The first phases of a re-imagined Fantasyland at Walt Disney World, the new Cars Land at California's Disneyland based on the "Cars" movies, and Universal Studios Hollywood's new Transformers ride top the list of new attractions at theme parks across the country in 2012.
And thrill ride enthusiasts won't be disappointed, with at least 20 new roller coasters debuting at parks from Maryland to California.
Disney says the renovation and new construction at Fantasyland inside the Magic Kingdom is the largest expansion project in the park's 40-year history, doubling the size of the current Fantasyland. Part of it — including one of what eventually will be dueling Dumbo rides and the re-themed Barnstormer family roller coaster — opened in April.
Much of the construction is still in the middle stages, but Disney says most of the new elements will be open in time for the winter holidays this year, with the rest opening later. It's going to include new "attract-areas" — immersive mini-parks that include attractions, restaurants and retail — built around the stories of "Snow White" and "Beauty and the Beast," as well as a new dark ride based on the adventures of "The Little Mermaid."
Replacing Snow White's Scary Adventures in Fantasyland will be Princess Fairytale Hall, where visitors will be able to interact with all the Disney princesses.
"The opportunity to greatly expand and relaunch Fantasyland, which has been largely unchanged since 1972, is just a huge opportunity," Tom Staggs, chairman of Disney Parks and Resorts, told The Associated Press earlier this year. "Every time I go down and look at the progress in construction I get more excited about it."
On May 8, Universal Orlando introduced a daily interactive character parade and nighttime pyrotechnics show celebrating Universal's 100 years of making movies. A new 3-D ride based on the "Despicable Me" movie will open this summer.
In April, SeaWorld Orlando opened a new attraction centered on sea turtles, including a first-of-its-kind 360-degree domed theater showing a 3-D movie about the endangered creatures. Legoland, which opened in October in Winter Haven, is renovating and reopening an existing water park at the site in time for the summer season.
Busch Gardens in Tampa this spring rolled out an elaborate ice show called "Iceploration," which features everything from bombastically costumed skaters to live exotic birds flying around the indoor theater.