by Troy Petenbrink
Orlando, the home of Mickey Mouse and sunshine, is the No. 1 tourist destination in the US. It attracts over 50 million annual visitors — and it’s gearing up for more. As Orlando approaches its summer season, it is launching many new and exciting upgrades to its amusement park attractions.
At SeaWorld Orlando, Orca has some new friends, with the introduction of TurtleTrek, a mix of uber-technology and naturalistic habitats. On the tech side, visitors can experience a 3-D/360-degree film in a cool dome theater that uses dozens of projectors to immerse the audience in an underwater journey of a sea turtle’s life. Real rescued sea turtles, along with thousands of fish and manatees, can also be seen as are part of 2 new habitats — one saltwater and one freshwater.
Fans of roller coasters might enjoy The Rattlesnake at Forever Florida EcoSafaris’ expanded EcoPark. The roller coaster-style zipline launches from a 65-foot-high platform before whipping around a 1,000-foot course and reaching speeds of up to 20 miles per hour.
The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, one of the most popular attractions at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, has been updated with high-definition animation as well as improved audio and lighting. In addition, on May 8, Universal Orlando Resorts will debut the Superstar Parade, a daily parade featuring larger-than-life floats, hundreds of street performers and characters like the minions from Despicable Me, E.B. from Hop, Nickelodeon’s Dora & Diego and SpongeBob SquarePants. Guests will have the opportunity to attend meet-and-greets prior to the parade at select locations throughout the day.
Visitors to Legoland can plan to make a splash with the opening of a waterpark on May 28. Just in time for the summer heat, the park will feature a wave pool, an intertwining pair of water tubes, a “build-a-raft” lazy river and 3 waterslides with 60-foot drops. In addition, the DUPLO Splash Safari will be a special water-play area specifically designed for toddlers.