Check out the latest youth travel industry updates.


Universal Studios Hollywood reveals details of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD’s signature ride

UNIVERSAL CITY, Calif. — When “Mario Kart™: Bowser’s Challenge” opens in SUPER NINTENDO WORLD™ at Universal Studios Hollywood in early 2023, guests and fans will find themselves immersed in one of the world’s largest, most interactive rides they have ever experienced. It seamlessly fuses augmented reality with projection mapping technology and actual set pieces along a moving ride track to debut a ride that’s unparalleled anywhere within the theme park industry.

The highly anticipated opening of SUPER NINTENDO WORLD at Universal Studios Hollywood represents the first SUPER NINTENDO WORLD to debut in the United States, designed to transport theme park guests and Nintendo® fans into the world of Mario, Luigi, and Princess Peach to be part of the Mushroom Kingdom.

Guests will access SUPER NINTENDO WORLD via the iconic Warp Pipe to enter the land where they will find the “Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge” ride located within Bowser’s Castle. The sophisticated ride is a multi-sensory cornucopia of color, sound, and movement that invites guests to navigate familiar environs through the creative use and integration of head-mounted augmented reality goggles — a key point of differentiation that distinguishes this ride from other theme park attractions.

From the depths of the dungeon within Bowser’s Castle, guests will climb aboard stadium-style, four-seat Mario Kart vehicles inspired by the video game, put on their AR goggles … and then with a 3-2-1 GO! signal from Lakitu, they will be off to the races!


Gateway™: The Deep Space Launch Complex lands at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Gateway™: The Deep Space Launch Complex, a new 50,000-square-foot attraction, recently opened at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. With a focus on the present and future of collaborative space exploration, guests to Gateway can experience the interstellar travel of tomorrow while celebrating everything happening right now within the space program. Through immersive education, atmospheric effects, and a motion theater experience, guests see, hear, and feel what it’s like to travel in space. It features a showcase of NASA and commercial spacecraft hardware as well as the spaceport of the future, Spaceport KSC.

Gateway™: The Deep Space Launch Complex, Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Credit: Kennedy Space Center

In addition to offering a “nose-to-nose” view of the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster, Gateway’s second floor features a 30-foot, floor-to-ceiling Robotic Space Explorers Interactive Wall touchscreen display where guests can learn about 40 different satellites and probes in space. A HoloTube presentation station teaches about the high-powered James Webb Space Telescope through holographic imagery, video, and animation via a touchscreen kiosk.

At Spaceport KSC, guests are transported to an airport of the future, hearing the atmospheric airport chatter and seeing distant views of active launches and landings through galactic spaceport windows. The main concourse showcases destination, departure and arrival information. Guests then board “spaceships” — in the form of a two-story, motion theater — for one of four journeys: Cosmic Wonders, Daring Explorers, Red Planet, or Uncharted Worlds. Each distinct destination allows for the possibility of a different experience with each visit.


Mall of America announces large-scale STEAM event

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects more than 1 million STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) jobs will have been added by the year 2030, meanwhile in 2022, the national shortfall of highly-skilled technical workers hit 3.4 million.

In an effort to increase awareness and provide opportunities, including educational and career pathways, to K-12 youth and their families, the National Center for Autonomous Technologies along with the National Science Foundation and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities will host EXPERIENCE STEAM at Mall of America, Aug. 10–14, 2022.

Using nearly every inch of common area space inside and outside the 5.6-million-square- foot retail and entertainment destination, the week-long event will feature a spectrum of STEAM opportunities for attendees, regardless of age, academic background, or social constraints, including experiential learning activity booths, professional development workshops, student camps, robotic competitions, advanced skills training, and more. All aspects of the event will be free and open to the public.

Attendees will be presented with the experience, then provided a direct educational pathway from secondary school, through two-year technical colleges, all the way to sustainable and exciting technical STEAM careers. Organizations from across the United States will be joining forces to provide hands-on learning experiences in agriculture, autonomy and transportation, biotechnology, chemistry, engineering, information technology, cybersecurity, manufacturing, and general education.


Color Factory Chicago immerses guests in a spectrum of color

CHICAGO, Ill. — The highly-anticipated, third permanent museum from Color Factory is officially open in Chicago. The beloved destination immerses Chicagoans in art and color with experiences that engage all the senses, including 15 new installations and exciting artist partnerships across over 25,000 square feet.

Color Factory wants its visitors to experience artful wonder and to bring the joy and inhibition that they experience at the museum back into their everyday lives. With successful locations in New York and Houston, the Chicago museum invites guests to embrace play and discovery and to engage their senses in unexpected ways. Above all, Color Factory seeks to make the joy of art and color accessible to more people.

Partnering with both local and internationally known artists and creatives, the new Color Factory was designed specifically for Chicago and takes guests on a unique, dynamic, and colorful journey. Local artists Edra Soto and Akllah Townsend worked with Color Factory to develop an interactive Chicago color palette; international artist Camille Walala has created an expansive maze inspired by the city’s architecture, while Yuri Suzuki’s experience plays with the connection between what we see and what we hear.

Additionally, Color Factory is partnering with local institutions like the Museum of Contemporary Art and Willis Tower, nonprofits like SocialWorks and 826CHI, as well as small businesses like Kurimu and Bon Femme both on-site at Color Factory and across the city.

As the largest exhibition space in the company’s history bringing together an impressive roster of artists and custom installations, Color Factory Chicago is expected to be one of the city’s top destinations in 2022 — one that should not be missed.

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Courtney Birchmeier oversees the editorial department at Group Tour Media. With half a decade under her belt in the group travel industry, she's eager to connect tour operators and group leaders with new destinations. It's a great day at the office if her dog, a chow/lab mix named "Kiwi," is in tow. In her free time, she enjoys reading (for fun, with no red pen in hand), sampling craft beer (New Holland Brewing's "Dragon's Milk," anyone?) and adding new destinations to her travel bucket list (like Salzburg, Austria).