9 New Orlando Attractions You Can’t Miss in 2016
In 2014, Orlando welcomed more than 62 million visitors, setting the all-time record for the most visited destination in the United States. 2014 was also the year that Walt Disney World completed their new Fantasyland and Universal Orlando Resort finished The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Coincidence? Probably not.
The standard for attractions in the “Theme Park Capitol of the World” is incredibly high and increasing tourism numbers is making it even higher, so the area is developing at what seems like hyper-speed. For adventure seekers like me, that’s a pretty incredible thing because it means a constant stream of new, state-of-the art attractions and things to do.
There’s a lot to look forward to in 2016 and the years beyond. Here’s our list of the most exciting new Orlando attractions you can’t miss:
1) “Frozen Ever After”: Epcot
Great news: Epcot’s world showcase finally got rid of the 27-year-old Maelstrom water ride – arguably one of the most anti-climactic rides ever created. Even better news: They’re replacing it with a “Frozen”-themed ride log ride that will take visitors around a fantastical winter celebration in Arendelle. Riders will see Elsa’s magical ice-making powers in action, say hello to Anna, Kristof and Olaf, and of course hear the film’s smash hit “Let It Go.” Disney hasn’t officially announced the open date, but the fan blogs predict it will be May 1 in the Norway pavilion of Epcot’s World Showcase and will reflect authentic aspects of Scandinavian culture.
2) “Skull Island: Reign of Kong”: Universal’s Islands of Adventure
Universal’s new, terrifying ride features the gargantuan beast who has been scaring movie goers since 1933; the one and only King Kong. Riders will take a 1930s exhibition deep into a mysterious island and will be confronted by hostile natives and horrifying prehistoric predators.This multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experience will open summer 2016 at Islands of Adventure.
3) “Mako”: SeaWorld
Starting this summer, you can ride Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, the Mako. The 200-foot-tall coaster is named after the ocean’s fastest known shark and will reach speeds of 73 mph along its 4,760 feet of track. This “hypercoaster” will be the focus of a new two-acre plaza which will center around sharks, their impact on humans and their role in the environment.
4) “Disney Springs”: Walt Disney World Resort
It’s a little hard to believe that Downtown Disney could get any bigger, but it is. Like, two times bigger. Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, is expected to be completed summer of 2016 after years of transformations. The new expansion will feature a diverse mix of Disney and other noteworthy brands and will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues to more than 150. Click here for the unbelievable list of establishments within Disney Springs.
5) “Pandora”: Animal Kingdom
The Disney Imagineers are at it again, this time with the help of James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment. The team will bring Pandora – the moon featured in “Avatar” – to life as part of the largest expansion in the Animal Kingdom since it opened. The new area will feature the floating mountains and bioluminescent plants of Pandora, shopping, dining and a boat ride. There will also be a 3D ride that will take visitors on the backs of banshees through the mystical land.
6) “Loews Sapphire Falls Resort”: Universal
Universal Resort and Loews Hotels & Resorts has partnered to create the fifth on-site hotel at Universal Studios. The resort will feature 1,000 Caribbean-themed rooms that will be centered around a towering waterfall and lagoon. It is set to open summer 2016.
7) Orlando City’s Soccer Stadium
The Orlando City Lion Soccer Club is getting fancy new home just two blocks from the Amway Center. This new multi-purpose stadium has a 25,500 capacity, canopies covering every seat to shelter fans from the sun and rain and a 10,000 square foot fan plaza. The natural grass field is also sunken 8 feet below the ground to ensure awesome street-level views.
8) “Volcano Bay”: Universal Orlando Resort
A newer, wetter theme park is joining the ranks of Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure in 2017. The 53 acre park will feature a smoking volcano, slides, rapids, wave pool, lazy river and much more. The exact plans for the tropical island-themed park are not yet released, but Universal touts “an incredibly immersive” and reimagined water park experience.
9) “Rivers of Light”: Animal Kingdom
The Animal Kingdom has finally decided to extend their hours of operation and they’re making it worth your while to stay. In spring 2016, the park will premiere “Rivers of Light,” an interactive light show that will take place on Discovery River between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest. During the show, a pair of mystical hosts will bring “the gift of light” across the water and the park, including on the park’s iconic Tree of Life. The show will tell stories and “summon animal spirits” through dazzling glowing displays and live performances.
Bonus! “Season of the Force”: Hollywood Studios
The Force is hitting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in a big way in 2016. Throughout the park, visitors will be able to encounter real-life Stormtroopers and Jedis and can even battle Darth Vader himself at the new Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple attraction. Fans can also watch an abridged cinematic celebration of the six films in the series and enjoy Star Wars-themed food, like BB-8 lemonade and a Han Solo-themed meal. You can even tour the galaxy far, far away at the new Star Wars Launch Bay, which features movie props, games, videos and live encounters with the films’ villains and heroes. If that weren’t enough to geek-out about, you’ll be able to experience over 50 story combinations while riding the updated “Star Tours – The Adventure Continues,” including an all-new location from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Rumor has it there’s a Star Wars-themed Land in the works too, but groundbreaking will start in 2016 and the completion date has not been announced.
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