Thursday, January 27, 2022

What’s New at Florida’s Theme Parks


Meet a rhino at Disney’s Animal Kingdom with “Up Close with Rhinos, ” a new backstage experience.

With the Halloween and haunt season well underway, it’s a great time to experience everything happening at the Florida theme parks!

This month focused less on Halloween announcements, and more on general additions to the parks, as well as a few bittersweet goodbyes. Let’s dive into it!

Walt Disney World

A near 20-year staple in nighttime entertainment is coming to an end at Walt Disney World. The park recently announced “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” will hold its final performance at Epcot next summer. The show will be immediately replaced by a new nighttime spectacular as part of the overall updates and refurbishments coming to Epcot over the next few years.

Disney Junior’s favorite ghoul, “Vampirina,” made her official Disney Parks debut this month. Vampirina, or Vee, is now spending Halloween meeting guests during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom, joining her other Disney Junior pals in the new Storybook Circus Disney Junior Jam dance party.

A new hyper-reality experience themed to the upcoming Disney animated film “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” called “Ralph Breaks VR,” is coming to The Void at Disney Springs this fall.

This new, original Disney adventure will transport guests into the world of the internet and online gaming with Ralph and Vanellope, just in time for the new film to hit theaters this November. The current virtual reality experience, “Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire,” will still be available to guests when the “Ralph Breaks VR” experience opens.

Guests can now have the chance to make a connection with white rhinos at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, thanks to an all-new backstage experience called “Up Close with Rhinos.” Starting Nov. 1, guests can take a 60-minute guided tour to learn how the animal team cares for the rhinos on Kilimanjaro Safaris, and how Disney helps to save endangered rhinos in the wild.

This new experience costs $40 per person, and guests must be at least four years old to participate.

Universal Orlando Resort

Sad news for “Harry Potter” fans: A Celebration of Harry Potter will not be held at Universal Orlando Resort next year. In a statement, the resort said they are “working on exciting new experiences for guests to continue to celebrate The Wizarding World next year,” relating to new fan events. There is no word on whether the park will see A Celebration of Harry Potter return in 2020 or beyond.

In related news, Universal Orlando’s Christian music festival, Rock the Universe, will return with an all-new lineup and new dates. The festival will now take place Feb. 1 and 2, 2019, and feature performances from Skillet, Lecrae and more. The full lineup will be released soon.

SeaWorld Orlando

Halloween is back at SeaWorld Orlando with the return of Halloween Spooktacular! From Sept. 22 to Oct. 28, guests of all ages can celebrate the spooky season every Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to park close.

This year’s even includes the “Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween” stage show, trick-or-treating for younger guests, the “Pets Ahoy Halloween” stage show, a dance party and more. SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular is included with regular park admission.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

The big news out of Busch Gardens Tampa this month is the announcement of a brand-new triple-launch steel coaster themed after the agility of a tiger, called Tigris.

This new coaster will send riders through looping twists with forward and backward motion, plenty of drops, a 150-foot surge upward, and an inverted heartland roll — all at 60 miles per hour. This new coaster will be constructed in the Stanleyville area, and is set to open next spring.

A second thrill ride was also announced for Busch Gardens, to be built in the Gwazi area of the park. Not many details were shared, but we can expect to “hang on” when this new attraction opens in 2020. All clues point to it being a hybrid steel and wood refurbishment of the Gwazi roller coaster.

Busch Gardens is welcoming back Sesame Street Kids’ Weekends this October with lots of Halloween fun, held every Saturday and Sunday throughout the month.

Included with theme park admission, Kids’ Weekends includes new offerings like “The Not-Too-Spooky Howl-O-Ween Radio Show,” a new Halloween stage show featuring Count Von Count and other Sesame Street friends; as well as other offerings like fall festival activities, lunch with Elmo and friends and more.

Catch more theme park happenings, news and updates here next month or everyday at

Brittani Tuttle is a writer with Attractions Magazine, the only publication that covers all the major theme parks and attractions worldwide. In addition to the magazine, there is “The Attractions Show” online, an email newsletter, podcast, app and more. For more information email and visit her blog:

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