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Coming Attractions


You’re too late. And you would probably fail, anyway.

We are referring here to good intentions during the month of January…which is slipping away (as we write this).

Going, going, almost gone…

This is the long-standing time for new year’s resolutions.

They often involve starting a long-delayed exercise program or cutting back on smoking or drinking alcohol.

Sorry to say it, but a study by The Journal of Clinical Psychology finds the vast majority of abstainers, or 75 percent, failed to meet their goals.

But then again, it’s not too late to look forward to what the still young new year of 2016 will bring, theme park-wise.

Be aware that most of the new changes will be unveiled in the summer, which should be an exciting time. And that many of these newer attractions will be found at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

2015 was a slow year for theme park openings.

But 2016 will be very different.

Many projects that have been underway for years will finally open.

Along with this, there are major updates coming to sections of the local parks that have been overlooked at times over the past few years.

Summer is when many of these will open in a rash of theme park activity.

We’ll take a look here at what you can expect this year.

First, though, let’s examine some January rumors.

More hotel rooms, ho hum

SeaWorld is looking to build another 2,500 rooms near their park, industry sources told the Orlando Business Journal.

The park has a 135-acre parcel where new hotels could spring up.

But frankly, who cares if they build or don’t build any more hotels?

You may not know the numbers but the Orlando area already has the world’s largest concentration of hotel rooms.

Just in hotel rooms….not counting alternate housing…there are more than 150,000 rooms.

And those include a wide choice: budget and cheap, like Days Inn, or expensive like Ritz-Carlton.

But if this is news of interest to you, Universal Orlando later this year will be opening a 1,000-room Sapphire Falls hotel.

The claim to fame here will be a 16,000 square foot main pool with a water slide (mainly for kids). But it will also bring more onsite dining, bars and more.

Not only that, but a recent survey found that over 2,000 new hotel rooms were announced for the International or I-Drive area of Orlando.

That is practically within walking distance of Universal (if you wanted to brave the heavy interstate traffic and shortage of sidewalks).

If your new year’s resolution is to get a hotel room in Orlando, never fear.

As long as you can afford it, there will be plenty of room.

Forget hotels

And forget the past year, at least as far as any major new initiatives in theme park rides and major announcements.

But only one signal that this year will be different:

At Universal, Harry Potter continues to march on.

Hogsmeade will come to life here this year with new themed shows, pints of butterbeer, etc.

One of the most anticipated events is Forbidden Journey, a high-tech adventure that is expected to include 3D screens and surprising twists as riders take the journey (without butterbeer to sustain them).

Universal will also introduce Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

What to expect

Skull Island: Reign of Kong turns the usual narrative on its head.

The new 3-D, tram-style, family thrill ride is the first introduction of what was an iconic resort character since the closing of Kongfrontation in 2002.

Despite having the small central character, the two rides have little else in common with each other. Kongfrontation was set in New York, was in Universal Studios and used mostly practical sets.

Skull Island is set in the jungle. It is found between Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park in Islands of Adventure. It will use 3-D tech along with some practical sets including an outdoor ride section.

Instead of seeing King Kong destroying cities, guests are brought to him in his own territory. The dark ride features large animatronics fighting for dominance. It is also described as having highly detailed sets and extensive theming and effects. I

It promises to be the park’s longest and most technologically complex ride.

"Skull Island: Reign of Kong" will put passengers in safari-like vehicles where 3-D glasses will be needed inside this temple still under construction.

"We'll have incredible 3-D imagery but so much more than that," predicts Mike West with Universal Creative. "Vast sets, great characters and complete immersive environment for the guests."

Large screen effects will be prominent with a huge, towering Kong. The size may surprise but this Kong should really be intimidating.

Big, as in real big.

Also coming to Universal will be the brand new “Incredible Hulk Coaster.”After being closed, it is being completely rebuilt.

The new version should include a better-themed queue, updated track and the latest in launch tech.

It really won’t be a true new attraction but it is expected to be highly popular. At least based on the old ride.

SeaWorld is not being left out, either.

The Mako hypercoaster is intended to be competitive with the roller coaster mentality that has dominated Universal.

All you need to know about it really, is that will be the tallest, fastest and longest ride you can find anywhere in the area.

Try 73 miles an hour

The shark ride joins Krakken and Manta, making SeaWorld a new destination for coasters.

SeaWorld is also going to have the area around Mako completely themed to sharks.

This area includes Sharks Underwater Grill, which some say has the best happy hour in the Orlando parks.

The added attraction also include its own unique lighting that will help showcase both the ride and the park.

What this is intended to accomplish: lure tourists who might otherwise pass by on their way back from more popular Disney and Universal.

Will Mako, etc., accomplish that goal?

We’ll know more later this year.

Disney, never idol, has among its planned openings later this year: “Frozen Ever After.” At the Norway Pavilion at Epcot. Opening in the Spring.

Visitors here will be transported to the “Winter in Summer Celebration” where Queen Elsa creates a special day for the kingdom. During the ride you will also be able to travel to Elsa’s Ice Palace, the ice-blue world of the North Mountain, and the Bay of Arendelle.

After the Celebration, you can then meet the royal sisters Anna and Elsa at Epcot at a new character greeting location in the Royal Sommerhus.

Also coming to Epcot: “Soarin’ Around the World.” A new version. “Breathtaking” is the best description.

Another jungle ride

Partly in anticipation of such blockbusters as Star Wars, Disney has been known and applauded lately for its multiple fireworks displays.

But the place with the most changes this year includes a new show called “Rivers of Light” at the Discovery River in Animal Kingdom.

That park will see the greatest number of additions later this year.

“Rivers of Light” will be the new night time show that will combine show elements of “Fanstamic!” with “World of Color” style fountain technology. It will also be accompanied by some Bollywood music and what is being called a “story line that tugs at your heart strings.”

The new water and light show with live music will have puppets by Michael Curry, who is famous for his work on Nemo and other projects.

Not a major renovation but you will want to take another look at the iconic “Tree of Life.” It will be getting its own projection mapping show which is said to be something like “Celebrate the Magic” in the Magic Kingdom.

New signature waterfront dining will also be added to DAK in early 2016.

Kilimanjaro Safaris will be opening a new evening safari that will feature some different animals. It will also have some unique lighting. It will look like a sunset glow in the jungle.

The new animals and lighting will make Kilimanjaro Safaris essentially two attractions in one.

The question here will be whether the park is no more seen as a half day attraction, but grows into its own separate destination.

Adding nighttime activities is clearly a move in that direction.

Dining destinations continue

We have never been a huge fan of dining at Disney. But lots of others are. As seen in the various blogs dedicated to what you put in your stomach.

So for those diners, this should be a very good year. Not that 2015 was starvation city, either.

A look back included Downtown Disney’s becoming Disney Springs, along with a host of new restaurants such as the BOATHOUSE, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and Morimoto Asia.

Bakeries and specialty shops were also new: The Tea Traders Café, Bakery NYC and Vivoli il Gelato, and (no surprise) a specialty chocolate shop, the Ganachery.

The first new restaurant this year in January was STK. It’s a steakhouse with a plush lounge.

It’s claim to fame: Disney Springs’ only rooftop dining experience.

No other rooftop restaurants have been announced, but new outlets here are expected to double this year.

Four-star dining

Celebrity chefs such as Iron Chef Morimoto are expected to continue to cook here. Rick Bayless is among the famous names.

But perhaps more mundane, Sprinkles Cupcakes and Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza is expected to open,

In the parks, Tiffins is planned at Animal Kingdom. Indoor and outdoor seating will be offered with African cooking appropriate to the waterfront setting.

Claim to fame: It will bring nighttime to the park for the first time.

Outside of the major theme parks, I-Drive has thrived this past year.

And its major transformation from miniature golf and carnival-style rides and budget gift shops with huge stacks of t-shirt sales is increasingly turning to luxury gift shops and far more sophisticated rides.

Various new projects are expected, including two more indoor skydiving centers and a zombie laser tag attraction (TV’s “The Walking Dead” is apparently the inspiration).

If that is your taste, you can also look forward to an even larger version of the new and now “World’s Largest Entertainment McDonald’s.”

There’s even a gay club operating there now, and more are expected to follow.
Busch Gardens in Tampa about 90 miles from Orlando is also getting a major roller coaster: Cobra’s Curse.

It ventures through an Egyptian dig site.

Will riders feel a real “curse?
Yes, they will, when it start to spin in unpredictable circles. The spin will vary according to the weight of people in the vehicles.


So if you ride in multiple times, the ride will always be different without any boring repetition.

Highlight is an 80-foot snake icon

Cobra’s Curse should open in the summer.

Even closer to Orlando, Legoland Florida in nearby Lakeland is also opening a film-based attraction with "The LEGO Movie 4D A New Adventure.”

Returning to voice their iconic characters are actors Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle), Nick Offerman (MetalBeard), Charlie Day (Benny) and Alison Brie (Unikitty).

Actor, writer and comedian Patton Oswalt lends his voice to the scheming Risky Business, whose “Evil Secret Plot requires the heroes to call on the Master Builder skills of a surprise ally to save the day,” says promotional blurbs from the attraction.

Special effects of the show, which is presented several times a day and had its debut in January, includes wind, water and fog -- not exactly elements common in sunny Florida (with the exception of water).

But the biggest potential theme park story this year is still ongoing.

It’s Disney’s under construction “Star Wars” land.

It was recently announced that actor Harrison Ford will outline plans for the long-awaited addition during a television event on the Disney owned ABC network on Feb. 21.

So stay tuned then, or come back here.

If we hear any more details, we’ll let you know. ###