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The hottest new theme park attractions

Warner Bros. World opened in Abu Dhabi this summer, and it’s just the start of a raft of new theme park developments. From Halloween horror mazes to roleplaying in the Star Wars universe, Andrew Doherty profiles the hottest openings.

Cartoon Junction (1).jpg
Cartoon Junction (1).jpg

From Halloween horror mazes to roleplaying in the Star Wars universe, we profile the hottest new theme park openings

Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi

Warner Bros. World opened on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island on July 25 with themed environments across six lands, each linked to a Warner Bros. show, including Metropolis, Gotham City, Cartoon Junction, Dynamite Gulch and Bedrock. Guests can expect more than 50 DC and animated characters such as Batman, Superman, Scooby- Doo and the Flintstones, plus rides, shows, dining and shopping. The park is set indoors and is climate-controlled, so clients’ fears of melting in the UAE summer heat can be allayed.


Since the opening, park general manager Mark Gsellman says Warner Bros. World has been “further enriching” its offering on Yas Island. Currently under construction, Batman: Knight Flight will join the park’s 29 rides next year. Clients will step through a secret door at Wayne Tech headquarters to be recruited as test pilots for the Caped Crusader’s latest urban patrol vehicle.




Ray Rush, a new family raft slide, opened this spring at the Aquatica waterpark in Orlando. The almost 60-foot-high attraction sees riders board rafts before being launched by powerful water jets into a translucent sphere, eventually dropping through an open-air half pipe that resembles a manta ray.


David Heaton, vice president at Aquatica Orlando, says the ride is suitable for younger riders and thrillseekers alike. “The three unique slide elements that seamlessly blend into one attraction creates a thrilling ride experience, and with the 42-inch [3ft 6in] height requirement, it’s family-friendly too.”


SeaWorld Orlando
Infinity Falls, touted as the “world’s tallest river rapids attraction”, is slated to open by the end of 2018. Guests climb aboard eight-passenger rafts, travelling through a “lush rainforest environment” before plunging down 40ft rapids. The ride will be the centrepiece of a new themed area designed to resemble a basecamp of explorers and scientists.


Here, families can “combine play with education” to help them understand the environmental challenges facing the planet.


Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
The African-themed park is gearing up for the launch of a new rollercoaster. Opening in 2019, Tigris will feature a triple launch, a 150ft skyward climb and a 60mph inverted roll – all designed to mimic the agility and strength of the tiger. Queuing clients will be presented with educational content about the plight of the big cats and what conservation groups are doing to save them, plus 5% of gift shop sales go to the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.


A yet-to-be-named second thrill ride will be coming to the park’s Gwazi area in 2020, joining fan favourites Cheetah Hunt, Sheikra and Falcon’s Fury.

Universal Parks & Resorts

Universal Parks & Resorts

Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal has welcomed back its Halloween Horror Nights experience with a new maze attraction inspired by the classic horror films of the 1930s and 1940s. Clients must traverse a series of corridors patrolled by a ghoulish cast of monsters including The Wolf Man, The Phantom of the Opera and Dracula in order to escape.


With a soundtrack produced and composed by Guns N’ Roses lead guitarist Slash, guests can expect an attraction that will “taunt, terrorise and torment”, says John Murdy, creative director at Universal Studios Hollywood, and executive producer of Halloween Horror Nights.


“Slash’s intuitive understanding of the characters’ struggles brings enormous depth to the maze to epitomise a living movie experience for our guests which features an all-new slate of unrivalled film production quality mazes, frightful scare zones and a fully re-imagined Terror Tram experience.”


Additional developments include Jurassic World, which will replace Jurassic Park – The Ride next year. The new ride will feature an enhanced story, new dinosaurs and technical innovations.


Universal Orlando
A new ride is planned for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade area at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2019. Replacing the cancelled Harry Potter Festival and Dragon Challenge rollercoaster, the yet-to-be-named family-friendly attraction will see riders “encounter a cast of memorable characters and creatures” from the series.


Universal Orlando is also building new accommodation, looking to add 2,800 rooms to the city’s convention district. Joining the recently opened Aventura hotel, the Endless Summer Resort will feature two hotels –
the Surfside Inn and Suites and Dockside Inn and Suites, opening in 2019 and 2020 respectively.


Universal Studios Japan

Gaming fans are in for a treat. Super Nintendo World, slated for a 2020 opening in Tokyo and later at the Universal Orlando and Hollywood parks, will feature real-life versions of the Bowser and Princess Peach’s Castles – made famous by the Mario franchise – and interactive kartracing ride “Mario Kart Experience”.



Disneyland, California and Walt Disney World, Florida
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, slated for a 2019 opening at both Disneyland, California and Walt Disney World, Florida, will feature two space-themed rides and a cast of characters and creatures from the popular sci-fi series.


Malcolm Davies, product destination manager at Funway Holidays, says Galaxy’s Edge is being billed as an immersive theatre experience.


“Planet Batuu, the setting for Galaxy’s Edge, covers a huge 14-acre area complete with a replica of the Millennium Falcon spaceship, which guests can pilot. Park staff will become Batuu’s residents, with a mix of smugglers, bounty hunters, adventurers and alien creatures that will role-play with guests.”


Also opening at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in 2019 is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which is replacing The Great Movie Ride. It is billed as the park’s first Mickey-themed ride-through attraction. Clients will join the charismatic mouse and his friends on a wacky “2½-D journey” inspired by the popular cartoon series.


Disneyland Paris
It’s a case of hakuna matata for guests visiting Disneyland Paris, who will be able to take in a new Lion King show in 2019. Clients can expect a live-action performance based on the 1994 film, with Simba, Nala, Timon and Pumbaa brought to life onstage.

PortAventura World

PortAventura World

Ferrari Land
Since opening for the 2018 season in March, Ferrari Land near the Spanish city of Tarragona has seen guest arrivals increase 60% on the same period last year, welcoming 170,000 visitors in the first few days of business.


Managing director Fernando Aldecoa says: “The figures for the year so far demonstrate how the park has already established itself as a dynamic force within PortAventura World’s offering.”


New projects for 2019 include the addition of an £18 million four-star property to the Far West hotel complex, adding 150 rooms to the 2,100 currently available.


PortAventura Park

To celebrate Halloween, guests can take in a series of horror-themed shows and interact with clusters of monsters roaming the resort. Two special events will also be held during this season: Night of the Vampires (October 13) and The Great Night of Halloween (October 31).


The company has also invested £13 million into the family-friendly SesamoAventura area to build the park’s first enclosed Sesame Street-themed ride by 2019.



Legoland Windsor
Wisecracking gargoyles, talking statues, and cauldrons made from thousands of Lego bricks are but a few of the props featuring in Legoland Windsor’s new ride – The Haunted House Monster Party.


Opening in spring 2019, guests will join the “Vampire” at a banquet table, where he will use a potion to turn the room upside down, leaving riders hanging from the ceiling like bats.


Bear Grylls Adventure
If tackling assault courses, traversing mazes and firing arrows down a target range sounds like your clients’ cup of tea, then The Bear Grylls Adventure at Birmingham’s NEC should be right up their street. The £20 million attraction features the central “Basecamp”, where guests will embark on four challenges inspired by Grylls’ own military experiences, including sky-diving, scuba diving and high ropes courses.


James Thomas, general manager at The Bear Grylls Adventure, says the attraction is now open for business.


“Our 140 new team members have been putting the attraction through its paces, including Bear himself. We can’t wait to meet the guests that accept the challenge,” he says.


Tickets are priced from £20 with combined Basecamp and additional headline adventure packages starting from £35.


Coastiality, a virtual reality rollercoaster based on Luc Besson’s blockbuster movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets sees guests transported to a sci-fi world.


The attraction, which opened this month, see clients don VR headsets in the pre-show room and roam freely while waiting for the ride to start. Fellow riders appear as avatars to prevent collisions. Additional developments include the overhaul of the CanCan Coaster in the park’s French-themed area.


Now open with a new design inspired by the Moulin Rouge cabaret show, riders delve into 19th-century Paris, taking in the city’s iconic sights before arriving at the famous Parisian variety theatre.


A new waterpark named Rulantica is to open next year, offering eight Nordic-themed areas with 25 attractions, 17 waterslides and Germany’s biggest wave pool.


A new hotel is slated to open next year too. Modelled after a natural history museum, Kronasar will feature 276 new rooms, 28 suites and a bridge that connects the hotel to the new waterpark.

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