USA TODAY International Edition

Thrill of the 1st drop

Most anticipate­d roller coasters of ’ 23 are starting to open

- Eve Chen

Derek Perry rode every new roller coaster that opened across the U. S. last year, and he can’t wait for what’s next. “It’s a really exciting time to be a coaster enthusiast.”

Serious fans like Perry, who serves as communicat­ions director for American Coaster Enthusiast­s, the “world’s largest club of amusement ride enthusiast­s,” plan whole trips around “which coasters they can hit or which coaster they haven’t been on,” he said. “And then, with the new coasters, everyone wants to get on those coasters as quickly as possible.”

You don’t have to be that dedicated, though, to appreciate all the new ground- breaking rides opening across the country as early as this weekend. Here are 12 of the most anticipate­d roller coasters of 2023:

Aquaman: Power Wave at Six Flags Over Texas

● Now open.

● Location: Arlington, Texas.

● Descriptio­n: Riders are launched forward and backward on what Six

Flags Over Texas calls the “first ride- ofits- kind” in North America, with a 90degree dive into a “massive splashdown.”

● Speed: Up to 63 mph.

● Minimum height: 48 inches. Perry likened Aquaman: Power Wave to riding a big boat on a roller coaster track. “You get propelled backward up an incline, and then you go forward up an incline, and then you come back and go even higher, and then the pool at the bottom, when you pass it that last time, valves open and immediatel­y fill with more water so when you come back down, you hit the water and there’s this huge splash,” he said. “It’s a cool combinatio­n of a roller coaster and a water ride.”

Arctic Rescue at SeaWorld San Diego

● Opening: Spring.

● Location: San Diego.

● Descriptio­n: Guests have to hurry to save Arctic animals from poachers as ice melts on Arctic Rescue, which SeaWorld calls the “fastest and longest straddle coaster on the West Coast.” It will feature 2,800 feet of track and three launches.

● Speed: 40 mph.

● Minimum height: Unlisted.

“I’m excited about that,” Perry said. “I can’t believe how many coasters SeaWorld San Diego has received in the past five years or so. ... They just opened Emperor last year, so to follow it up with another new coaster this year, it’s pretty unbelievab­le.”

Big Bear Mountain at Dollywood

● Opening: May.

● Location: Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

● Descriptio­n: With 3,990 feet of track, Big Bear Mountain will be the longest roller coaster at Dollywood and the park’s first featuring onboard audio.

● Speed: Up to 48 mph.

● Minimum height: 39 inches. “They’re promoting it kind of as a family thrill attraction, but ( with) the length of the track and what it does, I think it’s going to appeal to kids up until thrill seekers,” Perry said.

He had a chance to check out the ride cars at the Internatio­nal Associatio­n of Amusement Parks and Attraction­s convention last year and praised their detail and theming. “It’s probably going to end up being my favorite roller coaster at the park.”

Catapult Falls at SeaWorld San Antonio

● Opening: Summer.

● Location: San Antonio.

● Descriptio­n: Expect to get wet on the world’s steepest and first launched flume coaster, which SeaWorld says will give riders “the rush of a coaster while experienci­ng the rocking and swaying of riding on a track of water.” The ride will also feature “the only vertical lift in North America,” rising seven feet per second.

● Speed: Over 37 mph.

● Minimum height: Undisclose­d. Flume coasters can be a subject of debate for coaster fans who tally rides.

“Is that going to count as a water ride or as a roller coaster or both?” Perry asked. “People aren’t sure yet, but it looks like it will be awesome to be propelled forward on a water ride. It’s definitely unique.”

DarKoaster at Busch Gardens Williamsbu­rg

● Opening: Spring.

● Location: Williamsbu­rg, Virginia.

● Descriptio­n: Boarding snowmobile­s to investigat­e unusual weather patterns near a cursed castle, brave riders may find they’re not alone as they race through the dark on North America’s first all- indoor straddle coaster, featuring four launches.

● Speed: Unlisted.

● Minimum height: 48 inches. DarKoaster will be housed in Busch Garden Williamsbu­rg’s Curse of DarKastle building and pay subtle homage to its previous ride, according to the park. All indoor rides can face spatial limitation­s, but Perry said in DarKoaster, “You’re going to go around the track twice. There’s a switch track, and so they’re going to change the lighting, and they said it’s going to be very different between the first time you go around and the second time you go around to tell the story.” The ride has over 1,400 feet of track, but that switch will allow riders to experience 2,454 feet of track.

Kid Flash Cosmic Coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia, Six Flags Fiesta Texas

● Opening: Summer.

● Locations: Austell, Georgia, and San Antonio.

● Descriptio­n: Guests can race against each other on dueling twin tracks, which cross over a dozen times “like a twisted bowl of spaghetti,” according to Six Flags. The tracks themselves are single- rail.

● Speed: Undisclose­d, but the park ranks the thrill level as “mild.”

● Minimum height: 36 inches. “Families and friends are going to have a blast racing,” Perry said, noting the repeat ride- ability with varying outcomes. These will be the first racing coasters in Georgia and Texas, but Perry said their most unique feature will be LED panels lining each track, which can change color. “This is the first time that anything like this has been created for a roller coaster, and theme park fans are super excited to see this come to life.”

Pipeline: The Surf Coaster at SeaWorld Orlando

● Opening: Spring.

● Location: Orlando, Florida.

● Descriptio­n: Guests can hang much more than 10 on this “first- of- its- kind” coaster” featuring an “inventive harness that keeps you secure while giving you unparallel­ed freedom of movement,” according to SeaWorld Orlando.

● Speed: Up to 60 mph.

● Minimum height: 54 inches. “Coaster enthusiast­s are psyched for Pipeline,” Perry said “It’s a new ride design that they haven’t experience­d before. ... The ride apparatus actually is going to kind of bounce up and down like you’re riding a wave. And this is also the first launched stand- up coaster that has ever been built.”

He noted many ride manufactur­ers seem to have shifted away from building stand- up coasters. “This hopefully will be super popular, and there will be a resurgence of stand- up coasters.”

Primordial at Lagoon

● Opening: Undisclose­d 2023.

● Location: Farmington, Utah.

● Descriptio­n: The park says details and images will be released as the ride, now under constructi­on, gets closer to opening.

● Speed: Undisclose­d.

● Minimum height: Undisclose­d. “They haven’t released too many details ... so that’s building the anticipati­on,” Perry said. “They built some kind of mountain, so you can see the mountain, and then you see this one section of outdoor track. So coaster enthusiast­s are really like, ‘ What’s inside?’ “

TRON Lightcycle/ Run at Walt Disney World

● Opening: April 4.

● Location: Near Orlando, Florida.

● Descriptio­n: TRON Lightcycle/ Run invites guests to enter the Grid and race against personified computer Programs in futuristic Lightcycle vehicles, just like in the “Tron” and “Tron: Legacy” films and TRON arcade game.

● Speed: Undisclose­d but Disney calls it “one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park.”

● Minimum height: 48 inches. “Coaster enthusiast­s who have been riding it have just been blown away,” Perry said. “They love the whole look, the futuristic look of everything, how it’s all weaved together with music from Daft Punk from the movie and pulling in the different futuristic themes. There are so many things to look at on the ride, you want to go on it definitely multiple times if possible.”

While the ride officially opens to the public next month, it’s been open for cast members, annual pass members, and other special previews for a few weeks. When Perry got to ride it, he said he got chills.

“With TRON Lightcycle/ Run, you are merged in that video game, like you’re on the Grid. You were digitized and you’re part of it, and it doesn’t seem like you’re in Florida anymore,” he said. “It’s almost like being in a dream or something.”

Wild Mouse at Cedar Point

● Opening: May.

● Location: Sandusky, Ohio.

● Descriptio­n: Guests chase after cheese in six mouse- themed cars and one cheese- themed car on this all- new coaster, which throws back to Cedar Point’s original Wild Mouse ride. Because the number of riders in each car can change how it spins now, the park says “no two rides will be the same.”

● Speed: 35 mph.

● Minimum height: 42 inches with a supervisin­g companion or 48 inches solo.

“It’s going to be a great family addition to the park,” Perry said.

Cedar Point is known for its coasters, and Wild Mouse will be its 18th. “There are all these roller coasters that go over 200, 300 feet tall,” he said. “This is an awesome addition where the people who don’t want to go that high can still enjoy the roller coaster.”

Wildcat’s Revenge at Hersheypar­k

● Opening: Summer.

● Location: Hershey, Pennsylvan­ia.

● Descriptio­n: This new steel and wood hybrid roller coaster plunges riders down an 82- degree drop and features four inversions and the “world’s largest underflip.”

● Speed: Up to 62 mph.

● Minimum height: 48 inches. “Some coaster enthusiast­s were definitely upset that ( its predecesso­r) Wildcat was closing, this traditiona­l wooden coaster,” Perry said. But the new ride incorporat­es several nods to the original.

“They took some of the wooden structure and then ( add) the all- steel track,” he said. “The ride got a little rough in later years, so this is perfect.”

He also compliment­ed the train car design. “There’s a wildcat coming out of the front of the train, so it’s going to be eye- catching. And then it’s the world’s largest underflip, the inversion spin that they’re going for,” he said. “People can’t wait.”

Zambezi Zinger at Worlds of Fun

● Opening: Undisclose­d 2023.

● Location: Kansas City, Missouri.

● Descriptio­n: The tallest point on this new hybrid wood and steel coaster stands 17 feet higher than the park’s original Zinger. Zambezi Zinger also features a new African safari theme and side- by- side seating, instead of toboggan- style seats.

● Speed: 45 mph.

● Minimum height: Unlisted. “They’re going to use some of the elements from the old coaster like a spiral lift hill and some tunnels and stuff,” Perry said, which he added makes fans wonder, “‘ What is this going to be like, how close to the old coaster is this going to be, and what are they going to bring to it?’ ”

 ?? PROVIDED BY DISNEY PARKS ?? TRON Lightcycle/ Run will open in April at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney calls it “one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park.”
PROVIDED BY DISNEY PARKS TRON Lightcycle/ Run will open in April at Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Disney calls it “one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park.”
 ?? PROVIDED BY SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINM­ENT ?? Arctic Rescue’s snowmobile- like vehicles will let riders lean into curves on its 2,800 feet of track at SeaWorld San Diego.
PROVIDED BY SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINM­ENT Arctic Rescue’s snowmobile- like vehicles will let riders lean into curves on its 2,800 feet of track at SeaWorld San Diego.
 ?? PROVIDED BY SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINM­ENT PHOTOS ?? Catapult Falls will break records when it opens at SeaWorld San Antonio.
PROVIDED BY SEAWORLD PARKS AND ENTERTAINM­ENT PHOTOS Catapult Falls will break records when it opens at SeaWorld San Antonio.

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