The nonprofit Themed Entertainment Association honors “outstanding achievements in the creation of compelling experiences” for theme parks, museums, casinos, restaurants, zoos, and the like. In other words, if you give visitors the chills and make them believe they have truly entered their own imagination, you might soon be up for a THEA nod.
2011 marks the 17th year that THEA awards have been presented. Nominations are accepted beginning in late November and ending in early July. Recipients are honored the following year at the Annual THEA Awards Gala in March.
This year saw a variety of recipients: the THEA Classic Award went to the Exploratorium, an unmissable science museum in San Francisco. THEA Awards for Outstanding Achievement went to the “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” exhibit at the China Pavilion in Shanghai; the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia; the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco; the “Science Storms” exhibit in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago; the “Beyond All Boundaries” attraction at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans; the Glasnevin Museum in Dublin; the “World of Color” Nighttime Spectacular in Anaheim’s Disney California Adventure; the ICT Mobile Device expo in Shanghai; and the “Flynn Lives” event at Comic-Con in San Diego.
Orlando saw its new pride and joy receive a THEA Award for Outstanding Achievement. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which opened June 2010, also received THEA Awards for Feature Attraction, Technical Achievement, and Thematic Integration of Retail, Food & Beverage (an imperative consideration, if you think back to your last visit to a theme park).
Anyone with a creative side knows the pleasure that can be derived from good storytelling. Whether it’s fantasy, fiction, science, or magic, theme parks – especially those in Orlando, such as Universal Studios and Walt Disney World – can help even the most washed-out workaholic remember the thrill of discovery.