2016 was a bit of a quiet year for the area attractions, but 2017 will see a number of very high-profile attractions open across the region.
From a wooden coaster to a Jimmy Buffett-themed town on 192 to an attraction dedicated to The Tonight Show
and a waterslide volcano at Universal Orlando, 2017 will give Orlando plenty of new things to see and do.
Here’s a list of the top attractions we’ll see open in Central Florida in 2017.
Fun Spot just might have the most thrilling ride of 2017. The yet-to-be-named wooden roller coaster opening in Summer 2017 at their Kissimmee park will feature the Southeast’s only barrel roll and the first coaster in Florida by the Gravity Group. Using their groundbreaking Timberline trains, known for their smooth ride and small restraint system, the new coaster will feature 11 moments of airtime over the 2,256-foot-long track. The ride will make Fun Spot Kissimmee a must-see for any true coaster enthusiast, helping put Highway 192 back on the radar of many Central Florida visitors.
The new Andretti Indoor Karting and Games is one of the first businesses to bet big on Universal Boulevard as the next I-Drive. The 160,000-square-foot facility
is essentially Orlando’s first indoor theme park. From bowling to laser tag to escape rooms to a 7-D Dark Ride to go-karts, this family entertainment center will no doubt be a hit with families and convention-goers alike. And the Andretti family's racing theming helps
differentiate this attraction from so many other local attractions with similar offerings.
The massive building will be lit at nighttime with an impressive LED lighting package that will make it the perfect complement to the nearby Orlando Eye. Current plans call for the Andretti center to open by summer 2017.
Sitting just across the parking lot from the Andretti Karting attraction is Orlando’s first TopGolf location. While not that different from other TopGolf locations, this location will help bring attention to Universal Boulevard and finally give us something interesting to look at while on the Orlando Eye. Plus all those floodlights will make the Tourist District shine even brighter at night time.
Andretti and TopGolf together represent a full day of entertainment on a street where a lot more will be built in the coming years. These attractions are both new to the market and they send a clear signal that much more is to come along Universal Boulevard.
Originally planned to reach 417 feet the StarFlyer at 360 swing ride now is planned to reach 450 feet in the air or roughly five stories taller than The Orlando Eye, which sits just next door. This will be the world’s tallest StarFlyer attraction and the second on I-Drive. Magical Midway just up the street also has a StarFlyer swing ride. That one is 230 feet tall. This new one was originally slated to break ground earlier this year and open by this month but a slow permitting process in the county and updates to the plans caused it to be pushed back. In October, the final permits needed were approved and we should see construction begin on the new ride in early 2017 with it being completed by the end of the year. Between the Orlando Eye and the new StarFlyer, I-Drive 360 (and Vue at I-Drive 360) will be even more of a magnet for tourists.
First announced in 2011, Pandora: The World of Avatar is by far the longest announced project on this entire list. After six years of planning and construction, there’s no doubt that expectations are high for this ‘Potter-swatter’ land coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom
. Two major rides, both using the very latest technology, will anchor the land which will also feature a restaurant, tiki bar and, of course, gift shops. The land itself will be an attraction with bioluminescent plants lining walking trails and ‘floating’ mountains hanging overhead.
While we don’t know a lot of the details on what will be included in the rides Disney has shown the central audio-animatronic character that will be seen on the Na’vi River Journey, a family boat ride that will use both physical sets and projections. The audio-animatronic used on the ride will be the most advanced AA ever built by Disney. Pandora is slated to open in "summer 2017."
The first new ride at Typhoon Lagoon in over a decade, Miss Fortune Falls is a new family raft ride set to open this spring. Unlike other local water park rides, this one will have guests sit in the raft as it goes up the lift hill. With the lift hill included the ride clocks in with a total ride time of two minutes, making this one of the longest water park rides in Central Florida.
While far from a major attraction, the new “Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon” simulator attraction at Universal Studios is the type of lower key offering that is much needed in most of the Orlando area theme parks. This won’t be anyone’s top ride at Universal Studios but it seems to be an improvement over the Twister attraction that was there previously.
The real star of the attraction though might just be the secondary attractions that will fill the waiting and post-show areas. From real set pieces that stretch across the 62-year history of The Tonight Show
to a meet-and-greet with Hashtag the Panda, the Tonight Show
’s official mascot, there will be plenty to do when this attraction opens in Spring 2017. There will even be a Ragtime Gals barbershop quartet that will perform in the re-creation of Studio 6B.
More than any other project in recent years the Margaritaville Resort is bound to transform 192 into a true destination in its own right. With over 1,000 vacation homes and condos, nearly 200,000 square
feet of retail, 187-room hotel and even a 12-acre water park this 305-acre village will be any Parrothead’s dream vacation spot. The water park will include dual-FlowRider surf simulators, a lazy river that will go through a cave and a large wave pool. A swimmable lagoon with a boat taxi system will connect the resort. Other amenities at the resort will include a planetarium, a fishing school, a spa, and even a Jimmy Buffett-themed game arcade. Phase One is projected to open in mid-2017.
By far the biggest tourism story of 2017 will be the brand-new water theme park opening at Universal Orlando Resort. The 53-acre water park will use groundbreaking technology throughout eliminating lines, using first of its kind slides, and having more theming than any water park in the nation. Lush landscaping will fill the park that surrounds an authentic looking 200 ft. tall volcano. Water slides twist around and inside volcano Krakatau with a lazy river flowing through the base of it. Universal is pulling out all the stops with Volcano Bay and it will forever change what people expect from an Orlando water park.