Seeking thought-provoking exploration, joy-inducing thrills, or out-of-this-world adventures this summer? An array of recently opened and forthcoming attractions across the United States are utilizing creativity and ingenuity to transport visitors to far-off realms as well as highlight compelling environments right here on Earth. Whether you aim to battle aliens and giant gorillas or simply explore pockets of nature, these new experiences will be at the ready this vacation season.
Climb Aboard a Sculpture
It’s one thing to share the experience of riding a shriek-inducing roller coaster with a slew of strangers. It’s another to be the only rider in a single car coursing around an indoor track while a crowd of museumgoers watches. That’s the premise of artist EJ Hill’s evocative installation Brake Run Helix at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams. Sign up to be a featured rider before the interactive exhibit ends in January 2024.
Paddle on a Restored River
For the past decade, Indianapolis has been working to make the river that runs through its downtown recreationally clean. Frank’s Paddlesports Livery hosts 4- and 7-mile guided canoe, kayak, and paddleboard trips along the White River, providing participants with a unique perspective of Indy’s bridges and buildings. The livery also rents gear and offers a complimentary shuttle upriver for those wishing to explore the tree-lined waterway at their own pace.
Become a Supervillain
Combining state-of-the-art screens and elaborate physical sets, Villain-Con Minion Blast is set to debut this summer at Universal Studios Florida in Orlando as part of the theme park’s new Minion Land. Inspired by Illumination’s Despicable Me and Minions franchise, the interactive attraction enlists guests in a criminal convention, where they can cause mayhem with cartoony blasters, earning enough points in hopes of becoming the newest member of the Vicious 6.
Ascend an Urban Via Ferrata
The country’s first urban via ferrata route is scheduled to debut in July at Quarry Trails Metro Park in Columbus, Ohio. Typically found in mountainous wilderness, via ferrata is a method of traversing rocky cliff faces and steep terrain using metal rungs, ladders, and permanently fixed cables. On this new city adventure, visitors are outfitted with protective safety gear before making their way across a limestone wall while harnessed in more than 1,000 feet of cable. The 90-minute trek includes walking over a 90-foot-long bridge suspended 105 feet above a large pond.
Ride Dolly Parton’s Longest Coaster
Big Bear Mountain, the brand-new roller coaster at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, winds3,990 feet through Wildwood Grove, the newest section of Dolly Parton’s beloved theme park. Riders board cars resembling jeeps and listen to resident wilderness explorer Ned Oakley narrate a trek to hunt for the elusive Big Bear. The coaster reaches speeds up to 48 miles per hour, passing through tunnels and behind a waterfall.
Play the World’s Largest Donkey Kong
When the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York, presses play on its new 90,000-square-foot wing on June 30, visitors will be able to save a princess from a tenacious gorilla in a supersized version of Nintendo’s original Donkey Kong arcade game. Stand beneath the nearly 20-foot-tall structure, and use the massive controls to guide Mario across platforms and up ladders on the giant screen above. Other new exhibits include the outdoor Hasbro Game Park featuring a rideable 21-foot spinner from the Game of Life.
Glide Down a Mountain
When Leavenworth Adventure Park opens this summer, it will be home to Super Lou’s Tumwater Twister Alpine Coaster, Washington state’s first alpine coaster. The attraction features three spirals that riders can navigate by easing on the brakes to enjoy scenic views of Tumwater Canyon and the Wenatchee River. Thrill-seekers might prefer to zoom at full speed up to 27 miles per hour through the curves and dips. Other attractions debuting alongside the coaster include a climbing wall, bungee trampoline, and mining sluice.
Surf a Record-Breaking Wave
While Hawaii’s natural surf breaks are legendary, if you’re new to the sport, you might want to sample a steady swell in a controlled environment like the new Wai Kai Wave, the world’s largest deep-water standing wave. Book a time to drop in at the new recreational development on Oahu’s west coast, and get tips from staffed surf coaches. If you’re a more experienced surfer, the wave can be amped up for more of a challenge.
The thrill ride Spinvasion is the centerpiece of the new alien-inspired Area 412 section of Kennywood, a beloved family-friendly amusement park near Pittsburgh celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. The experience begins as your standard rotating amusement park ride but quickly escalates into a dizzying, topsy-turvy adventure as your seat crisscrosses — at times flying parallel to the ground — with other spaceship pilots.
Teleport to Microscopic Realms
The new high-tech exhibit “Invisible Worlds” at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City explores networks of life on Earth at all scales — some too fast, small, or slow for the human eye. Inside an oval-shaped room, visitors are surrounded by images on 23-foot walls depicting scenes of oceans, rainforests, and signals made by trillions of connections in the human brain, each signifying the interconnectedness of living organisms in our vast and dynamic natural world. You can become part of the story as your movements on the interactive floor affect the projections.
Kara Williams is a Colorado-based writer who has contributed to The Denver Post, Travel + Leisure, TripSavvy, and TravelAge West.
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