What's New at Florida's Theme Parks?

July 2008

In Florida, the theme park capital of the world, rides and attractions are constantly opening and 2008 is no exception.  After all, it's often tough to keep recurring visitors interested in coming back again and again without something that will entice them to spend their hard-earned dollars for a day or two of attraction fun. 

In addition, technology is consistently growing more and more sophisticated and today's amusement and attractions need to remain on the cutting edge in order to stay ahead of the game.  That's why it's not unusual for each of Florida's popular parks to open at least one different attraction each year, and with each opening, the thrills often get bigger and better and the laughs longer and louder. 

Walt Disney World Resort

One can always count on Disney to bring something new and different to the scene.  This year, visitors will not only find a new attraction but also a refurbished and renovated old favorite and a whole new name for one section of the park. 

In 2008, Disney's third attraction, formerly known as MGM Studios, became Disney's Hollywood Studios.  (Part of Disney's California Adventure has used that name for several years.  ) Along with the name change comes a another ride for this year - Toy Story Mania - based on the Pixar-produced mega-hit Toy Story, first released way back in 1995.  But the characters in Toy Story have infinite appeal, as has been evident by the lines of excited park goers waiting for a peek at the park's newest addition. 

Toy Story Mania is an interactive, 4-D phenomenon that resembles a live action video game.  Guests don 3-D glasses as they glide into the world of their favorite Pixar characters, including Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr.  Potato Head, Hammi, and others.  Riders participate in a number of midway-style games as they launch a variety of virtual rings, darts, and eggs from their spring action shooter.  Ride engineers say it's never the same experience twice and sophisticated Disney technology allows the game to gauge the rider's abilities and tailor the game accordingly. 

Epcot's iconic Spaceship Earth reopened in 2008 after another facelift.  The attraction still allows riders to travel through 40,000 years of communication milestones but with a fresh look.  This is always a fun ride for the whole family with no scary elements.

Visitors to Hollywood Studios will also enjoy a parade - Block Party Bash.  A hit at Disney's California Adventure for the last 3 years, this is an interactive parade that allows spectators to dance and otherwise cajole with their favorite Disney Pixar characters.  The Green Army Men might even entice you to join a screaming contest!

Universal Orlando

Two exciting and fun rides have come to Universal Studios Florida this year.  The first features those loveable characters "The Simpsons".  Guests can join Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and the gang as they go flying, floating, and crashing through Krusty Land, a low-budget attraction developed by long-time Simpsons' character Krusty the Clown.  Visitors will also be entertained with Simpsons animation while standing on queue and during a pre-show.  The Simpsons Ride occupies the building that once housed Back to the Future. 

Busch Gardens Tampa

This year, Busch Gardens Africa gets a whole new themed village.  Jungala, as it is called, offers visitors a chance to view wildlife up close, enjoy two new rides, and shop for jungle merchandise. 

Jungala is a lush rainforest-type area that allows guests to get a close-up look at orangutans, gibbons, Bengal tigers, and other wildlife typical of the Congo region.  Multi-story family play areas featuring tree-top trails, climbing nets, mazes, and more, are fun for all ages.  Jungle Flyers, a multi-level zip line, lets adventurers soar over the treetops, and The Wild Surge ride shoots riders straight from a waterfall into a deep crater below in a classic free-fall ride with a jungle twist. 

Of course, there are a few new gift shops offering themed souvenirs and a jungle sweet shop for an afternoon snack. 


This year, SeaWorld Orlando opened a new water park that has thus far received rave reviews.  Dubbed "Aquatica", this water park is full of rides and slides appropriate for the whole family, ranging from mild to wild.  Kids will love Kata's Kookaburra Cove, designed especially for them, while older family members can race through whitewater rapids, compete with other park-goers on the Taumata Racer, or catch waves at Big Surf Shores. 

Of course, SeaWorld wouldn't be SeaWorld without its animal friends and there are plenty of those in Aquatica, namely beautiful black-and-white Commerson's dolphins.  There's also a plethora of aquatic fish and lots of tropical birds to admire as well. 

In keeping with the South Seas theme of this water park, restaurants in Aquatica have an island feel, boasting names like Banana Beach Cookout and Mango Market.  Of course, visitors can also grab an Annheuser-Busch beer or two to beat the Florida heat.