The big news this year for theme parks and waterparks is the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, at Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando. Inspired by J.K. Rowlings' stories and characters, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter provides visitors with multiple themed attractions, shops, and a restaurant. The attraction was six years in the making and built at a cost of $200 million. Universal says Rowling was involved in the process of creating the theme park. Also part of the project were members of the Harry Potter films' creative team, including its production designer and supervising director.
Theme Parks Update
Bowling Green, Ky.
The News: Beech Bend has added a wave pool, water play structure, and lazy river to its water park. On the dry side of the park there's a new teacup ride for young guests and a new spinning ride.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Europe in the Air
Europe in the Air, a ride film that sends guests soaring over landmarks of the European countryside such as Stonehenge in England and the Colosseum in Rome, opened earlier this year. Also llumiNights, the park's first-ever nighttime spectacular, has debuted.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
The News: Sesame Street Safari of Fun has opened. The furry stars have their own African-themed land at Busch Gardens, including rides, interactive play areas, a live show, shops, and restaurants.
The News: A new coaster, Intimidator, named in honor of racing legend Dale Earnhardt, has opened.
Disney's California Adventure Park
The News: The $75 million World of Color, a water-and-light attraction, opened in June.
Kings Island Theme Park
The News: The former Nickelodeon-themed rides for younger children have received a Peanuts-themed makeover.
Jersey Shore, N.J.
The News: Ghost Ship, a walk-through experience that brings Halloween-style thrills, has opened. The attraction cost more than $1 million to build and takes guests on a 20-minute tour through animatronics, live actors, and special effects.
Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America
The News: Brain surge, a new spinning ride, has opened.
Six Flags America
The News: Six Flags' largest Thomas Town attraction opened at the Maryland park and features attractions such as the Harold the Helicopter ride, the Sodor Carnival Ferris wheel, and Cranky the Crane tower ride.
Six Flags Great America
The News: Little Dipper, the classic wooden junior coaster, which dates back to 1950s and thrilled generations of Chicago-area fans at the defunct Kiddieland, has a new home at Six Flags Great America's midway.
Six Flags Over Georgia
The News: Looney Tunes Dance Off and Dick Clark's Face The Music (a trivia game show), debuted in 2010.
Six Flags Over Texas
The News: The computer-animated, motion-simulation attraction, Robots from Mars, has opened at the park's Adventure Theater.
An ongoing trend with waterparks is the building of relatively tame family rides or raft rides, according to Aleatha Ezra, director of park member development, World Waterpark Association, Overland Park, Kan.
“This emphasis is primarily due to the fact that families are the backbone of the waterpark industry,” Ezra says. “Waterpark designers are keeping families in mind.”
Aquatica Water Park at SeaWorld Orlando
The News: Omaka Rocka, a new ride, has opened. Passengers in two-person rafts soar through the ride's semi-opaque tubes and into a series of mini-funnels.
Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The News: Dollywood's separate-admission water park, Dollywood's Splash Country, has introduced a racing slide, Slick Rock Racer.
Great Wolf Lodge Concord
The News: The resort has an 80,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, with a funnel ride, raft rides, slides, wave pool, whirlpool spas, and tipping bucket.
Great Wolf Lodge Kansas City
Kansas City, Kan.
The News: The Triple Twist, a five-story slide with three mini-funnels, has opened.
Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg
The News: The resort has a 67,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, with a funnel ride, wave pool, slides, lazy river, whirlpool spas, climbing tower, and tipping bucket.
Santa Claus, Ind.
The News: Holiday World has opened Wildebeest, the industry's longest water coaster, at its adjacent Splashin' Safari water park. The ride is 1,710 feet long and lasts for two-and-a-half minutes.
The News: Wailua Kapua, a hydromagnetic water coaster that uses magnetic force to propel rafts uphill, has opened.
Noah's Ark Waterpark
Wisconsin Dells, Wis.
The News: Scorpion's Tail, the nation's first “aquaLoop” ride, opened on Memorial Day weekend. The 10-stories-tall slide is the first looping tube waterslide in the U.S. and also the tallest and largest of its kind in the world.