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Theme parks never sit still in California for when they do, people quit coming. You have to constantly re-invent, re-invest, and exceed expectations if you want to bring people back. Repeat customers are the lifeline to California's theme parks where the travel audience is 85% Californians, themselves. They are a picky lot and when California Adventure launched at Disneyland, the local public wasn't as thrilled as they needed to be to make Mickey smile with glee at ticket sales. Some say the local renovation could total close to a billion dollars before it is complete. That sounds a bit high, but whatever is being spent, it is one of the amusements providing new reasons to come visit.

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King Kong at Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour in Los Angeles unveils the “King Kong 360 3D,” created by Peter Jackson. It will combine thrilling visceral effects with the world’s largest Surround Digital projection system in which guests are given special 3D glasses as they enter a darkened soundstage aboard the Studio Tour trams. Transported deep into a tangled jungle location, they'll survive a close encounter with a swarm of hungry raptors, only to be confronted by the terrifying presence of 35-foot-tall dinosaur behemoths, intent on attacking the tram and Studio Tour guests. The trams jolt and shudder as the guests find themselves caught in the middle between these carnivorous reptiles and King Kong.

Legoland California launched the 5.5-acre water park with Build-a-Raft River where visitors can custom-build their own LEGO raft. A 45-foot-tall tower playground and two sandy beach wading areas provide cool summer retreats from the Carlsbad beach heat (Carlsbad seldom gets very hot, but the water park is still worth a visit for kids, like all of Legoland.)

World of Color at Disney’s California Adventure Park is a nighttime water show with Disney animation using powerful fountains projected onto the largest water screen in the world. Guests are taken on a journey with Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King and Pocahontas and more in this 9,000-capacity viewing area. The show will last approximately 25 minutes.

Blue Horizons at SeaWorld San Diego features energetic bottlenose dolphins, Pacific pilot whales, exotic birds and acrobatic performers. A young girl named Marina sees her vision of the sea and sky come to life in a whimsical, yet dramatic atmosphere with an immense rising sun, hundreds of iridescent bubbles and an elaborate 40-foot-high framework, which envelopes the pool and balances divers and aerialists as they plunge from bungees and soar on “cloud swings.”

San Diego Zoo's Polar Bear Plunge, is a hands-on experience of what a polar bear’s life might be like in the Arctic. People can also learn about the San Diego Zoo’s ongoing conservation efforts, as well as tips to reduce their own carbon footprint.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk unveils Haunted Castle, a $9-million-dollar project, with nearly 10,000-square feet of basement space. In a unique design twist, riders load at Boardwalk level, then spiral down backwards into the basement and glide through dimly lit rooms filled with spooky special effects.

Knott’s Berry Farm debuts a new nighttime light show called Peanut’s Night-Lightastic at Camp Snoopy. Three-dimensional Peanuts figures, themed music, sound effects, voice-overs and colorful projections of Peanuts’ characters entertain youngsters and adults, while “Everyone Loves Snoopy” provides ice skating excitement in the indoor theater, and “Peanuts Go Hollywood”, a live musical review tells the story of the Peanuts gang as they try to make it in Tinseltown, presented at the Camp Snoopy Theater.

California’s Great America in Santa Clara is launching Planet Snoopy at the children’s area, with rides that take kids up and down or round and round. “Snoopy Rocks,” will provide 35 minutes of ice skating delight.

 


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