There are few places in the world where you can see Bollywood dancers performing on top of a train, meet a Kung Fu Panda and see the world’s tallest building – well, a scale model at least – all in the space of a day. But I manage it at Dubai Parks and Resorts, a new attraction in the emirate that boasts three separate theme parks in one.
Kung Fu Panda happens to be a favourite film of mine, so when I spot Po posing for pictures, I have to refrain from breaking into a sprint to grab a photo. Of course, my main question is “aren’t you hot in that costume”, but Po shakes his head as he calmly stands around meeting other photo-seekers in the 26C heat of Dubai.
And if you have clients who think they might not be able to keep their cool as well as Po does, they needn’t worry. There are plenty of trees, water features and shaded areas, and it’s never far to walk between rides. The park is even home to the world’s first indoor Miniland, with all its little brick buildings housed beneath a giant air-conditioned dome in Legoland Dubai.
Families will spend hours in Legoland Dubai, where rides and attractions are designed for 2 to 12-year-olds. There are adorable rainbow-coloured brick creatures and characters throughout the fully shaded park – 15,000 model structures to be precise, made from 60 million Lego bricks.
Between its six zones – Factory, Lego City, Imagination, Kingdoms, Adventure and Miniland – there are more than 40 rides, shows and attractions, from little ones for toddlers up to the most hair-raising rollercoaster, The Dragon. I look at Kid Power Towers, where children are hoisting their parents up in the air, and see kids driving around in Lego City – a fun and educational hang-out – where kids can even get their first driving licence if they complete Driving School.
In Miniland, I spot models of Jordan’s Petra, the Taj Mahal and Burj Khalifa, which towers and glistens just as it does in real life; built to scale, it is of course the tallest Lego structure in the world.
The second of the three parks is Hollywood-inspired Motiongate, which brings three film studios together for the first time – DreamWorks Animation, Columbia Pictures and Lionsgate.
Motiongate is approached by a broad open area, where jolly Hollywood music from the Golden Era blasts out as I walk into the park, home to 27 rides and attractions inspired by 13 Hollywood films.
Under the DreamWorks umbrella, these include a dance performance show inspired by Step Up, including daring trampoline stunts, in a 1920s-style, 1,000-seat theatre. Then there’s the adorable Smurfs Village. These small blue creatures originated in Belgium but their popularity has endured globally for almost 60 years. Here, their cute houses are turned into playgrounds, cafes and fun little rides. A new animated film, Smurfs: The Lost Village comes out in April, providing an opportunity to promote a visit to the park.
Columbia Pictures’ back catalogue is intense, covering almost a century, so The Green Hornet may seem like something of an obscure choice, but the rollercoaster based on the movie is thrilling. It also fits in well with the fantasy and science fiction realm of this park, with rides themed on Ghostbusters, Hotel Transylvania and Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.
As the most adrenalin-fuelled and extreme ride in the park to date, the wait time for Zombieland Blast-Off is naturally quite long (it says 120 minutes as I approach), but with line-jumping Q Fast, that’s cut to 40 minutes for me. I’m strapped into the freefall 58-metre drop tower and I’m sitting next to a complete stranger. I apologise in advance for my screaming and don’t stop yelling as we are hoisted up and then unceremoniously dropped at great speed. It may be themed on zombies – the undead roaming the earth – but I’ve never felt so alive as I stagger off grinning.
No, it’s not just for the Indian market, and no, you don’t have to know much about the Bollywood phenomenon to enjoy it. Those are two questions you’re likely to get from clients and can answer easily straight off.
I loved this zone, with its huge signs from Bollywood movies; the vintage, retro styling of the rides and colourful pastel buildings; the food carts with vendors calling out for you to buy chai or snacks; and the bright sequined clothes on sale.
And who knows when a troupe of Bollywood dancers might pop up on one of seven stages to perform, whether on a street corner, on the top of a train carriage (a fun dining concept), or even on the steps of the Rajmahal. Yes it’s a thing – a glistening domed building that is the focus of the park. Inside, it holds an 856-seat theatre, which will show the Jaan-e-Jigar stage spectacular every evening. Bear in mind that tickets to the show are extra, about £20pp.
In Bollywood Film Studios featuring Hall of Heroes, I discover the smouldering blue-eyed virtual baddie from RA.One and the black-masked star of superhero science fiction film Krrish. Each has their own themed rides in the studios.
Before I entered Bollywood Parks Dubai, I had no idea who any of these people were, but after the 4D flight simulation ride with masked hero Krrish, I’m a Bollywood convert. The ride had us heading off into the dusk chanting “Krrish, Krrish, Krrish” as we left the park. Spider-who? I have a new hero now.
Book it: Travel 2 offers seven nights’ B&B at the nearby JA Jebel Ali Beach Hotel, including British Airways flights and three-day park passes, from £769pp for travel between May 27 and June 23, 2017. For Lapita Hotel only, prices per room (accommodating up to four people) start from £267pn.
Sue Cobley, owner-manager of Sketty Travel, highlights the opportunities Dubai Parks and Resorts offers agents
“You’re sitting at your desk, when a couple with two kids aged 8 and 14 walk in looking for a family winter sun getaway.
‘Where can you recommend,’ they ask? As a seasoned professional, you can reel off a shortlist but is the “what would the kids do” question stopping you in your tracks?
Well now the tracks are there to ride on at Dubai Parks and Resorts. The emirate already offers attractions but this theme park is the headline act with rides and sights for all. Legoland without the rain, Bollywood song and dance routines and a cruise in the Riverland area as the sun sets over the desert.
An on-site hotel means that clients can be first off the grid in the morning.
Plus the resort is on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border so convenient for both, and car hire tends to be very reasonable.
What an opportunity for us and our customers. With competing airlines offering seats at almost budget airline prices, and so many hotel beds to fill, we have a great product to offer. When were we last presented with a truly new resort to offer the public?”