Thursday, January 18, 2018

California's Great America Debuts New Food Offerings Ahead of Park Expansion


New Starbucks exterior © California's Great America
California's Great America has some big plans on the horizon for the next few seasons, and while this year is already seeing the opening of RailBlazer, a first of its kind roller coaster, it has also announced a very significant investment in its food and beverage offerings for 2018.

Four new establishments will open this year, along with some heavily renovated existing outlets.  To start there will be a new full service Starbucks in Hometown Square, near the Celebration Swings, where the park's candy shop formerly was.  It will feature all of Starbucks' famous beverage options, along with a food menu that ranges from snacks to sandwiches.  The Starbucks will have both indoor seating that looks out onto the park, along with a large outdoor patio.

 New Starbucks interior © California's Great America
Since Starbucks will take over the old candy shop, the theme park is opening the Orleans Candy Kitchen where the Trending Now store was.  It will feature a "station where guests will order specialty caramel apples, choose their personalized toppings and have the delectable favorites made right before their eyes."  Another highlight of the outlet will be hand made fudge in a wide variety of flavors and an extensive offering of Jelly Belly flavors.

Not a new outlet, but heavily renovated this year is Maggie Brown's Smokehouse & Fried Chicken, which was already upgraded in 2017.  For this year it will see modern ordering kiosks installed, along with "a giant rotisserie and smoker visible to guests, an expanded outdoor patio, and interior design renovations."

Sierra Creek Lodge © California's Great America
Located in what was the Joe Cool Cafe in Planet Snoopy, the all-new Sierra Creek Lodge will have a mountain lodge feel from top to bottom.  Between murals of wild animals on the walls and intricate exterior woodwork, the furnishings will portray the Sierra atmosphere.  Food offerings include "a Panini bar featuring fresh vegetables, lean meats and savory sauces. A new Coca-Cola Barrilitos™ station will feature agua fresca (juice and water blends) such as pear cucumber, mango lime, strawberry hibiscus, and pineapple. Kid favorites like chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and pizza will still be available."

Finally, the fourth new location will be the French Quarter Funnel Cake & Churro Factor, expanding the park's ability to create fresh funnel cakes significantly.  There will be a "myriad of flavor combinations" available to visitors as the treats are created right in front of them.  The churro selections will have such unique flavors as "Campout (s'mores), key lime pie, strawberry shortcake, creamsicle, cookies and cream, tropical (coconut, pineapple and rum flavor), macha (white chocolate and Bavarian cream), cotton candy, apple pie and many more flavors."

Elsewhere in the park, catering abilities will be improved with a new 500 person covered outdoor event space next to the existing 18,000 sq foot Great America Pavilion.  It will offer the same upscale catering available inside, but offer open-air views of the park and adjacent stadium.

Last but not least, the private Consulate chambers, offering a beautiful park view from the top of Orleans Place, is being updated with modern amenities for intimate private meetings. Hosting up to 50 attendees, the historic Consulate was originally constructed as an apartment for the Marriott family while the park and neighboring hotel were being built.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

SeaWorld San Diego Finishes Electric Eel Construction in a Flash


© SeaWorld San Diego
In what seemed like a flash, SeaWorld San Diego has completed major construction of the track and supports for Electric Eel, their new-for-2018 launched roller coaster.

This photos are actually out of date, since the track is now complete, but I figured were still worth sharing.  Originally I was under the impression that the higher track on the ride was to have a lighter color, but I guess that isn't so.

© SeaWorld San Diego
The Electric Eel is designed by Premier Rides, and features multiple launches and a maximum speed of 62 miles per hour.  This shot shows the ride at its full height, though there was still plenty of track and supports left to go up when it was taken.  The ride certainly has a large presence over the theme park!

This video was just released by SeaWorld San Diego showing off the complete Electric Eel construction in just a matter of seconds.  Now the park will work on the ride's station, landscaping, theming and all the other details that have to come into place before it can open.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Mountain Monster - New Stan Checketts Designed Ride Opening in Pigeon Forge


© Mountain Mile
A brand new thrill ride, designed by Stan Checketts of S&S fame, has started construction as the centerpiece of the Mountain Mile & Tower Shops in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  Named the Mountain Monster, it will rise to nearly 200 feet above the shopping, retail, dining and entertainment center.

The development is located just minutes from Dollywood, set among the many hotels and attractions that Piegon Forge offers visitors.

© Mountain Mile
There are not a lot of details about the Mountain Monster yet, but all the concept art for the development shows that the ride will tower over the area, giving excellent views from the top.  The website for Mountain Mile & Tower Shops just featured a post about the creation, which says that it will be designed, built and operated by Stan Checketts, who is known for creating the popular Space Shot, Turbo Drop and other tower rides found around the globe (among others).

The new post on the website says that ride structure will hit 200 feet, though another page on the website references 189 feet.  It also says that the tower will contain three rides, which is puzzling when you look at the concept art above, which looks like a normal freefall ride.

© Mountain Mile
However if you dig a bit deeper and download the master plan document, this concept art can be found on it.  Now there is no way to tell if this is updated or old, but this looks more like a tower that could have three thrill rides coming off of it.  It looks like there is a freefall, a bungee launch type ride, and maybe also zip lines coming off of it.  That certainly makes more sense than the freefall tower in the other concept art!  We will have to wait a bit longer to see which design is the final product.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Enjoy Rocky Mountain's New Twisted Timbers Photos


© Rocky Mountain Construction
Twisted Timbers is nearly complete, with only a couple track pieces left to install, and Rocky Mountain Construction is proudly showing off their creation.  The renovation of Kings Dominion's former Hurler wooden roller coaster into a low-to-the-ground twisted masterpiece is looking great, as seen in the aerial shot above.

It's also neat to look at all the new structure versus the old structure, which is noticeable in this photo from the difference in color.  The new supports that hold the steel track are a lighter brown than the old supports, which are dark.

© Rocky Mountain Construction
Twisted Timbers' barrel roll first drop is certainly going to be one of the coaster's most exciting elements, and we've seen plenty of photos of the drop from afar, but this is the first one I've seen taken inside the structure looking down.  The 109 foot drop will completely invert riders as they dive, giving this view for a brief moment as they go.

© Rocky Mountain Construction
Winters can be harsh at times, but they can also make some beautiful photos of snow covered rides.  Rocky Mountain snapped this photo of Twisted Timbers' zero-g roll patiently waiting for riders as the snow collected on its tracks.  Hard to believe that in just a few months the coaster's trains will be roaring through this element!

For more photos, check out Rocky Mountain Construction on Facebook.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

California's Great America Tops Off RailBlazer


© California's Great America
Having already completed nearly of the ride's track and supports, California's Great America placed the highest piece of RailBlazer yesterday.  The very top of the lift was installed, naturally the highest piece as it is all downhill from there.

The above photo is from the park's webcam (may I say I'm jealous of what looks like a beautiful California day?), and actually shows that the park kept up the pace after installing the top of the lift, with the 180 degree turn after it, and some lift track before it, now installed.  That means there are only a few lift pieces left to go in before RailBlazer is full circuit.

© California's Great America
For those of us who were not able to watch the highest piece of track be installed via the park's webcam, California's Great America has shared a video of the process on Facebook.  So now you didn't have to miss a thing!

© California's Great America
This photo is also worth sharing, it was put out by the theme park to advertise that the topping off could be watched on Facebook.  It is the first really good, clear look at the ride's first drop since it has been installed.  That looks amazing!  The colors of the ride really pop in this photo too.  Visitors are going to have a real treat next year with RailBlazer opens!


Thursday, January 11, 2018

New Projection Mapping Show Headed to Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando


© Universal Orlando
Coming off the success of the first nighttime show to be held within the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure in Florida, the Universal Orlando resort has now announced a second show to premier at the end of this month.

The first show celebrated Christmas within the Wizarding World, but the new show, titled The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle, seems to be meant for more year-round entertaining.  Per the resort's blog, the new show will "celebrate the four houses of Hogwarts by transforming the castle in a dazzling display of lights, special effects and music."

© Universal Orlando
Each of the four houses (Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff) will be represented during the performance, as the spirit of each house "wraps itself around the castle... showcasing its pride in its own unique way."

The Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts Castle will officially premier on January 31st, but a special preview of the show will take place during A Celebration of Harry Potter, the special fan event that takes place on January 26th through the 28th.  The show will continue to run on select dates in February with more performances to be detailed at a later date.