Friday, May 26, 2017

Universal Orlando's New Volcano Bay Water Theme Park Now Open

© Universal Orlando
Over the past two days visitors to the Universal Orlando Resort had their first chance to experience the rides, slides and relaxation of the all-new Volcano Bay water park.  The grand opening festivities included an "authentic, South Pacific dedication ceremony commemorating the opening of Volcano Bay featuring special performances by an array of authentic Maori entertainment, ranging from water dancers to "Haka" war dancers."  Before the ceremony ended the mighty Krakatau volcano at the center of the park, standing 200 feet tall, erupted for all to see.

© Universal Orlando
Described as a "next-level water theme park," Volcano Bay combines "spectacular storytelling and incredibly immersive guest experiences with innovative technology exclusively designed for Universal to give visitors a fun-filled, hassle-free experience with their friends and family."  A top-notch collection of slides and attractions await visitors, along with a plethora of amenities that are offered to make a day at the water theme park the as relaxing as possible.

© Universal Orlando
"Universal's Volcano Bay sets a new standard on every level – from the attractions to how our guests experience them," said Tom Williams, Chairman & CEO – Universal Parks & Resorts. "Our new water theme park is the perfect complement to the rest of our incredible destination.  It provides our guests with spectacular entertainment experiences and innovative technology that helps them enjoy more of what matters most – connecting with each other and having an amazing time together."

© Universal Orlando
Volcano Bay is spread out over 25 acres - with several reserved already for future expansion - offering attractions that range from mild to wild.  The focal point of the park is Krakatau, the center volcano on property, which spews both water and fire throughout the day.  When darkness falls the volcano's massive waterfalls transform into lava flows through some of Universal's creative magic.  The volcano not only towers over the park, but the entire Universal Orlando resort.

One of the park's biggest attractions is the Krakatau Aqua Coaster, featuring four-person canoes that slide upward and downward in and through the volcano, ending with a plunge through a waterfall.

© Universal Orlando
Thrill seekers will surely line up to take on the Ko'okiri Body Plunge slide, which takes place from a platform way up near the top of the Volcano.  A trap door start plunges sliders down at 70 degrees over 125 feet onto a long run-out area adjacent to the wave pool.  Also starting from the same tower are the Kala & Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides, which also start with a trap door fall and then twist through the center of Krakatau to the splash pool below.

Several other water slides, ranging from body slides to multi-person raft experiences, also await visitors.

© Universal Orlando
Those looking for a break from the thrills will want to head over to the Waturi Beach area, a giant sandy beach that sits at the front of the wave lagoon in front of the volcano.  The lagoon is capable of creating waves in multiple directions and strengths.

Two river attractions can also be found in Volcano Bay - the Kopiko Wai Winding River is slow moving and features a trip into the Stargazer's Cavern under the volcano, and the TeAwa Fearless River has a much faster pace, featuring churning rapids and choppy waves that mix relaxation with thrills.

© Universal Orlando
Volcano Bay's designers did not forget attractions for kids who visit the park, offering more than two areas just for them.  The two largest are Tot Tiki Reef, meant for smaller guests with spraying fountains and tikis.  Runamukka Reef was once a coral reef below the ocean, but is now an expansive interactive play area that is sure to keeps kids busy for hours.

All visitors to the park will use TapuTapu, a wrist band smart device, to make ride reservations, activate secret fun inside the park, open lockers, make cash payment and more - the park has fully embraced new technology on this point.  Guests can also rent very beautiful cabanas or private lounge areas complete with a lock box, or upgrade to Universal Express to skip the waiting period on several popular attractions.

Congratulations to the resort on the new park, I can't wait to experience it - hopefully sooner than later!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Cedar Point Shores Water Park Opens This Weekend

© Cedar Point
One of several large projects Cedar Point has underway will open to guests for the first time this weekend.  Cedar Point Shores is the result of reimagining, expanding and modernizing the existing separate-entry water park that has sat next to Cedar Point for many years.

The work has made the existing park bigger and better than ever, with a fresh theme that embodies the history of Cedar Point as a staple destination on Lake Erie.  Spread among 18 acres near several of the resort's hotels and Cedar Point itself, it also borders a big stretch of the beach and Lake Erie just beyond.

"This is a unique time in Cedar Point's history. As the park evolves with the latest and greatest attractions, we will never lose sight of how we started," said Jason McClure, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point. "Cedar Point Shores is a direct nod to our past as it existed on the Lake Erie shoreline. Only today, new and exciting thrills are available right alongside the beach that has, and still continues to bring families together."

© Cedar Point
Cedar Point Shores has 17 water attractions, something for each member of the family - and several of them are brand new in 2017.  Seen in the photo up top, Point Plummet are 4 new thrill slides that start with trap-door free falls, plunging sliders straight down into the slide.  Built on the same tower is Portside Plunge, a pair of tube slides that end with giant drops into the pool below.

Kids also have plenty new fun waiting for them at the park in both Lemmy's Lagoon and Lakeside Landing.  Between the two there are numerous play areas, small slides and plenty more to keep kids of different ages happy in the summer sun.

Cedar Point Shores is also packed with new amenities, food and beverage and retail options.  Crystal Rock Cafe is a large new dining establishment, Beaches & Cream will offer various ice cream creations, Schooner's Bayside Bar has relaxing adult beverages, and the new Sandals Souvenirs and Sundries is a new retail location.  All new lounge chairs, bright colors on all the slides, upgraded cabanas for rent, lush new landscaping and more changes have also been completed.

For more information on Cedar Point Shores, check out the park's website.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Parques Reunidos the Latest Theme Park Operator to Make China Expansion Plans

It seems that lately there's a continual flow of stories about a plethora of theme park companies making plans to expand into China.  From Six Flags' parks that are ready for construction to SeaWorld's recently announced plans, everyone is eyeing the country as the next great place to develop new parks and resorts.

We now have news that Parques Reunidos has entered into a "strategic agreement" with a Chinese company to develop new parks and indoor entertainment centers there.  Working with Harves Century Group, which the press release names as "one of the principal privately owned real estate development companies in China," Parques Reunidos will assist in creating parks across China.  The pair will be working with the investment arm of the China Development Bank, so it would appear as though there will be no lack of funding for the projects.

The partnership will see Parques Reunidos assist with "preliminary consultation phase of projects, through the consultation on design, construction, and attraction procurement, all the way to the management and operation of the future parks."

© Parques Reunidos
Parques Reunidos is already one of the largest theme, water and family entertainment park operators on the planet, with locations spread across the globe.  The company owns many parks, while having similar management agreements on many others.  They've been named as operators on several new parks, such as Bollywood and Motiongate in Dubai, and Dragon Park in Vietnam.

In the U.S. the company owns properties such as Kennywood, Dutch Wonderland,  Lake Compounce, Idlewild, several water parks and more.

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!