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The Most Exciting New Theme Park Rides Of 2021

Slowly regaining momentum after an industry-rocking pandemic, theme parks around the world have been welcoming back guests with high-profile, newly-launched rides and attractions. It seems to be working, as major entertainment companies like Disney, Comcast and SeaWorld Entertainment are finally bouncing back from months-long closures and record-low sales. Analysts say that while the industry was facing a 55 percent drop in sales year-over-year as of March 2020, by the same month in 2021 it had rebounded some 92 percent.

This return was helped along by over a dozen new attractions that opened in 2021, as well as more announced for the near future. Highlights included Disney's new "Ratatouille" ride in Florida, the long-awaited Avengers Campus in California and a bunch of new restaurants, shows and other attractions for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary. Comcast's Universal parks opened several new rides in Orlando, Hollywood and Osaka, Japan (including the immersive Super Nintendo World). Other theme park companies like Six Flags and Legoland also showed off new rides of their own.

From thrilling roller coasters to a family-friendly ride that purportedly turns riders into a Lego mini-figure, here are the most exciting rides that helped bring theme parks back in 2021.

Remy's Ratatouille Adventure

On this dark ride in EPCOT's France Pavilion, guests feel like they've been shrunk down to the size of famous rat chef Remy as he scurries around the kitchen of Gusteau's restaurant. Though it is new to U.S. parks, Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is essentially a clone of Ratatouille: The Adventure, which opened in Disneyland Paris in 2014.

The attraction uses trackless ride vehicles shaped like adorable rodents to zip riders around scenes straight out of Pixar's "Ratatouille." Like many other Disney Parks rides, the queue is part of the attraction — guiding guests through the France pavilion's new expansion with "Ratatouille" Easter eggs throughout. The actual ride line is a walk through a Parisian theater, then onto the scaled rooftops of Paris to see the city and the famous Gusteau's sign as Remy the rat sees it.

Disney Parks calls Remy's Ratatouille Adventure a "4D" experience that combines physical and simulated scenes with music and even smells. Yes, you will smell cheese wafting from the kitchen, feel some heat from a broiler and even a light mist from a mop as you zip around the kitchen, dining room and pantry.

WEB Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure

The signature ride in the new Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park puts you on a wacky journey alongside Peter Parker/Spider-Man (played by Tom Holland). Inside the WEB — Worldwide Engineering Brigade — Spidey shows off new technology from around the world, including his new Spider-Bots.

The interactive ride is a 3D simulator, putting guests in a WEB Slinger vehicle designed to zip around while the rider try to zap as many out of control Spider-Bots as they can. Similar to Toy Story Midway Mania in California Adventure, WEB Slingers puts guests in front of 3D screens showing the Spider-Bots taking over various parts of Avengers Campus. To hit the Spider-Bots, riders flick their wrists and arms as if they were Spider-Man shooting webs. Disney employs motion-sensor technology to track riders' movements, allowing them to earn points.

Those dedicated to getting a high score can also buy a WEB Power Band (which allows them shoot more webs or repulsor cannon blasts at the Spider-Bots while on the ride), which costs $35 and can be upgraded to a Spider-Man, Spider-Gwen, Iron Man or Rescue theme.

Aside from that interactive technology, one of the ride's most intriguing aspects is its lack of a height requirement, making it a thrilling but extremely family-friendly experience. WEB Slingers opened in June 2021, following the opening of Avengers Campus and the reopening of Disneyland Resort after a year-long closure.

Jurassic World VelociCoaster

Described by Universal as the "apex predator of coasters," the Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the newest and arguably the most intense ride added to the Orlando resort since Rip Ride Rocket debuted.

The coaster, themed after the Jurassic World franchise's famous prehistoric raptors, includes two 70-mph launches within three minutes, along with a "top hat" move that sees riders soar to 155 feet in the air and then fall back in an 80-degree drop. The second part of the coaster involves even faster speeders, as well as a barrel roll right above the lagoon in Universal's Islands of Adventure.

The ride is certainly not for coaster newbies, but since its opening in June 2021, the VelociCoaster has garnered rave reviews for being a scary, unique IP-themed thrill ride. It's now the fastest, tallest launch coaster in Florida — and it only has a lap bar restraint.

A big part of the ride's appeal — beyond those thrilling feelings of near-death — is the immersive attraction queue. It features the iconic Jurassic Park gates, sporting burning torches alongside a statue of the eponymous velociraptors. There are also windows to watch the ride's raptor crew of Bravo, Charlie, Delta and Echo chasing after coaster's cars. Perhaps the most cool: You get to "meet" the raptors via highly realistic animatronics that breathe on you, growl and watch as you make your way through the line.

Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash

Making its debut around the same time Universal Studios Hollywood reopened in spring 2021, the Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash is an immersive recreation of characters and iconic scenes from the Illumination franchise of films. The indoor ride lets guests join fan-favorite pups Max, Duke and Gidget (as well as the Kevin Hart-voiced rabbit Snowball) on an adventure through New York City.

Similar to other Universal park rides that utilize the Virtual Line system, the Secret Life of Pets isn't just a vehicle-based ride — the queue is part of the attraction. Instead of a traditional ride line filled with of switchbacks, the queue is a series of pre-shows and interactive elements letting guests wind through some of the apartments seen in the films. There are animatronics throughout, with the most impressive being those of Max and Duke, who reveal the riders are dogs — puppies, to be exact — looking for new homes.

The rest of the ride is a quirky one, with a folded dog biscuit box your vehicle as the cast of "Secret Life of Pets" guides the riders to an adoption event at The Pets Store. You'll even get to see yourself in puppy form, right as the boxes ship out from the apartment building. Throughout the ride there are plenty of silly jokes and gags, a harrowing encounter with the infamous Alley Cats and fun visual and physical effects — especially when the puppy riders have to get bathed and spruced-up to meet their new owners.

Super Nintendo World

After years of development and multiple delays, Super Nintendo World finally opened at Universal Studios Japan in March 2021. It's a first of its kind attraction, turning a hugely popular video game franchise into an entire theme park land complete with rides, themed food and drinks and interactivity around every corner.

The two rides at Super Nintendo World — so far — are Mario Kart: Koopa's Challenge and Yoshi's Adventure. The former is a go-kart race a la the eponymous video game series and is largely an immersive, visually overwhelming dark ride with augmented reality and advanced animatronics to simulate a fast-paced race through the Mushroom Kingdom.

Located inside the ominous Bowser's castle, the queue for Mario Kart is chock full of immersive and interactive elements and Easter eggs to the iconic video game and Super Nintendo characters.

Yoshi's Adventure, on the other hand, is a more leisurely jaunt around the Super Nintendo World space. Riders hop into a Yoshi or Yoshi egg for a relaxing ride both inside and outside to see the sights around the park.

The draw of Super Nintendo World and its rides is the park's dedication to feeling entirely separate from the rest of Universal Studios Japan — similar to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter areas. Just like that world immerses guests in a reality where magic feels commonplace and plausible, Super Nintendo World wraps its guests in a colorful, sensory-overload land where you aren't just playing a video game, you're part of it.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba XR Ride

Amid the historic success of "Demon Slayer," Universal Studios Japan landed a limited time event that transformed part of the park into a land themed after the hit anime and manga franchise.

Besides merchandise, food, photo opportunities and "Demon Slayer" theme music playing throughout the area, the Osaka park opened a virtual reality ride that puts passengers on the iconic Mugen Train seen in the "Demon Slayer" feature film. The Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba XR Ride repurposes the track and technology of USJ's Space Fantasy ride, but instead of zooming around planets, riders are boarding the animated Mugen Train.

Those who've experienced the ride describe its story as a sort-of dream sequence where you come face to face with demon Enmu and Akaza as demon slayers Tanjiro and Rengoku fight to protect the train and its passengers. There are no specific scenes plucked from the film; instead, the ride shows a short, original story to put you in the world of "Demon Slayer." While the car you're in does move around, much of the action comes from you seeing it through your VR headsets.

The "Demon Slayer" event at Universal Studios Japan opened in September 2021 and is scheduled to run through Feb. 13, 2022.

Dare Devil Flying Machines

Opening in March 2021, the Dare Devil Dive Flying Machines attraction puts riders in a steampunk-style plane to flip and twist and soar over the updated Crackaxle Canyon at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.

The ride is a Super Air Race manufactured by Zamperla, which created the first version of the attraction called Atlantic Aviator at Luna Park on Coney Island. It features a nearly five-story tower and six arms holding the flying machines, which hold four people each.

The Dare Devil Dive Flying Machines ride is all about the thrills of aerial flips, loops, banks and dives set to themed music, piped in through on-ride audio. From the ground, the ride sequence looks like a choreographed dance as all six steampunk plans twist, flip and spin in relative formation. The maneuvers aren't as jarring or intense as you'd think, and there seems to be an emphasis on showing off unique, stunning views of the park while on the ride.

Jersey Devil Coaster

Opened in June 2021, the Jersey Devil Coaster boasts being the tallest, fastest and longest single rail coaster in the world. This intense coaster has a top speed of 58 mph, with a 130-foot drop and surging riders along 3,000 feet of track at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey.

A unique feature of the Jersey Devil Coaster is its seating. Whereas traditional coasters have you sitting beside at least one other person, this ride's seats are low and in a single file line, with 12 seats in each car. A relatively short ride for how long the track is, the coaster doesn't linger or slow down through its roughly 2-minute duration. Right out of the gate, the car makes a rapid ascent to the first steep hill, and then drops you 130 feet at an 87-degree angle.

After that first hill, there are several more steep drops, flips, twists and rolls along with three inversions, a 180-degree stall, a raven dive and a zero-gravity roll. The Jersey Devil iconography comes into play with the trains' bright red coloring and devil motifs.

Early riders gave it rave reviews, calling the coaster crazy, dynamic and "so different than every other attraction" at Six Flags Great Adventure. Riders also said the single-file seating allows for quicker, tighter spins and turns.

Lego Factory Adventure Ride

If you've ever wondered what it would feel like to be shrunken down into a Lego Minifigure, this ride at the new Legoland New York is for you.

The family-friendly attraction is a wacky journey through Professor Brick's Lego Factory to learn how the famous bricks are made. Using smooth trackless vehicles, the ride zips passengers through various parts of the Lego-filled factory and simulation screens — similar to attractions like Remy's Ratatouille Adventure and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.

The innovative dark ride notably uses technology from Holovis to detect guests' physical attributes, then depict them as Minifigures in the ride's fun finale. This aspect makes the Lego Factory Adventure unique and more immersive than other simulator dark rides, especially for one not in the hands of theme park giants Disney and Universal.

Like most Legoland rides, there's no height requirement for Lego Factory Adventure. And the queue for the ride is equally as immersive and themed as the rest of the park, with nearly every aspect of Professor Brick's factory appearing to be made out of the colorful bricks.

Dragon Slayer

Adventureland's third new roller coaster in the last five years, Dragon Slayer opened in May 2021 at the Iowa park.

This ride is described as a 4D free spin coaster made by S&S Sansei Technologies, which has manufactured similar free spin coasters like Joker and Batman The Ride at Six Flags parks.

Instead of stationary seats, this ride has passengers sit in spinning cars that freely flip throughout the duration of the thrill ride. The track itself is designed with many dips and drops, encouraging the riders' dangling seats to sway and flip.

With this coaster, you're essentially at the mercy of gravity and physics, making vertical hairpin turns not normally possible on roller coasters. Also, because of the way the seats are positioned on the outsides of the track, there are two options to ride the Dragon Slayer: the Knight (for a wilder ride) or the Squire (for a milder one).

Stunt Pilot

The newest thrill at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho opened in May 2021, and it's a single rail coaster themed after the aerial stunts seen at vintage air shows of the past. The Stunt Pilot is designed and built by famed coaster creator Rocky Mountain Construction and is the sister coaster to the RailBlazer "Raptor" ride at California's Great America.

Simulating the thrills of the Inland Northwest's aviation history, the Stunt Pilot puts riders in a Pitts Special biplane-style car, climbing more than 105 feet up before diving back down. There are hairpin tins, three inversions and aerobatic moves that give ample airtime, along with a top speed of 52 mph.

It's a relatively short, but fast ride along 1,800 feet of track, with each train holding up to ten people at a time. Like the Jersey Devil Coaster, the Stunt Pilot situates riders in a single file, allowing for tighter turns and loops.

Sticking to the theme of vintage airshows, the park also spruced up an old Pitts Special biplane (similar to one hanging in the Smithsonian Museum) to hang above guests before they board. The track and cars also adopt the plane's iconic bright, red and white color scheme.