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Looking for something fresh to do this summer? This is the high season for the world’s theme parks, and many are offering new rides and shows to entice you and your family to visit this year. Here’s what’s new at Disneyland and beyond.
Disney is going all in with Pixar this summer, as Disney theme parks in Southern California, Orlando and Shanghai are opening new Pixar-themed lands in 2018. The party has started already at Disneyland, where Pixar Fest opened in April. “Celebrating Friendship and Beyond,” as the slogan says, the event promotes Disney’s animation powerhouse with special food, souvenirs and entertainment in Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
The Pixar Play Parade has moved to Disneyland, adding new units themed to “Up!,” “Inside Out” and Pixar’s hopping desk lamp mascot, Luxo Jr. Paint the Night takes over at California Adventure, with a new “Incredibles”-themed unit that will join that parade in June, replacing the “Frozen” unit that Disney cut because it was too tall to fit under the Red Car Trolley lines above Carthay Circle. Disneyland also has added a new fireworks show, “Together Forever,” which features scenes from Pixar films projected on Main Street, Sleeping Beauty Castle, It’s a Small World and the Rivers of America.
On June 23, Disney California Adventure opens Pixar Pier, a re-theme of the boardwalk area on the park’s former Paradise Pier. The roller coaster formerly known as California Screamin’ will become the Incredicoaster, with new on-board music and show scenes featuring the Parr family super heroes in action, trying to find Baby Jack Jack. Disney is adding several Pixar-themed food stands, too, including Señor Buzz’s Churros, an “Inside Out”-themed Angry Dogs, and Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats, where the Yeti swears that yellow frozen treat is lemon. Ariel’s Grotto and the Cove Bar together will become Lamplight Lounge, a new table service gastropub that will continue to serve the fan-favorite Lobster Nachos.
Even though Pixar Pier opens in June, it won’t be complete. Jessie’s Critter Carousel will replace King Triton’s Carousel next year and an “Inside Out”-themed ride will go in the former Maliboomer spot, too, though Disney has not yet announced a date for that.
Pixar Fest ends on Sept. 3, but Pixar Pier is a permanent addition to the park — well, as permanent as theme park attractions can be. Case in point: This also is the last summer for Flik’s Fun Fair at Disney California Adventure, as It’s a Bug’s Land will close to make room for the new Marvel-themed land, which opens in 2020.
Universal Studios Hollywood
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Disney isn’t the only big theme park company that’s banking on the power of animation this summer. Universal Studios Hollywood has replaced its Shrek 4D show with a new DreamWorks Theatre, which will show “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.” This original film opens June 15 and shows Po’s mission to deliver a “rare and precious Liquid of Limitless Power” to the emperor’s palace. Of course, everything goes terribly wrong, and visitors’ seats shake and swivel as wind and water hit their faces and projection mapping effects bring the theater seemingly to life.
Details: Tickets $109 and up; www.universalstudioshollywood.com
Bay Area thrill fans in the Bay Area can hop a ride on RailBlazer, a unique new coaster design from California’s Great America. A Raptor track from Rocky Mountain Construction, this steel coaster features eight-passenger, single-file trains that straddle a single-rail track. The ride starts with a 100-foot, 90-degree drop before hitting a top speed of 52 mph and going through three inversions on its 1,800 feet of track.
Details: Tickets $40 and up; www.cagreatamerica.com
This theme park company recently added Concord’s former Waterworld — which it once owned — to its properties. The 30-acre Six Flags Hurricane Harbor is introducing a new attraction — Splashwater Island — this summer, offering a large water play area with interactive sprayers, water jets and geysers.
Meanwhile, Vallejo’s Six Flags Discovery Kingdom has a new thrill ride, the Harley Quinn Crazy Coaster. Billed as the world’s first dueling looping coaster, the inverted coaster is built on a vertically stacked figure-eight track, which offers multiple high flybys with “dueling” cars passing each other at combined spe of 70 miles per hour.
A renovated Waterworld has become Six Flags Hurricane Harbor Concord. (Six Flags Entertainment Corporation)
And at California’s Six Flags Magic Mountain, the Southern California theme park is skipping the new coasters this summer, but still setting a record by opening the world’s tallest pendulum ride, CraZanity. This Zamperla Giant Discovery ride will tower 172 feet above the Santa Clarita Valley park.
Details: Tickets start at $45 for Hurricane Harbor, $70 for Discovery Kingdom and $85 for Magic Mountain; www.sixflags.com
Knott’s Berry Farm
For thrill ride fans, Knott’s Berry Farm this summer is offering the first dive coaster on the West Coast. HangTime, a surfing-themed Gerstlauer Infinity coaster, takes the Boardwalk spot formerly occupied by Boomerang. HangTime will climb 150 feet — 90 degrees straight up in the air — then leave riders “hanging” for a moment, facing the ground below, before dropping them at 57 miles per hour into five inversions along the course.
Details: Tickets start at $46; www.knotts.com
Seaworld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego also is going for thrills this summer, debuting its tallest and fastest ride to date, Electric Eel. This 150-foot-tall Premier Rides Sky Rocket II shuttle coaster features multiple launches and a top speed of 62 miles per hour on its twisting, pretzel-like track.
Details: Tickets start at $60; seaworld.com/san-diego
Legoland in Carlsbad introduces the LEGO City Deep Sea Adventure ride this summer. Guests will board a real submarine to explore lost treasure on a sunken LEGO shipwreck. (Legoland California) Legoland
For families looking for something a little less extreme, Legoland California in Carlsbad introduces two major additions this summer. The resort’s second hotel, the Legoland Castle Hotel, will offer 250 guest rooms decorated with Knights and Dragons, Royal Princess and Magic Wizard themes. Inside the park, Legoland will open its Lego City Deep Sea Adventure, an underwater submarine adventure that will allow visitors to see real sea creatures as well as sea-themed Lego models.
Elsewhere around the nation and the world, Disney is opening Toy Story lands at its Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida and at Shanghai Disneyland in China. The highlight in Florida will be Slinky Dog Dash, a Mack Rides family coaster with Slinky Dog trains.
Ohio’s Cedar Point this summer returns serve in its ongoing roller coaster rivalry with Six Flags Magic Mountain with Steel Vengeance, the world’s first hyper-hybrid coaster. At 5,740 feet long, Steel Vengeance will be the world’s longest steel/wood hybrid coaster, claiming additional titles as the world’s tallest and steepest hybrid, too, with a 200-foot drop and a top speed of 74 miles per hour.
If that’s not enough for you — and for theme park fans, nothing ever is — next year brings an even more anticipated lineup of new attractions, including a new Harry Potter-themed coaster experience at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure and the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge lands at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. Who wants to get in line for those now?
Robert Niles is the editor of ThemeParkInsider.com.