Our List of Most Anticipated Attractions for 2017

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Well 2016 has come and gone and what a year it was for Florida theme parks.  Both Busch Gardens and SeaWorld premiered outstanding coasters for their parks.  Universal Orlando managed to bring Kong back home, but to incredibly mixed reviews.  And Disney was all over the place with new shows at almost every park (some good, some awful), a new and revamped  E-Ticket attraction  for Epcot, an attempt to make Animal Kingdom a night time park, and new Star Wars offerings at Hollywood Studios including an incredibly impressive fireworks spectacular!

Now, with 2017 here, we have a number of things to anticipate at locations across Florida!  Ranging from VR roller coasters to new attractions and technologically advanced lands to an entire water park, this coming year should be quite exciting.  So here is our count down of what we’re most looking forward to seeing in 2017!

9. The Completion of Disney Springs

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Downtown Disney was renamed Disney Springs in 2015 and the major part of the expansion, Town Center and the garages, opened last May.  Besides the announcement to build a third parking garage, there isn’t much left to open other than a few main restaurants and probably some shops here or there.  Two of these restaurants were supposed to open Fall 2016, but both openings were pushed back to early 2017.

NOW OPEN! Planet Hollywood Observatory is an interesting story considering at first it seemed as though the Planet Hollywood aspect would be leaving in place for a new restaurant, which clearly isn’t the case anymore. This new rendition of Planet Hollywood will feature an exclusive menu by Chef Guy Fieri of specialty sandwiches, burgers, and the newest dessert craze of over-the-top milkshakes, rightfully named Supernova Shakes.  Reservations had been set for December, but had to be cancelled up to January and it looks like there is still work to be done on the building. No opening date as of yet. You can check out more food details here.

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Set to open FEBRUARY 4th is Paddlefish.  Early last year, Fulton’s Crab House went down for refurbishment, only to never open again.  It was soon announced it would be reopening as Paddlefish, a brand new restaurant in the same likeness of Fulton’s with plenty of seafood and turf offerings, plus some of Fulton’s favorites are returning.  The entire steamboat has been gutted and is going through an entire refurbishment to be transformed into a new boat design.  Even with menu options having been announced, there is still no word on an opening date.

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Also set to open later this year are The Polite Pig, The Edison, and Wine Bar George.  The Polite Pig is set to open Spring 2017 and is a sister restaurant to a local favorite, The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, FL.  The new restaurant will feature wood-fired smoked and grilled items, plus a variety of drinks on tap, including locally-brewed Cask & Larder beer, wine and cocktails.  The Polite Pig will be located in Town Center.

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The Edison is also expected to open Spring 2017.  Though, when I walked passed the other day, it looked like they still have months of construction to do as I could very clearly see they were missing a few walls and the inside was empty.  The Edison will be a take on its LA counterpart and as close to a night club as Disney Springs will get, only set in the 1920s.  The restaurant will offer Guests American cuisine, cocktails, and live entertainment including cabaret and music.

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And last is a restaurant I’m personally excited for because I’ve never been to a wine bar.  Wine Bar George is said to open this Fall, and for Disney’s sake I hope it does, but again, I don’t see a lot of construction happening at the moment and since the concept art shows a two level building, they better get started!  Wine Bar George will offer more than 100 selections of wine, both by bottle and glass, in a range of varietals, vintages, and prices.  It will also feature a small plate food menu designed to complement the wine list.  Both The Edison and Wine Bar George will be located in The Landing.

8. Virtual Reality Kraken, SeaWorld Orlando

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That’s right, this new roller coaster fad has finally made its way down to Florida and is arriving at SeaWorld Orlando first with their floorless coaster, Kraken!  For this new adventure,  guests will embark on a deep sea mission alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past, including the mighty Kraken itself. The new experience will also directly tie into Journey to Atlantis, located right next door.  The VR will be a custom digital overlay with uniquely designed headsets, which will be fully integrated both mechanically and electronically into the coaster trains to deliver this new one-of-a-kind adventure.

I had the chance to experience a VR coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain on The New Revolution and it was a very interesting ride.  My headset didn’t work like it should’ve and Six Flags being Six Flags, the Team Members didn’t care when I told them about my poor riding experience after and sent me on my way.  That experience aside, this will definitely be an interesting addition for Kraken and SeaWorld.  I just hope the load process takes a lot less time thanks to the headsets being integrated into the coaster trains.

7.  Miss Adventure Falls (Prev. Miss Fortune Falls), Typhoon Lagoon, WDW

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Typhoon Lagoon is the older of the two Disney water and is once again about to receive a new addition to its otherwise slightly dated/lack luster line-up of waterslide attractions (even though Blizzard Beach has been open for 21 years with no additions of its own).   Set to open in the Spring, Miss Fortune Falls will will be a family-style raft attraction that takes guests on a splashing journey through the fabled Captain Mary Oceaneer’s past. Legend has it that Captain Oceanear, a treasure-hunting heroine, traveled across the sea collecting unique artifacts before she became stranded at Typhoon Lagoon many years ago by a rogue storm.

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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.

6.  Ninjago World, LEGOLAND Florida

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NOW OPEN! Opening as early as January 12, the new Ninjago World at LEGOLAND will give families the chance to enter a magical martial arts kingdom where they become ninjas and embark on their very on LEGO® NINJAGO® adventure.   The new land will be an immersive area complete with several ninja-themed hands-on activities and, of course, the brand new attraction, LEGO NINJAGO The Ride!  This state-of-the-art dark ride will combine 3D computer animation, 4D effects, and groundbreaking technology never seen before outside a LEGOLAND theme park.  During the ride, Guests will earn points while they use ninja hand movements to blast animated fireballs, lightning, and more as 3D villains attack their vehicles.

Ninjago World will also feature daily meet-and-greet opportunities with sibling ninjas Kai and Nya, and even display Wu’s Warehouse, a themed merchandise store filled with Lego Ninjago building sets, clothing, souvenirs, and more.  Check out the announcement video below.

5. Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, Universal Studios Florida

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OPENING APRIL 6TH! Set to open in the Spring, Universal Orlando’s newest attraction is also one that has quite a bit of mixed opinions.  Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon will be another screen-based attraction for Universal Orlando.  Inspired by the “celebrity races” segments on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the new attraction will be a 3D, Soarin’ type ride where, according to the Universal Orlando Blog, “you will get the full Tonight Show experience as you make your way to the fabled Studio 6B for a very special taping in which Jimmy challenges his studio audience to the ultimate race through the greatest city on earth.  You’ll rocket through the streets—and skies—of New York City, from the deepest subway tunnels to the tallest skyscrapers, encountering colorful characters, famous landmarks and anything else that comes to Jimmy’s mind.”

To start, Guests will get to hang out in Studio 6B Club where they can hear live performances from the Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet, view classic clips from The Tonight Show, and even meet Hashtag the Panda.  They’ll even be able to sit at their own Interactive Desk where they can send their own personalized Tonight Show Thank You Notes to friends and family.

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After a short briefing, Guests will board the world’s first “flying theater,” which will seat up to 72 viewers.  It will then raise into the air to begin their race through New York!  Once ‘racing around,’ Guests with a keen eye will be able to see cameos from familiar characters such as Sara from EW, Jimmy in “Tight Pants,” and the Tonight Show announcer Steve Higgins.  All the while, Guests will be listening to the Grammy award-winning band, The Roots, who have written the score for this dazzling new attraction at Universal Orlando!  Check out the short Making Of video below.

4. Fun Spot Roller Coaster, Fun Spot America Kissimmee

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If you’ve visited Fun Spot America Orlando in the past three years, you’ve probably ridden their wooden coaster, White Lightning, which just so happens to be the only wooden coaster in Orlando…but not for long!  Fun Spot America has partnered with The Gravity Group, an American based company out of Cincinnati, OH, to bring us a brand new wooden coaster right here at their Kissimmee location, home to the worlds tallest Sky Coaster.  One reason this is such a HUGE deal is the coaster will be the only wooden roller coaster in the southeast to feature a 360 degree barrel roll.

The new coaster, which is sure to be thrilling, will be 82 feet high with a first drop of 80.5 feet. It’ll cross a length of 2256 feet of track, reaching a top speed of 48.5 MPH while coasting over 11 different air time hills, around a maximum banked angle turn of 115 degrees, and of course fly through that barrel roll.   The coaster doesn’t have a name or theme quite yet, but is expected to open this summer and I could not be more excited to be seeing another true wooden coaster coming to the Orlando area!  Check out the POV video below!

3. Rivers of Light, Disney’s Animal Kingdom

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If there was ever a show which needed to succeed more, it’s this one.  Originally announced to open May 2016, and even getting as close with Cast Member preview dates announced, the show was abruptly delayed until further notice with hopes of premiering later in the year.  It was temporarily replaced by The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic, which in all honesty, was really bad for multiple reasons.  Once The Jungle Book concluded its run at the end of the summer, Rivers was rumored to being close to complete once again and possibly premiere in October, then again in December to no avail.  Now it seems as though we won’t see it until May 2017 as we did get a few Cast Member previews a few weeks ago, but the reviews aren’t all too great and it’s been said parts of the show are still not in full operation.

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This brand new nighttime spectacular has been specially designed for the Animal Kingdom park with an entire theater having been built specifically for it.  The show is set on Discovery River between Asia and Dinoland U.S.A. It will depict an ancient lantern rivers%20of%20light%202festival as told by two storytellers.  The two guides will call and bring out four spirit animals: an Asian Tiger, Tropical Turtle, African Elephant, and Great Horned Owl.  From here, the river comes alive with fountains, colors of light, and water projections, which are all used together to celebrate the beauty of all things living.

Rivers of Light is one of the key components Disney’s Animal Kingdom is relying on to become a full-day park.  They made an attempt this past summer with nighttime entertainment and attractions, but the offerings just never seemed to become overly popular with Guests.  Hopefully, once Rivers of Light and Pandora opens, Animal Kingdom will finally be a full day park.  No opening date has been announced, and rumors are rampant.  But merchandise is making its way into the stores more and more which could imply the debut of the show is nearing closer.  As for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see an official opening until closer to summer as it seems the show needs to or keeps getting retooled to make the best show possible.  Lord knows Disney doesn’t want a repeat of The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic.  Below is a Behind the Scenes video Disney released a couple months ago.  Check it out.

2. Volcano Bay, Universal Orlando

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OPENING MAY 25TH! Universal Orlando is building a brand new water park called Volcano Bay, which is set to open early Summer.  The claim?  It’ll be so immersive with so many things to do, Guests will want and be able to stay at the park not only all day, but well into the night.  In fact, Universal is so confident in their new park that they are claiming it as their 3rd Gate, which would be a first for theme park resorts of this caliber.  For instance, Disney has four theme parks and two water parks, but only considers having four gates.  But in this case, Universal is saying Volcano Bay will be their third theme park.  As for being able to stay at a water park from morning to night?  That’ll be quite the challenge since we all know water parks tend to physically wear out Guests the easiest with all of the physical exertion mixed with the hot sun.  Plus, more often than not, you just run out of things to do.  But that may not be the case with Volcano Bay.

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The new water park certainly has a lot to offer.  Guests who enjoy the park will be able to partake in a brand new system which goal is to eliminate waiting in lines.  No, this isn’t just a FastPass.  When Guests enter the park, they will be given a TapuTapu Wearable wristband of sort.  No photo has been released yet.  The new wearable technology will be able to provide Guests with virtual lines and tap-to-play experiences.  The virtual line experience was tested out earlier this year at Wet ‘n’ Wild to poor reviews, but that’s what tests are for.  And new Shrek 4-D is testing a similar feature.  To me, this virtual line doesn’t sound too different from the Flash Pass at the Six Flags parks where you would select an attraction on your handheld device and wait the given time, then once it beeps, you walk up to the attraction and ride.  It’ll definitely be interesting to see how Universal implements their own version of it.  And I can’t wait to use it because I know we all hate getting out of the water to stand in line for an attraction, only to be completely dry by the time its your turn to ride.

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The tap-to-play experiences sound like a load of fun.  With just a tap of the TapuTapu wearable, Guests will be able to experience a number of different effects and activities throughout the park, whether they’re controlling streams of water, shooting water cannons at other Guests, or even illuminating images inside the volcano’s hidden caves.  It sounds like there’s a lot to explore at Volcano Bay, but there’s even more to ride!

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Volcano Bay’s signature attraction is called the Krakatau Aqua Coaster! It’ll be the first of its kind in Florida.  To start, Guests will be riding in specially designed canoes which will seat up to four.  Once you go over the lift hill, the canoe is thrust downward and upward, all throughout the volcano’s interior peaks, valleys, and dark passageways.  There’s even talk of being launched through a waterfall and I’ll bet a few more surprises.

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Now, yes, Disney has a set of water coasters at their Typhoon Lagoon water park, but what sets this apart from theirs is its start.  Krakatau Aqua Coaster will use linear induction motor technology to launch the canoes uphill before the riders immediately plunge downward!  For anyone scratching their heads, this technology is the same type used on Revenge of the Mummy at Universal and California Screamin’ at Disney’s California Adventure.  I’ve never heard of this being used for a water attraction before so this is quite interesting.

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As for the rest of the park, it’ll be divided into different areas, or lands if you will: The Volcano, Wave Village, River Village, and Rainforest Village.  The Volcano, named Krakatau, is a 200 foot tall fire and water volcano.  It is the heart of Volcano Bay and streams waterfalls during the day and fiery lava effects at night.  This is also the home of the Krakatau Aqua Coaster and will offer three other attractions, including a drop door slide.

Other than Wave Village, which will be home to Waturi Beach (most likely a wave pool), the remaining lands offer multiple attractions for Guests of all ages to enjoy ranging from body slides, inner tube attractions, and even a lazy river that looks like it travels through Krakatau Volcano.  You can read even more details about the other attractions here.  But in the mean time, check out the newest advertisement Universal released for Volcano Bay.  Whether you consider it a third theme park or not, it sure looks like it’ll be an incredible water park!

 1.  Pandora: The World of Avatar, Disney’s Animal Kingdom 

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RUMORED TO OPEN MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND! Disney’s announcement of their purchase of the Avatar franchise and plan to build an entire land based on it was probably the biggest “WTF where’d that come from?” moment of 2011, if not the decade.   The land took three years to even break ground and here we are, another three years later with an opening date of Summer 2017!  This brand new land is said to not only be fully immersive, but also show Guests technology and theming we’ve never seen before in a theme park.  Universal changed the game with their Wizarding World of Harry Potter and I have a feeling Pandora will only improve on that raising the standard even higher.

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Now, don’t go thinking I’m being all biased towards this land.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I absolutely hate the Avatar movie and every time I hear news about the next [4] sequel(s) (really?  Is that necessary?), I roll my eyes. To be clear, the second film was originally supposed to premiere last December, but it was pushed back “because that’s just good business” according to Cameron himself after finding out Star Wars would be opening in the same month.  The film(s) continue to be delayed and many believe the land itself was getting delayed on purpose in hopes of opening around the same time as the new film (synergy).  Clearly, Disney realized they just couldn’t wait any longer.  The most recent reports said Cameron was hoping for a 2017 release, and then 2018; and then Sigourney Weaver publicly announced they haven’t even started filming the sequel. So, when exactly was this film supposed to even open?   At this point, many question if we’ll even get it.

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I digress.  While I can’t stand Avatar and it’s rip-off of a plot of Pocahontas, FernGully, Dances with Wolves… the visuals (in 2009) are undeniable and I know Cameron and the Imagineers have been working tirelessly to make sure they transfer perfectly to real life. I honestly hope and pray that I walk into Pandora, look around, and think, “You know what?  Avatar isn’t such a bad film.” I want to be blown away the same way I was the first time I walked into Diagon Alley.  And to be honest, I have a feeling I will be.  Here’s why.

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Just like Diagon Alley, Guests will be fully immersed by the world of Pandora as soon as they enter the land. All around them, they will see alien plant life, floating mountains, and new locations to explore and experience.  At night, the land will come alive with bioluminescent life, even the ground will glow as Guests walk on it affecting the ground with their weight and possibly leaving their footprints behind them.

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Satu’li Canteen

Pandora will also be home to the Satu’li Canteen, the main restaurant for the land, which will feature Na’vi art and cultural items.  The menu offerings haven’t been announced yet, nor has it been clarified whether it will be counter or table service.  Whatever the case, I’m sure it’s safe to say it’ll be more than just burgers and chicken.  Additionally, there will be the Pongu Pongu, which will serve drinks “in a spot said to be as electric as its Expat owner.”    Plus, at Windtraders, Pandora’s main merchandise store, Guests will be able to find Na’vi culture items, toys, science kits and more.  Disney is pretty infamous now for having pretty much the same standard merchandise located all across its property at all parks.  I’m hoping they take a page out of Universal’s book and keeps this store 100% Pandora merchandise.

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Windtraders

Lastly, Pandora will showcase two attractions, one being a major E-Ticket attraction and the other will be a boat ride.  The Na’vi River Journey will be a boat ride taking Guests on an all-new expedition through the world of Pandora.  The adventure begins on a sacred river that flows through the bioluminescent rain forest where the beauty of Pandora is truly revealed.  Guests will see the glowing plants and unforgettable creatures before coming face to face with a Na’vi shaman.  This will most likely be the absolutely incredible audio animatronic we’ve now seen in the released videos.  It’s sure to raise the bar for AAs everywhere.  No other details for the Na’vi River Journey have been released.

The E-Ticket attraction is AVATAR Flight of Passage!  Flight of Passage is said to be unlike anything we’ve seen before.  Basically, Disney took the ideas and designs of Soarin’ and improved on them to (hopefully) make a more thrilling ride.  Here, Guests will get the chance to ride their own winged banshee and soar through the skies of Pandora.  The attraction is said to have extraordinary effects designed to stir the senses and really feel as though they’re flying and diving around the floating mountains and landscapes of this alien planet.  We’ve seen short snippets of them testing video footage and a quick clip of the ride structure.  I can’t wait to see what this attraction holds for us!

I truly hope Flight of Passage is a jaw dropping ride and I hope Pandora: The World of Avatar is a win for Disney because we all know they sure need one right now.

What do you think about Pandora?  Do you think it’ll be a flop or major success?  Below is a video Disney released on Christmas Day highlighting parts of the land and showing off new things we can expect.  It certainly looks gorgeous.  The wait just might have been worth it.

There you have it.  Our most anticipated listed of coming attractions for Florida in 2017.  Do you agree with the ranking?  Is there any we left off you would add?  What are you looking forward to most?  Let us know in the comments.  As always, thanks for reading!  To keep up with all of our adventures, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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About Chris DiPaula

Creator of DiPaula on Disney: entertainment website dedicated to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, other Florida parks and activities, and other adventures. Co-creator and producer of Parks, Brews, and Geek News: an entertainment website dedicated to the Florida theme parks including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando, movie & geek news, and food and brews. Chris DiPaula has been an avid theme park and amusement park goer since childhood and a die hard Disney fan for as long as he can remember. He is currently an active concierge Cast Member at Walt Disney World Resort and has worked for The Walt Disney Company since 2011. Previously, he worked for Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando in the entertainment technician field as well.

Posted on January 7, 2017, in Park News, Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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