New at Florida Theme Parks in 2016

Kong, Frozen, Coasters, and More on the Way

Florida parks opened all kinds of great new stuff in 2014, including the new Harry Potter land, Diagon Alley at Universal Studios Florida, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at the Magic Kingdom. 2015 was considerably quieter -- a "breather" year if you will. 2016 will be somewhere in between. There won't be anything as dramatic as an entire new Potter land, but there will be some great new attractions.

Before we get to what's in the pipeline, here are some Florida travel resources you may find helpful:

Florida Ride Guide 2016

  • 01 of 10
    Avatar-Banshee-Ride-Disney-World.jpg
    ••• Disney. Used with permission.

    For the first time since it debuted, Disney's Animal Kingdom will regularly remain open after dark. To capitalize on the extended hours, the park will launch its first nighttime spectacular, Rivers of Light. Like Fantasmic at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the show will feature water screens and projected imagery of animals. It will also incorporate the park's focal point, the Tree of Life, which will be abuzz with magical fireflies. The Animal Kingdom's flagship attraction, Kilimanjaro Safaris, will offer nighttime tours and include nocturnal animals.

    It's been under development for a number of years, but the magical world of Pandora isn't scheduled to open until 2017. Until then, learn about the floating mountains, the flying banshee ride, and the bioluminescent jungle that will await you in my preview of Avatar land at Disney's Animal Kingdom.

  • 02 of 10

    Busch Gardens Tampa: Cobra's Curse

    ••• SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Used with permission.

    The ride and zoo park, Busch Gardens Tampa, will introduce an animal-themed spinning coaster in 2016. At a height of 70 feet and a top speed of 40 mph, Cobra's Curse will be a moderate "family" coaster. Passengers in two-car trains will climb a vertical elevator lift and encounter an 80-foot cobra as they start spinning through the course. It appears that there will be some themed elements that guests will experience before they climb the lift hill.

  • 03 of 10
    ••• Disney. Used with permission.

    The former Maelstrom ride in the Norway pavilion is getting a thematic makeover that will feature the crazy-popular film. Read more about Anna, Elsa, and more (including a rousing chorus of "Let It Go," no doubt) that awaits when the Frozen ride opens in Epcot in 2016.

  • 04 of 10
    ••• Universal Orlando.

    The big ape returns to Universal Orlando in 2016. The new, media-based, immersive attraction will borrow from the wonderful Kong experience that is featured in the Studio Tour at sister park, Universal Studios Hollywood. It will also incorporate some unique elements. Read more about it in my preview of Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

    Also, the Incredible Hulk Coaster, which closed down for a makeover in 2015, will reopen in 2016 with new trains, a mostly new track, and presumably, a new ride experience. It will still feature an uphill launch, although it will probably use a different launch system.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Legoland Florida

    Lego Movie 4D at Legoland Parks
    ••• Legoland

    As with Legoland California and all of the Legoland Discovery Centers, Legoland Florida will be opening Lego Movie 4D in early 2016. Taking its cue from the wildly popular The Lego Movie, the 4D film will feature some of the same characters from the film and some of the voice actors as well, including Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle), Charlie Day (Benny), Nick Offerman (MetalBeard), and Alison Brie (Unikitty). The story will revolve around an adventure at a theme park (how appropriate!).

  • 06 of 10
    ••• SeaWorld Entertainment

    A major -- and I do mean major -- coaster will make a big splash at SeaWorld Orlando in 2016. Read about Mako, the 200-foot hypercoaster that will invade the park's "Sharks Realm."

  • 07 of 10
    Skyscraper at Skyplex
    ••• Wallack Holdings LLC

    As with the new Avatar land coming to Disney World, you're going to have to be patient and wait until 2017 (or possibly later; the project has been facing some permit hurdles) to ride the Skyscraper. It should be worth the wait, however. At 570 feet, it will be the world's tallest roller coaster. Read more about the Skyscraper coaster coming to Orlando.

  • 08 of 10
    Sapphire-Falls-Rendering.jpg
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    Universal's fifth hotel is on the way. It will be a moderate-level, Caribbean-themed property. See how it will compare to the resort's other on-property accommodations in my feature, The Best Hotels at Universal Orlando.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10
    ••• Universal Orlando. Used with permission.

    I know this is supposed to about what's on tap for 2016. But some of the parks have been making advance announcements, and here's another new development slated for 2017. Universal Orlando's first on-property water park looks like it will be lushly landscaped and themed. Read about Volcano Bay.

  • 10 of 10

    Walt Disney World: Disney Springs

    ••• Walt Disney World. Used with permission.

    The shopping/dining/entertainment district currently known as Downtown Disney will be officialy re-dubbed "Disney Springs" in 2016. As the area is expanded, it will eventually double the number of restaurants and shops. Among the new places set to open are The NBA Experience, retailer Tommy Bahama, and the pan-Asian eatery, Morimoto Asia.