Best new attractions coming to U.S. theme parks – Orange County Register
It’s never too early to look ahead at what’s on tap for next year and 2021 is already shaping up as a good year for roller coaster enthusiasts, thrill ride junkies and theme park fans.
Consider our top 21 for 2021 to be an evolving and ever-changing list of the best new rides and attractions coming to theme parks in the United States in the coming year.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many U.S. theme parks to postpone 2020 rides and attractions until 2021. Nearly half the entries on this list are holdovers that were supposed to debut this year. Nevertheless, they will still be new rides by the time we get to ride them in 2021.
Early announcements suggest 2021 will once again be a good year for theme park enthusiasts. Many parks have already begun construction on 2021 projects while some holdovers from a spoiled 2020 are already done. Other parks have only announced plans or launched teaser campaigns.
We’ll update our top 21 list as new rides and attractions are unveiled and more details become available.
Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure at Disney California Adventure Park will allow super hero recruits to put their web-slinging skills to the test as they team up with Spider-Man to capture his out-of-control spider-bots before they wreak havoc on Avengers Campus. (Disney)
1. Marvel themed land
The highly-anticipated super hero land is currently under construction at Disney California Adventure next to the existing Guardians of the Galaxy — Mission: Breakout drop tower ride, which would be thematically tied to the other Marvel attractions.
Disney can’t call it Marvel land, for complicated legal reasons, but everybody else will. The official name: Avengers Campus.
Officially the new land will include a Spider-Man attraction, Dr. Strange mystic arts encounter, Ant-Man and Wasp restaurant and Marvel character meet-and-greets.
The Spider-Man attraction will be a web-slinging dark ride. The Dr. Strange “encounter” is expected to be a special effects stage show. You’ll be able to get a beer and a bite in the Ant-Man restaurant.
Disneyland had just announced a July 18,2020 opening date for Avengers Campus when the park closed because of the pandemic.
2. Secret Life of Pets dark ride
Work is finished on the new Secret Life of Pets dark ride at Universal Studios Hollywood on the former site of the Globe Theater.
The new ride has been squeezed into the London-themed Baker Street area between the Walking Dead walk-through attraction and the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem simulator ride.
The original 2016 “Secret Life of Pets” film and the 2019 sequel examine the lives pets lead when their owners are away from home.
Universal’s Pets ride was days from opening when the pandemic struck.
3. Iron Gwazi hybrid coaster
Busch Gardens Tampa’s Gwazi dual wooden coaster will be reborn as the world’s steepest, tallest and fastest hybrid coaster. The new ride will be rechristened Iron Gwazi.
Idaho-based Rocky Mountain Construction handled the renovation of Gwazi, which has been standing-but-not-operating since 2015. The Utah-based ride maker has been responsible for a number of recent conversions of existing wooden coasters into wood-steel hybrid beasts that have thrilled ride enthusiasts.
Iron Gwazi was among several Busch Gardens and SeaWorld rides planned for 2020 that were put on hold until 2021 by parent-company SeaWorld Entertainment.
4. Jurassic World VelociCoaster
The title of most highly anticipated truly new coaster of 2021 belongs to the VelociCoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Florida.
The new Jurassic World coaster by Switzerland-based ride maker Intamin is themed to the prehistoric Velociraptor predators from the film franchise.
The dual-launch coaster takes riders over a 155-foot-tall top hat element, into a zero G stall over a lagoon and through a jungle and raptor paddocks along 4,700 feet of track. Riders reach a top speed of 70 mph and experience 12 seconds of off-your-seat airtime.
5. Jersey Devil single-rail coaster
The Jersey Devil single-rail coaster coming to Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey will be the world’s tallest, fastest and longest ride of its kind.
The 130-foot-tall coaster will reach a top speed of 58 mph over a 3,000-foot-long track through the woods. The coaster trains will travel through a raven dive,180-degree stall and zero-gravity roll.
Passengers will sit in an inline-style train with their legs straddling a monorail I-beam track.
Rocky Mountain Construction has built similar Raptor single-rail coasters at Six Flags Fiesta Texas (Wonder Woman Golden Lasso) and California’s Great America (Railblazer).
Six Flags pressed pause on several 2020 rides, deciding to wait until 2021 when crowds return.
6. Stunt Pilot single-rail coaster
Silverwood in Athol, Idaho, will be getting its own version of a Rocky Mountain Construction single-rail coaster that is not quite as tall, fast or long as the world record-setting Jersey Devil coming to Six Flags Great Adventure.
Silverwood’s Stunt Pilot biplane-themed coaster will recall the air shows that were hosted by the Idaho theme park in the 1980s and ‘90s.
The 113-foot-tall coaster will reach a top speed of 52 mph over a 1,800-foot-long track. The RMC Raptor inline-style coaster trains will travel through three inversions — including a dive loop and corkscrew.
7. Pantheon coaster
The Pantheon coaster coming to Busch Gardens Williamsburg in Virginia will feature track segments themed to five Roman gods: Pluto, Mercury, Neptune, Jupiter and Minerva.
Billed as the fastest multi-launch coaster in North America, Pantheon will include forward and backward launches that propel riders to a top speed of 72 mph over a 3,300-foot-long track.
The 178-foot-tall Blitz coaster from Switzerland-based Intamin will send riders down a beyond-vertical 95-degree drop and through two inversions.
8. Ice Breaker launch coaster
The Arctic-themed Ice Breaker quadruple launch coaster coming to SeaWorld Orlando will send riders up and over icy summits on a wintery journey in sunkissed Florida.
The Maryland-based Premier Rides Sky Rocket coaster begins with backward and forward airtime-filled launches that shoot the train up a 93-foot-tall beyond-vertical 100-degree spike track.
After descending the Scorpion Tail spike, riders will reach a top speed of 52 mph as they fly over an 80-foot-tall near-vertical top hat element, race through high-speed twists and hop over camelback hills.
9. Aquaman Power Wave launched shuttle coaster
Six Flags Over Texas will get the first Mack Power Splash launched shuttle coaster in North America in 2021.
Aquaman Power Wave will travel backward and forward twice on a U-shaped track before a dramatic splashdown finale that will generate a tremendous wave of water.
The 20-seat boat will rocket backward up a 148-foot-tall track spike before racing forward across an undulating track skimming over a pool of water to another towering spike. Riders will then hurtle backward again above the lake and up the first 90-degree spike again. After a brief hang time, the boat will splash down into the lake at 63 mph unleashing a powerful wave.
The first Mack Power Splash debuted in 2016 at Walibi Belgium, a former Six Flags park.
10. Emperor dive coaster
SeaWorld San Diego will add its tallest roller coaster in 2021 as the marine park continues to shift its focus from animal attractions to thrill rides.
The 153-foot-tall Emperor floorless dive coaster will be the longest, tallest and fastest ride of its kind in California.
Built by Switzerland-based Bolliger & Mabillard, Mako will have a 143-foot-tall vertical first drop, a top speed of 60 mph and nearly 2,500 feet of track. The ride will feature a barrel roll and a sweeping Immelmann loop named after a German pilot who used the distinctive flying maneuver in World War II.
11. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure dark ride
Epcot will get a new Ratatouille dark ride as part of the France pavilion expansion at Disney’s Florida theme park.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at Epcot will be a copy of the $150 million Remy’s Totally Zany Adventure attraction at the Disneyland Paris resort.
The attraction features trackless ride vehicles with 3-D projections and special effects.
Shrunk to the size of a rat, visitors navigate around giant food props and towering kitchen utensils as they explore Paris from the point of view of the 2007 film’s rodent protagonist. In a number of scenes, riders see 3-D images projected on giant domed screens.
12. Legoland New York
The new Legoland New York theme park will open in 2021 in the small town of Goshen, about 60 miles northwest of New York City.
Geared for kids 12 and under, Legoland New York hopes to draw visitors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. The park will be open seasonally from early spring through late fall.
Billed as the world’s largest Legoland theme park, the 500-acre New York location will feature more than 50 rides, shows and attractions in eight themed lands — including Pirates Shores, Lego Ninjago World and Heartlake City. The centerpiece will be Miniland with iconic real-world buildings and places made with Lego bricks.
Legoland New York will be home to the first Great Lego Adventure attraction that will let riders experience what it feels like to become a Lego minifigure — from the manufacturing process to the box to the hands of a kid.
Other major attractions will include a Ninjago dark ride, Dragon kiddie coaster, Lego Driving School, Fire Academy, Rogue Wave Riders, Splash Battle, Merlin’s Flying Machines and DJ Dizzy’s Disco Spin.
The new park, like several Legoland attractions around the world, was pushed back to 2021 after being set to debut in 2020.
The Masters of Flight flying theater in Lego Movie World. (Courtesy of Legoland)
13. Lego Movie World
The new Lego Movie World themed land coming to Legoland California will drop visitors into the quirky, frenetic and manic world of Emmet Brickowski, Wyldstyle, Unikitty and Benny the spaceman from the “Lego Movie” film franchise.
Lego Movie World will open in 2021 at the Carlsbad kiddie park with a Masters of Flight flying theater, Unikitty’s Disco Drop kiddie drop tower, carousel, play area and meet-and-greet location themed to the movie town of Bricksburg.
The new Lego Movie World will be the largest addition in Legoland California’s history. A similar Lego Movie World opened in 2019 at Legoland Florida.
“Harmonious” nighttime spectacular coming in 2021 to Epcot. (Disney)
14. “Harmonious” nighttime spectacular
Epcot will launch a new version of the long-running “Illuminations” show in 2021 that updates the nighttime spectacular created as part of the Walt Disney World millennium celebration.
The new “Harmonious” show will celebrate how Disney music inspires people around the globe. The fireworks and laser show will feature massive floating set pieces, LED panels and choreographed fountain displays.
Billed as the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney park, “Harmonious” will take over the World Showcase Lagoon following a limited run of “Epcot Forever.”
Disney had planned to unveil the new nighttime spectacular in 2020 as part of Epcot’s 50th anniversary celebration.
Snake River Expedition riverboat ride coming in 2021 to Cedar Point. (Cedar Point)
15. Snake River Expedition riverboat ride
Snake River Expedition is Cedar Point’s attempt to create its own version of Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise at the Ohio theme park.
Passengers aboard the riverboat ride will join Trapper Dan and his band of bandits on a risky smuggling mission to trade some goods and sundries. The boats sail along a winding, murky river where riders encounter bad guys out to steal their cargo.
Actors aboard the boat will conduct a hastily-planned takeover — like a train robbery on a river.
Snake River Expedition had been planned for 2020, but was postponed until 2021.
The Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair 4-D interactive dark ride will debut in Summer 2020 at Knott’s Berry Farm. (Courtesy of Knott’s)
16. Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair 4-D
Knott’s Berry Farm will bring back the Bear-y Tales dark ride in a tribute to the original one-of-a-kind attraction with the catchy theme song that could only be found at the Buena Park theme park.
The Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair 4-D interactive dark ride will replace the Voyage to the Iron Reef 4-D interactive dark ride that debuted at the park in 2015. Both rides were designed by Montreal-based ride maker Triotech.
Bear-y Tales riders will once again follow Boysen Bear and Girlsen Bear as they travel to the Country Fair in hopes of winning a blue ribbon for their boysenberry pie. Crafty Coyote and his mischievous pups will be back with their eyes on the pies and thievery on their minds. New digitally rendered scenes will recreate the Boysenberry Pie Factory, Frog Forest, Fortune Teller Camp, Thunder Cave and Weird Woods from the original attraction.
This time around, riders will be armed with jelly blasters they will train on the thieving coyotes who have stolen boysenberry pies from the factory.
The completed Knott’s ride was planned for 2020 and will debut when the park fully reopens.
17. Dragon Slayer fourth-dimension coaster
The Dragon Slayer fourth-dimension roller coaster coming to Iowa’s Adventureland will feature seats that spin forward and backward as the train navigates a zigzagging track with undulating straightaways and free-fall drops.
The 4D Free Spin coaster by Utah-based S&S Worldwide will feature a track that snakes back and forth like a demonic pachinko game. Aided by magnetic kickers along the track, the Dragon Slayer trains will spin freely based on gravity and the weight distribution of the cars.
The new Dragon Slayer ride replaces the park’s double-looping 1990 Dragon coaster.
18. Fun in the Sun hamster wheel coaster
The most talked-about new coaster of 2021 is coming to the new Funplex Myrtle Beach oceanfront amusement park in South Carolina.
The otherwise-ordinary Fun in the Sun family coaster stands out thanks to one unique twist: The so-called 360 Car that spins like a human hamster wheel.
New Jersey-based Rides 4-U debuted the Big Air coaster from SBF Visa Group at the 2019 IAAPA Expo.
ThrillGeek summarized the sentiment on the IAAPA show floor: “This new coaster from SBF Visa is nuts!”
19. Triple loop coaster
A Schwarzkopf looping coaster with a long history of traveling the German fair circuit before operating in the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Mexico is now heading to the historic 1926 Indiana Beach amusement park.
The as-yet-unnamed triple loop coaster stands 111 feet tall and reaches a top speed of 53 mph as it travels over a 3,400-foot-long track. The classic coaster should attract a steady cavalcade of ride enthusiasts to Indiana Beach who love classic Schwarzkopf loopers and intense G-forces. The ride hits an astonishing 4.7 Gs, according to Screamscape.
Two riders were killed on the coaster in 2019 when the last car derailed at the La Feria Chapultepec amusement park in Mexico. The accident was blamed on poor maintenance by the park.
20. Sidewinder Safari spinning coaster
The Sidewinder Safari roller coaster will navigate hairpin turns, steep drops and helixes along a 1,400-foot-long track.
The new family coaster coming to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom will be combined with an animal exhibit. Riders will enter through a jungle-themed queue displaying snakes, lizards and other reptiles.
The Zamperla Twister coaster will have a traditional Wild Mouse-style track layout with spinning cars.
Lighthouse Lift-Off drop tower at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. (Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk)
21) Lighthouse Lift-Off drop tower
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will add a kiddie drop tower that offers panoramic views of the Pacific shoreline.
The Lighthouse Liftoff ride lets seated riders pull themselves to the top of a slowly spinning tower. Riders control the speed of the ascent by pulling on a rope. Let go of the rope and you slowly sink back to the ground.
The new ride technically debuted in 2020 when the Beach Boardwalk briefly opened for two days in November — before a spike in COVID-19 cases in Santa Cruz County forced the oceanfront amusement park to close again. But Lighthouse Liftoff will be new to 99.9% of visitors when Beach Boardwalk reopens in 2021.
Legoland California has several of the kid-powered drop towers.