2014 is a prolific year for attraction openings at the Central Florida theme parks and water parks. Thus far this year, we’ve had Ihu’s Breakaway Falls open at Aquatica, and Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld Orlando re-opened after its refurbishment (although I miss Shamu Up Close, which let you see training sessions while the stadium was closed).Here’s the pre-opening ceremony for the terrifying new waterslide, which has three shoots that drop you randomly and one where you control your fate (but still drop like a rocket):
SeaWorld is also in the midst of its 50th anniversary celebration, which began in the spring.
Next up was Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Walt Disney World, which completed the Magic Kingdom’s ambitious New Fantasyland expansion. It officially opened today (May 28), although I was there earlier this year for the dedication ceremony. You can see the ceremony in the video below:
And here are five rides on the new family coaster from five different perspectives:
Prior to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, the Magic Kingdom welcomed Festival of Fantasy, its new and extremely impressive afternoon parade, on March 9. Click the video below to see the full parade, including the impressed fire-spewing Maleficent dragon. All of the floats are works of art, with moving parts and minute details:
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is suitable for younger kids, but what if you have toddlers in the family? Legoland Florida opened its Duplo Village kiddie area this past week, which rides, an air conditioned play area, and even a fun water spot for the youngest members of the family. Here’s the opening ceremony:
2014 also saw the reappearance of a beloved Florida landmark: the Florida Pool, which was restored in the Cypress Gardens area of Legoland. Some of the original Southern Belles who used to roam the gardens even came back for the event.
There’s another opening just around the corner: the Aqua Drag Racer water slide at Wet ‘n Wild, Universal Orlando’s water park. It debuts on June 12, just in time for the brutal summer heat. If you’ve never been to Wet ‘n Wild, it’s a great water park for several reasons. First, it has some unique attractions, like knee skiing and wake skating on a real lake. Second, it’s the only area water park where you can buy an express. Like Universal, it has express lines that let you bypass most of the wait if you purchase the pass. It’s work its weight in gold during the peak season, when endless lines stretch down the stairs and you bake while waiting in the sun for your turn to cool off.
Here’s a guided tour of Wet ‘n Wild, although Bubba Tub is gone now to make way for the new ride:
Speaking of Universal, it has its own grand opening coming on an as-yet-undetermined day. It already celebrated the opening of its new Cabana Bay Resort, and now it’s just about ready to introduce the world to the long-awaited Diagon Alley, its Harry Potter expansion. The official opening date hasn’t been announced yet, but there’s a media preview from June 17 to 20 and a special vacation package with dates starting on June 29, so those are big clues.
In the meantime, enjoy this teaser video with some of the Diagon Alley creators that will help whet your appetite:
There’s one more Central Florida opening, but alas, it’s in the air, both literally and figuratively. Falcon’s Fury, the 300+ foot face-down drop tower that looms above Busch Gardens Tampa was supposed to be open already, but a delay in parts has caused it to miss its announced debut, with no new date in sight. It should still open this summer, and in the meantime, the new Pantopia area is already welcoming guests. You can learn more about the making of Pantopia in the construction tour video below:
Keep an eye out, as I’ll be covering the remaining openings, including all four days of the big Diagon Alley event. You can read my reports here and follow me on Twitter at @themeparkwriter for live updates.
Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.