Dubai, United Arab Emirates
“Disney-level theme park in the Arabian desert”
Motiongate is a major movie-themed amusement park that features many well-known film franchises. Unlike the big theme parks in Abu Dhabi, a large part of Motiongate is located outdoors. This makes Motiongate a perfect park for the cooler autumn and winter months, but it’s far from ideal if you’re visiting during hotter times. The desert heat is almost unbearable during a large part of summer, so be sure to consider this while planning a trip to the United Arab Emirates. November until April seems to be an ideal period.
DUBAI PARKS & RESORTS
Welcome to Dubai Parks & Resorts, an enormous entertainment destination in the United Arab Emirates. The resort looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s home to 3 theme parks, a water park, several hotels and a large shopping district. Therefore, it feels as if Dubai Parks & Resorts was meant to be a local version of Disney World or Universal. Unfortunately, it fails to attract similar crowds and most parts of the resort feel rather abandoned. Especially during these pandemic times, most doors at Dubai Parks & Resorts remain closed. Legoland Dubai, Legoland Water Park and Bollywood Parks didn’t operate for most of 2020 and Riverland (a retail and dining area) literally felt like a ghost town. An aesthetically pleasing ghost town, though. During our most recent visit in November 2020, Motiongate was the only operational theme park at Dubai Parks & Resorts.
Motiongate is currently constructing two new coasters, themed to Now You See Me and John Wick. Both rides are scheduled to open in 2021, but the park’s current lineup is already quite impressive. The park offers roller coasters for every age group. There’s a Smurfs-themed junior coaster and a smooth, yet poorly themed family coaster called The Green Hornet. The most interesting coaster in the outdoor area, however, is Capitol Bullet Train. It simulates a high-speed train ride between District 12 and the Capitol (fans of The Hunger Games probably know what I’m talking about) and launched roller coasters are obviously ideal rides to tell that story. However, it’s a shame that the actual acceleration is extremely boring. Mack has never produced the most intense launches, but this triple launch is just ridiculously powerless. Luckily, the rest of the layout creates some surprising g-forces.
The most impressive part of Motiongate is, without any doubt, the DreamWorks section. This indoor area features attractions and characters from Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar, How To Train Your Dragon and Shrek. The most thrilling rides in this area are Madagascar Mad Pursuit and Dragon Gliders. Dragon Gliders is Motiongate’s answer to Arthur at Europa-Park, since it uses the same ride system. I’ve always admired Arthur for its very smooth movements and variable speeds. Since its opening, it was obvious that other parks were going to discover this awesome attraction type. And indeed: Dragon Gliders opened about 3 years after the original in Germany. I sincerely apologize to Europa-Park, but Motiongate has surpassed Arthur’s decoration level. The dragon theme is a perfect fit for this coaster type and it all looks very realistic. Besides, Dragon Gliders makes ingenious use of the varying speeds and the story line is told in a great way.
Madagascar Mad Pursuit is the main reason to visit the Madagascar section. First of all, the queue is stunning: the circus-like setting looks nothing less than brilliant. It’s also totally empty, so we’re immediately seated in one of the comfortable vehicles. The actual roller coaster ride is a huge surprise to me. Mad Pursuit contains a short dark ride section, a powerful launch and some very intense curves. I expected a rather tame family attraction, but it actually turns out to be a sensational thrill ride. The smooth course, the relatively long layout and the hilarious theming elements provide bonus points. This is one of the world’s best Gerstlauer creations.
The roller coasters at Motiongate are superb, but there’s more. Of course, the park has the ‘mandatory’ carousels and kiddie rides. Besides, Motiongate offers a surprising amount of dark rides. One of the hidden gems in this segment is Shrek’s Merry Fairy Tale Journey, a trackless dark ride. Anyone who has seen the Shrek films, probably knows what to expect: a fairy-tale world with some hints of sarcasm. Shrek is hilarious thanks to these subtle details and that’s not any different in this attraction. Yet, Shrek’s Merry Fairy Tale Journey’s most unique aspect is its unusual way of telling a story. In this dark ride, Shrek, Fiona and Donkey tell their story through a puppet show and the result is very amusing. The ride is also surprisingly long and the trackless system is cleverly used in some scenes. Other dark rides are themed to Hotel Transylvania, The Smurfs and Ghostbusters. The quality of these rides is very impressive, so dark ride lovers should definitely put Motiongate on their must do lists.
Motiongate is also a perfect park if you’re into 3D attractions. The most spectacular one is Unstoppable Awesomeness in the Kung Fu Panda section. The entrance to this attraction is beautiful and the queue, which winds through a Chinese garden, is even more stunning. This creates some high expectations and the ride doesn’t disappoint. I don’t like 3D experiences that much, but Unstoppable Awesomeness has such a refreshing story line that it puts a giant smile on my face. The same can’t be said about Panem Aerial Tour, a rather dumb immersive tunnel. We get to spend an extra 20 minutes inside the ride, ‘thanks to’ technical difficulties. These 20 minutes made me realise that Panem Aerial Tour is one of the weakest attractions at Motiongate, so please skip it if there’s a queue.
Dubai’s is one of the hottest holiday destinations on Earth. Therefore, water rides are greatly appreciated at the local theme parks. Motiongate offers one water attraction and it’s got quite a lengthy name: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – River Expedition. The animation film of the same name is about an experiment which causes food raining down from the sky. The theming of this rapid river therefore consists of huge hamburgers, pancakes and fries. That’s an original idea, but those decorative elements clearly suffer from Dubai’s burning sun. The colours are faded and it looks as if some water effects don’t function properly. That’s a shame, especially because this ride could use some extra excitement. It’s not wetter than the average European rapid river and I was actually hoping for a soaking experience. Missed opportunity.
WORTH A VISIT?
Yes, Motiongate is absolutely worth a visit. This park actually feels like it’s been designed by Universal or Disney creatives. The park is stunning, there’s a great ride selection and staff members are so incredibly sweet. The best attractions can be found inside the DreamWorks section, which easily surpasses the theming level of most European theme parks. So please… don’t miss Motiongate if you’re travelling to the United Arab Emirates.
Photo Gallery 2019 & 2020
Have you been able to visit this stunning theme park yet? Did you encounter crowds or was the park virtually empty? And did you enjoy the DreamWorks area just as much as I did? Share your thought in the comments section at the bottom of this page.