The smells and aromas of theme parks

Derren Brown's Ghost Train, Thorpe Park

We can all recall the opening of new rides and themed attractions that have distinctive themed smells.

These aromas add a layer, sometimes subtle and sometimes not, of immersion into a theme park experience.

AromaPrime has been one of the key players in the ‘scent industry’ since its formation as Dale Air more than 20 years ago.

Originally in the business of making air fresheners, the company was contacted during the founding of the Jorvik Viking Centre.

The subsequent incorporation of historical odours in the Viking Village ride was seen as a considerable success.

The company expanded from museums to theme parks, along with many other attractions. It has focused on “bringing sensory projects to life” ever since.

‘Essential part’ of attractions

Florentina Anghel is the managing director of AromaPrime, and spoke to Ride Rater about her company’s work.

“We have been working with our customers for years,” she says.

Their clients include Alton Towers and the wider Merlin Entertainments group of attractions.

The business has a client base including companies in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Qatar and China, and Florentina says that “big news” will be on the way relating to new projects.

Sadly for us – but understandably – she says that customers like to keep the “mystery” around odourous the effects they use.

But it is easy to recall the memorable scents, smells and stenches that form an important of rides and attractions these days.

Thirteen, Alton Towers
Thirteen was noted for its themed smells in its station and ‘crypt’ area when it opened at Alton Towers in 2010

“Aromas have always been an effective and essential part of immersive themed attractions,” Florentina says.

Despite this, she adds that in her view many attractions have only started to realise it in recent years.

Florentina says: “The sense of smell is the first of all our senses to develop.

“People can remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while visual recall is only around 50% after just three months.”

Fear centre of the brain

Themed scents have been a staple of Merlin’s Dungeon attractions for many years now, and have also been a significant factor in more recent new ride experiences.

“The receptors that pick up smell are directly linked to the fear centres of our brain,” Florentina says.

The fear centre of the brain is targeted by some smells in scare attractions

“This means that a scent can trigger memories and emotions with unbelievable power.

“If we whiff an odour that we associate with something frightening or uncomfortable, our minds switch on and alert our body.

“Naturally, this is an ideal trick for scare experiences, but the same influence can be used in other venues.

“The warmth of nostalgia can be elicited by the scent of cinnamon in a Christmas grotto, or appetite can be heightened in a bakery which emits the enhanced scent of fresh bread.”

Rotting flesh

How then are these smells sought and conceived?

Florentina describes of “the care and quality” with which AromaPrime’s products are designed and manufactured.

“We have a scent expert team that designs the aromas together with the customer following a full process that starts when we are contacted, and ends when we deliver the scent and/or scent machine,” she says.

The “weird and wonderful” never stops, and there are continuous “unusual” requests.


“After working on scents like rotting flesh, giraffe ‘in heat’ and flatulence there is really nothing that we consider unusual!

“Aroma is generally subjective – one person’s grandmother’s beautiful roses is another person’s window cleaner; or one person’s cozy winter log fire is another person’s barbecue aroma.

In more serious matters, the company’s aromas are also used for learning purposes, in care homes, retail and as part of the treatment for illnesses such as dementia.

All things considered, it certainly seems the case that themed scents are going to be lingering around for some time.