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A guide to what’s new at Florida’s theme parks this summer

Attractions, restaurants and hotels that were poised to open in 2020 are finally rolling out for this vacation season.
 
Young guests enjoy seeing Winnie The Pooh, and Tigger, too, at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in May 2021 shortly after guests were allowed to go maskless in outdoor areas of the parks, but characters still maintained a social distance.
Young guests enjoy seeing Winnie The Pooh, and Tigger, too, at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in May 2021 shortly after guests were allowed to go maskless in outdoor areas of the parks, but characters still maintained a social distance. [ JOE BURBANK | AP ]
Published May 24, 2022

As we head into vacation season, Florida’s theme parks are coming out of a fog. In the past two years, they’ve had shutdowns and reopenings. Face mask rules went up, then later came down. They weathered criticism for reopening just as Florida became a hotbed for new coronavirus cases.

Two years ago this month, all of Florida’s theme parks were shuttered by the pandemic. The Magic Kingdom became the closed kingdom. It would be five months before they reopened with strict new rules for distancing, face masks and close-contact experiences like fireworks shows, character meetups and train rides.

When they reopened in July 2020 with masks covering their faces, Disney workers greeted guests with “smile signs” of hand-held grins from Goofy or Mickey Mouse. It wasn’t until May 2021 that the theme parks eased up on pandemic safety measures such as temperature checks.

Related: Covering the most magical place on Earth even in a pandemic

These days, you will only see a smattering of face masks on the staff and visitors. New attractions, restaurants and hotels that were poised to open in 2020 are finally rolling out.

Busch Gardens has opened what the New York Post called “America’s most terrifying new roller coaster,” and Disney World has its first attraction based on a Marvel franchise. Both were supposed to have opened more than a year ago.

If you are ready to return, strap on your seat belts and keep your hands inside the car as we give you a guide to what Florida’s theme parks have to offer this summer.

WALT DISNEY WORLD: Disney welcomes Marvel coaster, parade and fireworks

BUSCH GARDENS: Tampa theme park brings ambitious coaster and a festival for summer

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO: Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure have a new monster coaster and a Bourne stunt show

ADVENTURE ISLAND: Tampa’s water park is swimming in new improvements

LOCAL ATTRACTIONS: Here’s what Tampa Bay attractions, zoos and museums have in store this summer

SEAWORLD: The park swims to the surface with new coaster Ice Breaker this summer

LEGOLAND: The Winter Haven theme park gets a new a playmate: Peppa Pig

Since guests couldn't see their faces behind their masks, Disney workers had hand-held smiles to welcome guests to Magic Kingdom for opening day on July 11, 2020, at Walt Disney World.
Since guests couldn't see their faces behind their masks, Disney workers had hand-held smiles to welcome guests to Magic Kingdom for opening day on July 11, 2020, at Walt Disney World. [ DISNEY | Disney ]