By Jamie Goodwin
With the grand opening just days away, Arabian Business takes a sneak peek into the huge arena that contains the world’s largest indoor theme park
With some exterior landscaping still to complete before the opening of Dubai’s first mega theme park, the journey to the entrance of IMG Worlds of Adventure remains a little underwhelming – yet from the moment you step inside the giant construct that houses the world’s largest indoor theme park, underwhelmed is not something you will be for the rest of your visit.
The park’s temperature-controlled environment is essentially a giant auditorium stretching over more than 1.5 million square feet of attractions, food and beverage outlets and gift shops. But designers have avoided the feel of a massive aircraft hangar by splitting the park into a labyrinth of mock city streets and prehistoric jungle trails.
Comprising Marvel, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley Dinosaur Adventure and IMG Boulevard zones, the park, set to open on August 31, can host up to 30,000 visitors a day.
It opens up into the Boulevard Zone, featuring the genuinely terrifying Haunted Hotel, an immersive maze of corridors that visitors navigate on foot, through a host of scary sets and creepy characters – including a blood-drenched butcher surrounded by hanging corpses that was gruesome enough on its own to earn the attraction its 15-and-over age limit.
The Cartoon Network zone, up next, is all sweet shops and sunshine. But anyone hoping that ride on the Powerpuff Girls-themed ride, Mojo Jojo’s Robot Rampage, might provide the light relief needed to forget the Haunted Hotel’s ghosts and ghouls is quite wrong.
This pink and pale blue attraction, bedecked with cutesy, giant-eyed faces of the titular characters looks tame enough – until it sets off. Riders are then subjected to a gravity-defying 360-degree thrill ride that’s enough to make you glad you skipped breakfast.
Families and children should move straight onto the adorable Amazing Ride of Gumball before sitting back for the LazyTown Playground Live Stage Show.
The park’s Lost Valley Dinosaur Adventure is an IMG original concept that features two of the park’s flagship attractions. The Velociraptor shoots riders out of the park and into the desert at speeds of 100km in 2.5 seconds.
It may not be quite as swift as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi’s Formula Rossa, which is the world’s fastest roller coaster, but surely only those who drive real F1 cars can tell the difference between the two. Regardless, The Velociraptor is second to no other roller coaster in the country when it comes to stomach-spinning loops and twist.
Its zone mate, the Predator ride, begins with a disturbing 90-degree climb straight up to the park roof. What comes up must come down, and the ascent is quickly followed by a “beyond vertical” plummet, followed by a neck-jarring array of peaks, troughs and bends before this exhilarating but mercifully short ride comes to an end.
The Marvel Zone, the park’s brand powerhouse, is constructed as a city street that features recognisable buildings from the franchise’s movies and comics, such as the shawarma venue craved by Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark at the end of the first Avengers movie, and an Avengers Tower containing the park’s fine-dining restaurant, called Tony’s Skydeck.
It also contains the Spider-Man Doc Ock’s Revenge ride, a rollercoaster with spinning carriages and tightly wound tracks that cut through both darkness and the open spaces under the park’s roof – the perfect balance of fear and fun.
IMG Worlds of Adventure is a visual delight. It will thrill visitors young and old with startling sights and sounds before they have been strapped in for their first ride of the day. Those who prefer to spend their visit browsing gifts, sipping coffee or watching shows will not be disappointed.
But if a theme park is only as good as its rides, then IMG Worlds of Adventure is a thrill-a-minute adventure that will leave you tickled, terrified and thrilled.