March 2, 2024, 7:36 PM ·

Sally Dark Rides has delivered another fun winner with SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride, now open at Circus Circus in Las Vegas.

For an IP that’s enjoyed such a long, successful run as SpongeBob SquarePants, it’s frustrating that the world of Bikini Bottom hasn’t gotten more attention from theme parks. Owned by Paramount, which got out of park ownership in 2006, SpongeBob has relied on licensing deals to come to life in attractions. The Bikini Bottom crew has provided decoration for several rides at the two Nickelodeon Universe mall theme parks in the U.S., and they’ve had a parade float and made character appearances at Universal Studios Florida. But we’ve never gotten a SpongeBob-themed dark ride – until now.SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride plays like an episode of the popular Nickelodeon cartoon. Mr. Krabs has yet another money-making scheme – this time, to open a ride where customers can play carnival games. There’s even a larger-than-life Mr. Krabs animatronic out front, hawking tickets to passersby.Wait a minute, I hear you thinking. An interactive dark ride themed to carnival games, with a big ole animatronic carnival barker out front? Haven’t we seen this before? Of course we have. But what could be more on brand for Mr. Krabs than recycling someone else’s business plan? And what could be more expected from a SpongeBob episode than SpongeBob and Patrick innocently screwing up Mr. Krabs’ plans? That’s what happens here, as the two mistakenly bring Krabby Patty ingredients to the carnival ride, instead of game supplies. And that, of course, attracts the attention of a certain villain who’s been after the Krabby Patty formula for years.

I met up today with Sally Dark Rides Chief Creative Officer Rich Hill, who shared some Easter eggs about the ride and queue before we both rode. Here is that interview, plus the preshow and on-ride POV video.Again, the feel here is of a TV cartoon episode that you just happen to be able to play within. The Sally team has accented the scene with some practical animatronics and even a couple of practical targets, too. But almost all the action happens on screens. The various projectiles all shoot from the bottom middle of the screen, but the shots leave a color trail that’s matched to the color of your wand tip, so you can track your shots. You’ll need to keep pushing the wand button – no mashing it down the whole time – but at least that’s easier on your arm than a certain other carnival-game-themed interactive dark ride.Last summer, I drove from LA up the coast to Monterey to sample Sally’s most recent west coast installation, Treasure Hunt: The Ride. Visually, that and the SpongeBob ride could not be more different. But each set design fits its theme. In Treasure Hunt, we feel like we’ve been crammed into a just-opened treasure chest – a tight space spilling with detail. SpongeBob episodes don’t feel like that, though. There’s abundant space in the Krusty Krab, SpongeBob’s home, and all the major locales of Bikini Bottom. Even though this is also a relatively attraction tight space inside Circus Circus, the Sally team designed it to feel open and accessible, just like a SpongeBob episode.SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride runs about seven minutes, but it flies by in an instant. That’s how it is with characters who have become so familiar over the years. Every moment spent with them on screen is fun, as it is “in real life” on this Crazy Carnival Ride.SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride is located on the third level of Circus Circus, nest to the Starbucks and across from the entrance to the Adventuredome theme park. Tickets are $19.95, and riders must be at least four years old and 36 inches tall. The ride opens daily at 10am, running until 10pm Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. Another installation will open later this year at The Land of Legends in Turkey. * * *
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