Theme park expo offers preview of what's new for 2018

By TERRANCE HARRIS Markets Associated Press

This year's theme park expo in Orlando, Florida, features the latest products, technology and trends in rides and the next big food items, all of which could be coming to an amusement park near you as early as the summer of 2018.

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A record 37,000 attendees are getting a chance to look at what 1,000 vendors representing more than 100 countries have to offer for the upcoming year. The expo is sponsored by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA).

Here are some of the exciting things to look forward to in 2018 and beyond:

BACK TO THE FUTURE: If you are into dizzying thrills, then the Time Traveler ride, which is debuting next summer at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, is for you. Time Traveler drops you at a 90-degree vertical angle right out of the gate and it only becomes more intense from there with three inversions at speeds up to around 50 mph (81 kph), all while spinning. It's being billed as the fastest, steepest and tallest spinning roller coaster.

WARP SPEED: A ride manufacturer called Skyline Attractions has been shopping its compact double-car roller coaster, Skywarp, for the past two years and the company finally has a buyer. Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, California, will debut Skywarp in the summer of 2018. The 30-foot (9-meter) tall, 290-feet (88-meter) long coaster features two cars speeding around each other on double loops.

A NEW SPIN: The first-generation of rafting rides spun riders around while taking them over rapid waters. Well Infinity Falls, set to debut at SeaWorld in Orlando next summer, has that and then some. The twisting raft ride by Intamin begins with an elevator lift that launches eight passengers in a river and eventually sends them to a 40-feet (12-meter) drop. And from there a wild and rough adventure begins.

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UNDERWATER: Perhaps the most innovative ride on display at the expo this week is still in the concept phase but once it hits the market it will be a must ride. It's called Aquaticar, which will be the first underwater driving experience. Passengers will be able to steer their way through a marine life experience while being submerged underwater with an oxygen-filled canopy covering their heads. The two-passenger car, designed by Sub Sea Systems, moves at a rate of 130 feet (40 meters) per minute, or about the speed of a casual walk.

PIZZA CONE: There are plenty of new food items on the horizon but the one that may draw the most interest is an all-time favorite with a twist. A New Jersey-based company is shopping a pizza in a cone concept that will definitely be a winner with kids. Pizza sauce, cheese and choice of toppings are stuffed into a cone-shaped crust and then baked.