2016 has brought a full slate of new attractions to Orlando’s already action-packed theme parks. Whether you’re prepared for the thrill of a lifetime or you’re looking for something of the more princess-y variety, if you haven’t been to Orlando lately, you haven’t experienced it all! Let’s take a look at 2016’s additions to some of Central Florida’s most famous theme parks. (Feature Photo: Disney)
Looking for air-time, speed, and sheer drops? Sea World Orlando would like to introduce you to Mako. Joining their impressive roster of gut-churning roller coasters like Kraken and Manta, Mako has the dubious – er, awesome – honor of being the tallest, fastest, longest roller coaster in Orlando.
The “hypercoaster” style attraction features a 200-foot drop, and hits a top speed of 73 miles per hour. You know what they say about Sea World: come for the penguins, stay for the record-breaking, scream-inducing roller coaster fun! (What’s that? They don’t say that? Well, maybe they’ll start after they give Mako a try!)
At Universal’s Islands of Adventure, there’s a beast of a different type waiting for you. The big hairy ape type of beast, to be precise — because Kong is back, and we’re not in Roosevelt Island anymore. If you remember King Kong’s reign of terror at the old Universal Studios attraction with fondness, you’ll love Skull Island: Reign of Kong.
With cutting-edge technology, this attraction is a multi-sensory adventure, taking you deep into the jungle where prehistoric creatures are battling it out—and you might be in their way. Check out the story behind the attraction below:
Meanwhile, Epcot is waiting to welcome you to Arendelle. Frozen Ever After is the official title of the new attraction now open at the Walt Disney World Resort theme park, but we think the kids will be calling it, “The Frozen Ride!” If you have anyone in the family with a special affection (or obsession) for Anna and Elsa, Olaf and Kristoff, and that reindeer Sven, you’ll have to work Frozen Ever After into your itinerary – because they will find out about it while you’re in Florida.
The attraction’s cozy location in the Norway section of Epcot means you’ll have plenty of scenery to enjoy when the wait spills out of the building, but you might be best off trying to schedule your sail to Arendelle late in the evening, when other guests are prepping for the nightly fireworks display. The upside? Anna and Elsa’s meet-and-greet has moved to the nearby Royal Sommerhus, a charming royal retreat where you’ll find considerably shorter lines than you might have experienced in the past.
Also in Epcot, Future World’s popular Soarin’ is charting a new course, visiting landmarks around the world. From the Great Wall of China to the Eiffel Tower, the updates to the attraction will take you high in the sky, the breeze blowing in your face, over some of the most spectacular sights on earth.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, everyone’s staying up late these days. The park’s most popular thrill ride, Expedition Everest: Legend of the Forbidden Mountain, really benefits from the darkness, which adds another layer of mystery to the yeti-themed roller coaster. And over in Africa, Kilimanjaro Safaris adds a Night Safari, complete with a perpetual sunset so that even if you miss the golden hour, you’ll get a taste of sundown on the savanna. Once out on the safari, you’ll find there’s clever lighting to mimic moonlight, and the jeep’s own searchlights, help you pick out animals making their way through the darkness.
The park is adding entertainment to the evening, too. At Tree of Life, Animal Kingdom’s massive centerpiece, projection-mapping technology brings the carved animals darting around its trunk to shimmering life.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios might be just embarking on a multi-million dollar facelift (which will add Toy Story Land and Star Wars Land to its map), but even in renovation, this park has new offerings. The nighttime show Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular brings fireworks, surround-sound effects, and state-of-the-art projection mapping to the central courtyard of the park, for an explosive finale to an evening that, let’s face it, probably already included a couple of rides on Star Tours and building a custom light saber.
During the day, you’ll probably also run into a squadron of Stormtroopers, who go marching through the park several times a day, barking orders for guests to stand aside. Starting at the Star Wars Launch Bay, a large preview center devoted to all things galaxy-far-far-away, the Stormtroopers end up at the stage in front of the Chinese Theater, where a short show about the Star Wars story plays on screens. It’s not groundbreaking like the nighttime show, but it’s definitely diverting fun for Star Wars fans.
At the Magic Kingdom, there’s already enough to keep your family busy for several days, so we won’t pile on too much else, but definitely pause to see Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire during one of its many performances on the Cinderella Castle stage. This new show features characters from “The Princess and the Frog,” “Tangled,” and, yes, “Frozen” alongside Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Goofy for a dancing good time. And while we all love Elsa’s emoting in “Let It Go,” trust us when we tell you Tiana’s jazzy dance routine steals the show! New Orleans, Arendelle, and whatever medieval kingdom Rapunzel is from shouldn’t work together so well, but since it’s the Magic Kingdom, friendship and fantasy reign, and this show is a lot of fun.
Well, are there enough new attractions at Orlando’s theme parks to keep you busy this year? You’d better experience 2016’s roster of fun as soon as possible, because 2017’s grand openings are already on the schedule. Next year, we’re looking forward to an all-new water park at Universal Orlando Resort, a new family raft ride at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park, and Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Don’t get left behind!
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