Welcome to Tad's totally awesome list of what's coming to Disney World and Universal Orlando in 2016 and beyond! As the keeper of all things cool (and head Frog Family videographer), I have put together a running list of all the attractions and experiences headed to the Orlando theme parks for the last few years. While 2013 and 2014 were major growth years, for Disney World and Universal in particular, 2015 was relatively tamer. There was plenty of construction, though, for attractions and experiences that will see their debuts this year and in coming years.
Let's take a look at what else is coming to Disney, Universal, SeaWorld and the other parks in 2016 and 2017. Be sure to check periodically as you get closer to your trip, because we'll be adding to this list!
What's Coming to Disney World & Universal in 2016
LEGOLAND Water Park added a new Build-A-Boat attraction inside Creative Cove, where kids can create and race watercraft through swift-moving "rivers." This is the first of five coming attractions and expansions for the Winter Haven, Fl., resort within the next year.
After originally setting a April 22 debut for the "Rivers of Light," the start of the new nighttime show at Disney's Animal Kingdom has been delayed. An update is expected in mid- to late May, so it is not likely to debut before then. The show will combine live performers with floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. Two storytellers will summon four animal spirit guides—15 feet tall and 30 feet long lanterns in the shapes of a tiger, turtle, elephant and owl—that will lead guests on a mystical journey. Set on the Discovery River, the outdoor amphitheater will seat 2,500 people on each side. Music, along with fountains of light and color, will transport guests from the Asian jungles to African safaris and North American mountains. It's the first of several changes that will make the park an after-dark destination.
Discovery River Theater will be the setting for the limited-time engagement of a "The Jungle Book" live stage show starting May 28. "The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic" features singers, musicians, dancers and performers.
Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris debuted May 27 with the debut of nighttime hours at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Guests on the after-dark trek will encounter two species on the savanna, African wild dogs and hyenas.
Opening along with the nighttime safari was Tiffins restaurant near Pizzafari on Discovery Island. This signature restaurant will have a diverse menu, inspired by the creation of Disney's Animal Kingdom, and offer waterfront views from both indoor and outdoor seating.
Live stage show "Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away" will offer live vignettes with BB-8, Kylo Ren, Chewbacca, Darth Vader and Darth Maul. It debuts April 4.
The Town Center opened at Disney Springs on May 15 with a ton of new retailers and restaurants, including The Savannah Bee Company, which sells honey and all-natural beauty products, and Filthy Rich, a celeb-inspired, affordable jewelry line, will join retailers such as ZARA and Under Armour Brand House.
"Turtle Talk with Crush" in Epcot's The Seas will add new characters from Disney Pixar's "Finding Dory," including Dory and some new friends, in mid-May.
At Epcot, Norway is being expanded to include the new Frozen meet-and-greet and attraction that replaces Maelstrom. The Frozen Ever After boat ride will submerse guests in the world of Arendelle and allow them to experience different scenes from the popular film. Guests will be able to meet Anna and Elsa at the Royal Summerhus cabin that will take its inspiration from Norwegian culture. Both will open June 21. Read more here on our strategies for meeting Elsa and Anna with the shortest wait.
A third theater and new 4K projection system will be added to Soarin' at Epcot on June 17.Even better, though, is Soarin' Around the World. The new ride experience will take guests to some of the world's most unique man-made and natural landmarks such as the Great Wall of China, the plains of Africa and Monument Valley.
A new castle stage show, Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire, will debut June 17, replacing the long-running Dream Along With Mickey. The new show will bring together characters from "Princess and the Frog," "Tangled," and "Frozen" along with classic characters Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy and Goofy.
A Star Wars-themed fireworks show using lasers, video projections and other special effects, "Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular," will debut June 17. It will include characters and scenes from the complete saga.
Although the date of Toy Story Land's debut is unknown, Toy Story Mania is expected to get a third track some time in 2016. This should help lower wait times and provide more FastPass+ availability for Hollywood Studios' most popular ride!
Modern steakhouse STK will open some time this spring at The Landing at Downtown Disney. At 14,000 square feet, this will be one of the largest STK's in the country, with two dining floors, including a main level and rooftop dining.
SeaWorld Orlando is adding a 73-mph coaster that would be Orlando's longest, fastest and tallest. This hyper coaster, Mako, based on the world's fastest shark will include nine hills and one drop from 200 feet in the air. It opens June 10.
Over at Universal Orlando, Skull Island: Reign of Kong is headed to Universal's Islands of Adventure in summer 2016. This multi-sensory, multi-dimensional experience will take you on a 1930s expedition into the jungle, where you'll encounter prehistoric predators and a savage beast who may be friend or foe! The trackless all-terrain vehicle is 40-feet-long, uses a positioning system to navigate the jungle road and can accommodate up to 72 guests. The front and back axles allow the wheels to be steered individually for sharp turns and complicated maneuvers. The vehicles will have their own drivers, each with distinct personalities that will make riding multiple times a must.
Universal is also constructing its fifth hotel, Loews' Sapphire Falls Resort, which is already accepting reservations starting July 14. The resort is built around a tropical lagoon and towering waterfall.
Busch Gardens Tampa is adding a new family spin coaster, Cobra's Curse, in summer 2016. Riders will ascend on a vertical lift before facing an 80-foot snake over the Serengeti Plain.
The Incredible Hulk Coaster is set to roar back to life some time in late summer at Universal's Islands of Adventure after a lengthy refurbishment. The coaster should be smooth as glass with an all new track, ride cars and queues.
Universal Orlando is bringing a chocolate factory to CityWalk. The 19th-century-inspired Toothsome Chocolate Factory will open at the location inside the former NBA City restaurant.
What's Coming to Disney World & Universal in 2017
Fast & Furious: Supercharged is headed to Universal Studios Florida in 2017. Based on the popular film franchise, the new Fast & Furious: Supercharged will put guests in the middle of the action, where they'll explore the headquarters of Dom Toretto's underground racing world and be part of a high-speed chase with some of the films' stars. As many of you know, Fast & Furious: Supercharged opened this summer at Universal Studios Hollywood as part of its Studio Tour. Check out the video here. Fast & Furious at Universal Orlando will be located inside the San Francisco area of the park and not part of a tour.
LEGOLAND Florida is adding a new LEGO NINJAGO ride that will allow guests to blast animated fireballs, lightning, shockwaves and ice in the dojos before moving on to a powerful villain. It's the centerpiece of a new LEGO NINJAGO World.
In mid-2017, LEGOLAND Beach Retreat will open, offering views of Lake Dexter. This village-style resort will be distinguished by a LEGO lighthouse and will feature 83 single-story duplex units that sleep up to five.
James Cameron's AVATAR-based land Pandora is set to open in Disney's Animal Kingdom some time in 2017. The land will be the largest expansion in Animal Kingdom history with floating mountains and bioluminescent plants. The main attraction will be AVATAR Flight of Passage, which will let guests take flight over an alien world aboard a Banshee. A boat ride will take guests through the bioluminescent forest.
SeaWorld announced major news—that it's ending its practice of keeping orcas in captivity. It will end its theatrical shows and will introduce "natural orca encounters." SeaWorld's last generation of killer whales will continue to live out their lives in the parks. The changes will start in San Diego in 2017, followed by San Antonio and then Orlando in 2019. SeaWorld also announced a new partnership with the Humane Society of the United States that will focus on the health of our oceans and the animals that make their homes in them.
Universal Orlando will open its first water park, a water theme park, in 2017. Volcano Bay is being built on 53 acres south of Cabana Bay Beach Resort.
At 14 acres, Star Wars Land will be the largest land at Disney World. It will transport guests to a never-before-seen planet, with two new attractions based around a secret mission aboard the Millennium Flacon and an epic Star Wars battle. No timetables have been revealed for the creation of the land. Read full details about Star Wars Land here.
An 11-acre land will rise up around Toy Story Mania, offering a Buzz-sized perspective on Andy's backyard. Look for oversized building blocks and game board pieces, plus a brand new family coaster aboard the Slinky Dog and an alien saucers spin based on the little green man — and the claw!
Universal has partnered with Nintendo to bring to life experiences based on Nintendo's games, characters and worlds. While not much is yet known about this partnership and what it means for Universal Orlando, we do know it will include at least one major attraction.
We hope you've enjoyed this look at what's coming to Disney World and Universal Orlando in 2016. If you're planning an upcoming trip, make sure to come back to see what's been added as you get closer to your visit. While you're at, go back and see what opened in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
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