Theme parks spring back into shape with new, revived attractions

Issuing time:2022-03-11 11:11


MAR 10, 2022 AT 5:15 AM

Spring breakers returning to Florida for their annual theme park rites will see a few things that weren’t here last year.

Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando and SeaWorld Orlando have added to their daily lineups. There are brand-new attractions plus others back from pandemic-driven breaks. Now that there are reasons to hope (again) on the COVID front, locals and tourists may play catch-up in the parks by stepping up to new roller-coaster experiences or remembering the good ol’ days of pre-2020.

More additions/replacements/resurrected attractions have been promised, but let’s dwell on what folks can do this spring.

Islands of Adventure visitors zip by on the Jurasic World VelociCoaster that opened in June. (John Raoux/AP)

Riding along

Universal’s Islands of Adventure rolled out Jurassic World VelociCoaster last summer. The thrill ride quickly became a talker with its surprising launches, overwater inversion and an immersive queue with dino encounters and, of all things, an innovative locker design for those valued loose items.

Icebreaker recently debuted at SeaWorld Orlando, giving passengers repeated back-and-forth motions (prompted by a dead-end spike in the ride design) followed by rollicking maneuvers circling back to the loading station.

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a dark ride during which humans see things from the perspective of a rodent not named Mickey, opened at Epcot as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in October. The attraction and the new La Creperie de Paris restaurant make up the bulk of the expansion of the France pavilions.

The latest stage

Disney’s 50th also marked the launches of two fiery end-of-night spectaculars: “Harmonious,” featuring looming show pieces on the lagoon at Epcot, and “Disney Enchantment,” which puts projections from the castle and then down Main Street at Magic Kingdom.

The return of “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire” at the base of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom is the latest show to return to Magic Kingdom. It’s been tweaked a little during its two-year absence, coming back with a new song (“Where the Magic Feels Like Home”) and fresh 50th anniversary-style costuming.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios has brought back “Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage” and “Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular” as daily fare.

At Disney Springs, Cirque du Soleil is now running its “Drawn to Life” show, which has a story that revolves around Disney animation.

A fire-breathing dragon remains part of the Festival of Fantasy parade at Magic Kingdom (Dewayne Bevil, Orlando Sentinel)

Street beat

Although character cavalcades partially filled a parade-shaped hole in some fans’ hearts, Disney has now returned the “Festival of Fantasy” parade to Magic Kingdom. The event, which debuted in March 2014, features float-loads of characters and a dramatic fire-breathing dragon.

SeaWorld’s Sesame Street Land throws a party parade on select dates.

After a year’s absence, Universal’s Mardi Gras celebration includes a nightly parade through the streets of the park. Its theme for 2022 is Planet Mardi Gras, but traditional float favorites such as King Gator remain in the processional.

Lee Brice, who performed at Country Thunder Florida at Osceola Heritage Park in September, returns to Central Florida for a performance at SeaWorld Orlando. (Patrick Connolly/Orlando Sentinel)

In concert

With theme park festivals come concert series, and there are three currently running in Central Florida parks. All are returning to more high-profile entertainment options than during the past two pandemic years.

Upcoming performers at Universal’s Mardi Gras are country singer Lee Brice on Saturday, followed by Becky G on Sunday. Melina Leon sings Friday and Saturday at Epcot’s Garden Rocks. CeCe Winans is the performer there Sunday and Monday. At SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Festival, three sets of tribute artists make up the Saturday event and LoCash is set for Sunday.

Typhoon Lagoon has reopened at Walt Disney World after a two-year closure due to the COVID pandemic. (Courtesy of Walt Disney World/Kent Phillips, photographer)

Making splashes

Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park, is introducing a slide called Reef Plunge next week. Riptide Race, a dueling-raft water slide, opened last spring.

Disney reopened Typhoon Lagoon in early January but simultaneously closed Blizzard Beach for winter refurbishment.

Blue Man Group is no longer performing at Universal Orlando. (Gary W. Green / Orlando Sentinel)

And in case you missed it …

Some attractions are gone-gone, like, demolished or at least confirmed by the parks that their time has passed, officially.

At Universal Studios, Shrek 4D closed in January; a replacement has not been announced. It also officially ended the on-again, off-again run of “Fear Factor Live,” a crowd-participation show with ick factor. The Blue Man Group has left its Universal Orlando building.

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Primeval Whirl ride has been deconstructed, and “Finding Nemo: The Musical” has been shuttered, but Disney says a replacement Nemo-based show will be moving in. No timetable has been given.

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