America’s playground in the sun has had a pretty busy 2011, with new rivals springing up to take on the established theme resorts from Disney and Paramount. And it looks like 2012 is going to be packed full of new delights too.
Step off your low-cost flight, and if you weren’t one of those who queued to visit the world’s biggest Legoland back in October, something special awaits in this fantastical world based on the famous little bricks.
Legoland is the second big-bucks, big-thrills attraction to arrive after 2010’s opening of the Muggles’ favourite: the ‘Wizarding World of Harry Potter’, hugely popular from day one.
Universal are striking back with an animated super-villain called Gru and his three adopted daughters. The characters of Despicable Me and their high-tech empire are the stars of a new 3D ride experience. It promises a load of laughs as you join the gang as a fun-loving minion.
The ride is the very latest in high-tech. You’ll see all the detail as you explore Gru’s lair and descend into his secret lab. Then, you can bust your special dance moves in the first-ever, minion-inspired, interactive dance party.
A different kind of ride awaits in the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman. Already super-popular and bristling with innovation, the whole experience is getting a huge step up in the new year. Things are going to be even larger-than-life and in-your-face, thanks to a whole new level of digital animation. The technology behind all this mind-blowing stuff is 4K High Definition, the highest resolution on earth.
So, you won’t miss the smallest detail: the pincers of Doc Ock’s tentacles, the stitching on Spider-Man’s gloves, the electricity as it arcs through Electro’s body. The animators are playing a fun game with visitors too. See if you can spot the new details they have deliberately added to the film.
Back in the rather more real world of SeaWorld, there’s something new hatching too. They’ve splashed out on Turtle Trek, a massive sea turtle exhibit with a domed 3D theatre. With huge tanks of live sea turtles and manatees, you’ll be able to follow the amazing lives of these sea creatures. The promise is that the six-minute, computer-generated 3D film shown from 34 projectors in the theatre will “put guests under water with the animals”. Without getting wet, of course.
You’ll definitely want to get wet at Freshwater oasis at SeaWorld’s nearby ‘swim-with-the-dolphins’ park, Discovery Cove. From next year, you’ll be able to step into clear spring waters under a rainforest-style canopy and wade through the pools alongside Asian otters and marmosets.
For fans of all their classic cartoon characters, Walt Disney World is rolling out some big upgrades to Fantasyland at their Magic Kingdom. There’s a new Seven Dwarfs Mine train ride that takes you through the story of Snow White. The Great Goofini is the name of the revamped Goofy-themed Barnstormer kiddie coaster, with a circus sideshow and flying school amongst the entertainment.
Plenty of other rides are planned too, featuring Dumbo, as well as The Little Mermaid. There’ll be a great opportunity to meet Cinderella and other little girls’ favourites in the new Princess Fairytale Hall.
So, that’s what’s waiting for you in Orlando and its surroundings in 2012. Not just the old favourites, but plenty that’s brand new too. And we haven’t mentioned the NBA All Star Basketball Weekend scheduled for February, Bike Toberfest or everything that’s going on at the Kennedy Space Centre, for example.
Little wonder the well-respected travel guide, The Lonely Planet, has put Orlando on its list of top ten cities for 2012. Time to put it on your list too?
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