Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fun Spot and Old Town Partner for New Thrills + New Ride Announced

Fun Spot America Theme Parks has revealed plans for a partnership with Old Town USA (located next door to Fun Spot's Kissimmee location) to move and operate several amusement rides in Old Town USA's new south entertainment district.  Fun Spot will also operate Old Town USA's new Ferris wheel that will be installed this coming September as part of the agreement.

John Arie Jr, Fun Spot America's COO stated, "This is HUGE news not just for us but the city of Kissimmee and Osceola County 192 tourist district. As we all continue to strive to keep this region the #1 destination in the world. Our goal is for all our guests to have the #BestDayEver when they are at one of our locations."

© Bing Maps
This aerial view shows how Fun Spot in Kissimmee and Old Town USA are already very close neighbors.  On the left are the shopping buildings that make up most of Old Town USA, running vertically, with the small amusement section that is being redeveloped at the bottom left of the image.  Fun Spot is located on the right - you can see the park's record-breaking 300 foot tall SkyCoaster above the park's lagoon.

Brand new fun is also coming to the Kissimmee location itself, with several changes just announced.  The first is the addition of "one of a kind" New York Burger Company themed building, see on the right.

Fun Spot will also expand their open-air pavilion to over 5,000 square feet with plenty of shaded seating and a beer garden area for visitors to enjoy.

Biggest of all will be a brand new thrill ride, named Head Rush 360.  Here's a preview of the kind of ride, built by the SBF Visa Group, that is being added:

As you can see the spinning and inverting Head Rush 360 will pack a punch and stay true to its name!

In all Fun Spot America Theme Parks will spend just over $1 million to complete this expansion, which will also result in the addition of 40 new jobs. 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

First Ever DC Super Friends Themed Area Opens at Six Flags Over Georgia

© Six Flags Over Georgia
Six Flags Over Georgia has now opened the park's second new for 2016 children's area, called DC Super Friends and the first of its kind anywhere.  The first new area, Bugs Bunny Boomtown, opened earlier in the season.

DC Super Friends features many of DC Comics' most popular Super Heroes and Super Villains, including Batman, Wonder Woman, The Joker and Superman.  This is the first time that the DC Comics characters have been featured in a children's area at a Six Flags park.

“We are excited to unveil this thrilling new section just in time for the start of the summer vacation season,” said Six Flags Atlanta Properties Park President Dale Kaetzel. “This area, combined with the addition of Bugs Bunny Boomtown earlier this year, solidifies Six Flags Over Georgia as the perfect destination for family fun.”

The DC Super Friends area contains five all new attractions, including four rides - three of which are brand new and one that has been rethemed.  There are also the Harley Quinn Games in the new section, which allows family members to challenge each other in games of skill.  Visitors can also pick up some new swag in the Heroes Store.

© Six Flags Over Georgia
The attraction that has been rethemed is known as the Joker Funhouse Coaster, which used to be called Canyon Blaster.  The family roller coaster was added to the park 2004 and features 900 feet of track and speeds of 30 miles per hour.  The ride's new Joker theme has resulted in a vibrant refresh of both the station building and the ride's trains.

© Six Flags Over Georgia
This is Superman Tower of Power, a brand new attraction.  The bouncing free-fall drop stands 65 feet tall and while designed for families still gives a pretty good thrill to riders.  Riders are seated in an outward facing ring around the tower, with their legs dangling below them as they rise and fall.

© Six Flags Over Georgia
Batman takes control on this new ride, named the Batcopters.  The ride is decidedly for smaller kids where they are able to "help save Gotham City by flying high in the sky."

DC Super Friends also features Wonder Woman Flight School, a brand new set of Larson flying scooters that allow riders to control the swing of their car by moving its fin as they twirl around.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

New Rides in Gotham City Expansion Now Open at Six Flags Over Texas

© Six Flags Over Texas
Three thrilling new rides are now open in Six Flags Over Texas' expansion of their Gotham City themed area.  Two of the rides are brand new to the area, while Harley Quinn Spinsanity is the completely rethemed and refurbished ride formerly known as Crazy Legs.

The new area is dominated by The Riddler Revenge, a 90 foot tall pendulum ride that swings 40 riders on a giant circle up to 146 feet above the midway (seen above).  The high-thrill ride swings to 120 degrees at the top of its arc, coming close to inverting riders.  The giant ride is capable of hitting speeds of nearly 70 miles per hour during the ride program.

© Six Flags Over Texas
Also brand new is the Catwoman Whip, a new ride design by Zamperla.  Only a handful of these rides have opened so far, and they look like an awful lot of fun.  The ride seats 48 riders per cycle, lifting them up as they rotate in floorless seats.  Harley Quinn Spinsanity still offers a thrilling and classic ride experience, twisting and swirling around on this time-tested park favorite.

“Each season our goal is to provide a unique and thrilling experience for our guests and this year we are excited to debut premier attractions themed after the popular DC Comic branded Super-Villains,” said Steve Martindale, Six Flags Over Texas park president. “These rides are real crowd pleasers and will make an impactful addition to the park’s already iconic landscape.”

The newly expanded Gotham City themed area also include mega-rides such as Batman The Ride and Mr. Freeze: Reverse Blast.

Here is a look at the three new rides in action:

Thursday, May 26, 2016

2015 Global Attractions Attendance Report Now Available

The annual Global Attractions Attendance Report, published by the partnership of the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM, is now available for download.

The report paints another healthy picture of the amusement industry - some basic facts the report presents show that pretty clearly.  For instance, the top 25 theme parks in the world saw a 5.4% increase in attendance last year, and the top ten theme park companies saw worldwide attendance climb 7.2%.

This is also the 10th anniversary of the first publication of the Global Attractions Attendance Report, so the creators put together some interesting facts for that period, seen above.  While many new parks have opened during the period, even without those considered there has been steady growth in the attendance of the major parks of the world.

Zeroing in on just the 2015 results - the Disney Parks continue to be the most visited, with a combined attendance of 137.9 million, up 2.7%.  The Magic Kingdom in Florida continues to rank #1 on Earth, with 20.5 million visitors, up 6% and that's the first time I recall the number surpassing 20 million!

Disneyland in California is #2 with 18.3 million, up 9%, and in third is Tokyo Disneyland with 16.6 million, down 4%.

Looking at just the U.S., there's a few parks with noteworthy movement.  Universal Studios Florida jumped up to 9.6 million, up 16%, on the success of Diagon Alley.  Knott's Berry Farm saw a 5% increase to 3.9 million, now Cedar Fair's largest attended park.  Six Flags Magic Mountain went up 9% to 3.1 million, still Six Flags' busiest park.

There's tons of additional information in the report, and it could take hours to dig through it all.  Here's the link where you can download it - happy reading!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dorney Park Starts 2016 Season with Park Changes + Upgrades to a Classic Ride

A few weeks ago Dorney Park opened its gates for its 133rd season, marking the start of a new year of fun for its guests.  While the weather wasn't the best for photos, we still were on hand to check out what's new and different in 2016.  There's actually a bit more than we expected that's been changed, so let's dig in and take a look!

Before even entering the park I noticed these change donation boxes that are next to the ticket windows at the main gates.  Perhaps these were here before, but I never took notice of them.  They mention that donations go to children's causes, though I'm not sure which and there's no web presence I can locate for Cedar Fair Charities.  No doubt that it goes to a good cause, though!

Moving on to the park's main midway, there's some immediately noticeable changes to the area.  First, the center water fountain has become a planter, a shame, but it never really had much "gusto" even from the start.  At least the plants are pretty! Oh, and if you're wondering about the empty space in the background, yes, the Screamin' Swing has been removed.

All that remains of the pay-extra S&S designed Screamin' Swing is some grass and mulch where the ride foundation once was.  The air compressor building is still standing at the back of the site, for now at least.  This is some prime real estate and I can't image the area will stay undeveloped for too long.

Also removed from the park's ride line up is the Chance Carousel, which was located in the center of the above photo.  The ride had been at the park for many years, and stayed around even after the Antique Carousel was added by the park's entrance gates.  With the park's Ferris wheel now the only ride along this dead-end midway I have to wonder if we will see changes to the area in the coming years.

This is the former site of Hang Time, the park's top spin ride that was removed a couple years ago.  It looks like the park has planted grass on the area this season, instead of mulch.  Not sure if there's much meaning behind some of the markers that are now in the area - I know at least one of them was present all last year.  Maybe something is in the works, only time will tell!

Here is a look at some of the live entertainment being offered in 2016 at Dorney Park.  All Wheel Sports is back again this year, even though it had seemed that last year would be the end of its run.  There's two live shows at Center Stage this year, another at Coasters Bandstand plus the popular Boogie Down Band which roams the park.

Some Haunt attractions seem like they will be returning this year as they're still standing from last Fall.  The new and improved CornStalkers is still up by the park's lower lake, Trick Or Treat is still by Steel Force, and Mansion House is over by the Food Fest groves.  I've heard that the sets for Desolation are down, but I didn't remember to confirm.  Either way we can count on at least one new haunt this year, judging from clues left by the park on social media.

Dorney Park's 133 season run is pretty amazing when you think about it, and the park has always been great about showing off that history.  I noticed this new historical sign out by Cedar Creek, showing the Dorney Park Show Boat that used to cruise around the lower lake.  I love that the park spends time and money to celebrate its past, even if just through decorative signs like this.

One final change that is hard not to notice is the makeover that the photo stand for Steel Force received.  All new paint and a snazzy new sign have it looking better than when it was new!  Hard to believe that the booth, and the ride of course, are almost 20 - technically this is the ride's 20th season of operations.

The main focus of this year's changes center around Thunderhawk, Dorney Park's classic wooden roller coaster.  This is something we've watched progress over the winter months, and now the ride is open and looking terrific.

There are decorative signs in Thunderhawk's queue that show the different eras that the 92 year old ride has gone though.  This is the first one, detailing when the ride first opened as an out-and-back design.  There's a great photo of the ride in that configuration, along with plans from Philadelphia Toboggan Company - both are real gems!

It was in 1930 that the park's owners decided to give the Coaster some new thrills by re-configuring the track to include several fast paced turns.  This is also when the ride received the elaborate station building that stood for decades.

Another real gem, one I've never seen before, here are plans for the changes to the track layout that were drawn up and dated in February of 1930.  Also from Philadelphia Toboggan Company, this is a pretty rare look at the ride!

You can't cover the history of Thunderhawk without bringing up Alfundo, the giant clown that was added to the side of the station.  The 1950s is marked as when the coaster was painted a bright yellow color, much bolder than the banana cream we're used to today.

Finally, here is the last sign which looks at the ride in modern times.  Most already know, but the ride wasn't named Thunderhawk until Hercules was added and the park needed a way to tell their two wooden coasters apart.  Also notice in the text that it says that it will be fun to see what's in store for the future of Thunderhawk, might more renovations be planned?

If they are, I've got one!  Add a tunnel here!  Also note that the park's General Manager can be seen doing an interview at the top of the photo; no I was not stalking him.  I just wanted to get this photo of one of Thunderhawk's biggest additions, a pair of brand new PTC trains.  You can see the neat open air front plate of the trains here as well.

The trains are running great on the coaster's track, and the ride experience is noticeably smoother with them.  The trains featuring alternating color schemes to set them apart.  The entire course has also been lined with new white lights, which make the ride stand out once the sun sets.

All of Thunderhawk's supports were repainted, which is quite visible in this photo.  The ride was starting to look less yellow and more natural after many years in between full paint jobs, so it has been quite some time since it looked this great.

Here is one final photo of one of Thunderhawk's new trains cresting one of the air-time hills - I think those riders are enjoying themselves!

Stay tuned for more park updates as the season progresses, there's several new special events planned for the Summer and beyond!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Six Flags White Water Opens New Wahoo Racer Water Slide

The all-new Wahoo Racer water slide at Six Flags White Water has officially opened to the public as of this past weekend.  The attraction is being billed by the park as the "tallest of its kind," standing 60 feet above the ground.

“We are thrilled to debut Wahoo Racer, an exhilarating water slide for the entire family to race against one another to see who reigns supreme,” said Six Flags Atlanta Properties Park President Dale Kaetzel.  Wahoo Racer features six different mat racing slides which start with a twisted horizontal loop section before ending with several downward hills.  The mats are capable of sending sliders down at speeds of 40 feet per second.

© Six Flags White Water
The riders race down the course and cross the finish line, competing with one another to see who can get there first.  The above shot of the slide - from when it was still under construction - shows how the slide tower was nicely placed into an existing hill at the park.

Six Flags White Water is also giving guests more days to enjoy the park, announcing that they will stay open 11 additional days in September and October.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Check Out the Latest Must-See Photos of Wildfire at Kolmarden

© Rocky Mountain Construction
Rocky Mountain's largest project for 2016 is still under heavy construction, but looks like it will be more than worth the wait.  Wildfire, located at Sweden's Kolmarden, is having large amounts of track installed at a quick pace, at least according to this update from Rocky Mountain.  From the new photos that they posted it appears as though much of the ride's track is in place, with the largest work still centered around the lift hill, initial turn and first drop.

© Kolmarden
And speaking of the lift and drop, check out this view from the park's Instagram account.  We've said all along that the ride will have some of the most beautiful and striking views from any coaster on Earth, and this proves it!

© Rocky Mountain Construction
Of the track that is in place, it looks like the sections that are not heavily banked are the minority, with the ride's design appearing as one of the most extreme yet from Rocky Mountain.  The above section takes place after the ride's first drop, moving up the giant stall element seen in the foreground.  The back hill features an extreme outward bank, quickly changing direction and plunging again.  The coaster will then head back up onto the mountain, wrapping around it and using the elevation changes to its advantage.

Though work on the ride is still underway, the park is currently aiming for a grand opening of June 18th.  Stay tuned to the park's website for any further updates!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Carowinds Opens Carolina Harbor, Massive New Waterpark Expansion

© Carowinds
Today is the grand opening of Carolina Harbor, Carowinds' massive new 27 acre waterpark.  The theme park has doubled the size of the former waterpark, adding a slew of new attractions and amenities.  The park celebrates the culture of the Carolina coast, and features theming and bright colors that reinforce the relaxed vibe.

One of the largest additions is the park's second wave pool, named Surf Club Harbor.  The 27,000 square foot pool has eight wave generators that mimic the "high surf of the Atlantic Ocean."  There's also interactive geysers and a buoy that shoots water 20 feet in the air at the entrance to the pool.

© Carowinds
Children will have plenty to keep busy with at Carolina Harbor.  Two new areas dedicated just to them have opened, one of which - Kiddy Hawk Cove - is seen above.  Little ones will love the jets of water, small slides and an interactive splash pad that it offers.

© Carowinds
The second children's area is Myrtle Turtle Beach, specifically designed for toddlers and their families.  The interactive area not only has sprays and jets, but also allows them to engage with "life-like stream behavior as the water encounters creeks, flood plains, ripples and cascades."  The shaded area also has adjacent cabanas for rent.

© Carowinds
A high-energy, high-capacity addition to Carolina Harbor is seen here, and that's Seaside Splashworks.  The giant multi-level play structure has more than 80 play elements that will keep crowds of visitors busy.  The bright colors and theming also make the addition very easy on the eye!

© Carowinds
There's a handful of slides on the structure, along with elements like "spray jets, water guns, net bridges, water wheels" and the large bucket on top.  The bucket slowly fills with 423 gallons of water before tipping over and splashing the crowd below.  A great way to cool off on a hot Carolina day!

© Carowinds
Thrill seekers were not left out of the mix when park officials planned the Carolina Harbor expansion.  This is Blackbeard's Revenge, a six story tall slide tower with six slides, of three different varieties.  Three body slides, named Pirate's Plank, start with a free-fall trap door plunge, Cannonball Drop has intense 360 degree turns taken in the dark, and two Captain's Curse tube slides end with giant drops into the splash pool.

Carolina Harbor also has an extensive list of amenities to make a visit easy as can be, right from the start with a new entrance just for the waterpark.  There's new changing rooms, 2,000 new chairs and lounges, 30 new rentable cabanas, and plenty of new dining options like the 2,400 square foot Harbor House restaurant and Schooners Beach Bar.

For more information, check out the official Carowinds website.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Six Flags Over Georgia Reveals Blue Hawk as Ninja's New Name

© Six Flags Over Georgia
After a heavy renovation of the ride, Six Flags Over Georgia has announced that the public has voted the new name of Ninja to be Blue Hawk.  The ride will reopen to the public on June 2nd, featuring improvements that include an all new paint job - seen lit up beautifully at night in the above photo.

The naming contest received over 6,000 responses, and Blue Hawk received more than 50% of all the votes cast.  Of the two other choices, American Eagle came in second and Air Commander in third place.

© Six Flags Over Georgia
Blue Hawk will feature a new theme that is dedicated to the service of our Nation's Military, including features in the queue that show the various aircraft used by them.  Another major improvement is the addition of two brand new trains that feature "soft-vest restraints" that along with "enhancements" to the track will make for a much more comfortable ride experience.

At the grand reopening ceremony on June 2nd, service members from Dobbins Air Reserve Base will be on hand and the official Blue Hawk logo will be revealed.

Bid to Ride SeaWorld Orlando's Mako Before Everyone Else!

© SeaWorld Orlando
Are you looking to ride Mako, SeaWorld Orlando's new hyper coaster, before everyone else - and support a great cause at the same time?  If so then the Mako Mania first ride auction, which is benefiting Give Kids the World Village is something you'll want to check out!

The Orlando theme park has teamed up with Give Kids the World to let the public bid on coaster seats to experience the new thrill ride June 8th, a couple days before the ride's grand opening.

The first three trains out of the station are all up for auction, and if all spots are filled at the minimum bid over $20,000 will be raised.  The bidding is now open on the Mako Mania website, and will stay open until the end of June 3rd.  Since the auction hasn't been up for too long, there's still plenty of seats up for grabs!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Knott's Berry Farm to Open Refurbished GhostRider on June 11th

The wait is almost over - Knott's Berry Farm has announced that their signature wooden roller coaster, GhostRider, will reopen to the public on June 11th.

The coaster, which is the longest, tallest and fastest wooden ride on the West Coast, has been closed for many months for a complete refurbishment.  During the process, all 4,533 feet of running track has been carefully replaced.  Other modifications, including the permanent removal of the mid-course brake run and some track reprofiling, have also taken place.

© Knott's Berry Farm
As part of the reopening date announcement, Knott's also released this image of one of the coaster's three new trains in the station.  The new cars are Millennium Flyers, and are expected to provide a much different experience - one that is smoother and more comfortable for riders.  The three sets of "mining cars" will each feature either gold, silver or copper accents.

The restored GhostRider is part of Knott's summer long celebration that honors the 75th anniversary of the Ghost Town themed area.  The event will feature tons of special live entertainment throughout, an all new Calico Stage and show, the recently reopened Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant and plenty more.