Theme Parks? Oh, yes!

As the world emerges from the pandemic, America’s theme park operators have made the most of the downtime to launch a host of new attractions. BRUCE PIPER takes some of these experiences for a spin.


When it comes to theme parks popular with Australians visiting the USA, Disney has for years been the undisputed number one bucket list destination. Disneyland Resort in California will take things to the next level in 2023 as The Walt Disney Company kicks off a huge celebration of its 100th anniversary.

The Happiest Place on Earth will debut a whole new platinum-infused look which will be complemented by state-of-the-art projection effects in a new “Wondrous Journeys” nighttime spectacular showcasing every Walt Disney animated movie.

The party will also see a new ride debut in Mickey’s Toontown, with the Mickey the Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway attraction to open on 27 January. All the celebrations will come along with special food and beverage offerings and souvenir merchandise, while the original Sleeping Beauty Castle will be dressed in style, including two majestic water fountains and – of course – a beautiful wishing star!

The Disney celebrations aren’t just about cartoon characters, however, with a new attraction at the Avengers Campus at Disneyland California Adventure set to introduce the Multiverse to the park – allowing guests to team up with heroes “from anywhere and anywhen” to battle villains including the frightening King Thanos.
Star Wars fans will also be enticed by The Mandalorian and Grogu, characters who will begin encountering guests at Disneyland Park’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge precinct over the upcoming holiday season.

The Mandalorian and Grogu are coming to Star Wars’ remote planet of Batuu at Disneyland Park. ©Disney

Accommodation options will also include the new Pixar Place Hotel – a makeover of Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel – which will feature a “Finding Nemo” themed splash pad and plenty of references to all those fabulous Pixar movies.

Aussies visiting California for a theme park fix also usually make time for a visit to Universal Studios Hollywood – and there’s plenty of work going on here too including the upcoming launch of a ride featuring the famous characters from Nintendo’s Mario Kart video game. Mario Kart: Bowser’s Challenge will be part of a new Super Nintendo World area set to open in early 2023, with the ride said to bring together augmented reality via head-mounted goggles and projection mapping technology.

And of course Universal also features the hugely popular Wizarding World of Harry Potter as well as the world-famous Studio Tour.

Butterbeer, anyone? Hogsmeade at Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter. ©Universal Studios

There’s also plenty of new theme park action on the other side of the country. Orlando, Florida is the theme park capital of the world and there’s always something new happening here – including the recent debut of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at Disney’s EPCOT park. Having been fortunate enough to be one of the first to experience this attraction earlier this year, I can say it absolutely makes the most of technology to take guests on an intergalactic chase through space and time.

Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando is a multi-park experience, and next year will feature an updated nighttime spectacular at Magic Kingdom. Guests will be able to enjoy that after a day of other action – including the new TRON Lightcycle/Run ride which takes them on a race through a dark, computerised world.

Head to Xander with the Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney’s EPCOT in Orlando. ©Disney

The Magic Kingdom will also see its Haunted Mansion feature the Hatbox Ghost materialise in 2023, while looking further afield, Disney is discussing early concepts for a new Dinoland USA at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.

Meanwhile the huge Universal Orlando park network is also set for a massive expansion, with the development of Universal’s Epic Universe. Work recently resumed on this project after being suspended in mid-2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now proceeding apace. Universal promises the new location will feature a theme park, hotels, shops, restaurants and more.

Concept impression of Universal’s new Epic Universe park. ©Universal Studios

Currently scheduled to open in 2025, Universal’s newbuild will complement the existing Universal Studios Florida, Universal’s Islands of Adventure and Universal’s Volcano Bay.

While in Orlando theme park fans may also like to check out SeaWorld, which combines a long tradition of marine animal care with a huge array of thrilling roller coasters.

Opening in the first half of 2023 is Pipeline, the Surf Coaster, a new ride giving guests the opportunity to “experience the rush” of the ocean thanks to an inventive harness that keeps you secure while giving unparalleled freedom of movement. SeaWorld also features the thrilling Ice Breaker which launched earlier this year.

Ride the wave on Pipeline: the Surf Coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. ©SeaWorld Parks

Whatever your preference, there’s always something new at America’s theme parks, and we’ve only just scratched the surface here!

SeaWorld Orlando claims to be the Coaster Capital of Orlando. ©SeaWorld Parks


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