Summer Theme Park Report: Exciting New Attractions at Disneyland, Universal Studios, and More

by  Liz Webber | May 1, 2012
Disneyland / Wittayayut/iStock

As the kids start counting down the days to summer vacation, America's theme parks are counting down to the newest, biggest, most scream-worthy rides and attractions (so far, anyway). Here, a handy primer on where you'll be taking the family this year.

The biggest news, of course, is the opening of Cars Land at Disney’s California Adventure. This 12-acre attraction based on the Disney-Pixar Cars movies incorporates three new rides – including the thrilling coaster Radiator Springs Racers (pictured) – a trio of restaurants, and other themed shopping and entertainment venues. Watch out for Lightning McQueen, Mater, and other Cars favorites starting June 15.

Not to be outdone, Universal Studios Hollywood is launching a summer blockbuster of its own in the form of Transformers: The Ride 3D. Designed with the help of Transformers director Michael Bay, the one-of-a-kind ride features a sophisticated flight simulator system combined with 3D-HD videos (the most advanced HD available) projected onto 14 screens for an action-packed, immersive experience. Insider tip: Though the ride doesn’t officially open until May 25, park-goers can attend sneak peak “rehearsals” through May 22.

Down in San Diego, SeaWorld will open the new Manta rollercoaster on May 26. As the name suggests, the ride takes inspiration from the manta ray, though this ray performs loop-de-loops and makes a 54-foot drop before skimming the water (read: odds are you will get wet). Folks on the East Coast have been riding a Manta coaster since 2009, but this summer SeaWorld Orlando introduces the TurtleTrek attraction with a 3D 360 dome theater and sea turtle and manatee habitats.

Another first-of-its-kind ride made its debut at Dollywood earlier this year: the $20-million Wild Eagle, the first wing coaster in the U.S. Soaring to 21 stories and topping out at speeds of 61 miles per hour, this coaster’s cars project out from a main track so that riders have nothing above or below them during the ride. Wild Eagle whizzes by the gorgeous Tennessee Smoky Mountains, too, though you might have to wait until you have two feet on solid ground to enjoy the view.

For more trip-planning ideas, check out our Family travel hub, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates and travel deals on flights, hotels, vacation packages, and more.

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