With school out for the summer, kids all over America want to know just one thing; where are we going on vacation? Savvy parents realize that a great way to compete with their kids’ electronic devices is to dream big.
In California, that definitely includes over-the-top fun at theme parks throughout the state. This summer, families will have a tough choice as the Golden State continues to expand its theme park offerings.
“The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™,” Universal Studios Hollywood
Universal Studios Hollywood just welcomed “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™” on April 7, 2016, making it an ideal destination for families traveling this summer. Guests can explore the mysteries of Hogwarts™ castle, visit the shops of Hogsmeade™, and sample fare from some of the wizarding world’s best-known establishments. They can also experience pulse-pounding rides and attractions that transport them into a world of magical thrills – all masterfully created to faithfully reflect the visual landscape of the fiction and films, including the iconic focal point of Hogwarts Castle. Kids of all ages will love the land’s signature ride, “Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey,” and the family outdoor coaster, “Flight of the Hippogriff™.”
The New Revolution Virtual Reality Coaster, Six Flags Magic Mountain
Six Flags Magic Mountain in Los Angeles County, recently voted by USA TODAY readers as America’s Best Theme Park, just debuted the new incarnation of The New Revolution – one of North America’s first virtual reality coasters. The original coaster opened in 1976 with dips and dives through the hillside, taking riders through the world’s first giant loop at 90 feet high. To commemorate the coaster’s 40th anniversary, the park upgraded the ride with new trains and special effects. Thanks to a partnership with Samsung Gear VR and Oculus, The New Revolution boasts wireless headsets that immerse riders in a virtual world with high-resolution imagery and 360-degree views that synchronize to the action of the coaster. Newly designed trains feature lap and calf bars, eliminating shoulder harnesses for a faster and smoother ride with more airtime. The ride reaches speeds of 55 mph, featuring two minutes of thrills on 3,457 feet of track.
New Joker Coaster and Pacific Rim 5-D Experience, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
This summer Six Flags Discovery Kingdom celebrates 30 years in Vallejo – located mid-way between San Francisco and Sacramento – with several new, highly anticipated experiences. The Joker hybrid rollercoaster – included in Los Angeles Times’ and USA TODAY’s Top 10 lists of best new theme park attractions of 2016 – takes the classic wooden coaster experience to unparalleled levels. The coaster features 3,200 feet of dual-colored purple and green steel tracks, with a 100-foot drop and 78-degree descent that banks up to a first-ever step-up, under-flip inverted roll, a wild zero-G barrel roll, 15 extreme airtime moments and three crazy inversions. It also boasts a unique breaking wave turn, the only one of its kind on the West Coast. Meanwhile, the new Pacific Rim 5-D ride takes guests into a new dimension, featuring the world’s only motion-based ride adapted from the sci-fi adventure film “Pacific Rim.” Presented in the park’s Iwerks Theater, in partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and SimEx-Iwerks Entertainment, Pacific Rim 5-D pairs explosive special effects with a thrilling new ride simulation experience loaded with suspense, action and monstrous sea creatures.
New Magical Thrills at Disneyland Resort
Disneyland Resort promises visitors even more magical experiences this summer, from its Diamond Celebration nighttime spectaculars to a wealth of new attractions. Kids will love the Frozen – Live at the Hyperion musical that recently debuted, immersing audiences in the emotional journey of Anna and Elsa through elaborate costumes and sets, stunning special effects, and show-stopping production numbers. The fun-filled Luigi’s Rollickin’ Roadsters – the latest attraction to debut in Cars Land – is another great summer offering, allowing guests to ride miniature Italian roadsters as they perform a precision-choreographed dance across a trackless “dance floor.” The groundbreaking Soarin’ Around the World takes flight June 17, providing visitors with an exhilarating multi-sensory aerial adventure that showcases some of the world’s most famous attractions. Lastly, families will love exploring the new and enhance Star Wars experiences, including the transformation of Space Mountain intoHyperspace Mountain. Guests are sent racing through the darkness into an X-wing Starfighter battle accompanied by a new soundtrack, inspired by the Star Wars films’ musical themes and re-orchestrated to match every move in the attraction. In addition to Hyperspace Mountain, guests can enjoy the new Star Tours – The Adventures Continue attraction aboard a Starspeeder 1000; relive stories from the Star Wars saga through the short “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi” film; or participate in the interactive Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple show, which has been reimagined with Darth Vader and the Seventh Sister Inquisitor from the popular Disney XD series “Star Wars Rebels.”
Ghost Town Alive!, Knott’s Berry Farm
Knott’s Berry Farm’s Ghost Town is celebrating its 75th anniversary with the new interactive entertainment experience, Ghost Town Alive!, where from May 27 through Sept. 5, guests play a role in new stories and adventures in the old west town of Calico. Guests can peek into authentic working establishments, such as the Barber Shop and Sheriff’s office, where they can hear local gossip and try their hand at a game of cards. Additionally, the GhostRider rollercoaster will reopened June 11 with newly designed coaster trains that gallop over 4,500 feet of smooth new wooden track. New state-of-the-art Millennium Flyer trains resemble mining cars, each with gold, silver or copper accents. Following a day of fun, families can head over to the legendary Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant which just completed a makeover late this spring. While preserving the traditional menu and authentic fried chicken recipe, the refurbishment provided numerous structural and aesthetic upgrades throughout the restaurant. New outdoor seating lets guests dine al fresco while enjoying a beautiful view of the MarketPlace fountain, the theme park’s Ghost Town and the GhostRider.
LEGOLAND® California Resort’s All-New Land, LEGO® NINJAGO® WORLD
LEGOLAND® California Resort welcomes summer travelers to enjoy the addition of the new LEGO® NINJAGO® WORLD. Guests enter through a giant archway behind Imagination Zone, leading into a courtyard where they will begin “ninja training.” The new land features LEGO® building stations, a game to test reflexes, spinners to test balance, Asian cuisine and a shopping venue. Interactive experiences test guests’ physical skills, balance and agility before they can prep for the ultimate training session: LEGO® NINJAGO® The Ride. The ride features cutting-edge technology that enables guests to control the outcome of their adventure through 3-D imagery, high-tech sensors and the use of hand movements. Up to four riders per car – representing the four main NINJAGO® characters – can blast animated fireballs, lightning, shockwaves and ice as they head into battle.
Inside Scoop: One of the ways to experience some of these attractions and more while saving money is to get a Smart Destinations All-Inclusive Pass for Los Angelesand San Francisco. The pass allows guests to save up to 55 percent on combined admissions to California theme parks.