At first I thought it was too early to look ahead at the new attractions coming to U.S. theme parks in 2014, but then I realized a number of big rides have already been announced and many more are already in the planning stages.
It already seems like 2014 is shaping up as a good year for ride enthusiasts and theme park fans. Big industry players have announced major projects, and several smaller parks are planning to roll out significant additions.
Since it is still early, I'll update my Top 14 over the coming months as new projects are announced. Until then, here's my list of most anticipated rides for 2014:
Work is underway on a second Potter project at Universal Studios Orlando in Florida that is expected to include a replica of Diagon Alley with a Leaky Cauldron restaurant and a Gringotts Wizarding Bank indoor roller coaster.
2) Magic Kingdom -- Seven Dwarfs mine train
The final phase of the ambitious Fantasyland expansion at the Magic Kingdom in Florida is expected to wrap up in 2014, featuring a Seven Dwarfs mine train coaster that takes riders through the story of "Snow White" on vehicles that swing back and forth.
3) Schlitterbahn Padre Island -- New water park
Construction is underway on a new Schlitterbahn water park on Padre Island in Corpus Christi, Texas, with a grand opening scheduled for summer 2014.
4) Luna Park -- Thunderbolt coaster
Luna Park will pay tribute to a classic Coney Island ride by naming a new coaster Thunderbolt. The new 125-foot-tall looping steel coaster at the New York seaside amusement park will reach speeds of 65 mph. Built in 1925, the original Thunderbolt operated until 1982 and stood unused until 2000, when the dilapidated wooden coaster was torn down.
5) Universal Studios Hollywood -- Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem
Using high-definition digital technology, the 3-D Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem motion-simulator attraction will borrow elements from the animated movie and several film shorts to create a new story line featuring the supervillain Gru, his adoptive daughters and the little yellow minions.
6) Adventuredome (Circus Circus) - El Loco coaster (late 2013)
Built by S&S Worldwide, the El Loco coaster expected to open in late 2013 or early 2014 inside the Adventuredome will feature a beyond-vertical first drop and onboard audio.
The 335-foot-tall Falcon's Fury drop tower at Busch Gardens Tampa in Florida will feature a first-of-its-kind seating configuration. Once the gondola reaches the top of the tower, the seats will rotate 90 degrees to position riders face-down for a five-second drop at 60 mph.
8) Wild Rivers Irvine & Temecula -- New water parks
Wild Rivers has been working with Orange County Great Park officials since 2007 in an effort to relocate the water park to the former site of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine. Wild Rivers hopes to reopen at the Great Park in 2014 along with a second location in Temecula.
9) Great Wolf Lodge Garden Grove -- New water park
The 600-room Great Wolf Lodge planned for Garden Grove, Calif., just a few miles from
10) Kentucky Kingdom -- Park reopening
After enduring several false restarts since closing in 2009, the former
Two new shows are expected to open at SeaWorld Orlando in 2014: "Madagascar Live: Operation Vacation" in the Nautilus Theater and a retooled version of the Clyde and Seamore sea lion and otter show.
12) SeaWorld San Diego -- New entrance
Scheduled to open in March 2014, the new ocean-themed main entrance dubbed Explorer's Reef will feature four touch pools with nearly 5,000 fish.
13) San Diego Zoo Safari Park -- Tiger Trail
The former Wild
14) Dollywood -- New attraction (replacing ropes course)
After only three years in service, Dollywood removed the two-acre Adventure Mountain multi-level rope course to make way for a new attraction coming in 2014 that promises to be a "blast."
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Universal Studios Hollywood: Wizarding World of Harry Potter
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SeaWorld San Diego: Aquatica