What are the most trip-worthy new theme park attractions in 2018?

January 4, 2018, 9:59 AM · Which destinations are worth planning a theme park vacation to this year? In my Orange County Register column this week, I offer up my picks for the top new theme park attractions in the United States this year. But just because a new ride or show seems promising enough to rank on a best new attractions list doesn't ensure that it is worth spending your vacation money just to go see it. So what among the year's top new attractions are truly trip-worthy?

In the United States, let's put Cedar Point's Steel Vengeance atop that list. Rocky Mountain Construction's latest conversion, of the former Mean Streak, promises to be its biggest (and maybe best) yet — the world's first hyper-hybrid, with a 200-foot, 90-degree drop and a more than a mile of track. For coaster fans, a trip to America's Roller Coast always is a solid investment, and this year's addition puts Cedar Point at the top of the must-visit list.

For families with elementary-aged children, let's include Legoland California as trip-worthy in 2018, too. The Carlsbad park is adding a Lego City Deep Sea Adventure this year, a submarine ride with live sea animals and whimsical Lego creations. But the park also is opening its second hotel, the Legoland Castle Hotel, and is debuting a new Ninjago 4D movie, as well.

Around the rest of the country, the most novel debuts among the regional parks look to be Time Traveler at Missouri's Silver Dollar City — the world's fastest, tallest, and steepest spinning coaster, and Battle For Eire at Busch Gardens Williamsburg — the first major theme park virtual reality simulator ride. HangTime at Knott's Berry Farm should be worth a visit for fans who've been waiting for the west coast's first dive coaster, too.

So what about Disney and Universal? Walt Disney World and Disneyland will open their Star Wars lands in 2019, which should entice many fans to delay their trips until next year. That means 2019 is looking to be crazy-busy at the Disney theme parks. If you haven't decorated your home in Star Wars memorabilia and don't have a forceful (sorry) desire to be among the first to see the new land, maybe you'd like to make a counter-intuitive play and sneak in a trip this year, while others (one hopes) stay away?

Walt Disney World is opening a Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disneyland is retheming California Adventure's Paradise Pier to Pixar, so it's not like Disney is avoiding any changes this year. None of these additions is anywhere near as compelling as Star Wars Galaxy's Edge promises to be, but perhaps that's the real attraction this year.

It's a similar deal at Universal Orlando. Any year is a good year to visit Universal's largest resort, as there's always something new there. This year, Universal Orlando is opening a stand-alone Fast & Furious encounter, first seen on the Hollywood Studio Tour, as well as the Aventura Hotel, the resort's sixth. But 2019 is bringing a new family-friendly "coaster experience" to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure, so many fans will be tempted to hold off a year for a visit to this resort, as well. And Super Nintendo World is coming at some point, too — most likely in 2021 or 2022. Every year seems to get more crowded at Universal, so there's no counter-intuitive play here — just pick the year that appeals most to you.

Around the rest of the world, this year's big new attraction will be the opening of Warner Bros. World in Abu Dhabi, a 1.65 million-square-foot indoor theme park offering 29 attractions across five themed lands, all featuring Warner Bros. animated franchises, including DC Comics, Hanna-Barbera, and Looney Tunes. The park will open on Yas Island, which also is home to Ferrari World, and isn't too far away from the recently-opened IMG Worlds of Adventure, and Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, and Legoland Dubai in the Dubai Parks & Resorts complex. While none of these parks have opened any attractions that are by themselves world-class (with the exception of Ferrari World's long-opened Formula Rossa), they are collectively well worth a look by a curious theme park fan who's seeking a more reliably warm and sunny winter destination than Orlando seems to be providing this year.

Elsewhere, 2020 looks to be the next big year on the horizon, with Super Nintendo World opening at Universal Studios Japan and a new Beauty and the Beast dark ride headline expansions at Tokyo Disneyland.

What are your go-to destinations for 2018 and beyond?

Read Robert's column:

For more attraction opening news:

Replies (12)

January 4, 2018 at 10:16 AM · Glad to hear that Steel Vengeance made the top of the list! It is an amazing coaster to see, especially how it has been recreated from the once-terrific but eventually terrible Mean Streak. I hope to finally make it to and write an article about one of many Cedar Fair parks that are ignored by the majority of park fans- Michigan Adventure. Nothing major being added (that I know of) but I've never been there and hope to make the trek this summer. It has a major wooden coaster with my favorite name for a coaster- "Shivering Timbers".
January 4, 2018 at 11:04 AM · We already have our plans penciled in for 2018 and have a very light penciled in plan for 2019. We are working on a trip to Universal Orlando likely to occur in June to see F&F and Volcano Bay. Once we lock that trip in, we'll finalize our trip to Minneapolis over July 4th to include a visit to Mall of America and Valleyfair. We've been trying to take a Southeast theme park trip for the past 2 years, but it keeps getting put off, though 2018 looks like the year we return to Dollywood, Six Flags Over Georgia, and Carowinds. Beyond that, we will make our annual pilgrimage to Cedar Point in the first week of August, and if the Southeast trip falls through, we may couple that with a visit to Kennywood and/or King's Island. All of that on top of regular trips to our closest parks (Six Flags America, Kings Dominion, Busch Gardens, and Six Flags Great Adventure), and maybe a weekend trip to Hersheypark, Dorney Park, and Knoebell's, it will be a busy year for us.

We're probably going to do trips to both Disneyland (August) and WDW (October) in 2019 for Galaxy's Edge, but it's still a long way off to start planning those along with a likely European trip in the next 2-4 years.

January 4, 2018 at 11:15 AM · It's going to be a standout year for coasters in Europe: Blackpool, Energylandia and Phantasialand all adding record-breakers that look like they'll be worth dedicated trips, and Alton Towers, Toverland and Europa Park additions seem promising too.

2019 will be my first visit to Japan however, so that's the "new" (to me) thing I'm most anticipating...

Russell - hit me up if you want some European tips!

January 4, 2018 at 11:28 AM · Russell, let me know about CP again this year. 2017 was a bad year for me- here's hoping that 2018 goes better and we can meet up.
January 4, 2018 at 11:46 AM · That's the one trip that pretty solid. We always go to Ohio the first weekend of August for a family reunion, which usually syncs up with the Football HOF Parade in Canton (big year for us as Ravens fans since Ray Lewis is likely to be inducted). We'll probably be at Cedar Point on Friday, August 3, but if our Southeast trip gets canned again, we might move Cedar Point up to August 1st or 2nd to make room for visits to King's Island and/or Kennywood.
January 4, 2018 at 2:48 PM · I too shall be making a return trip to Ohio this summer for Cedar Point and also Kings Island. It's a bit surreal for this former regular to only be the very occasional guest there these days, but alas I now live 600 miles away and don't have that private jet just yet. Very much looking forward to Steel Vengeance.

January 4, 2018 at 7:54 PM · Steel Vengeance is definitely the most travel-worthy of 2018's additions. Even though it's just a supersized RMC, it looks like a serious contender for best coaster in North America. Beyond that, if waiting for Star Wars isn't a concern, I'd highly recommend a California trip in 2018 for theme park fans. Knott's and SeaWorld are both adding major roller coasters, Legoland's new attraction looks outstanding, SFMM just got a top tier dark ride in 2017, and Disneyland is always great (plus there's Wizarding World of Harry Potter at USH if you still haven't seen it).

As for me, my non-California travel plans for 2018 are a Virginia trip in April for Twisted Timbers and Battle for Eire (as well as everything else BGW has added since 2010), and an Ohio/Pennsylvania trip in June. I'm hoping to get a small group together for that one, so if the idea interests you let me know.

January 4, 2018 at 9:55 PM · Don't forget 20th Century Fox World in Malaysia.
Late 2018.
January 5, 2018 at 8:11 AM · We are talking about Disneyworld in June and I am hoping people are holding out for Star Wars Land so that it won't be too busy. With a 5 year old I am hoping Toy Story Land will be open by then.
January 5, 2018 at 8:58 AM · Steel Vengeance looks amazing enough to warrant a trip to Cedar Point, a park on which I'd pretty much given up after 3 visits due to excessively long waits. Would like to make it back to Branson for Time Traveler, which looks intriguing to say the least. To be spinning while going through an inversion will be very different - and possibly dizzying. Alas, getting from Philly to Branson is expensive.

@James Koel - The reason people tend to ignore Michigan's Adventure is that it has comparatively little to offer compared with other Cedar Fair parks. However, Shivering Timbers intrigued me so much that I made a trip to Muskegon a number of years ago for the sole purpose of riding it. I too love the name and think it's one of the most astonishingly beautiful coasters I've ever seen. Also a great ride; it's no. 4 on my top 10 list of wooden coasters - after El Toro, Lightning Rod and Outlaw Run. When I rode Shivering Timbers it had a trick track but I've heard that that was removed, for what reason I don't know. Trick track or no, I'm confident that with proper maintenance it's still a winner.

January 5, 2018 at 1:32 PM · We might be going to WDW for Toy Story Land, but also to experience Pandora again!
We will likely skip Universal this time, because we experienced all the new stuff in 2017, and we need to keep our costs down. Fast and Furious is definitely not enough to get us to go back there, unless we really have the budget for it.
January 6, 2018 at 11:57 AM · Defantly hitting up Sea World San Diego with there new 150 foot tall Electric eel with the only upside down coaster in San Diego, should be a big hit. Also Knotts Berry farm with Hang time.

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

Top Theme Park Hotels