What’s New in 2017
- Volcano Bay, a brand new water park will open May 25, 2017. The water park will offer innovative, thrilling attractions, peaceful moments of relaxation and an entirely new guest experience, including TapuTapu wearable technology, allowing guests to wait in line virtually, and heading to the ride only when the device alerts them. A highly themed, completely immersive environment is planned, inspired by postcard-perfect tropical islands. The new park will be located within Universal Orlando Resort, just south of the Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
- “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon,” opening April 6, will invite guests to join the Tonight Show’s studio audience on the ultimate race through the streets—and skies—of New York City. The new ride at Universal Studios takes guests on a journey from the deepest subway tunnels to the tallest skyscrapers, with colorful characters, famous landmarks and more from the mind of Jimmy Fallon.
- A new Avatar-inspired land called Pandora -The World of AVATAR will open in summer 2017. The expansion, set to be the largest in Animal Kingdom’s history, will feature floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and a Banshee flying attraction, as well as new after-dark entertainment.
- The Star Wars Tour at Hollywood Studios, a new add-on seven-hour experience, includes two stage shows, “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away” and “March of the First Order,” as well as the nighttime spectacular, themed dining experiences, character meet-and-greets and more. The tour starts at $121.12, plus regular admission into Hollywood Studios.
- Miss Fortune Falls, a new family-style raft attraction, is coming to Typhoon Lagoon in spring 2017. The ride will take guests on a splashing journey through the fabled Captain Mary Oceaneer’s past. Aboard treasure rafts, guests will ascend to the top of the attraction before plunging into a white-water adventure where they will be able to spot some of the treasures Captain Oceanear gathered from around the world. With a ride time of two minutes, Miss Fortune Falls will be among the lengthiest attractions at both Disney Water Parks.
- SeaWorld’s first digitally enhanced ride experience will open this summer in 2017 as the legendary Kraken roller coaster is transformed into a virtual reality (VR) roller coaster experience. Using new technology, this thrill ride will taking guests on a deep sea mission alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past, including the mighty Kraken.
- Electric Ocean, a new end-of-day spectacle event, will debut in summer 2017. As the sun goes down, the lights and energy go up, offering guests a different kind of fun after dark. The ocean comes to life with bioluminescent lighting, music and pathway entertainment, immersing guests in a glowing sea of wonder.
- The Dolphin Nursery will undergo updates to become more interactive in 2017, giving guests the opportunity to get up close to mother and baby dolphins in all new ways. Large-scale acrylic windows will offer up close viewing, and multiple levels will give kids a face-to-face perspective with dolphin calves.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort opened LEGO NINJAGO World on Jan. 12, 2017. The new immersive land is a training ground for future ninjas, including an interactive ride where guests blast fire, lightning and ice with their hands.
Topgolf Entertainment Group is one of the top golfing entertainment complexes in the world set to open a new location in Orlando in early 2017. The 65,000-square-foot venue will include 230 high-definition flat-screen TVs, 102 climate-controlled hitting bays that can host up to six players at one time, and advanced technology to track the accuracy and distance of players’ shots.
Andretti Karting is a brand new $30 million indoor go-kart facility on Universal Boulevard near the convention center is expected to open spring 2017. The new facility will feature electronic go-karting, zip lines, bowling, racing simulators, a ‘sky bar,’ rock climbing, laser tag and a full-service restaurant. Plans for the facility include 7,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
2. Dining & Nightlife
- The newly-renovated Planet Hollywood Observatory is opening Jan. 26, 2017. Overlooking the heart of Disney Springs, with a newly expanded outdoor terrace and bar, the restaurant is reminiscent of a turn-of-the-century observatory. Dining options range from timeless classics to a new Guy Fieri sandwich menu and a variety of milkshakes, smoothies, wines, beers and specialty cocktails.
- Paddlefish is slated to open Feb. 4, 2017 aboard the vessel formerly known as Fulton’s Crab House. The refreshed venue comes with a menu to match, featuring an array of composed and contemporary seafood dishes, steaks and more. Guests can look forward to a new rooftop lounge as well.
- The Polite Pig, sister restaurant of The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, is set to open in spring 2017. The Polite Pig will feature a variety of wood-fired, smoked and grilled items as well as introduce an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including Cask & Larder beer, wine and cocktails.
- The Edison, similar to its sister location in Los Angeles, will open in spring of 2017. With a theme that centers around a 1920s-period electric company with live entertainment, classic American food and craft cocktails, the industrial gothic space will have 35-foot ceilings and a number of themed areas.
- Opening in fall 2017, Master Sommelier George Miliotes will bring his renowned wine expertise to Orlando, creating Wine Bar George, the only Master Sommelier-led wine bar in Florida. The design for the 6,000-square-foot space, with seating for 210, will be reminiscent of a winemaker’s home estate featuring oak wood, warm lighting and a welcoming, comfortable atmosphere.
Luke’s Kitchen and Bar is the third restaurant for Chef Brandon McGlamery, of Luma on Park and Prato. Now open in Maitland, Luke’s offers cocktails and American cuisine, such as oysters, a raw bar, soups and sandwiches, entrees cooked on open fire grill and rotisserie.
Reel Fish Coastal Kitchen & Bar is a new casual restaurant from Fred Thimm coming to Winter Park. It will be a contemporary version of a fish camp, offering fresh Florida seafood, and is set to open in February 2017.
Circo Orlando, a part of Le Cirque Restaurant brands, will be the top-level tenant at the new 10-story parking and retail structure next to Mango’s Tropical Café Orlando. The 10,000-square-foot restaurant, offering high-end Italian cuisine, is slated to open in the second quarter of 2017.
3. Hotels and Resorts
LEGOLAND Florida Resort announced a new LEGOLAND Beach Retreat opening April 7. The new accommodations will include 83 single-story duplexes, a themed pool, sandy play area and new restaurant. Conveniently located adjacent to the theme park, the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat invites guests to relax beneath brightly-colored bungalows or dine below the new LEGO lighthouse, which will feature a buffet restaurant, pool bar and a beach-themed space for kids.
The Delaney Hotel will be a 54-room boutique hotel in the SoDo district of downtown Orlando, expected to be open by late spring 2017. It will offer unique high-tech conveniences for guests, from remote check-in, to digital tablet-based concierge services in every room, smart phone room keys and smart TVs.
Margaritaville Resort Orlando has been announced as a new resort property being developed by Encore Capital Management, expected to open late 2017. The waterfront destination resort will offer 175 rooms, 1,000 Margaritaville-themed vacation homes and 300 timeshare units. A new dining and entertainment district is also planned to accommodate guests, along with a 12-acre water park, a wellness center, miles of fitness trails and a destination water taxi system.
The Grove Resort & Spa – Just five minutes from Walt Disney World Resort, the Grove Resort & Spa is set to open in March 2017. The hotel will offer 878 two- and three-bedroom residential-style suites with full kitchens, washers & dryers and multiple bathrooms to provide all the comforts of home. Additional amenities include several full-service restaurants, bars, a grab-and-go marketplace and a family-friendly water park.
Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is undergoing a $40 million expansion project, which includes 93 new guest rooms, 100,000 square feet dedicated to meeting and event space and a revamped Trevi’s restaurant with an outdoor bar and terrace .
A Multipurpose Soccer Stadium is scheduled to open prior to the 2017 Major League Soccer season. The stadium will be located in downtown Orlando in a developing entertainment center a block away from the Amway Center. The stadium will seat 25,500 and serve as home to the Orlando City Lions soccer team.
Universal Orlando Resort:
- A new ride, Fast & Furious – Supercharged, is coming in 2018 to Universal Studios. The attraction will take guests on a high-octane adventure into the world of underground racing, right alongside stars from the Fast & Furious films. Non-stop action and high-speed excitement are promised on this supercharged thrill ride inside specially designed ride vehicles.
- A brand new partnership with Nintendo will bring the characters, action and adventure of video games to life within Universal theme parks. At an unspecified future date, Nintendo-themed areas will offer new immersive and interactive experiences in highly themed and authentic environments filled with multiple attractions, shops and restaurants. Guests will feel as if they are playing inside their favorite games – this time in real life.
Walt Disney World Resort announced plans for two historic themed land expansions, bringing the far, far away galaxy of Star Wars and the colorful world of Toy Story closer to guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Both new lands are under construction, and details are still being kept under wraps, but a signature attraction has been teased that will allow guests to fly the Millennium Falcon at the new Star Wars land.
SKYPLEX, a new entertainment complex on I-Drive, is set to break world records by bringing the world’s tallest roller coaster to Orlando in 2019. The 570-foot-tall (174-meter) structure will be the tallest in Central Florida, and feature the first Polercoaster, a vertical ride dubbed the Skyscraper, weaving in and around the whole tower on coaster-length tracks. The SKYPLEX tower will also offer views of the city via an observation deck, restaurant and lounge at the top. Additionally, a second ride, called Skyfall, will be will be the world’s tallest drop ride once it opens, rising up to 460 feet (140.2 meters) and then dropping riders at 90 miles (144.8 km) an hour.
2. Hotels and Resorts
Universal Orlando Resort announced the sixth and newest addition to the lineup of hotels on property, Aventura Hotel. A value property, the 16-story gleaming glass tower will consist of 600 guest rooms, including 13 kids’ suites. It will bring the total number of on-site hotel rooms at Universal Orlando to 6,200 when combined with the 400-room expansion of Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort, opening in 2017.The Aventura Hotel will feature the first-ever rooftop bar and grill on Universal property, and offer exclusive amenities including Early Park Admission to Universal’s theme parks, complimentary on-site transportation and more.
All Aboard Florida is introducing Brightline, an express train service for intercity travel in Florida. Brightline will transport passengers at speeds between 79 and 125 miles per hour, using the existing Florida East Coast Railway corridor between Miami and Cocoa, along with new track between Cocoa and Orlando. Services will begin between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2017, with service from Miami to Orlando to follow. Upon completion, travel from Miami to Orlando will only take about three hours. Phase Two of Brightline will include a station at Orlando International Airport, within the future South Terminal.
Orlando International Airport is building a new, $1.8 billion south airport terminal near the current airport, adjacent to the $1.3 billion train station also under construction. The train station and gates 16 to 21 of the south terminal are scheduled to be completed in 2019, and will feature indoor palm trees, interactive video screens and a moving sidewalk through a straight strip, “the boulevard,” that spans the different components of the new terminal: ground transportation, ticket hall, concessions, screening and gates.
New Within the Last Year
Universal Orlando Resort:
- A groundbreaking new attraction opened in July 2016 at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” honors one of the most monumental figures in movie history, King Kong.
Walt Disney World Resort:
- A new “Frozen” ride at Epcot opened on June 21, 2016 called “Frozen Ever After.” The Maelstrom ride, located in the Norway pavilion of the World Showcase, has been renovated into this new attraction based on Disney’s popular animated film.
- The newly refurbished and expanded Soarin’ attraction opened at Epcot on June 17, 2016. The new Soarin’ Around the World takes guests on a journey to far-flung lands, and accommodates more guests with the addition of an extra theater.
- two new Star Wars shows at Hollywood Studios debuted in April: a new stage show, “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away,” plays out iconic moments from the film saga with appearances from Star Wars characters, and a nightly celebration, “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” opened summer 2016 with the most elaborate fireworks display in the history of Hollywood Studios.
- Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, has been extended for a new nighttime adventure, started in May. Guests travel through the African savanna amid the glow of the setting sun and discover two species new to the attraction: African wild dogs and hyenas.
- An all-new live show launched at Magic Kingdom Park, called “The Muppets Present… Great Moments in American History” in October 2016.
- A multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs has been completed. Featuring an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands, this new expansion doubles the number of shops, restaurants and other venues for guests to explore, to more than 150 establishments.
SeaWorld Orlando brought new thrills to Orlando in 2016 with Mako, a brand new 200-foot-tall coaster opened in summer. Named for one of the ocean’s fastest known sharks, it is Orlando’s tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster, reaching speeds of 73 mph as it races along 4,760 feet of steel track.
Busch Gardens Tampa opened a new family thrill ride called Cobra’s Curse in June 2016. This spin coaster is the only one of its kind in the world, featuring a vertical lift and taking riders on a whirlwind adventure of exciting explorations.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort:
- “The LEGO® Movie™ 4D A New Adventure” premiered in February. The new 4D animated film features the popular characters from The LEGO® Movie™ and uses elements such as wind, water, smoke and special lighting effects.
- A new 4D movie premiered in May, 2016: “LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS 4D: The Book of Creativity.” Characters from the popular LEGO NEXO KNIGHTS series battle forces of evil in this new immersive experience.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opened Heroes and Legends, featuring the U.S Astronaut Hall of Fame and showcases the heroism of America’s early space pioneers by inviting guests to vicariously experience the thrills and dangers of America’s earliest missions through high-tech elements and special effects.
Crayola Experience opened Rockin’ Paper in summer 2016, an all-new attraction that brings personalized paper creations to life.
Main Event Entertainment at Pointe Orlando is now open. The 45,000 square-foot (4181 square-meter) dining and entertainment complex offers everything from America fare and handcrafted cocktails, to more than 100 virtual and interactive games, state-of-the-art bowling and the first free roam multi-player virtual reality game in the U.S.
2. Hotels and Resorts
Universal Orlando Resort and Loews Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of the Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. It is fifth onsite hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, featuring 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme, built around a lagoon and towering waterfall.
The Fairfield Inn and Suites is now open in Celebration. This 150-room hotel is the first Fairfield Inn and Suites to open in the celebration area.
The Buena Vista Palace Resort and Spa became the Hilton Orlando Buena Vista Palace located in the Disney Springs area.
Frontera Cocina, a new Mexican dining concept from Chef Rick Bayless, opened at Disney Springs in July, 2016. Chef Bayless is a six-time James Beard Foundation winner, aiming to showcase the gourmet Mexican cuisine that has made him a culinary legend at Frontera Cocina.
STK Orlando joined the host of new venues at Disney Springs, opened in May, 2016. The upscale steakhouse blends two concepts into one—the modern steakhouse and a chic lounge. Unique features include a live DJ, high-energy atmosphere and a sleek environment designed to encourage guests to interact and mingle.
Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine, owned by celebrity Chef Art Smith, is bringing a taste of real Florida to Disney Springs. The new restaurant opened in July 2016, and showcases the cuisine of Chef Smith, who was born and reared in the town of Jasper, Fla., on the Florida-Georgia border.
DoveCote, a twist on the Classic French brasserie in downtown Orlando is now open. This is the newest project for James Beard nominated chefs, James and Julie Petrakis, who also own Winter Park’s Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons.
Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen is a new full-service restaurant at Universal CityWalk that offers a wide variety of dishes – from all-day-brunch crepes and quiches to unique takes on classic steak, seafood, pasta and more, plus an array of gourmet chocolates and desserts. The restaurant is themed as a 19th century inspired, Steampunk-era chocolate factory and located near the entrance to Universal’s Islands of Adventure.
The Bear and Peacock Brewstillery in Winter Park is now open. Serving beers and liquors brewed on premises, the venue offers an atmosphere of serious artisanal workplace mixed with cozy hangout.
Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport, another expansion for the Petrakises, is now open. The airport outpost for the popular Winter Park restaurant that was named one of Esquire magazine’s Best New Restaurants in America in 2014, is the first restaurant at the airport to specialize in seasonally driven cuisine and locally sourced ingredients.
Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport opened a newly re-imagined Hemisphere restaurant this fall on the ninth floor, known for its epic sunrise to sunset views of the airport runway.