Arguably the most anticipated theme park addition in the past decade is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which opened at California’s Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida this year. But that’s not the only new theme park attraction to debut in 2019. Fans of Harry Potter, the LEGO Movie, Sesame Street, and even the Pittsburgh Steelers will find new rides and roller coasters at theme parks across the U.S. and beyond in 2019.
Best New Rides and Roller Coasters for Toddlers and Little Kids
1. Wildwood Grove – Dollywood
In 2019, Dollywood added Wildwood Grove, the park’s largest expansion yet. Wildwood Grove features six new rides, including The Dragonflier, a suspended family coaster; The Mad Mockingbird, a spinning ride; and the Treetop Tower, which features a gentle drop. There’s also Hidden Hollow, a 4,000-square-foot indoor play space out of the sun; the Wildwood Creek cool-off water area, and the 55-foot-tall Wildwood Tree, which flourishes nightly with brightly colored leaves and butterflies—Dolly Parton’s signature symbol. Wildwood Grove also features a themed restaurant.
Recommended Hotel: Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort
2. DUPLO Playtown – LEGOLAND California Resort
This year marks the 20th anniversary of LEGOLAND California Resort, and the park is celebrating by opening multiple new attractions. DUPLO Playtown entertains the park’s youngest guests as they slide and hide in an interactive play area and ride the LEGOLAND Express train. Other new attractions include LEGO City 4D – Officer in Pursuit, a 4-D movie; the LEGO Friends Live Show; and the Character Dance Party stage show. Finally, The LEGO Movie 2 Experience allows guests to walk through the models from the film, with an up-close look at Apocalypseburg and models from the Systar System.
Recommended Hotel: LEGOLAND Castle Hotel
3. LEGO Movie World – LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Fresh on the heels of The LEGO Movie: The 2nd Part‘s debut, LEGOLAND Florida Resort opened LEGO Movie World. The new area includes three family-friendly rides themed to both LEGO Movies, including The Lego Movie: Masters of Flight, a suspended flying theater attraction; Unikitty’s Disco, a spinning, bouncing, dropping journey to Cloud Cuckoo Land and back; and an interactive water ride called the Battle of Bricksburg. Families can also meet characters from The LEGO Movie franchise. The LEGOLAND Florida Hotel has even added LEGO Movie World themed rooms!
Recommended Hotel: LEGOLAND Beach Retreat
4. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is the first Mickey Mouse-themed ride to open at Disney World! The state-of-the-art, 3-D ride is located inside the park’s iconic Chinese Theatre, and takes families on a journey through Disney Channel’s Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
5. Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy – Disney’s Hollywood Studios
In Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, Lightning McQueen showcases his racing techniques and career highlights in an interactive stage show. At the end, families can meet the race-car legend.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
6. Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind – Disney’s California Adventure
Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure received its finishing touches as two renovated rides are completed. The A Bug’s Life-themed spinning flat ride is now the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
7. Jessie’s Critter Carousel – Disney’s California Adventure
The second renovated ride at Pixar Pier, King Triton’s Carousel is now Jessie’s Critter Carousel, themed to the yodeling cowgirl from Toy Story and Flik’s Flyer.
Recommended Hotel: Disneyland Hotel
8. Sesame Street Land – SeaWorld Orlando
Do you know how to get to Sesame Street? A whole kids’ land with Sesame Street characters arrives at SeaWorld Orlando in 2019. Four new rides in the land include Elmo’s Choo Choo Train, Super Grover’s Box Car Derby, Big Bird’s Twirl, and Slimey’s Slider. Guests can also visit recreated Sesame Street sets such as Mr. Hooper’s store, Abby Cadabby’s garden, and Big Bird’s nest.
Recommended Hotel: Sheraton Vistana Villages
Best New Rides and Roller Coasters for Big Kids
9. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run – Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios
At over 14 acres, Disney’s largest park expansion immerses fans inside the Star Wars universe. Set in the out-of-the-way Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge includes two signature attractions: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. On Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, friends and family members receive assignments and become the pilot and crew for the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
Recommended Hotel: Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
10. Mountain Gliders – Carowinds
A new land called Blue Ridge Junction has opened at Carowinds, on the border of North and South Carolina. The 7-acre land features the Mountain Gliders, a spin on the classic spinning glider ride.
Recommended Hotel: Carowinds Camp Wilderness Resort
11. KareKare Curl – Aquatica Orlando
A two-person raft slide offers family thrills at Aquatica, SeaWorld’s waterpark in Orlando. Riders may experience momentary feelings of weightlessness as their raft climbs the curve-shaped vertical wave wall.
Recommended Hotel: Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld
12. Tidal Twister – SeaWorld San Diego
Over at SeaWorld San Diego, a marine conservation-themed dueling coaster reaches top speeds of 30 mph as it twists and turns along a figure eight track with a Zero-G, 360-degree inversion at its center. Whoa.
Recommended Hotel: The Dana on Mission Bay
13. Calico River Rapids – Knott’s Berry Farm
A whole new story, scenes, animatronics, and special effects are part of Calico River Rapids, recently opened at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California. The circular, whitewater raft ride seats six passengers and traverses the river path while guests on the riverbanks launch water cannons to soak the raft riders.
Recommended Hotel: Knott’s Berry Farm Resort Hotel
14. Runaway Tram – Morey’s Piers
“Watch the tramcar, please!” Runaway Tram is a family-friendly coaster themed after the iconic Wildwood, New Jersey, tramcar that has run on the boardwalk since 1949. Runaway Tram climbs 40 feet before coasting, twisting and turning its way down 922 feet of track at speeds over 15 mph.
Recommended Hotel: The StarLux Boutique Hotel
15. Jurassic World Ride – Universal Studios Hollywood
A Jurassic World water ride opens at Universal Studios Hollywood, replacing the iconic Jurassic Park thrill ride. The Jurassic World water ride features dinosaurs as tall as five stories, as well as state-of-the-art animatronics that ride designers developed in partnership with scientists, paleontologists, and aerospace engineers.
Recommended Hotel: Sheraton Universal Hollywood
16. Kentucky Flyer – Kentucky Kingdom
The Louisville theme park gets its sixth roller coaster, Kentucky Flyer, a wooden coaster that reaches top speeds of 35 mph during the 45-foot, 52-degree drop. Riders also experience 54-degree banking turns and 12 airtime elements along the 1,280-foot-long track.
Recommended Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Louisville Airport
17. Reese’s Cupfusion – Hersheypark
Add Reese’s Peanut Butter cups with gaming and family adventure and you get a fun new ride for the entire family at “The Sweetest Place on Earth.” Guests of Hersheypark help ensure the world is never deprived of Reese’s peanut butter cups in this new dark-ride gaming experience.
Recommended Hotel: Hershey Lodge
Best New Rides and Roller Coasters for Tweens and Teens
18. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios
On Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, guests join General Leia Organa’s Resistance and fight to escape a Star Destroyer controlled by the villainous First Order.
Recommended Hotel: The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
19. Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure – Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure
Hop aboard Hagrid’s motorcycle or sit in the sidecar on this new roller coaster in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. The high-speed coaster plunges through the Forbidden Forest and encounters rare magical creatures along the way. The ride replaces the Dragon Challenge dueling coaster that closed in 2017.
Recommended Hotel: Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
20. Steel Curtain Roller Coaster – Kennywood Park
Pittsburgh’s historic Kennywood Park struck an innovative partnership with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, resulting in an entire land dedicated to the hometown football team. The 220-foot tall towering Steel Curtain roller coaster anchors the new area, and features 4,000 feet of track, a 197-foot tall loop, and nine inversions; it reaches speeds of 75 mph!
Recommended Hotel: SpringHill Suites by Marriott West Mifflin
21. Tigris – Busch Gardens Tampa
Florida’s tallest launch coaster, Tigris, jettisons riders upwards into a 150-foot skyward surge at over 60 mph, followed by twists and rolls throughout the 1,800-foot, triple-launch track.
Recommended Hotel: The Don CeSar
22. Copperhead Strike – Carowinds
This double-launch coaster shoots guests from 0 to 42 mph in 2.5 seconds at the start through several inversions. Then Copperhead Strike slows down to 35 mph before launching again to 50 mph to finish the two-minutes-and-24-seconds-long ride.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN Carowinds
23. Yukon Striker – Canada’s Wonderland
The world’s tallest, fastest, and longest dive coaster is Yukon Striker at Canada’s Wonderland in Ontario. Hang at the top of a 90-degree, 245-foot-long drop for three seconds before shooting into an underwater tunnel at speeds near 80 mph. The three-minutes-and-25-seconds-long ride also features a 360-degree loop never seen before on a dive coaster.
Recommended Hotel: Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites
24. West Coast Racers – Six Flags Magic Mountain
Los Angeles’ Six Flags Magic Mountain opens the world’s first racing launch coaster and the park’s 20th roller coaster overall. The racing launch coaster features two side-by-side tracks with four single high-speed launches and covers two complete laps with high-banked and multiple airtime hills. In between laps, riders experience a “real-time” pit stop experience created by California-based automobile customizer, West Coast Customs.
Recommended Hotel: Comfort Suites Near Six Flags Magic Mountain
25. Maxx Force – Six Flags Great America
Go from 0 to 78 mph in less than two seconds on Maxx Force, the fastest launch coaster in North America. Guests will also experience the tallest double inversion—175 feet above the ground—in Formula 1-inspired custom racing cars.
Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn Gurnee Convention Center
26. Firebird – Six Flags America
Firebird is the first floor-less roller coaster in Maryland, and is located at Six Flags America. Guests experience a nine-story drop, two inversions, and a figure-eight finale on over a half-mile of track.
Recommended Hotel: Hampton Inn Bowie
27. Ihu’s Breakaway Falls – Aquatica San Antonio
Climb to the top of the tower, step into a breakaway box, and wait to drop on Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, a multi-drop tower slide at Aquatica San Antonio. Facing each other, riders watch as the other guests in boxes disappear, dropping 20 to 24 feet per second into the spiraling speed slide.
Recommended Hotel: Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa
28. Cutback Water Coaster – Water Country USA
Using a water jet propulsion system combined with saucer features, Cutback Water Coaster launches four-person rafts through tunnels, turns and drops before sliding through wide-open spaces of saucer-shaped features.
Recommended Hotel: Kingsmill Resort & Spa
Dave Parfitt lives in Rochester, New York, with his wife and two daughters. A runner with a PhD in neuroscience, he lived in numerous Northeastern and Midwestern U.S. cities before taking a college job in the Finger Lakes. He’s traveled worldwide, but a Walt Disney World trip with two budding princesses is the trip that elicited the family travel wanderlust. He shares his vacation tips and tricks on AdventuresbyDaddy.com.