Monday, January 31, 2011

THEME PARK DESIGN - Themed Attractions

In Chapter 2 of his book Theme Park Design, Steve Alcorn notes that "theme parks" are only one of the different types of themed attractions. He lists several others:

  • Museums

  • National Park Service Visitor Centers

  • Corporate Communications Centers

  • Broadcast Studio Visitor Tours

  • Themed Shopping Malls

  • Themed Restaurants

We've all probably been to museums and themed restaurants, and probably a Visitors' Center at a national park. I'm not as sure about the others. Would the "Jelly Belly Factory Tour" qualiify as a corporate communications center? It's certainly a type of themed attraction. What about something like the Empire State Building or the CN Tower in Toronto, or the Sears (Willis) Tower or the John Hancock Building in Chicago?

I was trying to come up with other examples of themed attractions in my own experience, because Alcorn mentions after his list that there are many more examples. Slightly later in the book he mentions arcades, and these could be themed, I suppose, though probably relatively few of them are. And casinos, especially those in Vegas, rely heavily on theming. I guess you could characterize them as "adult theme parks", but it's more than that. The fountains at Bellagio, the Volcano at Mirage, and the pirate ship at Treasure Island are all examples of themed entertainment that are designed to draw in people to the core businesses, that is, casinos, hotels and restaurants.

Some places, like Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas, are really attractions in and of themselves. They are incredible examples of over-the-top luxury that become more than just a hotel, a spa, a casino or a restaurant. (I haven't been to Vegas in a few years now so I don't know what other examples of decadence abound there.)

Whole towns probably have become types of themed attractions. Napa and Sonoma Valleys in California are dedicated to wine tasting. Some of the wineries are quite impressive; they probably are more opulent than they need to be for just raising and selling wine. They are part of the whole themed experience. The entire town of Sedona is another example, I think. You've got your red rock, your crystals and vortices channeling spirit energy, your cliff dweller ruins, and your southwestern artist motif going. New Orleans' Bourbon Street is another sort of themed entertainment venue, this one for jazz, booze and partying into the wee hours.

Closer to home, the Wisconsin Dells is another town/area that has basically become one big themed attraction. Everywhere you look there's a waterpark. There are amusement parks, water shows, magic shows, miniature golf, arcades, boat rides, shopping and eateries. The theming is haphazard, but I would guess that the overriding idea is just family fun.

Near the end of the book, Alcorn lists several themed attractions that "worked". Among them are:

  • The Star Trek Experience, The Hilton Las Vegas (closed)

  • Caesar's Magical Empire, Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas (closed>

  • Buccaneer Bay, Treasure Island, Las Vegas (modified)

  • Ka, Cirque Du Soleil, MGM Grand Las Vegas

  • NASA's Space Center Houston, Texas

  • Nauticus, National Maritime Center, Norfolk VA

  • The Pro Football Hall of Fame, Canton, OH

  • COSI, Columbus, OH

  • Madame Tussaud's, Worldwide

I've mentioned a few others in the course of this article. Anyone want to suggest any others, feel free.

This book goes on my shelf of themed attraction books, right next to the Disney collection! I hope to find more like it.


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