Summer 2012's Top 5 Theme Park Rides

Just in time for Memorial Day Weekend, adventure parks across the country promise thrills and chills as their latest attractions attempt to go faster, higher and scarier than ever before.

Ready for some thrills? Summer 2012 brings new heart-stopping rides and dazzling entertainment to the nation's theme parks. Here's what's new:

Transformers: The Ride-3D (Universal Studios, Hollywood)
Fusing high definition 3D media and flight simulation technology, visitors can expect to feel like they are right in the middle of a Transformers war zone. “Transformers” director Michael Bay collaborated on the ride, which places attendees mid-battle alongside Optimus Prime in his quest to ensure that the AllSpark doesn’t fall into the metallic clutches of the evil Decepticons. Visually immersive, the ride comprises a mobile in-car experience housed within a 60,000 square foot, four-story-high sound stage. Bumblebee and Megatron, of course, are on hand as each car moves along 2,000 feet of track at speeds up to 60 miles per hour. Fourteen screens ensure the surrounding images are seamless from floor to ceiling as water, heat and wind elements are used to create the most realistic ride possible.
Opening May 25.

Skyrush (Hersheypark, Hershey, Pa.)
The name practically says it all: Riders are placed in a winged seating arrangement (four seats per car, two with flooring and two without) and then shot 200 feet into the air before being plunged down an 85 degree descent. The route incorporates four high-speed banking curves and five zero-G airtime hills with a top speed of 75 miles per hour. The coaster’s motto is “Ride the Edge,” which refers to the two passengers on the outer sides of the seating configuration, which is a first of its kind in the world. Skyrush takes its place alongside Hershey’s 12 other roller coasters – these include Fahrenheit, Great Bear, Sidewinder and Wildcat, all classified as “aggressive thrill rides” by the operator.
Opening May 26.

Manta (SeaWorld, San Diego, Calif.)
Now here’s a ride that truly is “immersive.” Taking cues from its namesake, SeaWorld’s latest attraction transitions you from viewing rays in underwater flight to actually experiencing flight above the waves. Paired with a 100,000-gallon aquarium and outdoor ray pool, the coaster twists and turns in what is the first major new attraction for the theme park in seven years. Due to San Diego’s strict height restrictions along the coastline, the Manta can lift riders no higher than 30 feet, resulting in a ride that is a low to the ground speed frenzy of sharp banks and turns. To ensure that stomach dropping feeling remains, the coaster incorporates a drop that descends 54 feet underground. The five-car trains seat passengers two-abreast in two rows for a total of 20 riders per train, with the second row of each car featuring elevated seating to ensure all riders get the same thrilling view.
Opening May 26.

Verbolten (Busch Gardens, Williamsburg, Va.)
Here’s a ride for the vertically-challenged among us! Verbolten’s low 48-inch height requirement means adult thrill-riders now have an attraction they can share with the smaller, next generation of coaster riders. Verbolten is the capstone of a two-year rejuvenation project in the park’s Oktoberfest village and features cars shaped like, well, cars. With a storyline inspired by Grimm’s fairy tales, the ride takes visitors on a high-speed drive along the German autobahn before detouring through the forbidden Black Forest. At 2,800 feet long the experience lasts 3 ½ minutes and will travel up to speeds of 55 mph. True, not quite the autobahns free-for-all when it comes to speed limits, but fast enough to give you the coaster rush you’re looking for.
Opening May 18.

Lex Luthor: Drop of Doom (Six Flags Magic Mountain, Valencia, Calif.)
This 400-foot fall attraction is billed as the world’s tallest vertical drop ride. Riders are placed in on one of two eight-person gondolas situated on either side of the tower. These gondolas then climb the 415 feet of steel in a staggering 95 seconds (just enough time to gape at the surrounding landscape) before free-falling back to earth at 85 mph. Lex Luthor is physically integrated into the existing, backward-launching Superman: Escape from Krypton. What that means is as you descend, you may just feel a whoosh of air in the opposite direction as a cart blasts up the tower behind you. The entire experience lasts little more than two minutes, but those stomach-floating moments as your body begins to free fall are really what this ride is all about.
Opening mid-June.

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