The new year has just begun, but there are already so many huge projects underway at our favorite theme parks! From revamped rides to major park expansions, 2018 is going to be jam-packed with exciting new attractions opening all over Orlando.
The first major addition to Orlando’s huge lineup of attractions this year was the brand new multi-use venue at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. In honor of its 20th anniversary at Disney, Wide World of Sports continued the growth of the 220 acre sports venue with a third indoor competition hall. The Arena was designed specifically with dance and cheer events in mind, but the versatile setting can accommodate a variety of indoor sports including basketball, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling. The 8,000 seat Arena has a unique flexibility that can be converted to fit more than 6 regulation basketball and volleyball courts, open floor exhibitions, and other major events. Other features of the new facility include two versatile auxiliary venue spaces, a box office,build in judges’ boxes and seven concession stands. The venue’s design is not the only unique quality, its concession stand offerings are one of a kind as well. In addition to traditional concession stand items, guests will be able to order from a variety of interesting options including chocolate banana empanadas, chicken and waffle sandwiches with bacon and chipotle or maple mayo, adobo chicken and rice bowls, and tons more. Also featured is the beloved Disney Dole Whip. Other future plans for the complex include expanding the range of outdoor sports showcased, hosting more high profile events (like the 2018 NFL Pro Bowl Week), and hosting Health & Wellness Expos during runDisney event weekends.
The Great LEGO Race
LEGOLAND Florida‘s Project X roller coaster is getting a virtual reality makeover in a brand new experience scheduled to open on March 23. Inspired by the way kids play with LEGOs at home, the ride features familiar minifigures like Trendsetter, Pharoah, Surfer Girl, Wizard, and the Pirate Captain. The ride can be enjoyed with or without the virtual reality headset. The fun starts before even boarding the coaster with hands-on activities to enjoy in line while waiting for your turn on the ride! The Great LEGO Race is recommended for riders who are at least 6 years old.
Explorers Meet Up! A Great Bird Adventure
Beginning on April 22, as part of Animal Kingdom‘s 20th anniversary celebration, is an all new bird encounter show featuring Senior Wilderness Explorer Russell and his trusty dog, Dug. Replacing the recently closed Flights of Wonder, Russell and Dug discover different species of birds from around the world at the Caravan Theater in Animal Kingdom’s Anandapur Village.
Fast & Furious – Supercharged
The highly anticipated Fast & Furious attraction is set to finally open at Universal Studios some time this spring in the space formerly occupied by Disaster! and Beetlejuice’s Graveyard Revue. Inspired by one of the highest grossing film franchises of all time, the 4 minute ride features an original storyline that expands on the movies. Riders will come face to face with familiar characters and speed through recognizable scenes like the family room and Tej’s high-tech war room. Guests are put right into the ride’s story when an invitation to a race after party turns into a high-speed chase through San Francisco. The attraction features appearances by familiar characters like Tej (Ludacris), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), as well as several new characters exclusive to Universal Orlando. There are also 15 authentic Fast & Furious cars displayed in the ride as well as outside in a photo op area. Fast & Furious – Supercharged will utilize virtual queue technology that was first made available on The Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon. You can reserve a spot in line via the Universal Studios smartphone app or at the ride’s kiosk and explore other attractions until you’re notified that it’s your scheduled ride time.
Wine Bar George
An estate-style wine bar led by Master Sommelier George Miliotes opens this spring near Raglan Road Irish Pub at Disney Springs, where “guests will experience a feel reminiscent of the old world as if they are on the bottom floor of a gravity-flow winery surrounded by their best friends”. The two-story, 210 seat restaurant will feature more than 100 wine selections ranging in price and age that can be purchased by the glass or by the bottle as well as a seasonally relevant menu of shareable small plates, family-style items, cheese & charcuterie boards, and desserts. Each wine at the bar is handpicked by Miliotes, who is one of the foremost wine experts in the industry, while the dining menu was created by executive chef Ron Rupert. Miliotes and Rupert formerly worked together at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The venue’s upstairs area features seating for groups of all sizes, private event space, and amazing view of Disney Springs. The wine bar will also host special wine education events and visits from renowned wine makers.
Universal Citywalk will welcome the eccentric doughnut shop this spring, opening next to NBC Sports Grill & Brew. The Portland based bakery with a cult following was created in 2003 by Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon and has since expanded to Oregon, Denver, Austin, and Universal CityWalk in Hollywood. Guests will find bizarre pastries and unique flavors like the dirt doughnut, the bacon maple bar, grape ape, and voodoo doll doughnuts in the bright pink sweet shop.
An all new family raft ride opens at Aquatica (SeaWorld’s water park) sometime in spring 2018 called Ray Rush. The nearly 60 foot tall attraction combines 3 different waterslide elements. First, rafts are propelled with water jets at 33 feet per second into the first of many enclosed tubes. Then, riders drop into an open halfpipe shaped like a manta ray where rafts are pushed back and forth on the manta’s wings before flying through the final tube. Up to four riders can fit in each raft, but you must be at least 42″ to ride. The new waterslide will open on the north side of the park next to Walkabout Waters. HooRoo Run was closed permanently to make room for Ray Rush.
SeaWorld Orlando‘s second water ride will open in early summer 2018. The an 8-person family friendly raft ride follows young researchers into a tropical jungle to learn more about fresh water ecosystems. The round raft journey starts in gentle waters, passing a friendly flock of flamingos before hitting choppy waters that build up to class 3.5 and class 4 rapids. Next, the raft travels up the side of a waterfall where the 42-foot drop is revealed. Riders of the 5 minute long attraction are likely to get splashed, but not soaked.
Toy Story Land
This long awaited addition is set to officially open at Hollywood Studios on June 30, 2018. As you enter into the new 11 acre area, designed to look like Andy’s backyard, you’ll feel like you’ve shrunk to the size of a toy next to large scale figures of Jessie, Rex and other toys. The land’s primary attraction is Slinky Dog Dash, a family style coaster that takes riders all throughout Andy’s backyard on the back of the beloved Slinky Dog toy. The area’s other attraction is Alien Swirling Saucer, a ride similar to Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree located in Cars land at California Adventure. The ride’s concept is that riders hop into a play set found in Andy’s room and try to avoid the little green aliens and the infamous Claw. Hollywood Studios’ current Toy Story themed attraction, Toy Story Mania is being incorporated into the expanded area with the addition of a third track. In addition to the rides, a new dining location sponsored by Mini Babybel will open in Toy Story Land called Woody’s Lunch Box. The quick service spot will offer classic american favorites, old fashioned soda floats and other Toy Story themed snacks.
The new resort transportation system was announced at this year’s D23 Expo last summer. Since then, Disney has shared several tidbits of information about the new gondola project. Expected to be in service in late 2018 or early 2019, the high-in-the-sky travel system will connect Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort, and Disney’s Riviera Resort. Each destination will have its own loading & unloading station. The gondola cabs feature favorite Disney characters including Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, Donald, Goofy, the Hitchhiking Ghosts, and more!