2020 – Preview (North America Edition)

It’s about this time of year I start composing all sorts of lists of the places I’d like to visit. Plans are typically influenced by a variety of factors ranging from checking off things off a bucket list, to visiting old favorites all influenced by travel deals. One of the primary things that I look at is what are the new theme parks and attractions that are opening in the coming year. In this article, I go through that list with you.

Iron Gwazi Construction from November 2019

Things certainly are not slowing down in 2020 in the theme park world. This year there is so much happening in the US alone, that we’ll split our preview into multiple articles leaving the rest of the world for later. In no particular order, here’s what we have to look forward to next year:

LEGOLAND New York

The US is getting a brand new theme park in 2020!. Planned to open on the 4th of July, LEGOLAND New York will be the third park of its kind in North America. The park will be built on the largest plot of land for a LEGOLAND park ever, leading to nearly endless possibilities for future expansion. At opening, the park will be anchored by the unique LEGO Factory Adventure trackless dark ride as well as familiar LEGOLAND staples including the Dragon coaster, Ninjago: The Ride, Driving and Boating Schools as well as our personal favorite: Miniland.

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Silver Dollar City is making a splash in 2020!

Silver Dollar City has announced that they are investing 27 million dollars on two new attractions for the 2020 season. These are Mystic River Falls, a white water rapids ride that claims to be the tallest in the western hemisphere, and Rivertown Smokehouse, a new eatery.

Image courtesy of Silver Dollar City
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Top 10 Launched Roller Coasters

Roller coasters these days are not always propelled by a lift hill.  Launches can provide a more thrilling way to start a ride.  They provide differentiation for the parks that have them.  Launches come in all different methods from using magnets (LIM or LSM) to hydraulic launch, to more primitive methods such as a winch, weight drop, or tires.

These are the launched roller coasters that we believe are the best in the business today:

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Top 10 Wooden Roller Coasters

With Dollywood’s Lightning Rod just days from opening, it feels the right time to take a step back and recognize some of the best wooden roller coasters in the world today.  GCI, Intamin, Gravity Group and Rocky Mountain Construction are the primary manufacturers of wooden roller coasters today.  They build upon the designs of the past from legendary ride designers such as John Miller, Harry Traver and Herb Schmeck.  These are the wooden roller coasters we believe distinguish themselves from the rest:


Honorable Mention: Gold Striker at California’s Great America
Would it be built, wouldn’t it be built?  For a while there, we weren’t sure what was to come at California’s Great America.  Fortunately this ride was built, and it definitely is a hit.  Built by GCI in 2013, this ride packs a great punch.  Gold Striker contains sound shields around its first couple drops to keep the noise of screaming riders inside the park and not in the business parks it sits besides.


10: Wodan Timburcoaster at Europa Park
While some of the wooden coasters later in this list may be more thrilling, none is more themed than Wodan.  Built by GCI, Wodan is a short, but thrilling ride.  What sets it apart is its interaction with Nordic scenary, its immaculate station complete with flythrough and a fairytale queue.


9 : Raven at Holiday World
This former Golden Ticket Award winner for best wooden coaster still holds a special place in many coaster enthusiast’s hearts.  Built by CCI, the Raven is a terrain coaster that does not let up as it dives you in and out of a valley beside Lake Rudolph.


8: Phoenix at Knoebels
Dubbed by some as the perfect ride, Phoenix contains maybe the most floater airtime of any ride in the world.  This ride was designed by Herb Schmeck and originally built in Playland Park in San Antonio.  Knoebels rescued the ride and the rest is history.  On this ride, you will find yourself more often out of your seat than in.


7: Beast at Kings Island
The Beast, perhaps, may be the most notable wooden coaster.  Designed by Kings Island in house, this wooden coaster is the longest in the world.  It contains several tunnels, two lift hills, and a signature double helix finale during its course through the Maumee river valley.


6: Thunderhead at Dollywood
Thunderhead is GCI’s gem.  This wooden twister set in the heart of the smoky mountains was the first ride to contain a station fly-through mid course.


5: Ravine Flyer II at Waldameer Park
Ravine Flyer II was another ride that was in the works for seemingly a decade, in fact, Ravine Flyer 3 came before it.  The wait did not disappoint.  This CCI masterpiece crosses a bridge across the Presque Isle entry road twice.


4: Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City
Let’s face it, everything RMC is touching is turning out amazing!  Outlaw Run was their first custom wooden coaster layout and they did not go for something simple.  Outlaw Run has gone and done what Son of Beast before it could not, successfully add inversions to a wooden coaster, and not just any inversion… a double barrel roll!


3: El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure
Intamin’s prefab track changed the wooden coaster game.  El Toro provides possibly the smoothest wooden roller coaster experience ever.  Add a cable lift (think Skyrush and Millennium Force) and relentless ejector airtime and you get this ride.  Very easily this ride could have been #1.


2: Boulder Dash at Lake Compounce
Boulder Dash is a terrain wooden coaster that is built entirely onto a cliff.  Boulder Dash sets itself apart from the rest based on its unique layout and awesome airtime.


1: The Voyage at Holiday World
No ride touches the Voyage in terms of airtime, excitement, and intensity.  This ride goes underground 8 times on its 1.2 mile course.  The Voyage’s signature elements are a spaghetti bowl and a triple down after its mid course brake.  This is the one ride you absolutely need to ride at night.