Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Two More Attractions Closing in Walt Disney World

© Disney
The winds of change continue to blow inside Walt Disney World, which has announced two more large attraction closings this week.

Disney's Hollywood Studios, which has already announced several closures in recent times, will be adding The Magic of Disney Animation to that list.  The attraction will stay open for two more weeks, closing for good after July 12th.

The attraction is one of the originals from the park's opening years, though only a shell of its former self.  Originally visitors strolled along catwalks looking down at Disney animators hard at work, but that was removed over a decade ago.  Now guests are treated to a film presentation with an actor animator, and then are ushered into an area that has interactive elements and character greet areas. 

No word from the park yet on what will replace the attraction - thought it seems we must be getting closer to the anticipated big announcement of the park's new name and (hopefully) selection of new attractions!

Also going away soon will be DisneyQuest, the interactive indoor theme park that has operated at Downtown Disney, soon to be Disney Springs, since 1998.  The building is expected to be repurposed for the already announced NBA themed restaurant/experience that will be a major tenant at Disney Springs. 

The size of the large building makes it a bit easier to understand how Disney is promoting the NBA Experience as more than just a restaurant and store - they'll have plenty of room for all kinds of interactive features over multiple floors.

DisneyQuest was the first in what was planned to be a whole chain of similar buildings across the nation.  One opened in Chicago but quickly closed, no others made it off the ground.  The Orlando version limped along for years, though almost all of the interactive games and rides are quite outdated in 2015.

A specific closing date was not announced, though it will be sometime in 2016.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Small Dorney Park Early-Summer Park Update

With July, aka the busy season, just around the corner, Dorney Park has started its long stride into the Summer months.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't so great this weekend, as Saturday felt more like a late September day rather than one in late June.  Plus it poured all day.

Still, thankfully Sunday the skies cleared (some) so I decided to make the harrowing six mile drive over to take a stroll through the park.

This big sign is positioned on one of the entrance buildings, and I think it's a wonderful idea.  It's pretty clearly a corporate initiative, so I would think these are probably at all the parks.  Still, it is great to recognize employees that are going above and beyond.  Also note the new Cedar Fair logo used in the bottom.

June has been Lemonade Days at Dorney Park, a series of fundraisers aimed at benefiting the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.  There have been several events held during the month, and this giant sign out front shows the progress to date.  Wonderful work so far!  This weekend was one last event that benefits the cause, so we will expect to see the final total raised soon.

I stopped by the former site of Hang Time to see if anything has changed, and it is still a sea of mulch.  Interesting that no landscaping went in, perhaps there is a plan for the spot.  Or maybe not!  After noting no changes I ignored it and snapped this nice shot of Thunder Canyon.

I like this change - the hill in front of Hydra's cobra roll has received a nice landscaping update.  It is pretty obvious from the photo what that is!  I don't really remember just what was on this hill before, but that probably means it wasn't much of anything.  A nice touch by the park's landscaping team.

Down at the park's former go-kart track there has been some activity.  It is quite hard to see from inside the park, so this is the best I could do.  You can see the area from Steel Force as well - but I don't do photos on rides.  Anyway, since it's already a pretty nice concrete path and was previously used for a Haunt, perhaps something along those lines is underway?

Here is something else that I believe will be for this year's Haunt.  The park was approved to build a new structure in this area months ago, and initial work for it is underway.  It's been a while since we've seen those flag markers in the ground at Dorney, so it was exciting for a moment.  However, this will be a building that will house a Haunt, I believe, wedged in between employee parking and Steel Force.

Earlier I mentioned one last event as part of Lemonade Days, and that was the Ribs 'n' Rides BBQ Festival.  The open field by Steel Force, occasionally used for parking, was filled with tents and cooking areas for those competing in the cook off.  Guests could purchase BBQ Bucks and then try a sample from the many vendors.  As you can guess the entire area surrounding Steel Force smelled heavenly.

I also noticed one more sign that I didn't see on my first Zephyr ride earlier this Spring.  This one pays tribute to some of the park's former rides - another nice touch!

I feel like I was one of the last humans not to have a personalized can of Coke, but finally today that changed.  The Share a Coke truck was at the park, allowing guests to get two personalized cans free of charge.  I won't reveal what names I got on mine!

Finally, I had another lunch at the new Smokehouse Barbecue restaurant today, and I have to urge visitors to check it out while at the park.  We may not be talking about Dollywood level of food here, but this is far beyond what has been offered at Dorney previously!

That's it for now, stay tuned for more updates at the season rolls on.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tax Break Could Mean $1 Billion Expansion of the Disneyland Resort

© Disney
Back in 1996 the city of Anaheim agreed to not apply any sort of tax on admission tickets to the parks at the Disneyland Resort as a part of the deal to get California Adventure built.  That deal expires next year, so the resort has proposed a $1 billion expansion plan that would be contingent on no admission taxes being applied to the parks for another 30 years.

No details of what would be added to Disneyland or Disney California Adventure were mentioned, though a 5000 space parking garage built near the parks and traffic improvements would be a part of the expansion.

Disney points to the thousands of jobs the expansion would create, and the millions in peripheral revenues the city would see from additional visitors as reason for the tax exemption to be granted.

© Disney
The city will hold an public forum to address the proposal on July 7th, though three of the city's council members have already publicly said that they are in favor of the plan, a quick majority vote gained for Disney.

If the plan moves forward, there are plenty of places in both theme parks for new attractions to sprout up.  This article takes a look at many of them, and ranks their likelihood.   It is no secret that Disney wants to get Star Wars into their parks in a big way, and most believe plans have been underway for just that.  We can't forget that Disney also owns Marvel, which could make a big impact in the California market.  Of course, there's numerous other movie franchises to lean upon as well, cough Frozen cough.

The recent rounds of expansions and the total makeover of Disney California Adventure has been quite a home run for the resort - I personally can't wait to see what's next in line!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Scott And Carol Present - Another ZDT's Switchback Update

While ZDT's Amusement Park noz longer anticipates Switchback opening during summer break, the crews are working diligently to get this exciting and unique coaster completed as soon as possible! 

The beautiful skies with light fluffy clouds are a great contrast to earlier this year, when massive thunder clouds dumped near record rains on Seguin TX on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Switchback is really beginning to take form, as track work continues on the initial lift-hill and drop. 

Structure and tracking have also commenced where the coaster will hug the ground beneath the awning. Guests who remember pushing carts through the old grocery never approached the speeds that Switchback will travel. 

Utilizing the existing buildings on site gives Switchback a unique character all its own, because no one else would take the time to incorporate everything as cohesively as ZDT's. 

The tracking is also moving right along on the over-banked turn and it is nearing completion 

Here you can see the head chopper effect that riders will experience as they go through the crossover.

This wider view of the crossover shows how tight a fit Switchback is for ZDT's. Tracking has begun here as well as where the crossover takes place in route to the final spike!

Another building fly through, with a twist!

Of course you can't, but it almost seems like you could high-five other guests who opted for the water slide instead of the roller coaster side. And there is another attraction on the inside of the turn. No space is wasted  at ZDT's Amusement Park.

The more of Switchback we see, the more we can appreciate how much effort went into the design by the Gravity Group team. Our thanks to ZDT's for these pictures, and for the tireless efforts of Danny and his crew. Stay safe and remember to drink lots of water, we remember how hot it was when we visited during the spring.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Legoland Florida Set to Open New Themed Area and Spinning Ride

© Legoland Florida
Tomorrow is the grand opening of the vibrant Lego Friends Heartlake City themed area at Legoland Florida.  Based on the popular Lego Friends toy series, the park has created a wonderful area that is sure to keep families busy for hours.  The new land joins the recent opening of the Legoland Hotel as another milestone in the expansion of the resort.

© Legoland Florida
Lego Friends is based off of the adventures of five friends: Olivia, Stephanie, Emma, Mia and Andrea.  The characters primarily attract girls to their fictional Heartlake City suburban setting, and feature bright pinks, purple and teals in their outfits.  The Lego Friends toy line was launched in 2012 and has just started to be adapted to the theme parks.  Above is a general shot of the area, showing off its bright colors and excited atmosphere.

© Legoland Florida
The largest addition in Heartlake City is Mia's Riding Adventure, seen above.  The Zamperla ride is themed around Mia's love of horses, on which riders sit during the twirling experience.  The 40 passenger car spins in circles as it travels forward and backward on a giant U-shaped track.  Mia's Riding Adventure is thrilling enough to please older kids, but not too intimidating for younger guests who meet the height requirement.

© Legoland Florida
"Friends to the Rescue" is another of the expansion's features, a live interactive musical show with all five girls.  The premise of the show is to work together at Heartlake Hall to make sure the show goes off without a hitch.

Heartlake City also includes Stephanie's Newsroom, a photo opportunity for visitors, Heartlake Stepping Tones Fountain, a heart-shaped fountain filled with Lego instruments that play real music when triggered by interactive icons, and Heartlake Mall, which has several retail areas.

This weekend will be all about celebrating the expansion at the park as they hold Friends Weekend.  The park-wide event includes a walk down a purple carpet, a themed Lego build and a giant dance party.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Six Flags Great Adventure Celebrates July 4th with Backwards Batman + Plenty More

Six Flags Great Adventure will be rocking the upcoming holiday weekend with July 4th Fest, including the kick off of the backwards running of Batman: The Ride.

The celebration will take place in partnership with Coca-Cola, and run July 3rd through 5th at the massive theme park and neighboring Hurricane Harbor water park.  As an added bonus guests with an admission ticket or pass and a can of Coke can get exclusive ride time on some of the park's biggest rides in the morning during the Fest.

Many will want to get in line for Batman: The Ride which will begin running trains backwards during the celebration.  The ride will feature the extra-intense backwards experience through Labor Day of 2015.  The famous ride will take guests backwards through twists and turns at 50 miles per hour, including five inversions.

The theme park will also feature exciting live entertainment including Plan B and Tony Dize in concert at the Plymouth Rock Assurance Arena July 3.  In the evening the park will have a spectacular fireworks show that will light up the night sky.

At Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, the culinary team is proud to debut the all-new Cabana Cove Bar & Grill. The new location is an "open-air kitchen featuring island-style jerk chicken, tri-tip steak sandwiches, juicy hot dogs, fresh salads and more."  The park will also introduce an upgraded Cabana Cove, with new, luxury cabanas surrounded by a lush, tropical landscape.

For more on the weekend's special events, head over to Six Flags Great Adventure's website.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Lagoon's Cannibal Takes First Riders After Delay + Opening Soon?

© Lagoon
One of 2015's most anticipated rides, Cannibal at Lagoon amusement park has yet to open as we head toward the end of June.  The park has had to take on several rumors about the custom designed roller coaster, everything from a test dummy that flew off the ride (false) to fire code issues with the enclosed lift structure (also false).

This article details these issues and clarifies the challenges that come with a massive, custom designed ride like Cannibal.  Some of the actual delays are due to custom parts being manufactured on other continents, with added time for the parts to ship according to the story.

Just today Lagoon was testing Cannibal with live riders, including the park's dedicated maintenance staff (above) and also yesterday members of the Farmington City Council took a spin.  This story has some video of the coaster testing with riders.  Best of all, the article notes that the park feels the coaster will open soon, even possibly within a week's time!

Cannibal stands 208 feet tall and features a 116 degree beyond vertical first drop that rockets the cars at 70 miles per hour.  The rest of the layout includes several inversions tucked amid some beautiful exotic theming that Lagoon created.  The testing videos show the cars keeping their speed, even after a mid-course block brake, adding to the anticipation of Cannibal's opening.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Large Expansion Planned at Quassy Amusement Park in 2016 + 2017

Quassy Amusement Park has announced an exciting expansion plan that will take place both next year and in 2017.  The focus on the expansion will take place in the park's water area, Splash Away Bay where the number of water slides will be doubled.

The park also plans to add several new buildings and replace some of the older rides with newer models - in all there will be $6 million spent over the next two years.

© Quassy Amusement Park
First up in 2016 will be Slide City, the five children's slides seen above that will be built adjacent to Saturation Station.  All the slides in the expansion, including these, will be provided by Proslide.  Slide City will consist of two serpentine slides called KIDZ Twisters, a two-person ProRacer, KIDZ Bowl 14 and a KIDZ MiniRiver.  Four of the slides will end in shallow troughs while the bowl unit will gently send riders along the wall of a circular-shaped landing prior to exiting.

© Quassy Amusement Park
Projected for a 2017 grand opening, a tower of much larger and more thrilling slides will be added to the water park, the layout of which can be seen above.  The yellow slide is a TantrumTWIST, which "flushes riders up the TANTRUM walls, oscillates each tube multiple times and generates a suspended-weightlessness sensation."  The red and green slides feature quick elevation changes and tight turns that will thrill sliders.

On top of the expanded Splash Away Bay, Quassy is also making other changes.  A new two story building will go up near the Grand Carousel which will feature authentic taffy pulling along with other candies and treats.  The park has purchased equipment that dates back to 1915 in order to provide authentic operations.  The top part of the building is planned to have a human resources office and training space.

Back in the water area the new Splash Away Bay Cafe will be opened, along with a large deck area with seating that overlooks the lake.  The food operation will keep water park goers happy during the day, and add needed capacity to the park.

Finally, a new maintenance building will go up to support the park's growth, and in time older rides will be replaced with newer versions.  Sounds like a lot of great plans at the park, if you haven't ever been make sure to add Quassy to your list.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

New Theme Park Sim Game Announced: Planet Coaster

Fans of theme park games have something to look forward to: Planet Coaster will be released sometimes in 2016, developer Frontier has announced.

The game could sort of be looked at as Roller Coaster Tycoon 4, though the game has undergone a rebranding in order to distance itself a bit from the Tycoon games.   That's on purpose, says Frontier, because many of the Tycoon games weren't all that great.

But Planet Coaster looks to have a lot of potential, at least in appearance.  Nothing of the exact game play has been announced, though some hints were revealed in this story that resulted from the recent PC Gamer show.

© Planet Coaster
The new game will use the same engine that was originally developed for Roller Coaster Tycoon 3, which means that the sandbox style of play will be in check.  The most recent Tycoon game strayed off track some, disappointing many fans of the series - so there's high hope that his installment will get things back on track.

You can actually preorder the game already through Frontier's website for Planet Coaster, though you'll certainly have to wait a while to play.  In the meantime, there's a preview of the game below.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Fast & Furious - Supercharged Opens This Week + A First Look

Next week will see the grand opening of Fast & Furious - Supercharged as a part of the Studio Tour in Universal Studios Hollywood.  There have been unofficial previews of the new attraction that have taken place, but Wednesday the 24th is the official opening date.

We've watched for many months as the theme park built a fairly enormous building that houses the experience, seeing three separate sections put into place.  The tram enters the structure and riders are treated to two different preshows and then an exciting 3-D HD finale on some extremely large 360 degree screens.  The final sequence features an action packed chase scene that simulates speeds of up to 120 miles per hour.

This video came out a while back, but gives a nice look at the production efforts that went into creating the ride:

As you can see, all the main characters from the movies were involved in the theme park attraction, even some of the smaller players as well.  While on the tour the storyline for Fast & Furious - Supercharged is set up through video clips played well before entering the show building.  The story is as contrived as most theme park attractions, so they get a pass on that front.  As for the inside experience, I have no doubt that it's much better in person since most of it is screen based.

However, if you want to take a look now, you can see a full recording of the experience at this link.  There are a lot of rumors that a similar attraction may be built in Florida, perhaps replacing Distaster!, with some changes to the ride due to the vehicles, of course.  We shall see.

Friday, June 19, 2015

New Gravity Group Wooden Coaster Roars to Life in Ireland

© Tayto Park
Ireland's first wooden roller coaster, designed by The Gravity Group and called Cú Chulainn, is now open and thrilling riders at Tayto Park.  The 3,583 foot long coaster delivers many moments of air-time and also has an over-banked turn mid-ride that is being advertised by Tayto Park as an inversion.  The 102 foot first drop gets the trains, which are designed by GravityKraft, moving at over 55 miles per hour.

This on-ride video not only shows off the elaborate front plate of the train, but also the layout of Cú Chulainn.  After the first drop a good portion of the ride stays close to the ground, but that's not to say that there aren't floater hills along the way!

The ride's 105 foot lift hill dominates Tayto Park's skyline, which has expanded greatly this year.  The park has really entered the amusement park arena big time with the coaster, but has also added a bit of something for everyone.  This includes a Zamperla Air Race, an indoor 5-D cinema, walk through dinosaur attraction and more.  With a great looking wooden ride now on the books, perhaps we will see Tayto Park add a steel ride soon?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Take a Virtual Ride on Hansa Park's Karnan Coaster

© Hansa Park
Hansa Park, located in Germany, has released some exciting new on ride footage of their new hyper coaster, Karnan.  The Gerstlauer designed ride features a drop from around 240 feet in the air, plunging down 220 feet at nearly 79 miles per hour.  The coaster's first lift is vertical and takes place inside a giant tower, along with the majority of the first drop.  The trains, which seat 16 riders, fly out of the building during the pull out of the drop, and immediately head up into a massive set of aerial turns.  While they look like inversions at first, the trains do not invert during them, instead they twist to keep riders facing up during the elements.

The rest of the ride hangs close to the ground, showing off the raw speed of the ride.  The twists and turns include a few air-time hills along the way as progress is made back toward the tower and station area.

Hansa Park has plans for elaborate theming for both the tower and a bit of a dark ride section (which I believe includes a hidden heartline roll) that will come online in the future.  The theme park did the same thing with their other Gerstlauer launched ride, Fluch von Novgorod, where the ride opened one year and heavy theming was added the next season.

This is the largest ride I've seen Gerstlauer create, and from the above video it looks like a winner.  Hopefully it is just the start of more to come!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Universal Orlando Closing Wet 'n Wild at the End of 2016

After the recent announcement of Volcano Bay, a new water park that will be on-property at the Universal Orlando Resort, many speculated about Wet 'n Wild Orlando's long term future.  Turns out there was good reason for that, as the resort announced today that the water park will be closing for good on December 31, 2016.  That gives fans of the park more than a year and a half to get in their final splashes, so no one can say this caught them by surprise!

© Wet 'n Wild Orlando
Wet 'n Wild Orlando is often called the first real water park in the U.S., and opened in 1977.  It was privately owned for decades along with the other Wet 'n Wild parks until being purchased by Universal in 1998.  A couple years ago Universal purchased the 50 or so acres of land that the park sits on, previously only leasing the property.  With the closing of the water park, Universal will have some prime real estate open, located just across I-4 outside the entrance to the resort.

Universal isn't saying anything about what will become of the water park once it closes, when there will be a lot of large water slides sitting unused.  Wet n' Wild Orlando has several large Proslide built rides, a very new water play structure, and even newer mat racing slides added last year.  It might make sense to move some to Volcano Bay, however I'm not sold on the 'look' of these slides being right for what Universal is going for in the new "water theme park."  Instead I think other external water parks might get a chance at some used slides at a good price.

More long term, I'm very interested to see if Universal builds more hotel rooms on the site.  They've openly said they want thousands of additional rooms, but are simply running out of space.  This could be their first step to off-site lodging, one would guess with transportation over to the resort included.  Amazing how Universal isn't afraid to make bold moves to continue to shake up Orlando!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Six Flags America Opens Bourbon Street Fireball

© Six Flags America
Offering visitors a new way to see the theme park from upside down, the Bourbon Street Fireball has arrived at Six Flags America.

Seen above, the 70 foot tall looping ride has been constructed in the Mardi Gras section of the park, along with rides like the Ragin Cajun, Voodoo Drop and Zydeco Zinger.  The new ride's train seats riders back-to-back so that passengers can see their fellow thrill seekers head on during the experience.  The train heads up and around the loop, completing several inversions and moving both forward and backward.

As part of the grand opening ceremonies, Six Flags America made a donation of $10,000 worth of smoke detectors to Anne Arundel and Prince George's County Fire & EMS departments.  The detectors will be placed into residents homes free of charge, helping save lives and prevent tragedies.  “Being able to donate these smoke alarms to our local fire and EMS departments is an honor and privilege for everyone at Six Flags America,” said Rick Howarth, Six Flags America Park President.

Naturally since the event was a ride opening, the local officials were seated for a thrilling spin on the Bourbon Street Fireball.  For more on the new attraction, click here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

California's Great America to Go Floorless in 2016?

© California's Great America
It appears as though the Vortex roller coaster at California's Great America may be receiving new floorless trains in 2016, according to a news report.  The story is about Cedar Fair's 2015 initiatives to grow the company, one of which is the floorless conversion of Mantis at Cedar Point into Rougarou. 

The story is a great read on its own, but toward the end it indicates that the company's CFO, Brian Witherow, made this implication with regard to Rougarou:

"Witherow said Cedar Fair plans to do the same with other aging coasters in its portfolio, including one next year at its park near San Francisco."

© California's Great America
Now this will still remain as rumor status officially, but the fact that Vortex, an aging B&M designed stand-up coaster, is located at California's Great America probably isn't a coincidence.  Vortex opened in 1991 as the company's second creation after Iron Wolf at Six Flags Great America.  The coaster stands 91 feet tall with 1,920 feet of track and two inversions - a vertical loop and a corkscrew.

On my recent trip to Carowinds I bemoaned on Twitter how their Vortex, also a B&M stand-up ride, was uncomfortable and slow loading due to the trains.  I indicated I hoped Rougarou was a success so other conversions would get approved, and the reaction consensus seemed to be that the company wouldn't spend big bucks on new trains for such small rides - seeing that Rougarous is way bigger.  It would now appear that there must be sufficient financial sense to convert the rides as one may be moving forward next year.

I would expect a similar roll out to the Mantis approach - a new name for Vortex, full re-paint and the like.  We'll stay tuned!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Scott And Carol Present - Adventure City's Rewind Racers

June 6, 2015 was the grand opening Rewind Racers at Adventure City in Anaheim, California and guests of all ages were lined up to ride Gerstlauer’s newest attraction

Rewind Racers, Gerstlauer’s first Family Shuttle Coaster in the Western Hemisphere, was a hit with riders of all ages. Adventure City's president Allan Ansdell Jr. stated “We wanted something that was unique that would be exciting but smooth for the kids,”

Adam Sandy, Chief Business Development Officer for Ride Entertainment commented on the experience being  different than anything else you will find for thousands of miles.


Sandy went on to  explained, “Riders are pulled up the first lift hill backwards, go down the drop and the course forwards, rise up a second lift, and then experience it all again backwards. It is an awesome ride!”

Taking riders 39 feet in the air at a top speed of 39 MPH, the 593 foot long coaster is suitable for riders 39 inches and taller.

For now, sound and video effects augment the ride and in the future additional themed elements will be placed atop the lifts. Rewind Racers is sure to be a must do ride for the entire family!

Thanks to great folks at Ride Entertainment Group providing the content for this post.