Memorial Day weekend marks the kickoff of Southern California theme park season, with most of the region's theme parks unveiling their latest rides, shows and attractions just in time for the summer rush. Here's what's new at the region's theme parks:
On Saturday, Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: Breakout! opened at Disney California Adventure. It's an outer space reimagining of the former Tower of Terror drop ride. Stars of the "Guardians" films are featured in six different scenarios where riders help Rocket break out of the fortress of Tivan, the evil fanboy who captures intergalactic species for his collection. In other Marvel news, the "Summer of Heroes" celebration will include one-on-one superhero encounters, a "Guardians of the Galaxy" dance party, Avengers training school and new themed merchandise and food items. Meanwhile at Disneyland Park, the ever-popular Main Street Electrical Parade continues nightly through June 17. The retro parade, which returned in January, has been spruced up with high-intensity LED lighting and animation. Disneyland has also updated its Autopia ride with new robots and space-age decor. Both parks are now offering meet-and-greets, themed food items and entertainment themed to the new live-action "Beauty and the Beast" film.
1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim. disneyland.disney.go.com
Lego Star Wars Days return June 3 and 4, featuring visits by Darth Vader, Stormtroopers and Jedi Knights and children's costume and trivia contests. This year's event celebrates the new "Force Awakens" display that was added to the Star Wars Miniland model in March. The display features six scenes from the film with characters Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, Poe and BB-8. Also new this summer at the Legoland Water Park is Surfer's Bay, a competitive water raceway where kids can compete by racing down six water slides.
1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad. legoland.com/california/
Knott's Berry Farm
This spring, Knott's opened Sol Spin, a twirling ride in Fiesta Village with six spinning arms that swing up to six stories high. Also new this summer, Boardwalk Barbecue, a BBQ and craft beer restaurant near the Xcelerator ride. And returning this summer is Ghost Town Alive!, an interactive program of live entertainment in the park's 1800s-style Western Ghost Town. Next door at Knott's Soak City Waterpark, two new water slide towers have opened. Shore Break tower, standing seven stories tall, has six different slides (including four with a vertical drop). The Wedge slide tower, which replaces the Pacific Spin, is an open-air raft ride for up to six riders.
8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park. knotts.com
San Diego Zoo
On June 10, the zoo opens its $68 million Conrad Prebys Africa Rocks exhibit, an 8-acre project in the area of the zoo formerly known as Cat and Dog Canyon. Visitors will walk a winding pathway through lushly landscaped and underwater areas representing six zones of Africa, from savannah to rain forest. The new exhibit is home to more than 40 species of mammals, reptiles and birds, including baboons, monkeys, lemurs, crocodiles, leopards, penguins and sharks.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park
No new exhibits or shows are planned this summer at the safari park.
15500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido. sdzsafaripark.org
SeaWorld San Diego
This summer, SeaWorld will open Ocean Explorer, a new land with five child-friendly rides, including a three-minute mini-submarine ride to explore undersea life and a swing ride where kids fly suspended from giant jellyfish tentacles. There will also be multiple aquariums with interactive hands-on research stations featuring the giant octopus, moray eels, Japanese spider crabs and more. Orca Encounter at the former Shamu stadium is a new show focused on killer whale behavior in the wild with a new Pacific Northwest backdrop and infinity video screen. From June 17 to Sept. 4, SeaWorld presents "Electric Ocean," a nighttime festival of lights and dance music with live performers, DJs and more. The nightly summer fireworks display has been discontinued.
500 Sea World Drive, Mission Bay. seaworldparks.com/seaworld-sandiego/