Issue 90 editorial by Judith Rubin
It is such a pleasure to be able to travel again and on a recent trip, I did some catch-up with Universal parks in Orlando and animal attractions in Tampa.
At Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, my priorities were The Bourne Stuntacular, Hogwarts Express and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley. All received Thea Awards within the past few years. These state-of-the-art adventures set a new standard for how to bring an IP to life using media, the built environment and live action — stoking high levels of throughput and per cap spending.
Of course, Stuntacular is a short show, while at Diagon Alley you could hang out all day long. It’s placemaking at its best — in this case, a Harry Potter-themed bubble, loaded with options for the here-and-now you invent.
Placemaking doesn’t have to involve a licensed IP. Zoo Tampa is simply a great day and clearly a local favorite. It has an inviting, richly landscaped strolling environment, plenty of F&B options, and a strong annual pass program. Habitats are thoughtfully designed for animal health, enrichment and the promotion of education, conservation and environmental awareness.
On Tampa Bay, Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) has opened its grand, new four-story facility. It launched mid-pandemic, so this extensive, beautifully executed upgrade has not received the degree of attention that should have been its due. The scale of its new habitats and viewing portals provide excellent facilities for the animals with stunning, monumental views for visitors while supporting the mission of education, conservation and rehabilitation. CMA has a hospitality partnership with a nearby beachfront hotel named for Winter, the rescue dolphin with a prosthetic tail who captured the hearts of the public. Winter recently passed away and a coming VR experience at CMA will allow guests to go on virtual swims with her.
I’m inspired by and proud of this outstanding work by our industry.