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Universal games the countdown of this year’s rides
The 10 most anticipated new attractions of 2023
I’ve run down my 10 most anticipated U.S. roller coasters slated to open this year and followed it up with 10 additional new and notable coasters. Let’s continue my 2023 parks preview with the 10 most significant new attractions that are on the way. But before I jump into the list, it’s worth noting that the lines can get blurred.
Sure, Disney World’s TRON Lightcycle/Run is a coaster–and will likely be one of the (if not the) most thrilling coasters at the Florida theme park resort at that. But it is just as much an “attraction” and could easily take its place among the richly-themed, story-based rides that follow. The same goes for PortAventura’s Uncharted, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi’s Mission Ferrari, and Busch Gardens Williamsburg’s DarKoaster–all of which I already covered in my 2023 coster picks.
Having acknowledged that admittedly arbitrary distinction, let’s get on with the countdown. As you will see, there is much to anticipate at parks this year. It’s game on.
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Prior to boarding four-person ride vehicles, guests will don Mario’s red “M”-emblazoned caps. Except these tricked out headpieces will hold transparent face shields onto which augmented reality (AR) media will be projected. Based on the Mario Kart ride that opened in 2021 at Universal Studios Japan, the centerpiece of the Hollywood park’s new Super Nintendo World will be the first major North American attraction to incorporate AR–and if you can believe the hype, a harbinger of things to come.
Like the popular plumber and star of one of the all-time best-selling video game franchises, passengers will be vying to acquire coins and rack up points. And like Mario’s supercharged kart, the attraction’s vehicles will peel out and drift through curves. Expect lavishly detailed sets, highly interactive game play, an immersive pre-show queue that will wind through Bowser’s Castle, and, of course, wow-inducing AR.
Invasion of the Planet of the Apes at Genting SkyWorlds in Malaysia
Damned, dirty apes, stinking paws and all, will be featured in the sophisticated dark ride. Like Universal’s The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and Transformers: The Ride 3D, Invasion of the Planet of the Apes will incorporate roving motion-base vehicles, immersive 3D screens, practical sets, and “4D” sensory effects. Scheduled to officially open soon at Genting SkyWorlds, the attraction has been in technical rehearsals for a couple of weeks. Check out this onboard video of the compelling ride.
Legend of the Desirata, Voyage of the Fathom Wanderer, Challenge of the Mad Mage, and EtherQuest at Katmandu Park in Punta Cana
Speaking of highly sophisticated, roving motion base simulator attractions, the new Katmandu Park mini theme park that is supposed to debut early this year in the Dominican Republic will feature Legend of the Desirata. Passengers will be transported to Nepal and the Hidden Realm of Katmandu, a mythical land that will serve as the overarching theme of the new park. Its other three E-Ticket-level rides will be Voyage of the Fathom Wanderer, a flying theater attraction (think: Disney’s Soarin’); Challenge of the Mad Mage, a 4-D interactive theater; and EtherQuest, a walk-through gaming experience filled with immersive projection mapping. (Yup, that’s four separate attractions at one new park; so this list actually totals 13 attractions.)
A clone of the engaging attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will feature trackless vehicles that will send passengers on a journey into the toon world of the wonderfully wacky “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts. Using vivid, large-scale projection mapping, guests will embark on an adventure with the classic characters. Be prepared to have a new song, “Nothing Can Stop Us Now,” implanted in the part of your brain that catalogues catchy earworm tunes. Runaway Railway is scheduled to open January 27 as part of the Disney100 celebration that marks the Walt Disney Company’s centennial anniversary. The California resort will also be presenting “Wondrous Journeys,” a new nighttime multimedia spectacular at Disneyland, and “World of Color - ONE,” a limited-time version of the Disney California Adventure nighttime lagoon show for the festivities.
For this interactive shooter game experience, guests will board a moving walkway and blast away at targets themed to the popular Minions. Expect practical, physical sets as well as projected media. After working up an appetite shooting everything in sight, you could head next door to the new Minion Café.
Treasure Hunt: The Ride at Cannery Row in California
A standalone dark ride is set to open soon at Cannery Row, the oceanside entertainment, dining, and shopping district in Monterey Bay, California. The pirate-themed, interactive attraction will send guests through underground caverns that, according to lore, are filled with treasure. Using their blasters, passengers can unearth the gold and jewels–if they can keep the sea monsters, pirate ghosts, and rising tide at bay. Treasure Hunt will be owned and operated by the companies that partnered to design and build the attraction, Sally Dark Rides and Daniels Wood Land.
Haunted Hotel at Funtown Splashtown in Maine
If you think something seems ominous about the Whispering Pines Hotel at Funtown Splashtown, you’re right. It turns out that the land on which the hotel was built was once the home of a witch. To retaliate, the sorceress has cast a spell on the place. It’ll be up to the park’s visitors to fight her evil forces using interactive “Curse Eradicators.” Another Sally Dark Rides creation, Haunted Hotel will include 14 scenes, including a finale through an otherworldly dimension, all lit in glorious iridescent black light.
The flume ride will send eight-passenger boats onto a first-of-its-kind conveyor belt-like launch element that will accelerate them to about 20 mph. It will also include a vertical lift and a 53-degree drop–hyped as the steepest plunge on any flume ride–that will hit a splashdown pool at 37 mph.
Pirate River Quest at Legoland Florida
Legoland will get the 2023 attractions debuts started when it opens Pirate River Quest on January 12. Guests will travel in boats through the canals of Cypress Gardens in search of lost treasure stolen by a troop of monkeys. Hey, is it just me, or does it seem as if there is an awful lot of pirate bounty hidden at theme parks?
Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana at Epcot in Florida
As part of the makeover of the front half of Epcot, the new World Nature land will include Journey of Water, a walkthrough experience. Guests will be able to play and interact with water elements along its path. A dozen characters from Moana, including the goddess Te Fiti, will be incorporated into the experience. Good Morning America recently aired a preview of the Epcot walkthrough.
Which of this year’s most anticipated attractions are you most eager to experience? Are you planning to visit any of the parks on the list?