Theme Park Insider

Let's look at the contenders for this year's Best New Attraction award

June 27, 2016, 11:21 AM · We are one week away from the 15th annual Theme Park Insider Awards. Among the honors we will be awarding next Monday will be Theme Park Insider Awards for the best new attractions of the year. Your ratings will determine the winners, so let's take a look at where the contenders stand, with TPI ratings as of this posting, followed by my analysis.

Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters, Disney California Adventure - 8

This replacement for the world's largest air hockey table (aka Luigi's Flying Tires) is Disney's first use of its next-gen trackless ride system in the United States, but wait times have plunged from its opening as fans recognize this a cute ride more like Mater's Junkyard Jamboree than the second coming of Radiator Springs Racers.

Jurassic Park The Flying Dinosaur, Universal Studios Japan - 9

USJ's B&M Flyer is... well, it's a B&M Flyer. That means an exhilarating ride that keeps fans coming back for more.

The New Revolution, Six Flags Magic Mountain - 9

We're torn on this one, frankly. We've long had a "no clones" rule for the Best New Attraction award (that's why Universal Studios Hollywood's Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey isn't listed), and we've never considered refurbs as new attractions, either. But the addition of virtual reality really does transform this into a different experience, so we're going to declare this and other new VR coasters eligible... unless someone talks us out of it.

Ninjago - The Ride, Legoland California - 8

If you skipped arm day at the gym you can make up for it on Legoland's first of its kind "weaponless" interactive ride. With relatively low attendance, Legoland attractions typically struggle to make the minimum vote threshold for our awards.

Valravn, Cedar Point - 8

B&M's biggest, tallest, fastest, longest, meanest, sexiest, messiest, adjective-ist dive coaster. Have we missed any of the other superlatives that Cedar Point's marketing crew has throw at this thing?

Frozen – Live at the Hyperion, Disney California Adventure - 9

Disney plussed the heck out of the Hyperion Theater to support Aladdin's replacement, which relies on visual effects and ambitious staging to try to make fans stop pining for the Genie's ever-changing pop culture gags. If you've priced Broadway tickets, you'll understand what an amazing bargain it is to get this hour-long show as part of even a Disney-high-season one-day theme park ticket.

Mako, SeaWorld Orlando - 9

Another Bolliger & Mabillard coaster that's winning high ratings from Theme Park Insider readers. This time, it's a 200-foot hyper — the tallest and fastest coaster in Orlando to date.

Lightning Rod, Dollywood - 8

The world's first launched wooden coaster got off to a rough start, with a delayed opening then a RMC parts recall that closed the coaster after it finally opened. But those who have gotten on have praised its swift, wild ride.

Pirates of the Caribbean Battle of the Sunken Treasure, Shanghai Disneyland - 9

The early favorite to win this thing, Disney's next-gen Pirates ride is amazing fans with its deft mix of screen, animatronics and project mapping to bring guests into the world of the Johnny Depp films. Whether you've seen it in person or only on YouTube, this new Pirates seems to be the ride people want to talk about this year.

TRON Lightcycle Power Run, Shanghai Disneyland - 9

Disney's first full attraction based on TRON set social media afire when the first POV video hit the Internet, though it's now lost some of its buzz to Pirates.

Roaring Rapids, Shanghai Disneyland - 7

Shanghai's third highly-anticipated new attraction has generated nearly the buzz as Pirates and TRON did.

Soarin' Around the World, Epcot - 8
Soarin' Around the World, Disney California Adventure - 8
Soarin' Over the Horizon, Shanghai Disneyland - 7

Fans initially raved about Disney expanding its popular hang-glider travelogue beyond California, but, recently, a backlash is developing over the new Soarin's reliance on CGI over live videography in some of its scenes.

Cobra's Curse, Busch Gardens Tampa - 7

This Mack spinning coaster opened late but to generally solid — though not exactly award-winning — reviews.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, Disney's Hollywood Studios - 7

Disney's new nighttime spectacular for Hollywood Studios wows fans close enough to get a clear view of the projection mappings, though its bouncing back and forth across the seven films denies it any clear narrative that could amplify its emotional punch.

Frozen Ever After, Epcot - 8

Pluses: Perhaps Disney's best use to date of face projection on animatronics to date. The characters are visually stunning and completely convincing. The ride also focuses where it should — on Frozen's amazing song score. Cons: Mediocre capacity (900 per hour, we've heard), and hit-or-miss uptime has led to ridiculous wait times. There's also not much scenery behind the characters in the ride to reward repeat visitors with additional visual detail. Not that it matters, because with these waits, it's gonna be a long time before many people come around to ride again.

Skull Island Reign of Kong, Universal's Islands of Adventure - 9

Perhaps the most divisive of the new attractions, Kong isn't officially open yet, so if it doesn't get into regular operation by June 30, it won't be eligible for this year's awards. We first leaked the plans for Kong two years ago, so the fact that this was a plussed-version of Universal Studios Hollywood's 360:3D Kong encounter, followed by a scene with a massive animatronic Kong, shouldn't have surprised any Theme Park Insider readers. However, some other sources online insisted that this Kong would deliver much more, including multiple animatronic scenes with live actors. Perhaps they confused what Universal planned for the Kong queue with the ride itself. No matter. Fans who get on Kong and judge it for what it is, instead of against the online hype, seem to be coming away wildly impressed by this trip, though the level of enthusiasm for the ride seems to be dependent upon just how lively the Kong animatronic was on their ride.

If you've been on any of these attractions, please follow the links above to submit your rating. You don't need to be registered with the site, but if you are, you can leave a short review, too.

We will honor the top-rated attraction receiving a minimum number of ratings with the Best New Attraction award. Then, depending upon what type of attraction the overall winner is, we also will honor the best new coaster, show, dark ride and/or family attraction, as well. Please follow us on Twitter and on Facebook to get first notice of when we post the award winners on July 4.

Replies (12)

June 27, 2016 at 12:24 PM · Aren't the VR coasters currently only available for a limited time? I wouldn't include them if that remains the case.

I've only been on Cobra's Curse and liked it, but it wasn't special enough to be the best new ride of the year. I'd vote for Pirates, but since I won't be going to Shanghai any time soon, I'll have to abstain.

June 27, 2016 at 4:41 PM · So the virtual reality coasters were better than I thought, but based on Six Flags' version, they have a long, long way to go. It takes an incredible amount of time to load the ride, the operators were beyond frustrated, and most stopped functioning. It was fun and will be interesting to see Disney and Universal perfect it. Rode last year's winner again, and I just can't see how Justice League won anything. It is a cheap Transformers or Spider-Man with some Toy Story thrown in. It is small, short, and has very poor projection. And that is when it works. I have high hopes for Kong, and Disney really needs a fifth gate in Orlando to bring some of these great attractions a little closer and to somehow cut down their excruciating wait times in Orlando.
June 27, 2016 at 4:49 PM · No love for The Monster, Adventureland's newest rollercoaster? I'll let you know how it is sometime later this summer when I head up to Altoona, IA, for a day....

The only attraction on this list I will visit this year is Valravn, so by default it will likely get my vote. However, just based on videos I would say either the Tron coaster or Pirates darkride at Shanghai Disneyland are the best of the bunch, with Mako definitely being in the running for the top new coaster of 2016.

June 27, 2016 at 4:54 PM · I would vote for Tron or Pirates. Good use of each technologies.

I absolutely dislike what they did to Malestrom.

June 27, 2016 at 5:14 PM · Agreed. I miss Maelstrom. Other than the queue and the very beginning of the ride I find the new Frozen ride to be very cheap.
June 27, 2016 at 5:52 PM · For those of us how don't know, it might be helpful to define your scale. I'm assuming the numbers above are on a 1-10 scale. Also, are these ratings from people who have actually been on these attractions or can anyone on the internet vote?
June 27, 2016 at 8:46 PM · What about Taron @ Phantasialand or even The Joker @ Six Flags Discovery Kingdom? Surely these two would warrant a place above a Frozen show, VR add-on to an existing coaster?
June 27, 2016 at 9:10 PM · Haven't done Revolution but La New Révelution is great at La Ronde!
June 27, 2016 at 10:29 PM · I won't be voting, because the only new attraction I've actually experienced is the VR coaster at La Ronde (which was a very cool experience, by the way). But judging from the Youtube videos, it's no contest: Pirates blows away any other new ride this year. Definitely a home run for Disney; I just wish they had built it in the U.S. instead.
June 28, 2016 at 3:14 PM · Having ridden New Revolution at SFMM several times both with and without VR, I think it is only fair to count it if you have separate scores for the two options. Wearing the VR headset makes it a radically different ride and it is unfair to include these attractions if both experiences are combined as it could inflate or deflate the rating. Therefore, if you can separate out all the votes on VR coasters since the VR premiered from any that were cast prior, I would keep those in consideration, but otherwise I would recommend not including VR attractions.

Additionally, I would argue that if VR coasters are included and attractions like Soarin' Around the World are included, Hyperspace Mountain should qualify as well. While originally sold as a seasonal overlay, Hyperspace Mountain has clearly evolved into a semi-permanent version of Space Mountain that is almost as different as the two versions of Soarin' are from each other. Again, this would probably require separating out any vote cast since November and only considering those to get an average, which may or may not be possible to do.

As for which should win, Luigi's and New Revolution are the only ones I've actually experienced, but based on videos the Shanghai Pirates seems like the clear dark ride winner and Tron, Lightning Rod, Flying Dinosaur, or Valravn are what I'd consider best coaster candidates (Mako looks great as well, but it doesn't look any different from the other hypers).

June 29, 2016 at 9:04 PM · Having ridden both Tron and Pirates, I can unequivocally say that Pirates is FAR superior. Not even close.
June 30, 2016 at 9:01 AM · I rode Galactica at Alton Towers three times over the weekend. This is a VR revamp of their original Air flying coaster. The addition of VR is a great improvement to the coaster. Air always had two loading stations, so the addition of VR headsets doesn't appear to have significantly impacted the load times. You start on the lift hill apparently flying through a space port a little like the start of the old star tours. Then you jump through a worm hole (the first drop) make sweeping dives and close misses to around a number of asteroids before jumping through another two worm holes for brief flying visits over two different planets (one all fire and lava and the other icebergs and frozen ice fields).

The strangest thing was watching people on the ride from the queue. There was no screaming, everyone on the ride was silent. The VR synchronisation to the ride movement is so accurate that everyone is completely engrossed in the VR environment which simply feels as though you are flying through the universe, Amazing

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