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The 10 most exciting new theme park attractions opening in 2011

Cheetah Hunt concept art

Despite the continuing economic gloom around the world, theme parks are investing heavily to keep guests coming through their gates. This will result in a flood of new rides and shows making their debuts during 2011, and Theme Park Tourist has been been keeping track of them through our "New Attraction Watch". In this article, we'll pick out the 10 new attractions coming in 2011 that we're most looking forward to experiencing.

With 2010 having seen the opening of the incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal's Islands of Adventure and the World of Color nighttime spectacular at Disney California Adventure, there's a lot for 2011's line-up to live up to. While major new additions like the Wizarding World don't come around every year, there's still a diverse range of rides and shows in the pipeline that offer something for everyone.

As with last year's list, we've tried to spread our choices across more than one type of attraction, rather than focusing just on the headline thrill rides and rollercoasters. Read on for our picks – then let us know the rides and shows you are most excited about for 2011 through the comments section.

10. Peppa Pig World (Paultons Park)

Opening date: April 9, 2011
Type: Themed children's area
Cost: Unknown

Peppa Pig World map

Image © Paultons Park

Easter 2011 will see the opening of Peppa Pig World at Paultons Park, the first ever theme park land dedicated to the eponymous pig and her friends. The Peppa Pig cartoons have proven a smash hit in the UK, selling more than 3 million DVDs and over $100 million of merchandise to date. Little surprise, then, that every small child we've discussed the land with has been bursting with excitement about its opening in April.

Unlike many kids areas in other theme parks, which feature a selection of lightly-themed rides gathered together on a patch of tarmac, Peppa Pig World will be a heavily-themed experience. The 7 rides in the area will be carefully designed to match the locations and vehicles seen in the show, making them instantly recognisable. Fans will also be able to get up close and personal with animatronic versions of the characters in recreations of Peppa and her family's houses.

The deal to license the Peppa Pig characters for use in theme park attractions is something of a coup for Paultons Park, which has secured an exclusive license for the UK and Ireland. Given the huge popularity of the cartoon, and the impressive work that the park has put into recreating Peppa Pig's universe, we think that the new land has the potential to establish the obscure local park on a national basis.

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9. Dare Devil Dive (Six Flags Over Georgia)

Opening date: May 28, 2011 (TBC)
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: $9 million

Dare Devil Dive render

Image © Ride Entertainment Group of Companies

Gerstlauer's popular Euro-Fighter rollercoaster model has appeared at theme parks all over the world since its 2003 launch. Six Flags Over Georgia's Dare Devil Dive will become the third in the US when it opens in time for the 2011 Memorial Day weekend, with the others being Dollywood's Mystery Mine and SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge at the Mall of America.

Although it features a relatively low top speed of 52 miles per hour, the inclusion of a vertical lift hill, a "beyond-vertical" drop and a number of other inversions are designed to help Dare Devil Dive live up to its name. The coaster will feature an aerial stunts theme, with riders appearing to plunge through "near-miss" hoops of "fire" at the bottom of the opening drop.

Gerstlauer Euro-Fighters have not proven universally popular with coaster enthusiasts, but have been a smash-hit with the general theme park-going public. If it's pitched at the right level between being super-scary and accessible to those only looking for mild thrills, Dare Devil Dive will be a welcome addition to Six Flags Over Georgia's extensive coaster line-up.

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8. Project Atlantis (LEGOLAND Windsor)

Opening date: March 2011 (TBC)
Type: Dark ride
Cost: Unknown

Project Atlantis building drawing

Image © LEGOLAND Windsor

LEGOLAND Windsor will open a first-of-its-kind attraction for the 2011 season, with Project Atlantis set to combine a traditional dark ride with Sea Life marine exhibits. Owner Merlin has previously located smaller Sea Life attractions in its theme parks, including the Sharkbait Reef aquarium at Alton Towers. However, Project Atlantis represents the company's first attempt to incorporate the Sea Life brand into an actual ride - and could be a sign of things to come at the chain's other parks if it proves a success.

Featuring a plot based around the LEGO Atlantis movie, the ride will see guests boarding vehicles which travel on rails through a series of marine exhibits. Riders will be accompanied by an on-board audio system that is likely to provide details of the creatures seen in each exhibit, as well as narrating the plot.

If Merlin can execute well on a great idea, then Project Atlantis should be a strong addition to LEGOLAND Windsor's line-up, appealing to both the park's young target audience and their parents. It could even mark the start of a new trend in Merlin's parks - perhaps its Madame Tussauds waxworks brand is next-in-line for the in-park ride treatment?

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7. Green Lantern (Six Flags Magic Mountain)

Opening date: Spring 2011
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: Unknown

Green Lantern render

Image © Six Flags

Six Flags Magic Mountain will reclaim the coveted "coaster capital of the world" crown from rival Cedar Point in 2011, with the opening of two new rollercoasters. This will give the park a total roster of eighteen coasters, with the arrival of the new rides designed to coincide with the park's 40th anniversary season.

By far the most interesting of the new additions is Green Lantern, which will be the first Intamin ZacSpin rollercoaster to open in the US. The seats on the coaster's trains are suspended outside the track and can rotate independently, meaning that the ride experience will never be predictable. As an added twist, half of the riders will face forwards and half backwards, with their positions changing during the ride.

The new coaster's theme is designed to tie-in with the Green Lantern movie (starring Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively), which is due to debut on June 17. Based on a DC Comics strip, the movie tells the tale of a group of intergalactic police officers - and seems to have escaped the purge of licensing deals carried out by Six Flags' new management team. Green Lantern is an intriguing addition, and looks set to be a fitting way to celebrate the start of Six Flags Magic Mountain's fifth decade.

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6. Fantasmic (Tokyo DisneySea)

Opening date: April 2011
Type: Show
Cost: $33 million

Tokyo DisneySea Fantasmic concept art

Image © Disney

The operators of the Tokyo Disney Resort, the Oriental Land Company, are planning to continue their current spending spree through 2016, which can only be good news for guests. In 2011, the resort will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Tokyo DisneySea park by opening its own version of the Fantasmic laser and pyrotechnic show that has proven a smash hit at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Like the shows in California and Florida (which have been running since 1992 and 1996 respectively), Japan's version of Fantasmic will feature fireworks, water effects and projections of famous Disney animations, with Mickey Mouse acting as conductor. Tokyo Disney's press release to announce the installation of the show mentioned a fight between Mickey and a "gigantic dragon", suggesting that the fire-breathing animatronic dragon of the Disneyland version will make it across the Pacific for what it claimed to the biggest and best version of the show yet.

Fantasmic will replace the existing BraviSEAmo show, which closed on November 13. With a version of Mickey's Philharmagic due to open at neighboring Tokyo Disneyland earlier in 2011, and Toy Story Mania coming in 2012, it promises to be an exciting couple of years for Japanese Disney fans.

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5. Raptor (Gardaland)

Opening date: April 1, 2011
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: Unknown

Raptor render
Image © Gardaland

Bolliger & Mabillard has been responsible for some of the most innovative and popular rollercoaster designs in the world, and any new additions to its line-up of coaster models are eagerly anticipated by fans. This year, their gaze has turned to Italy's Gardaland, which will install an all-new B&M prototype in time for the 2011 season.

Gardaland's new addition will be named Raptor, and features a backstory based around a mysterious creature that hatches from an egg discovered at the park. The main focus, though, is on the coaster itself which will see riders seated either side of the track in a "winged" formation. The ride's circuit will be 2,624 feet in length, rising up to 100 feet above the ground and featuring two inversions. Despite appearing similar to a "4th Dimension" coaster, the ride's seats will not rotate independently.

Like everyone else, we're intrigued by B&M's new design. We're also excited to see it going into Gardaland first, given that the park has a track record of developing rides with strong theming as well as white-knuckle thrills. We'll be watching closely to see how the Raptor experiment turns out when it opens in April.

More on this attraction:

  • X-Raptor teaser site

4. The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure (Disney California Adventure)

Opening date: TBC
Type: Dark ride
Cost: $100 million

Little Mermaid

Image © Disney

Disney will continue the $1.1 billion series of upgrades to the underperforming California Adventure park in 2011, earmarking almost ten percent of that budget for a major new dark ride based on the classic Little Mermaid movie. Aimed squarely at Disney's core family audience, The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure will see the company return to its roots with a classic plot-driven attraction.

Located in the Paradise Pier area of the park, which has seen significant changes over the last two years, the new ride will use an OmniMover ride system similar to that used for Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. The "clamshell" ride vehicles are reminiscent of those used in the Nemo & Friends attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot, and will rotate to face the different scenes presented during the ride's circuit. Guests can expect to hear a number of familiar, rousing musical numbers as they journey through Ariel's world.

It may be hard for some theme park fans to get too excited about another Omnimover-based Disney dark ride, and we can sympathise with that viewpoint. Nobody does animatronic storytelling better than Disney's Imagineers, though, and The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure will add a sorely-needed "E-Ticket" family attraction to California Adventure's expanding line-up.

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3. Transformers (Universal Studios Singapore)

Opening date: Late 2011
Type: Dark ride
Cost: Unknown

Transformers render

Image © Universal

The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure is regarded by many as the best theme park attraction in the world, even after the opening of the groundbreaking Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey nearby. Now, Universal plans to re-use its ride system for the first time, to create attractions based on the Transformers movies that will open at Universal Studios Singapore and Universal Studios Hollywood (a year later).

Or does it? While Universal Studios Hollywood's ride is still believed to be based on the Spiderman system (mixing 3D, high-definition video footage with robotics and moving vehicles), recent reports have claimed that Universal Studios Singapore's version could be something completely different and unique. Whether these reports are grounded in reality, or the result of mixed marketing messages, remains to be seen.

Either way, we're excited to see what Universal Creative come up with. The Transformers movies may not be strong on plot, but they do include enough set-pieces and gigantic robots to provide the raw materials for a thrilling theme park attraction. Let's just hope Universal Studios Singapore can get the ride up-and-running during 2011 - both of the park's entries in last year's version of this list (Battlestar Galactica and Madagascar: A Crate Adventure) are yet to open permanently to the public.

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2. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (Disneyland, Disney's Hollywood Studios)

Opening date: May 10, 2011 (Disneyland), May 17, 2011 (DHS) (TBC)
Type: Simulator
Cost: Unknown

Star Tours Coruscant image

Image © Disney/Lucasfilm

After years of anticipation and rumors, the long-awaited sequel to the classic Star Tours attraction will finally open at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios in May 2011. The enduring popularity of the Star Wars universe almost guarantees that it will be a huge hit, with the original ride having endured for over two decades after its 1987 debut.

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue will feature an all-new plot, 3D special effects and a host of new characters, taking riders for a spin through some of sci-fi's most famous locations. While it will re-use the basic simulator format of the original attraction, Disney has promised that physical changes will be made to the ride in addition to the updated storyline. Star Wars creator George Lucas is on board, and working with Disney to generate 54 different possible scenarios - meaning that guests will take a different "journey" almost every time they ride.

With fans demanding a major upgrade to the dated attraction, Disney's decision to overhaul the original Star Tours (rather than replace it with something radically different) is a little risky. We're hopeful that the update will result in an experience that is cutting-edge while still retaining the "feel" of the original - giving long-time fans a healthy dose of nostalgia while appealing to a whole new generation of star-gazers.

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1. Cheetah Hunt (Busch Gardens Tampa)

Opening date: Spring 2011
Type: Rollercoaster
Cost: Unknown

Cheetah Hunt render

Image © Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa long been renowned for its unique combination of world-class zoological exhibits and thrilling rollercoasters. In spring 2011, it will open one of each - with a brand new multi-million dollar coaster (Cheetah Hunt) debuting alongside an accompanying live animal exhibit (Cheetah Run).

Designed by Intamin, Cheetah Hunt will utilise no fewer than three launch sections that will propel riders to speeds of 30, 60 and 40 miles per hour respectively. With 4,429 feet of track and a duration of 3.5 minutes (including loading and unloading time), the coaster will cover the largest footprint of any ride in Busch Gardens Tampa's history. In addition to the launches, the circuit will include a 130-feet drop, banked turns, a heartline inversion and a parabola that will give riders a sensation of weightlessness ("airtime") for 3 seconds. Riders will be subjected to forces of four times the pull of gravity, with the ride designed to simulate a cheetah chasing its prey across the plains.

The attached Cheetah Run animal exhibit will include special viewing areas that will enable guests to view the world's fastest land animals up-close. Ironically, the cheetahs would be able to outrun the coaster itself and will perform daily sprints to show off their ability to reach speeds of more than 70 miles per hour. Guests wishing to learn more about the animals will be able to access information via touchscreen computer terminals.

Although we're still disappointed that the water section of Rhino Rally was closed in order to make way for Busch Gardens Tampa's latest addition, the indications are that Cheetah Hunt will be the best coaster yet in the park's already-stellar line-up. The multi-launch design is the perfect fit with the ride's theme, and the opportunity to learn about the animals that inspired it is the icing on the cake. For us, Cheetah Hunt epitomizes everything that is great about Busch Gardens Tampa, making it the most exciting new theme park attraction opening in 2011.

More on this attraction:

  • Video: Busch Gardens Tampa confirms addition of Cheetah Hunt rollercoaster in 2011

Conclusion

2011 promises to be another great year for theme park fans, with a wide range of exciting new attractions due to open all around the world. It's been a struggle to compile this list, with attractions such as Cedar Fair's Windseeker rides and SeaWorld's all-new killer whale show narrowly failing to make the cut. We hope to feature reviews of all of the rides in the list (plus many more) on the site over the coming months.

You've seen our choices – now let us know which new attractions you are most looking forward to in 2011 through the comments section below!

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.


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