The theme park industry will take a deep breath in 2013 after the launch of several landmark attractions and with more groundbreaking projects on the horizon.
The last few years have seen several theme park additions that have altered the industry landscape and set attendance records — from Cars Land at Disney California Adventure to Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
The future promises even more theme park innovation in the form of Shanghai Disneyland in China and Avatar Land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida.
That’s not to say 2013 won’t be filled with plenty of new roller coasters, dark rides, live shows, water slides, themed lands and even entire parks.
Several of the big industry players will debut tried and true concepts in sister parks around the world in 2013, leaving smaller parks to take the biggest chances on the newest ideas.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest attractions planned for 2013 at theme parks close to home, across the United States and around the world.
Six Flags Magic Mountain — Full Throttle
The Full Throttle launch coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain will feature the world’s tallest vertical loop (160 feet), with riders traversing the loop twice — once on the inside and again on the outside over a top hat element. Reaching 70 mph, the ride will feature three launches, including a backward launch.
Disneyland — Fantasy Faire
The Fantasy Faire medieval village at Disneyland will feature princess meet-and-greet areas and stage shows at the current location of the Carnation Plaza Gardens bandstand next door to Sleeping Beauty Castle.
California’s Great America — Gold Striker wooden coaster
California’s Great America has relaunched plans for an oft-delayed wooden roller coaster by Great Coasters International that will send riders whirling into a one-of-a-kind twist around the Star Tower observation deck near the park’s entrance. The 3,100-foot-long ride will include a terrain-hugging S-turn, a high-speed station fly-by and a series of zero-G camelbacks and bunny hops at speeds topping 50 mph aboard Millennium Flyer trains.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk — Undertow spinning coaster
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk plans to replace a 20-year-old steel coaster with the $5.5-million Undertow spinning coaster in summer 2013. The 50-foot-tall Undertow will reach speeds of 40 mph along a 1,400-foot-long track.
Knott’s Berry Farm — Three family rides
Knott’s plans to add the Coast Rider wild mouse coaster, the Surfside Glider flying scooter and the Pacific Scrambler in summer 2013 to the Boardwalk section of the park, reusing a manmade lake left over from a water ride removed to make room for the new additions.
SeaWorld California — Aquatica water park
SeaWorld’s Aquatica will introduce an innovative hybrid concept to San Diego in June that combines a marine park with a water park, allowing visitors to interact with animals such as dolphins, rays and flamingos and zip down water slides.
Six Flags Discovery Kingdom — “Splashtastic” show
The new attraction in the Dolphin Harbor Theater combines a dolphin show with Florida-based Cirque Dreams acrobats and aerialists performing above the water.
Magic Kingdom — Fantasyland expansion
The final phase of the ambitious Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom in Florida is expected to wrap up in 2013, featuring a Seven Dwarfs mine train coaster and the Princess Fairytale Hall meet-and-greet attraction.
SeaWorld Orlando — Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin will transform SeaWorld Orlando’s 24-year-old Penguin Encounter habitat into a new winter-themed land with 55-foot-tall glaciers in the shape of nuzzling penguins towering over shops, restaurants and a first-of-its-kind interactive dark ride offering varied adventures from a penguin’s point of view.
Universal Studios Orlando — Transformers 3-D
Recruits on the Transformers 3-D motion simulator dark ride opening at Universal Studios Orlando in 2013 will join the heroic Autobots in an intergalactic battle against the villainous Decepticons.
Cedar Point — Gatekeeper winged roller coaster
Billed as the tallest, fastest and longest winged coaster with the highest inversion of any coaster in the world, the $30-million Gatekeeper will fly over Cedar Point’s front entrance as the new icon of the Ohio amusement park.
Silver Dollar City — Outlaw Run wooden coaster
The $10-million Outlaw Run hybrid wood-steel coaster at Missouri’s Silver Dollar City will feature a double barrel roll and a 153-degree over-banked turn with nine airtime hills.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas — Iron Rattler wooden coaster
The 1992 Rattler wooden coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas will be reborn as the Iron Rattler hybrid coaster with a steel track on wooden supports. The remade ride will feature a barrel roll inversion and a series of beyond-vertical banked turns. Rocky Mountain Construction Group will handle the rehab, which includes the removal of the cliff-top triple helix.
Mt. Olympus — Hades 360 wooden coaster
Gravity Group will add a barrel roll to the 2005 Hades wooden roller coaster at Wisconsin’s Mt. Olympus in 2013. Dubbed the world’s first all-wooden looping coaster, the rechristened Hades 360 will feature an 800-foot tunnel with a 90-degree underground turn traversed in complete darkness.
Dollywood — RiverRush water coaster
RiverRush water coaster at Dollywood’s Splash Country water park will carry riders in a toboggan up a 237-foot-tall conveyor belt before plunging them down a 25-foot drop at a 45-degree angle.
Schlitterbahn Kansas City — Meg-a-blaster speed slide
The Meg-a-blaster speed slide coming to Schlitterbahn Kansas City in 2013 will be the tallest and fastest water ride of its kind. While few details have been released, Meg-a-blaster will top the 135-foot-tall and 65 mph Insano slide at Beach Park in Brazil, the current record holder.
Holiday World — RhinoBlaster slide tower
The RhinoBlaster complex coming to Indiana’s Holiday World water park will feature a series of four in-the-dark inner tube slides, including one with a half-pipe element.
Six Flags America & Six Flags New England — Bonzai Pipelines
The Six Flags water parks in Maryland and Massachusetts will add six-slide Bonzai Pipeline complexes, with each rider starting in a drop pod tube with a trap door floor.
Alton Towers — Secret Weapon 7
Alton Towers has announced plans for a new “world’s first” thrill coaster in 2013 dubbed Secret Weapon 7. The British park has announced that one lucky contest winner will join the SW7 design team in dreaming up plans for the new coaster. The last Alton Towers secret weapon, the family-oriented Thirteen vertical drop coaster, debuted in 2010.
Etnaland — New theme park
The Etnaland water park in Italy plans to add a theme park that includes a Twist N Splash teacup ride with water cannons, a haunted dark ride, a drop tower and a Mack Mega Lite launched coaster. Known as The Storm, the 105-foot-tall Etnaland coaster will feature a 70-degree first drop and a heartline roll inversion.
Tusenfryd — Prosjekt Mjolner dark ride
Norway’s Tusenfryd will introduce Prosjekt Mjolner in 2013, an $8-million interactive dark ride named after Thor’s hammer and based on a story from Nordic mythology.
Gardaland — Raptor: Genetix
Italy’s Gardaland plans to release a series of five online animated web-comics as a yearlong tease to a new attraction called Raptor: Genetix. Ride speculation centers on a companion attraction to the Raptor wing coaster that incorporates a similar creature and egg back story. Gardaland’s British sister park Alton Towers recently created a similar companion attraction called Nemesis: Sub-Terra.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach — Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic
Set to open in 2013, the $7.8-million Wallace & Gromit Thrill-O-Matic dark ride at Britain’s Blackpool Pleasure Beach will whisk visitors through the world of the eccentric cheese-eating inventor and his anthropomorphic dog.
Djurs Sommerland — Juvelen launched coaster
Denmark’s Djurs Sommerland will introduce an Intamin multilaunch motorbike coaster called Juvelen (or “Jewel” in Danish) that will be themed as off-road quad bikes dashing through the jungle.
Hong Kong Disneyland — Mystic Manor
Mystic Manor will serve as Hong Kong Disneyland’s ghostless Haunted Mansion, with tributes to the classic Disney attractions Indiana Jones Adventure, Enchanted Tiki Room and Adventurer’s Club included throughout the ride.
Ocean Kingdom — New theme park
The $1.6-billion Ocean Kingdom theme park in China will feature the world’s longest wooden roller coaster and the world’s tallest Ferris wheel as well as boat rides, a 4-D theater and a nighttime zoo.
Jurassic Dream — New theme park
The 20-acre dinosaur-centric Jurassic Dream indoor theme park will be located in Daqing, a petroleum-rich city of 3 million people in northeast China that has been the site of numerous prehistoric fossil finds.
Tokyo Disneyland — Star Tours 2.0
Tokyo Disneyland will add high-definition 3-D imagery to the aging Star Tours attraction with multiple storylines. Updated versions of the 1980s-era simulator ride debuted in 2011 at Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida.
Happy Valley Tianjin — Wooden coaster
The new wooden coaster will be the centerpiece of Happy Valley Tianjin, part of a chain of theme parks in China. Gravity Group previously teamed with Martin & Vleminckx Amusement to build a dueling wooden coaster at Happy Valley Wuhan.
Lotte World — New water park
WhiteWater West will build the $22-million Lotte World water park in South Korea featuring a looping AquaLoop slide, a double FlowRider stationary surf wave machine and dueling Master Blaster water coasters.
Ferrari World — “Red” show
The “Red” show created by California-based Thinkwell Group combines acrobats, gymnasts, BMX bikers, clowns and sports cars in a tale about two young men vying for the attention of a beautiful woman at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi.
Yas Waterworld — Water park
The $200-million Yas Waterworld themed water park in Abu Dhabi will include a water-dropping suspended coaster, a pearl-diving show, an interactive treasure hunt game plus plenty of water slides.