not enough. This looking like rides inside a mall is an apt description. I think it's very hard to make an indoor theme park look like outside environments, you're always aware of the roof, even painting the roof like the sky is not enough. Also, I've heard that upscale clientele aren't as interested in theme parks, they're more interested in five star treatment.
October 19, 2016 at 10:27 AM · Hi Andy, not sure when you went to the park but when I was there they had more than 15000 people. The park just opened, cannot judge so soon, they are still in a soft launch I believe. I enjoyed it, park was well designed, good attractions, friendly staff and really good atmosphere. Lets see what happens over the next couple of months.
October 19, 2016 at 11:28 AM · It's not a soft opening - the park has opened officially.
October 19, 2016 at 12:34 PM · Abu Dhabi's Warner Bros. Park will face the same issues. Unlike other parks world-wide they have an attendance season that goes up and down like a roller coaster. They are relying on european tourists who are staying home due to the war a few hundred miles away. The local rulers have thrown an obscene amount of money at these parks, that will never break even.
October 19, 2016 at 2:58 PM · The issue, for the moment, is really demographic. Your average Dubai tourist is a well off European looking to relax, shop, eat and (yes it's totally legal) drink.

The huge expat community will almost certainly visit, but with the huge competition for their attention from the non-theme park attractions they may not visit with any regularity.

The addition of more parks could actually be a blessing, as three new parks in a similar area inland of the main city, could help make the trip worthwhile.

October 19, 2016 at 4:28 PM · Alex, I completely agree with you. There may well be some excellent theme parks cropping up in the future, but Dubai is a country that I have no interest in visiting, due to the culture and way of life. This is a place where a couple were arrested and thrown in jail, for kissing (not even a full on kiss) in a public place. I'll stick to the US, I think.
October 19, 2016 at 9:21 PM · A clarification regarding alcohol (and an example of how restrictive UEA is): It is legal to drink only at your hotel. If you want to go to another hotel bar or nightclub, you must have a personal liquor license issued by the Emirate.

From the US State Department website: "Consuming or possessing alcohol without a Ministry of Interior liquor permit is illegal and could result in arrest and/or fines and imprisonment. Alcohol is served at bars in most major hotels but is intended for guests of the hotel. Persons who are not guests of the hotel, and who consume alcohol in the restaurants and bars, technically are required to have their own personal liquor licenses."

October 19, 2016 at 9:55 PM · Having lived in the UAE for 17 years and having worked in the industry for the same time I am surprised about comments about culture and way of life. Dubai is a very tolerant society that has given many people the opportunity to settle and create a very safe life here. I have seen expats being helped into a cab by police because they are too drunk to do it themselves, as long as you act respectfully it would be very hard to get yourself into trouble. Beaches are full of Europeans with tiny bikini`s soaking up the sun, again no issues there. Gawkers are ushered away by police to protect the privacy of bathers.

Dubai is a brave and bold city with tremendous leadership. Sheikh Mohammed is often seen visiting projects personally and keeps his finger on the pulse. If only we had half of his leadership skills in my home country......

October 22, 2016 at 7:24 AM · Andy I have asked the staff, and it is still a soft opening.. and I have gone to the park on a weekend and I saw this tribe show in the Dino area , also I think your timing was bad as if you see dubai on a weekday their are some families who don't let their kid go out on weekdays and it's a work day so many people can't come on weekdays which make sense, I went on weekends and it gets so crowded,on the eid holiday it was so many people. And ofc you won't see clouds it's an indoor theme park , the reason for it is because it's a vey hot country, the best time to go to any when park to witness all shows and everything is on a holiday.. so same here to visit to visit this park best time is to come on Islamic holidays as everyone can come then.. and yes heir are small shows and parades that happen on weekends. Soft opening is to see some fixes here and there hopefully for the big opening we will all go to it again. And I'm surry for my bad English as I am an Arabic speaker. Hope my comment helped you and everyone becaus rhte park for me was amazing I felt I was in a theme park and sspeically now Halloween is coming and I've seen people post stuff which looked amazing. I will visit again when I have less work, also I noticed a lot of theme parks around the world when they just opened they weren't doing as good as they are doing today, I think we should just give it time as well since dubais population isn't that large but the amount I've seen on eid holiday was so much it was crazy, hope i helped you and everyone
October 23, 2016 at 10:35 PM · To the people talking about human rights, China has most of the same issues. Only very slightly less.That didn't stop Disney from not caring. Of course, china has a much more dense population

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive