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Spectacular new virtual worlds are opening up at theme parks across the
planet this summer. Norah Casey explores the best experiences for the year ahead from virtual rollercoasters, to swimming with Nemo, flying in the world of Avatar and racing around New York with Jimmy Fallon.

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Published by Harmonia Norah, 2018-10-30 12:46:15

Fantasy Lands

Spectacular new virtual worlds are opening up at theme parks across the
planet this summer. Norah Casey explores the best experiences for the year ahead from virtual rollercoasters, to swimming with Nemo, flying in the world of Avatar and racing around New York with Jimmy Fallon.

Keywords: Theme Parks; Virtual Worlds; Fantasy Lands



Spectacular new virtual worlds are opening up at theme parks across the
planet this summer. Norah Casey explores the best experiences for 2017
from virtual rollercoasters, to swimming with Nemo, flying in the world of

Avatar and racing around New York with Jimmy Fallon.

W e come from intrepid in public for the first time. In other words, immersive experiences so real that the ride
explorers. Our predecessors it doesn’t have to always involve extreme experience is far superior than that which
ensured the survival of the danger. can be achieved in the world’s biggest
species by courageously twisters, spinners and gravity defying
venturing to unknown lands, facing and It would be an understatement to say I climbs. There are nine new rollercoasters
overcoming extreme danger with stealth, am not one for rollercoasters. My deep- opening this year with virtual reality
seated fear of heights doesn’t diminish the headsets and there are at least 18 which
stamina and determination. more I try to face up to it. I’ve certainly have been upgraded in the past year to
The thrill of abject fear is endured more than my fair share of enhance the experience of the ride through
something I seek out on a rollercoasters and other gravity-defying simulated environments. So rather than
regular basis. It keeps us rides in the interests of travel writing and arms raised, eyes shut and screaming,
brain-fit and makes us after the nausea and jelly legs settle I riders are challenged to pit their skills
feel alive with adrenalin wonder how anyone could describe the against virtual enemies as they face
and dopamine coursing experience as fun. But I have friends of extreme adrenaline surges. For 2017 and
through our veins. My various ages and backgrounds who are beyond, the greatest innovations in the
addicted to the joy of the ride, who seek realm of theme parks are in the area of
version of terror-inducing out the biggest, longest, highest, steepest virtual reality with ambitious new
activity usually involves rivers, mountains rollers. partnerships between big brand movie
or pushing myself to try something new. producers and ride imagineers. The result
The psychological benefits are far more The new generation of theme park rides is pretty spectacular.
rewarding if you can overcome some deep- are great news for people like me.
seated fear. So the high you feel when Increasingly, the gigantic, looping steel Here’s whats new in the world of theme
white water rafting is often the same as the tracks of the rollercoaster structure are parks for 2017.
high some feel after successfully speaking being replaced by simulation and virtual

PANDORA – THE WORLD OF Pandora – The world of Avatar NEMO & FRIENDS SEARIDER @
KINGDOM, ORLANDO LEGO NINJAGO THE RIDE @ The SeaRider (just opened) relies
Fans of James Cameron’s blockbuster LEGOLAND WINDSOR, LONDON on the imagination of little
movie will love this theme park which uses The timeless appeal of Lego is matched people to believe they are on
technological wizardry to recreate magical with clever sensor technology to make this board a submarine that can
experiences from the movie. Widely as much fun for adults as it is for the kids. safely be shrunk to the size
anticipated, Pandora – The World of Your challenge is to beat the Great of Nemo and Dory, giving
Avatar finally opened on May 27 at Devourer by throwing virtual fireballs, them a fish eye view of their
Disney’s Animal Kingdom park in lighting strikes, shockwaves and ice. favourite characters as they
Orlando. The queues are monumental. The Ninja-style hand chops are picked up by swim alongside them. The
highlight is the Avatar Flight of Passage, a motion sensors in the lap bars allowing for adventure opens up the colourful world of
3D ride that soars above the fictional moon an immersive game experience. Prior to marine life meeting Marlin, Hank the
on the back of a mountain banshee. In the going, you and the kids can get training for octopus and Destiny the whale shark. The
movie the ability to bond and successful fly your Ninja status with some online huge success of Finding Nemo and Finding
on the back of these huge winged creatures training tips. This ride opened in Legoland Dory (the top grossing film of 2016) will
was a right of passage for the Na’vi. The Florida in January, is now also in make this a big hit with children. Tickets
model banshee in this immersive simulator California and just arrived in May at from circa €60.
ride moves and breathes beneath you as Legoland Windsor. Tickets from €35 per
you fly through the make-believe world. person. The science

As well as a bird’s eye view of the Legoland Ninjago Theme park ride imagineers and
wondrous beauty of the floating mountains The Ride engineers come up with ever more
of Pandora, the Na’vi River Journey is ingenious ways to recreate the classic
designed for the smaller members of the FERRARI LAND ROLLERCOASTER rollercoaster sensations using G-forces
family. The journey features a gentle glide @ PORTAVENTURA WORLD, to push and pummel the body into
on a reed boat through the bioluminescent SPAIN believing it’s extremely heavy one
rainforest (glowing plants) in the Valley of The highest, fastest rollercoaster in Europe moment and light as air the next. The less
Mo’ara in search of the Na’vi Shaman of will catapult you from 0 to 180 kilometres strapped in the better which is why newer
Songs. Of course you can also dine and an hour in just five seconds, experiencing a rides are designed with arms and legs
shop amid the glowing plants, drum circle, G-force of 1.3., and it just opened at dangling freely. Meanwhile, the heart is
totems and various sounds of Avatar. PortAventura, south of Barcelona. Ferrari pumping overtime, the body is jerked in
Prices from €97 adult/€91 child. Expect Land also has a terrifying 55-metre-high all directions during sudden turns and the
long queues. freefall tower and other souped up head and neck subjected to whiplash.
adrenalin rush rides designed to make you
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY – feel like a formula one driver. Tickets from Unexpected swerves and twists
MISSION: BREAKOUT! @ €60. pummel the body, pushing the blood flow
DISNEYLAND CALIFORNIA from and to the brain with internal
This new Marvel Disney collaboration, turbulence, causing organs to float freely,
featuring six different ride experiences, while the prospect of extreme danger
opened at the end of May. The ride begins leads to involuntary high pitched screams
with a steep, rapid ascent in the Tower of giving the vocal chords an extreme
Terror to help free the trapped Guardians workout. Aficionados proudly tell of the
but the plan goes terribly wrong as the time they lost their voice and their lunch,
Collector’s Fortress power generator blows seeing spots before their eyes and feeling
and riders plummet at speed. The pre-ride the power of the G-force as they rode
queue through the Collector’s museum upside down and sideways.
features amazing props and artefacts
making the wait worth it. disneyland.

Guardians of the Galaxy –
Mission: Breakout!


World’s Top 20 JOKER FREE FLY COASTER @ flips. The Lech is 40 metres high and
Theme Parks reaches a maximum speed of 95 kilometres
SIX FLAGS GREAT AMERICA, per hour along a kilometre of track.
1 Disney’s Magic Kingdom (Florida) Tickets are around €12. CHICAGO
Rollercoaster fans have been eagerly JUSTICE LEAGUE: BATTLE FOR
2 Tokyo Disneyland awaiting the unveiling of the much hyped METROPOLIS @ SIX FLAGS, USA massive 4-D Joker Free Fly Coaster. I can’t AND MEXICO
imagine anything more terrifying but for A step up on the rides which opened at
3 Disneyland Park (California) adrenalin junkies this twister is top of the four Six Flags parks in the USA and bucket list. Riders face an upward, Mexico in recent times. It will see a new
12-story, 90-degree climb with the unique Harley Quinn character and other added
4 Tokyo DisneySea design flipping them head over heels extras, including 3-D Spider Man and through sudden drops, twists and loops as Transformer rides and animatronics, at
their hands and legs dangle freely in the Magic Mountain this year.
5 Universal Studios Japan wing vehicles, giving the feeling of no track above or below. Six Flags proudly
boasts that the ride is aptly named for the
6 Epcot (Florida) greatest super-villain’s warped and unpredictable nature. The Joker opened
last month and is an ‘insanely twisted
7 Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Florida) chaos coaster’ with two beyond 90 degree drops that feel like free-falling. Six Flags
has 17 theme parks across the USA and
8 Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Florida) globally has extended to Canada, Mexico, Dubai and China. Tickets from $52.

10 Disney California Adventure AMUSEMENT PARK, POLAND JIMMY FALLON @ UNIVERSAL This is set to be the largest rollercoaster in
Central and Eastern Europe when it opens STUDIOS, FLORIDA
11 Universal Studios Florida in July with water, lights, speed and four Be the star of your very own Tonight Show inversions (upside down bits) during the in a wild, action packed race around the
fast and furious ride which is themed Big Apple up against the funny man host
12 Islands of Adventure (Florida) around Poland’s 6th Century ruler and the himself at Universal Studios Florida. city of Stematyzowana. At this stage you
can only experience the ride simulation
13 Ocean Park (Hong Kong) which was enough to give me a few tummy

14 Lotte World (South Korea)

15 Hong Kong Disneyland

16 Everland (South Korea)

17 Universal Studios Hollywood

18 Songcheng Park (China)

19 Nagashima Spa Land (Japan)

20 Chime-Long Ocean Kingdom (China)

visitors, this far-too-real interactive
experience based on the AMC show will
shake the cobwebs off. Scary stuff for those
brave enough to face the apocalypse. Based
at Fremont Street Experience Las Vegas.

Phases of
Rollercoaster Emotion
Opening this summer, this spectacular ride Imagine hang-gliding above the Golden 1 IN ADVANCE: Just thinking about it
through Universal’s new Volcano Bay Gate bridge and other San Fran sights gives the initial high; the excitement
waterpark will speed through the 200-foot and you have the essence of this new of imagining what it might be like while
volcano. Universal says, “It will be an thrilling 3-D virtual ride at Pier 39 San poring over the online description of
innovative experience filled with incredible Francisco opening this autumn. theflyer- the various ups, downs, loops and twists.
thrills and perfected relaxation. Krakatau
Aqua Coaster is set to be the star 2 IMMEDIATELY PRIOR: I was with
experience at Universal’s Volcano Bay someone once who was jumping
when it opens.” up and down in anticipation as soon as
we entered Universal in Orlando. The
SUBMARINE QUEST @ SEAWORLD THE HAUNTED MINE DROP jumping reached fever pitch when we
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA Instead of being dropped from a height this finally arrived at the (appropriately
Virtual and real marine life feature at the ride starts at ground level and plummets titled) Dragon Challenge which
new Ocean Explorer land at SeaWorld San you into a shaft deep underground. The promised several inversions, including a
Diego with Submarine Quest designed for freefall drop features ghostly miners Zero-G roll, a cobra roll, two corkscrews
younger children to enjoy a simulated sea and other scary things. Before the ride, and two vertical loops!
life environment without venturing in to you take a gondola up to the Glenwood
the water. Caverns Adventure Park on top of a 3 COMMITTED: This normally sane
mountain in Colorado (Glenwoodcaverns. woman resorted to spontaneous
FEAR THE WALKING DEAD @ com). Alternatively, you could try Drop screeches and arm hugging as we got
FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE, Line at Dollywood Tennessee (Dollywood. closer to the front and reached the
LAS VEGAS com) which takes you up 230 feet before point in the long queue that declared
While the non-stop blackjack and slots the drop and the Hershey Triple Towers in unhelpfully that there was no turning
make zombies out of many Las Vegas Hersheypark Pennsylvania (Hersheypark. back.
com) which offers three thrill levels of 80ft,
131ft and 189ft before the big drop. 4 THE EXPERIENCE: The all-
important part of being strapped in
and the initial take off for the ride itself
– actually experiencing it in full-blown
screaming terror.

the high fives and post-ride
afterglow. By all accounts all of these
elements have to be present to truly
enjoy the whole experience.


Trekkies are going to love this new ride which is the first
licensed Star Trek rollercoaster in Europe. Riders have to think
fast while hurtling through deep space as Starfleet cadets
despatched on a bold rescue mission to free the USS Enterprise
from the evil Borg. The crew will only be saved if you can stay
focused during the intense adrenalin surges. The Star Trek
theme and simulation gives this coaster the edge and with a 40
metre elevation and a unique triple launch design, the warp
speed effect is enhanced when the coaster is launched at high
speed not just once but three times. It was due to open in spring
2017 but at the time of going to press there was no update on
the launch date. Tickets from €31.


Star Wars Land , Florida IMG WORLDS OF ADVENTURE

The recently opened IMG Worlds is
STAR WARS LAND Dubai’s first super-themed resort with four
Brand new, themed areas at Disneyland park in California and Disney’s Hollywood ‘epic zones’ featuring household names
Studios in Florida are scheduled to open in 2019 and already the sneak peek concept from Marvel superheroes and Cartoon
drawings are creating quite a stir. This is a joint collaboration for Disney and Lucasfilm. network along with brand new concepts
Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Iger described the lands as being, “occupied by many created by IMG. The entertainment resort
inhabitants; humanoids, aliens and droids…the attractions, the entertainment, everything is the world’s largest temperature
we create will be part of our storytelling. Nothing will be out of character or stray from the controlled indoor themed entertainment
mythology.” The intention is to make visitors feel they have walked into a Star Wars movie destination covering 1.5 million square feet
mingling with Han Solo and other familiar characters with a full on visual, auditory and or 28 football fields. Thor, Captain
sensory experience like no other. Details at America and Iron Man’s alter ego Tony
Stark all share space in the The Marvel
Zone. The 100-seater 3-D Hulk Epsilon
ride is one of the star attractions along
with a 400 metre Spider-Man rollercoaster.
LazyTown and The Powerpuff Girls
feature in the Cartoon Network zone with
the world’s first Ben 10 5D cinema with a
capacity of 1,200 visitors an hour.

Closer to home a new entertainment resort,
dubbed ‘Britain’s Disneyland’ is being built TRUTH @ SIX FLAGS DISCOVERY ABU DHABI
south of London on the Swanscombe Six immersive worlds including the dark
Peninsula in Kent and is set to open in KINGDOM, CALIFORNIA alleyways of Batman’s Gotham City and
2022. This joint venture between Wonder Woman Lasso of Truth is set to the skyscrapers of Superman’s Metropolis
Paramount, the BBC and Aardman open in November 2017. Only for true will feature in the $1billion Warner Bros
Animations will feature rides, wonder women the ride takes you 147 feet theme park set to open at Yas Island Abu
rollercoasters, themed areas based on high while spinning and going back and Dhabi in 2018. The resort will also
classic BBC shows and Paramount movies, forth at 70 miles per hour. For those with showcase Looney Tunes and Hanna-
all the usual carnival parades, theatre the stomachs for it the views over East Bay Barbera brands with Bugs Bunny and
shows and a 5,000 room hotel. London from its base at Six Flags America Scooby Doo featuring at Cartoon Junction.
Paramount recently released concept ( are spectacular, according The Flintstones along with dinosaurs and
images for the resort and further details to the promoters. Other spinning rides prehistoric birds will populate Bedrock.
will be posted at include North Star which is opening at Further details at
Valleyfair ( and Star
Flyer at Elitch Gardens in Denver

How Safe?

You’re twice as likely to be attacked by a shark than be injured on a theme park ride. The odds
of needing hospitalisation from injury are 1 in 24 million. Fatally injured, 1 in 750 million.
Being attacked by a shark is 1 in 11.5 million. Even though catastrophes at theme parks are
given a high profile, accidents are rare. Like airplane disasters I think we may remember them
more clearly because it is exactly what we fear the most during one of those gravity defying
rides; the car spinning from its hinges and hurtling to the ground or the rollercoaster
stopping at the exact moment we are turned upside down. Some rollercoasters do that
for fun.

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