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New swing rides, roller coasters ready to entertain visitors

Mitch Stacy I Associated Press

Massive swings at Cedar Point, Kings Island, Dollywood and a Six Flags in California, plus coasters at Six Flags with a Green Lantern theme and a new Little Mermaid attraction at Disneyland are among the new attractions awaiting visitors this season at theme parks around the country.

Cedar Point and Kings Island in Ohio, and Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Calif., all are rolling out a thrill ride called Windseeker, which spins riders nearly 30 stories in the air in two-person swings that flare out and rotate around a tower.

Six Flags parks in Vallejo, Calif., and St. Louis also are debuting monster swings. Their version, called SkyScreamer, towers 236 feet above the ground with two-person swings soaring in a 98-foot circle at 43 mph. The ride will be lighted at night from top to bottom.

And Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., added a swing ride called Barnstormer, with two pendulum arms seating 16 passengers each. The swing takes riders to a peak of 81 feet in the air and rotates at 45 mph.

Roller coaster enthusiasts will also be able to get their fix on new rides at the Six Flags parks.

Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J., and Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, Calif., are launching Green Lantern, a 15-story stand-up coaster that begins with a 45-mph vertical drop before rocketing riders through five inversions, including loops and corkscrews.

Green Lantern is among three new coasters at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Six Flags New England near Springfield, Mass., adds the steel coaster called Gotham City: Gauntlet Escape from Arkham Asylum, while the Dare Devil Dive coaster opens at Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell, Ga., featuring a 10-story vertical drop.

Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington marks its 50th anniversary by bringing back a faster and steeper Texas Giant coaster.

New York’s Coney Island has opened its first new roller coasters since the famed Cyclone was built in the 1920s. Four new thrill rides in the park are known collectively as the Scream Zone.

In early June, Disney California Adventure in Anaheim debuts The Little Mermaid – Ariel’s Undersea Adventure as part of a multiyear billion-dollar expansion of the park. The family-friendly ride features characters from the popular movie as riders travel on a virtual underwater journey.

Disney parks in Orlando, Fla., and California are reopening the venerable Star Tours ride with a new 3-D element and “Star Wars”-inspired story line for the deep space flight simulator. Star Tours opened May 20 at Disney World and will open next Friday at Disneyland.

“Star Wars” fans get a treat at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif., too, with Star Wars Miniland, which offers scenes from the movies made of 1.5 million Lego bricks, including depictions of Tatooine where Luke Skywalker grew up; Endor; the icy planet Hoth and the Millennium Falcon.

The world’s fifth Legoland park, and the first one on the East Coast, is scheduled to open this fall on the site of the old Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Fla.

Legoland Florida planners say 50 million of the iconic plastic building bricks will be incorporated into rides, statues and attractions geared toward children ages 2 to 12 and their families.

The park will retain its famous botanical gardens and water ski show from Cypress Gardens, which was one of Florida’s first theme parks.

SeaWorld parks in Orlando, Fla., San Diego and San Antonio are introducing their first new Shamu shows in five years, environmentally themed killer whale attractions called “One Ocean.”

According to SeaWorld, the show “features majestic killer whales as ambassadors of the sea, and the ocean as the center of the universe. … At the core of the show is the unifying message that both animals and humans are part of one world, with one ocean, and its future is in our hands to cherish and protect.”

In addition, SeaWorld San Diego opens Turtle Reef, a nearly 300,000-gallon aquarium featuring more than 60 threatened or endangered sea turtles.

Another animal-themed attraction, Cheetah Hunt, opens at Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla.

A roller coaster that uses the force of repelling magnets to launch riders from zero to 60 mph in a matter of seconds – three different times during the ride – is the centerpiece of a new animal habitat area that will allow visitors to get up close to the lithe cats living there.

They can also witness the world’s fastest land animal in action during daily sprints conducted by trainers.

New this year at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., is an add-on experience at Animal Kingdom that allows guests to join a small group on a guided expedition to see the park’s wild animals on foot and by special vehicles.

Universal Studios Hollywood has a new video host for its tram tour this year in the person of Jimmy Fallon. The former “Saturday Night Live” star and late-night talk show host narrates the tour, which takes visitors behind the scenes of movies and television shows to sets and locations on the Universal Studios back lot.

Fallon called the tour “a classic” that shows “all the hard work that goes into making a movie or a TV show.”

His narration starts in June, replacing Whoopi Goldberg.

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