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The 10 most exciting new theme park attractions opening in 2010

Wizarding World of Harry Potter image

It promises to be a great year in 2010 if you're a theme park fanatic. Despite struggling with the toughest financial climate in decades throughout 2009, theme parks around the world are promising to install exciting new rides and shows next year to bring guests back through the gates. Theme Park Tourist has been tracking their plans through our "New Attraction Watch", and in this article we pick out the 10 attractions coming in 2010 that we're most looking forward to experiencing.

The big let-down for 2010? Disney. Although the world’s most popular theme park chain does scrape into the list, we're bending the rules a little since the attraction in question is not strictly new. It's going to be a lean year for Disney fans, but don’t worry too much. The company has big plans for the next few years - with Cars Land coming to Disney’s California Adventure in 2012, the expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland planning three new lands, and Disneyland Paris serving up Ratatouille in 2012. And let’s not forget Star Tours 2, coming to Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 2011.

Although rollercoasters always feature near the top of any theme park "top attractions" list, we’ve tried to spread our choices across more than one type of ride. Read on for our picks – then let us know the rides and shows you are most excited about for 2010 through the comments section or our poll.

10. Shoot the Rapids (Cedar Point)

Opening date: May 15, 2010 (TBC)
Type: Water ride
Cost: $10.5 million

Shoot the Rapids render

Image © 2009 Cedar Point

Cedar Point is known for its fantastic rollercoasters, so it's something of a surprise to see it investing heavily in a family-friendly water ride. Nevertheless, that's exactly what it's doing for 2010 with Shoot the Rapids – and we're looking forward to seeing the results.

Created by Intamin, Shoot the Rapids will see riders board 10-person boats and travel around a 2,100 feet, 3-minute long course. The highlight is an 85-feet, 45-degree first drop through water rapids and rock work, which is followed by second, 49-feet drop.

In our opinion, it is great theming that elevates one water ride above another. Disney's Splash Mountain is the best example of this - with the plot and animatronics setting it apart from other, similar flume rides. Cedar Point's publicity has promised a storyline that will see guests passing through an "illegal moonshine still" and encountering "some wild feudin' and fightin'" during Shoot the Rapids - we hope the ride experience lives up to those words, and that the theming is better than the somewhat generic-looking renders released so far.

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9. Space Fantasy: The Ride (Universal Studios Japan)

Opening date: TBC
Type: Dark ride / rollercoaster
Cost: $55 million

Universal Studios Japan space ride image

Image © 2009 Universal Studios Japan

This one is something of a mystery. Back in September, Universal Studios Japan announced that is spending some 4-5 billion yen (around $55 million) on a new indoor ride to replace E.T. Adventure, which closed in 2009. However, very little else is known about the attraction currently.

What we do know is that it will be housed in the old E.T. building, and will be themed around a trip to outer space. Guests will be taken on a 1,920 feet ride through the solar system - though what ride system will be used is a not known (a rollercoaster would surely draw direct comparisons with Tokyo Disneyland's Space Mountain). Also yet to be confirmed is whether the ride is themed around an existing or upcoming movie.

Whatever the case, we are intrigued and look forward to further details being released prior to the ride's opening in 2010.

Update: Universal has released new details of the ride, which will be a Mack spinning coaster.

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8. Intimidator (Carowinds)

Opening date: Spring 2010
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: $23 million

Carowinds Intimidator render

Image © 2009 Carowinds

Sister parks Carowinds and Kings Dominion will both open NASCAR-themed rollercoasters in 2010. Carowind’s Intimidator has been designed by Bolliger & Mabillard, and will dwarf the other coasters at the park with its 232-feet lift hill (neighboring Afterburn stands at 144-feet).

The coaster is named in honor of the late stock car driver Dale Earnhardt, who died during the Daytona 500 race in 2001. The hypercoaster will hit 75mph following the 211-feet first drop, and will feature seven "air-time" hills to represent Earnhardt’s seven NASCAR championships.

Although we’re very excited about Intimidator, it sits below Kings Dominion's Intimidator 305 in our list. The reason? Sheer size – its Intamin-built cousin is taller and faster. Nevertheless, there's no substitute for good design – and there's still every chance that Carowinds' coaster will outmaneuver its rival.

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7. Captain EO (Disneyland, Epcot)

Opening date: TBC
Type: 3D movie
Cost: TBC

OK, so we're cheating a bit here. Captain EO, the 3D movie starring Michael Jackson, is anything but a new attraction having originally opened at Disneyland and Epcot in 1986. However, given that a generation of theme park goers have missed it following its closure in 1997, we feel justified in including it here – particularly as any revival may bring the special effects up-to-date for 2010.

As things stand, there are no announced plans to bring Captain EO back to the Disney parks. But does anyone really believe it won't happen? With interest in Jackson riding high following his death, it's a great chance for Disney to bring visitors into the parks – and for his estate to generate some income.

Starring Jackson and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Captain EO was the most expensive ever film ever produced if measured per-minute when first released (costing $30 million in total for a 17-minute feature). It tells the story of Captain EO (played by Jackson) and the crew of his spaceship, who seek to bring about peace by delivering a musical message to the wicked Witch Queen.

The latest rumors suggest a February return at Disneyland, followed by Epcot later in the year. In both cases it would replace Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, an attraction which is starting to show its age. We hope Captain EO can act as an interim replacement while something more up-to-date is produced.

Update: Disney has confirmed that Captain EO will return to Disneyland in February 2010.

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6. Madagascar: A Crate Adventure (Universal Studios Singapore)

Opening date: Spring 2010
Type: Dark boat ride
Cost: Unknown

Madagascar: A Crate Adventure render

Image © 2009 Universal Studios Singapore

Residents and visitors to Singapore can look forward to a whole new theme park in 2010, with the latest Universal Studios due to open in the Spring. We could easily have picked half-a-dozen attractions from the park to include here, but have focused on ones that have not yet been seen in another form at one of the chain’s other parks.

The first of these is Madagascar: A Crate Adventure, an indoor boat ride based on the popular Dreamworks animated movies. It will follow Alex, Marty, Melman and King Julien as they battle the devious Foosa. Universal says the ride will feature "animated figures, digital projection, evocative sound, and special effects that create a one-of-a-kind, funny and fun family ride".

We're most excited about the prospect of the film's penguins getting involved in the plot. But we're also looking forward to seeing how well Universal gets on in traditional Disney family-ride territory, outside of its thrill-ride comfort zone. If it goes down well, we could see this ride hit the US before too long.

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5. King Kong 360 3-D (Universal Studios Hollywood)

Opening date: Spring 2010
Type: “4D” show
Cost: Unknown

King Kong at Universal Studios Hollywood

Image © 2009 Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios Hollywood suffered a huge blow in 2008 when a fire devastated large areas of its famous backlot. Visitors suffered as well, as the park’s Studio Tour lost some of its most famous sights, including the New York Street set and the King Kong soundstage. Fortunately, the park has turned the fire into a positive, reopening the lost sets (plus a few new ones) back in June, and announcing a brand new Kong soundstage to replace the rather dated one that was burnt to the ground in the fire.

The updated version of Kong will be based on the 2005 Peter Jackson remake of the original film, and will see Studio Tour guests donning 3D glasses on entering the soundstage. They will then experience a cave full of giant bats, before witnessing a showdown between Kong and two T-Rex dinosaurs. The scene will be created using a mixture of life-size animatronics and digitally projected images.

The Studio Tour is one of the best theme park attractions in the world, packing what would be a dozen attractions at any other park into a single tour. We're delighted to see an historic attraction getting a modern update - and look forward to seeing Kong roar back into action.

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4. Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion)

Opening date: April 2010
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: $25 million

Intimidator 305 construction image

Image © 2009 Kings Dominion

The second of the two NASCAR-themed rollercoasters to make our list, Kings Dominion's Intimidator 305 is also named in honor of Dale Earnhardt. Although the design of the ride shares some similarities with Carowinds' Intimidator, the two are far from identical. For starters, they are designed by rival companies - Carowinds' by B&M, and Kings Dominion's by Intamin.

Intimidator 305 will be the second Intamin Giga Coaster in the US, after Millenium Force at Cedar Point. It will match Millenium Force in height and speed, with a 300-feet, 85-degree first drop and a lightning-fast top speed of 92 miles per hour. Coaster junkies will be kept happy by six "air-time" humps and a number of high speed turns.

For sheer scale and ambition if nothing else, Intimidator 305 ranks highly in our list of 2010's most exciting rides. It only misses out on the top 3 because of its similarities to Millenium Force - meaning it lacks the originality present in the top-ranking attractions.

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3. Battlestar Galactica (Universal Studios Singapore)

Opening date: Spring 2010
Type: Dueling rollercoasters
Cost: Unknown

Battlestar Galactica at Universal Studios Singapore

Image © 2009 Universal Studios Singapore

The second attraction at the new Universal Studios Singapore park to make our list, Battlestar Galactica (based on the hit TV series) is actually two attractions in one. Like Dueling Dragons at Universal's Islands of Adventure, it features two rollercoasters which pass within inches of each other. Unlike Dueling Dragons, though, it includes two distinct types of rollercoaster - an inverted rollercoaster (Cyclon) and a sit-down steel rollercoaster (Human).

The two coasters are designed to cater for families and thrill-junkies alike. Cyclon features intense maneuvers including an inverted loop, cobra roll and helix spiral. Its "rival" Human is suitable for younger guests and includes no inversions - but it will still subject riders to considerable G-forces. Both coasters will feature a launched start, and Battlestar Galactica will become the tallest dueling rollercoaster in the world when it opens.

With stable favorites from Universal's U.S. parks - including Revenge of the Mummy and Shrek 4D - also making it into the Singapore line-up, the park’s opening promises to be one of the most significant for years.

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2. Thirteen (Alton Towers)

Opening date: March 20, 2010
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: £15 million ($24.5 million)

Alton Towers Thirteen construction image

When the park that brought the world Nemesis (Europe's first inverted rollercoaster), Oblivion (the world's first vertical drop coaster) and Air (the world's first B&M flying coaster) announces its latest addition, theme park fans have to take notice. Alton Towers has cranked the hype machine up to maximum for Thirteen, and we've fallen for it hook, line and sinker.

Billed by the park as the "scariest ride in the UK", and promising to combine physical and psychological terror, Thirteen is themed around the haunted "Dark Forest". Alton Towers has promised that the Intamin-designed coaster will contain a "world's first" element, rumored to be either a section of track that "freefalls" vertically, a backwards-tilting section - or a combination of the two.

The centrepiece of the attraction's theming is a 14-metre tall tree, partially built with steel from the park's famous Corkscrew rollercoaster, which Thirteen replaces. We're confident that Thirteen will live up to its illustrious predecessor, and will be heading to Alton Towers for the grand opening in March.

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1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Islands of Adventure)

Opening date: Spring 2010
Type: Dark ride
Cost: $50 million+

Hogwarts Castle at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Image © 2009 Universal Orlando

What else could it be? The opening of Universal’s $200 million Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure is the theme park event of 2010. If Universal gets it right, Potter could finally persuade families to take a longer break from Walt Disney World and spend more time at its Florida parks. Whatever Disney says publicly, it must be concerned - the first stage of its Fantasyland expansion is not due to open until 2012.

The centerpiece of the Wizarding World is (of course) Hogwart’s Castle. As well as towering over the entire theme park, it will also play host to the World’s headline attraction – Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Little is known about the mysterious mega-attraction, other than that it will feature a storyline that incorporates elements from all of the Potter movies. The stars of the film, including Daniel Radcliffe who plays Potter himself, have filmed special sequences that will form part of the ride’s plot.

Universal has yet to confirm the ride system that will be used in the Forbidden Journey. However, it is widely expected that guests will be mounted on a Kuka robot arm, similar to the ones used in the recently-opened Sum of All Thrills at Epcot. This will allow them to move vertically, as well as horizontally along a track passing through the ride’s scenes. Until Universal releases confirmed details, though, we’ll have to wait and see.

The ride’s queue system will pass through the Great Hall and Gryffindor common room, which will closely resemble their movie counterparts. Guests will be kept entertained by “moving” portraits and characters from the movies including Aragog, the giant spider featured in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

The idea of matching the Harry Potter universe - with its conjuring wizards, mythical creatures and exciting adventures – with the kind of genius that brought the world The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman attraction is a dream for theme park fans. Of course, it will be tough for any ride to live up to the hype that the Wizarding World has generated – but we think Universal can pull it off.

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Conclusion

We're really excited about 2010's line up of new theme park attractions. With the Wizarding of Harry Potter finally due to open, and a whole new Universal Studios park coming online in Singapore, there are two major theme park events due to take place in the next few months. On top of that, as we've shown above, there are a whole host of other attactions targeted at all age ranges and tastes set to open as well.

You've seen our choices – now let us know which new attractions you are most looking forward to in 2010. Take part in our poll, or let us know through the comments section below (no registration required).

You can keep up to date with the latest confirmed and rumored opening dates for new attractions through Theme Park Tourist's "New Attraction Watch" section, and by signing up for our weekly newsletter using the box on the right of this page.

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There is 1 comment.

I have to say that Harry Potter looks amazing but I am gutted that I can't go this year. I will have to save up for 2011.
I am so excited about 'Thirteen' I can't wait to see what the world's first is!