Theme parks have been fairly resilient in the face of the bleak economic climate over the last few years, and parks all over the world are planning major new additions for the 2013 season. Theme Park Tourist has been been keeping track of them through our "New Attraction Watch", and in this article we'll pick out the 10 new attractions coming in 2013 that we're most looking forward to experiencing.
Fans are anxiously awaiting the debut of the new, London-themed Harry Potter land at Universal Studios Florida (which is unlikely to debut until 2014) and other long-anticipated rides such as the Magic Kingdom's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster (which is also due to open next year). Still, there's plenty to look forward to in 2013, with some truly original, innovative rides featuring in the list below. Honourable mentions should go to Transformers: The Ride - 3D at Universal Studios Florida and Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Tokyo Disneyland, both of which are clones of existing, excellent rides elsewhere.
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 2013 through the comments section.
10. Zufari: Ride into Africa! (Chessington World of Adventures)
Opening date: March 20, 2013
Type: Drive-along safari tour
Inspired by the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom, as well as Rhino Rally at Busch Gardens Tampa, Chessington World of Adventure's new ride for 2013 is its most ambitious for some time. Zufari: Ride into Africa! will be a vehicle-based experience located in the Wanyama Village & Reserve area of the park, close to the Holiday Inn Chessington hotel.
The ride will see guests boarding "safari truck" vehicles, before travelling around a circuit that takes in rhinos, giraffes and flamginos. New enclosures have been constructed to house the animals, with water being used in favour of fences wherever possible to separate the species. In addition to viewing the animals, guests will pass through a number of "splash zones" before encountering a "water experience" in the cave-based finale.
Chessington World of Adventures has long combined the best elements of a theme park and a zoo, and Zufari: Ride into Africa! is a natural fit with the park. It remains to be seen whether it can surpass Flamingo Land's Lost River Ride as the best animal-based ride experience in the UK.
9. Texas SkyScreamer (Six Flags Over Texas)
Opening date: Spring 2013
Type: Spinning tower ride
Six Flags has installed SkyScreamer spinning tower rides at a number of its parks over the last few years, and Six Flags Over Texas is the destination for its biggest yet. Towering an incredible 400 feet over the park, the Texas SkyScreamer will offer a vertigo-inducing variation on classic "Chair-O-Plane" attractions.
It may not be the most original ride experience ever, but the sheer scale of the Texas SkyScreamer warrants its place on this list. Expect to enjoy stunning views across the park and beyond when it makes its debut this spring.
8. The Storm (Sea World Australia)
Opening date: TBC
Type: Water coaster
Mystery shrouds Sea World Australia's new addition for 2013, with the park only having confirmed that a storm-themed ride will replace the former Bermuda Triangle. However, it is widely believed that the attraction will be a Mack Water Coaster, similar in style to the Journey to Atlantis rides at the unrelated SeaWorld parks in the US.
Given the searing temperatures on the Gold Coast during the summer, a new water ride will surely be a welcome addition to Sea World's line-up. Here's hoping it employs the same level of theming as the much-loved ride it will replace.
7. Wallace & Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic (Blackpool Pleasure Beach)
Opening date: Summer 2013
Type: Dark ride
Cost: £5.25 million
Blackpool Pleasure Beach has struggled somewhat in recent years, resulting in the closure of a number of classic attractions. The Gold Mine was among them, but the good news is that the dark ride is being completely overhauled to become a major new attraction based on the Wallace & Gromit animations.
Dubbed Wallace & Gromit's Thrill-O-Matic, the £5.25 million attraction is due to open at the park in summer 2013. Riders are set to traverse the dark ride in around four minutes, witnessing key moments from award-winning classics such as A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave. They will then disembark into a new shop that will sell Wallace and Gromit merchandise.
We'll miss the Gold Mine, but we're hopeful that its replacement will pull crowds back into Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and help save some of its other historic rides.
6. Outlaw Run (Silver Dollar City)
Opening date: Spring 2013
Type: Wood-steel hybrid roller coaster
Cost: $10 million
Silver Dollar City's ambitious new ride for 2013 promises to push the boundaries of what constitutes a "wooden" roller coaster. Really a wood-steel hybrid, Outlaw Run's track features three inversions, as well as the steepest drop of any coaster of its type in the world. It will stand at some 162 feet tall, with the near-vertical first drop plummeting towards the ground below at an 81-degree angle.
Outlaw Run will also feature a unique 720-degree double barrel roll element, will hit a top speed of 68 miles per hour, and will boast 9 "airtime" hills. It will be themed to fit in with the overall 1880s-era stylings of Silver Dollar City.
For a regional theme park, Silver Dollar City has made quite a splash with its plans for Outlaw Run. We'll have to wait and see if the coaster lives up to the hype.
5. GateKeeper (Cedar Point)
Opening date: May 11, 2013
Type: Wing Rider roller coaster
Cost: $30 million
Bolliger & Mabillard has a major hit on its hands with its Wing Rider roller coaster model. It debuted in 2011 in the form of Raptor at Gardaland, and has since been employed by impressive rides such as Thorpe Park's The Swarm. Cedar Point's GateKeeper will be the most ambitious Wing Rider yet.
The opening section of the ride will see riders plunged straight into a half-loop, which Cedar Point claims will be the the world's tallest coaster inversion. The height of GateKeeper's first inversion will top that of the existing "tallest inversion" record holder, Volcano: The Blast at sister park Kings Dominion. This features a sidewinder inversion that stands at 155 feet tall, and has held the record since August 1998.
GateKeeper's circuit will feature a total of 6 inversions, including the dive loop, an Immelmann loop, a giant corkscrew, two zero-g rolls and an inclined dive loop. The ride's track will be teal-colored, with white supports, and will come into close contact with buildings and portals in the park's entrance gates to provide a "near-miss" sensation. It promises to change the skyline of Cedar Point dramatically when it opens in May.
4. Full Throttle (Six Flags Magic Mountain)
Opening date: Summer 2013
Type: Steel launched roller coaster
Six Flags Magic Mountain has long billed itself as the "roller coaster capital of the world", and will bring its total number of coasters up to an incredible 18 with the debut of Full Throttle. The park promises that the new addition will be the tallest, fastest looping coaster in the world.
As had been widely rumored, Full Throttle will feature a record-breaking 160-foot loop. It will also boast a number of other unique elements, including a "top hat" element that spans the other side of the loop, and a total of three launch sections. It will be manufactured by Premier Rides, and will make use of a magnetic propulsion system.
Full Throttle will be the centerpiece of a new five-acre section housed close to Six Flags Magic Mountain's entrance. This will feature what the park describes as a "high-energy action" theme, and will boast "fast-paced imagery, sound and lights". Expect it to be swamped by excited teenagers when it opens this summer.
3. The Smiler (Alton Towers)
Opening date: May 2013
Type: Steel roller coaster
Cost: £18 million
Alton Towers has a reputation for installing some of the world's most innovative coasters, such as the stunning Nemesis and vertical-diving Oblivion. However, that reputation has suffered in recent years, particularly following the debut of the underwhelming and over-hyped Thirteen.
Nevertheless, with the legendary John Wardley working on The Smiler, the park's new coaster for 2013 is highly anticipated by fans. Due to open in May, it is set to smash the world record for the number of inversions in a single coaster's circuit. Boasting at least 14 inversions, it will ease past the current record of 10 held by Colossus at sister park Thorpe Park.
The Smiler, which had previously been known by its codename of "SW7", is currently under construction at a cost of some £18 million. Its circuit will feature two lift hills, and will be located alongside the existing Oblivion roller coaster in the X-Sector area. The plot and theming of The Smiler is designed to tie in with The Sanctuary, the horror maze that debuted at the Scarefest 2012 Halloween events and has been brought back as a year-round attraction for the 2013 season.
Alton Towers' marketing machine is now in full flow, promising that The Smiler will have a profound psychological effect on its riders (dubbed "marmalisation"). Will it live up to the hype this time? We think the plans look more impressive than those for Thirteen, although we're concerned that similar Gerstlauer Euro-Fighter coasters offer a rough ride.
2. Mystic Manor (Hong Kong Disneyland)
Opening date: Spring 2013
Type: Dark ride
Disney's Haunted Mansion attractions are widely regarded as being masterpieces of attraction design. It's hard not to salivate, then, at the thought of the concept being brought bang up-to-date as part of Hong Kong Disneyland's ongoing expansion.
Mystic Manor will anchor the Mystic Point area, the third of three new lands to open at the park within the last two years. It will be similar in style to the Haunted Mansion rides at other Disney parks, but is set to utilise the "trackless" ride system employed by Pooh's Hunny Hunt at Tokyo Disneyland, rather the more traditional Omnimover system.
The attraction will feature a backstory based around explorer Lord Henry Mystic and his pet monkey, Albert. The monkey will open a magical music box, which brings Lord Henry's extensive collection of artifacts to life. As we noted in our detailed Mystic Manor preview, the new ride looks set to be the envy of Disney fans across the globe.
1. Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin (SeaWorld Orlando)
Opening date: May 24, 2013
Type: Dark ride
Due to open in time for the busy Memorial Day weekend, SeaWorld Orlando's Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is one of the most unusual and ambitious rides to open at any theme park in recent years. Billed as "the world's coldest theme park attraction", it will combine a thrilling dark ride with a world-class animal exhibit.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin's plot will revolve around a gentoo penguin, who will lead guests on an adventure through icy waters from a penguin's viewpoint. Like Mystic Manor, the ride will employ a "trackless" ride system that will enable it to offer a different experience every time. Guests will be able to select one of several "thrill levels", with the 8-person vehicles behaving appropriately.
At the end of the ride, guests will disembark their vehicles for a closer look at the penguins, in a similar experience to the existing Wild Arctic simulator attraction. The new exhibit will house gentoo, rockhopper, adelie and king penguins.
We're intrigued by Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. If SeaWorld Orlando can deliver on the concept's promise, it looks sure to have a ride that will help it compete against the likes of Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter for years to come.
Despite the ongoing economic problems around the globe, 2013 looks set to be another great year for theme park fans. While roller coasters remain a huge draw, the diversity of attractions opening in 2013 shows that parks are still prepared to spend big money on dark rides and water rides. We hope to feature reviews of many of the rides in this list (along with several others) 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 2013 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.