The Best New Theme Park Rides Opening in Summer 2019

May 10, 2019

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Summer is to theme parks what the Oscars award season is for movies as it is the time of year when some of the best new rides of the year roll out at theme parks. If a theme park vacation is on the horizon this year with your gang, you can target some of these new rides debuting at theme parks from coast to coast.

Related: The Best Credit Cards for Entertainment Spending

Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort is still as wildly popular as the day it opened, and the park will get an extra bump this summer with the premier of a new ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, on June 13, 2019. According to park representatives, it will be “the most highly themed, immersive coaster experience yet,” combining innovative technology and “an actual forest with more than 1,200 live trees.” The concept is that guests will board magical motorbikes to fly along up to 50 miles per hour with the beloved “Harry Potter” character, Hagrid. The journey goes through the Forbidden Forest to discover never-before-seen magical creatures and familiar denizens from the books, too. Kids must be 48 inches or taller to ride, so you might want to measure before getting them too amped up for the ride.

Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando

Cash in awards to stay at one of the many nearby points hotels or at hotels on Universal property like The Aventura and Loews Royal Pacific for extra perks and access. The Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Orlando is even bookable with the Amex Fine Hotels and Resorts program if you have The Platinum Card® from American Express — thus giving you Universal Express Passes, along with FHR perks such as a $100 food and beverage credit and guaranteed late checkout.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

If Hagrid is on your must-ride list, now’s a good time to figure out if a Universal Studios Orlando annual pass is worth it for your family.

Tidal Twister

SeaWorld San Diego is opening its all-new dueling roller coaster, Tidal Twister, on May 24, 2019, just in time for Memorial Day weekend’s summer kickoff at the park. Inspired by the power of the ocean and said to be the the first coaster of its kind in the world, the attraction is unique for being a horizontal ride that takes riders up to 30 miles per hour along a tight figure-eight track. The ride is actually two trains that cross in the center during an exciting Zero-G roll, adding to the thrill. With a height requirement of just 48 inches, your younger thrill seekers will likely qualify to ride.

On the lodging front, the InterContinental San Diego (from 50k IHG Rewards Club points), which opened in August 2018, is centrally located on the downtown waterfront. Here are some other tips for visiting San Diego with your family.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

The biggest news in California theme park openings for 2019 is a brand-new land opening at Disneyland on May 31, 2019. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will sprawl across 14 acres at the park and be the ultimate “Star Wars” adventure, with a workshop where the kids can can build a custom light saber, have the chance to take the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy aboard the Millennium Falcon thrill ride and explore new themed food outlets and shops, too. The new land will open in Florida at Walt Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Aug. 29, 2019. So if you can’t wait till then, best to get the gang to California before school starts. You’ll need to reserve a free timed-ticket to enter the new land in Anaheim from May 31–June 23.

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge will open May 31, 2019, at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, and Aug. 29, 2019, at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Disney Parks)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open May 31, 2019, at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, and Aug. 29, 2019, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

If you need advice on where to stay at Disneyland, here’s a look at on-site versus off-property hotel options. Or, consider booking a room at the Disneyland Hotel, especially if you need to guarantee a slot to visit Galaxy’s Edge from May 31–June 23.

Tigris

Busch Gardens Tampa’s spring 2019 debut of Tigris — a triple launch steel coaster that will take the cake as the tallest roller coaster in Florida — promises a dizzying experience at heights that top out at 150 feet. Looping twists, heart-in-your-throat drops and speeds of up to 60 miles per hour are all meant to conjure the agility of a tiger. Your little tigers will need to be at least 54 inches tall to ride.

Cash in Marriott Bonvoy points to stay in and around Downtown Tampa (a short drive from the park) at one of three Category 5 properties from Marriott: Tampa Marriott Water Street, Le Méridien Tampa and the boutique Autograph Collection property, Epicurean. Reward nights at each start at 35k points or you can use an up to 35k certificate from a card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card or Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card.

Ihu’s Breakaway Falls

Now open at Aquatica San Antonio, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls is the tallest slide in Texas and is sure to offer refreshment from the summer heat. Ascend more than 100 steps to enter a glass tube for your 80-degree free fall into a watery abyss. Two rides line up side by side in separate tubes, and the thrill comes in waiting for the drop — and not knowing who will be released first. Riders must be 48 inches or taller.

Photo courtesy of Aquatica San Antonio

If you want to stay nearby, options include Staybridge Suites San Antonio Sea World (from 25k IHG Rewards Club points per night), Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott San Antonio SeaWorld/Westover Hills (from 17.5k points) and Homewood Suites by Hilton Lackland AFB/SeaWorld (30k Hilton Honors points). If you want to splurge a little, the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort (from 15k World of Hyatt points) is a terrific getaway for families. You could even use a Category 1 – 4 award from the World of Hyatt Credit Card.

Cutback Water Coaster

Virginia’s first hybrid water coaster is opening in time for summer at Water Country USA in Williamsburg. You’ll board a four-person raft to speed along the 856-foot-line slide, with a water jet propulsion system and saucer feature rocketing you along your way (and some vertical drops just to keep the surprise adrenaline boosts going). Height requirements have yet to be announced, so be sure to check the park’s website for updated info before visiting.

Williamsburg is full of points hotels, with a particular abundance of IHG properties for award stays, including the well-located Holiday Inn Express Williamsburg Busch Gardens Area (from 25k points).

Sesame Street

Sprawling across 6 acres at SeaWorld Orlando, the new Sesame Street attraction is sure to bring lots of nostalgia for parents and grandparents — and lots of fun for the kids. Wet and dry play areas, rides and strolling through an interactive neighborhood made famous by the old-school TV show are all part of the experience. The kids will be thrilled to meet favorite characters, like Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby, among many other furry friends, and there are daily parades through the ‘hood, too.

Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando has wet and dry play areas and a daily parade. (2019© SeaWorld Parks)
Sesame Street at SeaWorld Orlando has wet and dry play areas and a daily parade. (2019© SeaWorld Parks)

Cast a stone and you’ll probably hit a points hotel in Orlando. But to narrow the options, here are some of our Orlando favorites near the theme parks.

Bottom Line

Summertime visits to the theme parks are bound to be hot and crowded. But with the opening of fun new rides, there’s plenty of impetus to check them out. Consider investing in passes that shorten lines and do your research online ahead of time to have a rough idea of the rides and attractions you don’t want to miss. If going to a Disney park, be sure you have a stroller that meets the parks’ new sizing requirements. 

More theme park fun …

Featured image courtesy of Disney.

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