What are the most anticipated new theme park attractions for 2017?

September 27, 2016, 10:11 PM · So where should theme park fans be planning their 2017 vacations if they want to see the best new rides that will open next year?

To be honest, 2017 does not look to be an especially deep year for great new theme park attractions. There's one huge new project that supposed to debut next year, another major new world-class attraction, a couple of interesting new (or newly themed) rides that will capture the interest of Disney and Universal fans, and then...?

Cedar Fair's been getting roasted by fans for its 2017 line-up. Six Flags' is led by the ongoing roll-out of a (really, really good) ride it first debuted two seasons ago. And SeaWorld seems determined to move away the animal shows upon which it built its brand, leading with a virtual reality overlay for its aging and increasingly rough Kraken B&M Floorless in Orlando.

That leaves Disney and Universal to lead the way on what's shaping up as a top-heavy list of new attractions for 2017. So without further delay, here are the scheduled new attractions we most are looking forward to experiencing in 2017:

Pandora - The World of Avatar
Disney's Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney World's richly detailed, wildly expensive and ridiculously ambitious new land, based on the James Cameron franchise, leads our 2017 must-see list. If the land opens as scheduled in 2017, that is. One of the other things this impressive new design has been is... delayed. Reportedly several months behind schedule several months ago, Disney is racing to get this new land ready in time to help boost its recently sagging attendance. But with multiple interactive elements and engaging bioluminescent design across multiple attractions, we think Pandora will be worth the wait.

Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy

Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy

If Avatar doesn't answer the bell, then it's Efteling's largest-ever dark ride project that moves to the top of our 2017 list. Visitors collectively will choose one of three different routes within the palace, each offering unique adventures and interactive elements, in this US$38 million attraction — the Dutch theme park's fourth major dark ride.

Guardians of the Galaxy Mission Breakout
Disney California Adventure

We've earned the scorn of a large section of the Disney theme parks fans base with our enthusiasm for this project — which replaces the Twilight Zone theme for the park's Tower of Terror drop ride with the narrative from the Tokyo DisneySea version, swapping Taneleer Tivan for Harrison Hightower and bringing the popular Marvel franchise to a Disney theme park attraction for the first time. We can't wait to see if we were right in suggesting that the change might actually prove a thematic upgrade for the ride... or if we were horribly, horribly wrong.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon
Universal Studios Florida

Universal's gutted the old Twister/Ghostbusters show building and its filling it with a 3D motion base/simulator ride through New York City, featuring the host of corporate sibling NBC's The Tonight Show. Best case, this attraction could blend Fallon's widely appealing humor with Universal Creative's fondness for raucous filmed mayhem. Worst case, it's an awkward commercial for The Tonight Show with jokes that go stale before you're even through the ride. We're betting the first scenario, but won't know for certain until we ride.

Mystic Timbers
Kings Island

This new Great Coaster International wooden coaster looks strong — a 53 mph terrain coaster featuring 16 airtime hills on a 3,265-foot course. But it's the mystery about the ride's final element that has us most intrigued. What is in the shed?

Justice League Battle for Metropolis
Six Flags Magic Mountain

Yes, Six Flags' 3D motion-base interactive ride first opened in 2015 at Six Flags Over Texas (and won our Theme Park Insider Award as the Best New Attraction of the year). But, as a Southern Californian, I'm excited to see the ride come to my hometown Six Flags park.

Volcano Bay
Universal Orlando Resort

We typically don't pay as much attention to water parks as we do to theme parks — mostly because visitors don't either. The world's top water parks attract only about a tenth of the visitors as the top theme parks do. But Universal's new water park promises to blur the line between wet and dry attractions with a richly themed environment that it hopes will appeal to theme park fans. We're willing to give it go... and suspect many of you would like to see it in action, too.

Which new attractions are you most looking forward to in 2017?

Replies (24)

September 27, 2016 at 11:16 PM · I'm most excited for Pandora, no question, even though I have some reservations regarding what I've heard about the headliner attraction. As for Universal, 2017 and 2018 sound like whiffs for the most part if you're not a big simulator or water park fan, which I'm unfortunately not.
September 27, 2016 at 11:22 PM · I sure hope Pandora opens next year. We've been planning an Orlando visit in fall 2017. The last time we went was in 2014. That would be three years between visits, and the only new goodies would be the Frozen ride and the new version of Soarin'.
September 28, 2016 at 1:12 AM · I'm looking forward to Efteling's Symbolica: Palace of Fantasy. Don't let the price tag fool you, they can do amazing things with that amount of money.
For anyone who likes contruction pics:
September 28, 2016 at 1:15 AM · Dissaponting year for Universal after years of massive investment in their two parks. Seem's a slow down, hope it's not a permanent thing. Another screen based attraction in Jimmy Fallon hardly inspires confidence. Really need to stop these screen based attractions - just complete dilution.
September 28, 2016 at 3:51 AM · If Pandora opens in 2017 it is easily #1 in my book - and something I would likely try to visit within a few months of opening. Otherwise, I'll go with Mystic Timbers, or whatever Cedar Point decides to do with Mean Streak - provided it happens in 2017.
September 28, 2016 at 6:25 AM · Volcano Bay is the most exciting new thing, seeing as how it's a whole park, and Universal's first foray into the water park building game.

Even seeing the impressive construction in person still hasn't gotten me too excited for Pandora. Symbolica is probably going to be a must-see on my first ever European trip next year! Everything else mentioned is just 'meh' to me.

September 28, 2016 at 6:55 AM · I was really looking forward to Pandora next year as an excuse to schedule another trip to Florida. I know the movie has already been pushed out to 2018 to avoid conflicts with the next Star Wars film in 2017. Will Disney hold Pandora until the next movie? But if they wait until summer 2018 won't they be getting close to conflicting with a Star Wars Land opening at DL?
September 28, 2016 at 7:47 AM · I might just visit Avatar in 2018. In the meantime, I will definitely see the new Guardians ride and take in the new Frozen musical.
September 28, 2016 at 8:15 AM · Definitely concerned with a Pandora delay. I have a feeling that elements of Avatar 2 have already been incorporated into Pandora, and Cameron won't want those to be seen until the new movie hits theaters.
September 28, 2016 at 8:56 AM · I nust feel like saying "definitely" after reading it twice in a row. Lol.
September 28, 2016 at 10:03 AM · 75 new rollercoasters in 2015 and 2016. It seems the industry needs a year to catch its breath. I will be more concerned if 2018 is a slow year. Take this year to enjoy what you have.
September 28, 2016 at 1:05 PM · What about fast and the furious?
September 28, 2016 at 2:21 PM · Lightning Rod!

In all seriousness, 2017 has very few attractions that I consider travel-worthy (at least for me), so I'm more focused on trying to do a trip to somewhere I haven't been before (Florida) or getting to some of the rides from the past couple years that are at the top of my list (Fury 325, Lightning Rod, Valravn) than trying to see any of the new attractions opening year. I guess the 2017 attraction I'm most anticipating would probably be Justice League since that's the ride I'm most excited about in So Cal. In Florida, I'd say I'm most interested in Volcano Bay because I just can't get excited about Pandora (which, for those wondering, is still supposed to open in 2017, but possibly not until the second half of the year).

September 28, 2016 at 2:24 PM · Fast and Furious Supercharged has been delayed to 2018 at Universal Studios Florida.
September 28, 2016 at 4:07 PM · "
September 28, 2016 at 1:05 PM · What about fast and the furious? "

Was wondering the same thing...

September 28, 2016 at 4:08 PM · It's gotta be Avatar (assuming it hopefully opens on time). Fallon could be a sleeper hit, but a land full of practical effects will always reign supreme.

I'm also looking foward to/potentially dreading Kraken VR just to give it a shot.

September 28, 2016 at 11:28 PM · By the way, Robert, you mentioned that Pandora is wildly expensive. What's the price tag for that new land?
September 29, 2016 at 2:33 AM · *If* Pandora opens then it will be at the top. Followed by Guardians of the Galaxy MBO and then Symbolica. Couldn't care less about Jimmy Fallon's Race through NY thing or a water park (no matter how well themed). And I'm certainly not interested in another shooter dark ride or a wooden coaster with gimmicks at a park I'll probably never visit.
September 29, 2016 at 2:53 AM · Pandora cost 1 billion dollars. More than the price of the entire Animal Kingdom in 1998. For perspective, Diagon Alley at Universal cost 400 million.
September 29, 2016 at 11:57 AM · Pandora looks to be amazing and I did not like the movie one bit. At night i think it will be incredible. Jimmy Fallon's simulator excites me about as much as a root canal and I love him. One and done ride Im sure. It just seems like such a terrible idea but I hope I am wrong. Volcano Bay I'm hoping is incredible and I believe it will be. I don't like the colorful slides I have seen going up though as I was hoping they would match the colors of the volcano and blend in more, but i have a feeling none of that will matter once we get a good look at it.
September 30, 2016 at 11:19 AM · Agree with the other reader above on these screen based attractions (Jimmy Fallon). They seem like a very cheap alternative to building a ride that you actually travel through. The only screen based ride that feels immersive is Star Tours and the Universal Hollywood's King Kong tram ride through (surprisingly, but credit goes to Peter Jackson who personally oversaw and approved the attraction). The Forbidden Journey was so disappointing - the screens were so dark that they had no effect on me and the animatronic dementors felt more like an old carnival fun house ride. The Fast and Furious ride at USH was also very dark and distorted. We were really disappointed in Universal's screen attractions. They need to meet with the Star Tours team asap. That aside, the WWOHP was very impressive in USH but we only get 2 rides.
September 30, 2016 at 3:03 PM · I'm glad they spent a billion on Pandora -- that means it should be very impressive. I'm looking forward to the boat ride much more than the Soarin' style ride, but who knows until you actually experience both?

As for this Jimmy Fallon thing, that's one of the worst attraction ideas I've ever heard, and almost certainly an idea forced on Universal Creative by uncreative executives who just want to plug the show. Even if it's well executed, it's yet another screen-based simulator/4D experience, and Universal already has a glut of those.

Volcano Bay looks impressive, based on the concept art. We will probably carve out a day for that.

By the way, Forbidden Journey in Orlando is a great ride, with none of the problems mentioned above. I have heard that 3D doesn't add anything to the experience in Hollywood. Even the dementors have been improved in Orlando, and are quite scary now.

October 1, 2016 at 10:57 PM · I would hate to be the CEO of either Cedar Fair or Six Flags next year when they will REALLY be on the hook to deliver something big for 2018. I am happy the Roller Coaster Museum of the South (SFoG) is getting Justice League BFM even though this extends the current coaster drought to 7-years minimum. The JL rides are very expensive and big investments. I just wish the Museum would get the next generation JL BFM like SFMM. It's SFOG's 50th birthday. What anniversary is SFMM celebrating?
October 2, 2016 at 6:47 PM · Pandora looks like the E.T. dark ride at Universal Studios.

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