Orlando, Florida, often gets the spotlight when it comes to theme parks. This year is no exception with the openings of Disney World's Pandora-World of Avatar and Universal's Volcano Bay water park. But plenty of new attractions are opening elsewhere, from interactive rides that offer different experiences each time you go, to new parks in Alabama and North Carolina.
Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, has one of the biggest theme park openings this season with Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! Riders take part in an adventure to free the Guardian superheroes, who have been captured. Multiple scenarios for resolving the story means it's a little different each time you ride.
SeaWorld, which has weathered criticism and declining attendance related to its orca programs, is launching new attractions in San Diego, replacing a theatrical-style whale show with a more educational experience called Orca Encounter. The show will have a three-story digital screen presenting graphics and information along with live whales. SeaWorld San Diego also opens Electric Ocean on park pathways after dark, with light displays of glowing sea creatures and live performers. Also new: Ocean Explorer, with multiple aquariums, rides and digital technology. Its marquee ride, Submarine Quest, offers riders individualized experiences, while Tentacle Twirl flies guests in chairs suspended from jellyfish tentacles.
SeaWorld San Antonio in June opens a multilaunch roller coaster, Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster, with jet ski-style cars racing over water to rescue animals in distress.
NEW PARKS IN THE SOUTH
The Park at OWA is tentatively scheduled to open mid-July in Foley near Alabama's Gulf Coast beaches. Its 21 rides include Rollin' Thunder coaster, much anticipated by thrill ride fans.
H2OBX, a $46 million water park, is expected to open on North Carolina's Outer Banks in June with more than 20 water slides, pools and attractions, including Deep Six Adventure Lagoon with climbing walls, an obstacle course and balance pads.
Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, an immersive action dark ride, has guests joining forces with superheroes at Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell; Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California; and Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.
A 4-D free-fly roller coaster called The Joker debuts at Six Flags New England, Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington and Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, Illinois.
FROM HOLLYWOOD TO DOLLYWOOD
Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles debuts Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle in late June. The colorful display, accompanied by music, will illuminate Hogwarts' four houses, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff and Slytherin, at Universal's Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Drop Line, a drop tower at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is a free-fall experience more than 20 stories above Dollywood's Timber Canyon. The ride's gondola spins around the tower for a bird's-eye view of the Great Smoky Mountains. Also new: Dolly Parton's Smoky Mountain Adventure Dinner and Show, with Parton's music and characters drawn from her childhood stories.
Cedar Point has a new 18-acre water park, Cedar Point Shores, on Lake Erie's shores, recalling the park's origins as a beach resort. Attractions include Point Plummet, a six-story body slide with riders in individual pods. Portside Plunge offers inner tube rides, first in an enclosed area, then down hills before hitting a pool. For young children, there's Lakeslide Landing and Lemmy's Lagoon.
Also in Sandusky, the Kalahari Resort water park debuts five attractions this summer: the Stingray raft slide, Sahara Sidewinder slide, Tornado Alley funnels, Serengeti Spinner body slide and Extreme Rush, which drops riders into a loop and then a pool.
Seaside Heights, New Jersey, has a new roller coaster called Hydrus to replace a coaster that was left partially submerged in the ocean after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. The new coaster was built safely inland above the beach rather than out over the water.
In Pennsylvania, Dorney Park in Allentown debuts the circular ride Kaleidoscope and the live show "Cirque Imagine." Hersheypark in Hershey opens Hershey Triple Tower with three drop towers of different heights and thrill levels.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, will debut the underground Haunted Mine Drop.
Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, California, has a new "Star Wars" display featuring lights, sound effects, animation and six scenes from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
In Williamsburg, Virginia, at Busch Gardens' New France village, InvadR is the park's first wooden coaster with nine airtime hills, a wooded terrain and an underground tunnel.
At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Shockwave offers motorcycle-style seats around a spinning disc on a curling track, and Typhoon swings riders upside-down on two spinning arms over the boardwalk.
New at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California: Sol Spin, with six spinning arms, and two water park rides: The Wedge, a family raft ride, and Shore Break with six water slides, including chambers that launch riders into a near-vertical drop through curves, loops, a flume and tube slides.
Some information in this story was provided by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).