What’s new at SoCal theme parks this summer


Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer theme park season in Southern California, and many of the region’s parks are rolling out new rides, shows and attractions to lure tourist dollars. Here’s a look at what’s new this summer at the region’s parks.


Disneyland Resort

The most anticipated American theme park event of the year will be the May 31 opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park in Anaheim.

Besides shops, restaurants and interactive experiences, Galaxy’s Edge will feature two Star Wars-themed rides. The first, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, will open May 31. The second ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will open later this year.

The new themed land, located where Big Thunder Ranch and a portion of unused land behind the Rivers of America area, is designed as the remote smugglers port Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, which will be populated with Star Wars characters, including Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8 and Chewbacca.

Smugglers Run will put riders in the cockpit of Han Solo’s famous smuggling ship for an interactive virtual reality ride through space.

Other attractions opening May 31 are Oga’s Cantina bar, Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, Ronto Roasters restaurant and a drink stand serving blue and green milk.

Shops include Droid Depot, Savi’s lightsaber workshop, Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, Black Spire Outfitters and four others.

When it opens in the fall, Rise of the Resistance will take riders into a full-size star destroyer spaceship for a hands-on battle between the Rebellion forces and the evil First Order.

Because the new land will attract heavier-than-usual summer crowds, ticket-holders will require reservations to visit Galaxy’s Edge between May 31 and June 23 (Disney hotel guests will receive automatic reservations). For details, call (714) 520-5050.

Also new this summer, “Mickey’s PhilharMagic” 3D movie, now playing in the Sunset Showcase Theater at Disney California Adventure Park. “Pop-Up Disney! A Mickey Celebration,” an Instagram-worthy exhibition and shop, has opened in Downtown Disney District.

And coming next fall, the separate-ticket Oogie Boogie Bash: A Disney Halloween Party will be held on select evenings Sept. 6 through Oct. 31 in Disney California Adventure. Tickets start at $110.

1313 Disneyland Drive, Anaheim.


Knott’s Berry Farm

On May 24, Knott’s kicks off “Ghost Town Alive!,” an Old West adventure performed by actors and dancers in the saloon and on the streets of its Calico Ghost Town with an all-new storyline for 2019. It will play on select days through Sept. 2.

From June 7 through Aug. 11, the park will host Summer Nights, an evening program of live music, food and game events on the Midway section of the park.

Also, in the Charles M. Schulz Theatre, the new “Beach Blanket Beagle” musical dance party will play June 7 through Aug. 11.

The park’s newest ride, Calico River Rapids, will open later this summer. The white-water rafting adventure will feature new animatronic animals, water cannons and special effects.

Next door, Knott’s Soak City Waterpark will return for its summer season, May 18 through Sept. 18.

8039 Beach Blvd., Buena Park.


Legoland California

Today, Legoland will reopen its Duplo Playtown area in a new, more central location of the park to make way for a tower ride opening in the old location in 2020. The new playtown includes a new Legoland Express train for small children.

In April, Legoland premiered a new 4D film, “Lego City 4D — Officer in Pursuit” inside its Lego Showplace Theater. The film, about a Lego policeman chasing a mischievous crook through the streets of Lego City, includes 4D effects, including water droplets, wind and bubbles. The film screens multiple times daily.

Also new this year is the Lego Movie 2 Experience, a walk-through attraction themed to the film that opened in February. It features sets and soundstages used in the film and Lego brick models featuring more than 500,000 bricks.

1 Legoland Drive, Carlsbad.


San Diego Zoo

The zoo has no new attractions this summer, but it is celebrating the birth of several new animals, including a baby giraffe born April 28 and a baby okapi born in January.

920 Zoo Drive, San Diego.


San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A Blue Morpho butterfly.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The park’s annual Butterfly Jungle attraction continues through May 12. The temporary spring exhibition invites visitors into a greenhouse where butterflies from around the world are in free flight. The park has no new attractions this summer, but it’s celebrating the birth of new giraffe, born in January.

5500 San Pasqual Valley Road, Escondido.


SeaWorld San Diego

On May 24, SeaWorld will open its latest roller coaster, Tidal Twister. The new “dueling” coaster is being billed as the fastest coaster of its kind in the world. Tidal Twister takes riders on a 300-foot-long figure-eight track that’s suspended 16 feet off the ground.

The horizontal ride carries riders at speeds up to 30 miles an hour, and when its two 16-passenger trains meet in the middle of the track they invert in 360-degree barrel rolls.

Tidal Twister follows the Electric Eel, which opened last summer and is capable of speeds up to 62 miles an hour.

Next year, the park will open yet another coaster, the 153-foot Mako dive coaster.

500 Sea World Drive, San Diego.


Six Flags Magic Mountain

West Coast Racers, billed as the world’s first racing launch coaster, will open in late summer, making it the 19th coaster at the Valencia theme park. Two 12-seat cars race on side-by-side tracks that make two complete laps through the course at speeds up to 55 miles per hour.

26101 Magic Mountain Pkwy, Valencia.


Universal Studios Hollywood

Universal Studios is upgrading its 20-year-old Jurassic Park ride with a bigger, more high-tech and modernized version, Jurassic World: The Ride, opening this summer.

Built on the bones of the original ride, Jurassic World will have its own original storyline inspired by the “Jurassic World” films.

As before, riders will board rafts that will take them through lush vegetation to see re-animated dinosaurs in their natural habitat until all goes awry.

The new ride will feature the new films’ Indominus Rex predator as well as the aquatic Mosasaurus in a 3-million-gallon glass aquarium. The ride concludes with the rafts dropping down an 84-foot waterfall.

New features include a “Raptor Encounter,” where visitors can get up close to “Blue” the gentle raptor, and a “Dino Play” children’s play zone with oversize dino “fossils” to play on.

Also new this spring is the “Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle,” a light, projection and music show in the park’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction. It will play May 25-27 with additional summer hours to be announced soon.

100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City.