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Taking the Kids: What's new at theme parks this summer

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

Ready to live your own Star Wars adventure?

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open on May 31 with great fanfare at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California and Aug. 29 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

At the new 14-acre land, you will have your chance to step into the Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, now home to smugglers, rogue traders and exotic creatures. Become a pilot, gunner or flight engineer aboard Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, which lets you take on a different role each time. Drink blue milk and take a selfie with your favorite Star Wars characters. (Note: If you are planning to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at the Disneyland Resort between May 31 and June 23, 2019, a reservation and theme park admission are required.)

Maybe your gang prefers Harry Potter. Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure will open with equal fanfare on June 13 at Universal’s Islands of Adventurein Orlando. You'll join Hagrid to fly into the wilds of the Forbidden Forest, discovering rare creatures on this new roller coaster. (For those who haven't been, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter spans both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida) in Orlando.)

One thing is for sure: Whether you like thrill rides, water rides, dark rides, immersive lands that take you inside your favorite movies, virtual reality or want something to entertain younger children, you'll find plenty that's new this summer at the 400 amusement/theme parks in the country. And despite the cost, IAAPA, the global Association for the Attractions Industry, is forecasting more than 415 million of us will visit one in North America. Be ready for crowds!

Water ride enthusiasts will be happy that Knott’s Berry Farm has overhauled its popular "Bigfoot Rapids" ride into Cedar River Rapids with new animatronics and interactive elements. Are you ready to launch water cannons from the riverbank to soak the riders?

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It wouldn't be summer without a new superhero-themed attraction -- this time WONDER WOMAN Lasso of Truth, the world's tallest pendulum ride at Six Flags Great Adventure,opening on May 23. Think of a 17-storyswinging pendulum going nearly 75 miles per hour with riders on floorless seats 172 feet in the air.

It also wouldn't be summer without a new ginormous coaster -- The Steel Curtain in the new Steelers Countryat Kennywood in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, is not only the tallest inversion coaster in the world (220 feet high) but it also has the most inversions (nine) of any in the United States. The opening date hasn't been announced yet. Get ready to speed through 4,000 feet of track at 75 miles per hour! Interesting fact: Kennywood Park and the Pittsburgh Steelers collaborated to create Steelers Country. Football fans can also see how the Steelers measure up in practice drills at the onsite, multi-level training facility.

On the West Coast at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California, West Coast Racers will feature two side-by-side dueling trains going at 55 miles per hour with more than a dozen near-miss track crossovers among the thrills. Calling all coaster lovers, this park now has 20!

SeaWorld San Diego's new Tidal Twister, scheduled to open May 24, is a marine conservation-themed, dueling coaster with a Zero-G corkscrew twist in the middle of the nearly 300-foot-long track.

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(c) 2019 DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

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