June 20, 2017
There’s always something groundbreaking happening in Orlando, but the city is really surpassing itself in 2017. So far we’ve seen the opening of two extraordinary new attractions at Disney World and Universal Orlando, with much more fun and entertainment on the horizon. Here’s a look at what’s just launched and what’s coming up over the next couple of months…
The much anticipated Volcano Bay water park is now open at Universal Orlando Resort. Anchored by the lava-spewing, 200-foot-tall Krakatau volcano, the park is home to a collection of mind-bending rides – including an aqua coaster, drop slides, body slides, raft rides and whitewater rapids – as well as a shallow lagoon, a winding river, and two age-appropriate play reefs with gurgling fountains and geysers.
Not only is this tropical island-themed attraction the first new Universal park in 18 years, it also has a wearable ride reservation system which eliminates that bugbear of all theme park enthusiasts – standing in a neverending queue. Simply tap your wristband against a kiosk to hold your place in a ‘virtual line’, and return to your chosen attraction when you feel the wearable vibrate. You can also use it to buy drinks and snacks or rent lockers.
Opened at the end of May 2017, Pandora: The World of Avatar is Walt Disney World Resort’s latest and greatest attraction. Inspired by James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic, the 12-acre ‘land’ is set within Disney’s Animal Kingdom and celebrates the awe-inspiring power of nature through an otherworldly landscape of floating mountains, mystical birdsong and bioluminescent plants.
Stars of the show are Pandora’s two rides, which blend theme park wizardry with cutting edge production design. The results are seriously stunning and well worth the not inconsiderable waits, which are mostly eased by an innovative ‘pre-ride’ experience. First up is the Na’Vi River Journey; a magical boat trip through a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the Na’vi Shaman of Songs. But Pandora’s masterstroke has to be the higher-octane Avatar Flight of Passage simulator ride – surely now among the greatest such rides in the world – which offers the chance to fly on the back of a mountain banshee and soar over a lush landscape of forests, mountains, caves and oceans.
Launched by City Sightseeing on June 1st, Orlando now has its first hop-on hop-off bus service. The Theme Park Capital of the World becomes the eleventh city in the open top bus company’s US line-up, with more than 100 other destinations represented across the globe.
Orlando options include one to 14-day combo tickets, which connect the main attractions of the city via a 22-stop tour, from Universal Orlando and Disney Springs to I-Drive 360, Pointe Orlando and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Alternatively, use City Sightseeing’s daily ‘Theme Park Express’ for simple access to both Disney and Universal theme parks. Choose the Universal Express or Disney Express, or purchase a combo ticket if you’re planning on visiting both. You can also hit the malls with a minimum of fuss – there’s a dedicated shopping route which covers Premium Outlets and the Florida Mall, as well as Gatorland adventure theme park. Adult tickets start from £22 for a one day pass and from £16 per child, with higher savings available the more days you purchase.
Coming soon to International Drive is the high-end Italian restaurant Circo Orlando, part of the Le Cirque restaurant brand. Complete with sky high views of the theme parks, the 10,500 square foot Circo will seat up to 300 and occupy the penthouse position on the new I-Drive Hollywood Plaza retail development. Check out the patio and retractable glass roof – the perfect spot for watching Disney World’s fireworks shows. Opening late summer 2017.
Launching at the end of summer 2017, Andretti Indoor Karting & Games is a mammoth entertainment complex featuring state of the art electric go kart racing, 3D multi-player and classic arcade games, and a fully immersive 7D dark ride experience where riders use lasers to compete against each other for the highest score.
Located on Universal Boulevard near Universal Orlando, the flagship facility will also include Florida’s first curved Sky Rail zip line as part of its Sky Trail ropes course, along with an unbelievably realistic pro race car simulator and an upmarket boutique bowling lounge with 12 sleek race-themed lanes.
Check out our Orlando destination guide for more information and tips on Orlando and Central Florida.