Family Guide to Florida

5 Cool New Theme Park Rides in Orlando

Baby, we were born to ride.

By Bill Wiatrak January 23, 2017 Published in the February 2017 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The new King Kong Skull Island attraction at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure will absolutely blow you—oh yeah, and your kids!—away. Dinosaurs chase you as you hurdle through the jungle in a giant safari truck. If all goes well, you and your family will be saved from destruction by the the world’s largest ape.

Your mom and dad’s King Kong from 30 years ago, Skull Island definitely is not. Instead, this high-tech, multi-sensory 3D adventure is the latest and greatest improvement to the park in years.

To maintain Orlando’s status as the Theme Park Capital of the World—attracting more than 60 million visitors annually—the city’s theme parks are constantly dreaming up new rides and other fun things for families to do. Below, five of the hottest new developments for 2017, guaranteed to have your kids thinking you’re the coolest parent on the planet.

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Pandora: The World of Avatar at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World

Disney struck a deal with James Cameron to bring his movie to life in 2011. This, the largest park expansion in the history of Animal Kingdom, has been underway for the last three years, and is set to finally open this summer. Attractions include floating mountains, bio-luminescent rain forests, a 3-D ride that lets guests fly with banshees like the ones in the movie, and a Na’vi River ride.

Frozen Ever After at EPCOT, Walt Disney World

Formerly the Viking-themed ride Maelstrom, this attraction recently got a Frozen face-lift, instantly transforming into one of the most popular destinations in the park, with children lining up for a watery ride to the frozen forest, Troll Valley and Elsa’s Ice Palace (yes, parents, gird yourself for all your favorite tunes). Elsewhere at EPCOT, the new-and-improved Soarin’ Around the World, an airborne adventure across the globe, has also reopened.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Orlando

Guests join the Tonight Show host on the ultimate race through the Big Apple, taking a 3D journey through the streets, skies and subways. Replacing the Twister ride (shut down in 2015), Race features a mock-up of Studio 6-B, where the Tonight Show is taped. In June, Universal will also open Volcano Bay, a brand-new waterpark designed to look like postcard-perfect tropical islands.

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Heroes and Legends at Kennedy Space Center

The center’s latest attraction introduces visitors to heroes of the American space program through a 360-degree movie screen, a 4-D multisensory theater experience, and interactive exhibits including holograms and astronaut memorabilia. Visitors can virtually meet astronauts at the new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, view famous spacecraft in the Rocket Garden, and sail through the stars at the Shuttle Launch Experience.


This new immersive area features a ride that lets guests use fireballs, lightning, shockwaves and ice to defeat the Great Devourer and earn ninja status. Young guests can build a temple with LEGO bricks, hone their ninja skills and try their hand at rock climbing. And in other LEGOLAND news, the park’s Beach Retreat—83 single-story duplexes, a sandy play area and themed pool—opens this April. 

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