Sunday, May 31, 2015

Scott And Carol Present - Disneyland's Diamond Celebration

Twas the night before the public opening of the Disneyland Diamond Jubilee Celebration was to start. The preparations were complete, all that was required was the official beginning. It was scheduled for dawn's early light.

The guests were all ready, only 12 hours to go. They eagerly anticipated the parade and fireworks show.

While this sign was put up due to Disneyland being open for twenty-four hours to kick off the celebration, it could also describe the anticipatory night before for some of the Disney park most avid fans.

 They were done looking at the historical drawing of Snow Whites castle, even though it was one of the coolest construction screens ever. How many organizations would go to that much effort for a temporary structure?

Finally it was time, and the rope drops on a totally packed Main Street in Disneyland. So many people wanted to attend that the gates were temporarily closed by lunchtime as the park reached capacity. But what were they all going to do?

Some just wanted to go on record as being at Disneyland for the celebration that day. They were opportunities like this everywhere through the park, and they all had long lines of guests who wanted to leverage the Disneyland 60th Diamond Jubilee Celebration through social media.

Others headed immediately for the Haunted Mansion, which immediately formed a long, quickly moving line,


for the Hat Box ghost had been missing and was rumored to have returned.

Courtesy of Disneyland

It was true, the spirit now materializes right in front of your eyes.

Here's another photo of a few of the 999 ghosts that haunt the mansion.

Other went straight to the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which had been closed for refurbishment for some time. Was this rumor true? What would they see?

The early riders reported in. The Abominable Snowman has entered the Matterhorn and has started thrilling riders.

Here is Carol's shot, as we flashed by, safely out of arm's reach.

 Courtesy of Disneyland

And here is a short clip. When you ride, first you see the wrecked bobsled, then his profile, and then he greets you as you speed by. A wonderful plus to a classic attraction.

It was special witnessing the opening of the Disneyland 60th Diamond Jubilee Celebration. We want to add a special thanks to the technical support people in Disney Media Relations for their help in resolving our video compatibility issues. You guys rock.

Six Flags Over Georgia Opens Two New Rides in Gotham City

New thrills have opened to visitors in Six Flags Over Georgia's Gotham City themed area, which will have riders spinning and flipping the day away.  The expansion follows last year's addition of the Hurricane Harbor water park.

The Joker Chaos Coaster is the larger of the two new rides added.  The ride stands over 70 feet tall and seats riders face-to-face in the train.  Once the ride gets moving the train rocks back and forth until it has enough momentum to complete the loop.

At one point during the ride the Joker actually stops the train when completely upside down - and as if that wasn't enough the ride then switches direction.  That means no matter where you sit you will travel both forwards and backwards.

Also new in Gotham City is Harley Quinn Spinsanity, a themed Tilt-A-Whirl.  An amusement park classic, the ride features quick spins as the cars move over the undulating surface.  Much of the spinning depends on the weight distribution in the car, so no two rides are ever the same on Harley Quinn Spinsanity.

ZDT's Tops Out Switchback + Other Ride Progress

© ZDT's Amusement Park
Things are moving quickly now that vertical construction is underway on Switchback at Texas' ZDT's Amusement Park.  We first saw supports for the wooden shuttle coaster go up for the ride's far-end turn, but things have gone higher in recent weeks.

Above is a photo of when Switchback's highest support was put into place.  That was at the very top of the 63 foot tall lift.  You can see the initial 180 or so degree turn also starting to be put into place, after which the trains will plunge down a 58 foot drop.

© ZDT's Amusement Park
This photo lets us see the entire L-shaped layout of the Switchback.  Designed by the Gravity Group, the ride will start with the lift/drop seen in the background on the right.  It will race toward the building in the center of the photo, pass through it as it turns, then head toward a 104 degree overbank turn at the far left.

Passing through the building again the ride will travel up a spike that will be in the right foreground, losing momentum and then completing the course backwards.  A switch-track section located after the first drop will point the locomotive-themed train back to the station.

© ZDT's Amusement Park
In this even more recent photo the start of the ride's first drop is in place.  The steep plunge will get the train moving at 40 miles per hour.

A lot of progress has taken place in a short amount of time, I can't wait to see the rest of the coaster go up - especially that reverse spike!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Universal Orlando Announces New Water Theme Park - Volcano Bay - Opening 2017

© Universal Orlando
Another highly anticipated announcement was made today: Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort will be a brand new "water theme park" that will open in 2017.  As expected, the park will be built just South of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort on a large triangular plot of land.

The resort is calling Volcano Bay a "remarkable vision" that will "reimagine what it means to be a water park," offering a "highly themed, completely immersive environment inspired by postcard-perfect tropical islands."

As seen in the only piece of concept art released today (above), the main feature of the park will be a giant volcano that features numerous waterfalls cascading down its side.

© Universal Orlando
For now the details of what the new park will offer are being kept a secret.  The resort is only saying that it "offers radically innovative, thrilling attractions, peaceful moments of relaxation and an inspired guest experience that will forever change the perception of water theme parks."  That's a tall order, but one we're confident that Universal can pull off.  With so many tricks still up their sleeve, Universal is promising more details on the project in the coming months.

© Universal Orlando
Zooming in on the concept art does show a few interesting items, however.  Beyond the wave pool we can see a large slide tower in the background, but if you look close there are a few others in the foreground.  They almost look like the entrance to large tube or even funnel slides, with their support towers built into the rockwork of the area.

© Universal Orlando
Two items to note in this piece of the art, well let's make that three.  Up in the left corner are two slides that can be seen winding their way in, out and down the backside of the volcano.  In the lower left is a waterfall covered entrance for the lazy river to pass directly into the volcano's base - imagine the theming that could be inside!  Finally, in the back middle and right is what looks like a traditional water play fortress of some variety.

© Universal Orlando
Finally - way up at the top of the volcano is a walking path, shielded from the waterfalls by rocks.  Below it is a translucent tube slide - certainly looking of the speed slide variety - that's plunging downward into the darkness of the falls.  Too cool!  The volcano is rumored to reach nearly 200 feet in the air, so this could be one tall slide we're looking at.

Universal will keep fans pretty busy while they wait for this new park to open - next year will see the opening of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort on property along with Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure.

Get Caught in the Cobra's Curse at Busch Gardens Tampa in 2016

© Busch Gardens Tampa
As promised, today Busch Gardens Tampa let the cat out of the bag and announced Cobra's Curse, an exciting new family roller coaster for the park's 2016 season that will be located in the Egypt themed area.

The attraction will be an only-one-of-its-kind spinning coaster designed by Mack Rides.  The company is known for its brand of spinning coasters, however Cobra's Curse appears to be unique in several ways.  First, the trains are two linked four seater cars - with riders all facing forwards.  The company's previous spinning rides utilized back-to-back seating and individual cars.  The new trains, at least in concept art form, resemble wild mouse cars that are able to freely spin around.

© Busch Gardens Tampa
The ride is also unique in that it starts with a 70 foot tall vertical elevator-stye lift hill.  At the top of the lift, and depicted above, riders will be faced with an 80 foot tall cobra statue, quite an imposing start to the adventure.

The coaster will hit a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour as it moves over 2,100 feet of track - a very decent size considering rides like Verbolten are 2,800 feet long.  The ride time is stated to be three and a half minutes, also longer than many rides.  From the announcement it sounds like Cobra's Curse will feature sections where the cars are only facing forward, a backwards section, and of course spinning parts as well.  There will be a second lift and several below grade trenches incorporated as well.

© Busch Gardens Tampa
Cobra's Curse will utilize eight separate trains, with each train seating a total of 8 riders at a time.  That means the ride can theoretically hit 1,000 riders per hour which should keep the line moving.  The overall Egyptian theme can be seen in the concept art above for the ride's station area - I love how the cars disappear out through a hole under the operator's booth.  The ride's colors are similar to Mako at SeaWorld Orlando, only reversed, with blue/teal track and purple supports.

Busch Gardens Tampa also released this teaser video for the new ride, showing off some on-ride animation that's worth checking out.  The layout is hard to gather from it, but I will enjoy the mystery for now.  Between the unique features, low 42 inch height requirement and cool theming, Cobra's Curse will be a ride not to miss in 2016.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mako - B&M Hypercoaster To Open at SeaWorld Orlando in 2016

A brand new Bolliger & Mabillard designed hypercoaster named Mako will debut at SeaWorld Orlando in 2016, the theme park has announced.

The coaster will be themed after the Mako shark, known for its speed and ability to change direction quickly - two attributes that will be utilized on the ride as well.  Upon opening, Mako will be the Orlando area's longest, tallest and fastest roller coaster.

© SeaWorld Orlando
Mako will be located alongside SeaWorld Orlando's existing Shark Encounter, in a two acre area being called the Shark's Realm.  In addition to Mako the area will feature "Sharks Underwater Grill, shops, shark and shipwreck theming and educational experiences" that focus on sharks.   Seen above is the entrance to the new coaster, which will incorporate the track as it flies through a sunken ship.

© SeaWorld Orlando
This wide-view concept art shows off the entire Shark's Realm area.  Mako will interact with the area as the ride swoops over the plaza, then dips down over the parks central lake as a finale.  It will not interact with the water, however special lighting and sound effects both on land and on the coaster's trains will simulate fish scattering as if a Mako shark was on the hunt.  The entire Shark's Realm area will be designed to make it feel as if visitors have entered an underwater shipwreck reef dominated by sharks.

© SeaWorld Orlando
This layout view gives a clear picture of what Mako's ride experience will be like.  The coaster is a true B&M hypercoaster, focused on air-time and speed.  The ride stands 200 feet tall and trains will hit 73 miles per hour over the 4,760 feet of track.  Mako will extend out of the park's main area and wrap around a large pond, with 1,864 feet of track directly over water.  The first element after the drop is a highly banked hammerhead turn, followed by a large air-time hill.  A turnaround is next, and then there will be many additional air-time hills on the journey back to the park - in total nine moments of air-time.

© SeaWorld Orlando
Here is a closer look at the finale of the ride, where Mako dives down toward the park's central lagoon, swooping near the water then heading up into the final brakes.  Depending on which of these concept art pieces you go off of I'm not sure of the final ride colors.  Some show teal supports, one shows dark blue.  The track seems to have purple running rails and ties with either a teal or blue base.  Whichever combination is final it will be an impressive looking ride!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's Busch Gardens Tampa coaster announcement - 2016 will be a very good year for Florida.

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.