The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over — and neither are its theme park leftovers.
With the industry inching towards normalcy in 2021, parks did announce new rides and expansions, often smaller-scale offerings. The biggest additions, however, are still projects that were delayed by the pandemic or at least had been unveiled prior to it.
So here are Theme Park Tribune’s picks for the five most-anticipated theme park attractions opening in 2022:
5. All those SeaWorld coasters
Opening: February 2022 (Ice Breaker); March 2022 (Iron Gwazi, Pantheon, Emperor)
Our 2020 version of this list was topped by Iron Gwazi, the record-setting Rocky Mountain Construction hybrid coaster set for Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. The pandemic set in just as the ride was starting testing, but surely it would open in 2021, right?
That’s exactly what we expected not only for Iron Gwazi, but Emperor at SeaWorld San Diego, Pantheon at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Ice Breaker at SeaWorld Orlando. Instead, SeaWorld waited until late in the summer to confirm that these finished coasters would again be delayed — though at least this time we have their opening windows narrowed to specific months.
All four of these coasters will be headliners at their parks. Iron Gwazi could be a top five coaster in the entire country. But on principle — or maybe out of bitterness — I can’t give these same coasters higher spots on my most-anticipated list for a third year in a row. Just open them already.
4. Peppa Pig Theme Park at Legoland Florida
Opening: Feb. 24, 2022
The first of three new parks on our list, Peppa Pig Theme Park may be small on its own at 4.5 acres, but its aims are bigger than its size would suggest.
Aimed at a preschool demographic, the park not only expands the Legoland Florida Resort to a second gate, but its focus on accessibility from the design phase to final build could provide a model for future themed entertainment projects. Maybe even a wheelchair-friendly roller coaster?
The park will feature six rides in total, headlined by Daddy Pig’s Roller Coaster, a Zamperla kiddie coaster.
3. Sesame Place San Diego
Opening March 2022
This 17-acre park in Chula Vista, California, delayed from 2021, will transform the existing Aquatica San Diego with new “Sesame Street”-themed experiences to create a more well-rounded second gate for SeaWorld in Southern California.
Along with retaining 11 water rides, the park will feature seven new rides, including Super Grover’s Box Car Derby, a Zierer Force family coaster like its counterparts in Orlando and San Antonio.
You can also expect to see elements of SeaWorld Orlando’s Sesame Street section, including well-known locations from the show such as the 123 Stoop and Hooper’s Store.
2. Lost Island Theme Park
Opening TBA 2022
New theme parks in the U.S. are uncommon enough. But a new family-owned park relying entirely on original concepts and projected to cost around $100 million? That kind of addition hasn’t happened in decades.
The Bertch family has been fairly tight-lipped on specifics about its 90-acre Waterloo, Iowa park. We do know that it will have five themed “realms.” We know it will house a new, trackless interactive dark ride. And we know the park purchased a Intamin launch coaster, formerly known as Kanonen, from a park in Sweden. That’s about it.
It’s a bold project, which could drive a wave of new investment into theming at regional, seasonal theme parks — if it works.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Opening Summer 2022 at Epcot
Even three new parks can’t compete with the hype of a new Disney World roller coaster, though that’s not why Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind tops our list.
A 5,500-foot-long spinning coaster enclosed in a massive show building and promising storytelling based on an ultra-popular Marvel franchise is the kind of ambitious project fans expect from Disney. To overcome damaging Epcot’s sight lines and offending Epcot purists’ distaste for rides based on films, the Guardians coaster needs to deliver a Rise of the Resistance-level ride experience.
If it’s only on the level of Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts, Disney will have missed a chance to give Epcot a true headliner. But if it works, Disney’s Epcot revamp just may be saved.