It’s time for the conclusion of my Top New Roller Coasters of 2012 list. In case you missed it, I gave picks 11 to 7 in Part 1. Here’s the rest of the list including my most anticipated new roller coaster of 2012.
6 Manta at SeaWorld San Diego (San Diego, California)
SeaWorld San Diego will be unveiling a highly-themed launch roller coaster in Manta. Riders will board manta ray-themed trains before their launched through a one-of-a-kind tunnel. As they speed down the track they’ll be surrounded by a high-tech 270-degree projection screen. The ride’s 2,800 foot long winding course will feature a second launch. After so many years with only 2004′s water coaster Journey to Atlantis as the park’s sole roller coaster, it’s about time SoCal theme park fans experienced SeaWorld Parks’ tradition for excellently-themed world-class roller coasters.
Why You Should Be Excited – While Manta won’t be a towering new thrill ride like some of the other roller coasters debuting this year, it will offer a unique experience. The launch tunnel could really be something special. And, SeaWorld is incorporating the park’s marine life into the theme, queue, and even the ride itself. Not all launch coasters need to rocket you to warp speed. A family launcher is probably perfect for the park and incorporating exhibits for riders and non-riders (like I experienced at SeaWorld Orlando’s Manta) seems like a win-win.
5 Verbolten at Busch Gardens Williamsburg (Williamsburg, Virginia)
A dynamic new roller coaster is on its way to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Verbolten will sit on the same wooded and hilly terrain that the Big Bad Wolf once called home. The ride’s shaping up to be more than an adequate replacement as it will offer a variety of elements that have never been combined before in one ride. Verbolten will treat riders to two launches and a drop to the park’s Rhine River. The highlight might be Verbolten’s indoor section where riders will Brave the Black Forest. Inside, they’ll encounter America’s first roller coaster ‘free fall’ where the train and an entire section of track will drop simultaneously. You can also expect some sort of special effects as the sports car-themed trains speed through the dark.
Why You Should Be Excited – Busch Gardens doesn’t disappoint. They almost exclusively install custom, top-notch roller coasters. They’re often made specifically for the terrain of the park and they incorporate unique theming elements. These factors, along with the park’s great operations and upkeep add up to excellent roller coaster experiences.
We should expect the same for Verbolten. Swinging through Big Bad Wolf’s Bavarian Village was an amazing and very memorable coaster moment. So, the ride has some big shoes to fill. Or should I say paws? I’m hoping that the indoor portion’s special effects really provide something, well…special.
4 Skyrush at Hersheypark (Hershey, Pennsylvania)
This year Skyrush will take Hersheypark fans to new heights literally. While the park already boasts an impressive arsenal of rides and roller coasters, it’ll now get it’s BIG ONE. Skyrush will dominate Hersheypark’s skyline at a height of 200 feet. Adding a small twist to the tried and true hyper coaster format, Skyrush’s trains will also offer outer seats that are floorless and essentially sit outside of the track. Scaredy cats can opt for the center seats. No matter where you sit, the ride’s 3,600 feet of yellow steel should please thrill seekers excited for a big new attraction.
Why You Should Be Excited – Skyrush will offer a super-sized drop from the tallest peak in the park. Plus, the wing-like seating could offer a more exposed and free riding experience. While Skyrush doesn’t have a really large parabola-shaped (upside-down ‘U’) hill in its layout, hopefully those smaller hills provide a few good pops of airtime (lifting riders slightly out of their seats). Those outer seats combined with the layout’s high speed turns could add up to quite a thrilling experience.
3 – Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland (Vaughn, Ontario, Canada)
Canada’s Wonderland will be receiving what could already be described as a landmark roller coaster in Leviathan. It’ll have the distinction of being Canada’s tallest roller coaster (topping neighboring ride Behemoth by 76 feet). It’ll also be noteworthy from an enthusiasts viewpoint as it’ll be the first roller coaster in the giga-sphere (300 to 400 feet tall) from famed roller coaster designers Bolliger & Mabillard. They’re pretty much the hit makers of the industry offering thrilling, but survivable crowd-pleasers again and again. Riders will be lifted 306 feet (93 meters) above park, plummet down an enormous drop, and reach speeds of 90+ miles per hour (148 km/h) during the rides lengthy journey.
Why You Should Be Excited – If the prospect of a thirty-story drop, a top speed that’s among the fastest in the World, and Bolliger & Mabillard’s stellar track record don’t get your heart pumping then I don’t know what will. Leviathan could deliver an intense, but also easily re-ridable giga coaster. 2010′s Intimiator 305 was the former, but not the latter. Its enjoyable, but very intense ride caused brief blackouts back in its opening year. Will B&M’s giga make people blackout too, or are they truly masters of comfort and performance without putting too much stress on riders? I can guarantee that plenty of Canadians, Americans lured across the border, and international enthusiasts will be headed to Canada’s Wonderland to find out. As a fan of these types of rides and as a big fan of nearly everything these designers have created, I can’t wait to hear how Leviathan is received.
2 – Wild Eagle at Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee)
Underrated Eastern Tennessee amusement park Dollywood is taking another step toward the front of the pack with Wild Eagle. I can’t imagine how much longer this park can fly under the National radar (no pun intended). Later this month, Wild Eagle is scheduled to open as the United States’ first wing roller coaster. It will join the park’s top-rated wooden coaster Thunderhead, popular themed steel looper Mystery Mine and the park’s other great attractions. I’m not sure if it was by necessity or by design, but Wild Eagle will use Dollywood’s wooded and mountainous terrain. Riders seated on the edges of the coaster’s trains (wings of the eagles) will be given great views of the Smoky Mountains before experiencing a 13-story drop and four inversions.
Why You Should Be Excited – Wild Eagle’s size and location should make it a fun and unique experience. Opening with that steel peak on top of a natural one, will be give riders a great view and they’ll fly past the park’s wooden terrain during the low altitude sections. Night rides on Wild Eagle should be especially memorable. Just as night rides on Kings Island’s Beast were incredible, I’d imagine Wild Eagle’s night owl rides could also be impressive.
1 – X-Flight at Six Flags Great America (Gurnee, Illinois)
Six Flags Great America is getting a potentially epic upgrade in its roller coaster lineup. They’ve shipped their aging stand-up roller coaster to another park to make room for what looks to be an action-packed wing roller coaster called X-Flight. Like my number 2 most anticipated roller coaster, Wild Eagle, X-Flight will have the same wing-shaped trains where riders will be seated on the sides of the track. Not stopping at the riding position (that’ll be new to Americans), X-Flight will exploit the riders’ exposure with a few elements that’ll make you long for the safety of Demon’s cozy walled trains.
Why You Should Be Excited – My jaw dropped last year when I first saw an animated video showing off X-Flight’s in-line twist. During the maneuver, the wide train does a barrel roll as it passes through a flight tower (pictured to the right). I have a feeling that it’ll look even more impressive when we get to experience it first-hand. Imagine sitting in the very front row and seeing that keyhole-shaped opening up ahead. I wish that they were further along in construction so that I could see how close it’ll actually look compared to the animated preview. Regardless, with the ride’s over-banked first drop, five inversions, and a tunnel, X-Flight looks to be the best new roller coaster opening in the U.S. this year. With its exciting succession of elements it could be up there with other looping B&M masterpieces like Montu.
What’s Your Take?
What do you think of my top picks for 2012? Leave a comment below.