Monday, May 2, 2011

Amusement Parks Unveil Many New Attractions for 2011

With nationwide gas prices on the rise, you may expect that tourism to family theme parks will drop, but the theme parks aren't sweating it. After a disappointing season in 2009, they saw revenues on the upswing in 2010 and are anticipating that the upswing will continue as we head on into summer this year.

"We don't anticipate rising gas prices will have a significant impact on attendance," says David Mandt of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. "Most Americans live within a one-tank trip of a major regional park, so patterns won't change."

With the cost of admission generally around the $35 to $50 range, amusement parks are regarded as "recession-proof". However, that was not the case when in 2008 and 2009 when many saw attendance and revenues stay flat or take a significant drop.  In an effort to lure in repeat as well as new guests, them parks are always coming up with new and exciting attractions. Here are just a few of the new roller coasters, character themes and even a whole new park coming in 2011. Here, we've broken it down for you geographically:

Debuting May 27 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is Mickey's Soundsational Parade featuring live musicians and dancers boogieing down Main Street to Disney tunes and "jamming like never before."

Premiering June 3: The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel's Undersea Adventure , part of an ambitious, multi-year expansion at Disney California Adventure park. The dark ride spotlights characters from the movie in a simulated underwater journey.

Also opening on June 3: Star Tours – The Adventures Continue, in Tomorrowland, a re-engineered version of a ride that opened in 1989, with Star Wars characters rendered in 3D. (The attraction d├ębuts at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort on May 20.)

Comedian/talk show host Jimmy Fallon signs on as the new video host of Universal Studios Hollywood's Studio Tour. He'll debut in June via the ride's hi-definition monitors, supplementing live commentary by tour guides. Last summer, the studio tour unleashed King Kong 360 3-D, created by Peter Jackson and billed as "the world's largest, most intense 3-D experience." This ride alone is worth the price of admission.

At Legoland California in San Diego County, the new Star Wars Miniland, created with 1.5 million Lego bricks, includes life-size models of Chewbacca and Darth Vader and interactive animated scenes.

Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia has adding three new coasters, bringing the total to 18. The DC Comics superhero-themed Green Lantern: First Flight is a spinning coaster with a vertical zigzag-pattern track and 360-degree head-over-heel spins. Superman: Escape from Krypton, an enhancement of an earlier ride, propels riders backward up a tower at 100 mph. A third coaster will offer a tamer experience targeted for children. (Green Lantern also opens May 25 at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J.)

Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park will unveil WindSeeker, a ride with two-person gondolas that spin around 30 stories off the ground.

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo opens SkyScreamer, a 150-foot tower ride that spins at top speeds of 43 mph. (A similar ride is opening at Six Flags St. Louis.)

Opening this October in Winter Haven, about 40 miles from Walt DisneyWorld, is the all-new Legoland Florida. Targeted at the age 2 to 12 set, this is the largest of the five Legolands to date. Its 10 "lands" will house 50 rides, shows and attractions on the site of Cypress Gardens, the state's first theme park.

At Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, the two-decade-old Star Tours ride gets an upgrade with new footage shot in George Lucas' studio and more than 50 ride variations. Coming to Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios is Disney Junior – Live on Stage! featuring entertainment for the pre-school set.

At Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, the new Cheetah Hunt coaster runs over simulated Serengeti terrain with a stop-and-start rhythm that goes from 0 to 60 mph several times during the ride. A new habitat area, "Cheetah Run," features real cheetahs
Bay Beach Amusement Park in Green Bay, Wis., adds the 2,500-foot-long roller coaster "Zippin Pippin" with drops of up to 70 feet at speeds of up to 40 mph.
The new WindSeeker ride at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, spins and dangles riders 30 stories above the Lake Erie shore in two-person swings. (A similar ride debuts at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio.)

The Wooden Warrior, a 1,200-foot-long wooden roller coaster, debuts at Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Conn. The three-car train reaches a top speed of 35 mph and takes riders down a 40-foot drop.

Six Flags New England near Springfield, Mass., adds a 10th coaster, Gotham City: Gauntlet Escape from Arkham Asylum. The four-person cars climb five stories then twist through a maze of 17 hairpin turns and dips.

The swing ride, Barnstormer, opened recently at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It reaches heights of 81 feet and speeds of 45 mph and is surrounded by a barnyard-themed play area.

The coaster Dare Devil Dive opens May 28 at Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, Ga. The ride reaches 10 stories and speeds of 52 mph, putting riders through diving loops and zero gravity.

Lagoon Park in Farmington, Utah, adds a ninth coaster, Bombora, billed as a family-friendly ride.

Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas, marks its 50th anniversary with a revamped Texas Giant. The classic wooden coaster is faster and steeper, thanks to a a $10 million makeover that includes a new track.

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