Truly one of the signs of the end of American Exceptionalism is the news from 2020 that there are now three Smurfs-themed parks located around the globe, but none of them are in the United States of America. Where are there Smurfs theme parks, then?
The three Smurfs theme parks are located in Moscow, Dubai, and Shanghai. The last one, dubbed “Dream City”, is the largest and most recent, having opened in May 2020, with room for further expansion. The parks feature photo opportunities with larger-than-life-sized Smurfs, rides, and activities.
From here in the United States, we can only look through the window at the birthday party we weren’t invited to. There are still no Smurfs theme parks planned in the States, and I’m not holding my breath.
Let’s be virtual tourists, instead, and take a look at the three parks in order of their openings. Also, let’s touch on the park that was announced, but never happened…
The Smurfs park in Dubai is part of a larger “Hollywood-inspired” theme park called Motiongate that opened in December 2016. Being indoors means it stays open 365 days a year.
It features areas themed on movies from Columbia, Dreamworks, and Lionsgate. Rides and experiences are based on such movies as Hotel Transylvania, Kung Fu Panda, Ghostbusters, and Zombieland.
They also have the Smurfs.
It’s a bit like the Middle Eastern version of Disney’s Hollywood Studios or Universal Studios.
From a Smurfs point of view, you can ride the Smurf Village Express roller coaster, enjoy the Smurfs Village Playhouse live stage show, or take in the Smurfs Studio Tour (a dark ride that includes AstroSmurf).
Currently, that Playhouse and The Smurfberry Factory, a kids play zone, is currently closed due to COVID. This is doubly a shame because the Playhouse is where the Papa Smurf Meet-and-Greet used to be. Hopefully, they found a safe way to continue meeting the characters.
The Smurf Express roller coaster (starting here in this family vacation video) looks to me like the same model they have at DisneyWorld themed as Goofy’s coaster, which is the same, if I remember correctly, as the Rescue Rangers ride at DisneyLand. In Dubai it just features more mushrooms.
You can get a good point of view video of the ride on YouTube, of course, though the rider in the video seems a bit too excited about this relatively mild coaster:
Similarly, you can see the entire Smurfs Studio Tour. If you’ve been on any Disney ride, you’ll get the idea of the ride, though this one is trackless. Epcot has one of those in the works now for Ratatouille in the France pavilion.
If you happen to be in the area, the annual pass to Motiongate is just a hair over $100 US dollars. For roughly $25 more, you can pair it with an annual pass to the local LegoLand, too. That’s quite a deal!
Moscow: Dream Island
The Smurfs park in Moscow is park of a larger facility called “Dream Island.” It’s the largest indoor theme park in all of Europe, and the first theme park in Russia. It opened in February 2020, just a couple months ahead of the park in Shanghai we’re going to talk about next.
It’s a large, totally indoor park that looks like a giant warehouse. It has sections dedicated to the Smurfs, Hello Kitty, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hotel Transylvania (again!), and some generic dinosaurs, amongst others.
The theme park part is gigantic, taking up 300,000 square meters. That’s only half of the land that the park occupies. In addition to the theme park, it also has cycle paths, a concert hall, a movie theater, and something Wikipedia refers to as a “children’s sailing school.”
It’s fronted by, of course, a shopping experience with areas that mimic the architecture of major cities. (That includes Gaudi’s Barcelona.)
The Smurfs section of the park is definitely aimed at the youngest visitors, but still has child-sized Smurfs statues that would be an Instagram favorite, full-size mushroom houses, and the cutest tiniest rides for your five year olds to jump on.
It features “Gargamel’s Tower,” a drop ride with interactive elements. Riders can wave their wands around to free Smurfs while the tower is in motion. Sounds like fun. And like Disney’s Toy Story Mania, you get a score at the end.
Check out this video for a fuller tour of the complete facility.
Screenshots in this section come from this video of the theme park area.
Shanghai: Dream City
In May 2020, the world had shut down due to COVID-19. In China, they opened a theme park.
It is designed by KCC Entertainment Design, who describe it thusly:
The fantasy forest (2.500sqm) contains several great attractions and is the gateway to two other zones: The wonderful Smurfs village (3.000sqm) where children can meet their favourite Smurfs, explore and play in the Smurfs houses and go on different rides experiencing how Smurfs live.
The other zone is Gargamel’s house (2.500sqm), the Smurfs archnemesis! Here the visitor awaits an exciting and thrilling time trying to rescue captured Smurfs and escape Gargamel’s house!”.
Be sure to click through on that link to see plenty of great pictures of the park.
The good news is that this park isn’t even complete yet. This is only the indoor portion. Another 10,000 square meters of outdoor park is being built for this year.
Here’s a six minute video of two girls visiting the park. They have roughly 30x the number of subscribers to their YouTube channel as I do. I’m not jealous. Nope, no sir-ee…
I’ve taken a couple screenshots from that video to illustrate a few points below.
Here’s a restaurant at the park:
Maybe this is a feature for all theme park restaurants now, but it reminds me a bit of the layout at DisneyWorld for the “Be Our Guest” restaurant, which has that prominent statue on display in the middle of the room. You also have Lady and the Tramp on a statue front and center in Tony’s Town Tavern.
You can, of course, get a blue drink there.
They also have the Toy Story shoot ’em up game with a Smurfs skin on it. This is not to be confused with the Gargamel Tower in Dubai. This is more a traditional “sit in the chair and fire away at the walls as you pass by” ride.
Yes, I know that theme park rides and attractions are built, by and large, by small handful of companies, who make their money by theming the same ride wildly different at different parks. The roller coaster fans on the internet keep very close track of that kind of stuff, in particular.
The Smurfs character costumes are less than thrilling, though. Here’s a shot from the parade:
The Smurfs Gift Shop could drive me into bankruptcy. I was happy to see that they proudly set aside a corner of the story for the actual comics:
Or, at least, the signage is there. Those don’t look like comics against the wall under that mushroom….
For further reading:
The Missing Spanish Theme Park
In December of 2014, word broke out that the town of Lleida, Spain was to get the world’s only Smurfs theme park.
There’s lots of coverage of that announcement, but never any follow-up.
According to all the media coverage at the time, it would cost a mere $58 million to set up, employee 200 people, and bring in about $17 million.
This park would have pre-dated all of the other parks I talked about above, though not by much.
Here’s where things get confusing: Construction on Motiongate in Dubai began in December 2013, a year prior to this Spanish park’s announcement. Not only was the Spanish park never going to be the only Smurfs theme park but, in fact, someone else had already started construction on the project that would beat it to the punch!
Maybe they meant the only one in Europe? Maybe they meant the only theme park exclusively dedicated to the Smurfs?
I’m not sure, but it doesn’t seem to matter as the project never happened. I can’t find any news anywhere about its cancellation. If anyone has a link, please put it in the comments below. I’d appreciate it.
One thing’s for certain: the division of The House of Smurfs responsible for theme parks (IMPS — International Merchandising, Promotion & Services — led by Peyo’s daughter) sure kept themselves busy in the twenty-teens setting up parks elsewhere in the world!
Where Would I Go?
Each has its own advantages, but I think I’d choose Shanghai’s “Dream City.” I’d want to stay in the nearby hotel, though, that’s built on the edge of a quarry and sounds pretty spectacular. Plus, they have a shuttle that runs to the park.
While the Meet and Greet characters look the least impressive, I just like how this is the only park that is totally focused on the Smurfs. It’s not just a corner of a larger thing along with Hotel Translylvania.
I’m not even going to DisneyWorld these days, though, so I probably shouldn’t even bother dreaming about this.
In any case, I’d rather visit Belgium first…