February 28, 2024

‘The Big and the Bad’ Meet Family Friendly: 2024’s Most Anticipated New Roller Coasters

Every year, theme parks and amusement parks around the country try to one-up each other with new roller coasters claiming to be the tallest, steepest, longest or first to feature a new kind of thrill. This year is no different, but there is one notable change for families.

“One thing that really stands out to me this year is the variety,” said Elizabeth Ringas, president of American Coaster Enthusiasts, which describes itself as the world's largest club of amusement ride enthusiasts. “While we’ve got the big and the bad, there’s also a great focus on family rides.”

Unlike traditional kiddie coasters aimed at preschoolers, the latest generation of family coasters are designed for multiple generations to enjoy together – like Dollywood’s Big Bear Mountain, which debuted last year.

“It’s not about being necessarily a tame ride,” Ringas said, explaining that with new technology, ride manufacturers can smooth, solid rides for wider audiences. “It's about the height requirement and the number of people that can ride it.”

Here are some of the most anticipated roller coasters opening in 2024 for thrill seekers of all ages.

Fire in the Hole at Silver Dollar City

Silver Dollar City’s new Fire in the Hole will be “the Heartland's largest indoor coaster” and “biggest investment in a single attraction” to date, according to the park.

“It's a perfect addition to Silver Dollar City. They’re a resort where you want to stay, and the whole family comes,” Ringas said. “Again, it's that whole family niche.”

The new coaster, which carries on the name of a previous coaster at the park, will combine a dark ride and roller coaster, with most of the coaster action in the latter part of the ride.

“The coaster experience, with a powered incline and gravity descent, including three drops and a quick splash-landing, promises a thrilling ride,” according to the park’s website. “In addition, a custom soundtrack with high-resolution onboard audio, show lighting effects and enhanced special effects, like using fiber optics to create a fast-burning fuse, heightens the ride experience and brings the Fire in the Hole story to life.”

  • Opening: Spring
  • Location: Branson, Missouri
  • Top speed: Up to 26 mph
  • Track length: 1,512 feet
  • Ride duration: 2 minutes, 51 seconds overall
  • Minimum height requirement: 36 inches with a supervising companion or 48 inches solo

Georgia Surfer at Six Flags Over Georgia

“Georgia Surfer is bringing a totally new coaster experience to the park,” according to Six Flags Over Georgia’s website. “Riders will launch forward and backward along nearly 590 feet of track, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour, hitting the ride’s 144-foot peak before coasting down into a scenic splash pool. Free-spinning seats ensure no two rides are alike.”

Ringas said unique coasters like this usually tend to debut overseas.

“A lot of coaster enthusiasts are always like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get to Europe.’ ” she said. “So when they come to the U.S., and we don't have to travel over the ocean to get to it, it's just really exciting. And I like seeing that the American market is expanding into some of those more unique coasters.”

  • Opening: Summer
  • Location: Austell, Georgia
  • Top speed: Up to 60 mph
  • Track length: Nearly 590 feet
  • Ride duration: Not listed
  • Minimum height requirement: Not listed

Good Gravy! at Holiday World

Good Gravy! will be the first family coaster at Holiday World.

“The name alone, it's got my heart. Who ever thought I would get to ride a gravy-themed coaster?” Ringas said with a laugh. “The perfect addition to Thanksgiving land.”

The gravy train “will fly through a giant cranberry jelly can before narrowly avoiding giant kitchen (tools) such as a 20-foot-tall whisk and an 18-foot-tall rolling pin before flying up a 77-foot-tall spike and repeating the journey backward,” according to the park’s website.

  • Opening: May
  • Location: Santa Claus, Indiana
  • Top speed: Up to 37 mph
  • Track length: Nearly 1,500 feet
  • Ride duration: 1 minute, 5 seconds
  • Minimum height requirement: 38 inches to ride with a supervising companion or 48 inches to ride solo

Hot Wheels Twin Mill Racer at Mattel Adventure Park

Hot Wheels Twin Mill Racer is one of two Hot Wheels-themed roller coasters coming to the new Mattel Adventure Park in Arizona. The other is Hot Wheels Bone Shaker: The Ultimate Ride, but few details have been released on that.

“Could there be anything better than a giant Hot Wheels car? I mean, it is shiny. It is beautiful. They had the (coaster) train displayed at the IAPPA Expo and the kid in me just explodes,” Ringas said. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions Expo is where park operators and ride manufacturers show off their latest projects. “They look like they're going to be solid coasters too, and it's a brand new park.”

The park says Hot Wheels Twin Mill Racer will load indoors “before blasting riders outside, taking them on two vertical loops (one of which tops out at 116 feet) and navigating a series of corkscrew and hairpin turns before making its way back into the building.”

  • Opening: This year
  • Location: Glendale, Arizona
  • Top speed: The website says the coaster will go from 0 to 50 mph in under 3 seconds but does not indicate if that’s the top speed.
  • Track length: 2,503 feet
  • Ride duration: 65 seconds
  • Minimum height requirement: Not listed

Iron Menace at Dorney Park

ACE President Elizabeth Ringas got a sneak peek of Iron Menace's construction site at Dorney Park. Iron Menace will be the Northeast’s first dive coaster, according to Dorney Park.

“I'm always excited to see when a new dive coaster is coming,” Ringas said. She loves the heart-pounding moment at the top. "And that’s a great park that really has some treasured rides there. Thunderhawk coaster is celebrating 100 years this year.”

The park’s website says Iron Menace will “suspend riders 160 feet in the air before plummeting at a beyond-vertical, 95-degree drop” and include “four mind-twisting inversions.”

  • Opening: This year
  • Location: Allentown, Pennsylvania
  • Top speed: Up to 64 mph
  • Track length: 2,169 feet
  • Ride duration: 1 minute, 30 seconds
  • Minimum height requirement: Not listed

Phoenix Rising at Busch Gardens-Tampa Bay

Phoenix Rising will be the tenth roller coaster at Busch Gardens-Tampa Bay.

“Inspired by legend, this suspended roller coaster in vibrant Pantopia is packed with surprises and speeds up to 44 miles per hour. But with a height requirement of just 42”, it’s the perfect adventure for families to embark on together!” according to the park’s website.

Phoenix Rising will be an inverted family coaster. Ringas said Vekoma makes a lot of inverted family coasters. “This one is being made by Bolliger & Mabillard, so a lot of coaster enthusiasts are curious to see what it will be like.”

  • Opening: Spring
  • Location: Tampa, Florida
  • Top speed: Up to 44 mph
  • Track length: 1,831 feet
  • Ride duration: Not listed
  • Minimum height requirement: 42 inches

The Bobcat at Six Flags Great Escape

The Bobcat will be the first wooden coaster to debut in New York state since 1999 and the first ride of its kind in Six Flags history, according to Six Flags Great Escape, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.

“We’ve lost so many wooden coasters in the United States that it's nice to see a new one being built from the ground up,” Ringas said. “The great thing about the Gravity Group coasters is they’re a really solid, exhilarating, fun ride.”

The park says the Bobcat will pair classic charm with modern innovation to create “a more comfortable ride experience, tighter turns along the course, and maximum thrills.”

  • Opening: Late Spring, Early Summer
  • Location: Queensbury, New York
  • Top speed: Nearly 40 mph
  • Track length: 1,412 feet
  • Ride duration: Not listed
  • Minimum height requirement: 42 inches to ride with a supervising companion or 48 inches to ride solo

The Flash: Vertical Velocity at Six Flags Great Adventure

The Flash: Vertical Velocity will be the first coaster of its kind in North America and only second worldwide, according to Six Flags Great Adventure.

Ringas explained the style is a super boomerang by Vekoma. “It is just an extra large version of a boomerang coaster. A boomerang completes the circuit out and back.”

The park’s website says guests can expect to “experience micro gravity as you run upside down, almost 100 feet off the ground. Zoom through a 180-degree twisted drop followed by a Zero-G roll back to the vertical tower, reaching speeds of up to 59 miles per hour. The train pauses, and then, just like THE FLASH, you change directions on a dime and rush backwards along the track.”

  • Opening: Summer
  • Location: Jackson, New Jersey
  • Top speed: Up to 59 mph
  • Track length: Just over 1,430 feet
  • Ride duration: About 1 minute, 10 seconds
  • Minimum height requirement: 48 inches

Top Thrill 2 at Cedar Point

With a height of 420 feet and speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, Cedar Point says its new Top Thrill 2 will be “the world’s tallest and fastest triple-launch strata coaster.”

The ride replaces the park’s previous Top Fuel Dragster. “In the coaster enthusiasts’ world, we consider it a new coaster. It’s getting major trackwork and the track layout is actually changing,” Ringas said. “So while they're using the foundation that was there, it’s getting a major overhaul.”

The park’s website says guests will “experience true weightlessness as you immerse yourself in three “free-fall” moments, including the coveted, fan-favorite ‘rollback.’ ” A park spokesperson explained that in the previous version of the ride, trains would only roll back when they didn’t have enough inertia to make it over the original tower. Ringas said fans always hoped for a rollback. Now, every ride will include the experience.

  • Opening: Summer
  • Location: Sandusky, Ohio
  • Top speed: Up to 120 mph
  • Track length: 3,422 feet
  • Ride duration: About 2 minutes
  • Minimum height requirement: 52 inches

Circuit Breaker and Palindrome at Circuit of the Americas

Coaster fans are also excited about two new rides coming to the Circuit of the Americas motorsports and entertainment complex in Austin, Texas, but few details have been released.

One is called Circuit Breaker, which Ringas said will be the first tilt coaster in the U.S.

“A tilt coaster is one of those that you're going to see videos and be like, that can't be real,” she said. “The track literally tilts. The train comes up. The track tilts and reconnects with the back section .. That is going to be a heart-stopping, exciting ride.”

The other will be a shuttle coaster called Palindrome.

“You will experience the same track but backwards and forwards, so you'll complete the same circuit twice: go out, come back,” Ringas said, adding that she’s not sure which coaster she’s more excited about. “And I'm in love with the name, the geek in me. Palindrome, what a perfect name for a coaster that.”

Copyright 2024 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Services, LLC. All rights reserved. From https://www.usatoday.com. By Eve Chen, USA TODAY.

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