The thrills keep on coming: amusement parks are upping the ante with sophisticated and fun rides that are sure to please riders. Here’s a look at some of the top new draws for excitement this summer, in no particular order .
At Sea World San Diego, the Electric Eel brings loops and twists and multiple launches on a coaster that hurls riders back and forth through the ride’s station house at an exhilarating 60 m.p.h. At 150-feet-tall, with a twisting loop, riders can get a thrilling view of Mission Bay, while upside down. The ride fits neatly in with the live eel habitat in the park, too, and is designed to technically mimic the movements of an electric eel. Natural wonders meet exciting manmade technology.
Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest is the newest addition to Universal Studios, Hollywood. Set in a classic Hollywood movie theater, park guests are treated to an immersive experience of visual effects taken from the Kung Fu Panda film franchise. New projection mapping technology projects moving images on uneven surfaces, including theater pillars and walls. The multi-sensory ride
also features 360-degree surround sound audio, and 4-D physical effects. That’s Panda Power.
Also in California, Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, is also debuting a new roller coaster. Hang Time takes riders up an intense vertical hill at a 60-degree angle. They’ll “hang time” for a few moments, and receive the thrilling illusion of a disappearing track. If that isn’t scream-inducing enough, riders then sail down a 96-degree drop, into a negative-g stall loop, creating the sensation of floating. Riders seem awestruck by the experience, which isn’t for the faint-hearted.
Away from the left coast at Cedar Point Amusement Park located in Sandusky, Ohio, Steel Vengeance is billed as “unlike any other on earth” according to park staff. With a 200-foot pinnacle and a smooth steel track on top of a wooden structure, the ride offers guests a 90-degree initial drop and a long, thrilling 2 minutes and 30 seconds to dive and roll. And, at 74 m.p.h., with four inversions, this coaster is undeniably a hit at the park. It’s themed to tie into the park’s Frontier Townoutlaw outcasts, Blackjack, Chess, and Digger; and it reportedly has the steepest drop, and the most airtime on any roller coaster -- at 27.2 seconds.
The summer isn’t all about ‘coasters. At Busch Garden Williamsburg, Va., the Battle for Eire is a VR simulator that offers up to 59 guests their own individual VR headset. The 3-D experience takes riders on a dragon and in a fight with a cyclops. The story is an exciting one: participants attempt to save the last remaining fairy in Ireland. A rich, visceral experience, the ride is a stand-alone attraction that has been extremely popular since its debut.
Universal Studios Florida has dreamed up Fast & Furious Supercharged, a much bigger take on a film-themed ride that’s already appeared at Universal Hollywood.
The dynamic virtual adventure includes appearances from many of the stars of the film series in holographic form, so that riders get the sensation of interacting with the film series stars, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, and Jordana Brewster. Appearances from Ludacris and Brewster are unique to the Florida location, and all of the talent speaks directly to park guests. Props and setting are A+ too, starting from the ride’s entrance, a warehouse-like space made to look like it was 80 years old, recreated from the films, and packed with vehicles from the screen series. It’s an immersive experience.
Six Flags Great America in Lake County, Ill., debuted a new roller coaster in their park’s Mardi Gras-themed area. Mardi Gras Hangover is a 100-foot tall ‘coaster the takes guests on multiple inversions, and 360-degree revolutions. The hangover isn’t about partying too much, it’s due to a long hang time that thrills riders who are seated face-to-face.
At Six Flags in Vallejo, Calif., the Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster is pretty insane: two trains rush backwards, forwards, and then upside down in 12 different inversions. It’s a continuous-loop coaster, and with this ride it’s not about the speed, it’s about the illusion: the ride will make it look as if guests are about to crash into the other train. Now that’s crazy, and crazy-popular.
Six Flags continues to prove their devotion to coasters with the Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster in San Antonio, Texas. Billed as the world’s first single-rail coaster, it features a 100-foot drop, three inversions, and a series of tunnels. The single rail is said to resemble the titular character’s lasso – narrow, and scary-fun.
Not surprising for Disney, at Anaheim’s California Adventure theme park, the Incredicoaster is all about the immersive story experience. The coaster itself is a retooled version of the park’s California Screamin.’ Just in time for the release of The Incredibles 2, this ride features the story of ElastiGirl struggling to be reunited with her infant son Jack-Jack. Visitors first experience The Incredibles backstory as they wait to board, hearing that it is supposed to be the first launch day of the coaster and that the entire Incredibles family will be on hand for the opening. Because superhero baby Jack-Jack is deemed as too small to go on the ride, he’s sent off to the VIP lounge to wait. But the powerful tot isn’t pleased, and uses his superpowers to escape and go on the coaster after all. Once they’ve boarded the ride, park guests will be able to see how the superhero family tries to catch their baby as the ride goes on. As a part of the revamped park area known as Pixar Pier, it’s a stellar addition to what remains the world’s longest steel looping coaster.
In Orlando, Disney debuted two new rides at its also brand-new Toy Story Land park expansion. Alien Swirling Saucers is self-explanatory, family-friendly fun. Also family friendly: the Slinky Dog Dash coaster, which takes riders rushing past a collection of Andy’s toys which include toy-characters beloved from the films.