18 hottest new theme park attractions for 2021
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Much has been postponed and delayed by the pandemic, but 2021 is likely to see more openings than 2020 ushered in — even if many opening dates still remain vague.
Florida’s theme parks, for example, rebounded this spring to levels that often pushed capacity limits.
In California, strict COVID-19 restrictions kept Disneyland Resort in Anaheim closed for a whopping (and no doubt walloping) 13 months. Under California’s new health and safety guidelines, however, Disneyland is now set to reopen this week on April 30.
Universal Studios Hollywood reopened on April 16, and Knott’s Berry Farm will open its doors to season passholders on May 6 and to the general public on May 21.
Legoland California reopened on April 15 and, after missing its slated 2020 opening, Legoland New York is set to have its grand reveal in 2021, although there’s still no news on the official date for that.
While some openings are still in limbo, there are a few new roller coasters and rides that have already opened in 2021 — or are coming soon — to put on your radar for theme park fun this summer and fall.
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Walt Disney World Resort
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Timed to launch with Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary, Chef Remy’s attraction shrinks you to his size (there’s no height requirement, so this is a great family ride) for a rollicking adventure through Gusteau’s Parisian restaurant from the Pixar hit “Ratatouille.” It all unfolds within the France Pavilion at Epcot, which is being expanded to accommodate the new ride.
La Crêperie de Paris
If you’ve been wondering if you can get a good crêpe around here, the answer will be oui in Orlando, at least, when La Crêperie de Paris opens Oct. 1 with both table and quick service inside the expanded France Pavilion. Fans of the quintessential French snack who’ve missed Europe during the pandemic will appreciate the presence of buckwheat galettes and French hard ciders (the typical accouterment to crêpes, when in France) on the menu.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Two-night immersive adventures aboard the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser — essentially a Star Wars-themed hotel — are still said to be coming soon to Hollywood Studios in 2021, with no specific date announced for opening day. Stays at this new hotel, which surely won’t come cheap, will include a trip to the bridge of the Halcyon and lightsaber training.
Drawn to Life by Cirque de Soleil
The debut date for this new Cirque du Soleil spectacular at Disney Springs that’s being called “a love letter to the art of Disney animation” remains unknown, but is still rumored to be coming in 2021. Cirque du Soleil saw massive layoffs in 2020 in Orlando, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for a strong comeback to the stage.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park
After being closed for most of 2020 due to the pandemic, Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park reopened on March 7 to welcome spring break-goers to landlocked Orlando in true liquid fun fashion. Highlights include Cross Country Creek which, at 3,000 feet long, is one of the longest lazy rivers in the country.
Dates still haven’t been confirmed for 2021 when it comes to when, or if, this new Epcot restaurant nestled between Mission: Space and Test Track might open. However, we’re looking forward to peeping views of the Earth’s curvature and the International Space Station while dining on “modern American cuisine,” whatever that might entail. Disney has so far announced that the drinks selection will include “1,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines and a wide selection of craft beer,” which does sound otherworldly.
Just having Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park finally set to reopen April 30 after a crushingly long stretch of pandemic closure is in and of itself is one of the biggest pieces of park news to report. So, it’s extra exciting for West Coast theme park lovers that Disney California Adventure Park is opening a brand-new superhero-themed land, the Avengers Campus, on June 4.
Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure is the ride everyone is talking about — an interactive screen ride open to all heights and ages, with good family fun all but guaranteed.
Jurassic World VelociCoaster
Universal is calling this new roller coaster, opening June 10 at the Islands of Adventure theme park, the “apex predator” of roller coasters. And if hurtling along at 70 miles per hour with velociraptors as your wingmen sounds like you’re brand of fun, you won’t want to miss what will take the lead as Florida’s fastest and tallest launch coaster.
Surrounded by detailed rock work and lush landscaping that begets dinosaurs, Jurassic World VelociCoaster promises to make stomachs lurch when it propels riders 155 feet up into the air and then dives into an immediate 80-degree drop — the coaster’s signature “top hat” move that has people who yearn for these kinds of thrills counting the days till early June.
Universal Studios Hollywood
Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash
A crew of 64 animal robot figurines is your supporting cast in this heartwarming new family ride at Universal Studios Hollywood that debuted when the park reopened on April 16.
Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash takes riders on an old-school theme park journey as pets inspired by the movie franchise cavort all around you, luring you into their world of fancy New York City apartments and back-alley antics. At one point, motion-tracking technology even turns the rider, ever so briefly, into a pup for more silliness and smiles all around.
There’s still no update from SeaWorld for when, exactly, in 2021 this new Arctic-themed coaster will open near to the park’s Wild Arctic attraction and blast us all with its presence.
Set to be SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch-style coaster, Ice Breaker will have both backward and forward launches and flip riders’ stomachs with a reverse launch into what’s being called the “steepest beyond vertical drop” in Florida, from 93 feet high and a white-knuckle 100-degree angle.
With open-air dining next to Wild Arctic and Glacier Bar, this new build-your-own burger bar (with a chicken sandwich and limited pizza options, too) opened in March as a replacement for Mango Joe’s.
SeaWorld San Diego
Hold on to your hats (and sunglasses). Delayed from its originally planned opening for 2020 because of you-know-what, SeaWorld San Diego’s all-new dive coaster, Emperor, is still bookmarked for a 2021 opening, according to the park website. With top speeds of 60 miles per hour and a top drop of 150 feet, Emperor’s superlative will be the “tallest and fastest floorless dive coaster in the state” (try saying that five times in rapid procession) when it finally debuts.
Fun fact: SeaWorld San Diego is the only place in North America to see the emperor penguin.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
Busch Gardens Tampa has no shortage of extreme roller coasters yet continues to one-up itself on a regular basis. Originally scheduled to open in 2020 — and with no specific date announced beyond a vague “2021,” much to the annoyance of fans of the park on Twitter — the next one-upper coaster contender will be Iron Gwazi.
With three inversions, top speeds of 76 miles per hour and a maximum height of more than 200 feet, it’s set to be the fastest and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. The ultimate bragging right on this ride will be a 91-degree drop from 206 feet.
Brickbeard’s Watersports Stunt Show
New in February, Legoland Florida’s newest stunt show on Lake Eloise, at the heart of the park, features a brand-new female Lego pirate character and an all-new flyboard act designed to thrill. You can count on seeing classic on-water stunts in the show, too, including ski pyramids, barefoot skiing, jump acts and daredevil wakeboarding.
Here’s everything you need to know about staying at Pirate Island Hotel at Legoland Florida.
Legoland New York
There’s still no opening date on the books for New York’s first Legoland outpost, but the largest Legoland to date is confirmed as opening this summer in Goshen in New York’s Hudson Valley. The park was originally slated to open last summer but was delayed due to the pandemic.
Also opening in 2021, presumably with the park, Legoland Hotel will offer guests daily complimentary breakfast, kids entertainment, a heated pool and — what parent won’t love this? — a separate kids’ sleeping area in all 250 of its rooms.
Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair
When Knott’s Berry Farm finally reopens on May 6, it will come with the debut of this brand-new interactive 4D dark ride. Riders climb aboard vehicles equipped with jelly blasters (to recover stolen pies, of course) for an adventure through reimagined show scenes from the park’s original dark ride. Wily pie-stealing coyotes abound as you try to win the blue ribbon for boysenberry pies at the country fair.
Six Flags Fiesta Texas
Dare Devil Dive Flying Machines
Six Flags Fiesta Texas’ newest ride debuted in March in the form of a steampunk-themed thriller called Dare Devil Dive Flying Machines. Set within the themed Crackaxle Canyon area of the park, the four-seat ride plays out like an aerial dogfight with banks, loops and dives that thrill.
Six Flags Great Adventure
What’s a new roller coaster without a superlative to its name? When it launches this summer (exact date still unannounced) at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey, the park’s Jersey Devil coaster will break three records at once as the tallest, fastest and longest single-rail roller coaster in the world. Among the hit list of thrills riders will experience on the coaster’s 13-story-high track: a zero-gravity roll and 180-degree stall.
This summer theme parks will be abuzz with activity as more Americans are vaccinated and willing to travel to more crowded locations. Families that may have gone camping at a national park, booked a vacation rental home or taken a road trip last summer may now be planning their theme park return.
Just remember that things will look and feel a bit different with ongoing COVID-19 safety protocols — including physical distancing and mask-wearing — in place. But if your family is ready to try some new coasters and attractions, this summer promises tons of fun and thrills.
Featured photo of the Jurassic World VelociCoaster courtesy of Universal Orlando
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