While the appeal of high-speed, adrenaline-pumping roller coasters remains strong, there has been a noticeable surge in the popularity of family coasters. These attractions cater to a wider audience, emphasizing shared experiences and accessibility for all ages. The last couple of years have seen family coasters take center stage, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down, with several new family coasters set to open in 2024.
This new family coaster trend might be related to many factors, but one of the most prominent could be the desire of theme parks to create experiences that the whole family can enjoy together. Of course, there are some parks that have been doing this for years.
Traditionally, however, roller coasters were often built for thrill-seekers, leaving families with younger children or guests who do not like roller coasters to enjoy flat rides and perhaps, one or two small “kiddie coasters.” However, the rise of more thrilling family coasters has changed this dynamic, making theme parks more inclusive and welcoming to visitors of all ages and thrill levels.
Family coasters are designed to provide a balanced blend of excitement and accessibility. They typically feature moderate speeds, milder drops, and smooth turns, ensuring a thrilling yet comfortable ride experience. Family coasters like Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood even incorporate storytelling elements, theming, and special effects to immerse riders in a captivating world.
This not only appeals to children but also keeps adults engaged and entertained throughout the experience. One of the notable aspects of the family coaster trend is the effort put into this theming and storytelling. In 2024, we will see the opening of a roller coaster that is themed around gravy!
Theme parks understand that creating a compelling narrative around a ride enhances the overall experience. Of course, Disney and Universal have been doing this for ages, but more and more other theme parks are putting more of a focus on storytelling and theming, and many of them are including family coasters in those narratives.
From Wild Mouse in Cedar Point’s new Boardwalk to Fire In the Hole in the Fire District of Silver Dollar City, these immersive settings not only entertain but also create lasting memories for families, encouraging them to return to the park for more adventures.
The success of family coasters has also been driven by their versatility. Unlike extreme thrill rides that can be restrictive due to height or health limitations, family coasters accommodate a broader range of visitors. Many of these coasters have a height restriction of only 36-38 inches, and the lack of intense elements means grandparents, parents, and children can all come together to share the excitement of a coaster ride.
Additionally, with new coaster technology, parks are able to take new elements like spinning cars or launches and use them to create a family-friendly coaster experience that is elevated above what "kiddie coasters" of the past have delivered. This means these coasters can cater to both families and thrill-seekers alike.
Don’t get it wrong, large-scale thrill coasters are still prominent with great coasters like Wildcat’s Revenge at Hersheypark opening this year. However, looking ahead to 2024, the theme park industry shows no signs of slowing down its commitment to including more family coasters.
There are several family coasters announced for 2024 so far including Bobcat at Six Flags Great Escape, Snoopy’s SoapBox Racers at Kings Island, Good Gravy! at Holiday World, Fire in the Hole at Silver Dollar City, Bone Shaker at Mattel Adventure Park, and the recently announced Penguin Trek at SeaWorld Orlando. Several parks worldwide have announced exciting additions to their lineups as well.
The rise of family coasters in recent years has been a great addition to theme parks across the U.S. These attractions balance thrill and accessibility, and the emphasis on theming and storytelling has elevated the theme park experience to new heights, creating lasting memories for families. We can’t wait to see how the new 2024 additions add to the overall experience of their parks and provide thrills to guests of all ages.