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Host of Travel Channel's Bert the Conqueror, Bert Kreischer, shares his insane experiences

Whether it's nature, wild animals, extreme heights, theme park rides or a foot race with his wife on his back, comedian Bert Kreischer will try to conquer almost anything on the Travel Channel's Bert the Conqueror. While not always triumphant, Kreischer is certainly an entertaining host and the show does an excellent job of showcasing interesting and unique thrills found at everything from popular amusement parks to someone's backyard in Utah.

A new season of Bert the Conqueror debuts Sunday, April 3rd at 8 PM E/P. Recently, I had the chance to speak with the host about what I could expect from the new episodes. As I interviewed him he shared some of his most terrifying and most fun experiences.

Joel Bullock: Can you describe the show for anyone who hasn't seen it?

Bert Kreischer: I am an all around tour guide for thrills in America. Be it local competitions, events, theme parks, water parks, or bungee jumps. You name it. Anything that's thrilling in America that locals are doing, I go to that area and I do it.

JB: I looked over my episode recaps from last season. As much as I love theme parks, I feel that two of the most memorable challenges were of the local, homegrown variety. The human slingshot in Utah and catfish grabblin' (catching catfish with your bare hands) in Tennessee stood out the most for me.

BK: Those two that you just mentioned were probably the most unregulated, unsafe things I did all last year. Hands down. When I did the catfish grabblin' the locals were saying to me, "You could get killed Bert the Conqueror - Travel Channel - Human Slingshotdoing that" and "People die doing that."

The human slingshot was literally in someone's backyard. Some dude made it. It's nuts. There's no insurance exacter that comes out and looks at it and says that it's safe.

When we did SkyJump in Vegas, there was definitely a pencil pusher that walked through that ride and every aspect of that ride and found out safety and redundancy. With the human slingshot, they were telling me, "This harness should fit. This helmet should fit. If you're not too heavy you'll be fine, but if you're too heavy you could break your back."

JB: I think I had sweaty palms just watching you try the slingshot.

BK: I'm glad you had sweaty palms, that made it worth it. That was a really intense episode.

Kings Island's New Dinosaurs Alive! Attraction

Following 2010's critically-acclaimed Diamondback roller coaster, Cincinnati area theme park Kings Island recently announced their new Dinosaurs Alive! attraction. Touted as the "World's largest animatronic dinosaur park", it will feature 56 animatronic models in an outdoor setting.

While my forte is roller coasters and I wouldn't consider myself a themed attractions expert, this is the first time in recent memory that I can remember seeing a regional park introduce an attraction like Dinosaurs Alive!. I've always been a big dinosaur fan and Dinosaurs Alive! looks pretty cool. Unfortunately, it will be a few years before I visit Kings Island and check it out as my young daughters would likely be terrified of these massive dinosaurs.

Five ways roller coasters have changed since you were a kid

Xcelerator at Knotts Berry Farm - How roller coasters have changed

Roller coasters have evolved immensely since they were patented in 1898. Advances in technology in recent history have also triggered a number of exciting changes in the way we enjoy today's thrill rides. In the past two decades roller coasters have reached greater heights and speeds than ever. In 1991, the looping coaster boom was winding down. Throughout the 1980's amusement parks added roller coasters that turned riders upside-down on both a large and small scale. There was a good chance you could find a roller coaster with a loop or even two. The next craze was just beginining as theme parks created what's been called The Coaster Arms Race as parks battled to create the tallest and fastest roller coasters. Rather than emphasizing loops, most of these coasters emphasized height and speed. Twenty years ago, in 1991, the new contender to the height and speed championship, Steel Phantom, opened at Kennywood.

Launch coasters revolutionized the industry
Probably the most noticeable technological advancement in the the past two decades is of the birth of launch roller coasters. Originally, driven by powerful magnets, these coasters don't need a traditional lift hill to generate speed. Instead, they rocket guests to blistering speeds in only a matter of seconds. In, 1991 Steel Phantom set a new speed record of 80 mph thanks to a drop down a natural ravine. Today, Formula Rossa at Ferrari World uses a hydraulic launch that accelerates riders from 0 to to an unprecedented 150 mph in under 5 seconds.

Earthquake strands thousands at Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea

Thousands of guests were stranded in Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea after the massive earthquake that rocked the island nation on Friday. Park employees have been giving out humanitarian aid including blankets, heaters, plastic raincoats, food, and water. While Disney has reported only a few minor injuries and minimal property damage, other reports state that the earthquake has liquefied the parking lot. Authorities suspect that shaking from the earthquake caused water from the coastline to mix with the soil. The Disney parks were built on a landfill making the parks susceptible to flooding.

According to Disney, Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea will remained closed to allow for a thorough inspection of the attractions and facilities. Inside the Magic has pictures from social media sites of the stranded guests and damage to the park. Below is a video of park guests experiencing the earthquake while they were waiting for a parade.

Las Vegas to get a London Eye-like Ferris wheel & amusement park

Las Vegas to get London Eye=like ferris wheel

In an effort to boost Las Vegas' family appeal, Clark County commissioners have approved plans to build a new amusement park on the Las Vegas Strip. Located at the former site of the Cloud Nine Balloon near Mandalay Bay, the 9-acre attraction will include shops, restaurants, and several roller coasters.

The new amusement park's biggest draw will likely be a massive $100 million dollar Ferris wheel in the vein of the London Eye. Like that attraction, developers hope Vegas' wheel will be as popular and as iconic. The 500-foot tall Ferris wheel will feature air conditioned, family room-sized gondolas. The amusement park and Ferris wheel are set to open in 2013. Las Vegas' KTNV has more.

This seems to be part of a growing trend as similar observation wheels have been proposed at the New Jersey Meadowlands and in downtown Atlanta. Cities likely see them as strong revenue producers thanks to the success of the London Eye, one of London's top tourist attractions.

[Image credit: Flickr user - Wilfried.b]

Five ways visiting theme parks has changed: then and now

Theme parks have evolved greatly over the years. Even in my lifetime, the theme park experience has changed substantially due to advances in technology. Today's guests have the tools to enjoy their visits more than ever. In no particular order, here are five ways the theme park experience has changed in just the past two decades.

1. Apps are putting park information at your fingertips
The task of finding your way around an unfamiliar theme park is becoming a lot easier thanks to apps like Thrillseeker. The app functions like a park map, but with the added advantage of GPS to show you your location. It even gives you step-by-step directions to attractions and detailed ride descriptions so you'll know what to expect. While the app currently covers just the major theme parks in Florida and the United Kingdom, it does point to a pretty cool future.

2. Home videos are going public and getting dangerous
Cell phones and the ever-shrinking digital cameras have given guests the ability to easily capture memories of their theme park visit. Unfortunately, this has led to the dangerous practice of some guests whipping out blunt objects on roller coasters so that they can film themselves and their friends. If dropped, those cute little cameras turn into missiles that could injure other riders or onlookers. I'd recommend guests buy on-ride DVDs or photos rather than put other riders' in danger. YouTube has plenty terrible, shaky home videos already.

SeaWorld prepares to put trainers back in the water with killer whales

One Ocean at SeaWorld - Killer Whale ShowA year after the fatal accident involving trainer Dawn Brancheau, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has announced that they are preparing to put trainers back in the water during their killer whale shows. Trainers have not been permitted in the water since the incident involving their largest orca named Tilikum.

SeaWorld will not give an exact date of when in-water performances will resume, but they are laying the groundwork. The company plans to spend millions of dollars on a number of safety devices aimed at preventing another tragic incident. Some of the safety measures include: the installation of fast rising pool floors, remote-controlled underwater distraction devices, and outfits with emergency air supplies.

For now, the trainers will only interact with the orcas in small medical pools already outfitted with false-bottom floors. So, SeaWorld's new show, "One Ocean", will not feature trainers swimming with the killer whales right away. Trainers will conduct the show entirely from the stage. "One Ocean" is set to begin in April at SeaWorld Orlando, on Memorial Day at SeaWorld San Diego, and in June at SeaWorld San Antonio. The Orlando Sentinel has more.

Fast & furious roller coasters: 6 coolest race car themed rides

Intimidator at Carowinds - Race themed roller coasters

After watching the Daytona 500, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at race car themed roller coasters. Although there have been many over the years, for me, these six really stand out. They emphasize speed as they include some of the fastest roller coasters in the World. And, the coasters that I feel deliver the best race car-like experience, also offer intense acceleration and cheek flapping g-forces.

Intimidator at Carowinds (Charlotte, North Carolina - United States)
Built in the heart of NASCAR country, Intimidator at Carowinds, bears the nickname of legendary race car driver Dale Earnhardt. Pictured above, the coaster's trains are designed to look like his black #3 Chevy Monte Carlo. The attraction also includes a full-sized replica of his car as well as a tribute area that details his enormously successful career. While the ride itself is one of the best of its type and it is well-themed, it doesn't do the best job of delivering a NASCAR feel with a hilly course and only one banked turn that reminded me of a turn in a race.

Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion (Doswell, Virginia - United States)
Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar PointLike Intimidator at Carowinds, Kings Dominion's Intimidator 305 has a Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR themed experience. Intimidator 305 starts with an un-race like 305 foot tall lift hill, but the heavily banked turn that follows the first drop and top speeds in the 90 mph range incorporate the racing feel better than the aforementioned Intimidator. Also, the train's restraints are padded belts that are somewhat similar to what race car drivers use. Still, a roller coaster with a lift hill isn't the best for simulating a race car.

A World of Warcraft & Starcraft-inspired theme park is coming to China

World of Warcraft theme park coming to ChinaChina's theme park boom is taking a nerdy twist. World Joyland, a new theme park being built in Changzhou, China, created some buzz on the Web recently when concept images made it to the States. The images depicted a theme park that looked like the insanely popular PC games World of Warcraft and Starcraft. Some American sites thought that the news might be a hoax as the creator of the games, Blizzard, hadn't mentioned the project. Kotaku confirmed that the park is indeed real, but it doesn't have an official connection with the computer games.

The gaming geeks should have just asked the coaster geeks. Our favorite resource, the Roller Coaster Database confirms the existence of World Joyland because of its custom Bolliger & Mabillard flying coaster that the park is calling Starry Night Ripper. The popular coaster designers' attractions are closely watched by coaster enthusiasts, no matter where they're built. The park looks really cool and its addition, along with China's other newer parks like Happy Valley and Knight Valley, are making me want to experience Asia's theme parks almost as much as I want to visit Europe's parks.

SeaWorld San Diego announces Manta roller coaster for 2012

SeaWorld San Diego recently announced plans for a new roller coaster set to open in 2012. The new highly-themed attraction will be called Manta and it will incorporate a marine-life exhibit. The ride will start with a tunnel boasting huge high-tech projection screens. The screens will project larger than life images of rays aimed at enhancing the ride's opening launch that will send the manta-themed trains rocketing down the track.

Unlike, the high-flying Manta at SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego's Manta will be a launch coaster that will stay close to and below the ground. It will have a modest height of 30 feet, a longest drop of 54 feet (as it drops below the ground), and a relatively gentle top speed of 46 mph via a magnetic launch system.

Some roller coaster fans are dissapointed in the new coaster's less than extreme stats. While this Manta coaster could be categorized as a family roller coaster, fans have to remember not every new attraction is going to thrill your pants off. Given that the park was limited by the area's extremely low height restrictions and SeaWorld Park's track record of highly themed and immersive roller coasters, Manta looks to be a solid addition. Below is an animated video of Manta without the ride's theming and marine-life exhibit.

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