Karen: Yesterday my husband Tom and I went to the Marvel Experience here in Phoenix. If you've not heard about this show, you can check out their website here. I honestly didn't know what exactly to expect when we got tickets for it, although I did know that it would include some sort of projections and interactive experiences. The husband and I figured, "Hey, it's Marvel, and it's right when we'll be taking a break at Christmas, so let's check it out!"
Karen: For nearly a month I watched as I drove past on the freeway in the morning as the domes went up near the baseball diamonds out at Salt River Fields. What could be inside? Would it really be worth going to? More importantly, would it be worth the money we forked over for the VIP tickets?
Karen: Overall, I am going to say that the Marvel Experience is something any Marvel fan will really enjoy. They've succeeded in making the customer feel like they are in the Marvel Universe -whether you are a fan from the movies, animated shows, or even the comics. A selection of thirteen main heroes drive the story (yes, there is a story) and attractions are built around them. I don't want to give too much away -it is more fun when you are surprised and can experience these things fresh. But I will give my top three reasons you should go see the Marvel Experience, and my take on three areas for improvement.
Top Three Reasons to See the Marvel Experience
Reason Number One: Total Marvel Immersion
Wherever you turn, you are surrounded by some piece of Marvel coolness. There are prop recreations of hero and villain weapons and gear, along with history of said gear. Projected on the domes are different characters, busy doing stuff. You may hear the loud speakers calling out for 'General Thaddeus Ross' or notice a familiar newspaper publisher on a screen, debating what's going on in the domes. When people stepped into the first dome and saw everything, it was all smiles.
Reason Number Two: Interactive Games and the Simulator Ride
There are a number of interactive opportunities at the Experience. We just scratched the surface with our visit today. Unfortunately we went on a Saturday and it was very crowded, with long lines for almost everything (take note if you are planning to go -try a week day). However, I got to be the Hulk and destroy robot drones in a Wii-like simulator and it was a blast. There's a similar game for Iron Man, a wall-crawling area, a shooting gallery (we did this as well), and a bunch of other activities. At the very end of the Experience is a large motion ride where you team up with all the heroes to take on the bad guys, and it was a lot of fun! So if you enjoy this kind of stuff, this will be right up your alley.
Reason Number Three: The VIP package
If it is reasonable to you, you may want to get the VIP package, because you get some nice perks. For one thing, you get a return ticket, so it's essentially two admissions. VIP parking gets you a spot up near the entrance, so you don't have to walk far. You get access to the VIP lounge, which is OK, but nothing to get excited about. They have some free food, chips, fruit, popcorn -nice but nothing to write home about. There are also phone chargers in case your battery runs low, and places to sit and watch Marvel movies, but it's a pretty small place. But you get some nice swag for the price: a very nice SHIELD badge and wallet -this thing is metal and heavy! A t-shirt that we were told is not being sold anywhere, is only available to VIPs, and it has the city name on the back; the ability to have a 3D figure of yourself and a hero carved out in the gift store (we skipped this -we'll go back and do it -we saw finished ones and they looked very neat); a souvenir drawstring bag; and a kind of generic-y looking poster -not my kind of artwork but some people dig it. Another thing about VIP, it does get you to the head of some lines, so it may help reduce waiting (more about this in the next section).
So VIP when you add it up might be worth it -I believe it was $179 each for ours -I know, it's a lot but standard tickets are $35, so two admissions are $70 right there. It really depends on whether you want the stuff.
Three Areas for Improvement at the Marvel Experience
Area Number One: Information Please!
I know this is the first city on the tour, and to be honest, it shows. This was the second day of the event, and it was still rough at times. We got there around 12 noon, and when we drove up, a sign read "Event Parking" and pointed us down a road, but we soon discovered it pointed us the wrong way. We had to drive all the way back and we finally found the lot. There was no clearly marked signs for anything in the lot. The VIP parking was up front but we had no way of seeing where, and there were no signs directing us there. We had to ask event staff, who did manage to tell us where to go. Getting our tickets and VIP stuff went well, but once we walked in there was some confusion about whether we could go to the front of every line with our VIP badges or just some lines. The staff never seemed to have the same answer. Although everyone was helpful, they didn't appear to have their act completely together.
Area Number Two: Keep it moving!
The first part of the Experience is the interactive area, which guests can peruse at their leisure. The second and third parts however, are timed to come one right after the other. Unfortunately, the staff doesn't seem very adept yet at getting folks from one part to the next very quickly. One part concludes and then you are left standing around for several minutes waiting to do the next part. You are ushered into another area, see a short film, then again, waiting for several minutes to get on to the next part of the adventure. Now sometimes I believe this was due to the ride or film going down -we know that right after we arrived, the main theater had a 'glitch' and they didn't let anyone in for almost a half-hour. But it seemed like at other times they simply weren't very good at timing things and moving groups from one point to the next. I'm sure this will improve as time goes on. (Also important to know: once you get to the second stage, there's no opportunity for a bathroom break until it is over (30-40 minutes), so be sure to go ahead of time!)
Area Number Three: Form a Line Please!
Like I said earlier, we went on a Saturday, so we knew it would be crowded. But many of the lines were extremely long, and in some cases, they overlapped with the lines for other attractions, or were crossing the exit paths for attractions. It became somewhat chaotic at times. I hope the staff invests a little more in crowd management. A few rope lines put up here and there would do wonders. Also, if at all possible, a few places to sit, maybe in the main courtyard area, would be helpful. It was a long day of mostly standing and the ability to sit down for even a couple of minutes would have been welcome.
All in all, we had a good time and I'm not only glad we went, I look forward to going back when it is less crowded and the staff has had a week or so to get their routines down. One small thing I noticed that gave me a smile: next to the cafe they had a collection of classic comic covers -yes, they actually acknowledged the source material! I saw a lot of kids looking at them. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.