It’s one of those years where every major theme park in the Florida fun capital has something new happening. Want to know the score? Your-Hols.com is just back from a transatlantic trip to present what’s new in Orlando for 2014.
Harry Potter’s world gets bigger
The superb Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Resort Orlando is about to get bigger and better. The current attraction in the resort’s Islands of Adventure park is home to three rides, the kiddy-friendly Flight of the Hippogryph rollercoaster, the more extreme Dragon Challenge and the frankly brilliant Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey – and it’s still drawing in the crowds in big numbers since its 2010 opening. So much so that later this summer it will be joined by Universal Studios’ opening of Diagon Alley – a new park-within-a-park complete with a London waterfront, an Escape from Gringotts thrill ride and a Hogwarts Express train that will transport visitors from one park to the other.
Disney’s Magic Kingdom expansion
Magic Kingdom has long been the heart of Walt Disney World and the park’s new Fantasyland is the biggest expansion in its history. The two newest parts include the Enchanted Forest with a new Little Mermaid ride Under the Sea, the chance to meet Ariel in her grotto (above) and Enchanted Tales with Belle – an interactive story featuring the heroine of Beauty and the Beast and you! The other is Storybook Circus with a double Dumbo the elephant ride (complete with Big Top ‘holding area’ which gives kids the chance to play while they wait to ride) and The Barnstormer – a Goofy-inspired stunt-plane adventure ride. A new rollercoaster, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, is set to open later this summer.
Ihu’s Breakaway Falls at Aquatica
Seaworld’s waterpark Aquatica has just opened its latest attraction, a three-story waterslide with a cutting edge. Guests climb 126 stairs to be greeted by the chance to enter one of three pods at the top, each home to a slide that’s more outrageous than the last. Riders enter the pods to the sound of a heartbeat and a countdown before the floor gives way sending them plummeting down the slide. The most extreme blue chute has a 40ft freefall where speeds reach 20mph. We tried it last week and it’s outrageously good.
Falcon’s Fury at Busch Gardens
It’s not quite ready yet but when Falcon’s Fury opens at the Tampa theme park later this month, it’s set to be the thrill ride of the summer. The tallest freestanding drop tower in North America at 335ft will see riders ferried to the top in less than a minute, before their ride chair flips to leave them facing the ground. They’ll then freefall at 60mph before the breaks kick in to leave them breathless. We’ve been up there and the views are amazing reaching up to 32 miles – the ride though looks scary as heck.
Legoland’s Duplo Valley
Legoland Florida in Winter Haven only opened in 2011 when it took over from Cypress Gardens but there’s already a big new opening that took place just last weekend. Duplo Valley is a farm-themed area aimed squarely at 2- to 5-year-old toddlers. Rides include a small train that runs through rural scenes and a Duplo Tractor that operates in a corn field.
A new Center for Performing Arts
Hardly anyone goes to Orlando for culture but they do need something for the locals to do – and if you’re that way inclined, you can join them by catching a performance of the Orlando Ballet at the new $429 million Dr Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Orlando. Set to open in November, some of the first performances include The Nutcracker alongside the Orlando Philharmonic.
Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort
Minutes from both Magic Kingdom and Epcot, this new luxury resort features 444 guest rooms, including 68 suites, a Tom Fazio-designed golf course, spa, three restaurants and a kids area with a lazy river and climbing wall. The hotel is taking reservations from August onwards.
Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort
Just off Turkey Lake Road and a short drive from Universal’s parks, this new hotel is inspired by the beach resorts of the 1950s and 60s. There are 1800 rooms, two huge pools, a lazy river and the chance to enter Universal’s parks an hour before any one else.
Kart Racing on I-Drive
Opening later this summer, I-Drive Indoor Kart Racing will feature a half-mile (805m) track and electric go-karts that can reach a super-fast 45mph. That’s not all though, the complex on International Drive will also house an arcade entertainment section, a four-lane bowling alley and a dance area that can hold up to 900 people.
Antojitos at Universal City Walk
Universal’s City Walk is one of the most fun places in the city to hang out of an evening thanks to its huge cinema and dining options including a Hard Rock Café, Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and this new Mexican cantina-style restaurant. The food there is amazing. We know, we tried it!
For more see visitorlando.com