The Top 10 Most Anticipated Theme Park Openings in 2016

December 31, 2015, 12:31 PM · As 2015 ends, let's look ahead to 2016 with a list of the 10 things we are looking forward to most at the world's theme parks in the new year.

In California

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood — As a resident of the Los Angeles area, I've been waiting for years for the opportunity to wander the streets of Hogsmeade without having to get on a plane first. That's why my top new year's resolution is to start running more often, to preemptively work off all the extra Butterbeer I will be drinking after the new land opens officially on April 7.

The new Frozen musical at Disney California Adventure — Yes, I will miss the Aladdin show, which closes on Jan. 10 to make room for this new production. But Disney's established an enviable record of transforming its animated hits into captivating stage musicals that fans want to see again and again — just as it did with Aladdin. If anyone took bets on this sort of thing, I'd wager that the Frozen musical will turn out to be a more entertaining way to spend time with the beloved characters of Frozen than the Maelstrom overlay that Walt Disney World is getting.

Ninjago - The Ride at Legoland California — It's a shooter ride where your hands are the weapons. Just wave your hands and blast the baddies in front of you. How cool is that?

A refurbished Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner restaurant — The restaurant that can make a claim on launching the American theme park industry deserves better than the condition into which it had fallen in recent years. Fortunately, Knott's and Cedar Fair management agree, and they are investing to return Mrs. Knott's restaurant into the world-class experience that it deserves to be. Plus, we're hoping that this launches this Great Fried Chicken War of 2016 with Disneyland's Plaza Inn.

In Florida

Rivers of Light

Rivers of Light at Disney's Animal Kingdom — World of Color (the original version, at least), Disneyland Forever, and Paint the Night have shown Disneyland fans that Disney still can bring it better than anyone in developing night-time spectaculars. Here's hoping that Disney matches — or exceeds — its recent Disneyland Resort efforts on the much larger canvas of Disney's Animal Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal's Islands of Adventure — We were fans of the King Kong 360/3D encounter when it opened in 2010 on the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Universal Orlando's version promises to "plus" the Hollywood experience in every way, with the addition of custom ride vehicles, immersive decoration, and jaw-dropping animatronics.

Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando — Universal Orlando's on-site hotels provide the best value for the money in the entire theme park industry. The Cabana Bay, which opened last year, set the standard for what a value-priced theme park hotel could provide in comfort, atmosphere and service. So we can't wait to see what Universal Orlando and its hotel partner, Loews, deliver with their next hotel, which will sit between the Cabana Bay and Royal Pacific both physically and in price and amentities.

Mako at SeaWorld Orlando — Theme Park Insider's reader ratings have made clear that fans love Bolliger & Mabillard's mega/hyper coasters more than any other model of coaster in the world. So it is long past time for the world's theme park capital — Orlando $#8212; to get one of these coasters for its own.


Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland opening — Disney's 12th theme park promises to be its most ambitious yet, with Disney's largest castle, an innovative new ride system for Pirates of the Caribbean, an intense Roaring Rapids ride, and a Tron Lightcycle coaster than has many fans glowing with excitement. (Sorry about that one.) Yeah, most of us never will visit this park, but we are hoping that the completion of this project frees up the time, money, and bandwidth for Disney to continue and expand its planned improvements for the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts.

Universal's next steps — Universal's movie studio held off Disney to claim the top spot at the box office in 2015, and Universal's theme parks are enjoying record attendance and revenue. The company bought control of Universal Studios Japan in 2015 (its most popular park), and Universal has been thrilling fans with a steady stream of announcements (and leaks) about new attractions, hotels, and parks over the past few years. We are looking forward to more in 2016, as Universal continues to work to close the gap between it and industry leader Disney.

What are you looking forward to most in 2016?

Replies (21)

December 31, 2015 at 12:37 PM · Honestly, Im Excited For Everything!
December 31, 2015 at 12:49 PM · Of the attractions mentioned in the article, the one that excites me most is probably Shanghai Disneyland, but since I'll never get to go, I'm leaning towards Mako. Orlando can definitely use more big boy coasters, especially with Hulk out of commission for a bit.

However, I won't be making the trip to CaliFlorida in 2016 (I think 2017 might be better especially if Avatar comes online as rumors are suggesting). Instead, we'll pack up our Cedar Fair Platinum Passes and head to Kings Island, Cedar Point, Dorney Park (first time), Kings Dominion, and maybe Carowinds (first time). Along the way we'll ride two new 2016 coasters, Valraven at Cedar Point for which I am very excited, and Monster at Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa (it's sort of on the way). If we get a chance, we may stop by Dollywood on the way back for Lightning Rod. A long trip to be sure, but at least my kids will never be able to say they didn't get to ride enough roller coasters as they were growing up!

December 31, 2015 at 1:11 PM · As a local, I'll be going to Universal Hollywood to see Harry Potter in the fall to avoid the crowds. Maybe visit Knott's chicken restaurant and seeing Legoland. Will skip Disneyland since I'll be visiting Aulani. Saving my bucks for Hawaii.
December 31, 2015 at 5:20 PM · Nothing for Frozen/Malestrom? I thought it is opening this spring.
December 31, 2015 at 6:36 PM · Disney is getting yawnsome. Another year without a major E-ticket attraction.
December 31, 2015 at 7:12 PM · Mostly looking forward to Kong and Maelstrom's Frozen overlay. I still think Frozen belongs in Fantasyland instead of World Showcase, but it still looks fun! And Kong used to be my absolute most favorite Universal ride, so words cannot describe how excited I am to see another huge animatronic of the ape!
December 31, 2015 at 9:58 PM · I will be going to Shanghai later this year or early next year once the kinks are worked out, so that's what I am most excited about. I will be at WDW/UO in May so it looks like I'll miss most of the new stuff there. Still, it's a good year to be a theme park fan for sure.
January 2, 2016 at 12:02 AM · The new Frozen ride may or may not be very good, but I'm sure it's eagerly anticipated by many fans of that movie.

What about Soarin' Over the World? As the long-awaited new version of a highly popular ride, that one is a big opening.

And come on, surely the replacement for flying tires at Cars Land is more highly anticipated than a chicken restaurant at Knott's.

January 1, 2016 at 12:29 AM · For me personally, I'd consider Soarin' Around the World the most anticipated Disney addition of 2016. While I have no doubt the masses are anticipating the Frozen musical, it needs to be on par with Aladdin or I anticipate it having a short run. I also think the completely refurbished GhostRider is far more anticipated by Knott's locals than the refurbished restaurant, but perhaps I could be wrong.

Based on where I'll (likely) be visiting in 2016, my most anticipated new ride outside of So Cal is Lightning Rod at Dollywood. All three new RMCs are at the top of my planning list for 2016's trip(s), but Lightning Rod looks like the best and most unique of the three.

January 1, 2016 at 5:43 AM · Iron Man Experience in Hong Kong Disneyland, the first Marvel ride by WDI, is my most anticipated attraction of 2016.
January 1, 2016 at 1:50 PM · Why are Disney cost cutting with their new attractions? I mean Frozen overlay of Maelstrom - why being so cheap? They don't invest in their parks like they used too.
January 1, 2016 at 8:53 PM · Personally, I am super-excited for my home park, Dollywood, to open their new roller coaster Lightning Rod. The world's fastest wooden coaster, and the first launched wooden coaster, 30 minutes from my house, yes please.
January 2, 2016 at 7:07 AM · Looking forward to Disney's River of Light, the new Frozen attraction at EPCOT and the opening of Disney Springs.
January 2, 2016 at 8:29 AM · @Jordan Driver
Lighting Rod isn't a wooden coaster in my book.
January 2, 2016 at 1:21 PM · Kong...yep just Kong.
January 2, 2016 at 5:41 PM · "They don't invest in their parks like they used to."

Apparently you haven't seen/read about the plans for Shanghai Disneyland, Pandora: The World of Avatar or Star Wars Land.

January 2, 2016 at 9:55 PM · No shout out for Dubai Parks & Resorts?
January 3, 2016 at 3:39 PM · Do they have a completion/opening date for Skull Island? It says summer 2016 but hoping it's by June 1st. Also, any word on when the Incredible Hulk ride reopens? My family are planning on returning in June and would love it if these two were running.
January 4, 2016 at 11:25 AM · KONG! KONG! KONG!
January 6, 2016 at 2:48 PM · Talon at Phantasaland, Grmy.
January 6, 2016 at 9:03 PM · L Emery
This is the year of my 60th birthday on 1/19. I have declared it the year of 60 for 60! I have 60 plus on the list so far. Let the party begin

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