Theme park news roundup: Harry Potter, robot rides and cheesy grub(s!)

Here’s what’s happening in theme park news this week.

Robot Land announced (Incheon, South Korea)
South Korea will be home to the world’s first robot theme park when Robot Land opens in Incheon in 2012. Robot Land will have a robotic arm ride, tributes to robot-themed movies such as “Matrix” and “Minority Report,” and robot employees and performers. A national robotics lab and office complexes will also be built on the 110-acre site.

The park will cost $562 million, with 87 percent coming from private investors and the remainder from the government, according to English-language newspaper The Korea Herald. Incheon, South Korea’s third largest city, is home to many high-tech businesses. Not surprisingly, Robot Land sounds like it’s trying to attract a different crowd than nearby Love Land.

Chessington World of Adventures tries new, gross snacks (London, England)
When the urge for a theme-park snack strikes this summer, you may be able to pass up the ice cream bars and funnel cake in favor of bacon-flavored crickets, cheesy grubs and chocolate ants. Chessington World of Adventures tested the unusual menu on February 18. The theme park just outside London is considering making the snacks part of the regular menu in its new Wild Asia section when it opens for the season on March 27.

Wild Asia will include a new spinning disc ride, the KOBRA, and a walk-through Lorikeet aviary. The Yorkshire Post reports that the insect snacks got rave reviews from testers. And lest you worry about exactly where those ants you eat are coming from, the newspaper reports that all the insects are “ethically sourced” (unlike these “8 great bug-eating videos from around the world”).
Wizarding World of Harry Potter details emerge (Orlando, FL, USA)
It looks like that promised spring opening for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will happen in May. Universal Orlando Resort has started selling vacation packages themed to the opening of the new “park within a park” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. The packages, which include hotel, park tickets and souvenirs and a breakfast, can be booked for travel beginning May 28. Pricing starts at $1,548 for a family of four (read more about the package here).

Universal Orlando is quick to say that May 28 is not the official opening date for the park, but the release of these packages is the first definitive sign as to when Harry Potter fans will be able to visit the village of Hogsmeade in Orlando. When the Wizarding World is complete, it will have three rides, a new restaurant (“Three Broomsticks”) and shops.

Adventureland burns (Altoona, IA, USA)
A toy store, arcade, restaurant and bingo parlor burned at Adventureland amusement park on February 20. The Altoona, Iowa, park known for its Tornado roller coaster was closed for the season and empty when the fire broke out, but an adjacent hotel was evacuated as a precaution.

The Des Moines Register reports that the burned buildings on Adventureland’s Main Street were built in 1974 and were not equipped with sprinkler systems. Park officials say that Adventureland will reopen for the season in April as previously planned.

“Captain EO” returns (Anaheim, CA, USA)
The Michael Jackson 3-D film “Captain EO” returns to the Magic Eye Theater at Disneyland on Feb. 23. The 17-minute sci-fi movie first debuted at the Anaheim, Calif., theme park in October 1986, the same week the National Enquirer printed a famous photo of Jackson sleeping in a futuristic hyperbaric sleeping chamber.

The movie follows Captain EO (Jackson) and his crew as they travel to a distant planet to deliver a gift to a wicked alien queen, played by Anjelica Huston. George Lucas produced the film, which reportedly cost more than $1 milliion per minute to make. On the Disney Parks blog, Disneyland PR manager Heather Hurst Rivera said the movie will be shown from a new 70mm print and that acoustic improvements to the theater since the original run will make “Captain EO” “sound better than ever.” The movie’s original Disneyland run ended quietly in 1997. Disney officials have been mum on how long the movie’s revival will last or whether “EO” will also return to Walt Disney World’s EPCOT, where it played from 1986-1994.

Waldameer going cashless (Erie, PA, USA)
Waldameer patrons won’t need a dime to visit the Erie, Penn., amusement park this year, but they will need Wally Points. Waldameer has announced that the park is going completely cashless.

Instead of the green stuff, park guests will load a plastic card or wristband with Wally Points, which are named after the park mascot Wally Bear. The points will cost $1 each. Waldameer owner Paul Nelson told the Erie Times-News that the move will save money by giving the business tighter control over its cash.

Wild Adventures rocks (Valdosta, GA, USA)
Lynyrd Skynyrd, Wynonna and Steven Curtis Chapman will headline concerts at the Wild Adventures theme park this season. The Valdosta, Ga., water and theme park announced that it will open for the year on March 6.

Three new rides will debut next month, and the park’s beloved wooden coaster, The Cheetah, will trot out its new, smoother ride thanks to a $1 million refurbishment. Wild Adventures concerts are free with park admission, but (better) reserved seats are available for $10.

Darien Lake Theme Park expands (Darien Center, NY, USA)
The Darien Lake Theme Park Resort has filed plans to build a new $7 million water park area called Pirates Cove. New attractions at the Darien Center, N.Y., resort would include a Lazy River, a 50-foot-high water slide and a FlowRider, which produces waves that riders can surf in a contained environment. The Genesee County Planning Board has given the Pirates Cove site plan a preliminary approval, according to the Batavia (N.Y.) Daily News.

[Lead photo courtesy / CC BY 2.0]