Walkabout with kangaroos, go under the sea with sharks, hang out with Western characters, Kung Fu with a panda, or pal around with Pixar characters—all at Southern California theme parks this summer. Here are seven summer-exclusive attractions and theme park additions for families to enjoy:
1. Walkabout Australia at the San Diego Safari Park in Escondido offers visitors a chance to walk through a more than three-acre area filled with kangaroos, wallabies and other critters from the Land Down Under. The walking tour emulates the Australian landscape as the ‘roos and other critters hop close by.
2. See sharks, and nearly 2,000 other fish while riding underwater in a submarine at Legoland’s Deep Sea Adventure in Carlsbad. During the four-minute trip through the 300,000-gallon aquarium, visitors are also challenged to find a variety of LEGO treasures under the water at the same time, as they watch through the submarine’s portholes.
3. Surfing is the theme for “Hangtime,” the new roller coaster at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park. Riders ascend straight up, and then “hang” for nearly 10 seconds before diving straight down to start the ride that goes upside down several times. Also, this summer, the “farm” features the return of the interactive western show “Ghost Town Alive.” Nearly 20 performers in the roles of western characters take visitors on a journey to the town of Calico. The villains and the good townspeople enlist the aid of visitors to help them by taking part in the all-day unfolding story that ends with an early evening square dance in Calico Square.
4. Master Po is the star of the new show in the DreamWorks Theatre at Universal Studios Hollywood. This new show is in the same building that used to house a “Shrek 3D” film. Shrek makes an appearance in the preshow, but Po and the other characters from the “Kung Fu Panda” movies take over in “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.” It is no longer a 3D show, so no glasses required, but the 2D images are projection mapped onto the show sets. The seats move along with some in-theatre special effects, both timed to work with the Kung Fu action.
5. The characters from nearly all the Disney/Pixar films are the stars of the Disneyland Resort this summer. At Disney California Adventure, Disney’s Imagineers re-themed the Paradise Pier area; turning it into Pixar Pier. The most noticeable change is the newly christened “Incredicoaster.” Imagineers added a storyline based on “The Incredibles” movies to the previously entitled California Screamin’ coaster. The story unfolds as you leave the station: Jack-Jack disappears from Edna Mode’s care, the character of Dash then launches riders on the fast-paced ride, during which other members of the family try to find the youngest member of the family. Of course, it’s a happy ending.
6. Ariel’s Grotto and the Cove Bar are now combined into the new Lamplight Lounge, a combination restaurant and bar themed like a Pixar artists’ break area. Throughout Pixar Pier are a variety of snack stands, all themed to other Pixar characters, including the Spanish version of Buzz Lightyear, and the Yeti from “Monsters, Inc.” Many of the Pixar characters also appear in the area, and Toy Story Midway Mania is now located in it too. A new float based on “The Incredibles” was added to the “Paint the Night” parade, which has returned from a year off, but now floats through the streets of Disney California Adventure.
7. Pixar Fest brings many of the Pixar characters to Disneyland. The “Pixar Play Parade” marches down Main Street U.S.A. having moved over from its sister park. Meanwhile at night, a Pixar-themed fireworks display called “Together Forever.” The show features projections on the buildings of Main Street U.S.A., It’s a Small World, the Matterhorn, and on the water screens in the Rivers of America used for “Fantasmic!”
Waiting in Disney’s queue lines is now more fun, thanks to the new “Play Disney Parks Mobile App.” It features games, Disney trivia, competitions with other guests, Disney music and more, all accessible via the app on a smartphone or tablet. The app is available for IOS and Android platforms and is a free download.
Written & Photographed by Mark Eades