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What's Next in Orlando? Here are 16 New Reasons for Fans to Visit in the Next Five Years

August 26, 2015, 10:11 AM · Let's face it — 2015 has been a quiet year for the Orlando-area theme parks, as Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando have pretty much taken the year off from opening any major new attractions. But things are about to change in Central Florida, as the region's theme parks have announced more than a dozen major new attractions to open over the next few years. Let's take a look at all the parks have told us is coming.

Coming Later This Year

Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen · Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen

This Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant will open in the old Adventureland Veranda space by the end of the year.

Hello Kitty Experience · Universal Studios Florida

Hello Kitty

This shop and meet-and-greet location is taking over the recently closed "Lucy: A Tribute" exhibition space.

Star Wars Launch Bay · Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Launch Bay

Featuring meet and greets, shops, and exhibits based on the new movies, the Launch Bay will open in the old Animation building.

Coming in 2016

Frozen Ever After · Epcot

Frozen Ever After

This overlay of the old Maelstrom ride will open next spring, along with a new Anna & Elsa meet-and-greet building next door.

Mako · SeaWorld Orlando

Orlando's first Bolliger & Mabillard hyper coaster, which will be the city's tallest and faster, opens next summer.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong · Universal's Islands of Adventure

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Kong returns to the Universal Orlando Resort next summer, in this dark ride that will blend 3D imagery and animatronics.

Sapphire Falls Resort · Universal Orlando

Sapphire Falls Resort

Universal Orlando's fifth on-site hotel opens in July 2016.

Soarin' Over the World · Epcot

The new version of Disney's Soarin' film opens sometime next year, along with a third theater for the show, to provide addition capacity for what is often Epcot's longest wait.

Rivers of Light · Disney's Animal Kingdom

Rivers of Light

Animal Kingdom's first night-time spectacular also debuts sometime in 2016.

Disney Springs · Walt Disney World

Disney Springs

The transformation of Downtown Disney will wrap up by next year, with coming additions of the Indiana Jones-themed Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, The Edison, and STK Orlando.

Coming in 2017

Volcano Bay Water Park · Universal Orlando

Volcano Bay Water Park

Universal's new 33-acre, on-site, themed water park opens in 2017 and replaces Wet n' Wild, which will close at the end of next summer.

Fast & Furious · Universal Studios Florida

Fast & Furious

You'll walk through the warehouse where Dom and his gang work on their high-performance cars, then we are guessing you'll be invited to test-ride a new, experimental vehicle. When you do, of course, something goes terribly wrong as arch-enemy Shaw attacks... and the gang has to save the day.

Pandora - The World of Avatar · Disney's Animal Kingdom

Pandora - The World of Avatar

Disney's next new land will open in two years, transporting visitors to the planet Pandora, the setting for James Cameron's Avatar. The land's highlight will be a new Soarin'-style, 3D Banshee ride called "Flight of Passage." There also will be a boat ride through a bioluminescent forest, and of course, those massive, floating mountains outside.

Coming in 2018 (more or less, we think)

From this point forward, we are guessing on opening dates.

Toy Story Land · Disney's Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Land

Disney will recreate Andy's backyard in this new land, will will feature a new entrance to the popular Toy Story Midway Mania ride, as well as a new spinner and a family coaster.

Nintendo · Universal Orlando

Nintendo

Universal has announced plans to bring Nintendo-themed attractions to Universal Orlando, but hasn't yet said where or when. If someone's taking bets, we'd wager a Butterbeer on Nintendo becoming the replacement for Woody Woodpecker's Kidzone, in 2018 or 2019.

Coming in 2020 (you think)

Star Wars Land · Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Land

Disney's largest new themed land expansion will feature two new rides, one placing you in the middle of a battle with the First Order, and another where you take control of the Millennium Falcon. Immersive locations, stores, restaurants and a cantina bar complete the land, for which Disney has yet to announce an opening date.

Of course, this list includes only new developments that parks have officially announced. It doesn't include planned refurbishments, including the announced improvements to the Hulk coaster at Islands of Adventure, or upcoming special events, such as the Star Wars-themed Seasons of the Force at Walt Disney World. The rumor mill also adds several other potential new attractions onto the schedule for the next five years, including a replacement for the Twister show at Universal Studios Florida, new Marvel-themed rides at IOA, and maybe even another Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion.

When will be your next trip to Orlando, and for what?

Replies (18)

August 26, 2015 at 10:19 AM · Great time to be a theme park fan.
August 26, 2015 at 10:57 AM · Don't forget the polarcoaster!
August 26, 2015 at 11:45 AM · I really think that Star Wars will be open 2019 , I just have that feeling . And Nintendo is most likely getting more than only 1 land , probably going to replace the kid zone at Universal and the toon lagoon area at IOA. Can't wait for that universal. Water park , can't wait for that sea world coaster , they highly needed. And avatar and skull island look like they will be amazing.
August 26, 2015 at 11:56 AM · I'm going in a massive trip next July which will include SeaWorld San Diego, Universal Studios Hollywood, Disneyland and California Adventure, SeaWorld Orlando, Universal Orlando, and Disneyworld.
August 26, 2015 at 8:12 PM · Mako, Pandora, Nintendo, and Star Wars. Whether I can afford it remains to be seen, but I'll plan trips around these additions for sure.
August 26, 2015 at 2:28 PM · Based on current announcements, I'll be waiting until 2018 to make my next/first visit to Orlando. I was going to go in 2017, but Toy Story Land and the Skyscraper coaster (if it happens) are enough for me to wait an extra year. Nintendo would be great if it is open, but if not it wouldn't be a deal breaker. As a Disneyland local, I don't see much point in waiting for Star Wars Land to open before visiting.

Now, if Universal goes and announces a big expansion for Jurassic Park or something of that magnitude for 2019 my plans may change, but for now 2018 is the plan. I'm also determined to visit by the end of the decade so if it won't be ready until beyond 2020 it will just have to wait until next time.

August 26, 2015 at 6:00 PM · 2017, 2018. 2019??

Hmm... tough call.

Despite rumors that Pandora: World of Avatar may be delayed to 2018, there may be a renewed sense of urgency to open it in 2017 as originally planned especially now that Universal Orlando will have not only Volcano Bay open but the Fast and Furious attraction as well in 2017.

Given how Universal has publicly stated of spending half a billion annually as well as how fast they bring attractions to reality, they will probably open Nintendo attraction(s) in 2018. Disney will probably open Toy Story by then hopefully to respond.

As it has been reported that Disneyland will not start construction on Star Wars Land till 2017, they probably plan to open it in 2020 in time for their 65th anniversary and Star Wars Land should open in 2021 in WDW for its 50th anniversary.

Universal could also open a Jurassic attraction in 2018 to coincide with the release of Jurassic World 2.. Just saying

August 26, 2015 at 7:36 PM · @AJ - And then Universal announces Lord of the Rings, Disney announces an immersive San Fransokyo Land with a Baymax Meet N Greet and Big Hero 6 dark ride, and then....you get the idea. With every new announcement, it's another reason to delay your trip.

I put the over/under on your first Florida visit at 2026. :P

August 26, 2015 at 9:22 PM · Gabriel, that is the exact reason I decided to impose a cutoff. I was originally planning to go this year, but when looking at my financial situation last year and seeing what was coming up I figured it would be a better option to push it back a couple years to 2017, then Toy Story Land and Skyscraper delays pushed it back another year. However, after last summer's traveling Florida has become my #1 theme park priority and I'm pretty much fixing the date at 2018 (unless Lord of the Rings is ready in 2019...). Besides, if the parks actually develop noteworthy new attractions I'll go back at some point...2026 could be a good target for a return visit.
August 27, 2015 at 5:25 AM · 2026?

There is an interesting article on TPT predicting what WDW might look like in 2025?

It made me think; will Seaworld Parks and Entertainment (SPE) still remain intact in 2026 given their lacklustre performance lately.

I do recall an article now in the TPI archives mentioning that SPEs competitors purchasing it very remote and highly unlikely.

However, if Blackstone ever decided to break up SPE and sell off the assets piecemeal (they are a private equity company after all!) my scenario below might not be that bizarre after all.

Busch Gardens Tampa becoming Six Flags over Tampa. BGT rides would look good with the DC comic theme.

SPE's San Antonio Assets may appeal to Six Flags increasing Six Flags' dominance in Texas.

Busch Gardens Williamsburg becoming Disney's America. At least they should be less opposition there and could always retheme certain rides and move them to Disneyland Paris and World Showcase at Epcot both of which are in dire need of TLC.

Seaworld Orlando becoming Jurassic World connected to Universal Studios Orlando via a monorail running along International Drive. The Antarctica attraction could become a Minions ride. Would be a shame to put that trackless ride system to waste.
A publicity stunt could be a fast and furious style street race in the middle of the night down international drive! Mind you rides based on animatronic dinosaurs might have the same technical issues that once plagued Jaws the ride did way back when!

I do indeed realize that my surreal scenario has its faults such as what to do with the sea animals at SPE and who would want Seaworld San Diego given the development restrictions there. Merlin Entertainment perhaps? Orlando Eye etal might not have happened so soon without Legoland Florida in place already.

But I think that only a seismic shifting event like this would seriously compel Disney to "bite the bullet" and buy back the Eastern US Marvel theme park rights from Universal. Or speed up the development of Star Wars Land at the very least. The same TPT article stated that not having Avengers at the Florida theme parks is clearly and I quote "killing Disney"

Just really wishful thinking I know, but it doesn't hurt to dream, does it?

August 27, 2015 at 6:59 AM · My next trip is in 12 days!! I cannot wait! I havent been for 2 years so all the London side of the boy magician is new for me, as is the 7DMT.
I'll be sure to go back for Kong in particular, his section on the tour in Hollywood dropped my jaw last year - I have high expectations :-)
Hopefully that will be 2017, I have Northern Cali on my list for next year.
August 27, 2015 at 10:57 AM · It's so great to see all the new announcements, particularly at Universal. When my girls are a little older (my oldest is 6), I'm really looking forward to taking her there.
August 27, 2015 at 1:03 PM · From what I understand, there will never be a Lord of the Rings attraction as long as some members of the estate remain alive. Also, to do it justice, it would require some help from Warner Brothers, who don't really do the theme park thing well (Six Flags). I do think it would be a major mistake for Disney to slow track Star Wars, and they really should try to hit 2019, but I bet they do not. Hopefully it will not be as long as the development as the Haunted Mansion.
August 27, 2015 at 5:17 PM · Not necessarily true concerning Warner. They were the impetus behind Universal Creative's work on Hogsmeade & Diagon. Word is they were extremely demanding that everything be done authentic. They made Universal do a lot of redo's until everything was done correctly. They were very tough taskmasters and had final approval on most of the work. Perfectionists to the T.
August 29, 2015 at 9:42 PM · Orlando has a ton of exciting things in the pipeline, whereas DLR and the other Cali parks have comparatively little -- at least very little that we haven't already seen in Orlando. Potter has already been done better in Florida. Star Wars is coming to both coasts. Pandora and King Kong will likely be huge hits. Looks like we'll be making more Florida trips than West Coast jaunts in the future.
August 30, 2015 at 3:58 PM · I doubt Star Wars will see an opening this decade. Episode 9 is scheduled for release in 2019, and I would think the focus would be to match the content of episodes 7-9 with the attraction relating to the battle with the First Order.
August 30, 2015 at 7:43 PM · Waiting for nintendoland or pandora for my next trip to orlando
September 2, 2015 at 7:34 AM · Its looking more and more like 2016 would be a poor year to invest in a trip from the UK, so 2017 it is, crossing fingers more things open.
I am excited for Volcano Bay, and hope to be back in 2020 for Star Wars fun and frolics.

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