Monday, August 21, 2017
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Types of Theme Park Attractions

Simulator Rides, and Other Rides?

You know what roller coasters, carousels, and Ferris wheels are. But have you ever heard the term, “dark ride,” and wondered what it meant? How about “flat ride?” As with the folks who work in any field, those employed in the amusement industry, either designing attractions for theme parks and amusement parks or working at the parks themselves, have their own specialized lingo and jargon. Let’s explore some of the more common types of rides and break down the terms.

What Is a Dark Ride?

A dark ride is an industry term for any amusement park or theme park ride that uses vehicles to send passengers into an indoor environment and through a series of scenes or tableaus. Ride vehicles take many forms including cars on a track, trackless vehicles, and boats that float in a channel of water.

In the early days of amusement parks, classic dark rides such as Coney Island’s Spook-A-Rama were almost always designed to scare guests with stunts such as light-up skeletons.


What Is a Flat Ride?

A “flat ride” refers to attractions at amusement parks, carnivals, fairs, and theme parks that typically spin around. They usually include a circular platform and are located on the ground.

The term is used to generically refer to a broad variety of rides. Depending on their speed and other factors, they may or may not be considered thrill rides. Slow-moving, low-profile, and low-impact attractions are typically grouped into the sub-category, “kiddie rides,” and are intended for young riders.

What Is a 4D Ride?

A 4D (or 4-D) attraction incorporates 3D content (which require 3D glasses) along with other sensory enhancements such as theatrical fog, water misters, and seat pokers to more fully immerse guests in the experience. Sometimes, a 4D “ride” is really more a theater-based attraction such as Shrek 4-D at the Universal Studios parks. (Discover more about 4D movies.) Some theater-based attractions such as Shrek have seats that move slightly, so the distinction can get blurry.


What Is a Motion Simulator Ride?

A motion simulator ride uses seats that move in sync with point-of-view media projected onto a screen to provide viewers with the illusion that they are moving and physically participating in the action. Most motion simulator rides are presented in theaters of various sizes. Although viewers never move more than a few inches in any direction, they can feel as if they are accelerating wildly, speeding, free falling, and other sensations.

Other Types of Theme Park Rides

There are a number of other ride categories at theme parks and amusement parks. Among them are:

  • Drop tower rides, such as Disney’s The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Six Flags’ Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom, which either slowly send passengers high into the air and then have them freefall down, propel them from the ground at high speed up a tower and then have them freefall down, or some combination of the two.

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