What's on Tap at America's Theme Parks for 2006?

From Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom to a new Nickelodeon land at Kings Island to a new B&M Flyer called Tatsu in L.A., here's what you can expect next year at the nation's top parks.

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Published: October 24, 2005 at 8:55 PM

2005 has turned out to be a great year for the theme park industry, with the introduction of possibly the best collection of new theme park attractions in over 10 years. From the tallest and fastest roller coaster (Kingda Ka) to North America’s first dive machine (SheiKra) to an incredible dark ride (Curse of DarKastle), 2005 saw some great additions to parks all around the world. Still, hard as it might be to fathom, 2006 may turn out to be even better, especially for coaster fans. Many parks have already formally announced their plans for the 2006 season, and other parks are rumored to be adding attractions for next season. It looks like when the gates close at many parks in the next few weeks, many parks will be filled with construction equipment installing what may be an even better collection of new attractions than 2005. So, let’s take a look at what has already been announced, and what is likely to happen at all of the major theme parks this winter…

Disneyland Resort

Disneyland is still celebrating its 50th Anniversary, with the celebration scheduled to run through next summer, and any major additions to the park are not likely in 2006. Disney’s California Adventure received a major new attraction in 2005 (Tower of Terror), and more additions are likely for 2006.

The newly renovated Space Mountain is rumored to receive a few new additions early next year, which will change the ride experience in the evening. Rockit Mountain, as it is being called, will be similar to a spin on Rock ‘n Roller Coaster, with a new soundtrack and special lighting effects. Space Mountain purists cannot be thrilled with Disney tinkering with a ride that just finished its first major overhaul this summer. However, it does seem that Disney is trying to revitalize its classic attractions for the average guest by adding new features, and Rockit Mountain could be a big hit.

Pirates of the Caribbean is another classic Disney attraction that is rumored to be receiving some “freshening” up in 2006. The first sequel to the incredibly successful Pirates movie is scheduled for a mid-summer release, and everything appears to point to Disneyland’s attraction receiving some major upgrades, including a Jack Sparrow animatronic figure and “ghost” pirates. All of the fan sites have been buzzing about the updates to Pirates, but Disney has not released any official information. The attraction has not been scheduled for a major rehab yet, but anything on the scale of adding new characters or new effects will induce a lengthy downtime that would likely begin early next year.

Finding Nemo: Submarine Voyage is an exciting new attraction that unfortunately will not open until probably 2007 - so guests will be taunted by this giant hole in the ground throughout 2006. Star Tours is also rumored to be receiving a brand new film, and possibly a new ride system from George Lucas, but it does not appear that any changes will be made to the attraction in 2006.

Disney’s California Adventure managed to get California Screamin’ back open after its collision earlier this year, so there’s actually something to do in the park. Monsters Inc.: Mike and Sully to the Rescue should give guests another option in 2006. An exact opening date has not been set, but guests can expect this new attraction to make a big impact next year. Disney hasn’t even released the exact details about this attraction, or if it will utilize the same ride system as the now defunct Superstar Limo, but just about anything is better than nothing in a part of the park that looks like a ghost town on most days.

There are rumors about other possible attractions, but any other major attraction is at least 2 years away, especially one based on a movie that is not scheduled for release until 2006 (Cars). However, an upgrade to the Tower of Terror is probable in 2006 as more drop sequences are added to keep riders on their toes, much like Florida’s version.

Walt Disney World Resort

Disney’s Florida parks have gotten even more attention than the California parks for the 50th Anniversary, but it looks like additions to these parks may be few and far between in 2006.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be adding what is hoped to be the marquis attraction for the struggling “Nahtazoo.” Expedition Everest: The Legend of the Forbidden Mountain (or Matterhorn East as many are already calling it), is Disney’s largest mountain, and possible the largest undertaking for a single attraction in the company’s history. The scaffolding has been slowly taken away in recent weeks revealing an amazing sight. Testing has been occurring almost daily as the park prepares for an early 2006 opening. Still, no one is certain what to expect from this roller coaster as it is advertised to have forward and backward sections and a 50 MPH top speed (lightning fast for a Disney ride), and an encounter with the legendary Yeti. This attraction certainly looks to be one of the best Disney coasters on the surface, but we will have to wait and see if it can draw guests into the Animal Kingdom and turn what is now a half-day park into a full-day experience.

Epcot and the Studios might be the most stagnant parks in 2006, as both have received significant additions in the past couple of years. The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular has been rumored to be replaced with an Indiana Jones ride like Disneyland’s, ever since they announced “Lights, Motors, Action”, but nothing official has been revealed, and any new attraction of that magnitude would take at least 2-3 years to complete. The Star Tour update that has been rumored for Disneyland has also been rumored for MGM, but nothing can be certain. Epcot’s Living Seas pavilion has been closed for rehab over the past few weeks, and it has been rumored that place will finally be given a theme. Turtle Talk with Crush debuted earlier this year in the Living Seas, and was a huge success, so it is likely that the whole pavilion will be themed around Nemo’s undersea world, and possible that the Sea Cab attraction could reopen with new effects and soundtrack. TestTrack is also scheduled to receive some updates, but what exactly will be done to the popular attraction is unsure. However, one likely update that has been rumored is to install new vehicles that can seat 8 passengers instead of the current 6, a change that would dramatically improve ride capacity and discourage single rider line usage. On the far horizon, Disney has been reportedly working on another “mountain” attraction for the Canada Pavilion in the World Showcase with a Brother Bear theme. Everything for this attraction is still speculation, but from reports, construction of some type will be occurring in the near future between Soarin’ and Canada.

The most widely attended theme park in the world, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, does not appear to be getting any “major” additions in 2006. However, the same Pirates rumors that are circulating for Disneyland have also been suggested for the Magic Kingdom. The park will be celebrating its 35th anniversary in the fall of 2006, just after the conclusion of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, but no announcements have been made as to how the park will celebrate. It seems that Disney wants to keep everyone’s attention on the 50th Anniversary celebration, and just wild speculation is circulating about future attractions for this park. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, I guess.

Universal Orlando

The Universal Orlando Resort appears to be stuck in neutral as both parks may go through all of 2006 without a new attraction. At least Universal Studios Florida opened Revenge of the Mummy and Fear Factor: Live in 2005, but Islands of Adventure has been stagnant for almost 3 years now. The rumor surrounding the return of the driving machines attraction in Seuss Landing has resurfaced as welding has been taking place along the elevated track in recent weeks. There’s also the numerous rumors surrounding an attraction in the land between the Flying Unicorn and Jurassic Park, but any major attraction is at least 2 years away. Islands of Adventure is still a strong park, but I think without something really big in the next year or two, this park will continue its slow decline. Universal Studios may be bringing Jaws to its final end, but there have not been any solid rumors as to a replacement for the venerable attraction.

Paramount Parks

Paramount’s Kings Dominion has made the most noise of all of the Paramount Parks as they finally announced the addition of Italian Job Stunt Coaster for 2005. This new coaster, the park’s 13th, will be a clone of the Italian Job coasters at Paramount’s Kings Island and Canada’s Wonderland. Why a theme park needs four launching roller coasters (three LIMs), I will not understand, and why Paramount could not change the layout and theme just a little bit from the other two parks is beyond me. However, another major investment into this park is a good sign that Paramount feels that this park can continue to compete with Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Six Flags America.

Paramount’s Kings Island has continued to increase attendance despite effort from Cedar Fair to steal Ohio park goers through the acquisition of Geauga Lake and continual improvement of Cedar Point. The Cincinnati park will continue to go after families with its 2006 addition of Nickelodeon Universe. Kings Island has already been recognized as having the best kids area, but they will be improving it in 2006 with 6 new attractions, including a new family roller coaster, Avatar.

Paramount’s Carowinds will be receiving a Boomerang Bay waterpark refurbishment, leaving Kings Dominion and Canada’s Wonderland as the only parks in the chain without an Australian-themed waterpark. Paramount’s Great America, possibly the most ignored park in the chain, has not announced any plans for 2006. The park has not added a new roller coaster since Stealth, which was moved to Carowinds in 2004, and there always seems to be rumor somewhere that the park will finally add a new coaster. This park probably has the worst collection of roller coasters of a major theme park in the country, and it does not look like that will change in 2006.


The Busch Gardens parks in Tampa and Williamsburg are both coming off huge years with the additions of SheiKra and Curse of DarKastle in 2005, and it looks like both parks will ride those two new attractions for another year before adding anything major. Busch Gardens Williamsburg just recently ended the run on the immensely popular Irish Thunder, and is poised to replace it with a new Irish-themed show. Aside from that, these two parks will be stagnant this off season.

The SeaWorld parks in Orlando and San Diego have both announced a new killer whale show for 2006. “Believe” will completely revamp the Shamu arenas with props and huge video monitors, and will bring what was becoming a tired and worn-out show into the 21st century. The Orlando park will also be adding three new attractions designed for kids near the Shamu Stadium. Busch is also in the process of increasing its presence in Orlando with its third park, a rumored “luxury” waterpark, which is scheduled to open in 2007. Sea World San Antonio, which always seems to be a year or two behind the others will probably get an updated killer whale show near the end of the year, or maybe in 2007.

Cedar Fair

The flagship park, Cedar Point, has gone two years without a new roller coaster, and it is likely to go through 2006 without another new coaster. However, relief for America’s Roller Coast may be coming in 2007 in the form of a dueling B&M flyer. That’s the most logical rumor right now for the Sandusky, Ohio park, but between now and then, rumors evolve, and it’s really not wise to get your hopes up for a ride that won’t start construction until near the end of 2006. The park will be making some other changes for 2006, however. Whitewater Landing is scheduled to close at the end of this season for “future expansion” (see rumored coaster above), and an S&S Screamin’ Swing, while not officially announced, is likely to be the new addition for next season. While Cedar Point is making an effort to add new attractions, one has to wonder why they’re still avoiding the one demographic the park has continued to ignore over the past 10 years, families with younger children. If Cedar Point wants to be a resort destination, they need to try harder to appeal to families, and not just thrill junkies, or risk turning into Magic Mountain.

Cedar Fair is adding a new coaster to one of their parks for 2006. The Patriot, a B&M inverted coaster, is currently being constructed at World of Fun, and should be ready for the 2006 season. The coaster will have a layout strangely similar to Talon, a B&M invert at Dorney Park, but with a distinctly “patriotic” theme. While the red, white, and blue track and supports is incredibly cheesy, Midwest coaster fans should be pleased with a great addition to a park that was in desperate need for a new draw.

The rest of the Cedar Fair empire appears to be holding firm, which is a bit surprising considering the closure of Kingdom of the Dinosaurs at Knott’s Berry Farm early in 2005. However, many of the other parks in the chain did receive major additions, and it is likely that many of the neighboring Wildwater Kingdoms will be receiving minor additions in the off-season.

Six Flags

The world’s largest theme park chain has been making the most noise this fall. Between the permanent closure of Astroworld in Houston, the pending sale of the company, the hostile takeover attempts by Daniel Snyder, and huge 2006 attraction announcements, Six Flags has been getting all of the attention over the past few weeks. The future of the company is still very much in doubt, but it’s very clear that Six Flags will do whatever it takes to keep company out of Dan Snyder’s hands.

The first big announcement was Six Flags Over Georgia’s 2006 addition of Goliath. As its name would suggest, Goliath is BIG, and the B&M hypercoaster will tower over just about everything in the park, including a couple of drops right over the Georgia Scorcher. With a 170-foot first drop, 175-foot second drop, and multitude of airtime turns and helixes, Goliath is bound to be a big hit. One feature that is absent in this coaster is a mid-course break run (MCBR), which means trains will hurdle non-stop through the 4,480 feet of track. While it may affect the overall capacity of the coaster, the MCBR absence will not affect the experience.

The second huge announcement came from Six Flags Great Adventure. The New Jersey park, which is already home to the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world, will be adding El Toro. With a massive wooden structure and a record-breaking 76-degree first drop, El Toro will be amongst the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in the U.S. El Toro has been designed by Intamin, and has already begun construction on the site where Viper once stood. In fact, Viper’s old mission-style station will also serve as El Toro’s station. While accelerating to a top speed of 70 MPH may sound tantalizing, it may turn out to be too fast for a wooden roller coaster. As Beast, Hercules, and Son of Beast have shown, bigger is not always better, but hopefully El Toro will not follow the trends of the massive wooden coasters that have come before. In addition to El Toro, Great Adventure will also be adding a new children’s area, and a revamped Mexican themed area. Six Flags is also likely to begin construction on a resort hotel near Kingda Ka, once the location is no longer needed as a staging area for pieces of El Toro.

The third huge announcement has not yet been made, but details have been slowly making their way around the coaster sites. Six Flags Magic Mountain will announce on November 15, 2005 that they have been working on a B&M Flyer called Tatsu. The roller coaster will feature a custom layout that will take riders around the top of Samurai Summit. Construction has been taking place over the past month, and coaster pieces began arriving on site slowly over the past few weeks. An accurate layout for Tatsu has not yet been released, but rumors state that the coaster will feature a number of inversions as well as interactions with Revolution and Ninja. It’s good to see Six Flags trying to create a coaster with a unique layout and a theme that fits well with its surroundings. Tatsu is liable to be the biggest theme park addition west of the Mississippi in 2006.

The other Six Flags parks are likely to make minor improvement, but anything big may be on hold until the future of the company is determined. Six Flags New Orleans and Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom may experience similar fates to Astroworld, regardless of what happens with the rest of the company, as both parks have been struggling to make ends meet.

Independent Parks

Holiday World made the biggest splash at the end of the summer by announcing the addition of The Voyage and a new holiday themed land, Thanksgiving. The Voyage will be one of the largest wooden coasters in the world with a 6,442-foot track length and a number of pulse-pounding drops and underground tunnels. The coaster will also feature not one, but two 90-degree banked turns, a wooden roller coaster feature first introduced on Hades. The Voyage, Holiday World’s third wooden roller coaster, will almost certainly vault into top ten wooden coaster lists and continue the parks long tradition of building the best wooden roller coasters in the world. Thanksgiving will also feature an interactive dark ride and a number of other attractions and gift shops.

Next week, Hersheypark will be announcing its new attraction for 2006, and all indications point to the addition of an interactive shooting-gallery dark ride. The former ice skating pavilion is in the process of being turned into this new attraction. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any resolution with the Turbulence dispute, and the space that was home to the Giant Wheel will remain empty.

It sure looks like 2006 is going to be a great year for theme park fans. Some incredibly bold and thrilling roller coasters will debut next season, and a number of parks continue to improve. Many parks are trying to appeal to new guests, while other parks are continuing to appeal to their core fans, but in any case, all of the 2006 additions will make next season an exciting one.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on October 24, 2005 at 9:11 PM
A little more fuel to the Cedar Point rumor fire. Most fans are expecting a S&S screamin swing for the Point next year (similar to the one Valleyfair is getting), and a big coaster the following year. It seems that someone snapped a few pictures of the incoming cargo recently, and the shipping labels read...S&S Power. Why Cedar Fair has decided to keep this a secret is a bit odd. They let the cat out of the bag for Valleyfair quite a while ago. They announced the removal of White Water Landing a few days ago, saying that they have no immediate plans for it (yeah right). The rumors place the S&S Swing between the Mine Ride and Snake River Falls, leaving the nearby site of White Water Landing wide open for 2007. It's quite a bit of real estate, so it makes sense that something big would be going there soon. Cedar Point will continue bringing the thrills while others drift toward families. No worries about it becoming a resort, because it already is one, and has been one for 100 years... with no danger of becoming Magic Mountain. Go and take a look around the hotels, waterparks, the marina, outside restaurants, and the beach during July, and one will see just how much of a resort it is.

Paramount's Kings Island continues to go in the exact opposite direction of Cedar Point. This year, Hanna Barbera moves out, and Nickelodeon completely takes over the kids area. Look for most of the existing attractions to be rethemed, and a few new attractions to be introduced. The Avatar coaster may or may not be a rethemed Ghoster Coaster, and it's likely that Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle will remain at the park as the only HB ride left. Expect Spongebob and Dora galore here, with some sprinklings of the other Nick characters. The official attraction information will come at the end of Winterfest...which means January. Say what you will about their success with all the new family attractions, but I say that they better take care not to totally disregard their massive thrillseeker fanbase. Italian Job wasn't a bad stab at family thrills, but it was a mild thrill ride at very best. Fearfest on 10/23 was an absolute woodstock-like city of teenagers and 20 somethings....the biggest crowd I've seen at PKI in a long time, and nobody (and I mean nobody) there was young enough to really care about kiddie Nickelodeon attractions or the characters they are based on. Not that PKI is making a bad move by any means here, just something they may want to keep in mind for the next couple of years.

From Mike K on October 25, 2005 at 8:08 AM
Here are some photos of the shipments to Cedar Point and a some comments on what its all about.


From Russell Meyer on October 25, 2005 at 11:24 AM
Hersheypark officially announced their 2006 attraction Hersheypark.com

As expected, it's a Sally Dark Ride shooter with two independant tracks, similar to Men in Black. Surprisingly, Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenege is the first "major" attraction in the park to be themed around a Hershey product. It sounds like it could be a fun attraction, but I think it may have been better to replace one of the aging attractions in the World of Chocolate with this ride, or have a different theme for this ride in the park.

From Pete Brecht on October 25, 2005 at 1:00 PM
I was going to nominate Fiesta Texas for the lamest collection of coasters in a major park, but then I looked at RCDB to see what PGA has. Wow, what a crappy set of coasters!

Given the absurdly high cost of real estate in the Bay Area, why is Paramount even hanging onto that property?

From J. Dana on October 25, 2005 at 1:34 PM
Russell, GREAT preview! I enjoyed this...but let me add one thing: The Indiana Jones Stunt Show at Disney-MGM Studios has been extended for 10 more years. I was told this by two individuals: One of the head technicians and by "Indy" himself (a good friend of mine). So, no changes there. Too bad.
From Anthony Murphy on October 25, 2005 at 4:35 PM
Good, I love that stunt show? I really think that IOA should put in a new attraction fast! I am really suprised that there is nothing there! If this park wants to compete with Disney's four parks, they need to put a little effort into the fight. I find the lack of new rides at IOA suprising since it has so much potental!
From Jason Lester on October 25, 2005 at 6:38 PM
The Reese's Challenge looks like it should be a nice addition to the park.

On the subject of Indy at MGM, I think it's an awesome show, but MGM Studios really needs a new ride and the Indy Stunt Show is sitting on some pretty valuable land. I'd be sad to see it go, but also happy at the prospects of what MGM could add to it's ride lineup.

From Dustin Kern on October 27, 2005 at 6:55 AM
I just got on www.rcdb.com and looked at what coasters are expected to open in 2006. Here are the ones that weren't mentioned above.

Cypress Gardens Adventure Park: Starliner

Mt. Olympus Theme Park: Opa. This park has some very thrilling coasters, check them out at: http://www.rcdb.com/pd33.htm

From Greg S on November 1, 2005 at 12:33 PM
I was at Six Flags Magic Mountain just this Sunday, and I saw a piece of the track on Revolution gone, an entire section in samurai summet gone, and the exit for Roaring rappids is some-what removed. (Parts of the stairs) Also, it seems, by looking at the mountain areas next to Roaring rapids' exit, there will be some tunnels!

This ride(Tatsu) seems like it's going to be a great ride.

Also, while I was riding Colossus Backwards, I saw an orangeish yellowish looking track at the parking lot, so, I got extremely excited.

From Ted Heumann on November 2, 2005 at 10:29 AM
The problem I have with the above comment is, Magic Mountain is open, but Revolution, Roaring Rapids AND Samurai (plus I'm sure others) were ALL closed! Sure MM has a lot of other rides and Samurai should have been torn out YEARS ago, but heck!
And people got mad when ONLY California Screamin' was closed!
From Russell Meyer on November 2, 2005 at 11:02 AM
It's kinda hard to keep rides open when you have to place a crane and backhoe within feet of the attraction. Tatsu is going to be a very intricate construction project, and if it's going to be open next spring, they have to close some of the nearby attractions to get the work done on schedule.

This doesn't happen very often because many of the coaster parks do not operate year-round, so it's not a big deal. Magic Mountain is one of the few parks that is advertised as a coaster park that operates year-round. Many other parks have added coasters that "interact" with nearby attractions (Storm Runner at Hersheypark, Goliath at Six Flags Over Georgia, and Alpengeist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg), but they do not operate year-round so attractions near the construction were not affected. If those parks operated year-round, those nearby attractions would need to close also.

I actually think the closure of these nearby attractions is GREAT. That means Magic Mountain is at least trying to come up with a coaster design that is unique and interesting. Let's not forget, their last coaster was a mirror clone built on a parking lot (Scream!). The attractions that are closed are not that big of a deal, but knowing the way SFMM operates, lines for the other attractions will be affected because they will still run them far short of maximum capacity.

The Tatsu announcement is expected in 2 weeks, and I'm expecting something really cool out of this coaster(s). There are some crazy rumors out there that this may actually be a dueling flyer (similar to Dueling Dragons) with a Ying/Yang type theme. SFMM could tear down the useless Superman Ultimate Escape and Flashback, and still have a share of the single park coaster record. Should be interesting when it's announced.

From Jason Lester on November 2, 2005 at 7:40 PM
A dueling coaster would be beyond cool.
From Pete Brecht on November 3, 2005 at 9:55 AM
Russell, why do you call Superman Ultimate Escape "useless"? I think it's a pretty cool ride. I know that they often only run one side of it and that it uses a ton of power, but it's nicely themed and fun to ride. Even 8 years after being built, it's still in the top 5 in the world in terms of speed, drop, and height.

Flashback, OTOH, defines useless. I still don't understand how SFMM can legitimately claim it as one of their coasters if it's permanently out of commission.

From Jason Lester on November 3, 2005 at 7:30 PM
While I don't think Superman is useless, after you've ridden it once it becomes a bore. Yes, Flashback is useless in every sense of the word. It doesn't even run anymore.
From Robert OGrosky on November 4, 2005 at 12:06 PM
I would agree that Superman Escape at SFMM is useless.
Maybe when the ride first opened it was good, but when i rode it a couple of years ago it was BORING and it had been a ride i was looking forward too. The launch was sluggish as best and a yawn when compared to Xcelerator's lawn at Knotts.
From Jason Lester on November 4, 2005 at 5:54 PM
Well, to each his own.
From John Hensler on November 4, 2005 at 8:08 PM
While I'll agree that CP could add more family-related "major" attractions, they did add Camp Snoopy in 1999 and convert the little-utilized IMAX theatre into a family-oriented ice show in 2002. In '04 they added a major kiddie area to Soak City... so I think their status as a family resort is solid...
From L Crum on November 19, 2005 at 4:34 PM
The ride in Seuss Landing at Islands of Adventure is planned to open summer 2006.
And Jaws is currently shut down and is not advertised in our guide maps.

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