Theme Park, Amusement Park and Attractions Industry News

Orlando beyond IAAPA

by Paul Ruben

With so many of you in Orlando this month for IAAPA Attraction Expo 2012, you might also consider visiting one or more of the local theme parks or attractions to see what’s new.

My first stop was SeaWorld Orlando, to see the new TurtleTrek attraction. Here you can get close-up to manatees and sea turtles before wandering into a spell-binding show. TurtleTrek lets you follow a sea turtle’s epic and astounding journey in this first-of-its-kind 3D 360 domed theatre immersive experience by Falcon’s Treehouse.

The next day I went across the street from SeaWorld to what is one of my favourite, and perhaps most expensive, waterpark experiences. Discovery Cove is a limited-admission, all-inclusive tropical resort. New this year is Freshwater Oasis, featuring swimming and wading adventures and face-to-face encounters with otters and marmoset monkeys. But these animals just ignored me. Must have been the heat. So I went over to the Grand Reef. It features a white-sand beach, palm-lined island and underwater grottos filled with moray eels, reef sharks, and scores of other tropical fish. I donned the complimentary snorkel gear, which transformed me into the Creature From The Black Lagoon. See the photo? Judge for yourself. Once in the water I tried to pet the fish, but they just swam away.

On day three I headed over to the Universal Studios at Universal Orlando Resort to check out Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. Using the same building as the former Jimmy Neutron’s Nicktoon Blast, it’s a brand new show combining the humour and characters of Despicable Me animated film with the latest 3D technology. Families join Gru’s minion army and experience the world’s-first minion-inspired dance party. The kids loved it. Me? I just don’t have the moves.

On my final day in Florida, I headed over to Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland is being expanded to nearly double its former size. New additions already operating are double Dumbo rides, a water play are called Casey Jr Splash ’N’ Soak station, plus a Storybook Circus stop on the Walt Disney Railroad. But the really exciting stuff is still to come.

Thanks to my friends at Disney, I was given a tour of the construction that continues beyond a fenced-off area. I was told to wear steel-toed boots and long pants, despite the fact it was 89 degrees (32°C) with high humidity. I was escorted through a door in the fence, where I was met by two Imagineers. I was given a hard hat, safety glasses, and a fluorescent vest. “Safety is our number one priority,” I was told. I’m perspiring and thinking to myself, comfort is my number one priority.

Armed with renderings and diagrams, the Imagineers showed me where the new attractions – including a world’s first-of-its-kind coaster called the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – would be located and what they will feature. They will open in phases, starting soon after this year’s IAAPA Expo through until 2014. Everything the Imagineers are building is amazing. It’s surprising what you can do with a spare $425 million. From what I was shown, I’m convinced the new Fantasyland will be a can’t-miss corner of the Magic Kingdom for years to come.

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