These parks are all fired up this year
The 10 most anticipated 2024 U.S. attractions (that aren’t coasters)
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed a number of theme park attractions that were under development, but most of them have since opened. The worldwide health scare also made some parks skittish about investing in new projects. As a result, although COVID may be largely in retreat, this is a somewhat quiet year for new attractions, especially in the U.S.
Sure, there are some major coasters rolling out, which I’ve already previewed (although some of those include reconfigured and previously announced rides). For non-coaster projects, however, the year will largely bring incremental updates to existing attractions and lands rather than headliners, especially at the major destination parks. Having said that, Universal has been forging ahead with its plans, pandemic be damned, including the wildly ambitious and highly anticipated Epic Universe. The new theme park, along with new hotels, are quickly taking shape near the existing Universal Orlando campus. Although Epic Universe is scheduled to debut in 2025, I wouldn’t be surprised if at least some of what’s on tap opens for previews before this year is over.
With those provisos, let’s run down my picks for the ten most anticipated attractions opening in 2024.
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I know what you’re probably thinking: “Dude, didn’t you just write, like two paragraphs ago, that you’d be listing non-coaster attractions?” First of all, watch the attitude. Second of all, yes, Fire in the Hole will be a roller coaster–from the coaster mavens at Rocky Mountain Construction no less. But really. it will be much more a dark ride attraction–a $30 million dark ride attraction, which will make it the largest investment in Silver Dollar City’s history.
The park just retired the original Fire in the Hole during its Christmas event. The spiffy 2.0 version will take inspiration from the 51-year-old classic, including its retelling of the based-on-fact, pre-Civil War story about the vigilantes that set fire to the mining town on the site of the park. Instead of the quaint animatronics and special effects of the 1972 attraction, the new Fire in the Hole will showcase modern-day design features, such as fiber optics and high-resolution onboard audio, throughout its 14 scenes in a brand new show building. As with its predecessor, the coaster will mostly serve as a fairly slow ride system, although it will also replicate its splashdown finale.
Yup, I’ve already shared the two Hot Wheels-themed roller coasters that will be opening at Mattel Adventure Park in my 2024 preview. But the small park (part of the industry’s micro park trend), which will mostly be indoors, will have other toy-themed attractions, including a flying theater ride through the world of Barbie as well as a holographic encounter with the famous doll in her dream closet. Among other experiences, you’ll also be able to hop aboard Thomas the Tank Engine and play a round of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots mini-golf. The park will be part of the larger, music-themed VAI Resort. The project has been delayed a number of times, but construction is underway, and its developers insist this is the year it will finally open. (If not, do we get to knock their blocks off?)
Tiana's Bayou Adventure at Disneyland in California and Magic Kingdom in Florida
The log flume ride system, including the big drop, from Splash Mountain will remain intact. But virtually all of the attraction’s sets will be gutted and replaced to tell “The Princess and the Frog” story. According to Disney, Splash’s original animatronics, many of which were repurposed from an even earlier attraction, will be retired and Tiana and her bayou buddies will be represented using Imagineering’s latest robotics technology. The movie’s voice actors will reprise their roles for the new adventure.
SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride at Circus Circus Las Vegas
The folks at Sally Dark Rides will be bringing one of their interactive attractions, including practical sets and multimedia projections, to Vegas. The carnival theme, which will include virtual midway games at which guests will blast away, will fit right in at the Circus Circus hotel and casino. The attraction will also feature six animatronic characters from the popular Nickelodeon franchise. I got to see Mr. Krabs do his carnival barking at the IAAPA Expo, and the figure was a real hoot. I believe that SpongeBob’s Crazy Carnival Ride will be located just outside The Adventuredome, the indoor theme park at Circus Circus, and will require a separate admission.
Another micro theme park will open this year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, not far from the site of the Universal Kids Resort under development. The 4.5-acre Peppa Pig Theme Park will be similar to the one that opened adjacent to Legoland Florida in 2022. Geared to preschoolers, rides and attractions will include Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster, a Fun Fair with carnival games, interactive play zones, and a cinema where kids can chill out and watch their favorite porcine pals.
Country Bear Musical Jamboree at Magic Kingdom in Florida
The long-in-the-tooth Country Bears (seriously, have you seen the choppers on Big Al?), an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World, will be getting a makeover with an all-new presentation. The show will be reimagined as a Grand Ole Opry-style revue with the performers singing country music renditions of famous Disney tunes.
The Little Mermaid – A Musical Adventure at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida
It’s been shuttered since the pandemic closed all of Disney World, but The Little Mermaid theater show will finally reopen this year with a fresh take on the classic story. Disney is promising new effects and set pieces as well as reprisals of beloved tunes such as “Kiss the Girl” and “Part of Your World.” I’m guessing there will be some thingamabobs in the offing.
It was supposed to open last year, but the unique flume ride, which will include a launch that will “catapult” the vehicles to about 20 mph, is set to soak passengers starting in 2024 instead. The ride will last more than five minutes and incorporate a conveyor belt-like launch system as well as a vertical lift. Passengers will experience a 55-foot drop at 53 degrees that will send them plummeting at 37 mph into a splashdown pool.
DreamWorks land at Universal Studios Florida
See ya’ later Woody Woodpecker, Feivel, and Curious George. Make way for Shrek, Trolls, and Kung Fu Panda. There aren’t a heckuva lotta details available about what Universal has planned for its latest makeover. Expect interactive play areas, character meet and greets (including Gabby from Gabby’s Dollhouse), and, according to rumors, a re-skinned Woody Woodpecker’s Nuthouse Coaster that will be known as Trollercoaster. (Love the name!)
Pendulum Rides at Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags Great America in Illinois
Two notable flat rides are on their way to Six Flags parks this year. Both of the pendulum rides will swing passengers on rotating platforms 172 feet in the air at nearly 75 mph. At Six Flags Great America, the new addition will be known as Sky Striker, while Six Flags St. Louis will call theirs The Joker: Carnival of Chaos.
Are any of these attractions and parks on your must-visit list this year? What new attraction are you most excited about?