From Star Wars to Harry Potter: 16 new things coming to Florida theme parks in 2019

Here’s a quick roundup — perhaps a cheat sheet for your next cocktail party — of what to expect and when.
Published January 10
Updated January 10

When Disney announced plans for its Star Wars lands, didn’t the opening seem far, far away? Well, surprise, 2019 is “already” upon us and we can expect to see Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios by this fall (after a debut in Disneyland sometime this summer). But there are many new attractions coming to Central Florida’s theme parks in the next 12 months. Here’s a quick roundup — perhaps a cheat sheet for your next cocktail party — of what to expect and when.

Firm official opening dates are fairly scarce at this point, but let’s go in chronological order of sorts, using the date range/season provided by the parks and educated guesses.

Move It! Shake It! MousekeDance It! Street Party

Where: Magic Kingdom

What: It’s a tribute to Mickey and Minnie with floats featuring additional Disney characters (Clarabelle Cow alert). A new song called It’s a Good Time is incorporated.

When: Daily, starting Jan. 18

Why you should care: This has ties to the First Couple’s recent joint 90th birthday, and visitors will be able to meet them together and see them during a “surprise celebration” that includes special merchandise and food.

 

Pixar Avenue

Where: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

What: This is a new meetup place for Mr. Incredible, ElastiGirl, Frozone and Edna Mode characters.

When: The Incredibles experience will begin Jan. 18.

Why you should care: Because it’s using the area that previously was the dead-end space in front of Toy Story Mania (which now has an entrance on the Toy Story Land side of the building).

In addition, a door inside the nearby Walt Disney Present area will lead to a visit with Monsters, Inc. characters Mike and Sully.

 

Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy

Where: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

What: Visitors will experience the world of characters seen in the Disney-Pixar film Cars. This will be a live-theater show inside the Sunset Showcase building near Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster — as opposed to the sprawling Cars Land attraction at Disney California Adventure.

When: Spring

Why you should care: Well, you said you wanted more to do at Hollywood Studios.

 

Wonderful World of Animation

Where: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

What: It’s a nighttime spectacular based on 90 years of Disney animation.

When: It starts May 1 in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of DHS.

Why you should care: There are few details available, but official news releases about the attraction include phrases such as “cinematic,” “state of the art projection technology” and, as required by law, “magical.”

 

Sesame Street

Where: SeaWorld Orlando

What: A re-creation and enhancement of the Sesame Street set will be flanked by six kiddie rides in an area that’s replacing Shamu’s Happy Harbor. We’ll see Big Bird’s nest and a daily parade.

When: Spring

Why you should care: Let’s embrace the idea of an immersive SeaWorld experience that doesn’t get us soaked.

 

KareKare Curl

Where: Aquatica, SeaWorld’s water park

What: The name of this elevated, two-passenger raft ride means “wave” in Maori. It’s going in near the park’s Cutback Cove wave pool.

When: Spring

Why you should care: On the heels of this year’s Ray Rush debut, Aquatica is adding a slide without subtracting another slide.

 

Lego Movie World

Where: Legoland Florida

What: This land features three rides, including Master of Flight (and Emmet’s invention, the Triple Decker Flying Couch), Unikitty’s Disco Drop and Battle of Bricksburg, an interactive water attraction.

When: Spring

Why you should care: You’ll get to eat at a place called Taco Everyday.

 

Tigris

Where: Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

What: It’s a looping, twisting roller caster that’s designed to top 60 mph. The ride, going up on the former site of the Tidal Wave attraction, is touted as “Florida’s tallest launch coaster.”

When: Spring

Why you should care: Tigris could be considered an appetizer course for another as-of-yet-unidentified thrill ride set for the Gwazi area of the park in 2020.

 

Rafiki’s Planet Watch

Where: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

What: I mean, WHAT? Back in September, Rafiki’s Planet Watch was DOA — confirmed-by-Disney DOA. But within days, that tune changed: Planet Watch still closed, but is scheduled to reopen in the spring. WHAT?

When: Spring

Why you should care: Those of you freaked out by the absence of a petting zoo can continue breathing.

 

NBA Experience

Where: West Side section of Disney Springs, where DisneyQuest used to stand.

What: Hands-on, basketball-themed activities, including one with an oversized slingshot and others that are more high-tech.

When: Summer

Why you should care: It’s another way to burn off energy without shopping.

 

Endless Summer Resort

Where: International Drive and Universal Boulevard, also known as the former site of Wet ‘n’ Wild water park.

What: Universal’s building boom continues with a hotel complex divided into two buildings, Dockside Inn and Surfside Inn, the latter of which will be the first to open.

When: In phases, starting in summer

Why you should care: It’s Universal’s first foray into the other side of Interstate 4.

 

Epcot Forever

Where: Epcot, above World Showcase Lagoon

What: The replacement for the long-running “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” show, which is said to wrap in the summer 2019, will feature music from Epcot past and present.

When: It’s a stopgap “limited edition” show that runs until yet another new show debuts there in 2020.

Why you should care: You didn’t really want that American Adventure/Golden Dreams song out of your head anyway.

 

Disney Skyliner

Where: Select spots above Walt Disney World

What: A gondola-style transportation system will stretch between Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot and some Disney resorts, including Pop Century, Art of Animation and Caribbean Beach plus Disney Riviera, a Disney Vacation Club property.

When: Fall

Why you should care: Who doesn’t like options? This may be most suited for Disney’s hotel guests, but the views that include backstage glimpses, parking lots and (we’d guess) stalled traffic are intriguing.

 

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

Where: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

What: A dark ride involving a pair of picnicking mice and Goofy as a train engineer. What could go wrong? The attraction is under construction inside the Chinese Theater, former home of Great Movie Ride.

When: Fall

Why you should care: Shockingly, this will be the first Mickey-driven ride in any Disney park anywhere.

 

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

Where: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

What: It’s a land themed to a far-off outpost, the planet Batuu. Visitors can expect two rides, including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, plus some cantina action. (Further into the future: the Star Wars-themed hotel adjacent to the park.)

When: Fall

Why you should care: Because the Star Wars universe is expanding.

 

Potter coaster

Where: Universal’s Islands of Adventure

What: The ride — there’s no name announced yet — will feature characters from the world created by Harry Potter mastermind J.K. Rowling. It’s currently under construction on the former site of the Dragon Challenge thrill ride.

When: So far, Universal has only said 2019.

Why you should care: It’s another Potter theme park sequel.

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