How great is it to have Orlando just down the road from Tampa? This year, we have more options than ever for must-do summer fun in Orlando: Exciting fireworks are back at Walt Disney World, there are new character meet-and-greets, and the world’s first surf coaster opens at SeaWorld Orlando. Plus, Orlando’s water parks are ready to make a splash.
What’s NEW and MORE Summer Fun at Walt Disney World
For some cool family-friendly after-hours fun, celebrate the return of H2O Glow After Hours at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, which will run on select nights through Sept. 2. From 8-11 p.m.. You and the kids can experience surprise character experiences, high-energy dance parties, complimentary ice-cream, popcorn and select beverages, glow-themed bites, and sips, and of course, tons of glow lighting effects around the park.
We got to experience opening night and loved every minute You can arrive as early as 6 p.m. which is a great option if you have younger kids. The lines were no longer than 5 minutes on the night we went and the line for our unlimited free Mickey ice-cream bars or sandwiches went super quick. This is a great way to cool off after a hot day at the theme park!
NEW! Meet Ariel from the live-action film “The Little Mermaid” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Disney recently introduced a new character meet-and-greet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios featuring the uber-popular Ariel from the live-action film “The Little Mermaid”! You can meet her at Walt Disney Presents in a backdrop inspired by Price Eric’s shoreside castle with beautiful views of the sea…of course! While you’re at Hollywood Studios, you can also immerse yourself in the film by getting a limited-time sneak peek of props from the film.
Disney also recently added another exciting character meet-and-greet: Moana at Discovery Island Character Landing at Animal Kingdom. Mirabel meet-and-greets debut this fall, which is why it’s a great time to buy a Disney Annual Pass now that they’re available again!
Magic Kingdom’s beloved “Happily Ever After” fireworks return with added magic, and a temporary fireworks show, “EPCOT Forever,” will dazzle Disney fans at EPCOT while a new nighttime spectacular is being crafted to debut in late 2023.
What’s NEW at SeaWorld Orlando
SeaWorld Orlando will open Pipeline, which the park calls a ‘first-of-its-kind surf coaster.’ Passengers will rush 110 feet up and around as if they are actually standing and surfing tall waves, thanks to a new style of seats. Top speeds will hit 60 miles per hour.
Aquatica Orlando Water Park will also have a new kids area soon with watering palms, tipping buckets, spraying jets, water bobbles and more. Plus, your kids can grab a tube and glide into fun on the ALL-NEW Tamariki Twirl, a kid-sized wave slide designed just for them at Turi’s Kid Cove. The more daring little ones will love Roa’s Rapids—a lazy river that isn’t lazy at all and actually moves rather swiftly.
NEW Minion Land at Universal Orlando Resort
Universal Orlando is opening a new land at the park Minion Land on Illumination Ave. this summer to the delight of all of you Despicable Me and Minion fans! This new land expands Minion Mayhem and will feature an Insta-worthy Minion marquee, the new attraction “Villain-Con Minion Blast”, a Minion Cafe, a Bake My Day retail and bakery location, and more!
Keep Your Cool at Orlando’s Best Water Parks
Each Orlando water park has a dedicated kids’ area. Universal’s Volcano Bay’s massive, multi-level kids’ areas, Tot Tiki Reef and Runamukka Reef, boast splash features and water spray guns everywhere. Water slides of varying height and speed make it possible for school-age kids to branch out and have a little thrill.
Most kids will have fun in any of the water parks in Orlando, but some features are better for specific age groups:
- Youngest children and toddlers: Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
- Older toddlers/young kids: Aquatica Orlando
- Tweens, teens and adults: Universal’s Volcano Bay
- Budget-friendly: Island H2O LIVE
NEW Additions at Gatorland!
The Gatorland you know and love for its hundreds of alligators and crocodiles, Screamin’ Gator Zipline, Gator Jumparoo Show and Alligator Breeding Marsh now has new adventures and animals to enjoy this summer!
The new Croc Rock three-in-one adventure features rock climbing, a swing bridge and zipline all in one. There are also new water features at Gator Gully Splash Park where guests can cool off, and new animals to meet including the recently debuted Capybara Encounter. Learn more at gatorland.com.
Orlando’s not just about theme parks
There’s plenty to do in this city without visiting Disney or Universal. ICON Park Orlando debuted a new interactive Florida road trip-themed game aboard The Wheel, called The Great Florida Road Trip. You can check out the new look and new restaurants at The Pointe Orlando. And Dezerland Orlando, the largest indoor attraction in the city, includes an auto museum, arcade, trampoline park, go-karts and multiple casual eateries, including the new MILK all-you-can-eat cereal spot.
Originally published in the June 2023 issue of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.