Walking around Universal Studios Florida today, I took and posted some photos and video that illustrate why I think this park provides one of the best examples in the world of place-making in a theme park.
It's especially impressive in that this is a studio-themed park, which typically leads to false fronts, incomplete facades and sterile studio "box" buildings that leave you feeling like you are visiting a warehouse district. To be fair, Universal still has plenty of those, especially near its entrance. But the bulk of this park far exceeds that humble standard, delivering some of the best practical environments in the business.
Everyone, it seems, starts this discussion with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley. And rightly so. Diagon Alley sets the standard for theme park environments.
What’s on the other side of this brick wall? (Wait for it!) pic.twitter.com/ZMHaPNFbdu— Theme Park Insider (@ThemePark) November 16, 2018
But it's not the only example of outstanding design work in the park.
The Great Orlando Studio War of the late 1980s saw Walt Disney World's Disney-MGM Studios beat the debut of Universal Studios Florida by more than a year. But USF was a better looking park — then, and now. Sure, most of the rides didn't work that first summer, and Universal had to give out free return tickets to everyone who vsited in its first season. But the park looked amazing in its street sets. Universal used higher-quality finishes than Disney did, making its New York and Hollywood streets look authentic instead of the cheaper-looking knock-offs Disney offered.
Throughout the park, Universal's designers have taken the time (and management has spent the money) to create interesting detail that helps project Universal as an impressive place to visit, even if most fans notice that detail only subconsciously.
No, I am not claiming that USF is the best looking theme park in the world. Tokyo DisneySea, Efteling, and the new Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi all rank up there, too. But USF, and its sibling Islands of Adventure, deserve to be included in any conversation about the world's best-looking theme parks for exterior designs.
What would you choose as the best looking park you've visited?Tweet
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