Vote of the week: Can 2013 top 2012 for theme parks?

August 16, 2012, 8:50 PM · My kids are getting ready to go back to school next week - we just took our high-school daughter to pick up her textbooks today. So as the beginning of a new school year approaches, another theme park season comes to a close.

Of course, the big parks in Orlando and Southern California will remain open (and crowded), and we'll keep covering them. But for them many theme park fans, whose attention turns away from parks for the next few weeks and months, this is a good time to take a look back at the past summer, while maybe beginning to think ahead to the next year.

Mickey Mouse on Buena Vista Street
Mickey Mouse welcomes us to the new Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure.

We had some huge debuts in 2012. In fact, this year saw two of the biggest ever - Cars Land, with its highlight, Radiator Springs Racers, at Disney California Adventure, and Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Studios Hollywood. Those attractions wowed so many fans this year that great new rides such as Leviathan at Canada's Wonderland and the new Manta at SeaWorld San Diego didn't get nearly the attention they would have in a "normal" year.

But as good as this year was, more's coming next year, too - as it always does. Perhaps by the end of 2013, we'll see a Transformers in Orlando at Universal Studios Florida. Silver Dollar City in Missouri is building what might be the world's most ambitious wooden roller coaster, Outlaw Run, which will feature 81-degree first drop, a 68-mph top speed and a double barrel roll inversion.

Cedar Point's finally getting a new coaster. The expansion at Hong Kong Disneyland will be complete. And SeaWorld Orlando will debut its massive new Antarctica pavilion, with what's promised to be an innovative major new dark ride, along with an up-close walk-through a penguin habitat.

So, what do you think? Will 2013 top 2012? Or was this summer a classic that next year won't be able to match?

Let's put it up for a vote.

What are your theme park vacation plans for the next 12-16 months? Will you be visiting parks more often, or less, than you have in the past year? Why? Tell us in the comments.

Replies (25)

August 16, 2012 at 10:12 PM · 2012 was a pretty stellar year for theme parks, amusement parks, and coaster fans everywhere. Perhaps one in a million.

Some old coasters such as Apocalypse, Goliath, and Stinger found new life at new homes.

A couple coasters (Mr. Freeze, Superman) reversed their course to offer brand new thrills in an old package.

Some very significant new coasters were brought online:

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars - HK Disneyland
Dauling Dragon - Happy Valley
Iron Shark - Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier
Leviathan - Canada's Wonderland
Manta - SeaWorld San Diego
OzIris - Parc Astérix
Shambhala - PortAventura Park
Skyrush - Hersheypark
Superman Ultimate Flight - Six Flags Discovery Kingdom
Swarm - Thorpe Park
Verbolten - Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Wild Eagle - Dollywood
Wodan Timbur Coaster - Europa Park
X-Flight - Six Flags Great America

Add to that impressive collection of new coasters attractions like Transformers, Turtle Trek, Despicable Me, the Lex Luthor Drop Tower, and a large part of the New Fantasyland expansion (everything except the Seven Dwarves Coaster should be open by Christmas), and 2012 is already a banner year.

But the undeniable icing on the cake is the hugely successful relaunch/rebirth of Disney California Adventure. Five years and over $1B worth of work transformed a lackluster, half-day park, into one of the most amazing and popular vacation destinations on the planet. Throw in the year’s most celebrated new attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, and you have one absolutely remarkable year.

2012 (rumored by many to be the last year of life on this planet as we currently know it - hee hee) is quite possibly the best year for new attractions in theme park history.

Admittedly 2013 will take a step back (how can it not???), but locally (and selfishly) I am very much looking forward to Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City. It is going to be a terrific addition to a great theme park.

Incidentally, 2014 (HP Part Deux, Seven Dwarves Coaster) and 2015 (Avatar) don’t look too shabby either...

August 17, 2012 at 1:04 AM · Outlaw Run and Mystic Manor look to be the big news for next year, and I have high hopes for them, but I don't think that Mystic Point will be be nearly as immersive an area as Cars Land, and Outlaw Run is a real unknown quantity due to the failure in the past of the equally ambitious woodie Son of Beast. That said, I voted for 2012 being the banner year for amusement parks, but I do think that 2013 could be a VERY close second...
August 17, 2012 at 1:30 AM · 2012 was (and still is) the year i decided that the Disney park for me is Disneyland and my florida destination will be UOR.

The CA remodel looks and sounds amazing.

Over here in the UK we had a big ride - Swarm at Thorpe Park and some little rides at Alton Towers and Paulton park, Lego land and Chessington did some minor paint ups and theming changes, Blackpool Pleasure beach opened Nickelodeon land while not at the level of Cars land a reasonable effort none the less and London held a biggish sporting event :-}

Next year in the UK should be a big one Alton Towers our premier theme park is opening what it calls a Secret Weapon these are normally massive coasters with World Firsts ,the previous one Thirteen was the worlds first drop as seen in verboulton it was ok but WAY over hyped. This one is a pure coaster with some unknown elements but the track looks mind-blowing.

2013 if rumours are true i think will be a quieter year than 2012 a few big ones coming out i think the year will be bigger for announcements.

WWOHP 2.0 ?? - Marvel Land (somewhere) ?? - Avatar land details ?? and who knows what else.

August 17, 2012 at 5:02 AM · It's been a great year, but I don't think we'll know if 2013 will be better until the parks announce more of what they're doing for next year.

Universal's moving at a break-neck pace, so I suspect we'll get more than just Transformers in 2013. Hopefully something in Islands of Adventure.

August 17, 2012 at 5:30 AM · In hitting Six Flags great America on the last day of operations daily operations so trio report to come.
August 17, 2012 at 7:10 AM · I don't think so. This year has a great lineup at many parks worldwide, while 2013 really doesn't.
August 17, 2012 at 9:30 AM · @James, don't hold your breath on Avatar opening in 2015.

Anyway, 2012 is terrific. It really is. 2013 will be really good though, too:

-Mystic Point
-Transformers USF
-FFL replacement for USF (rumored)
-Test Track 2.0
-Outlaw Run

Great lineup, but the heavy hitter with domestic implications is a clone of something that opened in Cali this year.

So I'm going no. It won't top 2012.

No...2014 on the other hand...well...that's going to be fun.

August 17, 2012 at 9:32 AM · Oh man! I forgot Antarctica in my list! DUH!
August 17, 2012 at 10:07 AM · 28 days to go and il be in orlando for 2 weeks :)
August 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM · Sean, Test Track opens this year and Pandora will be open by the end of 2015.
August 17, 2012 at 11:35 AM · For the destination parks, I think 2013 will be a fairly dull year. As far as I'm aware, the only major attraction in Orlando next year will be Transformers, which is a cloned ride and not an original one. For Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, I don't believe there are going to be any new attractions next year (unless Terminator gets replaced 2013 instead of 2014).

For regional parks, however, 2013 is going to be an excellent year. Cedar Fair is getting at least two major coasters (GateKeeper at Cedar Point and the new GCI at California's Great America), plus a possible third at Knott's Berry Farm, and Kings Dominion is teasing some kind of record breaker. This is already better than 2012, which included Leviathan, a couple Windseekers and a bunch of Dinosaurs Alive attractions. For Six Flags, Magic Mountain is likely to build the longest coaster on the west coast, featuring multiple launches, the world's tallest inversion, and a terrain hugging layout all over the park (note: details not confirmed, but heavily speculated). Additionally, Six Flags New England will be building a Sky Screamer at least 385 ft tall, making it the tallest swing ride in the world. With Six Flag's corporate idea of every park getting something new each year, we're sure to see more Sky Screamers and relocated coasters, but the SFMM and SFNE projects already top anything in 2012. Add in miscellaneous other rides such as Outlaw Run, and 2013 is looking like an excellent year for the non-destination parks.

August 17, 2012 at 2:09 PM · 2012 was huge especially for SoCal. I visit the Disneyland Resort, USH, and Sea World SD often and this year alone three of those four parks debuted their best attraction yet.

Manta was awesome and my new favorite attraction at Sea World. Transformers at USH is my new favorite ride in the country and Radiator Springs Racers is my favorite ride at DCA for sure and maybe even that of every Disney park in the U.S. Those three rides are wonderful and thats not taking into account Despicable Me at USF and Turtle Trek at SWO.

In terms of the big 3(Universal,Disney, Sea World) we are just getting Antartica(which looks wonderful) at SWO in 2013.

August 17, 2012 at 6:35 PM · I think 2012 was a great transformation for SoCal. Adding Transformers to Orlando is just an expansion from Hollywood (Been There, Done That). Went to CA last month and Cars Land is so amazingly themed, you think YOU are a cartoon.

I'm patiently waiting for 2014 for "Land" expansions as I am a big fan of themed rides.

As for Knott's, I didn't ride it because the line was too long for the length of the ride and the weather wasn't beastly hot.
Knott's needs to add a longer ride like "Ghost Rider" so the patron thinks they are waiting an appropriate amount of time for an appropriately long ride.

August 18, 2012 at 7:16 AM · Granted, there's no way 2013 will top 2012, but AJ, how can you write, "miscellaneous other rides such as Outlaw Run?" Miscellaneous other rides?!? Miscellaneous other rides?!? Outlaw Run is likely the most significant coaster addition happening next year! Climb on the bandwagon and get ready to ride!!!

Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City - coming along nicely! on Twitpic Outlaw Run is beyond awesome!  on Twitpic Outlaw Run 153 degree roll... inversions, baby! on Twitpic

August 18, 2012 at 3:07 PM · ^I can because Silver Dollar City is not a Six Flags or Cedar Fair park. While I do think Outlaw Run looks like a very unique and interesting ride, I have a feeling it will not be the best new ride of 2013. To me, it looks like a slightly above average wooden coaster with an 81 degree drop and three inversions thrown in. Remove those, and I doubt most enthusiasts would care too much about it. Of course, I look forward to riding it one day when I get the chance to visit Silver Dollar City, and I don't doubt that this will be a good ride, but I don't expect Outlaw Run to be a top ten wooden coaster (although I could be completely wrong). It does, however, win the WTF award of 2013, and I'm really interested to see which of the two Rocky Mountain Coasters (Outlaw Run or the new version of SFFT's Rattler) gets better reception.
August 18, 2012 at 3:36 PM · If Seven Dwarfs Mone Train opens next year, that will probably be the best new attraction of 2013.
August 18, 2012 at 7:52 PM · AJ, if you remove the best elements of any coaster it will be a diminished experience, so I am not sure I get your point. And based on what I am hearing about the Rattler, its changes won't even be as good as the Texas Giant let alone Outlaw Run!

FYI - SDC's 2 million visitors a year puts it above the attendance of most Six Flags or Cedar Fair parks. It is truly a vacation destination.

August 18, 2012 at 6:34 PM · "Seven Dwarfs Mone Train"

Dom wins Typo Of The Week! That has a little bit of a sexiness to it, although "moan" is spelled wrong.. ;)

August 19, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Dom, Test Track won't be open this year, and Avatar won't open in 2015. You can take that to the bank.
August 19, 2012 at 1:58 PM · Disney has already announced Test Track will be back for the Christmas Season. Has there been a delay?

As for Avatar, who knows? We might see parts of Pandora open by 2015. Only Joe Rohde knows...

August 19, 2012 at 3:40 PM · From what I understand, there has been a delay on Test Track, but a positive one. More stuff will be done to the ride than originally thought. Don't expect it until Spring, if what I've been told is true.

Avatar is still in blue sky mode. They don't know what they're building yet. 2015 is a huge stretch for them to get it open. It'll be at least a 3 year project whenever it starts.

August 19, 2012 at 4:09 PM · Sounds all good to me! Take the time to do it right!
August 19, 2012 at 8:44 PM · Test Track is on schedule right now. A couples months ago it was behind schedule.
August 20, 2012 at 6:27 AM · You're right. It's on schedule. The new schedule.

Things have changed.

August 20, 2012 at 1:10 PM · I don't think anything could top Carsland until The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opens in a few years.

Then there's much activity in Orlando with the New Fantasyland, AvatarLand, and Harry Potter Phase 2.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Buy Tickets

Plan a Trip

Get News, Discounts