Sensory overload is a winning strategy in Orlando’s playbook, and this year Florida’s play land is offering more choices than ever for fun, food and accommodations.
Your best strategy will be to get plenty of sleep before catching that plane, bring your most comfortable shoes, pack this article and prepare to binge on all the new and hot attractions. After all, you can rest and relax when you get back home.
1. NEW AT UNIVERSAL AND WALT DISNEY WORLD
Universal Orlando (universalorlando.com) Muggles, rejoice: later this year, an enormous, new-themed roller coaster will whiz around Hogwarts Castle at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade. Until then, take a ride on the kid-friendly Hippogriff coaster or speed full-throttle during a wild car chase at Universal Studios’ new Fast & Furious – Supercharged.
Walt Disney World (disneyworld.disney.go.com) Pandora – The World of Avatar still draws long lines, but there’s plenty new to do, especially at Hollywood Studios. Last June, Toy Story Land debuted the Slinky Dog Dash roller coaster and Alien Swirling Saucers. Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, a live show featuring “Cars” characters, opens soon. Debuting this fall is Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, where visitors get to pilot the Millennium Falcon (which can rotate 360 degrees) and board trackless ride vehicles themed as hijacked fleet transport pods. “Star Wars” score composer John Williams is creating music to boost the multisensory impact of these attractions, among the most anticipated of the year.
Magic Kingdom (disneyworld.disney.go.com) Groove at Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party, a dance party-parade with live-singing characters. Later this year, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will bring cartoon shorts to life with sense-surround.
2. NEW ATTRACTIONS AT OTHER PARKS
Vue at 360 (starflyer.com) Hop on the new Starflyer, a tall spinning swing ride topping out at 450 feet and reaching speeds of up to 45 m.p.h.
SeaWorld Orlando (seaworld.com/orlando) A new Sesame Street-themed land of rides and parades opens this spring.
Legoland Florida (legoland.com) Debuting this spring, Lego Movie World includes Masters of Flight, a 180-degree rotating 4D theater.
Wild Florida (wildfloridairboats.com) This summer, tour a new 75-acre safari park by car or with a guide on a swamp buggy.
3. NEW WATER RIDES
Infinity Falls brings cool new thrills to SeaWorld (seaworld.com/orlando). Opened in October, this rafting ride’s class IV river rapids whoosh you through chutes before plunging down a long drop. Coming later this year to SeaWorld’s Aquatica, KareKare Curl’s high-adrenaline, weightless adventure has you climbing a vertical wave wall.
4. ALL-NEW PARKS
Nona Adventure Park (nonaadventurepark.com) This new water-sports park is scheduled to open in February. Tackle an inflatable floating obstacle course, wakeboard while being pulled along by cables and climb a 60-foot tower surrounded by a ropes course.
Dezerland Action Park (dezerlandactionpark.com) An indoor theme park with plans to bring virtual reality experiences, games and the Orlando Auto Museum to the International Drive area this spring.
5. NEW HOTELS
Universal Orlando's Aventura Hotel (loewshotels.com/universals-aventura-hotel) A modern, stylish, yet well-priced place to stay that opened August 2018. The 17-story all-glass building has views of the resort’s various theme parks, lobby loungers, a pool and a rooftop lounge named Bar 17 Bistro. Rooms from $149 per night.
Surfside Inn & Suites (universalorlando.com) This summer Universal’s Endless Summer Resort plans to open the 750-room, value-priced lodging with a surf culture theme.
Margaritaville Resort Orlando (margaritavilleresortorlando.com) A waterfront resort opening early this year, it will boast luxurious rooms and cottages, diverse dining and lounge experiences and lagoon-style pools. Coming this spring: a 14-acre water park with nine rides.
Disney Riviera Resort (disneyparks.disney.go.com) is to open in the fall in the Disney World realm. Its rooftop restaurant will overlook theme park action, and guests can zip to Epcot and Hollywood Studios on the new Disney Skyliner gondola line.
6. NEW EATS
Orlando Forum's ROCK Dinner Show (orlando-forum.com) Opened in October, this has Vegas-style yet family-friendly noshing to the tunes of rockers from Prince to Elvis.
Woody's Lunch Box (disneyworld.disney.go.com) In June 2018, Disney’s Hollywood Studios opened this eatery at Toy Story Land.
Disney Springs (disneysprings.com). It will pair plates and games at the NBA Experience; shareables, dozens of brews and sports broadcasts combine at City Works Eatery and Pour House (cityworksrestaurant.com). These should open by summer.
Pointe Orlando (pointeorlando.com) Expect a cool mecca in the coming months. After diving into a new Nomadic virtual reality experience, find hip bites at The Hampton Social and Pan-Asian food at Lotus Asia House. Proper & Wild will bring plant-based gourmet to charming Winter Park.
7. ADULT ESCAPES
Disney Springs (disneysprings.com) Orlando is not just for kids. There are new shop-dine-entertainment choices, including Wine Bar George, which is Florida’s first master sommelier-driven wine bar; Terralina Crafted Italian, and The Edison, where you can dance in an industrial Gothic setting. Or indulge in Prohibition-era cocktails and Roman food at Enzo's Hideaway, a Disney-style speak-easy with a rumrunner tunnel theme.
District GastroBar (thedistrictgastrobar.com) Find it in downtown Orlando, inspired by the city’s mid-20th-century African-American music scene with adult drinks, Caribbean eats, an open-air patio and beer garden.
8. TECH TIMESAVERS
Universal Express Pass Unlimited lets you skip lines an unlimited number of times. Universal Express Pass allows you to skip lines at each ride one time, and skip virtual lines at Universal’s Volcano Bay. Universal’s Volcano Bay water park admission includes a TapuTapu wearable that activates interactive surprises and lets you hold your place in lines, open rental lockers and make cash-free food and other purchases.
Disney World’s Fast Pass+ allows you to select a one-hour period to visit a ride and wait in the Fast Pass line. It provides three per person, per day, at the same park. After using the initial three, you can select more — one at a time. Tip: Reserve as soon as possible. MagicBands, worn on your wrist, serve as a park ticket, Fast Pass+ and room key; you can also use them to purchase food and other items. Staying at a Disney World resort? Benefits include free transportation between the airport and your resort, free MagicBands, free parking, free transportation between resorts and parks and more.
SeaWorld Quick Queue gives you unlimited front-of-line access to rides such as Infinity Falls.