Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Next In Line: Interactive Maps

How many times do you find yourself waiting in line for a ride thinking, what’s next? In this NewsPlusNotes feature, we will explore the latest trends, ideas, and technologies within the amusement park industry. The "Next In Line" feature will look inside, and occasionally outside, the amusement park industry to answer the question “what’s next?”

Before visiting an amusement park, one consults the website to learn more about its attractions and become familiar with the park layout. Let’s take a look at what parks currently offer guests in terms of interactive online maps.

Guests have a great opportunity to discover Busch Gardens and Sea World’s attractions through their interactive maps. After clicking on the desired attraction, a description and user-submitted photos appear in a caption.

Get up close and personal with Busch Garden Tampa's Montu.

Cedar Fair parks integrated their park maps with Google pushpins. After selecting the category (rides, food, games, etc.), the map populates with red pushpins and clicking a pushpin will identify the attraction in question.

Red pushpins denote Carowinds' rides.

Six Flags offers standard zoom in/zoom out functionality for their park maps but lacks the ability to click on specific attractions. Of course, there’s the standard downloadable PDF map which works just fine for Lake Compounce and Holiday World.

The online map’s functionality mirrors the complexity of the park’s website, arguably the most important media in the industry. As parks enhance their websites’ features, more unique ways of integrating park maps and content are developing.

Disney offers park-goers the ability to create custom maps based on the attractions that interest them. After adding your personal touches to the Disney park maps, you can print them out or order these “keepsake-quality” maps.

The yellow circles represent the attractions I highlighted on this map.

Albeit fan-made, this interactive map of Busch Gardens Williamsburg shows how engaging the combination of a park map and video content can be.

Tired of Aerial Antics? Of course you’re not! But why look at a park from the air when you can look at it from Street View? Legoland California, Sea World, Universal Studios, and a handful of others parks received the Google Street View treatment and now feature 360° views from the park midways. Why not combine Cedar Fair’s pushpin application with Street View, so as one clicks through the midways, attraction names and custom content appears?

Try it yourself! Use Google Maps to walk through some of your favorite parks.

Over the next few seasons, parks will continue to add interactive elements to online park maps, like more engaging content and customizable features. Ultimately, park-goers will have the ability to preview an entire park without having to take one step in it.