Stand up and break the Grid’s circuit
The 10 most anticipated 2023 U.S. coasters
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USA Today regularly published my articles highlighting each year’s most anticipated rides and attractions. I want to continue the tradition here at About Theme Parks, starting with my picks for the 10 most drool-worthy new coasters coming to U.S. parks. In a later article, I’ll review more of the nation’s newbies that warrant an honorable mention as well as a few notable international rides.
America’s coaster class of 2023 is shaping up nicely. There are no crazy record-breakers or obvious standouts, such as last year’s Iron Gwazi, to hog the spotlight. But there is an eclectic bunch of rides sure to get adrenaline pumping and turnstiles clicking at parks across the country. Let’s start with a long-awaited coaster coming to the world’s most popular theme park.
It won’t be the biggest or fastest coaster debuting in 2023 (although it will probably be among the fastest at Disney World and all Disney parks). And while it will offer cool motorbike vehicles and incorporate some take-your-breath-away launches, there is nothing particularly novel about either of those features. As a pure coaster, TRON will likely be fine.
But what lands it at the top of the most anticipated list (apart from the fact that folks have been, you know, anticipating and anticipating it since 2017) is that it will be a grand-scale E-Ticket ride. It will include rich storytelling elements that will transport passengers into the Grid and the world of TRON. It represents a wonderful trend of highly themed coasters, such as last year’s spectacular Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, that are as much a dark ride as a thrill ride. I got to ride the original TRON at Shanghai Disneyland and can attest that stateside folks are in for a real treat.
Just up I-4 from Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando will be making waves with Pipeline, the next generation of stand-up coasters. Instead of gingerly tolerating–and occasionally crashing down on–the notoriously uncomfortable seats found on older models, the new ride’s passengers will sorta stand (or more accurately, crouch) on newfangled seat contraptions that are designed to have some vertical give. That will allow riders to slightly bounce and accommodate the ride’s many twists and turns. Or the way SeaWorld sees it, they’ll “surf” throughout the course. Pipeline will include a magnetic LSM launch system that will send passengers screaming out of the station at 60 mph and will navigate a corkscrew inversion–all while standing (sorta).
Speaking of crazy contraptions, imagine this: You and the other 19 passengers on Circuit Breaker’s train will climb 131 feet and slowly roll onto a cantilevered section of track that won’t be connected to anything and will have you staring into the abyss. But wait, it gets wackier. The track, with the train tethered to it, will angle down until it’s tilted about 90 degrees towards the ground. After an agonizing few moments, the train will finally release and hit 57 mph into an underground tunnel followed by four inversions. Decidedly not for the squeamish, Circuit Breaker will be the first Vekoma Tilt Coaster in North America.
The next two entries on 2023’s most anticipated coasters list are both I-Box rides from the fine folks at RMC. The first one will be built from the ground up and feature a steel structure along with the ride manufacturer’s patented steel track. ArieForce One will get the party started with a first drop of 146 feet at 83 degrees that will accelerate its trains to 64 mph. It will include four inversions, including a dive loop and a zero-G stall. I’ve never met an RMC coaster I didn’t love; I expect Fun Spot America’s to join the love train.
The new-ish coaster at Hersheypark follows RMC’s usual playbook. The innovative ride manufacturer will be converting the all-wood, rough-riding Wildcat into the hybrid wooden-steel, almost surely smooth-as-silk Wildcat’s Revenge. In doing so, it will partly reconfigure the wooden structure, extending it from 106 feet to 140 feet tall and introducing four inversions (including the much-touted “world’s largest underflip”). The reborn ride will clock in at 62 mph, a full 12 miles faster than its predecessor.
Aquaman: Power Wave at Six Flags Over Texas
Another COVID-delayed project, Six Flags’ Aquaman was originally supposed to open in 2020. The first-of-its-kind hybrid coaster-splashdown ride in North America, its single-car, 20-passenger vehicles will first launch backwards and partly climb up a 148-foot-tall spike tower. It will then plunge down and get launched forward up a second spike tower at the opposite end of the U-shaped structure. A third launch, which will hit Aquaman’s full speed of 63 mph, will send the train back up the other tower, this time to its apex. Just before its final plunge down, a splashdown pool in the middle of the course will quickly fill, and the train will race headlong into it, creating a huge cascade of water.
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In 2023, Dollywood will be unleashing a launched family coaster, its tenth thrill machine. At an announced price of $25 million, it will be the park’s largest ride investment ever. The coaster will hit a top speed of 48 mph and forego inversions. Big Bear Mountain will include onboard audio and just may feature an encounter with the titular creature.
As part of its big expansion, COTALAND will be welcoming a second major coaster, the cleverly named Palindrome. Its train will rise up a vertical lift hill to 95 feet, drop at a steep angle and accelerate to 51 mph, and navigate two inversions before climbing a dead-end vertical spike. Passengers will then roll backwards through Palindrome’s course for a second go-around.
For its 50th anniversary, the Midwest park will be bringing back an opening day coaster, but with some new twists. Whereas the original Zambezi Zinger was steel, the 2023 version will include both wood and steel supports. Its track will be mostly wooden, but parts of it will feature all-steel Titan Track. Like the 1970’s Zambezi Zinger, the new one will also include a spiral lift–a rarity on coasters. In addition to Titan Track, it will be the first Great Coasters International ride to showcase the company’s new Infinity Flyer trains. With a height of 74 feet and a top speed of 45 mph, Zambezi Zinger will fall into family coaster territory.
Like Tron (and to a lesser extent, Big Bear Mountain), the newest coaster at Busch Gardens will be heavily themed. The indoor attraction will include media and effects simulating extreme weather conditions. Also like Tron, DarKoaster will incorporate motorbike-like ride vehicles. The park is characterizing it as “the world’s first all-indoor straddle coaster.” Tron will mostly be indoors but the course will head outside as well. With a top speed of 36 mph and no inversions, DarKoaster should be accessible to a wide audience.
After you vote, comment on your pick. What do you think about the coaster class of 2023?