Theme parks opening new rides and slides in 2014

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May. 20, 2014 9:17 AM EDT
By Tamara Lush


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Theme parks opening new rides and slides in 2014
ORLANDO, FL MARCH 08: In this handout photo provided by Universal Orlando Resort, Golden Globe award-winning actor Richard Gere visited Ollivanders wand shop at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade at Universal Orlando Resort March 8, 2014 in Orlando, Florida. During his hosted visit, Gere visited the premier wand shop and experienced the wonder of the wand choosing him. Gere is best known for his roles in such blockbuster films as 'Chicago,' 'Pretty Woman' and 'An Officer and a Gentleman.' The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Hogsmeade - located at Universal's Islands of Adventure - opened in 2010 and is home to Hogsmeade village and the iconic Hogwarts castle, which houses the groundbreaking Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey attraction. This summer, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley will open at Universal Studios Florida, bringing even more of Harry Potter - adventures to life. (Photo by Roberto Gonzales/Universal Orlando Resort via Getty Images)
This computer image released by NBCUniversal Orlando shows a setting for the ride that will be the centerpiece for the new Harry Potter-themed area at Universal Orlando Resort theme park. The ride will take visitors into Gringotts bank to help retrieve a magical object. (AP Photo/NBCUniversal)
This artist rendering provided by NBC Universal shows the new Harry Potter-themed area of the Universal theme park in Orlando, Fla., planned for 2014, which was inspired partly by the fictional Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books and movies. At a news conference Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, Universal executives offered a few details about the new area, which will be linked to the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction by a train called the Hogwarts Express. (AP Photo/NBCUniversal)
This May 16, 2014 photo shows Disney castmembers testing the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The ride will be open to park guests on May 28. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
This May 16, 2014 photo shows Disney castmembers testing the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The ride will be open to park guests on May 28. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
This May 16, 2014 photo shows Disney castmembers testing the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train roller coaster in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The ride will be open to park guests on May 28. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
This artist’s rendering supplied by Busch Gardens shows Falcon’s Fury, a new thrill ride opening May 1 at the theme park in Tampa, Fla. The ride will seat riders upright, take them to the top of a 335-foot tower, then pivot seats 90 degrees so riders face straight down as they plunge 60 mph in a six-second free fall. (AP Photo/Busch Gardens Tampa)
This image released by Universal Orlando shows actresses with the characters they voiced from the animated film "Despicable Me," from left, Dana Gaier with the character Edith, Elsie Fisher with Agnes and Miranda Cosgrove, who voiced Margo, at the grand opening of the 3-D ride "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem," based on the animated film, Monday, July 2, 2012 in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Universal Orlando)
This computer generated concept rendering released by Universal Orlando shows a scene from the planned Universal attraction, "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem." The new attraction is expected to open this summer at Universal Studios Florida. The ride replaces Jimmy Neutron's Nicktoon Blast simulator and will utilize a sophisticated digital 3-D projection system. (AP Photo/Universal Orlando)
This undated photo provided by Dollywood shows riders on the Wild Eagle, a new 210-foot tall coaster that opened in March at the theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. The coaster is one of a number of new attractions opening at theme parks around the country this season. (AP Photo/Dollywood, Steven Bridges)
Curtis Clark works high up on the new Goliath coaster under construction at Six Flags Great American in Gurneee, Ill., on April 30, 2014. (Stacey Westcott/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
Steel coated, bendable tracks are one of the key elements in making the new Goliath coaster under construction at Six Flags Great American in Gurneee, Ill., on April 30, 2014. (Stacey Westcott/Chicago Tribune/MCT via Getty Images)
This undated image provided by Kings Island amusement park in Kings Island, Ohio, near Cincinnati, shows the recently opened Banshee roller coaster. It’s named for a wailing mythological messenger from the underworld and includes a 167-foot lift hill and a 150-foot curved first drop. (AP Photo/Kings Island, Don Helbig)
In this Jan. 23, 2014, provided by Kings Island, workers put the final track piece on the “Banshee,” roller coaster in Mason, Ohio. Kings Island officials say the ride is the world's longest inverted steel roller coaster, at 4,124 feet of track and seven inversions. It will reach speeds of up to 68 mph over the two-minute, 40-second ride. (AP Photo/Kings Island)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - Harry Potter's Diagon Alley in Orlando, the world's longest and fastest inverted roller coaster in Ohio and water parks in every corner of the United States are among the many new attractions at theme parks this season.

And families with young kids won't be disappointed, either: Many parks are unveiling rides appropriate for children, yet exciting enough to thrill adults.

"Amusement park guests demand innovation year after year," said Jeremy Schoolfield, editor-in-chief of Funworld Magazine, which chronicles the amusement park industry. "Coming up with new experiences is built in our DNA."

Here's what's hot.

FLORIDA

Universal Orlando Resort will open its second Harry Potter-themed area this summer, called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. The zone's centerpiece will be a ride called Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, which takes visitors into Gringotts bank to help retrieve a magical object. The original Potter attraction is at Universal's Islands of Adventure theme park, while the new one will be at the adjoining Universal Studios Florida park. Guests must buy a two-park ticket to visit both Potter areas, but they can travel between them on the Hogwarts Express train, which will offer views of characters and magical creatures from the book. Among them: Hagrid on a flying motorbike, the Weasley twins on brooms, and the Knight Bus in London traffic. Universal has also opened new restaurants at City Walk and the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, an 1,800-unit hotel, where half of the rooms are suites that sleep six people.

At Disney World, the unveiling of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride May 28 will complete the New Fantasyland area that opened in December 2012. The ride is charming and exciting at the same time: Visitors will enjoy animatronic dwarfs singing "Heigh-Ho" in an underground-themed gem mine, then experience the thrilling anticipation of the roller coaster as cars climb a steep hill, before plunging down a mountainous landscape. And let's not forget one of the most popular attractions in New Fantasyland these days: meet and greets with Anna and Elsa from Disney's hit movie "Frozen." Recent wait times to meet the royal sisters ran four hours.

Hardcore thrill seekers will want to visit Busch Gardens in Tampa, where Falcon's Fury will soon open. Riders will be seated upright and whisked to the top of a 335-foot tower before the seat pivots 90 degrees so the guest is looking straight down. The rider then plunges in a six-second free fall.

CALIFORNIA

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk will open its latest thrill ride, The Undertow. It's fast and does a complete 360-degree spin.

New at Universal Studios Hollywood are the "Despicable Me Minion Mayhem" 3-D motion-simulation ride and a new "Despicable Me"-themed play area called Super Silly Fun Land.

Knott's Berry Farm celebrates 30 years of Snoopy and the Peanuts gang; it has made improvements to its Grand Sierra Railroad attraction.

Also for the younger family members, Legoland California has turned its entire water park into a "Legends of Chima" themed water park.

SeaWorld has redone its entrance and now includes Explorer's Reef, with kid-friendly touch pools, waves and coral reefs.

NORTHEAST

At Luna Park on Coney Island, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the Thunderbolt will soon open. The steel coaster is named after a now-demolished and once-beloved wooden roller coaster.

Roar-o-Saurus at Story Land in New Hampshire is a tame wooden coaster with cars shaped like dinosaurs.

There's nothing tame about Zumanjaro: Drop of Doom at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The drop tower is perched on the face of the Kingda Ka coaster - and it will lift riders up 415 feet in the air and plunge them downward at 90 mph. At Six Flags New England in Springfield, Mass., the SkyScreamer is billed as the world's tallest swing at 400 feet.

SOUTH

Dollywood's FireChaser Express opened in March, and takes riders forwards and backwards - and close to a shed of exploding fireworks.

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay - once under the Six Flags umbrella - is scheduled to reopen late May. The centerpiece ride will be Lightning Run, which will take riders on a 100-foot, 80-degree drop.

Six Flags Over Georgia is opening Hurricane Harbor, a multi-million park expansion that includes tropical landscaping and a 38,000-square-foot wave pool.

MIDWEST

The Banshee recently opened at Kings Island north of Cincinnati. The steel coaster, named for a wailing mythological messenger from the underworld, includes a 167-foot lift hill and a 150-foot curved first drop. Riders also experience a zero-gravity roll and speeds up to 68 mph.

Six Flags Great America just outside of Chicago is showcasing Goliath, touted as the world's fastest wooden coaster with the tallest and steepest drop.

Speaking of drops, Schlitterbahn in Kansas City, Kansas, is scheduled to open Verruckt in June. It's been certified by Guinness World Records as the world's tallest water slide; four people at a time will plummet 168 feet in a raft. The raft is expected to reach a top speed of 65 mph.

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