What Is New and on the Horizon
at the Nation’s Large Parks
By Karen Appold
When it comes to amusement park rides—the taller, the faster and the crazier—the better. The year 2014 saw some new rides built with these sought-after features in mind. So what thrills can guests anticipate in the New Year? And what’s in store regarding new amenities such as themed hotels, enticing restaurants and fun shops?
This spring, Cedar Point amusement park/resort, in Sandusky, Ohio, will introduce a new riding experience—Rougarou™. Named after a terrifying werewolf-like creature in French folklore, Rougarou lurks in and around the swampy lagoon at the center of the park. Rougarou’s floorless trains will take riders on an epic journey at speeds reaching 60 mph as their feet dangle just inches above the track and the murky waters below. Thrill-seekers will be flipped upside-down by a 119-foot-tall vertical loop, spun around a 103-foot-tall dive loop, whipped around a highly-banked 360-degree turn and then twisted upside-down again by the world’s only inclined loop on a floorless coaster, angled at a wicked 45 degrees. “Just when guests think the ride is over, the steel beast will take them through a 360-degree flat spin, tight and twisty turns and a figure-eight finale,” said Bryan Edwards, a spokesperson for the park.
During the summer, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Fla., will open the LEGOLAND Hotel just steps from the theme park. “The hotel will immerse families with young children in the world of LEGO®, as an extension of the vibrant and interactive theme park experience,” said Chris Jones, a park spokesperson. Created to bring children’s imaginations to life, the LEGO-themed hotel will feature 152 brightly colored and highly themed rooms and suites, LEGO décor; interactive play areas; a pool and a restaurant. Families can choose from one of three popular LEGO toy lines as their room theme: pirate, kingdom or adventure.
In 2015, Six Flags Great America, Gurnee, Ill., will celebrate “40 Seasons of Thrills.” “The park was built to celebrate the bicentennial of the United States and was specifically designed to represent different regions of the country with Americana-themed territories,” explained Katy Enrique, a park spokesperson. The occasion will be marked with the addition of three original children’s rides and restore the classic Hometown Square area of the park. The park is home to many of the world’s first and innovative roller coasters—weekly festivals will be centered around each ride and the era in which it was built.
In 2015, Downtown Disney at Walt Disney World Resort will continue its multi-year transformation into Disney Springs, a vibrant shopping/dining/entertainment destination to be set amid open-air promenades, meandering springs and waterfront charm. Anchored by a signature water tower and grand entry, Disney Springs will boast four interconnected outdoor neighborhoods (The Landing opens 2015) and be home to everything from shopping boutiques to flagship stores to new restaurants and entertainment venues. With a planned completion in 2016, Disney Springs expects to double the number of venues to more than 150.
A Look Back: 2014
This year, large amusement parks took thrills to new heights. Six Flags Great America’s Goliath is a triple-record-breaking coaster as the tallest, fastest and steepest wooden roller coaster in the world. “Goliath’s innovative track design allows for maneuvers that no other wooden coasters in the world can perform including speeds of up to 72 miles per hour, two upside down elements and overbanked turns,” Enrique said. Goliath debuted in 2014 and was the park’s most popular attraction.
In 2014, Cedar Point added several new rides including Pipe Scream—a Disk’O Coaster and Lake Erie Eagles—a Flying Scooters ride. Pipe Scream is billed as combining the best of a roller coaster and a flat ride in one. Riders spin and coast over 302 feet of track, reaching a maximum height of 43 feet above the midway and a top speed of 43 miles per hour. Riders on Lake Erie Eagles sit in one of eight ride carriages that are suspended from arms located more than 28 feet above the ground. As the ride begins its cycle, the carriages swing outward simulating the sensation of flight. A paddle on the carriages allows guests to alter their flight experience from mild to wild.
Cedar Point also took screaming to new heights when it opened its new SlingShot ride. Riders on the vertical thrill ride are secured in an open-air two-person capsule before being launched nearly 360 feet into the sky at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour to the second highest point of the Cedar Point skyline. After a brief feeling of weightlessness, riders descended back towards Earth before catapulting back up and down until the capsule comes to rest back at the launching point.
At LEGOLAND Florida Resort, DUPLO Valley opened in summer 2014. “We expanded our offerings for the 2 to 5 year olds while giving parents the option to sit back and relax or to join in on the fun,” Jones said. New attractions within DUPLO Valley include a train, a mini tractor ride and a water play area, in addition to a re-imagined air-conditioned play area. The central feature is the DUPLO Train, where toddlers can board a train on their own or with their parents to explore countryside-themed scenery passing through farms, fishing holes and campgrounds. Just across the way, toddlers can jump on a tractor just their size and travel through a farm setting. “For those looking to cool off, the new splash and play area is refreshingly fun with intermittent water spouts and interactive water elements set among larger than life farm animals with a soft deck for safety,” Jones said.
Sesame Place®, in Langhorne Pa., opened its newest land—Cookie’s Monster Land™—in June 2014. Cookie Monster serves as host to the colorful and imaginative new entertainment area. It is the park’s largest renovation to date and features five rides, a three-story net climb, a soft play area and more. The area’s feature ride, Captain Cookie’s High “C’s” Adventure, offers riders a chance to set sail on the rolling waves of the ocean with the speed of the wind.