It’s been a wild ride for the theme park industry, after a rough start with the pandemic. But so many different theme parks around the world have opened up brand new experiences for their guests to check out in the last year.

On another positive note, the theme park industry recovered by a whopping 92 percent since March 2020. Even though financial losses were not pretty, that didn’t stop the parks from losing hope. From roller coasters to new expansions, 2021 was big year for fellow theme park fans. From Disney, Universal, and much more… here’s the Top 5 Theme Park experiences of 2021!

5.) Snow White’s Enchanted Wish (Disneyland)

One of the most recognizable Disney princesses, Snow White, launched Walt Disney’s career back on February 4th, 1938. However, it was a much darker day on Disneyland’s opening on July 1955. The theme park ride, originally called “Snow White’s Scary Adventures”, took guests on an adventure through the beloved fairy tale. It had the cackling Evil Queen, dark dungeons, and the haggard old witch. Later on in 1983, the attraction did not have a “happily ever after.” Brace yourselves: guests would witness the evil witch’s death just before crushing them underneath a boulder. Talk about not the fairy tale you expected, eh?

Image: (© Disney)

Now the attraction is the total opposite and much lighter. The renamed “Snow White’s Enchanted Wish” has received brand new lighting effects, sound effects, and even the mine scene from “Seven Dwarves Mine Train” at Walt Disney World. Originally announced in November 2019, things drastically changed with the current pandemic environment, and Disney put the project on hiatus. When worked resumed in December 2020, Walt Disney Imagineers were left unsure of when the parks were going to reopen. After a fourteen month closure, “Snow White’s Enchanted Wish” finally opened up on April 27th, 2021.

The new ride downplayed the overall “scariness.” But fans will still feel the classic vibes, now with an evolution upgrade that Disney Parks dark rides are known for.

4.) Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair (Knott’s Berry Farm)

Knott’s Berry Farm celebrated its 100th anniversary this year! Talk about an impressive milestone for a park, dating prior to Disneyland huh now? Moving along with our list, we have another dark ride. Just like the SoCal park’s phased reopening, “Knott’s Bear-y Tales: Return to the Fair” officially opened up on May 21st, 2021. It replaced the former attraction “Voyage to the Iron Reef” as a 4-D interactive attraction, and gives call backs to the park’s original dark ride classics.

Image: (© Knott’s)

It features reimagined show scenes from the original dark ride, such as Boysenberry Pie Factory, Frog Forest, Fortune Teller Camp, Thunder Cave, and Weird Woods, with the finale at the County Fair. Characters include Boysen Bear-y and his sister Girlsen Bear-y, plus Boysen’s wife, the pie-maker, Mary Bear-y. (Yes so many “unbearable” puns, if you are getting the drift.)

“Return to the Fair” is now open at Knott’s Berry Farm.

3.) Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (Walt Disney World)

If you wanna channel your inner chef, then make your way towards Epcot at Walt Disney World. Follow along with Chef Remy, as you run around the kitchen of Gusteau’s famous Parisian restaurant. Although it’s brand new for the U.S. Disney Parks, this attraction has been around for some time at Disneyland Paris. (It opened there in 2014.) “Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure” is a near exact clone of the attraction. The only difference for the U.S. version is it does not include the bistro at the France pavilion.

Image: (© Disney)

In the ride, up to four guests board trackless vehicles shaped like adorable rodents. The actual ride is interesting enough, but the queue is also integrated within the attraction and expands upon the France pavilion at Epcot. Guests can see a Parisian theater, then head towards the rooftops of Paris to see the city and the famous Gusteau’s sign as Remy gets to sees it. Epcot park officials call it a “4-D” experience that combines physical and simulated scenes with music and even smells. (If you recall that scene, in which Remy combines a cheese and a grape, you’ll able to smell those type of scents.) You’ll even feel some of the heat of the burning boiler and the mist of a mop as you zip around the kitchen, pantry, and dining room.

Summer 2020 was the attraction’s original planned opening date. But like others on this list, the pandemic caused the opening to be delayed. “Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure” officially opened on October 1st, 2021 as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration.

2.) VELOCICOASTER (Universal Orlando Resort)

If you’re a thrill junkie, and then strap in for the VelociCoaster at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure! Dubbed as the “apex predator of coasters”, this beast of a roller coaster is next level.

Based off the global blockbuster franchise Jurassic World, this ride includes the famous prehistoric raptors. This coaster even includes some of the famous raptor pack: Bravo, Charlie, Delta, and Echo chasing after coaster’s cars. It replaced the former “Triceratops Encounter” that closed over a decade ago. Construction first started in spring 2019. The original opening date was supposed to be June 2020, and of course the pandemic put it on a hiatus.

Image: (© Universal)

The queue entrance for the VelociCoaster is absolutely insane as it features two raptor statues, special lighting effects, and more. Die-hards of the franchise will notice a ton of fun-filled Easter eggs. This also even includes content from the Netflix animated series, Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. Life-like animatronics of the raptors will send chills down your spine. Also, fans will recognize Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and B.D. Wong reprising their roles within the queue as well.

Here some crazy stats about this attraction: expect speeds up to 70 mph in 2.4 seconds, with a “top hat” that soars riders up to 155 feet in the air! After that, it falls back in an 80-degree drop… and the second part with even faster speeds. After that, it includes barrel roll (or being dubbed as Mosasaurus-roll), right above the lagoon within the park. Just hang in there with your life!

This coaster has gained a lot of positive reviews since its opening in June 2021. It’s not common for an IP-themed ride to be a home run right off the bat. For Universal at least, it’s their fastest and tallest multi-launch coaster in Florida. It was going to have a marketing tie in for Jurassic World: Dominion that was supposed to come out this year. The new theatrical release date is now for June 10th, 2022.

If you have Peacock and you want to know more about the VelociCoaster, check out this free documentary.

1.) Super Nintendo World (Universal Studios Japan)

As the last spot on the Top 5 Best Theme Park Experiences for 2021, this was a tough call. It was either Team Avengers Campus or Team Super Nintendo World. But Nintendo gets the edge!

These days as we are living in the “IP-era”, in addition to the age of “immersive lands” (The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Radiator Springs, Pandora: The World of Avatar…). But the dead ringer was given to Universal’s partnership with Nintendo they landed in May 2015. Since then, they have expanded beyond the gaming realm of what the franchise is best known for. (Sorry guys, we are not talking about Chris Pratt as the voice of Mario for the upcoming animated Super Mario film.)

Image: (© Universal/ © Nintendo)

No, we’re specifically focusing on the huge expansion at Universal Studios Japan that opened up in March 2021. “Super Nintendo World” was previously planned to open around for Summer 2020 (timed with the Olympics in Tokyo). But of course that didn’t happen. When the land opened up and it was the same time when Japan’s borders were closed to foreigners. Throughout the year, the country has faced COVID surges and had to temporarily close the park, and also reduced capacity. However, that didn’t stop the momentum and the public interest gained heavily across the world. Unlike other themed environments what makes “Super Nintendo World” so unique is its multi-layered approach through the Mushroom Kingdom! It’s perhaps the coolest theme park experience that has been built in a very long time.

The Japan version currently features two attractions. “Mario Kart: Koopa’s Challenge” and “Yoshi’s Adventure”. Think of Yoshi similar to Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion”; it’s a family outdoor dark ride attraction. Numerous colorful Yoshis pass through the land and the attraction even has cool interactive features that connect with it.

“Mario Kart” is the other ride, coming straight out of the video game. It uses augmented reality (AR) goggles to face off against your opponents. Gameplay elements like Koopa shells and banana peels will help you win the race. It’s not a fast-paced type of ride, but it does use impressive practical and projection sets, including animatronics. Plus, you can track your score on the power-up bands available to purchase.

Universal Studios Japan is also getting a Donkey Kong expansion for the land, confirmed earlier this year. It will be the next biggest expansion for the park, increasing the size by approximately 70%. Nintendo fans can expect the land at Universal Studios Hollywood, Singapore, and Universal Orlando’s Epic Universe.

What’s your top theme park attraction of 2021?

So, did you get to experience any of these great attractions this year? For those haven’t tried out any of these theme park experiences, which experience made your best-of list this year? Let us know in the comments below.

Also, here’s to a great year of fun and trying out something new. See you guys in 2022!

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