Question: What’s the difference between a vacation and a trip?
Answer: A vacation is the one you take when you leave the kids at home.
Okay, so you’ve decided to take a family trip to Orlando this summer but your choices for entertainment are overwhelming and you only have a few days. So, start with the new theme park attractions at Disney for summer 2017, then go from there. What’s new?
Almost all of the major theme parks in and around Orlando are rolling out something new for the summer of 2017. From major new worlds and attractions, to a brand new water park, to upgraded rides and shows, you’ll have plenty to fill your hours, amuse your family, and make tons of new memories.
One of the most anticipated openings this summer is Disney's Pandora, the mythical land brought to life in the movie Avatar. Pandora will open over Memorial Day weekend at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Featuring two new rides, restaurants and shops, Pandora is the most ambitious and integrated experience Disney has imagineered to date.
Enter Pandora under a cluster of massive floating mountains and enjoy Avatar Flight of Passage, a simulator ride in which you are a passenger on the back of a winged mountain banshee as it flies over the Pandoran jungle. Or, if you want something a little less daring, try the family-friendly Na’vi River Journey, a boat ride through Pandora’s bioluminescent rain forests with a stunning surprise ending.
Then stick around because after dark, Pandora’s custom designed landscape glows with bioluminescence. End your evening with the Animal Kingdom’s new-as-of-2016 evening show, Rivers of Light, an extravaganza of fountains, programmable lights, live performers, water screens and floats.
Need to cool off? You’re in luck. Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon launched a new family-style raft ride, Miss Adventure Falls, in March. Billed as one of the longest water park attractions at Disney, this ride will take you along on the adventures (misadventures?) of Captain Mary Oceaneer, intrepid explorer of the seas and collector of artifacts from her journey.
Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Star Wars aficionados can now take a seven-hour VIP guided tour that includes Star Wars themed food, a stop at the Jedi Academy for your kids and a special dessert party with reserved viewing of the recently re-opened fireworks show, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. Or, end your night at the Magic Kingdom with the brand new Happily Ever After Nighttime Spectacular, a projection show set to make its debut on Sunday, May 14th with digital scenes projected onto Cinderella’s castle and a fireworks grand finale (of course!)
Over at Universal, save time for the newly opened (April 2017) Race Through New York starring Jimmy Fallon. Riders race Jimmy Fallon on a course that takes them through New York “from skyscrapers to subways”. Two others you won’t want to miss are the just re-opened Incredible Hulk coaster – same tracks and thrills, but with new queue, backstory and music. And Skull Island: Reign of Kong, a 3D adventure told with animatronics and narrative.
If even the thought of being outside in the middle of Florida during the summer makes you break out in a sweat, skip the theme parks and plan a day at Universal’s new water park, Volcano Bay. Enter to the sight of a 200-foot volcano that spews water during the day and lava at night. Then spend your day barreling down the aqua coaster, relaxing on the lazy river, enjoying the beaches and waterfall, shrieking down the breathtaking body plunges, twisting through intertwined water slides, drifting along on the raft ride, or enjoying the thrill of the whitewater inner tube ride, all while your little ones splash and play in the tot areas created just for them.
But better than all of those rides put together is the Tapu Tapu virtual line system. Tapu Tapu is a waterproof wearable wristband that, when tapped against entry totems at each ride, places riders in a virtual line, offering the freedom for visitors to head off and explore the park and alerting them when it’s time to head back to the ride. That’s right, say good-bye to lessons in patience and personal space followed by interminable rounds of I Spy and the Alphabet Game. You can even grab lunch or a snack before you ride!
Save a day for SeaWorld if you have a budding marine biologist or oceanographer living in your house because the SeaWorld Dolphin Nursery will soon have upgraded viewing areas for watching mother and baby dolphins interact. Then, for the adventure seekers in the family, the signature Kraken coaster has been transformed into a virtual reality experience with custom digital overlays and headsets integrated right into the coaster trains. Stay for SeaWorld’s new end of day spectacle, Electric Ocean, a “glowing sea of wonder” complete with bioluminescent lighting, music and entertainment.
Got a little left in you? One more day to fill? Try LEGOLAND’s Ninjago World. Opened in January of this year, Ninjago World features a 3D dark ride that allows riders to score points by using ninja hand moves to blast bad guys with fireballs, lightning and more. Or, visit the Kennedy Space Center where visitors can “Fly with an Astronaut”. Visitors will be hosted by an astronaut as they embark on a four-hour, small group tour of Kennedy Space Center.
Overwhelmed yet? We know. There are so many new Orlando attractions and so little time. Plus, you’re probably going to need a vacation after this trip! But take our word for it. Enjoy every single sweaty, exhausting second of it. Your kids won’t be kids for long but they will remember your trip forever (and we know that deep in your secret self, you’re just as excited as they are!) Have fun!