The Five Best Rides in the UAE
So I just got back home from a week long trip to the United Arab Emirates to check out all of the theme parks in the area. After hearing the boom and bust cycle of the region for the past 10 years, I really wanted to check out and see what it was like and with the constant reports of low attendance, I figured that sooner was better than later. So I pulled the trigger this year and was very glad I did!
So before we look at the best, let’s take a look at the rides that just barely missed the cut:
- Batman: Knight Flight
This ride uses the same Kuka arm tech as Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Universal but just doesn’t nail it quite as well. There are several moments where you can easily see other ride vehicles and the movements into the screens aren’t nearly as smooth or seamless as Forbidden Journey.
- Flying Aces
Even I’m shocked that this ride ends up here, especially since I tended to like it more and more as I rode it again and again. But I think that I just ended up having better experiences with the other two coasters on the list.
The only ride from IMG Worlds of Adventure lands in the Honorable Mentions. I found the launch to be appropriately punchy and the course having plenty of variety and airtime. Like Flying Aces, it was just a victim of slightly better rides ahead of it.
And now let’s take a peek at the best, in no particular order:
- Justice League: Warworld Attacks
This ride has the potential to be the best dark ride ever (disclaimer: I haven’t ridden Rise yet). And I don’t say that lightly. In Justice League you board trackless vehicles and set off to help the team stop Mongul and his Black Mercy plants that are taking over the city. Just like Spiderman at IOA, it features a fantastic story and a good blend of real world sets and screens. And it actually outdoes Spiderman on the scale of a few of the sets, giving you the impression of being in a much larger space than you actually are. The only place that it fails to live up to Spiderman is the dynamicness of the movement. There were multiple scenes where we are either in battle, falling or witnessing an explosion. Whereas Spiderman moves the ride vehicle to effectively simulate this, Justice League tends to play it too conservative and either not move or only slightly move when something more dynamic is appropriate. Change this and I think this ride is the best dark ride in the world. But don’t let my only critique change the fact that the ride is fantastic andone of the best in the country.
Great trackless dark rides make use of the ride system to provide either stochastic or divergent experiences instead of just being trackless just to be it. Well Scooby-Doo is the poster child for how to do it right and there are two scenes in particular that illustrate it. Three ride vehicles leave the station at a time and after a quick introductory room separate in a circular room and each one pull up to a different mysterious looking object. Naturally the lights turn off and these each turn out ot be ghosts or monsters. Since each ride vehicle sees a different monster, your experience diverges depending on which car you board at the entrance. The second scene mimics the classic Scooby-Doo gag of the gang being chased by monsters through the hallway with doors. Characters and monsters pop in and out of doors and you never know who will be chasing who when they come out of the next door. Your caravan of cars pull into a room and all of a sudden coming right at you is a ride vehicle of Shaggy and Scooby being chased by a ghost. Your cards scatter each taking a different route through the hallway of doors while either chasing or being chased by the fourth ride vehicle. Add this interesting use of tech to some cool effects and a story that feels lifted straight from a cartoon, this is a ride you’ll want to ride multiple times!
- Formula Rossa
You can complain all day about the trims on Formula Rossa’s first hill. Or the repetitive layout following the launch. Or even the relatively tame acceleration. It doesn’t really matter because the top speed makes up for it. Sitting in the front row is like what I imagine taking off from an aircraft carrier to be like if you leave the windshield open. The first time I rode, I experienced the thought of “maybe it’s not a good idea to go any faster than this”. Your cheeks will flap and your eyes will water but you’ll love every crazy second of the launch. And the rest of the course isn’t half bad either! Sure, some of the speed gets trimmed off but there’s still plenty of speed to make the banked turns exciting. The best advice I can give for this ride is to wait for the front row, no matter how much extra it takes, it’s really worth it.
Dark rides are interesting in that they spend so much money trying to convince riders that the animatronics and sets are real. Well what if a ride leaned into the fact that it isn’t real and instead crafted the narrative around that? Shrek does thi wonderfully, retelling the story from the first movie as a puppet show Shrek and Fiona are putting on to tell his kids how they met. The ride is filled with tons of animatronics, great sets and projection mapping tech. And since it seems like all dark rides in the UAE need to be trackless, this one is as well which lets you do cool things with the partner ride vehicle you’re dispatched with, like switching which car is in front and “walking down the aisle together” at the wedding scene. Overall this ride really surprised me and stands as one of the best dark rides in the country!
- Capitol Bullet Train
This was another one of those rides that I ended up liking a lot more after changing seats. The first time I rode I sat in the front row and thought the push pull push launch was a boring gimmick and the rest of the course was unexceptional. Well that got flipped on its head after I moved to the back row. All of a sudden, the launch, my least favorite part of the ride, became my favorite due to the amazing airtime you get on the backwards spike and the hangtime you get on the loop. In addition, the airtime hill on the course is the best airtime moment on the UAE providing some fabulous moments of ejector airtime. Add in some interesting queue theming and you have one of the best rides in the country!
I really struggled making this list and had to leave off some fantastic rides from even the Honorable Mentions list. That speaks to the quality of the ride collection that the UAE has assembled. If you have the ability to get out here, do yourself a favor and do it. The locals are extremely friendly to tourists and the country is very accessible to English speakers. So you have no excuses to not see these fantastic rides for yourself!