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Feel Good Factor: The science behind the smiles at theme parks and visitor attractions

Smiles. Happiness. Endorphins. Feel good factor. Whatever your teminology, we're all in the leisure industry for one thing - to make people happy.

While rollercoasters may give us a hit of personal success and sugary dounts a sprinkling of joy, we need to move past these rudimentary descriptions to really understand just what makes people happy.

The science

When it comes to the science, we've relied on the super simple description from Integris to talk you through the details.

Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that carry signals from one neuron to another. A neuron is a cell that transmits information to other cells, muscles or glands. These chemicals work together every second of your day to regulate your mood, perception and view on life.

Four main brain chemicals, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins, all play a role in how you experience happiness. 


Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced by the hypothalamus, a small region of the brain that helps you feel pleasure. It’s an important part in your reward system, meaning the brain releases dopamine when you do things that feel good or pleasurable or when you complete a task. Dopamine also helps with movement and motivation. 




Hacking happy chemicals at theme parks

We all know that in our everyday lives both good diet and exercise stimulates happy chemicals, but what else in a theme park or visitor attraction contributes to the feel good factor?

Let's take a look at what feelings make us feel 'happy' and how we could hack into these by creating amazing themed attractions for our guests.


  • Stimulates: dopamine

  • Other definitions: aroused and cheeky

  • Types of experiences: splash zones on log flume rides


  • Stimulates: endorphins

  • Other definitions: free and joyful

  • Types of experiences: sandpits with endless possibilities


  • Stimulates: dopamine

  • Other definitions: curious and inquisitive

  • Types of experiences: Geocaching trails and escape rooms


  • Stimulates: serotonin

  • Other definitions: successful and confident

  • Types of experiences: individual and team challenges


  • Stimulates: serotonin

  • Other definitions: respected and valued

  • Types of experiences: inclusive experiences for all


  • Stimulates: endorphins

  • Other definitions: courageous and creative

  • Types of experiences: Making and listening to music


  • Stimulates: oxytocin

  • Other definitions: loving and thankful

  • Types of experiences: quiet areas for reflection


  • Stimulates: oxytocin

  • Other definitions: sensitive and intimate

  • Types of experiences: Wellbeing and couple experiences

Other considerations

As soon as a guest buys a ticket for our visitor attractions, they are saying one thing to us, "make me happy". Aside from wine, dark chocolate, meditating and a 20-minute run (all proven to release happy chemicals), theme parks and visitor attractions is the key to the door of happiness. We just need to make sure:

  1. We are delivering happiness in more than one way

  2. We are considering the happiness of all

  3. We are providing happiness in context of our visitor attraction

For theme park operators

What are guests currently feeling throughout your park? Is there enough diversity in your 'happy' rides and experiences? Discover how our guest experience audit can help you find the answers.

For brand and IP owners

For ride manufacters

For themed resort and hotel owners

For museum and heritage attractions

Bring the feel good factor

We're delighted to bring happiness to over 95 million guests every single year, across 26 different countries. Our team are on-hand to see how we can help you bring the feel good factor to your existing visitor attraction, or, new visitor attraction concept. Speak to us today to find out more.

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