Monday, May 22, 2017

Take a Spin on Six Flags Fiesta Texas' New Thunder Rapids Water Coaster


© Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Six Flags Fiesta Texas is gearing up for the grand opening of their new water coaster, Thunder Rapids.  The ride, which can be seen above in a photo from the park, is located in the White Water Bay water park section of the theme park, and is included in general admission.

Built along the backside of the park's giant Texas-shaped wave pool, Thunder Rapids features a ridable lift up to three stories in the air, then both downhill and uphill sections along 942 feet of slide.  Rafts are propelled along the course using "water jet propulsion technology" as they zip through tunnels, tight turns and dips.

Thunder Rapids will open this coming weekend for a special season pass-only preview.  Saturday and Sunday will see the new attraction open for Gold pass holders only, then Monday is for all pass holders.  The ride's grand opening for the public will be on June 3rd.

Ready to take a ride?  Six Flags Fiesta Texas has released this new point of view video.  Enjoy!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Checking In On Mine Blower Construction at Fun Spot America


© Fun Spot America
One of the summer's most anticipated new coasters, and one of only three new wooden roller coasters to open in North America in 2017, Mine Blower at Fun Spot America is continuing to make progress.  The super-compact coaster has already hit its maximum height of 83 feet, with the initial lift hill, tight 180 degree turn and first plunge now completed.

The crew has been hard at work on other sections of the coaster, such as the massively banked turn seen above in a photo from the park.

© The Gravity Group
Mine Blower's designer, The Gravity Group, has also been sharing photos of the coaster's progress on social media.  This past week work began, and continued quickly, on the coaster's full inversion, a barrel roll that takes place over the top of the ride's station.  Above is a photo of the steel support structure for the inversion being put into place.  If you follow the bents that will hold the track you can follow the path that the trains will take.

© The Gravity Group
One more photo that The Gravity Group has shared, this time from the top of the lift hill looking down at the ride sprawled below.  The inversion supports can be seen on the right, and one of the heavily banked turns I spoke of earlier can be seen in the back.  When completed Mine Blower will twist over itself several times during the 2,290 feet of track.  You can check out some other recent photos from Wild Gravity Travels here.

Obviously with the ride still coming together it's a bit soon to look for an opening date, but Fun Spot America is still planning to make a summer debut.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

Six Flags' New Parks in China to Feature Garfield and Friends


Six Flags Entertainment Corporation has announced that their partnership with Riverside Tourism Investment Group Co. Ltd to build theme parks in China will include Garfield as the main character theme of the park's children's areas.

The famous characters, which got their start in the comics section of the paper, will first appear at Six Flags Zhejiang when the park opens in 2019. The second Six Flags Park in China, Six Flags Chongqing, is scheduled to open in 2020.  Both will feature the Garfield characters when they open.

© Paws, Inc
“We are excited to partner with the great team at Paws Incorporated to create unique, themed sections based on the beloved Garfield character for children and their families,” said John Odum, President, Six Flags International Development Company. “From themed rides and attractions to live shows, character meet and greets and merchandise, guests will be fully immersed inside the clever world of Garfield and friends.”

The developers of the parks in China, which are licensing the Six Flags name and featuring their planning and expertise, note that Garfield is "already a beloved character in China and we look forward to bringing him to life inside Six Flags Zhejiang and Six Flags Chongqing.”

Garfield, Odie, Pooky, Arlene and Nermal are just some of the cast of characters that will be featured in the children's area.  Their license is represented by International Theme Park Services, Inc., a leader in the theme park and amusement industry.

Specific details of the two Six Flags parks for China have not been announced yet, hopefully soon we will get a chance to look at just what rides are planned!


Friday, May 19, 2017

New Nighttime Show Revealed for Universal Studios Hollywood's Wizarding World of Harry Potter


© Universal Studios Hollywood
Giving visitors yet another reason to visit Universal Studios Hollywood this summer, the theme park has announced the addition of "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle," a brand new show to debut in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on June 23rd.

The show will feature a "dazzling light projection experience" set on the backdrop of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Visitors will view the show from inside Hogsmeade village once the sun sets, enjoying a journey that will showcase "the four houses of Hogwarts: Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin that culminates with awesome beams of lights that fan into the night sky."

Along with the light projections, the new show will feature a special musical arrangement created by John Williams, who composed the original scores for the series of Harry Potter feature films.  Experienced in surround sound, the arrangement will no doubt transport guests back into the world of Harry Potter.  The music is being conducted by William Ross and recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.

Visitors to Universal Studios Hollywood will be able to experience "The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle" during multiple performances each night during the summer months.  There will be limited previews leading up to the June 23rd grand opening performance.


Thursday, May 18, 2017

SeaWorld Entertainment Plans New Sesame Place Park in the U.S. + Expansion in Orlando



SeaWorld Entertainment has announced that they have extended their existing, 37 year old agreement with Sesame Workshop through the end of 2031 and that it now includes the development of a new Sesame Place theme park in the U.S. and themed expansions at the company's existing parks.

The agreement will continue to have SeaWorld Entertainment as Sesame Workshop's only theme park partner in the U.S., and calls for at least one new Sesame Place park to open by mid-2021.  The location of this park has not yet been disclosed, but more parks are on the table for the future as well.

It was also mentioned in the press release that SeaWorld Orlando will build a new Sesame Street themed land at the park by fall 2022.  To me, it sounds like the dates given for the new park and new land are deadlines, so it's not to say that they will not open earlier.

Sesame Place in Pennsylvania © Google Maps
"We share Sesame's goal of educating and entertaining generations of children, and the extension of our partnership furthers SeaWorld's mission to provide guests with experiences that matter," said Joel Manby, President and Chief Executive Officer of SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc. "We are thrilled to be able to grow the presence of Sesame Place theme parks in the U.S. and help our company diversify its brand portfolio and expand into new areas." 

As for just where the new park is going, and how extensive the addition at SeaWorld Orlando will be, the Orlando Sentinel has some great hints on both. 

At SeaWorld Orlando it sounds like the Sesame Street land will replace Shamu's Happy Harbor, and will be designed to be more immersive than the lands that went into the two Busch Gardens parks.  The article quotes Mr. Manby as saying there will be Sesame Street itself to walk down, rides, a parade and more.  Honestly, aside from the water slides that just described the existing Sesame Place pretty well!

© Sesame Place
The new park is not going to Orlando, that seems for sure from the story.  Mr. Manby says that there are existing markets in the U.S. that are under served for preschool entertainment, and they will be easier and cost less to build than in the Orlando market.  

My first thought was to give it another go in Texas, as a Sesame Place existed there for only two years starting in 1982.  I'm not sure if the company has enough free land adjacent to SeaWorld San Antonio, but own the land for a new park certainly helps take a bit out of the budget!  Time will tell on this one.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Universal Orlando Shares First Look Inside Volcano Bay


© Universal Orlando
It is hard to believe that after all the speculation and guessing about whether or not Universal Orlando was going to pull the trigger on a brand new water park, we're finally just a couple weeks away from the grand opening.  Set to have the public enter for the first time on May 25th, Volcano Bay has been revealed from the inside for the first time.

Granted we've seen many aerial photos of the park's development on social media, so we've probably all had a good look so far, even those shots didn't do the park the justice it deserves.  It's beautiful!

© Universal Orlando
The park aims to make visitors feel as if they're on a "tropical getaway," and from these photos that looks like a big success.  The park's central feature is Krakatau, a giant volcano that stands 200 feet above the park's 30 acres.  Visitors can choose to totally relax during the day, or take part in many fun slides and attractions.

© Universal Orlando
Universal has packed plenty in Volcano Bay, offering 18 different water slides, a gigantic wave pool, a lazy river, action river, and several play areas - and more.  Zeroing in on the relaxation aspect, there are tons of places to lounge, including sandy beaches, along with a plethora of private cabanas to rent.

A first impression of the park and its offerings can be found, along with some photos, on CNN's Travel site.  The story is filled with details on the efforts that went into creating the park, and is worth checking out if you're interested in the park.

I'm looking forward to copious amounts of coverage to hit the web in just a couple weeks, I have a feeling there's still plenty more to see!