Our Top 10 for 2012 is dominated by new rides coming to DCA's 12-acre Cars Land expansion, the grand finale in the $1 billion extreme makeover the Anaheim theme park has undertaken during the past five years. DCA's transformation is so massive that even Disneyland is taking the year off as far as new attractions go, letting the spotlight shine on its younger neighbor.
> Photos: Best new rides of 2012 at California theme parks
Outside of Anaheim, 2012 will see the debut of enough prototype roller coasters, extreme thrill rides and cutting-edge attractions to make any serious theme park fan salivate.
Let's take a look at what's on tap for California theme parks in 2012:
1) Radiator Springs Racers - Disney California Adventure
The $200 million Radiator Springs Racers attraction at Disney California Adventure in Anaheim combines a leisurely dark ride prelude with a dueling side-by-side racecar finale. The four-minute journey takes riders through stalactite caverns, around hairpin turns and along high-speed straightaways.
2) Transformers - Universal Studios Hollywood
Recruits on the new Transformers ride at Universal Studios Hollywood will join the heroic Autobots in an intergalactic battle against the villainous Decepticons. The five-minute motion simulator dark ride with high-definition 3-D images, special effects and animatronics will feature an original storyline starring the shape-shifting robots capable of changing into cars, trucks and planes.
3) Luigi's Flying Tires - Disney California Adventure
Riders aboard Luigi's Flying Tires at Disney California Adventure will use a pair of joysticks to steer the levitating bumper car as it floats atop a surface similar to a giant air hockey table. Visitors will steer a Fettuccini Alfredo-brand big-rig truck tire through tilting towers of retreads in the storage yard behind Casa Della Tires.
4) Superman: Ultimate Flight - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
The Superman: Ultimate Flight launch coaster at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Valejo will rocket riders at 60 miles per hour through a towering 150-foot-high inversion and a pair of vertical twists.
5) Manta - SeaWorld San Diego
The Manta launch coaster at SeaWorld San Diego marks the U.S. debut of a highly anticipated prototype ride. The 30-foot-tall coaster will feature dual launch zones, a 54-foot drop into a subterranean trench and a dramatic wing dip into a shallow lake over a 2,800-foot-long track.
6) Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom - Six Flags Magic Mountain
The Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom drop tower at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia will be attached to both sides of the park's 415-foot-tall Superman: Escape from Krypton coaster tower. The new thrill ride will rank as the world’s tallest (400 feet) and fastest (85 mph) drop tower.
7) Mater's Junkyard Jamboree - Disney California Adventure
Mater's Junkyard Jamboree at Disney California Adventure take riders a spinning tractor ride through Tow Mater's Towing & Salvage yard. The dizzying attraction blends a traditional teacup ride and classic whip ride with cars transferring from one spinning turntable to the next along a circuitous route.
8) Buena Vista Street - Disney California Adventure
The shops and restaurants along Disney California Adventure's re-themed entrance promenade will pay homage to the Los Angeles that Walt Disney encountered upon his 1923 arrival. Buena Vista Street will reflect the Spanish Revival, Arts & Crafts and Art Deco architecture of the 1920s and '30s-era Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Pasadena and Wilshire Boulevard areas of the city.
9) New attraction - Legoland California
Legoland California plans to unveil its new 2012 attraction on Jan. 19. Screamscape reports the Carlsbad kiddie park may add a boat ride, suspended coaster or perhaps both. In 2011, Legoland added the Star Wars Miniland, which rendered epic battles, iconic cityscapes and massive machines in an intimate 1:20 scale.
10) Crazy Surf - Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk plans to update the Crazy Surf flat ride with a newer model that includes tilting seats and water jets that splash passengers. The new ride, which will keep the Crazy Surf name, features an 18-seat gondola mounted to two revolving arms that take passengers 12 feet in the air.
A few California parks will rest on their laurels rather than add new attractions in 2012.
Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park will continue to promote the Windseeker swing tower, which finally opened in late 2011 after numerous delays.
After a change of ownership in 2011, California's Great America in Santa Clara has no plans for new attractions in 2012, which means the oft-delayed wooden coaster officially remains in limbo.
Likewise, the San Diego Zoo and the newly dubbed Safari Park (formerly the Wild Animal Park) have no plans for new additions in 2012 after updating the zoo's panda exhibit in 2011.
In the past year, Belmont Park in San Diego added a prototype flat ride that simulated a looping roller coaster experience over an undulating Himalayan-style track. In 2012, the seaside park will open a modest laser tag attraction.