Adrenaline-pumping thrill rides may get all the buzz in the theme park biz, but there's also a lot of tamer fun to be had for families with little kids. The good news is that theme parks are launching a lot of fun new attractions for the younger set this summer, and often—but, alas, not always—lower height requirements go hand in hand with lower admission prices.
California's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
Love superheroes? Six Flags Magic Mountain introduces a new shooter dark ride called Justice League Battle For Metropolis 4D, which teams up Superman, the Flash and Wonder Woman for a face-to-face encounter with The Joker. After being introduced last year at other Six Flags locations, this immersive ride won the prestigious Best New Ride award from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The minimum height is just 42 inches, so most 5-year-olds can give it a whirl.
This summer, SeaWorld San Diego is introducing a new three-acre area called Ocean Explorer, which includes a mix of rides and aquariums, as well as dining and a play area. Families can take a submarine journey as scientific researchers and explore kid-friendly pod-like aquariums they can crawl through and come face to face with creatures such as spider crabs and moray eels.
In 2016, Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad launched Lego Ninjago World, based on the ninja heroes from the Ninjago TV show. The standout ride is Lego Ninjago - The Ride, a unique 4D ride where families use their hands ninja-style to direct lightning blasts and ice crystals at targets to rack up points.
In 2015, Legoland launched the Lego Star Wars Miniland Death Star. The attraction offers families the chance to view iconic scenes made of Lego bricks that were filmed inside the Galactic Empire's space station. Legoland also debuted Heartlake City, an area based on the Lego Group’s “Lego Friends” toy line, which focuses on the lives and personalities of five girls: Mia, Olivia, Andrea, Stephanie, and Emma.
In 2016, Disneyland rolled out a fun new ride for little kids in Cars Land, a highly immersive area based on Pixar's "Cars" movies at Disney California Adventure park. Luigi's Rollickin' Roadsters lets families go for a ride in dancing cars at Casa della Tires.
In 2015, Universal Studios Hollywood opened Springfield U.S.A., a Simpsons-themed area that brings the fictional hometown of “The Simpsons,” to life with accompanying retail and restaurants next to the park's existing “The Simpsons Ride." In 2014, Universal opened two crowd pleasers with the immersive Despicable Me Minion Mayhem attraction and Super Silly Fun Land inspired by the pier side park featured in the movie.
Florida's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
The huge news at Disney World this year is the introduction of the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s "Avatar." The first must-do attraction is the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, where will guests climb aboard a reed boat and float down a mysterious river hidden within the bioluminescent rainforest full of caves, passing by exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures.
Last year at its Epcot theme park, Disney World introduced Frozen Ever After, which takes guests through the kingdom of Arendelle from the Disney animated hit, "Frozen." Families can celebrate a "Summer Snow Day" on a journey through a frozen willow forest, past Troll Valley and up to Queen Elsa's palace high up on the north mountain.
Universal Orlando has introduced the brand new Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon ride, which lets the audience strap into a “flying theater" and careen down the streets of New York City. With a minimum height of 40 inches, kids as young as 4 years old get the green light.
In 2015, Legoland Florida opened a land called Heartlake City. The expansion includes a horse-themed disc coaster called Mia's Riding Adventure, and an interactive show titled ‘Friends to the Rescue.' In 2014, Legoland debuted the Duplo Valley Toddler Area, a new farm-themed play space, for children between the ages of 2 and 5, which features the Duplo Train and an interactive splash pad, mini-tractor ride, and the Duplo Barn, an indoor play area.
In 2015, I-Drive 360 in Orlando brought together Merlin Entertainments’ attractions Madame Tussauds, Sea Life Aquarium, and the Orlando Eye. Madame Tussauds features wax figures of worldwide celebrities in music, sports, politics, science, and more. Sea Life Aquarium contains more than 5,000 creatures and learning experiences. The Orlando Eye Ferris wheel is 400-feet tall and offers scenic views of the surrounding area. The complex also includes Skeletons: A Museum of Osteology, which showcases 300 animal and human skeletons in a 7,500-square-foot exhibit space.
Also in 2015, the Crayola Experience opened in Orlando, featuring 25 kid-friendly, hands-on experiences based on the popular crayons in a 70,000-square-foot facility.
Georgia's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
Love superheroes? Six Flags Over Georgia in Austell introduces a new shooter dark ride called Justice League Battle For Metropolis 4D, which teams up Superman, the Flash and Wonder Woman for a face-to-face encounter with The Joker. After being introduced last year at other Six Flags locations, this immersive ride won the prestigious Best New Ride award from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The minimum height is just 42 inches, so most 5-year-olds can give it a whirl.
Last year, the same park introduced a DC Super Friends kids area with five family experiences themed on superheroes and villains: a Superman Tower of Power, Batcopters, Wonder Woman Flight School, Harley Quinn Games and The Joker Funhouse Coaster.
Idaho's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2015, Triple Play Family Fun Park expanded in Hayden to include a laser tag arena and a 32-foot-tall indoor ropes course with attractions for all ages.
Silverwood Theme Park, north of Coeur d’Alene, doubled the size of its family entertainment area in 2014 with a family spinning coaster, a kiddie Ferris wheel, and other attractions designed for children and young families.
Illinois's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2015, Six Flags Great America in Gurnee celebrated 40 years by reintroducing three children's rides that existed when it first opened: the “Lady Bugs,” the “Red Baron Airplanes,” and the “Tots Livery Surrey Carriage.”
Indiana's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2014, Indiana Beach Amusement Resort in Monticello debuted four new attractions for children and families: the Baby Baron bi-plane, Dragon Wagon mini coaster, Growler teacup ride, and the Rock N Tugboat simulator.
Massachusetts's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2015, Edaville USA, a family amusement park and heritage railroad located in South Carver opened Thomas Land, an 11.5-acre area with 14 rides based on “Thomas & Friends.” Thomas Land features a 20-minute long, scenic train ride on a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine and theme park favorites, including a roller coaster, drop tower, Ferris wheel, soft-play area, and more.
Minnesota's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2015, Valleyfair in Shakopee opened the family-friendly “Barefoot Beach” splash pad, adding nearly one acre of water play attractions for young guests. In 2014, the park introduced the Northern Lights family coaster and the Route 76 family area with three classic rides: Antique Autos, Tilt-a-Whirl, and Scrambler.
Missouri's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
Silver Dollar City in Branson opened a new fire station-themed section in 2015 called Fireman’s Landing with new family rides and four interactive play zones for families. Rides for little ones include the Fire Spotter, a soaring balloon ride for spotting fires; Fire Wagon Frenzy, a bumpy bucket ride; Fireman’s Flyer, a low swing ride for little ones; Up the Latter, a small free-fall, drop ride; and Lucky’s Dizzy Dogs, a bouncing ride around a fire hydrant. The new interactive play areas include the Firefighter’s Fire Drill, with buckets, pumpers, foam ball cannons and more for putting out mock fires; Firefighter’s Junior Fire Escape, a small obstacle course with soft play areas for toddlers; and Firehouse Splash Yard, with squirting water jets and pump hoses.
New Hampshire's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2014, Story Land in Glen debuted Roar-O-Saurus, a dinosaur-themed wooden roller coaster designed for the whole family. The 12-passenger coaster has a maximum height of 40 feet and takes riders through its 1,242 feet of tracks behind Rory, the little dinosaur with a big roar.
New Jersey's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
Love superheroes? Six Flags Great Adventure introduces a new shooter dark ride called Justice League Battle For Metropolis 4D, which teams up Superman, the Flash and Wonder Woman for a face-to-face encounter with The Joker. After being introduced last year at other Six Flags locations, this immersive ride won the prestigious Best New Ride award from the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The minimum height is just 42 inches, so most 5-year-olds can give it a whirl.
In 2015, Storybook Land in Egg Harbor Township installed the tree-shaped “Out on a Limb!” children’s swing ride with a squirrel that sits on top of it.
New York's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2015, Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George introduced the Buccaneer Beach children's area in its Splashwater Kingdom water park. The pirate-themed kid-friendly water playground is stocked with a vast array of water games, pop-up spray jets, splash pads, and water slides.
Ohio's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In 2015, Kings Island in Mason unveiled two new rides. “Woodstock Gliders,” a classic flying scooters ride, featuring eight two-person planes that glide 28 feet above the ground. As the planes begin to rotate, they fan out over a large area. Each plane has a movable front wing that allows you to control the flight and alter their ride experience from mild to wild. “Snoopy’s Space Buggies” is designed for children of all ages and bounces families in six four-seat vehicles while rotating in a circle.
Pennsylvania's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
Like drop towers? Hersheypark in Hershey is introducing the new Hershey Triple Tower, which offers a choice between an 80-foot drop on Hershey Kisses tower (36 in. min height), a 131-foot plunge on Reese’s Tower (42 in. min. height), while leaving bigger kids to the 189-foot drop on Hershey Tower (48 in. min. height).
In 2015, opened the “Laff Trakk Indoor Coaster,” a spinning glow-coaster. The family-friendly ride entertains guests with thrills from a 1,400-foot steel track, high-banked curves, camelback air time hills and curves, and an Immelman turn, as well as funhouse sights and sounds complete with glimpses of colorful characters and a dizzying hall of mirrors. In 2014, the park unveiled three new family rides: Cocoa Cruiser is a 12-seat roller coaster, a classic Teacups ride, and the Sweet Swing, where up to 12 guests sit back-to-back in bench style seats as they swing back and forth.
In 2015, Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster debuted “Bon Voyage Balloon Chase,” which features eight spinning hot-air balloons with gondolas that can be rotated individually by riders using a center wheel. Last year, the park introduced Exploration Island, a prehistoric-themed area features Dino Dig, an open-air fossil dig area; Prehistoric Path, a forest pathway filled with more than a dozen lifelike animatronic dinosaurs; Gondola Cruise, a scenic canal ride around the perimeter of the island; and The Turnpike, a 5-mph ride around the area’s outer rim.
Tennessee's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
In Pigeon Forge, Dollywood is introducing Whistle Punk Chaser, a new junior coaster that throws thrilling twists and turns at Dollywood’s younger loggers, helping prepare them for the day they can join their parents aboard the award-winning Thunderhead wooden coaster. Whistle Punk Chaser joins FireChaser Express, another junior coaster introduced in 2014.
Texas's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
The Bugs Bunny Boomtown section opened at Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington in 2014. The new area encompasses 10 attractions, including Looney Tunes Adventure Camp, Marvin Martian’s Space Rockets, and Daffy Duck Bucket Blasters.
Virginia's Best New Attractions for Little Kids
Great Wolf Lodge Williamsburg debuted three new attractions in 2015. The resort unveiled “Slideboarding,” a water slide experience integrated with a video game that challenges you to hit corresponding targets on their controller as they travel down the slide. The “Howler’s Peak Ropes Course,” a 50-foot-tall ropes course with zip-lines, ropes, and wobbly bridges, made its debut. The resort also launched “The Clubhouse Crew,” an experience where children design their own stuffed companions that accompany them throughout a puzzle-solving mystery.