Posted on 15 March 2012.
Coming up with a list of the 20 best theme park rides in the US is easy. Narrowing this down to just 5? Now that’s tough! The best theme park rides tell some kind of a story, have innovative or extraordinary motion effects and comfortable, safe ride vehicles. If you are familiar with theme parks, you won’t be surprised to see Disney attractions dominating this list. With a gift for storytelling, a love for innovation and the budget to make big dreams a reality, Disney has all of the elements needed to make a great ride.
5. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue (Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disneyland)
Debuting just in time for Star Wars Weekends in May 2011, the newly revised version of Star Tours has everything a rider could want. A familiar story with beloved Star Wars characters, exhilarating action sequences and the ability to offer a different ride experience each time.
The new Star Tours is still a simulator, but the motion is much smoother and better integrated than before. Expect to come face to face with some of your favorite characters from the Star Wars universe, including Darth Vader, Yoda and Princess Leia. With over 50 different ride combinations, you can ride Star Tours again and again without having the same experience twice.
4. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man (Universal’s Islands of Adventure)
Is it real? That’s the question you’ll ask yourself again and again as you wind your way through the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man. Even experienced theme park thrill riders are hard pressed to figure out just how some of the truly amazing effects of this ride are produced.
Expect awe inspiring special effects, from the moment Spidey himself lands on your car with a thump until the thrilling high speed drop from atop a tall building. This ride employs motion base technology with 3D movie footage, perfectly blending the action and motion – you’ll feel like you’re really soaring alongside Spider-Man. Universal is set to update this already amazing attraction in 2012, so plan accordingly if you are heading to the Orlando area and want to take this one in.
3. Splash Mountain (Disney’s Magic Kingdom)
One of Disney’s classic rides is still one of its best. Riders board a hollowed out log and join Brer Rabbit on journey that only Disney could do justice to. From whimsical touches and details (note the hanging chipmunk laundry near the top of the mountain) to the signature drop into the briar patch, Splash Mountain delivers everything you could want from a theme park ride.
Splash Mountain is an excellent gateway ride for little ones that are tall enough to begin riding thrill rides, but may not be emotionally ready. Combining a healthy dose of music, whimsy and fun with the thrills, your child’s reaction to Splash Mountain is a good gauge for measuring how ready they are to tackle other big thrill rides in the park.
2. Curse of DarKastle (Busch Gardens Williamsburg)
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia is home to several amazing roller coasters and rides, and the Curse of DarKastle tops them all. The park is already a great destination for thrill seekers, with great coasters such as the uniquely diving Griffon, but DarKastle is the park’s must-ride experience.
Housed in the Germany section, this forbidding Gothic Castle is home to a ride that combines 4D technology with some supercharged action sequences. DarKastle combines the best elements from traditional motion simulators and 3d movie rides, and adds in a few extra twists and turns along the way, making it a top pick for any ride aficionado.
1. Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Universal Orlando)
If you could only choose one ride on this list, pick this one. Harry Potter and the Forbidden journey seamlessly blends video and ride technology into an experience even the most committed muggle can enjoy. Getting to the ride is part of the fun, as you make your way through Hogsmeade and then Hogwarts Castle itself. The line area can be so captivating that guests actually forget to move on to the ride itself.
Once you board your “enchanted bench” you’ll be whisked away on a magical journey via the Flue Network. In addition to escaping a boring class lecture, you’ll be treated to some traditional (and some the not so traditional) roller coaster moves. While the coaster here is not as wild as some, the atmosphere, visual thrills and overall experience make this one of the most innovative rides in the United States.
- Star Tours, Splash Mountain images – Walt Disney World press office
- Spiderman, Hogwarts Castle images – Universal Orlando press office
- Curse of Darkcastle image – Stephen Dettling
Samantha McNesby is a freelance writer specializing in topics related to travel, parenting, and the home. Samantha has been a writer for 12 years, and covers the Disney and Orlando parks for Theme Park Tourist, where you can find all the latest theme park news.
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