Park of the Week: Islands of Adventure

What Makes You Happy?

November 3, 2020, 1:08 PM · Wherever you are right now and whatever you are feeling, I would like to invite you to take a little mental trip to a happy place.

For many of us, that happy place is inside a theme park. But what makes you happiest when visiting a park? What puts the happy in your happy place?

I've listed six options for you here: rides, shows, atmosphere and decor, employees, food, and merchandise. Obviously, all can contribute to a "magical" theme park experience, and all are important ingredients in that recipe.

But I want to get you talking about happy experiences here, so I am asking you to choose one in our vote today and to tell us in the comments about your choice.

For today's happy-time videos, I would like to take you back to three theme park attraction opening ceremonies that I covered for you back-to-back-to-back on one amazing coast-to-coast two-day trip in 2017. Let's start with the grand opening of Pandora: The World of Avatar in Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

The next morning, it was time to welcome the opening of Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort.

From there, I headed to the airport for a flight to Los Angeles and the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout! at Disney California Adventure that night. I love this one for James Gunn's exuberance and one badass entrance by Benicio del Toro.

Best wishes to everyone!

Replies (11)

November 3, 2020 at 1:21 PM

I love this poll. It's always fun to see what folks are drawn to when they go to theme parks. As an annual passholder to Disney, Universal, & Sea World/Busch Gardens, the rides are always fun but for me become more of a "will go on if the line is not too long". For me, I love just walking around and taking in the ambiance. Probably my two favorite experiences are walking under the railroad tracks and entering main street at WDW Magic Kingdom end entering the through the brick wall with that stunning visual that is Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Orlando. The ambiance is what takes me away therefore my vote was for atmosphere and decor.

November 3, 2020 at 1:38 PM

I love me some rides, but it’s the atmosphere and decor that really do it for me. I get happy just walking thru the entrance of IOA or into Diagon Alley.

November 3, 2020 at 1:54 PM

When I look back at what makes me feel like I'm at disneyland, it's never the visuals. I mean that's what sells the show but what really makes it is the sounds and smells. The ambience of every land and how it has it's own unique sounds and how every ride has their own unique smell.

However, for just your average six flags or cedar fair park, it's definitely just the rides. I mean if they won't put effort into theming and immersion, then why should I care about it? Just give me some quality attractions.

November 3, 2020 at 1:56 PM

Ambience is key, but ambience plus great food really makes it for me! Maybe it's time to bust out my ice cream churner and make some Dole Whip. I need to try and be in my happy place tonight.

November 3, 2020 at 2:06 PM

There are a great many rides that I love but that immersive experience with good detailed queues and great pre-shows make the attraction IMO. Atomosphere however, carries a park experience.

November 3, 2020 at 5:20 PM

Atmosphere and decor ... But that magical atmosphere is often created by the park employees. God bless the CMs and TMs

November 3, 2020 at 5:33 PM

To me, it’s always the music, which I guess could be atmosphere. Whether it’s a new song or a movie motif, if I hear that tune anywhere else, I’ll always think back to my time in the parks.

November 3, 2020 at 6:41 PM

I voted for rides for this reason: If I were to visit a collection of great rides in a parking lot, I would have a good time. However, if I were to visit a fully immersive theme park land with everything closed, I'd be bored quite quickly. That's not to say atmosphere and decor isn't important, but when it comes to personal enjoyment if they're aren't rides (or other active attractions) to experience, the happiness derived from it will be limited.

It's also important to keep in mind atmosphere doesn't mean immersive theming. I've been to boardwalk parks with absolutely no theming that had a better atmosphere than some highly themed lands in the destination parks.

November 4, 2020 at 12:56 AM

Eugene from The Walking Dead is working on a few charts that will explain his answer.

November 4, 2020 at 9:49 AM

For me it’s definitely Atmosphere, or ‘magic’. But it’s interesting that even in similar parks there can be quite a difference in this. An example is DL California compared to Disneyland Paris. DLP, although a beautiful park, doesn’t seem to me to have the same magical atmosphere.

November 4, 2020 at 1:12 PM

I can't remember who said it, it may have been a commenter on this site, but when you're a kid you go to Disneyland for the thrills and magic; when you're an adult, you go for the design. Sure, you still get those kid vibes, but as an adult you can also marvel at the work and thought behind it all.

In that regard, I have to disagree with you, AJ, because Six Flags IS a "collection of great rides in a parking lot," haha, and whenever I'm there I wish I was at Disneyland.

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