Legoland and Motiongate
Let’s start this trip report the night before I went to the parks when I arrived at the Lapita Hotel on resort. Like IMG this resort is also a good bit away from downtown Dubai, although this time it’s right along the E11 highway, which is the best way to get in between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. When I arrived, I didn’t realize that the hotel was actually themed to a tropical resort. The theme was really well done without being too heavy.
After a quick check in I was off to dinner at the hotel’s Asian restaurant, where I had a fantastic kung pao chicken. After that I headed to my hotel room and went to sleep.
Before we get to the first park of the resort, I should discuss the resort a little more. It’s currently comprised of three theme parks, Motiongate, Legoland and Bollywood, one hotel, Lapita and a shopping/restaurant district like Citywalk. To get from Lapita to the parks, you’ll need to walk through the shopping district, Riverland.
My first impression as I walked through was of emptiness: the Riverland area just feels so empty. About half to 70% of the storefronts are filled which is less than ideal and when I walked through at 10am none of the stores were open. It might be a little early for dinner focused restaurants but at Citywalk it always feels like at least a few stores and restaurants are open to serve breakfast or cater to the tourists coming through. It also didn’t help that there were only a couple of people besides me at the gates of Legoland at rope drop. But that seems to be the name of the game in Dubai and again, it’s a huge shame since these are two world class parks.
Like I mentioned I arrived a few minutes before opening. That gave me time to buy my tickets and wander over to see if I could see into the waterpark that’s closed for refurbishment (I couldn’t).
These parks openings were staggered with Legoland opening an hour before Motiongate opened. This ended up being extremely nice since I could spend an hour at Legoland without feeling distracted by heading over to Motiongate. At rope drop I immediately headed to the medieval section of the park which was home to the park’s two coasters.
First on that list of coasters was Dragon, a Zierer Force Five coaster. This ride surprised me. I went in expecting a mild junior coaster but instead I was treated to fun coaster with a legitimate drop and elements. Don’t get me wrong, this coaster will never get mistaken for Formula Rossa but I still greatly enjoyed it. Add to the fact that it features several dark ride scenes featuring tons of impressive Lego figures and that’s the recipe for a solid coaster!
After riding Dragon I was off to get the other coaster in the park: Dragon’s Apprentice. This coaster was more of what I was expecting: a junior coaster. Great for kids but less impressive to me.
After finishing up all of the credits I had some time to check out the rest of what Legoland had to offer. I started by getting the Apple Fries that I’d heard so much about. And yummm, they were amazing. Covered in cinnamon sugar and served with frosting, they are definitely a must get when you head to a Legoland!
On the way back to the front of the park, I took the time to explore Miniland. And this one was very impressive, taking after the city of Dubai, it’s subject. The focal point of the land was naturally the Burj Khalifa and the Lego model was so tall I had a tough time getting it in the frame of my camera.
But the rest of the models were awesome as well and I really liked the pyramids as well as the models of the mosques that populate the UAE.
After spending some time in Miniland, I made my way back to the front of the park for the first scheduled Lego factory tour of the day. Unfortunately the Lego making machines weren’t on until later in the afternoon but we still had a wonderful tour with our guide who showed us the process by which Legos get made.
It’s always stunning to me seeing inside the production of things, especially when those things are famous in part for their precision and manufacturing excellence (when was the last time you had a Lego that didn’t fit perfectly with the other pieces it was supposed to? Probably never). And we finished up the tour with a few bricks that were made at the factory which was an awesome way to end my day at Legoland!
And now it was time to head to Motiongate so I made the short walk across to Riverland to Motiongate’s impressive front gates.
I’d seen some vlogs and videos from this park and it certainly looked like USF to WB World’s IOA as more of a studio park instead of an immersive one. After heading through the gates I was told that most of the rides wouldn’t be open until noon. This was fine with me and I headed off to the Smurfs area first hoping to knock out the kid’s coaster before the rest of the guests came to the park. But this wasn’t going to open until 11am so I headed to the one ride I had seen running, Green Hornet.
Yes, this ride is based on the super forgettable Seth Rogen movie from 10 years ago. I will say it was kind of funny seeing his face pop up throughout the queue. But after walking through a queue full of movie props and the car from the movie I was ready to ride! The ride turned out to be aggressively okay.
There were some fun moments but nothing really stands out in my memory even a couple of days later. The best part of the ride might be the massive neon sign at the top of the building which gave me some great shots later in the evening!
At this point it was around 11:30am and I hadn’t eaten any breakfast so I headed over to the cafe in the Smurfs area to get a stuffed burger that looked delicious.
And it absolutely was! It was messy but very juicy and tasty! After I finished eating it was about noon which meant that the rest of the rides were open! So I immediately headed to the ride that I was most excited to ride: Capitol Bullet Train.
Capitol Bullet Train
So I haven’t ridden Copperhead Strike (although I anticipate getting there this year) so I’ve had to listen to nonstop claims of an awful launch without knowing whether the claim is true. Well I finally got a chance to experience one of the Mack gradual launches, a forward, back and forward launch in this case. And I can confirm the claims are true (just wait for my later rides on this coaster).
I sat in the very front and thought that the launch was fairly boring with no real forces to speak of and no airtime on the back spike. There was a little bit of hangtime on the loop but not enough to make it stand out. And then the rest of the course felt similarly forceless. After one ride I had had enough for a little while. But like I teased, my opinion will take a 180 later in the night!
Panem Aerial Tours
I think this ride is going to suffer because of when I rode it, namely after the fantastic flying theater Green Lantern at WB World. I recognize that they use very different ride systems but for whatever reason I compare them to each other! After waiting at the entrance of the ride for a while before the attendants let me in (although I didn’t mind it - the queue is really cool) we were led into 48 person or so cars and moved into a 180* screen room that simulated a flight over Panem before we inevitably get drawn into a Capitol trap and saved by District 13. The motion was fine but I thought that it really lacked a few extra effects. There were some wind effects but it really could’ve used some more to better impart the feeling of movement as well as some water effects while we were flying near water falls.
Smurf Village Express
Not a ton to say about this coaster, it was a cute little family ride that’s great for kids!
At this point it was time to head to Dreamworks! One of the interesting and cool section of the park is the Dreamworks indoor section.
There’s a huge blue building at the back of the park containing beautiful atmospheric areas for the biggest Dreamworks movies: Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar.
And it features what has to be one of the most incredible fountains at a theme park!
First up was the Shrek area.
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 this 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!
And the queue is great too!
This was another ride I was excited for since the ride system is talked up a lot and is constantly rumored for the new park at Universal Orlando. So even though I’ve never seen HHTTYD I was excited to get a chance to ride! After a minor snafu with the worker in front of the ride not letting me through with my backpack - umm no I’m not going to leave my backpack with $6000+ worth of camera gear sitting on teh ground outside of the ride entrance - I got onto the ride. The first section of the ride was a very cool dark ride section that made good use of the swiveling seats of the ride vehicle to orient our cars to where the action was happening. The story was lost on me but it was a good mix of screens and practical effects. But I thought that the second half of the ride was where the ride system shined. After we get off the bad dragon island we speed back to the safe island and once we make it our train accelerates and we take a lap above the whole indoor HTTYD section of the park.
The launch/powered section felt much faster than it was and it was a great mix of thrills and dark ride while still being family friendly. I’m hoping even more now that this ride system comes to the states!
Madagascar: Mad Pursuit
This ride is an interesting one. So I’m a huge fan of the Gerstlauer Infinity coasters and they all seem to be similar types of rides: fairly intense rides that focus on steep drops and/or inversions. Every other Infinity coaster features inversions but not this one. Mad Pursuit is more of a concept of “what if Gerstlauer made an Infinity coaster but it was an intermediate intensity ride”.
Don’t get me wrong, Mad Pursuit is not a kid’s coaster or even a family one but it also isn’t going to have anyone thinking that it’s the Smiler. The ride starts off with a small show scene featuring several animatronic animals and a fairly punchy launch into a twisted course indoors with a few props along the way. The ride mostly features tight turns and helices but my favorite parts of the ride come on the pair of great airtime hills. Unfortunately, unlike Dragon Gliders, Mad Pursuit only interacts with the surrounding area once when it bursts out from its show building back onto the midway.
Besides that one complaint, this is an extremely fun ride and a very unique one I’m glad I got to ride!
Kung Fu Panda: Unstoppable Awesomeness
I was less than excited for this ride since I’d heard that it was a near clone of Dreamworks Theater at Universal Studios Hollywood that I had just ridden a couple of days prior. Well I was right and I was wrong. First, the plot was more or less the same with our ride vehicle being chosen to follow Po to deliver a McGuffin to the Emperor. We get ambushed by pirates, lose the McGuffin only to realize that Po was what the Emperor wanted the entire time. But it was also different enough since Dreamworks Theater has a preshow featuring a special hammer that the villain steals and uses throughout the ride whereas KFP: UA does not. In addition, the ride vehicles are very different here. Here they’re boats that probably seat 20-30 people at a time whereas in Hollywood they’re an entire theater with motion seats. Because of these differences, I’m very glad I got a chance to ride it and finish out my collection of KFP related rides (until Universal Beijing opens).
I liked this other ride in the area: interesting concept!
Ghostbusters: Battle for New York
I think it’s also a rule in Dubai that every park has to have a shooting dark ride. Seriously, every major theme park I visited (Ferrari - Benno’s Great Race, WB World . Ani-mayhem and IMG - Gumball) all had shooting dark rides and Motiongate is no different. Unfortunately I put this one at the bottom of the list for one reason: it’s all screens. Whereas every other ride on the list featured physical animatronics or targets, Ghostbusters is exclusively screens that you shoot at. That’s not to say that the rest of the theming in the ride is bad, it’s not and there were some excellent sets (I actually liked the Zuul gate the best I think) but there needed to be a couple of physical ghosts to shoot.
The mechanics were good though and all of the guns I used worked which is more than a lot of shooting dark rides can say but with such an awesome IP I was hoping for more. The one thing I did really like about this ride that I don’t think I’ve seen in other shooting dark rides is the idea that the whole thing is an exhibit in the Ghostbusters museum and we’re just simulating the events from the movie instead of living it ourself.
It kinda makes a lot more sense and makes the ride thematically consistent from ride to ride. Pretty nerdy to even notice that but hey, I appreciate it!
I’ve mentioned many times that Dubai loves its trackless dark rides and that many times they don’t take advantage of the capabilities that being trackless provides. Well this isn’t that type of ride: actually this ride takes better advantage of being trackless than any ride I’ve ever seen. So imagine this: a huge fairly wide hallway featuring a number of open doors and corridors along the side. The ride vehicles leave the station and enter this huge hallway where there are many other ride vehicles. Our ride vehicles weave in and out of other ride vehicles as we explore the animatronics and show scenes that appear throughout the hall and more commonly in the doors and corridors. There were so many times that you get within a couple of feet of the other vehicles which is awesome. The show scenes didn’t make a ton of sense to me since I haven’t seen the movie but I still enjoyed the ride immensely and I wish the rest of the rides in Dubai took such good advantage of the tech that’s used!
So I just watched this movie fairly recently for the Universal Orlando HHN scare zone but knowing this movie enhanced this ride a good bit. The queue is about what you’d expect from a zombie ride (run down) aand the ride itself is exactly what you’ expect from this movie (an S&S combo drop tower) but the fact that it’s the same type of ride featured in the movie was very cool! Also cool was the view from the top of the tower.
Actually a quick aside about that. From the top of the tower you can pretty clearly see the location for the now cancelled Six Flags park. In addition, there actually still is a bunch of pieces of coaster track sitting on the pavement. I could fairly easily make out some S&S free spin track which makes sense given that it was going to be a “best of” Six Flags park. It’s such a shame that it didn’t work out since I think a proper thrill park would round out this resort and make it one of the best in the world. Motiongate has some great coasters, don’t get me wrong but the dark rides here are the interesting ones and a Six Flags park would give the resort (and country) the no holds barred coasters I think that it could use.
This was such a weird ride. The rest of the rides in the park seem extremely modern and cutting edge with modern coaster models, new dark rides and lots of detail. But Underworld is not that. It’s a ride that seems more at place at a regional park, specifically the Paramount parks from yesteryear. It was just a theater with motion seats and some 4D effects that played an Underworld ride film. The film was interesting, the seats were fairly aggressive and there was one water effect that scared me and made the rest of the audience jump so it had that going for it at least but it still was an exceptionally strange ride.
Smurfs Studio Tour
I skipped this ride my first time around but I figured I’d do it my second pass through the park and I’m very glad I did. This was a cute little dark ride that features the different smurfs trying to make a movie while Gargamel tries to interfere like usual (I’m just saying that since I have zero clue about any of the Smurf lore). I liked the fact that it took you into many different settings from adventure movie jungle to outer space and also featured plenty of parodying of movies with the best being the Indiana Jones boulder scene. Overall, this ride was a solid kid’s dark ride!
After riding Hotel Transylvania again, it was time to grab something to eat. After eating a Slimer Dog at HHN in Hollywood, I couldn’t resist stopping into Slimer Cafe at Motiongate and getting a Slimer dog here too!
After taking a second lap around the Columbia Pictures, I walked by the front entrance when I realized that the park’s celebration of Chinese New Year was starting and I couldn’t resist stopping by, watching it and getting some pictures!
Panem Aerial Tours
Both Panem Aerial Tours and Capitol Bullet Train both had Kuka arms in their queues. I wonder if the park had plans to make a Kuka ride but stopped in the middle of development and decided to use the arms as theming!
Capital Bullet Train x5
Okay, let’s talk a little bit more about Capitol Bullet Train. Like I mentioned early I was fairly unimpressed with this ride my first time riding it. Well I decided to give it another shot, this time sitting in the back and wowwww, does it make a world of difference.
Whereas I thought the launch was lame the first time, I thought the launch was the best part, specifically the crazy amount of hangtime you get on the back spike. It’s such an incredible feeling that feels so much more intense than any similar coasters I’ve ridden (mostly the impulse coasters that also have the hangtime on the back spike). The hangtime on the loop is just about the same but the rest of the course feels so much faster and there’s one airtime moment that in the back becomes one of my favorite airtime moments on any coaster!!
So yeah, I was totally hooked after riding it in the back and I continued to marathon it in the back 4 more times that night. It was a great way to finish my night at Motiongate!
I ended up leaving about an hour before the park officially closed, missing the Chinese New Year parade that the park was putting on.
But I was tired and had my eyes set on some barbecue I saw in Riverland before I had an early night back at the hotel. The barbecue was at Famous Daves and the brisket I had (I normally get pulled pork but I forgot that the UAE is a Muslim country…) was maybe the best brisket I’ve ever had anywhere! It was so juicy and would just fall apart when I tried to eat it, yum!!
All in all, Motiongate was my second favorite park on the trip. It had a perfect mix of dark rides and coasters and the Dreamworks area was one of the best themed areas I’ve ever experienced, likely due to the immersion that being indoors can give you. I’d like to see the park maybe get one large scale coaster but besides that I think the park is perfect!