2014 was simply just a year so big, that’s really hard to believe that it happened. From the good, to the bad, to the tragic and amazing, 2014 has some really great memories, especially for theme park fans. To help ring in 2015, we’re going to take one last look at the huge stories of 2014 in the theme park industry, and how they’re going to shape the year ahead.
So what were the absolute biggest stories of 2014 in the theme park industry? Where to start? There’s been so much happening in the world of theme parks, that it’s hard to keep track. Here are just a few of the stories that made headlines in the theme park world.
The year started with some really great coasters, but none as inspired and thrilling as Kings Island’s record breaking inverted coaster, Banshee. The coaster took the place of the old Son of Beast, which was legendary for it’s own reasons, and built upon the ashes. The coaster’s queue even has a mock graveyard. If that wasn’t enough, the park reintroduced The Bat, kind of. It was the first suspended coaster, that was ill-fated at the park, but it’s legacy lives on, and makes for an amazing Halloween themed area. Now if they can get a really cool Sally Dark Ride.
Video-Go for a ride on Banshee at Kings Island
Knott’s Overhauls The Calico Mine Ride, Announces Voyage to the Iron Reef
Knott’s Berry Farm is on a roll! Over the past few years the park has been getting back to basics, reviving old attractions, and making the new attractions classics from the get go. 2014 marked the return of one of the classics back to it’s former glory (and better) with the Calico Mine Train. The attraction had seen multiple upgrades inlcuding a brand new lighting and projection mapping package, fully updated animatronics as well as the total restoration of the UV Cavern scene.
Video-Go for a ride on the Calico Mine Train
If that wasn’t good enough, the park announced that the former home of their “Kingdom of the Dinosaurs” attraction was going to be turned into the park’s first 4D shooter ride – Voyage to Iron Reef. The new ride will take guests to the depths of the ocean, where they find a civilization based on Steampunk technology thateats metal, and guess who is on the dinner menu? The park will be destroyed, as a giant Steampunk Octopus eats the coasters at the park! We can’t wait!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Opens at Walt Disney World
It’s been a while, but the New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is finally complete! It had the final piece in place when the park opened the all new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. The ride received some backlash from fans, as they called it nothing more than a kiddie coaster. However, after riding it, they tend to change their tune. The ride is a smaller coaster that combines a really cool new rocking coaster car, with some really cool new animatronics. The coaster may not appear to be the most thrilling new machine, but once you start rocking around those turns…wow.
Video-Go for a ride with Seven Dwarfs with our POV!
Sally Dark Rides and Six Flags “Jokes” with Justice League
So, it’s a dark ride. It’s got comic book characters. What’s the big deal? The big deal is that this is one of the most intricate animatronics ever created, and it’s only one of them! The all new Sally Dark Ride is going in at two Six Flags parks in 2015, but we were able to get a sneak peek of it when it was unveiled at IAAPA. If this is what we can expect from Six Flags, then count us in!
Video-Meet the Joker from Battle for Metropolis
Knott’s Scary Farm Hangs Zombies in Special Ops: Infected
Did we say that Knott’s was on a roll? Because if we forgot, then we’ll say it…Knott’s is on a roll. 2014 saw their annual Scary Farm event come ready to go to war, as the event brought in not only some really impressive new mazes, but also an amazing new concept for theme parks. Laser tag zombies. Special Ops: Infected brought the fight to the dead, and gave guests the guts to fight their way through hordes of the ravenous beasts. Busch Gardens Tampa attempted to do a similar experience but while Busch Gardens did a maze, Knott’s shut down a major portion of the their park including shops, attractions and pathways for this experience even taking guests backstage. It was a full on Zombie simulation experience with missions, goals, actors, and hundreds (literally) of blood thirsty zombies. It was worth the cost of admission alone.
Video-Fight your way through the infected at Knott’s Scary Farm
While the event was your typical Knott’s fun, the Hanging this year took on the very ignorant blogger who ended up getting Bill and Ted cancelled at Halloween Horror Nights Hollywood. Would Knott’s calm down because other parks were offending people? Not on your life.
Video-Bill and Ted in the Hanging!
Bill and Ted made a huge appearance, and the entire show was all about offending as many people as possible. The blogger from 2013 made a return, and tried to cause a stir (and gain himself some notoriety) by saying that the hanging was all about him…but no one really gave a shit, least of all Knott’s. The Hanging reigns as one of the most offensive and longest running Halloween show in Haunt industry.
Falcon’s Fury Delays at Busch Gardens Tampa
Falcon’s Fury is the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America. It’s also the only one that takes riders up 335 feet, and turns them face down, so that they are looking at the ground when they drop. The tower was supposed to open in the early part of the summer, but it didn’t end up officially opening until the fall. Call it the Busch Gardens Tower Curse, or just call it construction delays. If that wasn’t enough, once it did open, the neighbors around the park complained that it was too loud. BUT it is an amazing ride, and it’s a lot of fun.
Video-Go for a ride on Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens Tampa
SkyScraper-World’s Tallest Coaster
The world’s tallest coaster was announced a few years ago at IAAPA, but in 2014 it was announced that not only would it shatter the record for the tallest coaster, but it would also be located in Orlando, on I-Drive close to some of the biggest attractions in history. The coaster is called Skycraper, and it should be open in 2016. It will feature the world’s tallest coaster, made by US Thrill Rides as well as a huge observation deck and new shopping and dining district. It will tower over the all new Orlando Eye, which is literally blocks away.
“Whores” at HHN Hollywood
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood was amazing in 2014. The event had a mix of everything, as well as some original content in both the mazes and the scare zones (wasn’t Dark Christmas AMAZING?!). The entire event, however, was once again overshadowed by controversy. In The Purge: Anarchy Scare zone, the actors had an auction event, where the guests would bid on different audience members and other actors. It was a fake bid, and it was in the nature of the movie. Two teen girls who attended the event alone, were called “whores” by an actress during the auction. It was an act, and the girls were laughing in the video. However, once mommy saw the video, it was over…and they were so offended. The families hired high a high profile attorney in order to get “an apology” and the park pulled the auction. It’s a shame that we live in a time where we have to worry about offending children at an adult event.
Video-Purge with the rest of the whores, murderers and unleash the beast!
Michael Myers Kills at HHN Orlando
Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Florida was a bit controversial, a bit predictable, but all in all a lot of fun. The event had some of the biggest names in horror history, and was without a doubt one of the most successful runs in the events 24 year history. The diamond that shone above all else, however, was the amazingly immersive Halloween. That’s right, Michael Myers killed it. He’s the most recognizable horror icon in history, and he has a long history in film. He’s been done at haunted events before, but never like this.
Video-Step inside the Myers House at Halloween Horror Nights 24
The entire event was marked with huge sets, and completely immersive environments. From Alien vs. Predator to Clowns and even a Dollhouse, 2014 had some really huge moments that made us really excited for HHN 25!
Universal Studios Hollywood announced in 2014 that they were going to be changing the face of the park. They weren’t kidding. In Spring of 2014 they opened Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem, as well as Super Silly Fun Land. The ride features tons of Minions and loads of fun, as well as the huge new wet and dry play area, ripped right from the movies. This also introduced Silly Swirly, Universal Studios Hollywoods first ever outdoor flat ride, and it’s been a sure-fire hit since opening.
Despicable Me was amazing, but it’s nothing compared to what’s coming in the future. 2015 will see the opening of Fast and Furious: Supercharged, which is will make it’s debut on the Studio Tour sometime in Summer 2015. As well as Springfield, a highly themed dining and retail area based on The Simpsons also slated for Summer 2015. The Studio Tour will also introduce The Night Time Studio Tour which will be a first in Universal history and aim to extend park hours. In 2016, the park will open Hogsmeade and The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hollywood. There are also two huge 500 room Hotels, once of which is under construction already, 2 parking structures, as a brand new retail dining experience in the front of the park and whatever is currently planned for the recently demolished Soundstage 28. Who knows what else we’ll see past then, but so far it’s looking like a huge future is coming to Hollywood.
Frozen Takeover of Disney
Let it go…seriously. Disney has announced huge plans for Frozen: The EVERYTHING! After huge lines for meet and greets hit Magic Kingdom, the park decided to rush together a huge summer celebration…in less than two weeks. They ended up with Frozen Summer, which was a huge hit. The parks then went into Frozen overdrive. They closed Maelstrom to make a Frozen attraction in Norway (opening in 2016) and they put a Frozen spin on everything else. Halloween had some Frozen stuff to it. Christmas…whoa…it took over everything. It’s fun, and it’s great to see Disney finally putting some projects into high gear, but every single one of those projects is now Frozen. The fun wasn’t relegated to just Walt Disney World, it’s now spread to Disneyland as they’ve recently announced Frozen Fun a new night time dance party, indoor ice rink and so much more!
SeaWorld Troubles/Blue World Project
SeaWorld has a roller coaster year. First they had several bands cancel, but that was good because it only meant that bigger bands would take their place. Then they had the huge 50th anniversary celebration. That lead to huge attractions and shows at many of the SeaWorld parks, including a new attraction at every single Aquatica park. However, the activists that were created overnight by the anti-SeaWorld movie Blackfish, would not let up. They bullied artists into not performing, they took credit for every single bad thing that happened to SeaWorld, including the ending of a 20 year relationship with Southwest and declining stock. When SeaWorld announced their revolutionary “Blue World” project, it was met with criticism instead of praise. The project would see more naturalistic and larger tanks for all the Orcas in the company, as well as more education programs, and conservation. Some of the chains other parks like San Antonio will be getting a huge overhaul of not only the tanks, but also new dolphin habitats. The SeaLion show will be revamped in both San Antonio and Orlando, and will include a new restaurant and SeaLion habitat in San Antonio. Still, that wasn’t enough, as the stocks continued to plummet, and the CEO stepped down. Of course, the board also brings in a former banker, and politician..so did the CEO step down, or was it a quiet removal? We think removal.
Still, 2015 could bring better days for the parks.
Colossus and Other Classic Woodies Closed
Six Flags has a rich coaster history that has tons of classic coasters, legendary even. Over the past few years, Six Flags has been tearing down wooden coasters, and replacing them with steel hybrids. 2014 was no exception, but instead of going after worn down coasters that desperately needed to be replaced, they took out a legend. Colossus at Six Flags Magic Mountain was closed in August to make way for Twisted Colossus. The new coaster is going to be legendary, as they will morph two tracks, and put never before done elements, such as a stalled roll and a high five pass. It’s going to be a great new coaster, but to get there they had to tear down a classic.
The all new Twisted Colossus trains were revealed at IAAPA in November, and they have a distinctly steam punk look to them. They will be making their debut on Twisted Colossus in Spring of 2015.
Universal had an amazing year. It was so full of many different things, that it’s hard to pick just one. The park opened their fourth onsite hotel, Cabana Bay Beach. The hotel adds almost 2,000 rooms to the resort line up, and puts a very affordable price tag on staying onsite. It also has more amenities than any other resort on property, with a bowling alley, huge pool, lazy river and Jack LaLane Fitness Center. It’s all themed to the 50’s which gives it an amazingly fun vibe.
The resort also announced that it would adding a fifth hotel in 2016, Sapphire Falls Resort. Talk about not letting up the pace! The hotel will be directly across the street from Cabana Bay and be a more moderately priced hotel. More details here!
CityWalk received a massive makeover in 2014 with eight new venues. Many of the new venues were Universal Orlando Creations, such as Red Oven Pizza, Antojitos Mexican, Vivo Italian Kitchen and Breadbox Sandwiches. There were also smaller venues like Menchies, Starbucks, and Hot Dog Hall of Fame. Then there was the massive one, and in our opinion the best that was saved for last. The Cowfish takes gourmet burgers, exquisite sushi and mashes them together in one place. Then it breaks what you know of both, by making Bergushi. It’s amazing, it’s unique and it’s the only place you can find it in Florida.
Just when you thought Universal couldn’t top it, they pull the curtain back and show you Diagon Alley. The all new land at Universal Studios Florida is the natural sequel to Hogsmeade at Islands of Adventure, which opened in 2010. The two parks now tell one huge story, that is linked by a train.
There’s not enough we can say about the entire experience. Universal broke the mold when they opened Hogsmeade in 2010, but they took the pieces and crafted something more amazing. They learned from 2010, and built on it, making a huge leap in what they can offer the guests. The experience is enhanced with more space, more shopping and more food. In fact, the food is one of the reasons that we love the area so much. It is as much a part of the story in Diagon Alley as the rides and attractions are. But the area does have it’s share of attractions. Although Gringotts is the only official ride, there are shows, shops and of course a larger Ollivanders that makes it easier to not only get in, but also to get chosen.
As if that’s not enough, Universal is adding a mysterious new project to Islands of Adventure, which is well underway. The building is large, and located right between Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park. Many say it’s the return of Kong, but at this point, it could be anything. No announcement has been made, and Universal doesn’t feel it needs to make one. Why? Because whatever it is will just be that big…and good.
Those are just some of the biggest stories of 2014. What was your favorite part?
Thanks for joining in the fun with us. We look forward to an even bigger and better 2015, and tons more theme park fun.