By Visit Orlando, Special for USDR
Recently named AAA’s Top Destination for Memorial Day Travel, Orlando is unveiling some of the largest expansions in theme park history this week, from the enchanting alien world of Pandora to the island paradise of Volcano Bay. These historic openings are the culmination of a year filled with new offerings including phenomenal dining options and brand new resorts. It’s one of the most exciting times to be in Orlando, where all-new adventure, thrills and family fun await visitors looking for an unforgettable summer vacation.
Find more information, including exclusive insider tips, opening dates and the latest news on Orlando’s summer happenings, at VisitOrlando.com/blog.
NEW ATTRACTIONS: THEME PARKS AND MORE
- Universal Orlando Resort: Volcano Bay, a brand new tropical island water park, will open May 25, 2017, featuring innovative, thrilling attractions and TapuTapu wearable technology for virtual queuing. The new ride, Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, opened as well at Universal Studios Florida.
- Walt Disney World Resort: Pandora – The World of AVATAR will open as a new land at Animal Kingdom on May 27, 2017, which is the largest expansion in the park’s history. Also at Animal Kingdom, Rivers of Light is an innovative experience combining live performances, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. “Happily Ever After,” a new nighttime spectacular, debuted at Magic Kingdom Park. Also new is Miss Adventure Falls, a family-style raft attraction, which opened at Typhoon Lagoon.
- SeaWorld Orlando: SeaWorld’s first digitally-enhanced ride experience will open June 16 when the legendary Kraken roller coaster is transformed into a virtual reality (VR) roller coaster. Electric Ocean, a new end-of-day spectacle event, will take place June 17 – Aug. 5. An all-new stadium show called Dolphin Days is now open, immersing guests into the world of the ocean’s most playful ambassadors.
- LEGOLAND Florida Resort: LEGO NINJAGO World, a new immersive land, is a training ground for future ninjas. LEGOLAND Beach Retreat is a new property with 83 single-story duplexes, a themed pool and sandy play area.
- iFly Orlando Indoor Skydiving opened a new facility next to WonderWorks on International Drive, which is equipped with two all-glass wind tunnels in an open single-story floor plan that allows I-Drive passersby to see skydivers in action.
- Andretti Indoor Karting & Games is a brand new $30 million indoor go-kart facility on Universal Boulevard near the convention center, opening June 2017. The new facility will feature electronic go-karting, zip lines, bowling, racing simulators, a ‘sky bar,’ rock climbing, laser tag and a full-service restaurant.
- Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opened Heroes and Legends, showcasing the heroism of America’s early space pioneers by inviting guests to vicariously experience the thrills and dangers of America’s earliest missions through high-tech elements and special effects.
- Fun Spot America will debut a new wooden coaster this summer, dubbed the Mine Blower. The $6 million new ride will be 82 feet tall, run nearly 50 mph and include a barrel roll inversion, a rare element for a wooden coaster.
- A brand new Multipurpose Soccer Stadium opened in a developing entertainment center a block away from the Amway Center in downtown Orlando. The 25,500-seat stadium serves as home to the Orlando City Lions soccer team.
- Orlando became the new home of American tennis, when the United States Tennis Association (USTA) opened a campus in the Lake Nona area of Orlando. The 63-acre complex encompasses more than 100 courts (hard and clay) and a multi-use building with a pro shop, fitness center, locker rooms, cafeteria and players’ lounge.
- Main Event Entertainment at Pointe Orlando is a new dining and entertainment complex with more than 100 virtual and interactive games, state-of-the-art bowling and the first free-roam multi-player VR game in the U.S.
NEW DINING & NIGHTLIFE
- Disney Springs: Two James Beard Foundation winners have joined the line-up of dining options at this newly-renovated entertainment complex: Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen and Chef Rick Bayless’ Frontera Cocina. The new Planet Hollywood Observatory features fare from Celebrity Chef Guy Fieri, while Paddlefish offers contemporary, seafood-centric cuisine. The Polite Pig boasts a variety of wood-fired, smoked and grilled items as well as drinks on tap. Upscale steakhouse, STK Orlando also opened.
- Ace Cafe Orlando, the first US outpost of the iconic London, England-based motor-diner opened May 19. An American roadside diner inspires the menu, with made-from-scratch comfort food, some British favorites and locally-sourced and green options, all at an affordable price point.
- Uncle Julio’s Fine Mexican will join the dining offerings at I-Drive 360 this summer. The Texas-based restaurant chain will sit near the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye, with a patio around the building for a view of the wheel. The Tex-Mex menu items will include a range of options, like honey chipotle salmon or cowboy queso.
- Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a new full-service restaurant at Universal CityWalk that offers unique takes on classic steak, seafood, pasta and more, plus an array of gourmet chocolates and desserts.
- Universal Orlando Resort: The Loews Sapphire Falls Resort is the fifth onsite hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, featuring 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme, built around a lagoon and towering waterfall. Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort will also open two new towers by late May, featuring 400 additional guest rooms and suites.
- Just five minutes from Walt Disney World Resort, the The Grove Resort & Spa Orlando will open 108 new rooms this June, completing its first phase. The resort offering two- and three-bedroom residential-style suites with full kitchens, washers & dryers and multiple bathrooms to provide all the comforts of home.
- Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is opening a new resort recreational area in late-May. Adding to the resort’s current 15-acre recreational space, the new 23,000 square foot area will include 16 new pool-side cabanas, 400 more lounge chairs as well as an expanded kid’s pool area. The hotel is currently undergoing a $40 million expansion project, which will be complete by the fall.
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge will soon include new amenities. The accommodations formerly known as “The Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge” have already assumed a new name – “Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge,” and a sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool area is scheduled for competition in summer 2017. Called Boulder Ridge Cove, it will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool in what appears to have been an abandoned rock quarry.
The Orlando Destination
Home to seven of the world’s top theme parks, Orlando – Theme Park Capital of the WorldSM is the No. 1 family vacation destination and the most visited destination in the United States. An unparalleled mix of unique experiences create cherished memories for visitors, including legendary theme parks from Disney, Universal and SeaWorld, an array of world-class water parks, entertainment venues, an award-winning food scene, shopping, sports and nightlife. And, with 450 hotels, Orlando offers more lodging options than nearly any other destination in the world, from expansive resorts to uniquely themed hotels.
Editor’s Note: Find high-resolution downloadable images here.
SOURCE Visit Orlando