The Most Exciting Upcoming Theme Park Rides Under Construction
Despite months and even years of delays and closures forced by the pandemic, the world’s theme parks are bouncing back to their old selves. Most of the industry’s major companies opened at least one new ride in 2021, and many announced new attractions coming as soon as early 2022.
The theme park industry’s biggest players — Disney and Comcast’s Universal parks — opened several new rides at their parks around the world, while at the same time hyping up a bunch of new attractions currently under construction. The most anticipated Disney park attractions coming soon include the TRON Lightcycle Run at Magic Kingdom and the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster at Epcot — both in Florida. While Universal boasted the debuts of Super Nintendo World and the Jurassic World VelociCoaster in 2021, one of the most exciting upcoming attractions is its expansion of the Mario-themed land to include a Donkey Kong area.
Six Flags also has several new rides opening soon at its parks in Texas and California, and all of SeaWorld Entertainment’s major parks are looking forward to at least one new ride — from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Iron Gwazi to SeaWorld San Diego’s Emperor coaster. Legoland Florida will also welcome a sister park when the Peppa Pig Theme Park debuts right next door in February 2022 in Winter Haven, Florida.
From roller coasters themed after penguins and “John Wick” to a recreation of “Frozen’s” Arendelle, here are the most exciting upcoming theme park rides under construction, all over the world.
Peppa Pig Theme Park
The hit British cartoon series “Peppa Pig” will open its first standalone theme park on Feb. 24, 2022, in Florida — right next to the brick-covered Legoland Florida Resort. Like Legoland, the Peppa Pig Theme Park is made just for kids, specifically preschool-aged children who love watching Peppa’s adventures with her friends and family on the series that’s been broadcast in more than 180 countries and is now owned by Hasbro.
The Peppa Pig Theme Park is currently building six rides and play areas, including a water play area and a slew of other shows and attractions themed after the animated pink pig. The rides likely to be most popular are Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster, which touts smooth and gentle twists and turns in Daddy Pig’s shiny new red car; and Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride, where you’ll hop in one of Miss Rabbit’s hot air balloons for a fun aerial carousel ride with great views of the whole park.
Other attractions debuting in February include Grampy Rabbit’s Dinosaur Adventure, Grandad Dog’s Pirate Boat Ride, Mr. Bull’s High Striker and Peppa’s Pedal Bike Tour. There’s also the Fun Fair (pictured above), which recreates a Peppa Pig fairground full of free games, a Pirate Island Sand Play area, Rebecca Rabbit’s Playground, Peppa Pig’s Treehouse and the Cinema indoor theater showing “Peppa Pig” episodes all day long.
Donkey Kong expansion
Super Nintendo World just opened at Universal Studios Japan in 2021, but the park is already expanding the immersive area to include another beloved video game franchise — “Donkey Kong.”
Expected to open in 2024, the Donkey Kong area of Super Nintendo World is set to include a roller coaster, interactive attractions and more themed merchandise and food. When the expansion was announced, Nintendo said the land will also recreate “the lush jungles where Donkey Kong and his friends live.” Images released by Nintendo tease that guests will access the Donkey Kong area of the park via a large round door that currently sits inside the Mario-themed area of Super Nintendo World. By adding Donkey Kong to the park’s video game mix, Super Nintendo World’s size will increase by about 70%.
While the ride’s official name and other details have yet to be announced, concept art released by Universal Studios Japan and Nintendo (pictured above) shows the coaster’s possible track closely resembling the legendary video game’s mine cart levels.
The “Donkey Kong” franchise launched in 1981 with an arcade game and has since sold more than 65 million units. The land expansion adds even more immersive, interactive entertainment to Super Nintendo World, which is currently almost entirely themed after Mario’s Mushroom Kingdom and includes a Mario Kart simulator and the leisurely Yoshi’s Adventure ride.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
The first Marvel-themed attraction at Walt Disney World in Florida will be a colorfully chaotic indoor coaster set to the tune of Guardians of the Galaxy. Expected to open in 2022, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster will debut in Epcot’s “other-world” showcase pavilion, in the space where Ellen’s Energy Adventure used to be.
The “Guardians of the Galaxy” coaster is a huge get for the Orlando Disney parks, as many of Marvel Studios’ characters aren’t legally allowed to make appearances on the East Coast per previous contracts between Marvel and Comcast’s Universal parks. Though the ride will feature iconic characters and music from the “Guardians of the Galaxy” franchise, film director James Gunn has said the coaster will include a separate storyline from the one seen in the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disney describes the ride as a family-friendly “intergalactic chase through space and time.” The park also calls it a “storycoaster” with new 360-degree rotating ride cars “so you’re always focused on all the action as you help the Guardians save the galaxy.” The coaster will also feature Disney parks’ first reverse launch on a coaster and will be one of the longest indoor coasters in the world once it’s completed.
Of course, a new Disney ride wouldn’t be complete without an immersive queue. Inside the “Wonders of Xandar” pavilion is the Galaxarium, which will be a planetarium-style exhibit showcasing the people and technologies of the world of Xandar. The Guardians of the Galaxy coaster will also welcome riders with a scale replica of a star-shaped Nova Corps. ship from the films, and the Nova Prime herself Glenn Close will return as the character for the attraction.
One of prettiest coasters at the Disney parks is the TRON Lightcycle/Run, a semi-enclosed steel roller coaster that lets riders hop on their own futuristic motorbike to zoom around The Grid. The ride first debuted at Shanghai Disneyland in 2016, and a second iteration of the coaster is expected to open at Magic Kingdom in Florida in 2022.
The Magic Kingdom “TRON” coaster was announced back in 2017 at Disney’s D23 Expo, and theme park fans have been closely following updates and construction photos ever since. It was originally set to open in 2021 but was postponed to 2022 due to delays caused by the pandemic. But when it does open in the Tomorrowland area of Magic Kingdom, the TRON Lightcycle/Run will bring Disney’s fastest roller coaster to the U.S. with speeds hitting over 60 mph.
The coaster is inspired by the “Tron: Legacy” series and features a color-changing canopy and two-wheeled ride vehicles that get “powered up” by character Sam Flynn’s identity disk in order to launch riders into The Grid. The launch platform and areas underneath the glowing canopy are highly immersive, simulating the pixelated experience of being digitized into a “TRON” character.
Arendelle: World of Frozen
Three Disney parks are set to get an entire land themed after the blockbuster “Frozen” franchise. Arendelle: World of Frozen is currently under development at Disney’s parks in Hong Kong, Tokyo and Paris.
The “Frozen” lands may differ slightly at each of the Disney parks, but they’re a big part of the updates and expansions being developed at Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo DisneySea and Disneyland Paris. The anchor attractions at these “Frozen” lands will be replicated iterations of the popular Frozen Ever After attraction at the Norway pavilion at Epcot in Florida and the new Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs. The former is a family-friendly boat ride that took over the original Viking-themed Maelstrom ride, taking riders on a musical jaunt through famous scenes from “Frozen” alongside some top-notch digital animatronics.
The Wandering Oaken’s Sliding Sleighs attraction will be another storycoaster that takes riders through the snowy hills of Arendelle after they visit Oaken’s famous store to check out his “big summer blowout” sale. The ride will also feature some sled assistance from everyone’s favorite reindeer/talking snowman duo, Sven and Olaf.
None of the “Frozen” lands have opening dates yet, but the area at Hong Kong Disneyland — announced way back in 2016 — could open as soon as 2022.
Ice Breaker coaster
Back before the pandemic took hold, 2020 and 2021 were expected to be banner years for SeaWorld Entertainment, as most of its major parks were building new roller coasters. At SeaWorld Orlando, that new coaster is Ice Breaker, now set to open in February 2022.
The ride, with its bright orange track atop teal support beams, has top speeds of up to 52 mph with four launches both backward and forward. The last is a reverse launch surging riders upward 93 feet before plunging them into a beyond-vertical drop at a 100-degree angle. The drop will be the steepest in Florida. But, SeaWorld doesn’t want the thrills to scare off younger riders, as the coaster’s height requirement is just 48 inches.
As for the coaster’s icy theming, SeaWorld partnered with Alaska SeaLife Center to bring awareness and education about the wildlife and environment of the Arctic. Ice Breaker is also located right next SeaWorld’s iconic Wild Arctic simulator ride, as well as the area of the park housing Arctic animals like beluga whales and walruses.
SeaWorld’s California park is also getting a record-breaking new roller coaster in 2022. The Emperor coaster, opening in March 2022, will be the state’s first floorless dive coaster, as well as its fastest dive coaster with a 90-degree drop and top speeds of 60 mph.
The coaster is inspired by its namesake, the emperor penguin, and its loops and dives are meant to simulate the speedy maneuvers these penguins can do when hunting for fish underwater. At its tallest point, the coaster hits 153 feet with a 45-degree incline to the top. The facedown 90-degree plunge is 143 feet up. The coaster’s steep drop and floorless ride vehicles are similar to the SheiKra dive coaster at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, as both rides are built by coaster designed Bolliger & Mabillard.
Sticking with the theme, the creation of Emperor emphasizes SeaWorld San Diego’s partnership with Penguins International to bring awareness of the continuing need for conservation of these flightless birds. Next to the new coaster is an Emperor gift shop, where part of the proceeds from penguin merchandise will go to Penguins International’s conservation efforts.
Iron Gwazi coaster
More than two years after it was announced, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s newest roller coaster Iron Gwazi will finally open in March 2022. With a bright purple steel track on wooden support scaffolding and beams, Iron Gwazi is set to be a beast of a hybrid coaster — the world’s fastest and steepest.
Making it more unique is the fact that the ride is built from some of the remnants of the park’s last Gwazi — a wooden dual coaster that was infamous for its height, speeds and bumpy, headache-inducing thrills. The original Gwazi closed in 2015, leaving behind a wooden skeleton and a large swath of the Tampa park to use for annual festivals and events.
Iron Gwazi boasts top speeds of 76 mph, a 206-foot-tall peak and a 91-degree drop. Busch Gardens said the coaster gives riders a dozen airtime moments and three inversions along its more than 4,000 feet of track. As for the theming, Iron Gwazi takes inspiration from the African safari-themed park’s crocodiles, with bright green ride vehicles with a croc’s head as the front car.
Topping off the historic ride-opening year SeaWorld parks will have in spring 2022 is Busch Gardens Williamsburg, the sister park to Tampa with European continent themes instead of African ones. This park in Virginia will open the Pantheon roller coaster in March 2022.
Boasting the world’s fastest multi-launch coaster, Pantheon is said to harness “all the speed and strength of five of the greatest Roman gods” along its more than 3,300 feet of track. The most thrilling maneuvers of the coaster are all themed after certain Roman gods — Neptune, Mercury, Jupiter, Minerva and Pluto. Pantheon is 180 feet tall with a top speed of 73 mph with a 95-degree drop, four launches, five airtime hills and two inversions.
The pinnacle of Pantheon is the 95-degree drop back down after a reverse launch up a steep stretch of track that ends abruptly in the sky — similar to the reverse launch and drop seen in SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker coaster.
Wonder Woman Flight of Courage
Six Flags’ park in Valencia, Calif. is set to open the world’s tallest and longest single-rail roller coaster when Wonder Woman Flight of Courage makes its debut in summer 2022.
The coaster has a top height of 13 stories and flies up to 58 mph along more than 3,300 feet of track. The Raptor-track single-file steel coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction is similar in style to the Wonder Woman Golden Lasso coaster at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, the Jersey Devil coaster at Six Flags Great Adventure and the Stunt Pilot coaster at Idaho’s Silverwood park. With the opening of Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, Six Flags Magic Mountain will break the record for the highest number of coasters at one theme park with 20.
Themed after the strength and speed of Wonder Woman, the DC- and Amazonian-themed coaster is said to immerse riders “in the story of her life and how she obtained her super powers” with an immersive queue of Greek architecture and tropical landscaping. Then, on the track, riders will soar through banks, rolls, quick turns and dives.
Wonder Woman Flight of Courage is part of the park’s revamped DC Universe area, which includes new restaurants, shops and the popular Batman The Ride attraction.
Pirates of Speelunker Cave
Six Flags Over Texas is getting a new indoor dark ride just in time for the park’s 60th anniversary. The Pirates of Speelunker Cave attraction is expected to open in 2022.
The boat ride’s theming and storyline are new, but the ride itself reimagines the original The Cave attraction that was in operation from 1964 to 1991. The Cave ride is also where the new ride gets its signature “Speelunkers.” The pirate-themed ride will also replace the Yosemite Sam and the Gold River Adventure ride.
Six Flags Over Texas describes the ride as putting guests “squarely in the middle of a pirate treasure hunt thwarted by resident Speelunkers.” The ride will also have a new entry area with a coastal theme and an open spot to check out the attraction’s entrance into Speelunker’s Cave. Each boat holds up to six passengers, who journey through 17 new cinematic scenes featuring “state-of-the-art” projection and animatronics.
Dr. Diabolical's Cliffhanger
Like SeaWorld San Diego, Six Flags Fiesta Texas is also getting a new record-breaking dive coaster from manufacturer Bolliger & Mabillard. Dr. Diabolical’s Cliffhanger — expected to be the world’s steepest dive coaster — is set to open in 2022.
The coaster is themed after fictional Dr. Diabolical, an immortal character who lures visitors to use her new thrill machine in order to harvest their adrenaline and fear. The ride has three 21-passenger vehicles that surge riders 150 feet up, “lock them in a face-first Cliffhanger hold” and then plunge them down a 95-degree drop at 60 mph. The coaster also includes an epic Immelmann inversion, a 270-degree zero-g roll, a 75-foot near-vertical drop, an intense bank turn and airtime hill and a speedy spiral finale.
Similar to SeaWorld’s new Emperor coaster and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s famous SheiKra coaster, Dr. Diabolical’s Cliffhanger is floorless — making for more intense, thrilling freefall-like drops.
Tumbili 4D coaster
Kings Dominion theme park in Richmond, Va., is getting its first 4D Spin Coaster in 2022. Named Tumbili, the coaster suspends riders on each side of the track instead of in the middle and uses magnetic technology to freely and continuously spin and flip riders as they fly along the ride’s 770 feet of track.
While this spin coaster’s speed is half that of similar intense thrill rides, the spinning and flipping through three layers of track give riders a feeling of weightlessness through roughly a minute of ride time at 34 mph. With a name that means “monkey” in Swahili and set in Kings Dominion’s jungle-themed area of the park, Tumbili mimics the wacky flipping and spinning through a rainforest tree canopy. A similar 4D spin coaster, Dragon Slayer, opened at Iowa’s Adventureland park in 2021.
The Tumbili coaster replaces the old The Crypt ride that was removed in 2020 to make way for upgrades to the Safari Village area, which is renamed to Jungle X-Pedition. Tumbili is slated to open in spring 2022.
Jumanji: The Adventure
The Sony Pictures-owned “Jumanji” franchise is finally getting its own theme park ride — and it’s coming to Italy’s Gardaland park.
Gardaland described Jumanji: The Adventure as an indoor dark ride where riders hop in a 4×4 open-top off-road safari vehicle to journey through a jungle full of “dangerous animals, falling obstacles and a mighty stone giant.” The goal is to return a scared jewel back to its proper shrine home in order to break the curse and save the land of Jumanji.
In their announcement in September 2021, Sony said the ride expands on the adventurous world created by all the films — the original from 1995 starring Robin Williams, as well as the Rock/Kevin Hart-fueled spinoffs from 2017 and 2019. In late October 2021, the first stone was laid at the ride’s construction site with help from cosplayers dressed up as some of the character from the films. In November 2021, the tracks arrived to create the ride’s railroad, linking the attraction’s dozen different scenes.
Motiongate's John Wick and Now You See Me coasters
Dubai’s Motiongate theme park is getting both a “John Wick” coaster and a “Now You See Me” coaster.
The “John Wick” coaster is 10-stories tall and gives guests the option to help the titular assassin (played by Keanu Reeves in the franchise) or be a part of the group hunting him. In the announcement for “John Wick: Open Contract,” an executive at Lionsgate told Variety that riders will get a different experience depending on which path of the line you take to board the coaster. Sticking closely to the themes of the movie, the theme park is working with filmmakers to recreate The Continental safe haven hotel seen in the films, which will serve as the ride’s queue.
The “Now You See Me” ride will be a “High Roller” attraction set in a Las Vegas-style casino, where guests will walk through and join “The Four Horsemen” illusionists in a thrilling heist.
Both roller coasters were announced in October 2020 and were originally set to open in early 2021, but remain under construction.