- By Kristin Finan American-Statesman Staff
Sometimes you just can’t beat the whooshes, whirls and splashes of an amusement park. And according to the International Association of Amusement Parks, a lot of people really, really love them. In 2017 alone, parks in the United States and Canada are expected to entertain 412 million people and generate $23 billion.
We’re lucky in Texas to have plenty of places to go to get a thrill. Here are some of the biggest ride and amusement openings coming to the Lone Star State this year.
Thunder Rapids Water Coaster, Six Flags Fiesta Texas, San Antonio
This three-story, 942-foot-long thrill ride includes five uphill blasts, four spiraling turns, custom-made inline rafts and new water-jet propulsion technology. Oh, and there will be no awkwardly lugging tubes to the top of this ride — it features a loading system where guests board at ground level, then ride up the lift hill to the top of the slide. It’s part of White Water Bay, the free water park at Fiesta Texas (included with the price of admission). Learn more at sixflags.com/fiestatexas/newfor2017.
The Joker, Six Flags Over Texas, Arlington
Got “Batman” fans in your house? You won’t want to miss this. Six Flags Over Texas is debuting the Joker, a 120-foot-tall “free-fly” roller coaster with 4-D seats that spin forward and backward. The ride, which opens May 20, will include leaps, dives and surprising drops. Riders will even flip head over heels, literally, at least six times during the course of the ride. See more at sixflags.com/overtexas.
“Wave Breaker: The Rescue,” SeaWorld San Antonio
This double-launch coaster stretches 2,600 feet and goes as high as 61 feet. The theme? Marine animal rescue missions — it aims to replicate the high-stakes experience of animals being rescued at sea. The cars even look like Jet Skis. Get details at seaworldsanantonio.com.
“Constellation,” Reunion Tower, Dallas
This high-tech interactive attraction features a series of touch screen monitors on the GeO-Deck, which overlooks the city skyline. Here, visitors can add their name and geographical information to a star, create an avatar and describe their experience with creative illustrations. Access is included with GeO-Deck admission. Visit reuniontower.com for more.
Caribbean Journey, Texas State Aquarium, Corpus Christi
The aquarium has long been a must-go attraction for visitors to the Texas coast, and with the addition of Caribbean Journey, which will celebrate its grand opening May 13, that’s even more true now. The exhibition takes visitors into the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the western Caribbean. It covers 71,000 square feet and includes a 100-seat 4-D theater, a 400,000-gallon shark habitat, interactive exhibits and a new education center. Check it out at texasstateaquarium.org/caribbean.
Topgolf, new locations in El Paso and Fort Worth
Feel like you’ve been missing out because there isn’t a Topgolf in your town? You may be in luck. This year, Topgolf is bringing its signature family-friendly golfing experience to Fort Worth and El Paso. Never been before? Expect self-scoring microchipped balls, climate-controlled hitting bays and lots of snacks and sips for purchase. Get details at topgolf.com.