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Skull Island: Reign of Kong artwork

For theme park fans, 2016 promises to be something of a banner year. Not only are a range of exciting attractions due to make their debuts, but entire resorts with eye-wateringly expensive budgets (hello, Shanghai Disneyland and Dubai Parks and Resorts) are also set to welcome their first guests.

The range of new experiences on offer is truly staggering, as you can soon discover by browsing through our New Attraction Watch section (which is currently tracking nearly 100 new rides and shows, around 60 of which will open this year). In this article, we've picked out 25 of the most interesting and unique creations, which will send you racing to dizzying heights, plunging down into the ocean depths, and exploring mysterious and exotic lands.

In no particular order, here are 25 extraordinary new theme park attractions that will open in 2016...

25. Valravn (Cedar Point)

Valravn concept art

Image: Cedar Point

Cedar Point is pushing the boat out in 2016 with the addition of the third Bolliger & Mabillard Dive Coaster to be built in the United States. The ride is named after the valravn, a supernatural bird of Danish folklore.

Valravn concept art

Image: Cedar Point

The park is billing Valravn as the tallest, longest and faster Dive Coaster in the world. After leaving the station, the train ascends a 223-foot-tall lift hill, before plummeting down a 214-foot vertical drop at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour. After passing through an Immelmann loop, riders experience a second drop of 131 feet, before racing into a dive loop and a 270-degree corkscrew-style roll.

24. Pulsar (Walibi Belgium)

Pulsar artwork

Image: Walibi Belgium

Walibi Belgium's Pulsar will be the world's first Mack Rides PowerSplash - and it's a monstrous creation, carrying a price tag of nearly $10 million. We're not quite sure if it's a water ride or a roller coaster, but the ride does receive a listing in the Roller Coaster Database, which perhaps settles that argument.

The boats/trains on Pulsar will rush backwards and forwards through a huge splash zone, with two vertical sections of track standing either side of the splashdown lake. The boats will hit a top speed of 62 miles per hour, making this a very intense experience.

23. LEGO Ninjago - The Ride (Legoland California)

LEGO Ninjago - The Ride artwork

Image: Legoland California

LEGOLAND California's new addition for 2016 is a unique dark ride featuring the characters from the LEGO Ninjago series. The novel feature of the ride is the ability for riders to fire energy weapons (such as fire and ice) using simple hand gestures, with the results being displayed on the ride's video screens.

It'll headline an entire new area dedicated to LEGO Ninjago, and will be joined by a number of smaller interactive attractions. A clone is due to arrive at LEGOLAND Florida in 2017.

22. Capitol Bullet Train (Motiongate Dubai)

Capitol Bullet Train

Image: Dubai Parks & Resorts

After years of false starts, Dubai will finally welcome some major theme parks this year at the Dubai Parks and Resorts complex. The flagship park is Motiongate Dubai, which promises to bring Hollywood to the desert - featuring attractions based on the works of three major movie studios: Sony Pictures Studios, DreamWorks Animation and Lionsgate. It's certainly an impressive line-up, with the potential - if the budget matches the vision - to create a park that could rival Universal's best offerings.

It's the headline ride of the Liongate area that has captured the imagination, with the Capitol Bullet Train set to simulate a journey on the high-speed trains that link the Districts in the Hunger Games movies.

Hunger Games theming

Image: Dubai Parks & Resorts

Little has been confirmed about the coaster itself, but concept art shows that it will be surrounded by familiar landmarks from the movies. The design looks similar to launched coasters installed by Intamin at other parks across the world. It'll be accompanied by Panem Aerial Tour, a simulator ride that will take guests on a hovercraft flight above Panem.

21. Frozen Ever After (Epcot)

Frozen Ever After artwork

Image: Disney

Few new additions to Disney parks have been as controversial as Frozen Ever After, which will replace the former Maelstrom boat ride in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase (and will reuse much of Maelstrom's ride system). Fans of the park were up in arms about the perceived change to the nature of World Showcase, given that Frozen has little, if anything, to do with Norway itself. But, let's be honest, the ride will be swamped when it opens in the summer, such is Frozen's enduring popularity.

Frozen Ever After will take guests on a 4-minute trip through the events of the first Frozen film, complete with animatronics, projection effects, and a room where Elsa sings Let it Go while simulated snow falls from the sky.

20. Cobra's Curse (Busch Gardens Tampa)

Cobra's Curse model

Image: Busch Gardens Tampa

Busch Gardens Tampa already boasts an impressive line-up of coasters, and it will add to it in 2016 with a family-friendly spinning coaster from Mack Rides. Hosted in the Egypt area of the park, Cobra's Curse will use the former King Tut's Tomb walkthrough attraction to host an air-conditioned queue. While they wait, guests will be able to admire mambas, pythons and vipers, all hosted in a 400-cubic-foot snake exhibit.

Cobra's Curse artwork

Image: Busch Gardens Tampa

The ride's most unique element will be a 70-foot-tall vertical elevator lift, which will send guests spinning towards the jaws of the snake king Venymyss. They will then race through an archeological dig site, where the remains of Venymyss' temple have been uncovered.

Cobra's Curse

Image: Busch Gardens Tampa

A second lift hill will see the cars locked into a backwards position, while for much of the rest of the ride the cars will be in "free-spinning" mode, allowing every individual ride to be slightly different.

19. Iron Man Experience (Hong Kong Disneyland)

Iron Man Experience artwork

Image: Disney

Hong Kong Disneyland will welcome Disney's first Marvel-themed attraction in late 2016.The Iron Man Experience will see guests take to the street and skies above Hong Kong to join in a battle with Iron Man himself. Early footage has shown Iron Man battling Hydra's robotic minion, with guests riding along on the Iron Wing flying vehicle.

Iron Man Experience artwork

Image: Disney

Given the amazing job that Disney did on the park's last set of new rides, we wouldn't bet against this being at least on a par with the Marvel-themed rides at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

18. Roaring Rapids (Shanghai Disneyland)

Roaring Rapids artwork

Image: Disney

Disney has built a couple of raft rides - Kali River Rapids at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Grizzly River Run at Disney California Adventure. While both are solid, popular attractions, neither could really be considered to be an Imagineering classic.

Maybe it'll be third time lucky, then, when Shanghai Disneyland opens it gates. Roaring Rapids will headline the Adventure Isle area of the park, weaving in and out of Roaring Mountain. The storyline revolves around the Q’aráq, a crocodile-like beast, that is believed to dwell within. During their journey, guests will encounter a churning whirlpool, volcanic vents and a "lava tube".

17. Fatamorgana (Tivoli Gardens)

Fatamorgana artwork

Image: Tivoli Gardens

Fatamorgana is effectively three rides in one. At the bottom of the ride are a set of mini-bumper cars for kids aged 5 and up. On the next floor is a Huss Condor 2G ride - which sees guests boarding gondolas that rotate around a central tower, being slung around at 2.5G (as you can see in the above artwork, there are actually two types of seating on offer). A smaller, tamer version of the main ride rounds out the range of experiences.

16. The Joker (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom)

The Joker artwork

Image: Six Flags

In 2016, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom becomes the latest Six Flags park to follow the current trend for converting aging wooden roller coasters into modern hybrids by laying a new steel track on top of the existing wooden support structure. In this case, the former Roar coaster, manufactured by Great Coasters International and opened in 1998, is being given the hybrid treatment by Rocky Mountain Construction. The ride will also receive a new DC Comics theme, based around Batman's arch-nemesis The Joker.

The Joker artwork

Image: Six Flags

Some elements of Roar's original layout will be changed quite significantly. Most notably, the ride's height has been increased by around five feet to 100 feet, with the first drop having been re-profiled to make it steeper. In addition, a total of three inversions have been added to the circuit, reflecting the ride's new steel nature and transforming the experience completely.

The Joker artwork

Image: Six Flags

The trains themselves will feature Joker theming, with each featuring six cars that can seat up to four riders each. Expect a smoother ride than Roar used to offer, thanks to the new construction...and expect to see many more of these hybrid conversions in the years to come.

15. Rivers of Light (Disney's Animal Kingdom)

Rivers of Light

Image: Disney

Disney's Animal Kingdom has always closed earlier than Walt Disney World's other parks, partly because of the need to protect its animal residents from excessive noise. However, that has all changed in 2016 with the introduction of a range of nighttime experiences - although the headline addition, the Rivers of Light show, has been pushed back to "Fall" at the earliest.

Rivers of Light artwork

Image: Disney

When it does finally make its debut, the show will be hosted around and above the Discovery River and promises to be spectacular. It will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery.

14. Mission Ferrari (Ferrari World Abu Dhabi)

Mission Ferrari visualisation

Image: Holovis Attractions

Perhaps the most intriguing of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi's THREE new roller coasters for 2016 is Mission Ferrari, an SFX Coaster manufactured by Dynamic Attractions. That's the same firm behind Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts at Universal Studios Florida, and this will be a similar construction, even if it may lack the astonishing level of theming of the Universal ride.

SFX Coaster artwork

SFX Coasters are capable of a wide range of impressive maneuvers.
Image: Dynamic Attractions

Relatively little has been confirmed about Mission Ferrari, but the few leaks and sneakily-captured construction photos so far suggest that it will feature at least two inversions, along with Gringotts-style elements such as a drop track, tilt track, 3D movie screens and a launch or two.

How impressive will the final product be? We'll have to wait until later in the year to find out.

13. Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena (Carowinds)

 3Z Arena artwork

Image: Carowinds

Housed in Carowinds' renovated Action Theater and new for the 2016 season, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare: 3Z Arena is billed as the world's first "intra-active" 3-D attraction. The experience is based on the wildly popular video game series and has been created in a partnership with creators PopCap and EA.

The audience will be divided into two teams, each housed on 34 motion-based seats that are equipped with a hand-held laser gun. Each team will have a giant screen in front of them, witnessing a frenzied battle against the opposing team and attenpting to influence it using their own laser. Every guest will receive an individual score, which they can purchase as an "on-ride" photo on exiting.

12. The Flying Dinosaur (Universal Studios Japan)

The Flying Dinosaur

Image: Universal Studios Japan

Universal Studios Japan's major new addition for 2016 is The Flying Dinosaur, rumored to have cost as much as $90 million to build. It made its debut in March, allowing the park to cash in on continuing interest in the Jurassic Park franchise following the box office success of Jurassic World last year.

The Flying Dinosaur track

Image: Universal Studios Japan

The storyline behind the attraction is that the owners of Jurassic Park have long dreamed of creating a ride that would allow guests to fly through the sky with wild pteranodons. Finally, they managed to train the pteranodons - but their behavior is still unpredictable.

The Flying Dinosaur

Image: Universal Studios Japan

In reality, guests board the longest Bolliger & Mabillard Flying Coaster in the world, featuring a 124-foot first drop and a 3,688 feet circuit. They then soar over much of the Jurassic Park area of Universal Studios Japan, making this a ride that's almost as fun to watch as it is to experience.

11. Lightning Rod (Dollywood)

Lightning Rod concept art

Image: Dollywood

Dollywood has splurged an estimated $22 million on its new addition for 2016, and Lightning Rod is certainly an ambitious concept. Themed after a tricked-out 1950s-era hot rod, the ride is billed as the first wooden coaster in the world to use a launch system instead of a traditional lift hill.

Lightning Rod concept art

Image: Dollywood

Riders will be launched from 0 to 45 miles per hour before racing around a 3,800 foot circuit that includes a 165 foot drop. At the foot of the hill, the trains will reach 73 miles per hour, making Lightning Rod the fastest wooden coaster in the world.

Lightning Rod concept art

Image: Dollywood

As is often the case with "world's first" coasters, Lightning Rod has encountered some teething issues. Originally due to open with the rest of the park in March, the ride's opening was delayed after manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction found that the third-party launch system "would not be able to perform at the level required for proper operation." It is now expected to open some time in May.

10. Galactica (Alton Towers)

Galactica concept art

Image: Alton Towers

Technically speaking, Alton Towers' "new" attraction for the 2016 season is nothing of the sort. Instead, it is a major overhaul and retheme of the existing Air roller coaster, which has been at the park since 2002 when it debuted as the first ever Bolliger & Mabillard Flying Coaster. It sees riders rotate into a position facing the ground in what is a remarkably smooth simulation of "flying", but the original Air faced criticism for its general lack of theming after cost overruns forced the scenery to be scaled back.

Air

Air in its original form.

Galactica (as the coaster is now known) merits its inclusion in this list because of a fundamental change to its ride experience. Riders now have the option of wearing a virtual reality headset, which is attached to their seat. As the train travels around its circuit, they experience a "flight" into outer space, with the movements of the coaster being synchronized to what they see on screen. A number of different destinations are on offer, with guests able to choose which one to head to.

Chris Hadfield on Galactica

Astronaut Chris Hadfield tests the Galactica experience.
Image: Alton Towers

There are issues with the new system. Early reviews suggest that loading times (already pretty slow on the original Air) are now extremely lengthy, due to the need to wipe down the headsets after each use. And it seems there's still work to do to create a truly coherent simulation of a flight into space. But as a proof-of-concept, Galactica works.

Six Flags has also introduced virtual reality headsets on a wide range of its coasters in the US this year, so it looks like this could be the year that virtual reality coasters take off.

9. TRON Lightcycle Power Run (Shanghai Disneyland)

Tron Lightcycle Power Run train testing

Image: Disney

It's been a long, long road to get to this point, but Disney's first theme park in mainland China will finally open to guests in June 2016. TRON Lightcycle Power Run will dominate the Tomorrowland area of the park, offering an all-new experience different to anything found at an existing Disney park.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run canopy concept art

Image: Disney

The ride will be housed inside an impressively huge color-shifting canopy, which will be the signature element of Shanghai Disneyland's Tomorrowland in the same way that Space Mountain dominates the area at several of Disney's other parks. The undulating canopy will be covered in a translucent material that reveals the pulsing glow of Lightcycle trains as they race around the interior.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run concept art

Image: Disney

Inside, guests will board a motorbike-style coaster, boarding individual Lightcycles that are launched across the initial section of track (dubbed the Upload Conduit) before diving into the "game world", packed with light and sound effects.

Tron Lightcycle Power Run concept art

Image: Disney

Even at this late stage, there are few hard statistics on the coaster itself, although it will be a customized variant of Vekoma's existing motorbike coasters (Vekoma has partnered with Disney on numerous coaster projects in the past). The ride won't be contained completely indoors, with the trains bursting outside in one section.

8. Walking Dead Maze (Universal Studios Hollywood)

Walking Dead attraction artwork

Image: Universal / AMC

Universal Studios Hollywood and AMC have confirmed that a year-round experience based on The Walking Dead is coming to the park in summer 2016.

The walkthrough maze is set to feature much more impressive sets than the temporary ones that are usually seen at the park for Halloween Horror Nights, including a recreation of the infamous "Don't Open / Dead Inside" hospital doors. Scenes will include recognizable locations from every season of The Walking Dead, and will feature both live actors and animatronic figures built by K&B Effects, who provided the props for the show itself.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure (Shanghai Disneyland)

Pirates Cove

Image: Disney

Pirates of the Caribbean - Battle of the Sunken Treasure will anchor the Pirates Cove land at Shanghai Disneyland. Rather than being a mere clone of the original Disneyland ride, it will be based on the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and will use a combination of "new technology and innovation" to deliver an all-new adventure.

 Battle for the Sunken Treasure artwork

Image: Disney

Guests will be taken down to the ocean depths, into the interior of pirate ships, and finally into the midst of a raging naval battle, with Disney promising that never-before-used technologies and effects will result in a stunning experience.

6. Wildfire (Kolmården Wildlife Park)

Wildfire artwork

Image: Kolmården Wildlife Park

Wildfire will be the fastest wooden coaster in Europe at 70 miles per hour, and the second tallest in the world at 187 feet. Like many modern wooden coasters, it will include inversions - 3 of them - and a series of 12 airtime hills.

Wildfire artwork

Image: Kolmården Wildlife Park

Due to open in June, Wildifre is a Rocky Mountain Construction creation - the firm's first in Europe. Vekoma will help out by manufacturing the power and control systems, with RMC producing the track and trains.

Wildfire artwork

Image: Kolmården Wildlife Park

The Kolmården Wildlife Park is primarily a zoo, and riders on Wildfire are likely to feel close to nature as they race through a spectacular woodland setting.

5. Storm Chaser (Kentucky Kingdom)

Storm Chaser

Image: Kentucky Kingdom

Following its painful and protracted rescue by former owner Ed Hart - the park remain closed for nearly five years following its closure by Six Flags - Kentucky Kingdom is beginning to get into its stride. Storm Chaser will be the second new coaster to be constructed at the park in a period of only two years, adding a fifth coaster to the park's line-up.

Storm Chaser artwork

Image: Kentucky Kingdom

To replace the former Twisted Twins wooden coasters, which had been standing but not operating since 2007, the park has commissioned flavor-of-the-month manufacturer Rocky Mountain Construction. Parts of Twisted Twins' wooden structure will be reused, but the coaster will receive an all-new iBox steel track - only the fifth coaster in the world to do so. This is designed to create the "feel" of a wooden coaster, but with the benefits of a steel superstructure to support it.

Storm Chaser artwork

Image: Kentucky Kingdom

Standing at 100 feet tall, Storm Chaser will be the first coaster in America to feature a barrel roll drop from a 10-story lift hill, with the drop being a very steep 78 degrees. Other elements includes a stall dive, airtime hills and a corkscrew, making this very different from a traditional wooden coaster.

4. Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)

Mako concept art

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

SeaWorld hasn't been having the best time of late, given the volume of negative coverage it has received since the release of the highly critical Blackfish movie. This has led to the subsequent decision to stop breeding killer whales in captivity, and to management doubling down on an existing strategy of supplementing aquatic exhibits with high-tech thrill rides.

Mako concept art

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

Enter Mako, the 2016 addition at SeaWorld Orlando. Headlining a new shark-themed area, the ride will become the tallest, fastest and longest in Orlando. Manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard (who also built the park's most recent coaster, Manta), the hypercoaster will stand at some 200 feet tall, and will hit a top speed of 73 miles per hour as it races around a 4,760 feet circuit. The coaster will boast a number of airtime hills, as well as a unique new feature dubbed the "Hammerhead turn" (a tight U-turn to the right).

Mako concept art

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

The sheer height of Mako means that it won't be integrated into its surrounding environment in the same way that the visually impressive Manta is, but SeaWorld claims it will give guests a sense of the awesome speed of the real-life Mako shark. And concept art suggests that the train will dip close to the water on the park's lake on several occasions.

3. Derren Brown's Ghost Train (Thorpe Park)

Derren Brown's Ghost Train artwork

Thorpe Park's new addition for 2016 is Derren Brown's Ghost Train, a mysterious new dark ride that is believed to be one of the most expensive attractions in the park's history. It promises to be one of the most unique and unusual new attractions to debut at any park in 2016 - though it's yet to be seen whether it will be a triumph or a flop.

Guests will discover a disused warehouse at the centre of Thorpe Park's "island". As they enter a seemingly innocent Victorian train carriage, "it soon becomes clear as sights and sounds fill your senses, that you will come face-to-face with what lies at the end of the line."

Derren Brown's Ghost Train artwork

Thorpe Park describes the ride as a "one-of-a-kind", 13-minute experience, claiming to have worked with the famous mentalist and illusionist to re-invent the ghost train for the 21st century. Atmospheric effects and virtual reality headsets will add to the experience, with guests set to be transported to another world through the power of computer-generated visuals.

2. Taron (Phantasialand)

Taron train

Image: Phantasialand

Taron is being billed as "Europe's fastest multi-launch coaster", and the circuit will indeed feature multiple Linear Synchronous Motor launches, putting it in the same bracket as the likes of Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa.

Taron construction

Image: Phantasialand

Manufacturer Intamin has built many launch coasters over the years, but Taron looks like it will be one of the most unique and ambitious. It will certainly be one of the most beautiful - the amount of rockwork being used to create the new Klugheim area that will house it is truly stunning.

Taron construction

Image: Phantasialand

It won't be the only coaster to occupy the new area, either - Phantasialand is also squeezing in a Vekoma Family Boomerang coaster dubbed Raik. The two circuits will intertwine in places, making this a staggeringly complicated construction project and one of the most impressive new lands at any theme park in the world this year.

1. Skull Island: Reign of Kong (Islands of Adventure)

 Reign of Kong artwork

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

Universal Creative has consistently raised the bar in recent years when creating new dark rides, which is why there is such excitement about the debut of Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure in 2016. The ride will feature a mix of screen-based and practical effects, and will be the longest ride in Universal Orlando Resort's history.

 Reign of Kong artwork

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

After making their way to "base camp" through the queue line, guests will board enormous safari trucks before being taking on an adventure deep into Skull Island's jungle. Naturally, things go wrong...fast, and you can expect to have several encounters with the mighty King Kong.

 Reign of Kong artwork

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

Though we’ve seen some impressive ride vehicles in the past, the stats for the expedition vehicles that will be used in Skull Island: Reign of Kong are pretty amazing, even by our standards. Each truck will measure over 40 feet long and 13 feet high, and weigh an impressive 17 tons. Even the wheels are super-sized, measuring an enormous 45 inches tall. Each of these mammoth vehicles will carry up to 72 people on 12 different rows of seats, which will all face the front of the cab. Both the front and back axles can be steered independently, which means that each vehicle can still take sharp twists and turns despite its massive size.

 Reign of Kong artwork

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

Perhaps even more impressive than the size of the vehicle is the revelation that Skull Island: Reign of Kong will be the first ride at Universal Orlando Resort to run on a completely trackless system. Guests who board these vehicles will encounter one of five different “drivers” who will entertain guests with personal stories during the ride. Expect to be amazed.

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