Monday, November 4, 2013

Epcot - The world's best indoor theme park!

As any longtime reader of this blog will know, I'm interested in theme park development in general, and have done some studying of the processes that the Disney Company has gone through to develop their parks in the United States (and a little bit in Europe as well), because they are the gold standard, after all.  Way back when, I did a handful of blog posts about what I saw as the "basics" to developing a theme park resort in the northern Midwest, specifically in the Chicagoland area.  And one of my conclusions was that the park would probably have to be completely indoors.

It was suggested that there are examples of indoor theme parks, including the Mall of America in Minnesota (I've never been to it).  And later, Dreamworks announced that they were going to develop an all-indoor theme park in New Jersey, close to New York City.  But I was thinking about it, and I see Epcot as the first, and best, indoor theme park in the world.

Most theme parks in the northern United States are seasonally open.  They run on weekends in the spring and fall, and run at full schedule, every day, over the summer, when kids are out of school.  Weather is obviously the big reason for this, but I would also guess that the lack of more to do around them is part of it.  They do not depend on "tourists" from other states to come visit them; it's more school kids from the area, and so they are busy when kids aren't in school.

But if an attraction was developed that was completely enclosed (like the Mall of America, for example), does it become a tourist destination?  Especially in an area like Chicago, where there are so many other things to recommend travel to it?  (This goes for the New Jersey project of Dreamworks, assuming that this is still on the table at all, being in pretty close proximity to NYC.)

Anyway, getting back to Epcot:  Every attraction there, with the partial exception of Test Track, is indoors.  You only have to go outside to walk between the various pavilions and to reach the World Showcase.  Now I would agree that it would lose something if those pavilions were themselves enclosed.  Part of their attraction is the fact that they showcase the architecture of the countries they represent, and have sort of a "city" feel - like, if you're going to Paris, or Munich, or Naples, perhaps, and wandering around an actual European (or Mexican, or Canadian or North African) city!

Consider if the walkways were enclosed between the pavilions.  You'd have a place that could easily be visited in the middle of winter, without concerns about how much snow was coming down or how many layers of clothing you needed to wear.  You could set Epcot in its current form in the northern U.S., and you'd have a functional theme park.  Enclose the walkways (arcades, like in Disneyland Paris?) and you have an all-weather park! 

I suppose, thinking about it, that most of the parks have a large element of indoor attractions (all the dark rides, the motion simulators, indoor coasters like Rock'n'Roller Coaster and Space Mountain, and most of the shows are enclosed) but Epcot has the general lack of ties to Disney content to be anyone's park, not only Disney.   That, coupled with the fact that you could enjoy almost everything about it even if it was snowing like crazy outdoors, make it a prototypical indoor theme park!


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