During Friday and Saturday of San Diego Comic-Con 2023, Universal Products & Experiences and Amblin Entertainment brought the “Step into Jurassic Park” offsite as part of an ongoing Jurassic Park 30th Anniversary celebration. Fans were able to sign up in advance for time slots every 20 minutes to take part in the experience, with a standby option available for those who were unsuccessful in grabbing a reservation.
It started with our group of eight with a Friday 10am reservation — so we were one of the first public groups to go through the activation — being welcomed by our tour guide before being led through a series of stations and photo ops recreating some of the more iconic moments from the 1993 classic, with actors at each stop playing park staff members.
The first stop was a home base of sorts for researchers, followed by stations that included recreations an egg incubator station, where Dennis Nedry meets his end courtesy of a Dilophosaurus, the infamous toilet where a Tyrannosaurus Rex enjoys their meal in the form of Donald Gennaro, and the kitchen where Timmy and Lex engage in a cat-and-mouse game with velociraptors.
After the tour was finished (and by this author’s watch, it was around 12 minutes), we exited into an open area where we could pick up a sampler of Jurassic World Dino Chicken Nuggets, a boxed water, and check out the Visitors Center where merchandise was on display with QR codes to order it via Amazon (you could not actually buy any of the merchandise there, but shipping was free).
I had high hopes for this one after learning that NVE Experience Agency — the group behind the excellent Dungeons & Dragons tavern offsite in 2022 — were going to be doing the Jurassic Park offsite. While it had many things going for it (the scenery and staging was very well done, the stations provided great photo opportunities, the actors played their roles with enthusiasm, and the nuggets were actually quite good!), the overall experience left me feeling like the experience was lacking for a variety of reasons, including:
- The location itself (Luce Cielo, 325 15th Street) was about 20-minute walk (at minimum) from the Convention Center, and in a not great part of town. With time being such valuable currency at SDCC, an offsite where it takes longer for someone to walk to the offsite than they will spend in the offsite itself is a tough tradeoff to make.
- Additionally, only being open Friday and Saturday deserves to be pointed out. By now, we’re begrudgingly used to some offsites not being open on Sunday, but not even being open Thursday was a huge miss.
- The linear nature of the experience put a cap on being able to fully immerse myself at each stop, knowing at any moment we would be abruptly forced to move to the next area. This likely also put a cap on Step Into Jurassic Park’s throughput, limiting the number of attendees who could go through the offsite. Contrast that to last year’s Dungeons & Dragons Tavern and this year’s The Street of Immortality, where, while there was a time limit of sorts, the offsite was able to bring in larger groups at a single time and attendees could explore different areas as much or as little as they wanted, instead of being funneled down a uniform path.
- Outside of the dino nuggets, there wasn’t any real swag to speak of. A talented fan, Kari Coulter, made visitor’s badges as a small souvenir — and when the fan-made swag is better than the real swag, there might be a problem (but great job, Kari!).
- It turns out our group could have gotten in the reservation line without a reservation and still made it through, as our actual reservation was not verified in any way (which raised an eyebrow or two here): no QR or bar code was scanned, no name was checked against a list, and no ID was checked. It’s possible that later in the week they were checking, though.
- Only being able to buy the merchandise online and not on-site. Not giving people the option to give you their money right then and there for a physical item seems like a missed opportunity.
I cannot speak to the experience or effectiveness of those who attempted standby; my understanding was, at least for Friday, the morning standby line that day was dispersed with people receiving wristbands to come back at 2pm.
Ultimately, when accounting for the property being highlighted and the company behind it all, Step Into Jurassic Park felt like a case of unfulfilled potential. Step Into Jurassic Park was a good enough time for those who did have — or pretended to have — reservations and could skip the standby line.
Unless you’re a huge Jurassic Park fan, waiting in standby was likely not worth the time investment. The fair amount of time spent getting to the experience plus the brief amount of time actually spent in the activation was far too brief for it to leave a lasting impact in the annals of SDCC offsites.
Life finds a way, but we wish it had found a slightly more memorable way.