What do you do when you are stuck in Dubai, and its 45 degrees outside? Visit the world’s largest indoor theme park, IMG Worlds of Adventure!
I had been keen on visiting IMG since we moved to Dubai. I’m not a huge fan of thrill rides, but I do love theme parks. Disneyland California is my favorite, and I’ve also been to Disneyland Paris, Universal Studios, Knotts Berry Farm, and Dreamworld and the old Sydneys Wonderland in Australia. Theme parks are not really a thing in New Zealand. We have Rainbows End – a mediocre park that I’ve never bothered visiting – and Splash Planet, which used to be Fantasyland.
I was interested to see how IMG would stack up against the big guns. It was originally part of the ill-fated Dubailand development. While Dubailand still ‘exists’ to some extent, it is certainly not to the original specifications. Dubailand was to be the worlds largest entertainment and theme park district, nearly twice the size of Walt Disney Resorts in Florida. It was to have an area of 278 km2 (107 sq mi) and the original plan included 245 projects. This included Legoland Dubai, a Dreamworks theme park, an indoor ski slope, a dinosaur theme park, Six Flags Dubai, Global Village, Dubai Autodrome, Falconcity of Wonders, a Marvel theme park, Dubai Outlet City, and more.
The ‘City of Arabia’ project, which IMG is part of, is actually a part of Dubailand – but you can’t tell. Further plans for the City of Arabia – including the world’s largest mall – are on hold for the time being. Some of the other planned parks, such as Legoland Dubai and Motiongate, were redesigned and have opened elsewhere in Dubai. However, Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group decided to go ahead with the 140,000 square meter IMG theme park. They’ve actually done a pretty good job.
Strangely enough, finding the park was difficult. It is located in the middle of nowhere, and there wasn’t much signage. I hope this means that the owners are thinking of expanding the park in future. This post seems to indicate that is the case – apparently, the park will expand to 27 attractions over the next five years. There is certainly the space to do so. After seeing the size of the parking lot, I did a quick google – maximum capacity sits at 20,000 people. Luckily, being the summer, it was very quiet.
We entered the theme park down IMG Boulevard – a range of stores and eateries leading out to the different areas of the park. Though the building is massive, it doesn’t take that long to walk around. A number of the attractions weren’t open straight away (all opened later except the Hulk 3D), so we head to the Cartoon Network area. We started off with the Ride of OOO with Finn and Jake.
I have heard of the cartoon Adventure Time. I have no idea what it is about, but I know it has a little boy called Finn, and a dog, who must be called Jake. Unfortunately, this was probably not enough information to have any idea what this ride was about. Luckily, we only waited five minutes for it. It’s for very young children. You ride above the park (great view!) on an elevated rail in a giant dog vehicle. It also featured the bacon pancakes song, which I am familiar with. Although I prefer the remix.
Amused, but totally bewildered, we continued to the next ride. This was Ben 10 5D Hero Time. Sounds fancy. The sign stated we would become plumbing trainees. Sadly, there was very little plumbing involved. Despite, again, having no idea what on earth was going on, it was pretty fun. Kids would love it. It was one of those theatre rides where you get wiggled and tilted around, and water gets sprayed at you. At least the water was cooling!
We passed on the vomit-inducing Mojo Jojo’s Robot Revenge, and made a group pact to avoid anything that would spin at high-speed. This pact later got us out of attending Thor’s Thunder Spin, which we thought could be renamed Thor’s Thunder Chunder. Our next ride was Forbidden Territory. This was kind of like the Jurassic Park ride at Universal Studios, but a bit more tame, and with videos as well as animatronics. It wasn’t too bad, though. Things were looking up.
Our next ride was the Predator. We waited 15 minutes for this one. As we were lining up, we noticed it involved a completely vertical drop. Crikey. The ride shut down temporarily after a child vomited. A red flag, but the ride was up and operating fairly quickly again. As we approached the ride, we noticed was quick, so figured it was just the up and down we had seen. We were a little wrong.
We were in the front row, which meant we got to go straight up in the air, and then look straight down. The little tower you climbed up didn’t look so little when you were on top! The roller coaster was actually longer than expected, and involved a couple of loops and spins. It was well worth the wait!
Next, we wandered over to the Marvel area to check out Doc Oc’s revenge… the Spiderman ride. While this ride involved broke our spinning rule, we thought we’ve give it a go. We sat opposite a local man who, on the wise guidance of the ride instructor, removed his Ghutra. The ride was quite intense! Each time we went on a rollercoaster, we expected it to be pretty tame, but they were surprisingly good. Even though we waited about 20 minutes for the ride, it was well worth it. Wobbly legs lasted for a few minutes after.
We then sought out The Velociraptor. If you live in Dubai, and have seen the theme park, this is the huge ride that goes outside of the park building. It also has the distinction of making you feel like you have been blasted through a hairdryer. No one was lining up for this ride. We never figured out why… was it the heat? The intensity? Anyway, we hopped straight on, Dan and Bianca in the front car. Again, it was surprisingly scary. We were blasted out at 100km an hour into the desert, straight into a giant loop and around many, many other turns. Matt wasn’t too fond of the last corkscrew, but I thought it was pretty fun.
We decided it was time for some lunch. We were glad to have waited until after The Velociraptor.
I have to give credit where it’s due, IMG does have a lot of food and beverage outlets. The food looked much nicer than your average theme park fare. While pricey, it was par for the course for Dubai, and we enjoyed a pretty good lunch at Boulevard Gourmet. We then head to the Dino Carousel. I had insisted we ride this. It was fun.
We then visited the Avengers Battle of Ultron ride. We thought this was a movie. It was a movie, but it was also a simulation. You know, those ones that rattle you around and tip you up, looking like you are falling off a giant building? It probably should have been a pre-lunch ride. We all felt a little green after that one. This is a testament to the fact that the ride was rather realistic!
We had been at the park about four hours or so by this time, so decided on ice creams and a bit of a wander before heading home. We didn’t visit the Haunted Hotel, which had a wait time of an hour. Bianca was the only one brave enough to want to go in. By the time we left at about four pm, several of the lines were 45 minutes to an hour long. There were a few indoor playgrounds for kids that we also skipped, and we missed a shooting game called The Amazing World of Gumball. However, we definitely felt like we got our money’s worth. It was a fun day.
Okay, there isn’t a huge number of rides, and they aren’t the world’s most thrilling – but it was so nice to get out and about. The temperature of the building is really comfortable, and it’s pretty clean. Some of the waiting areas are showing a few signs of wear and tear, and I definitely wouldn’t want to be waiting for an hour in one. The only other thing I noticed was a lack of characters! While there was meet and greet sessions for kids, it would have been nice to see more ‘going on’ around the theme park. I could have gotten a picture with the big yellow dog!
If you are looking for a way to keep the kids – or yourself – busy at the moment, head down to IMG Worlds of Adventure. It’s well worth a trip!
Where: E311 (Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road – near Arabian Ranches, next to Global Village)
Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday – 11AM to 10PM, Thursday to Saturday – 11AM to 11PM.
Cost: 245AED for adults, 225AED for children (regular, non-fast track tickets)
Platinum discount? Two adult passes for 300AED – need to be ordered through the staff portal.
Tips: Arrive early! We got there at 11.15am, and most ride lines were short. They started to get really long about 1PM. Don’t bother paying for fast track at this time of the year – if you go early enough, you won’t need it.