Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Sesame Place Celebrates 35th Anniversary with New Parade, Rides and More

Pennsylvania's Sesame Place is celebrating its 35th Birthday this year, and is planning a celebration to honor it that will last all Summer.  The 14 acre park originally opened in the Summer of 1980, and now offers visitors a selection of both water and dry rides, live entertainment and a famous recreation of Sesame Street's most popular locations.

Sesame Place is going all out for its 2015 birthday celebration, adding new rides, a parade and also plenty of special decorations for the event.

The park's entrance will welcome guests will a birthday makeover, including bright balloons, garland, and a giant birthday cake (seen here).  The park's famous Sesame Street character topiaries will also be decorated for the birthday party, as well.

Special photo spots will be built for guests to have their photos taken with the characters, always one of the highlights of a visit to Sesame Place.

The character parade at the park has been around for many years, however it is being renovated for 2015 to become the Neighborhood Birthday Party Parade.  The parade features three performance stops that focus on "letters, numbers, and friendship along with energetic contemporary and classic Sesame Street tunes."  The parade will also feature special birthday decorations such as "sparkly cupcakes" and a new song.  The interactive experience is a ton of fun for families and their kids, and will be performed twice most days, once in the afternoon and again in the evening.

The past few seasons Sesame Place has added a handful of temporary rides to the park in the early and late season when the water attractions are closed.  This year the park has purchased three brand new children's rides, all specifically themed for the park.  Drawings of them can be found above, and it appears as thought they are Zamperla attractions.  Sesame Place will place the rides in the area near the Count's Splash Castle prior to Memorial Day, and also again in the Fall and Christmas seasons.  The three new rides will bring the park's total mechanical ride count to 14 - impressive since most of us remember when the park added its first!

Other changes at the park in 2015 include upgraded amenities, such as a total renovation of Elmo's Eatery - now featuring a new menu, more seating and table service.  For more information on the park's 35th Birthday season, visit Sesame Place's official website.

New Simpsons Area Opens at Universal Studios Hollywood

© Universal Studios Hollywood
Many Universal Studios fans were impressed when the company's Florida park opened a real-life Springfield in 2013.  The expansion brought into reality many eateries and other buildings that we've seen countless times on the Simpsons, creating a vibrant and fun atmosphere outside the park's ride of the same name.

Now, Universal Studios Hollywood has just opened (soft opened, technically) their take on Springfield, an even more ambitious version of the famous fictitious town.  This one's big, quite large actually - with one main structure that is housed in a multitude of Simpsons facades, some including extra effects and goodies.

Guests can wonder into Krusty Burger, peek in Herman's Military Antiques, watch the nuclear plant have a brief meltdown, or grab a donut at Lard Lad's or a beer at Duff's.  There's some different offerings in Hollywood not found in Florida, and plenty of additional details as well - though food and beverage offerings remain the goal of the structures.  One could spend plenty of time just exploring the facades, especially if they're a fan of the series.

The size of the structure comes from the need to create a back-end of sorts to the under construction Wizarding World of Harry Potter, helping to seal off that land from the rest of the park while creating a fun new space.

To check out a tour of the new area, including great shots of all the jokes and gags, Inside Universal is offering up a fantastic photo set.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Scott And Carol Present - Hooray for Dollywood's 30th Anniversary!

As always Dollywood kicked off their season with a Season Pass Holder/Media Day. The opening show in the Dolly Parton Celebrity Theater is always the must see event and there was even more reason to attend this season. 

Of course Miss Parton herself, makes an appearance and as usual Dolly makes a grand entrance! She has 30 new things for this year, but we are most excited about the return of the Showcase of the Stars and finding out the details on the mentioned first ever New Years Eve event. She also mentioned they have been visited by approximately 75 million guests during the last 30 years.

Dolly is her unpretentious self, and she really connects with her people, in this case the season pass holders. She also talked about her new website, dollyparton.com, the new home for everything Dolly.

Guests were treated to a wonderful video presentation showcasing Dollywood's highlights from the past thirty years. The crowd cheered some of their favorite memories from days gone by.

The big thing is the new hotel and Dolly mentioned the DreamMore Resort in the video and we did drive by it on our way to Dollywood. The is no way to miss it with this huge sign advertising when the resort opens. This will be "The" resort to stay in Sevier County starting this summer. We can't wait to see the inside, Dolly said that everything wasn't revealed in the previously released information. Another opportunity to create family memories worth repeating in eastern Tennessee.

Construction is moving along and the resort is currently accepting reservations for August 2015.  It dominates the Middle Creek Parkway on the drive into Dollywood and Splash Country and is reminiscent of southern mansions.

Several different acts were showcased from Festival of Nations, and we will include them in a different story. But Dolly had one more surprise in store for the season passholders and the media in attendance, a grand Tennessee finale.

Our thanks to Dolly Parton and the fine folks at Dollywood for a wonderful day! We hope your 30th season is the greatest year ever! That reminds us, we need to go back to the Gristmill for cinnamon bread, we forgot to get some.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Adventureland's Turbulence Coaster Now Complete

© Adventureland
We didn't see much over the Winter month's about Adventureland's (on Long Island, New York) new roller coaster, Turbulence, however the ride is now complete.

The park has released a few photos of the custom design ride, including the one of the completed track (above) just a few days ago.  The ride's electric color scheme makes it nearly impossible not to notice, something I'm sure the park is happy about.

© Adventureland
This photo was from a week earlier, when all of the ride's lower track was set, and just the lift hill and crown needed to be put into place.  The ride's first drop dives downward and then immediately up into a large wave turn, seen prominently in the first photo.  Turbulence is manufactured by Mack Rides and is one of their custom spinning coasters.  There's only a handful of these around the globe, including Sierra Sidewinder at Knott's Berry Farm and Space Fantasy at Universal Studios Japan.

© Adventureland
Adventureland also shared this photo of the ride's cars, which have been delivered to the property.  Turbulence will have two trains, each with three cars - each car seats four riders, two forwards and two backwards.

In anticipation of Turbulence's opening, Adventureland has started a first-rider event, with proceeds going to charity.  Read more about that, and Turbulence, at this link.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

New Gerstlauer "Infinity" Coaster Opening in Finland

Finland's PowerPark will open "Junker" this Summer, a brand new Gerstlauer designed Infinity coaster.  What is an Infinity coaster?  Well I didn't know either, but apparently it is the company's line of coasters that are like The Smiler at Alton Towers - meaning quite twisted, using individual cars and a lift, launch, or both!

Junker will just use one launch, sending cars toward an inverted 131 foot tall top hat at over sixty miles per hour.  The rest of the ride gets a bit convoluted, so perhaps take a look at this layout first:

This comes from Coasters and More - a great European site that always has some of the best news and images around.

So the coaster will complete the inverted top hat, then dive into what looks like a Norwegian Loop at first glance, but it isn't.  It is actually a dive loop immediately followed by a fat-looking vertical loop.  And interesting mix!  After another climb and brief pause, the trains dive into a cut-back, another dive loop, a corkscrew and a final helix before the brakes kick in.  The track spans over 2,800 feet from start to finish.

In addition to a new page for Junker with a press release, there are two webcams that have been set up to see the coaster going up.  Although it was night when this was taken, you can still see that a significant amount of Junker is up!  With a very unique layout and a newer ride system being used, this could be one of the sleeper hits of the year.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Scott And Carol Present - A Look At Carowind's Fury 325

Carowinds held the Media Day for their 325 foot tall, 3:25 long Bolliger & Mabillard Giga coaster Fury 325 on 3/25/2015. Luckily for us they didn't delay the festivities until 3:25 PM.

Here is a wide angle view of Fury 325 from the new guess drop off area. Which may also turn out to be a Fury 325 photo spot. Before the media day opened there was a constant stream of people watching the empty cars cycle the ride.

Cedar Fair has really gone all out in designing their recent coaster logos and Fury 325 is no exception. 

One of the beautiful 32 passengers train at the end of the ride. 

Here's a shot of the turn  around setting up the dive under the entrance bridge.

The train approaching the dive under the entrance bridge,

and exiting out the other side.

One of Fury 325's dive curves

This ground hugging turn leads into the dive under the bridge. Fury 325 makes great use of ground proximity to boost the excitement level during the ride.

This section of track seems to have a musical feel to it.

We hope you enjoyed this brief glimpse of Fury 325, we will have more in-depth coverage to come very soon, once we recover from our whirlwind, marathon trek to experience Fury 325. In the meantime, Carowinds will open on 3/28/2015 and you could go ride it yourself!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Batman: The Ride Topped Off at Six Flags Fiesta Texas

© Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Yesterday was an exciting day for everyone at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, as the park placed the final track piece of Batman: The Ride into place.  The 4-D Free Spin coaster's last piece of bright yellow track was from the very top of the ride's vertical lift hill, which stretches 120 feet into the sky.
Batman: The Ride is the first coaster of its kind to open in the world, using both gravity and magnets to flip the cars as riders pass over the undulating track.

© Six Flags Fiesta Texas
This wide-angle shot really shows just how impressive the coaster looks - from this view it appears to be much taller than 120 feet!  The relatively simple layout, consisting of mostly gently hills, is structured to allow the unique trains to flip and spin riders in different ways.  The park promises at least six inversions mixed among the vertical drops and hills, though the use of magnets could allow for changes to the experience in the future.

The park also released video of the final track construction, available here.

Six Flags Great Adventure Reducing Carbon Footprint with Solar Power

© Six Flags Great Adventure
Six Flags Great Adventure has announced a partnership with KDC Solar LLC that will see the construction of a giant solar net metering project - the largest in the state of New Jersey.  KDC Solar will construct and own the facility, while being built on property that belongs to the theme park.

The project will take between 16 and 18 months to complete, meaning it will be fully operational in the second half of 2016. 

© Six Flags Great Adventure
The functioning 'solar farm,' as they are often called, will allow the world's largest theme park to utilize clean energy for its operations.  The park already recycles 60 percent of its overall waste and is ever on the lookout for ways to 'go green' - including the recent removal of paper towels in rest rooms in favor of energy efficient hand dryers.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to conservation and eco-friendly initiatives, we intend to generate clean energy,” said Park President John Fitzgerald. “Solar power will significantly reduce our reliance on harmful fossil fuels.”

While many parks are looking for ways to create and utilize clean energy, this is the first time a park has made a move on such a grand scale that I am aware of.  Great work by the park on this new partnership!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Waldameer's Massive Water Park Expansion Coming Along

It won't be long before the huge piles of dirt, partially poured concrete, and nearly completed buildings open at Waldameer as Water World's huge 2015 expansion.  Sure, it may look like a mess right now, but that's what it takes to turn a huge part of the park's former parking lot into a Summer paradise.

Above is a map of the expansion area, which will feature a giant wave pool - the largest in the tri-state area - as its focus.  The wave pool will be accompanied by a large lounging area, complete with private cabanas that will be available to rent.

© Waldameer Park
Here's a look at some of that dirt I mentioned, along with the service building for the wave pool.  As you can see the floor of the wave pool was just about ready to be poured, which will really make things come together!  The park will also build a new food location, Waveside Grill, in the expanded Water World.  Amenities such as expanded changing rooms, new lockers, and all new ticket booths are also going up right now.

You may have noticed in the map up top that the park has plenty more planned for the future, as well.  A kiddie spray ground, water play structure and a thrilling new bowl slide are all planned to be added in the coming seasons as well.

The park's WaldaBlog has a great off-season look at all these construction projects, be sure to click over and read more here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Six Flags Great Adventure Announces Batman: The Ride - Backwards

This Summer will be hotter than ever at Six Flags Great Adventure as the park introduces Batman: The Ride - Backwards as a thrilling new coaster experience.  The attraction will be a limited run at the theme park, opening July 4th weekend and only available until Labor Day weekend, 2015.

Batman: The Ride has long been one of the park's most popular roller coasters, and now the inverted ride will be and all-new experience due to the backwards trains.  “The ride’s intensity is ratcheted way up,” said John Fitzgerald, Six Flags Great Adventure president. “Thrill seekers will not want to miss this limited-time opportunity to put their inner ‘super hero’ to the test.”

Riders will soar through the sky at 50 miles per hour over 2,700 feet of track, heading through five inversions that they will not be able to anticipate due to the backwards trains.  The coaster has already given over 27 million rides since its debut in 1993, and with this limited run I'm sure that number will continue to quickly rise.

This Summer will also see the debut of Six Flags Great Adventure's El Diablo, a new ride that sends riders looping both forward and backward in the park's Plaza del Carnaval area.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Scott And Carol Present - Tempesto at Busch Gardens Willamsburg

We were invited to a construction tour at Busch Gardens Williamsburg on Saturday March 21st, 2015.  Rumors abound as to what exactly they were building, and since the construction is right next to Apollo's Chariot, it was impossible to hide.                                                                
The park did its best, erecting a large blue wall around the construction site and on this day there were suddenly signs nailed all over the fence. Although the 154 foot high barrel roll had left no doubt that Busch Gardens Williamsburg was building it's sixth roller coaster, the site work and foundations were hidden by the fence, though you could look down and see the construction from Apollo's Chariot.

Park President Carl Lum, Engineering Vice President Larry Giles and Operations Vice President Mark Pauls conducted the tour and answered questions.


The event was well attended, with a wide variety of news outlets represented. We were all wearing very stylish bright orange Tempesto hardhats.

While the track work was complete, workers will be putting in some long hours to finish the rest of the project by April 25th, 2015. There is still a lot of painting to be done.

Light strands will be strung from these poles as part of the place making, the theming even includes fancy "old" looking light bulbs throughout the station. 

Bright new colors will liven up Festa Italia, even on the older buildings surrounding their newest attraction. Much paint and new canvas will enhance the atmosphere.

This angle shows how, unlike it's neighboring coaster Apollo's Chariot's sprawling layout,  Tempesto has a very compact the footprint. Riders will experience launches both forwards and backwards during the 55 second ride.

And here you can almost feel it touching the clouds, well not really. But when you do that 154 foot roll over, you will feel the height of Tempesto.

Tempesto wouldn't be placed in Busch Gardens Williamsburg without the little details that make it beautiful, for the park is annually awarded many accolades for its heavily themed atmosphere.

The many lengths and varied diameter of the track sections resemble an intricate erector set, 

and, the bright, bold colors are visually pleasing.

 So, who wants to do the stress analysis for this part of the structure. Any takers?

The nose art is reminiscent of the way old pilots used to paint their planes. The blue track should contrast nicely with the train.

And, on this day workers were performing some test launch bumps. It was very exciting and some those in attendance boldly volunteered to be "test dummies!" Eventually the train will accelerate to 63 mph, just 5 feet away from the next group of daredevils. The anticipated throughput should be in excess of 600 people per hour.

While a transfer table was considered to allow for two trains, it was decided instead to use a three car train for increased up time. If you look closely, you can see that the train floor is level with the station which speed guests entering and leaving the trains. But the weight of the longer train created another consideration...

Twin stators were require for the linear synchronous launch system to have enough power to launch the heavier train.

Instead of ordering a custom floor plan, the location of the whole ride was adjusted to avoid any conflicts with Apollo's Chariot substructure. The entirely separate foundations ensure that neither ride will affect the other. The yellow support is from Apollo's Chariot.

One of the many test launches the work crew performed for the tour group, the train has just left the station and is beginning it's climb.

It was very exciting to watch the train launch out of the station and up the first hill, then stall and roll back into the station. Extensive testing with different load patterns should commence shortly, and once Premier does their tests it's Engineering's turn, and finally Busch Garden Williamsburg employees will actually get paid to ride when Operations completes their testing. What a great perk!

This view is from the entrance plaza of the France parking lot, and the trees frame the installation quite nicely.

After the tour was over we were escorted over to the San Marco theater in Busch Gardens’ Festa Italia where the season pass holders were given the details about Tempesto. And after telling the excited passholders that they would be able to ride it on 4/25/2015, Carl Lum then treated everybody in attendance to free gelato.