Ten years ago this week, something new opened in a place that had never seen a theme park before — an indoor park devoted not to a movie or entertainment IP, but one of the world's most powerful and enduring sports and lifestyle brands.
Happy birthday to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.
The first theme park to open on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island resort, Ferrari World celebrates all things Ferrari — from Enzo Ferrari starting his race team in the 1920s in Modena, Italy to its record-breaking success in Formula 1 and its status as one of the world's top luxury automobile brands.
"It's such an exciting place to work, that's for sure, because it is so different from your traditional entertainment theme park," Ferrari World General Manager Bianca Sammut said in an online interview with me last week.
"It's been exciting — the journey of the guest experience and how they see Ferrari," she said. "How they experience it through the F1 cars that we have featured, or the hypercars that we have featured, where you actually get to see a collection of them, all the way through to our food and beverage experience, where this is Charles Leclerc's favorite pasta dish [for example] — those types of things are really fun and inspiring."
To get a sense of what Sammut describes, check out my walking tour of the park, recorded during my visit for neighbor Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi's grand opening in 2018.
To celebrate the park's 10th anniversary, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi today opened two new experiences for thrill seekers: a Roof Walk across the park's iconic 21-acre red roof, as well as Zip Line ride that sends visitors flying from that roof through the 170-foot loop on the park's Flying Aces roller coaster.
That Intamin Wing coaster is themed to Francesco Baracca, the Italian World War I pilot whose family crest provided the famous "prancing horse" logo now associated with the Ferrari brand.
"It really does take people by surprise," Sammut told me. "They're not expecting the speed of the lift hill, and then obviously you know the loop is just incredible."
But the park's signature ride in the one that recreates the indescribable experience of racing in a Formula 1 car — the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa.
"Each year normally we have F1 drivers come through the park when they're when they're in town [for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit next door], and I love seeing their reaction to how that experience actually simulates the real life experience," Sammut said. "There's only very few people in the world that drive an F1 car, so to see them go on the attraction and then go, 'Yeah, you nailed it; that's exactly what it's like,' is really kind of cool that we can bring that to the guests."
Having grown up spending my Memorial Day weekends at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I can tell you that video never does race speed justice. The cars you think are going fast on TV when watching the Indy 500 or the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix seem much, much faster when you see them in real life. It's the same with Formula Rossa. Launching to 149 miles per hour in less than five seconds, Formula Rossa delivers visceral speed you can't begin to recreate in an on-board video. Let's give it a watch, anyway.
But Ferrari World offers much more than thrill rides. This year, the park added a new family zone, with miniature versions of some of its famous thrill rides, including a Formula Rossa Junior and Flying Wings. And Ferrari World is just one of several attractions in the Yas Island resort, which is located just across a highway from Abu Dhabi's international airport and also is home to the Theme Park Insider Award-winning Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi and the Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi water park, with a new, indoor SeaWorld Abu Dhabi park under construction for a 2022 debut.
So it's been a good 10 years on Yas Island... with more highlights to come.
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