15 Top Theme Park Additions for 2017
Calling all thrill-seekers.
Discover gravity-defining roller coasters and innovative rides at America's top amusement parks.
Walt Disney World: Pandora – The World of Avatar
Topping the list of new theme park additions in 2017 is Pandora – The World of Avatar, which will open at Disney's Animal Kingdom in May. Based on the fictional planet of Pandora featured in James Cameron's Oscar-winning 2009 film, "Avatar," Pandora – The World of Avatar will include two signature attractions: Avatar Flight of Passage, where guests can soar on mountain banshees, and Na'vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride through a bioluminescent forest. The Animal Kingdom addition will also include an Avatar-themed restaurant, drink stand and gift shop.
SeaWorld San Diego: Ocean Explorer
At SeaWorld San Diego, the 3-acre Ocean Explorer will include multiple aquarium tanks and attractions anchored by a miniature submarine ride to an underwater sea base. Onboard the submarine, passengers can review an interactive digital display and learn about impressive species such as Japanese spider crabs and moray eels as the ride passes through each aquarium. Mike Price, SeaWorld San Diego's assistant curator of fishes, promises that visitors will "come eye-to-eye with giant octopuses, huge spider crabs and hundreds of colorful jellies – some of which have never been seen at the park before."
SeaWorld San Antonio: Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster
At 50 mph and 61 feet tall, SeaWorld San Antonio's Wave Breaker will not be the tallest or the fastest roller coaster, but it will boast unique innovations like two accelerating magnetic launches. Wave Breaker's jet ski-style ride allows guests to straddle their seat, grip onto the handlebars and cruise over the water through banks and turns. What's more, Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster draws inspiration from SeaWorld's Saturday morning Sea Rescue television program, and will feature stars from the show who will educate families about the park's rescue and rehabilitation efforts on videos while they wait.
Kings Island: Mystic Timbers
The 16th roller coaster to debut at Kings Island amusement park will be a 3,256-foot-long wooden behemoth. Riders ascend 109 feet up the lift hill only to plummet at 53 mph through the forested terrain of the park. Themed around a story of an abandoned lumber company, the ride utilizes Kings Island's natural topography and sends riders up steep cliffs, down ravines, across water, through twists and turns and inside a mid-course tunnel. Along the way, passengers lift out of their seats during 16 airtime moments. Mystic Timbers will open on April 15.
Universal Orlando Resort: Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
Universal Orlando's latest 3-D simulator ride will take audiences of the "Tonight Show" on a race to the major sights of New York City pitted against Jimmy Fallon in his Tonight Rider. However, the truly innovative part of this attraction happens before the ride starts. Universal has uniquely replaced the typical attraction line with an entertainment lounge including the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet and walk-around Hashtag the Panda character (both from Jimmy Fallon's show). Guests are sure to be entertained while they wait; plus, they can enjoy charging stations before the ride. Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon opens on April 6.
Busch Gardens: InvadR
Over the past year, Busch Gardens asked its fans to vote on the name, logo and lead character for its new roller coaster. The hybrid wooden coaster with steel supports has a 74-foot drop and nine airtime hills, making it a perfect "bridge" coaster for kids looking to advance from the kiddie rides but not quite ready for more intense Busch Gardens attractions. The fastest speed for InvadR will be 48 mph, and the ride opens on April 7.
Casino Pier: Hydrus
One of the iconic images from 2012's Superstorm Sandy was a roller coaster dragged out to sea off a New Jersey amusement pier. Seaside Heights' Casino Pier has been rebuilt, and its new roller coaster, Hydrus, will open for the summer season. Hydrus will drop riders 7