The Most Anticipated Rides at U.S. Theme Parks

EarthQuest Adventures
Los Angeles Times: At first I thought it was too early to look ahead at the new attractions coming to U.S. theme parks in 2013, but then I realized a number of big rides have already been announced and many more are already in the planning stages.

It already seems like 2013 is shaping up as a good year for ride enthusiasts and theme park fans. Big industry players have announced major projects, and several smaller parks are planning to roll out significant additions.

A few projects delayed by the economic recession have been given a 2013 opening date that might be best described as tentative rather than definitive. Only time will tell. But we won't let that dampen our anticipation.

Since it is still early, I'll update my top 13 over the coming months as new projects are announced. Until then, here's my list of most anticipated rides for 2013:

1) Magic Kingdom - Fantasyland

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, a Little Mermaid dark ride and a dueling Dumbo attraction.

2) Disneyland - Fantasy Faire

The Fantasy Faire medieval village at Disneyland in California 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.

3) Morey's Piers - Wooden roller coaster

The $10-million wooden roller coaster by Great Coasters International will span two piers and dive under the boardwalk at Morey's Piers. The New Jersey seaside amusement park is considering two names for the ride: Wildwoody and Boardwalk Flyer.

4) 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 an as-yet-unannounced attraction. SeaWorld remains highly secretive about the new attraction, describing it only as a one-of-a-kind, family-friendly yet thrilling interactive ride offering varied adventures from a penguin's point of view.

5) EarthQuest Adventures - New theme park

The oft-delayed $300-million EarthQuest Adventures theme park outside Houston would feature six themed lands filled with thrill rides, roller coasters and animal exhibits. Long-term plans call for a water park, retail center and hotel.

6) Lake Compounce - Water park expansion

The oft-delayed $15-million water park expansion at Lake Compounce in Connecticut will feature a slide tower, wave pool, lazy river and kiddie pool.

7) American Dream Meadowlands - Indoor amusement park

The stalled $3.8-billion mega-mall project next to the Meadowlands football stadium in New Jersey is scheduled to open in 2013. The completed 3-million-square-foot American Dream Meadowlands mall is expected to include an amusement park, water park, giant Ferris wheel and indoor ski slope.

8) I-Walk Orlando - Orlando Eye

Merlin Entertainment, the parent company of the new Legoland Florida theme park, plans to open a 425-foot-tall observation wheel in 2013. The Orlando Eye, slightly smaller than the landmark London Eye, would be part of new retail complex on International Drive in Orlando, Fla.

9) Skyvue Las Vegas - Giant Ferris wheel

The 500-foot-tall Skyvue giant Ferris wheel, taller than the London Eye, will feature more than 40 gondolas, each holding up to 25 passengers. The mini amusement park on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip across from Mandalay Bay will include several roller coasters.

10) Waldameer - Thrill ride

Waldameer has promised a new thrill ride for the area next to the merry-go-round. The Pennsylvania park last added the Mega Vortex spinning Disk-O thrill ride in 2009.

11) Water Magic - Water attraction

The $40-million Water Magic water-powered funhouse sounds like a cross between a water park and a children's museum where visitors will get wet but won't wear bathing suits (body driers will be available). The 40,000-square-foot water attraction near Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., will feature a walk-on-water illusion, hands-on water symphony, water mirror maze, bubble room, deep-sea diving experience and water sculptures.

12) Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Oktoberfest revamp

The Oktoberfest section of Busch Gardens Williamsburg has undergone a multi-phase renovation over the last couple of years, with the addition of the Mach Tower drop ride (2011) and the Verbolten multi-launch coaster (2012). A third phase of the Oktoberfest renovation is expected to be unveiled by the Virginia park in 2013, according to Screamscape.

13) Six Flags Magic Mountain - New ride

Six Flags Magic Mountain recently shuttered the 1971 Log Jammer water flume to make way for a new ride in 2013. The wooded 6-acre parcel in the center of the California amusement park includes a sizeable man-made lake that could play a role in the new attraction. Will it be another water ride, a terrain coaster or a thrill ride that somehow interacts with the lake?


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