Looking for a last-minute summer vacation idea? How about checking out one of this year’s top new theme park attractions? While Southern California has welcomed some great new attractions in 2019, including Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, let’s look at the best of the rest from around the country and the world.
Here are my picks for the most trip-worthy new attractions outside Southern California this year.
In my book, the best new theme park ride anywhere this year has been Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure. Featuring a record seven launches, this roller coaster takes riders through the Forbidden Forest from the Harry Potter books and films. As just a thrill ride, Hagrid’s an amazing terrain coaster, with high-banked curves and a couple of nice surprises to amplify the excitement. But Universal takes the ride to the next level with its storytelling. Actor Robbie Coltrane, who played Hagrid in the films, recorded an on-ride narration for the attraction, which features multiple animatronic characters and a queue filled with Easter eggs for Harry Potter fans. This is pure theme park joy.Sign up for our Park Life newsletter and find out what’s new and interesting every week at Southern California’s theme parks. Subscribe here.
If you’re in the mood for even more intense coaster thrills, head to Kennywood, outside Pittsburgh, for a ride on The Steel Curtain. Named for the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 1970s-era defense, this is the first major attraction themed to a pro sports franchise in the United States. But you don’t have to be a Steelers fan to enjoy it. This S&S Sansei Technologies coaster flings riders upside down a U.S.-record nine times along its 4,000 feet of track. With a 220-foot lift hill and a top speed of 76 mph, The Steel Curtain delivers stats worthy not just of a Super Bowl, but the Hall of Fame.
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The craziest new ride in America this year isn’t a roller coaster. Kaleidoscape at Denver’s Elitch Gardens is an art installation from the Santa Fe-based collective Meow Wolf, grafted onto an interactive dark ride. Each scene is a unique work by a different artist, tied together by a story about multiverse travel. Not that a story matters. Just fire away with your blaster, see what you can make the art do … and enjoy the experience.
Legoland Florida this year opened The Lego Movie World, a new land anchored by The Lego Movie: Masters of Flight. This flying theater ride reminds me of Universal’s The Simpsons Ride with its many joyful references to other theme park attractions, including Walt Disney World’s Flight of Passage and Universal’s Minion Mayhem. Animated to look like you are flying through a world where everything is made of Lego bricks, even the water and fire, Masters of Flight left me feeling that everything actually was awesome.
SeaWorld Orlando this spring opened a new Sesame Street-themed kiddie land, but the best new Sesame Street-themed attraction in 2019 awaits you in Spain. Sesame Street: Street Mission opened at PortAventura, located on the Mediterranean coast southwest of Barcelona. Designed by Sally Corporation, which created the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain, this interactive dark ride send visitors on an irresistible adventure to help Detective Grover find out who’s been stealing all of Sesame Street’s cookies. Sure, anyone who’s ever watched the show could guess the culprit, but it’s the chase to collect those clues that makes this ride so much fun.