Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The "Key" to a Memorable Visit?

I recently had the opportunity to visit Gulliver's Gate, an attraction located near Time's Square in Manhattan.  As the literary name suggests, Gulliver's Gate is composed of a series of scale models of miniature cityscapes that you can walk around and look at.

I very much enjoyed admiring the art and craft involved in creating all of the Lilliputian landscapes, like the world's largest scale airport model (shown below) with planes that taxi, takeoff, and return to their gates.

But perhaps the thing I liked best about my tour of Gulliver's Gate was ... THE KEY!

At the beginning of your visit you receive a hefty metal key on a lanyard you can hang around your neck.

As you walk around the miniaturized metropolises, the key unlocks little "bonus" interactions like making a helicopter take off or activating a cable car between snowy mountains.

There was something incredibly fun about finding the special key boxes and then activating the little "Easter Eggs" inside the displays.  It also provided a great way to get overexcited children (and adults!) to slow down and observe a little more carefully.

The GG Keys brought back happy memories of my childhood in Detroit and "Zoo Keys."  When my family and I would visit the Detroit Zoo there were metal boxes scattered around the zoo painted to resemble large books.  Inside each "book" was a rudimentary tape player and speaker that could be activated by an elephant-shaped plastic key (called "Trunkey") like the one pictured at the top of the post.  (That's actually my Zoo Key from the 1960s!)  Each Zoo Key box played a little story about the display you were in front of --- a little bonus bit of information about the animals, such as what they ate.

The Zoo Key experience was fun in and of itself but like the Gulliver's Gate key experience, it also caused you to pause and consider a little more carefully what was happening around you.

I know these "keys" are a simple device, and yet I saved them, and they are souvenirs that help me remember in a positive way my experiences at both Gulliver's Gate and the Detroit Zoo of my childhood.

What sorts of physical (or metaphorical) key experiences could you provide to create positive memories for your visitors?

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