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March 1, 2017

12 Most Anticipated Theme Park Rides of 2017

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Where will your theme park travels take you this year? Whether it is to one of the major parks in Florida or California as part of a vacation or to regional parks in Colorado, Georgia, or other places for a day trip, the location might actually be a way station to a more exotic destination.

Many parks will be opening ambitious new attractions that could transport you to, say, a distant planet, a tropical oasis, a comic book metropolis in peril, deep under the ocean, or high above San Francisco. Let's identify the 12 most anticipated rides opening in 2017 at U.S. parks, including a few of the more noteworthy thrill rides (but not coasters; for those thrill machines, see USA Today’s picks for the nine most anticipated new roller coasters of 2017).

Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida

Both of the rides will be part of Pandora – The World of Avatar, an ambitious ode to James Cameron’s high-grossing sci-fi epic. Flight of Passage will use flying theater technology (think Disney’s Soarin’ cranked up to 11) to send riders airborne over a Pandoran jungle on the backs of winged mountain banshees. Na’vi River Journey will tone down the thrills but maintain the wow factor with stunning animatronics and lavish sets depicting a bioluminescent rainforest.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Studios Florida

Another high-thrill flying theater attraction, guests will sit in the audience for a Tonight Show taping only to be whisked away on a madcap race around the Big Apple alongside the funny host.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! at Disney California Adventure

The quirky stars of the Marvel movies will be taking up residence in the Tower of Terror. Say goodbye to the retro The Twilight Zone theme and hello to the retro tunes favored by Star-Lord. Your mission will be to set the wrongly imprisoned Guardians free — if you can survive the stomach-churning drops of the ride's finale.

Justice League: Battle for Metropolis at Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J. and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif.

The sophisticated attractions, which include roving motion-base vehicles and 3-D media (like Universal's Spider-Man and Transformers rides) as well as animatronics, practical sets, and interactive game play, have been getting rave reviews after opening at other Six Flags parks over the past two years. The Magic Mountain version will be tricked out with a Harley Quinn character, an additional scene, and other enhancements.

Krakatau Aqua Coaster at Universal's Volcano Bay in Florida

Universal’s third gate, the Volcano Bay water park, is set to open this summer. Its signature ride will use linear induction motor technology to careen through the 200-foot volcano at the park’s center. Universal has strongly hinted that the attraction will include show scenes like some of its ambitious rides at the Florida resort’s adjoining theme parks.

The Flyer San Francisco at Pier 39 in San Francisco, Calif.

Using the flying theater concept pioneered by Disney for its Soarin' attractions, The Flyer will take passengers on a hang gliding-like journey above the Golden Gate bridge and other famous sights in San Francisco. Unlike the gentle Disney rides, it will include some more thrilling moments and incorporate 3-D media.

Submarine Quest at SeaWorld San Diego, Calif.

Designed for pre-teens, the interactive ride will invite them to explore an underwater environment (although the attraction will actually be on land) and virtual creatures using onboard "radar," "sonar," video cameras, and other equipment. Submarine Quest will be part of a new Ocean Explorer land that will include real animals and additional, smaller rides.

Fear The Walking Dead at Fremont Street Experience in Las Vegas, Nev.

Take a break from the Vegas slots and buffets and check in on the zombie apocalypse in this walk-through attraction based on the AMC show, Fear the Walking Dead. The small-group, 18-minute, interactive experience will not be for the squeamish.

The Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colo.

Many parks have drop tower rides. They launch passengers high up into the air and/or slowly lift them to the top of a tower and release them into a freefall. The Haunted Mine Drop will add an interesting twist. Passengers will board the ride at ground level and drop down 120 feet into a shaft. The underground attraction will include show scenes featuring apparitions of miners. Visitors reach Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, which is located on top of a mountain, by taking a gondola.

Drop Line at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. and Hershey Triple Towers at Hersheypark in Hershey, Penn.

The essentially similar thrill rides at the two parks will be more conventional drop towers. Drop Line will rise — and drop — 230 feet above the Timber Canyon section of Dollywood. Hersheypark will offer three different towers of varying sizes (and thrill levels): 80 feet, 131 feet, and 189 feet.

Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth at Six Flags America in Upper Malboro, Md., North Star at Valleyfair in Shakopee, Minn., and Star Flyer at Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colo.

A trio of similar spinning swing tower rides will be opening at three parks. Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth will rise 242 feet in the air, North Star will climb 230 feet, and Star Flyer will ascend 170 feet. All three will accelerate up to 40 mph.


Copyright 2017 USA TODAY. All rights reserved. From http://www.usatoday.com.
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