Lost Island's first two realms serve as a sampler, setting up the design aesthetic, detail, and ride count of this unique theme park in Iowa. But our tour around the park will reveal still more incredible places and ultra-ambitious experiences that really do make this into something more than you might expect from a regional, seasonal park.
Set on two bridged islands on the edge of the bay is the realm of Awa – the easy-going, laid-back water nomads of Lost Island. Vibrant and colorfu, the land of Awa is packed with family flat rides, all swirling to the tune of steel drum renditions of beachy songs. Sunlit and tropical, this realm is the perfect place for the park's themed midway games, all stylized as the island trials of the Awa people.
Just as the Aviarium serves as an interactive, wind-focused centerpiece of Udura, the central space of Awa is the AKUA MAZE, with guests navigating water jets and misters to reach the mystical water orb at the center. (This interactive feature, it's certain, plays a role in the larger interactive gameplay of the park.) Like the Mystic Fountain at Universal's Islands of Adventure, this playscape is mysterious and risky, but ultimately rewards those who don't mind getting wet.
(A secondary central play area, the SAND CASTLE, is a legitimate sand playground right on the expansive bay beyond the park, set beneath the popcorn lights of the Thirsty Voyager restaurant at the park's center.)
Rather than a roller coaster or dark ride, this land's centerpiece attraction is AWAATI BATTLE. It's a Splash Battle attraction where guests board stylized reed boats emblazoned with otter insignias, then are set loose in a concrete channel. Cranking grip wheels at each seat funnels water from the pool, allowing guests to aim sprayers at other boats or onlookers. These Splash Battle attractions came into vogue big time in the 2000s, with many parks slowly (or sometimes quickly) removing them for one reason or another.
Awaati Battle actually has the making of a really nice ride, fitting in beautifully with Awa's water theme and the chance to get wet. However, it suffers from having nothing to do along the ride's course but wait until another ship (or a wayward pedestrian you don't mind angering) happens to wade into the slow-moving boat's course. Many Splash Battles have ornate sets and targets and interactives to populate the sluggish ride's course, and even a few simple, static sets of Awa people setting sail could give guests something to do rather than just meander around the basin. It strikes me as a very "Phase I" ride whose embellishments and decor just got moved to a second round of funding.
The realm of Awa also includes a number of highly-decorated flat rides, like the classic SEA SWELL rocking ship (here, swinging out over the open water of the park's central lagoon), the WAKANI WHIRL whirlpool-stylized teacups, and the ZULAWA WAVE spinning Himalaya, all decked out in a matching Awa design motif. A sea creature-themed carousel called NIKA'S GIFT is on the short list for 2023 additions. (Seriously, the customization of these rides' skin is just unbelievably ambitious.)
Another favorite is the EEKI EEKI ESCAPE (above) – the park's Dumbo-style spinner where guests board tropical fish as they're terrorized by a central squid-like creature. (This ride, too, is set right on the water's edge, and like Dumbo, the fish revolve over a pool of water. Nozzles conspicuously hidden in the ride's central support structure seem to indicate that on hot days, guests could get splashed while on board, similar to "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" at Islands of Adventure.)
The land also includes the WHALEBONE GRILL – one of two quick service restaurants in the park. The Whalebone's canopy really does resemble a whale leaping out of the water to breech, and a towering whale sculpture and fountain on the building's exterior are photo opportunities in their own right. But I was particularly taken by the unique, inverted umbrellas, which at least appear capable of collecting rainwater like funnels, channeling it down their central structures. Huh!
And again, just look at that building and remember that this isn't at Universal's Volcano Bay... This is at a family-owned theme park in Iowa. If you're not impressed, you're not paying attention!
Finally, at the heart of Awa (and all of Lost Island) is ALZANU'S EYE, a 100 foot-tall Ferris wheel presiding over the park. Alzanu's Eye aligns with the park's gates, serving as a sort of "icon" and symbol across the lagoon from Ara Matua.
Basically, the land of Awa is an absolutely great little area; after Tamariki, probably the park's most colorful. It's vibrant and coastal and relaxing and easy-going, with pathways stamped with shells and painted in rich blue water bursts. This is probably the park's most family-friendly land, too, with no less than five flat rides built for everyone. But winding through the land, bridges lead onward to a very different realm...
The realm of Yuta is (or at least, will someday be) a lush, dense tropical jungle built around ancient stone ruins. Yutans are nature's protectors, who set out to protect our world. Unsurprisingly, the central interactive area for Yuta is the PENGALI RUINS – a double-sided dig pit where guests can unearth Yutan treasures... including pieces allegedly important to the park-wide interactive app-based exploration game...
Beyond the Ruins lies the ancient tree at the center of Yuta, Totara, which itself grows atop the TOTARA MARKET (the second of the park's two quick service eateries). Aside from the restaurant, the dig pit, and the waterside KOKUI STATION bumper cars, that's all that you'll find in Yuta for now... Obviously, that makes Yuta feel the most incomplete of the park's five realms. But that's for two very big reasons...
First, the land's YUTA FALLS is meant to be one of the park's signature rides - a log flume that carries guests to the rocky spring serving as a source of Lost Island's magic. Unfortunately, a fire at the ride's station during the park's construction has stalled that project, with an expected opening in 2023. (It'll be even more of a signature experience if and when a "jungle" grows in around it several years down the line...)
Equally as headlining will be MATUGANI, an Intamin launched coaster that'll theoretically be the park's signature thrill ride. Matugani's first life was Liseberg in Sweden, so we know what the ride experience is like, and it definitely is a headliner...
Or at least, it will be. Unfortunately, Matugani also missed the park's June 2022 opening. In this case, it's because the ride is awaiting an essential part. Given that Lost Island plans to call it a wrap on its first season even before Labor Day, it's unlikely that Matugani will make it in time for the park's inaugural year... But when Lost Island re-opens in summer 2023 from its off-season slumber, this serpantine coaster will theoretically put the park on the map for coaster enthusiasts in a serious way... Custom Intamin Accelerators, after all, aren't nearly as common as Vekoma SLCs. Launching out of the mouth of a stone snake temple is just a bonus.
Maybe the one-two punch of Yuta Falls and Matugani are to blame for the park's lower-than-expected attendance. We can sure hope so, because as the final realm shows, this park does have a whole lot of ambition...
Stepping into the fiery realm of Mura, the music of Lost Island grows darker, and splashes of black and gray appear on the paths like cooled lava flows. The land's lighting is provided by lanterns hung from deep red posts, matching the temple village that's set against the land's volcano.
The Mura people are fierce and brave, having settled and developed among the terrifying creatures of the volcanic land... Athletic, spiritual warriors, the Mura also have the most important role in protecting Lost Island by guarding the Ora-Tika idol from malevolent forces who would use its power for evil, like the demon Volkanu, trapped in their own Fire Temple.
Built around the craggily rockwork of a volcano, the realm of Mura is also interactive. Guests can step up to the MAKATU SHRINE, where cooperation can activate hidden effects in and around the volcano. Given that Mura is a land of extremes, it makes sense that the park's most extreme thrill rides reside here.
MURA FURY is a fully-inverting spinning frisbee ride; a giant pendulum that swings higher and higher as riders - seated in an outward-facing circle - continuously spin, flying out over the water.
SHAMAN'S CURSE is a spinning Disk-o coaster, rolling over airtime hills as it rotates.
There's also ROKAVA - a Mondial top spin-style ride twisting and spinning as it flips before the lava-encased creature Rokava.
But by far, the land's anchor (and that of the whole park) is VOLKANU: QUEST FOR THE GOLDEN IDOL, an interactive dark ride designed by industry favorite Sally Rides. Volkanu sends guests into the fiery peaks of Mura with "Thermal Equalizers" to gather the power of the four realms and stop the evil Volkanu from finding the idol of Ora-Tika and using its power to destroy Lost Island.
Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol is certainly among the most impressive interactive dark rides in a regional park, and even though Lost Island might indeed be quite a "quest" for most of us, it's an awesome attraction that should definitely be on your bucket list. Watch a video of Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol below:
And did we mention that the small treasure trove gift shop at the ride's exit sells small, golden Ora-Tikas to take home? I mean, what other regional park do you know that would commit to such customized merchandise for their dark ride?! For me, it was their easiest sell of the day.
Check back with Theme Park Tourist next month as we dig deeper into Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol in its own feature, discussing the story behind this Lost Island original!
Lost Island Tour
As you can hopefully agree, Lost Island isn't quite like any other park on Earth. Though it's built on the scale of the local, regional park it is, this new venture has taken an incredibly powerful stance: that it can be more than just a collection of off-the-shelf thrill rides and instead lead into the experience that today's theme parks are defined by.
We can't decide for you if Lost Island - still in its unshaded infancy, with some rides not quite ready to go - is worth a trip from your area... but we can say that this is a park that all of us who call ourselves theme park enthusiasts should be cheering for. Just by being bold and thinking big, they've certainly earned our respect. Have they earned yours?
What … what about Legoland New York that just opened last year? Bad title is bad.
As I said in reply to your Facebook comment on this, it's hard for me to imagine reading a 5,000 word, well-researched, in-depth piece someone wrote celebrating an exciting, innovative, and imaginative new development in the industry trying to get word out about a new, family-owned park and deciding to point out "ACTUALLY, a Legoland opened last year so it's not REALLY the first new theme park in years."
Like, that's your takeaway? That's the comment you NEEDED to make sure I and the rest of the Internet saw after I spent hours researching and writing about this exciting new park? And it's SO important to you that you commented it on Facebook, AND here? It's just such depressing, troll-ish behavior that adds literally nothing to the conversation and makes you look very sad. As I often politely ask on Facebook, I would like very much if you would stop reading and commenting on the things I write.