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Florida theme parks in 2021: Coasters, cars, fests, reopenings at Disney World, Universal and others

Disney's Florida parks are currently operating at 35%

Disney's Florida parks are currently operating at 35% capacity due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  Credit: AP/Joe Burbank

What’s ahead in theme-park world for 2021? We have hopes and dreams but not a ton of answers as the coronavirus pandemic continues to mess with the calendar.

It makes sense for attractions to hover in wait-and-see mode after unstable 2020. But it leaves us with few firm dates and occasions to anticipate. So here’s what we’re wondering while wading into ’21.

How will the under-construction roller coasters roll out?

Islands of Adventure’s Jurassic World VelociCoaster is the one to watch, with a debut scheduled for "summer" at Universal Orlando. The park recently tested ride vehicles. We know to expect air time and dino-matronics.

Meanwhile, SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker stands there silent, looking like it’s ready to go. It has a strong look, and it should be fun to watch from the park’s shortcut bridge. Also appearing to be in neutral gear is its intense sister ride, Iron Gwazi at Busch Gardens Tampa; however, it has a "spring" opening date on the calendar.

At Walt Disney World, work continues on Tron Lightcycle/Power Run, an indoor-outdoor thrill ride at Magic Kingdom, and on Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, the attraction inside the big sky-blue box at Epcot. At one point, they both had an "in time for the 50th anniversary of Disney World" time frame attached to them. That date is Oct. 1, but it would not be shocking to see either slip into ’22.

Speaking of which, how exactly will Disney World mark its golden year?

Even before the pandemic and shutdown, the company had said very little beyond pointing to the new paint job on Cinderella Castle.

How will the transformation of Epcot continue to evolve?

In addition to the Guardians ride, progress is being made on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (plus a nearby creperie) in the France pavilion as well as the space-themed restaurant in Future World. Heavy machinery continues to rumble behind the construction wall where Club Cool and company used to be.

But the latest talk of the park is the gigantic, taco-shaped barge in the World Showcase Lagoon that’s been put in place for "Harmonious," a planned nighttime spectacular.

What’s the most likely, most imminent, most promising thing coming?

Modified park-hopping between Disney World theme parks just returned. Date-specific park reservations will continue to be required, but after going to that park, annual passholders and folks who paid for the park-hopping option with their day tickets can transfer to a second park after 2 p.m.

What else is allegedly on the horizon?

January holds additional promise with Planet Play, a new indoor playground at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, the debut of the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Arts and the opening of the Museum of Illusions on International Drive.

There’s also the addition of the Auto Experience to I-Drive’s Dezerland Park in "early" 2021, and the launch of Brickbeard’s Watersports Stunt Show at Legoland Florida on Feb. 12. Universal’s Volcano Bay, shuttered since early November, is slated to reopen "on or before March 1," according to the official website, and Blizzard Beach, one of Disney’s water parks, is set to reopen on March 7 after a closure lasting almost a year.

The Taste of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is scheduled to be a long chew, from March 3 through July 5.

Icon Park Slingshot and Icon Park Drop Tower, both in the 400-foot-high neighborhood, are scheduled to open on I-Drive sometime this summer.

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