The biggest news in the theme park world this summer is the June 18 opening of the long-anticipated Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando in Florida.
But plenty of other new attractions await theme-park fans elsewhere, including a unique water-and-lights spectacle called World of Color, opening Friday at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and the reopening of the King Kong attraction at Universal Hollywood in Los Angeles.
Other highlights this season include Shoot the Rapids, a 2,100-foot-long water ride at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, with an 85-foot drop that simulates whitewater rapids, which opened May 29; and a couple of roller coasters named Intimidator, inspired by NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt’s nickname. One Intimidator opened in March at the Carowinds park on the North Carolina/South Carolina border, standing 23 stories high and reaching speeds of 75 mph. The other opened in April at Kings Dominion park in Doswell, Va., with speeds of over 90 mph and a height of 305 feet.
Universal’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter was created with input from author J.K. Rowling and set designers from the Harry Potter movies. The level of detail is impressive, with butter beer served at Three Broomsticks Inn restaurant, magic wands for sale at Ollivander’s shop and puffs of steam rising from the Hogwarts Express train.
The marquee ride at Wizarding World, called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, is located in a castle housing Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Even the line to reach the ride is designed to be entertaining: Visitors walk through the castle dungeon, a gallery filled with magical talking portraits, headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s office, a Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom, and the Gryffindor House common room, where a Quidditch match takes place. The ride is a magical flight with Harry and friends.
Two other roller coasters, Flight of the Hippogriff and Dragon Challenge, are located