Love a good amusement park ride? Want another bucket list destination for your thrill-seeking clan? Whether you’re seeking smaller thrills for tiny tots or serious scares for adrenaline junkies, here’s our rundown of the best new rides and attractions opening at U.S. theme parks this year.
Thomas Town at Kennywood - Pittsburgh, PA
Calling all really useful engines! If your tot loves Thomas the Tank Engine, you won't want to miss the new Thomas-themed land at Pittsburgh's Kennywood amusement park. "Thomas Town," which will be the largest addition in the theme park's 120-year history, will feature five new family rides (including a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine traveling on a redesigned Olde Kennywood Railroad), a train ride, a stage show and a themed play area. Kids will get the chance to get up close to their favorite No. 1 Engine and its pals while exploring the Island of Sodor's top destinations including Tidmouth Sheds and Knapford Station. Expect merchandise and photo ops galore.
Opening: Summer 2018
Oscar's Wacky Taxi at Sesame Place - Langhorne, PA
Younger kids ready for a "big kid ride" will love this family-friendly coaster coming to Sesame Place, a fabulous little amusement park devoted to all things Sesame Street. The wooden-steel hybrid coaster will send riders down an exhilarating (but not too high!) 40-foot first drop then zig and zag them through bunches of twists, turns and hills. Baby brothers and sisters watching by the wayside will love that the train, which is designed to look like a bright yellow taxi, is driven by the green grouch himself.
Ages: 4+ (riders must be at least 40” to ride with an adult or 46” to ride alone).
Note: Sesame Place—a 14-acre park which features 11 dry rides, 9 water attractions, 5 interactive play elements, 3 live daily character shows and nightly Neighborhood Street Party Parade—is best for kids ages 2 to 8.
Opening: Spring/ Summer 2018
Deep Sea Adventure at LEGOLAND California, Carlsbad, CA
If your kids love the Finding Nemo ride at Disneyland, they'll be equally entranced by LEGOLAND California's upcoming attraction, which will send riders on an underwater adventure to find lost LEGO treasure. The state-of-the-art subs don't dive much deeper than the water's surface—but your kids won't care. They'll be too busy looking out the windows and logging every gem, pearl and gold coin they see onto touchscreens propped above every porthole. LEGOs aside, there are real treasures lurking in these waters: The manmade lagoon is home to more than 2,000 different types of real sea creatures, including several species of stingrays and a variety of sharks.
Opening: Summer 2018
StarFlyer at Vue at 360 - Orlando, FL
How brave are you? Brave enough to be whirled around on a swing 40 stories high? There's not a whole lot of information available about the StarFlyer, set to open in Orlando's Vue at 360 Entertainment complex, but this Orlando Weekly blog post said the high flying swing ride will lift riders 425 feet in the air, and then send them spinning. It will also be the tallest "Starflyer" ride of its kind in the world (the Skyscreamer at Six Flags New England currently holds the title at 400 feet up). Amazingly enough, if its rules are anything like those at Six Flags, riders only have to be 48-inches tall to ride, which means (terrifyingly) your kindergartener could maybe swing it. If you let him.
Ages: 6+ (at least 48")
Opening: May 11, 2018 (though this may change; stay tuned to the website to get more details)
HangTime at Knott's Berry Farm - Buena Park, CA
If your young speed-demons are ready for a serious adrenaline rush, Knott's Berry Farm just unveiled its newest steel rollercoaster, a behemoth thrill ride which will stand as the only dive coaster in the West Coast and will boast the steepest drop of any coaster in California. A "dive coaster" by the way, is a coaster that features a near vertical drop and which has a unique train that seats up to ten riders per row (Hang Time's train seats four per row). Suffice it to say, the near 2-minute ride will take riders up a 150-foot vertical lift then pause for a moment to leave them "hanging" at a 60-degree angle before plunging them into the terrifying 96-degree drop. Hang on!
Ages: 7+ (at least 48 inches)
Opening: May 18, 2018
Steel Vengeance at Cedar Point - Sandusky, OH
It seems roller coaster openings are all about breaking records, and Cedar Point's newest centerpiece has bragging rights galore. Steel Vengeance riders will ascend 205 feet up (it's the "world's tallest hybrid coaster") before plunging into a 90-degree drop toward earth (it's got the "world's steepest drop on a hybrid coaster"). They'll then experience almost 30 seconds of airtime (it's "the most airtime on any hybrid coaster") before zipping through four inversions ("the most inversions on hybrid coaster") and conquer a series of hills and turns before pulling back into the station. It's a beast. Coaster fanatics will love it.
Sandusky, Ohio not in your immediate future? Watch this cool POV video to feel the thrills (sort of) from the comfort of your own home.
Ages: 9+ (at least 52")
Opening: May 2018
Time Traveler at Silver Dollar City - Branson, MO
It's hard to tell what the heck is happening on this whirling, looping coaster—but anyone brave enough to take on the "world's fastest, steepest and tallest spinning coaster" will be in for a serious thrill. The $26 million coaster features train cars that swivel 360 degrees and a 10-story, 90-degree vertical drop that will send riders spinning. It also has three inversions (the most ever on a spinning coaster) including a 95-foot tall vertical loop, and two launches that send riders zipping through mountainous Ozarks terrain at speeds up to 50 miles per hour. Anyone who's prone to dizziness may want to sit this one out.
Want a taste of the action? Watch a cool POV video here.
Ages: 9+ (at least 51")
Opened: March 2018
Wonder Woman Golden Lasso - Six Flags Fiesta Texas - San Antonio, TX
Six Flags isn't known for "starter coasters," but for kids who aren't afraid of zipping up, down and upside-down, the new Wonder Woman Golden Lasso coaster certainly won't disappoint. The ride, which is the first single rail coaster in the U.S. (this means the train attaches to a single rail instead of two rails like a traditional "train track"-style coaster), joins Six Flags' extensive roster of DC Comic-themed coasters. The ride features a 90-degree drop, two airtime hills, a 180-degree stall and a zero-G roll. Thanks to the single rail design, the ride promises to be remarkably smooth. Your speedsters will love it.
Note: The train cars are designed with only one seat per row so your kids will have to be OK riding "alone" (you can sit behind or in front of them).
If Texas isn't in your future, a virtually identical ride is also opening later this spring at California's Great America in Santa Clara, CA.
Opening: May 12, 2018
Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure - Anaheim, CA
The boardwalk area of Disneyland's California Adventure park is getting Pixar-ified with the long-awaited opening of Pixar Pier. The bustling Pier will feature four different "neighborhoods" all based on Pixar films including The Incredibles, Toy Story, and Inside Out. Most notably, the popular California Screamin' coaster has been completely reimagined as the Incredicoaster—and it promises to have new and fun surprises courtesy of an actual storyline (catch Baby Jack-Jack!) as well as a sleek new design. Mickey's Fun Wheel, a centerpiece for the area, has also gotten a makeover to become Pixar Pal-A-Round, with all of its gondolas painted with Pixar peeps.
Additionally, the popular Paint the Night parade will be revved up, with The Incredibles taking center stage in the nighttime spectacle on a brilliant new float inspired by Incredibles 2. Other areas coming to the new land at a later date are an Inside Out themed playground and a redesigned carousel with a new theme, Jessie’s Critters Carousel.
Read more about Pixar Pier here.
Ages: All (The Incredicoaster will have a 48" height requirement)
Opening: June 23, 2018
Toy Story Land at Walt Disney World Resort - Orlando, FL
Kids will love becoming "honorary toys" when they enter Disney World's newest land based on the popular Toy Story film franchise. The 11-acre land will feature two new rides: A family-friendly roller coaster called Slinky Dog Dash and a whirling ride called the Alien Swirling Saucers wherein you're, basically, plopped into a giant claw machine. It will also incorporate the existing Toy Story Mania attraction and midway games and will have a new counter restaurant. Of course, there will be plenty of photo ops for kids to pose with Woody and friends—as well as a slew of colorful, oversized toys to make your little ones look even littler than they already are.
Opening: June 30, 2018
Camp Snoopy at Carowinds - Charlotte, NC
Theme parks can be intimating places for tiny tots. Carowinds in North Carolina aims to size things down with the opening of its newest land, Camp Snoopy, a Peanuts-themed space designed just for little kids. The new area features six new attractions, including the soaring "Camp Bus" ride, a whirling ride that takes passengers up and down at a gentle pace; the "Woodstock Whirlybirds," a classic teacup ride; "Pig Pen's Mud Buggies," which bounces kids up and down on little ATVs; the "Kite Eating Tree," a drop ride that lifts riders up 20 feet and (lightly) drops them down; the "Peanuts Trailblazers," a small car ride that whips kids around and around in circles; and the "Beagle Scout Acres," a climb and play area that will feature slides, climbing areas and more.
Note: If you've got kids under 5, you're in luck! The park just introduced a "Pre-K Pass" that gives kids ages 3-5 unlimited visits to the park throughout the 2018 season... FOR FREE.
Ages: Under 8
Opened: March 24, 2018
Battle for Eire at Busch Gardens Williamsburg - Williamsburg, VA
How'd you like to take on a fire-breathing dragon? Well, you can at least get a feel for the act at Battle for Eire, a cutting-edge simulator ride which invites riders to don VR headsets and embark on a journey into a mystical kingdom. The ride uses motion simulator seats paired with 360-degree VR technology (a first in the theme park industry, according to Busch GardensPresident Kevin Lembke) to really get wannabe warriors in on the action. Sensitive kids may be a bit scared by the otherworldly realm (and its evil Lord Balor), but kids who love a good adventure will relish the fantasy.
Ages: 6+ (at least 42")
Opened: April 13, 2018
The Great LEGO RACE - LEGOLAND Florida - Winter Haven, FL
If your little LEGO fans have a need for speed, then they are going to love this new LEGOLAND virtual reality rollercoaster. Decked out with a VR headset, you’ll climb aboard an actual rollercoaster and experience all the twists and turns of the animated race you’re watching simultaneously on the headset. You’ll be racing against a variety of LEGO Minifigs, from wizards to surfers, as they zig-zag around you over land, water, and air in LEGO vehicles. And of course, everything you see in the world around you is entirely made of LEGO bricks.
Ages: 6 & up
Opened: Mar. 23, 2018