Theme parks continue to do well despite the world's slow recovery from the 2008 economic crisis, and parks all over the world are planning major new additions for the 2014 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 14 new attractions coming in 2014 that we're most looking forward to experiencing.
Fans are anxiously awaiting the debut of the new, London-themed Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida (which should debut in the spring) and other long-anticipated rides such as the Magic Kingdom's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster. There's plenty to look forward to outside of Orlando, though, with some record-breaking new additions arriving 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 2014 through the comments section.
14. New England SkyScreamer (Six Flags New England)
Six Flags New England is planning to install the world's tallest spinning tower ride for the 2014 season, with its version of SkyScreamer set to stand at some 400-feet-tall.
The new addition to the park will be near-identical to the SkyScreamers that have been installed at a number of Six Flags parks over the past two years, but will be significantly taller. It would also stand just two feet taller than the Funtime Star Flyer ride at Austria's Prater Park, which is currently the tallest ride of its type.
Like other versions of the ride, Six Flags New England's SkyScreamer will offer a vertigo-inducing variation on the traditional "Chair-O-Plane" ride experience. Guests will be seated in chairs that dangle from a circular gondola, which will spin as it rises to the top of the tower, offering views across the park and beyond.
Full details: New England SkyScreamer guide
13. Falcon's Fury (Busch Gardens Tampa)
Busch Gardens Tampa's skyscraping new addition will stand at some 335-feet-tall, and will plummet towards the ground at 60 miles per hour. The drop tower's chief gimmick, though, will be that it twists guests by 90 degrees so that they are facing directly downwards before they freefall down to the bottom. Falcon's Fury will become the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America when it opens.
Falcon's Fury will be themed around the concept of diving towards the earth like a bird of prey. The ride will replace the former Sandstorm flat ride, which was recently removed from the park.
Full details: Falcon's Fury guide
12. Banshee (Kings Island)
Banshee will be the longest inverted roller coaster in the world at 4,124 feet. It will include seven inversions and, interestingly, will reach its top speed of 68 miles per hour in the middle of the ride’s course, not at the bottom of the 150 foot first drop.
The striking blue supports hold magenta track – fitting for the ride’s supernatural theme, and for its second calling card: being “the first female-inspired thrill ride at a Cedar Fair park.” You can take that to the bank! Which is good, because Banshee will also be the park’s largest ever investment at $24 million, beating out 2009’s B&M hyper coaster Diamondback ($22 million), and previous owner Paramount’s additions, Son of Beast and TOMB RAIDER: The Ride (now both defunct, neither lasting a full decade – and tragically so at $20 million a piece).
Full details: Banshee guide
11. Flight of the Demon (Heide Park)
Heide Park will open Germany's first Bolliger & Mabillard Wing Rider roller coaster in April 2014. The ride will be installed at a cost of €15 million.
The coaster's trains will feature "wings" that protrude over the sides of the track. This enables the creation of "near-miss" experiences, and the ride is likely to interact with the surrounding scenery.
Flight of the Demon will feature a relatively short 2,532 feet circuit, but will pack in five inversions including an Immelmann loop, a zero-g roll and a pretzel loop. Riders will hit a top speed of 62 miles per hour, with the coaster's lift hill standing at 131 feet tall.
Full details: Flight of the Demon guide
10. School for Wizards (Universal Studios Japan)
This one is just a rumor...for now. Universal Studios Japan will open its own version of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in 2014, complete with a clone of Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey at Islands of Adventure.
The park has also referred to a "school for wizards" being part of its plans. This is rumored to be a show themed around a Defense Against the Dark Arts lesson and to be hosted in the enormous Hogwarts Castle.
9. Goliath (Six Flags Great America)
Six Flags Great America will receive a major new addition in 2014, with the park due to open Goliath, the world's tallest, fastest and steepest wooden roller coaster.
Goliath will be manufactured by Rocky Mountain Construction, which was also behind the unique Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City. The ride will stand at some 165 feet tall, and will feature a sharply-angled 45 degree lift hill. On reaching the top of this, riders will plummet down a 180 foot drop at an 85 degree angle into an underground tunnel, hitting a top speed of 72 miles per hour.
The remainder of the circuit includes a 180-degree zero-g roll, that emerges into a traditional vertical loop. Riders will then pass through a new element dubbed the "inverted zero-g stall", which consists of a camelback-style hill and a 180-degree inversion, so that riders crest the hill in an upside-down position.
Full details: Goliath guide
8. Once Upon A Time (Tokyo Disneyland)
A new nighttime extravaganza dubbed Once Upon a Time will be based around Tokyo Disneyland's iconic Cinderella Castle. It is expected to borrow elements from the popular Disney Dreams show at Disneyland Paris, using projection mapping technology to display footage from classic Disney movies including Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland on the castle itself.
The plans for the 15-minute show appear to be lacking the spectacular water effects of Disney Dreams, but it will still cost some 2 billion yen ($20.5 million) to install. Once Upon a Time is due to debut in spring or summer 2014.
Full details: Once Upon A Time guide
7. Firechaser Express (Dollywood)
Gerstlauer-manufacted roller coaster FireChaser Express will debut at Dollywood in 2014, boasting two launch sections - one forwards, and backwards.
The ride will feature a 2,427-foot circuit, stand at 79 feet tall and hit a top speed of 34.5 miles per hour. The first launch section on the mine train-style coaster will see riders fired from 0 to 16 miles per hour in 1.1 seconds, while the second will take them up to 20 miles per hour in 2 seconds. There will be six "airtime" hills, two helices and a "trick track" section in a ride that is squarely aimed at families.
The theme for the new coaster will be based around a major fire, with riders playing the role of "heroes" who have answered the call. Dollywood claims that guests as young as 4 years old will be able to experience the ride, billed as "the nation's first dual launch family coaster".
Full details: Firechaser Express guide
6. Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy (Walt Disney Studios, Paris)
Walt Disney Studios' Ratatouille dark ride, based on the 2007 Pixar film of the same name, will see guests "shrunk" down to the size of a rat. The ride will begin in Gusteau's restaurant, before taking riders on a wild chase through key scenes from the movie. Disney will reuse the trackless ride system from Tokyo Disneyland's Pooh's Hunny Hunt attraction, which allows full 360 degree rotation of the ride cars.
The surrounding area is set to be themed around a Parisian courtyard. As well as several mock building façades, the area will also feature an elaborate fountain. Part of the ride building's exterior is set to be themed as Gusteau's restaurant from the movie, and the building is expected to house an actual restaurant in addition to the ride.
Full details: Ratatouille: L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy guide
5. Wonder Mountain's Guardian (Canada's Wonderland)
Canada's Wonderland will open a new 4D dark ride inside its iconic Wonder Mountain in 2014, in a move that could be indicative of a change of direction from owner Cedar Fair.
Wonder Mountain's Guardian will be an interactive ride based on a 1,000-foot roller coaster-style track, and will be themed around a mythical creature that lives inside the mountain. Riders will first climb up the side of the mountain, before plummeting through its interior. The surrounding scenes are set to include a desolate forest, an underground lake and "Draconian City". A final battle inside a dragon's lair will be designed to "shock".
Fittingly, Montreal-based Triotech has developed the technology behind Canada's Wonderland's new ride. Wonder Mountain's Guardian will feature 3D effects overlaid with 4D elements such as wind and water tricks. RIders will be equipped with weapons boasting "The fastest, most-accurate target system", with "real-time graphics" being employed to show the impact of their shooting. The world's longest interactive screen will help to add to the immersive experience.
Full details: Wonder Mountain's Guardian guide
4. Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom (Six Flags Great Adventure)
Six Flags Great Adventure will open a record-breaking new freefall drop tower in 2014, with Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom to be mounted to the Kingda Ka's roller coaster's tower.
The attraction will lift riders to some 415 feet in the air, before sending them plummeting back towards the ground below at 90 miles per hour. Three separate drop rides will be installed, each capable of holding up to 8 riders at a time. To increase capacity, the gondolas will be blasted to the top of the tower in just 30 seconds.
Full details: Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom guide
3. Hogwarts Express (Universal Orlando)
Linking the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure with the under-construction Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, the Hogwarts Express will recreate the journey taken by Potter and his friends at the start and finish of every year at Hogwarts. It will actually travel through a backstage area between the two parks, but multimedia technology will be used to convince guests that they are journeying between London and Hogsmeade.
Initially, Universal envisaged the attraction as little more than a basic transportation link. But it quickly became clear that many fans were more excited about the Hogwarts Express than they are about the rest of Diagon Alley. Now, the Hogwarts Express will be a full multi-sensory experience, telling a story as well as getting guests from A to B.
Linking two lands with a shared theme in two entirely separate theme parks, the Hogwarts Express will be a truly unique attraction. In fact, it's the only ride listed in our extensive database of 3,500 attractions that is listed as belonging to two parks!
Full details: Hogwarts Express guide
2. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Disney's Magic Kingdom)
The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will take guests on a musical ride deep into a diamond mine. It will feature a first-of-its-kind ride system that will allow the vehicles to swing back and forth as they move along the twisting track, accompanied by tunes from the movie's soundtrack.
The coaster will be manufactured by Vekoma (a favorite of Disney, responsible for nearly all of its modern steel roller coaster work) and will feature both indoor and outdoor sections. Disney has described the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train as sitting somewhere between Barnstormer and Big Thunder Mountain in terms of thrills. With those rides reaching top speeds of 20mph and 30mph respectively, it's unlikely that the new ride will rocket around its course - with the thrills more likely to come from the swinging action of the cars.
Full details: Seven Dwarfs Mine Train guide
1. Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts (Universal Studios Florida)
The headline attraction of the under-construction Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida will be a major new roller coaster themed around Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Harry’s first encounter with the bank is an innocent descent in its mine-cart-style conveyance in the first film; by the last, the out-of-control race through the vaults was accompanied by loops, waterfalls, and captive dragons - perfect material for a theme park ride.
So what will the Gringotts Bank roller coaster be like? Well, Universal hasn't unveiled the details of what could be one of its most impressive rides yet. But we do know what Universal is working with: an increasingly impressive arsenal of technological innovation. After its outstanding and unparalleled foray into what can only be described as “4D motion-base dark-ride simulator” technology with 1999’s The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and the even-more-progressive Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, you can bet that a Gringotts roller coaster will not be a Space Mountain-style ride in the dark.
Full details: Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts guide
2014 looks set to be another great year for theme park fans. While roller coasters remain a huge draw, the diversity of attractions opening in 2014 shows that parks are still prepared to spend big money on dark rides, drop towers and many other types of attractions. 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 2014 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.