We hereby resolve to check out these attractions, which are coming to Central Florida in 2016. Precise opening dates have not been revealed, and details have been sparse. The parks have nailed the "keep 'em wondering" status, but here's what we know and why you should care.
King and a prayer
What: Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure
What we know: The dark attraction, under construction between Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon, will take visitors to the homeland of the big guy. Along the way, they will meet "really strange icky" characters whilst aboard expedition trucks.
Why you should care: Although neighboring Universal Studios had an ape encounter in the past (Kongfrontation roared from 1990 to 2002), this is a fresh story not based on previous or future films.
What: Mako at SeaWorld Orlando
What we know: The park wants to lay claim to the fastest, highest, longest thrill ride in Orlando. At 73 mph, it would surpass IOA's Hulk coaster, which topped out at 67 mph — before the rail was dismantled in a rehab. According to the Roller Coaster Data Base, the next fastest coasters are SeaWorld's Kraken and Universal Studios' Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, which both clock in at 65 mph.
Why you should care: Designers tout the amount of air time that Mako will give riders. Meanwhile, if Mako should start running before Hulk is revived, that would mean SeaWorld has more coasters that any other Orlando-area theme park (and that's even if you count Dragon Challenge as two, which I do). Discuss.
What: "Rivers of Light," nighttime editions of Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
What we know: The show, set on the park's Discovery River, will feature water screens, floating lanterns, entertainers and "swirling animal imagery," Disney says. Meanwhile, as the sun sets, guests will be able to experience the Safaris attraction, which soon will operate into the evening.
Why you should care: This may lead to longer operating hours at Animal Kingdom and potentially be worthy stay-a-while-longer diversions when Pandora — The World of Avatar opens in 2017.
What: Frozen Ever After at Epcot
What we know: The boat ride that uprooted Maelstrom from its Norway pavilion home will take guests to ice palace, the North Mountain and the Bay of Arendelle. There will also be a meet-and-greet opportunity for "Frozen" characters Anna and Elsa in the new Royal Summerhaus. (Remember, an earlier version at Epcot caused grown men to sprint from the gate to secure spots in line.)
Why you should care: Naysayers question if the movie's popularity live on and thrive in World Showcase. I say "Snow White" debuted in 1937.
More attractions are in the works
Other theme-park developments to look forward to in 2016:
•Epcot will introduce a new version of Soarin' called Soarin' Around the World. The classic version, in place since 2005, retires Sunday.
•Club Villain, an extra-ticket event set for Disney's Hollywood Studios, kicks off Jan. 16. It will feature Disney baddies such as Dr. Facilier, Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Cruella De Vil and the Evil Queen plus musical numbers, a DJ and a Potions Bar. A night at Club Villain will run $99 per person.
•"The Lego Movie 4D: A New Adventure" will debut at Legoland Florida on Jan. 29.
•Potterheads, rejoice: A Celebration of Harry Potter returns to Universal Orlando Jan. 29-31.
•The Invictus Games, featuring wounded military members from around the world, will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on May 8-12.
•Disney Springs, years in the making, is scheduled to be complete this year. Among the incoming elements are retail outlets in Town Center (including Lilly Pulitzer and Uniqlo), restaurants by chefs Art Smith and Rick Bayless, a revamped Planet Hollywood and a second parking garage that will hold 2,000 vehicles.
•Busch Gardens will open a new family-friendly, spinning coaster called Cobra's Curse. It centers around an 80-foot snake icon.
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