Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Kong Now Invading Wildwood on Morey's Surfside Pier

We've heard of some exciting Kong news down in Orlando recently, but the famous giant ape has also made a return to the Jersey Shore this year at Morey's Piers.  Located on Surfside Pier, Kong is a new flat ride that lets riders soar above the boardwalk in their own fighter airplane.

© Morey's Piers
The ride is a set of Larson Flying Scooters, which we have seen recently installed at many large amusement parks, for instance at Dorney Park in 2015 as well.  What sets Morey's Flying Scooters apart is the giant Kong figure that is located at the ride's center.  Kong is perched on a lighthouse, looking a bit angry and holding a tram car - a famous sight along the Wildwood boardwalk.  The entire ride is atop a platform on the pier, making it 60 feet above the crowd at its peak.

This video, from Wildwood Pizza Tour, shows Kong in action:

Kong is modeled after Morey's old ride that shared the same theme, including a giant Kong character.  While not quite the same ride action, the 1972 ride featured biplanes that flew around the ape.  Many visitors felt nostalgic about that original ride, leading the Moreys to bring it back in a new form.

Since the new ride is up on a platform, the area below it is home to Kong & Co., a store featuring branded merchandise and a rest & recharge area.

© Morey's Piers
And, as you can see from this photo from the ride's (unfortunately rainy) opening event, Kong looks great at night with his glowing eyes.  The ride's light package - including bright leds on the underside of the cars - doesn't look so bad either!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Six Flags New England's Wicked Cyclone Already Breaking Into Top Ten Lists

Happy Memorial day to all, and our deepest thanks go out to all those who have served in this country's armed forces.  We have them to thank for the freedom we so often take for granted!

© Six Flags New England
To say that Six Flags New England's Wicked Cyclone is receiving rave reviews might be an understatement, if that's even possible.  The new Rocky Mountain Iron Horse conversion of the former wood coaster has taken the public by storm, literally if you pay attention to the ride's theming, and already being declared a top-ten ride by many.

The twisted coaster is flying through the course, giving some extreme air-time to those willing to take a spin.  Video from the ride's preview days, like this one, really show just how quick the trains make it through the course.

© Six Flags New England
The ride features three different inversions, including the first of its kind 200 degree stall and two heartline rolls.  I'm also quite pleased to see the finished theming product for Wicked Cyclone, it is much more comprehensive than I expected.  I think it's great to see Six Flags continuing to spend a little on additional theming on their bigger coaster projects.

For a look at that theming, along with some very impressive photography and thoughts on the new coaster, stop by SFNEOnline and read this story.  And finally - for what its worth - I was unsure of the gray support color but the finished product looks great!  The contrast is really nice.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Legoland Hotel Now Open For Business at Legoland Florida

A major milestone in the expansion of the Legoland Florida Resort took place this month as the Legoland Hotel opened to visitors for the first time.  Seen above, the new resort features a playfully bright facade filled with over-sized Lego bricks and other elaborate creations.  A giant friendly looking dragon sits atop the clock tower that supports the port-cochère and greets visitors to start their experience.

The new hotel sits adjacent to the main entrance for Legoland Florida, and the grounds include this relaxing looking pool area.  The hotel is also situated along the shore of Lake Eloise and does have some walking paths and boardwalks set among the beautiful landscaping the park is known for.

Guests of the Hotel also enjoy early access to Legoland Florida Resort, free full breakfast daily, interactive play areas, daily and nightly entertainment, disco elevator, resort pool and much more.

A perk found only at the Florida hotel is that the Master Model Builder Workshop is located on site, not in the theme park.  Guests to the hotel will be able to work on projects alongside a Master Model Building during daily build sessions.

Naturally visitors will be hungry after a busy day at Legoland Florida, so Bricks Family Restaurant will come in handy.  The full service buffet-style restaurant is located inside the hotel, and can offer up something even for the pickiest of eaters.

“Legoland Florida Resort is continuously expanding, making it an awesome place for families with children to stay for multiple days. The addition of Legoland Hotel makes that possible,” said General Manager of Legoland Florida Resort Adrian Jones. “The hotel is a fully immersive experience, with a number of exclusive features unique to Legoland Florida Resort and we’re excited to welcome families to stay and play with us for the first time in Florida!”

The new Lego Hotel in Florida is the first in the U.S. to offer rooms themed to Lego Friends, and has the only themed suite of its type in the world.  The theme of the rooms are based on the five Lego Friends and their personalities: Olivia, Stephanie, Mia, Emily and Andrea.

Each of the 152 guest rooms in the hotel features one of four themes: Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure and Lego Friends.  Above is one of the comfortable looking rooms for mom and dad; kids rooms feature a bunk bed and trundle bed.  All rooms are capable of sleeping up to five guests at a time.  For those who want to get a little more fancy, suites are available and sleep up to nine.

All rooms come with a special treasure chest that can only be unlocked by completed a hotel scavenger hunt - how cool!

For more information on the new hotel or to book a stay, click here.

All Photos © Chip Litherland for Legoland Florida Resort/Merlin Entertainments Group

Saturday, May 23, 2015

End of the Road for Thunder Road at Carowinds

© Carowinds
Carowinds has announced that after 39 years, Thunder Road will closed for good on July 26th, 2015.  Saying only that it is being "retired" to make way for more "family-fun attractions," no details on what is planned is available yet.

Thunder Road first opened in 1976 and is a PTC racing coaster, with two separate tracks.  The ride crosses over between North and South Carolina during each 3,819 foot long track.  The ride starts with a 93 foot drop and the ride's layouts focuses on air-time hills and a large turnaround.

Here's an aerial look at Thunder Road (named after the 1958 film of the same name) at the park.  It starts in the County Fair section, near Afterburn, and heads out to the edge of the park toward the campgrounds.  To the left of the ride is undeveloped area and some excess parking lots, and to the entire right of it is the Boomerang Bay water park.

Obviously most parks do not want to remove a big ride like Thunder Road without a good reason, especially considering the fact that the ride has received a great deal of refurbishments in the past 5 or so years.  I just rode it last weekend and while parts of it feel pretty great, others are still a bit on the rough and tumbly side.

Looking at the image above the blue area is the current Boomerang Bay water park.  The orange area is land that would be easy to expand into with Thunder Road gone.  At a quick glance the park could easily double the size of the water park if they wanted.  There have already been some hints that a big water park expansion is on the way in 2016, and Boomerang Bay does need some additional modern slides.  Perhaps the changes will be so big that a total rebranding will be needed.

I guess we will find out in August!  For now - get your rides in on Thunder Road and say goodbye!

Kentucky Kingdom Ready to Thrill in 2015 with 8 New Rides

© Kentucky Kingdom
Memorial Day Weekend is a big Summer kickoff for many parks, and this is also true for Kentucky Kingdom which is opening some of its eight new rides for 2015.  Not all the rides are ready to open, three of them will open in a week's time, but the growth of the park is impressive considering this is only its second season back in operation.

Seen up top is Skycatcher, a new swing ride that towers 130 feet over the park.

© Kentucky Kingdom
Also open already is Up Up & Away, a spinning balloon ride that's perfect for the whole family.  Kentucky Kingdom's 4-D theater has also come back to life this year, showing the Wizard of Oz 4-D Experience, and for more thrills the swinging pendulum attraction Cyclos won't disappoint.

© Kentucky Kingdom
One of Kentucky Kingdom's older attractions has been refurbished and is now open as well, the Enterprise.  The classing looping ride is a staple attraction at many parks, Kentucky Kingdom included.

Next weekend will mark the planned opening of the park's Raging Rapids River Ride, a children's spinner called Flutterfly and T3, a suspended looping roller coaster.  T3 has received new trains that are meant to make the ride experience much more enjoyable than before.

It sounds like even more expansion is on the way, as the state of Kentucky just approved $15 million in incentives for the park's future growth.  Sounds good to me!

Friday, May 22, 2015

New Raptor Encounter Impresses Visitors at Islands of Adventure

© Universal Orlando
A new mini-attraction has opened at Islands of Adventure, and it is seriously cool.  The new attraction is located in the Jurassic Park area of the park, and is named Raptor Encounter.  It utilizes a bit of the space that the Triceratops Encounter - closed for some time now - previously called home.

Admittedly I'm a big fan of Jurassic Park, and so the all new Raptor Encounter already had a lot going for it in my book, just based on the premise.  That is, of course, to have an encounter with a 'real' moving raptor.

After hearing rumors that some type of raptor interaction was coming I hoped this would turn out well, and I will happily say it's far better than I expected.  Here's Universal's promo for the experience:

Looks pretty neat - but doesn't quite show all the details of exactly how guests interact with the nearly 9 foot tall velociraptor.  There are two different raptors that can be viewed, named Lucy and Ethel, cute, and this clip from Attractions Magazine paints a better picture.

The raptors aren't an animatronic for those wondering, more of a giant puppet of sorts.  Those wondering exactly how the trick is done will have to Google that elsewhere.

The opening of the Raptor Encounter is meant to coincide with the opening of Jurassic World on June 12th, a perfect cross promotion in my book.