The theme park landscape in 2019 will be dominated by a galaxy far, far away in the Disney empire that will leave every ride and attraction a distance second.
The top 10 new theme park rides for this year bring together a collection of mega-movie franchise attractions, record-setting roller coasters, first-of-a-kind dark rides and even a brand new park.
As always, I reserved a spot for a wild card, represented this year by one of the strangest collaborations in theme park history.
1. Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The highly anticipated Galaxy’s Edge themed lands coming to Disney theme parks in Florida and California promise to drop “Star Wars” fans into a fully immersive outpost.
The 14-acre theme land inspired by “Star Wars” will be set in the Black Spire Outpost on the remote planet of Batuu, located on the outer rim of the “Star Wars” galaxy. The new attractions at Disneyland in Anaheim and Disney World in Orlando, Fla., will be nearly identical.
The new lands will each have a pair of top attractions.
►Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run puts riders in the cockpit of the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy as they battle Imperial TIE fighters during a secret mission with multiple story lines.
►The Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction promises a race-against-time battle between the First Order and the Resistance.
2. Harry Potter motocoaster at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Universal Studios has officially said very little about the new ride coming in 2019 to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida, other than that riders on the highly themed roller coaster will encounter characters and creatures from the films.
It’s a testament to the strength of the Potter theme park brand that the new ride sits in the second spot on our list when Universal hasn’t even announced the name of the attraction yet.
The new ride replaces the Dragon Challenge dueling coasters, which were known as Dueling Dragons before the Potter makeover. The castle-themed queue and station building will be repurposed for the new coaster.
3. Steel Curtain roller coaster at Kennywood in Pennsylvania
The Steel Curtain coming to Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pa., will feature the tallest inversion coaster in the world with the most inversions of any in United States.
Steel Curtain will be the centerpiece of a new NFL tailgate party-themed land dedicated to the hometown Pittsburgh Steelers with an End Zone Cafe, Steelers Experience football drills attraction, and football-themed midway games. The Steeler Country land replaces a former log flume ride.
4. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway dark ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
It seems almost impossible, but there’s never been a Mickey Mouse attraction at any of the dozen Disney theme parks around the world. Until now.
The first theme park attraction ever dedicated to Mickey Mouse is headed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disney World in Florida.
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a trackless dark ride that will take riders on a trip aboard a four-car train as Mickey, Minnie and their dog Pluto head out for an afternoon picnic. Like any Mickey Mouse cartoon, things quickly go awry.
5. West Coast Racers racing launch coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain
The one-of-a-kind West Coast Racers racing coaster coming to Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia will feature 55 mph dueling trains that each make two laps on a single track as they pass through four magnetic launches.
Magic Mountain is billing West Coast Racers from Maryland-based Premier Rides as a quad launch, twin lap racing coaster.
The three-minute ride will include four inversions and 14 near-miss track crossovers as well as airtime hills, overbanked turns and a high-five moment.
6. Nickelodeon Universe amusement park in New Jersey
The new Nickelodeon Universe amusement park is scheduled to open in 2019 with five roller coasters inside New Jersey’s American Dream shopping mall next to the Meadowlands football stadium, home to the New York Jets and New York Giants.
A Eurofighter-style coaster built by Germany-based Gerstlauer will bust through the top of the mall into a see-through tower with a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline. From the top of the 141-foot-tall vertical lift hill, the coaster will plummet down the world’s steepest coaster drop at a way-beyond-vertical 121.5 degrees.
A second record-setting Gerstlauer thrill ride — the world’s tallest and longest spinning coaster — will weave in and around the Eurofighter track.
7. Maxx Force coaster at Six Flags Great America in Illinois
The Maxx Force coaster coming to the Chicago-area Six Flags park will boast the world’s fastest inversion and tallest double inversion as well as the fastest acceleration in the United States.
The 78 mph air-powered launch coaster will have five upside-down inversions, including a 60 mph zero G roll and a 175-foot-tall double corkscrew twist.
8. Tidal Twister dueling coaster at SeaWorld San Diego
SeaWorld San Diego’s new Tidal Twister dueling roller coaster has ignited debate among ride enthusiasts about whether either of its tandem trains can “win” the duel if they are connected in the middle.
The new ride coming to the California marine park features a nearly 300-foot-long single-rail figure-eight track with an air-time camelback hill that crosses over a zero-g corkscrew twist in the middle.
Designed by Orlando, Fla.-based Skyline Attractions, the 30-mph Skywarp Horizon ride has two trains that are attached in the middle and powered by drive wheels. The track rises a mere 16 feet above the ground and will be surrounded by faux rock work.
9. Lego Movie Land at Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida will jump on the biggest trend in theme park development with an entire land dedicated to a single film franchise, in this case, “The Lego Movie,” which debuted in 2014 and has a sequel coming out in February.
Lego Movie Land will open with three attractions, a play area, restaurant and retail shop themed to the soon-to-be film franchise.
The Masters of Flight flying theater will put riders in a triple-decker flying couch as they travel through the Lego Movie universe projected a domed screen. The ride will be similar to Disney’s Soarin’ attractions.
The Battle for Bricksburg water ride will take riders in a construction vehicle through the flooded streets of the movie town. If that’s not strange enough, riders will fire water cannons at invading Duplo aliens. The quirky new attraction will transform the existing “Quest for Chi” boat ride as part of the Lego Movie Land expansion.
10. Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape dark ride at Denver’s Elitch Gardens
One of the most curious creative collaborations of the year brings together a New Mexico-based art collective and a Colorado amusement park.
Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape turns over a former haunted house dark ride at Denver’s Elitch Gardens to the quirky creative team behind an imaginative Santa Fe art installation that blends jungle gym, fun house and haunted house elements into a one-of-a-kind art exhibit.
Billed as the world’s first artist-driven dark ride, Kaleidoscape promises to take riders on an immersive and interactive experience of otherworldly motion, sound and color.