What’s New in Theme Parks: Thomas, Harry, and Elmo

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Thomas the Tank Engine turned 65 this past weekend, and my four year old was up bright and early, ready for me to take her to the opening of Thomas Town at Six Flags America in Largo, Maryland. Despite the brutal heat that day, which made the Island of Sodor seem more like Mordor, Controller of the Railway Sir Topham Hatt was on hand to greet guests and the whole place had a spanking new, unscuffed gleam.

The rides–including Harold the Helicopter, Bertie the Bus, and a Ferris wheel–are mild and perfect for really little kids. A multi-level play structure with slides and rope bridges lets them expend any energy built up from standing in line. Parents will appreciate the cluster of umbrella-shaded tables at the center of the town. A pop jet fountain wasn’t working on Saturday but is now operational and providing refreshing water play.

The main attraction is of course a ride aboard Thomas the Tank Engine himself, leaving from a replica Knapford Station and traveling through a manicured landscape which was still a work in progress on Saturday but definitely recognizable for fans of the long-running Thomas & Friends TV series, which premiered on the UK’s ITV Network in 1984 with Ringo Starr as the main storyteller.

Six Flags America isn’t the only theme park gearing up for another packed summer season. Check out the scoop on more park news after the jump.

  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando throws open its doors June 18 to excited Muggles who have been waiting forever to walk through Hogwarts, drink Butterbeer at The Three Broomsticks, and experience a game of Quidditch.
  • Sesame Place, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, turns 30 with a year long party that includes a new Rock n’ Roll show starring Elmo and new additions to the Count’s Halloween Spooktacular.
  • Kalahari Resort, in Sandusky, Ohio, just added the Safari Outdoor Adventure Park, featuring a zip line tour, ropes course, and climbing walls.

Have more theme park news? Let us know in the comments.

Photo: Amy Alipio