IAAPA Expo: An Extravaganza of Fun
Adventure Park Insider hit the show hall at the annual International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) Expo in Orlando, Fla., Nov. 13-17, 2022. After a pandemic-dampened 2021, the expo was almost back in full force with more than 36,000 registered attendees, including 25,561 qualified buyers representing 11,869 buying companies, and 1,077 exhibiting companies.
Among the exhibitors and buyers were several familiar faces. We heard from many that demand in the aerial adventure industry remains high. Indoor adventure parks, in particular, seem to be experiencing a growth spurt, and the international market for new builds and expansions remains hot.
While we heard mixed takes on the domestic market overall (some said things were booming; others are experiencing a slowdown), the demand for “high thrill, low skill,” broadly accessible activities continues to strengthen.
There were also several companies showcasing new builds with multiple offerings (think: high ropes, zip-line coasters, and mini golf all at one site, for example), with an eye toward keeping guests on site longer and dispersing crowds. Attractions and activities that offer shared experiences for guests of differing abilities and interests (think: a canopy walk that mirrors the path of a zip-line coaster) also continue to gain traction with buyers and builders.
While much of the technology and many of the activities on display at the expo were not strictly new, popular offerings like netted attractions, virtual reality experiences, and even mini golf continue to be updated and upgraded, and be offered in new combinations.
Here are some scenes from the show floor. Not pictured: Dippin’ Dots, which still seems to have a strangle hold on the IAAPA F&B scene.
Bold New Builds
From a Texas adventure park housed inside an air-supported dome membrane to a “pop up” zip line in Australia and installations planning to use shipping containers for their buildings, new parks continue to open around the globe with bold design elements and creative ancillary fun for the whole family. Here’s a look at few that have caught our eye.
Bolder Adventure Park, Texas
Bolder Adventure Park is a 66,000-square-foot entertainment and dining center with free-fall attractions, a 50-foot-tall “mountain” with via ferrata and rappelling experiences, a 75-foot zip line, and high ropes elements, among other offerings. It opened this October in Grand Prairie, Texas, and is housed inside an air-supported dome membrane, making it the first of its kind in the United States, according to owner Paul Fontanelli.
Go Ape, United Kingdom
Go Ape is bringing a new adventure park to Blackburn in the UK borough of Lancashire. The estimated $240,000 park will feature high ropes, zip lines, and suspension bridges, and part of the plan includes replacing an old bathroom facility with “a timber-clad shipping container” that will be used as the guest reception area, gear storage, and staff office, according to a BBC report. It is scheduled to open by Easter 2023.
HangDog Outdoor Adventure, Pennsylvania
Speaking of shipping containers, HangDog Outdoor Adventure is a new ropes course being built in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, and renderings of the property show its facilities—reception, gear-up and storage, food outlets, restrooms, even the archway over the entrance—are to be constructed entirely of shipping containers. In addition to the four-story ropes course, zip lines, giant swing, and free fall, plans also call for a beer garden, outdoor games, and a band shell for live music and entertainment. Kids will also get to meet its mascot, Dewey. HangDog opens in spring 2023.
Gripped London, United Kingdom
Gripped London opened this summer in Hounslow, West London, as part of a 126-acre “leisure development.” The new site features multiple activities for all ages with a variety of adventure options: two high-ropes courses with varying levels of difficulty; a netted adventure park for kids ages 4 and up; a pair of “speed slides,” each about 150 feet long and 60 feet high, one a straight drop and the other a spiral; zip lines; a Power Fan free fall nearly 80 feet high; and a bag jump with four platforms ranging in height from about 10-20 feet.
Firefly Pop-Up Zip Line, Australia
For the second year in a row, the Firefly Zipline will send riders over the Yarra River in the city of Melbourne—and it will only be up for six weeks. The 426-foot-long dual zip line experience—offered Dec. 16, 2022 to Jan. 28, 2023, during the height of summer in Australia—must have been a success the first time around to come back for another go. This time it has an additional pay-to-play activity: a 36-foot Quick Jump free fall. Adult tickets for the Firefly Zipline are A$59, or about $40 USD, while the Firefly Quick Jump costs A$25, or about $17 USD, for all ages. If popular, that’s not a bad month-and-a-half of business.