By David Sibila Hold on tight! We've got your front row seat to all that's new in Orlando in 2016. From the icy wonders of Disney's "Frozen," the chilling thrills of Universal's "King Kong" to Orlando's tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster, 2016 is building up to be a year of epic new thrills in Orlando. We've gathered a list of 16 new openings of exclusive experiences mix with activities specifically for kids and families across the theme park capital of the world.
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"Skull Island: Reign of Kong" will honor one of the most monumental figures in movie history, King Kong. Guests at Universal's Islands of Adventure can explore ancient temple structures while encountering hostile natives and fending off unspeakable terrors beginning this summer.
Opening this summer is the new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. It will be the fifth onsite hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, featuring 1,000 rooms and suites with a casual Caribbean theme, built around a lagoon and towering waterfall.
Epcot guests will journey on an icy trek through kingdom of Arendelle when the highly anticipated attraction "Frozen Ever After" opens this spring in the Norway Pavilion. The family adventure welcoming guests to the magical world of "Frozen" will feature the popular story of the royal sisters, hit songs and new technology.
On Soarin' Around the World guests on board the popular Soarin' attraction will journey to far-flung lands and fly above some of the world's most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders when the new Soarin' Around the World makes its debut also at Epcot.
The popular Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park will be extended for a new nighttime adventure. Travel aboard the Sunset Kilimanjaro Safaris amid the magically extended orange glow of the setting sun, and discover two species new to the attraction: African wild dogs and hyenas.
"Rivers of Light" is an innovative experience unlike anything ever seen in a Disney park, combining live performances, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. The show will be performed on the Discovery River, and will be finale to a full day of adventures at Disney's Animal Kingdom theme park.
Walt Disney World Resort will complete a multi-year transformation of Disney Springs. Featuring an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands, this new expansion will double the number of shops, restaurants and other venues for guests to explore, to more than 150 establishments.
The new restaurants to be added this year to Disney Springs include:
The Edison, similar to its sister location in Los Angeles, centers around a 1920s-period electric company with live entertainment, classic American food and craft cocktails. The industrial gothic space will have 35-foot ceilings and a number of themed areas.
Frontera Fresca also opens at Disney Springs, the creation of celebrity Chef Rick Bayless who is known for his authentic Mexican cuisine. Bayless' menu includes specialties such as hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, fresh-made guacamole and classic Mexican braised meat entrees, all crafted with his time-honored recipes.
Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine is celebrity Chef Art Smith's new restaurant opening in summer at Disney Springs. After 25 years of preparing award-winning meals for celebrities and heads of state and appearing on television, Smith is returning to his home state of Florida with this rustic-chic restaurant featuring Southern classics and whimsical cocktails, punches and coolers.
STK plans to open in the early part of this year is an upscale steakhouse that blends two concepts into one-the modern steakhouse and a chic lounge. Features include a live DJ, high-energy atmosphere and a sleek environment designed to encourage guests to interact and mingle.
Mako is a brand new 200-foot-tall rollercoaster set to open at SeaWorld Orlando on June 10. It will be Orlando's tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster, reaching speeds of 73 mph as it races along 4,760 feet of steel track. The surrounding area will be fully shark themed, providing guests with the opportunity to learn about the impact humans have on sharks and why these animals are critical to the environment.
"The LEGO Movie 4D A New Adventure" is premiering at LEGOLAND Florida Resort on Jan. 29. The new 4D animated film will bring the film's main characters, Emmet and Wyldstyle, back together with their friends for another awesome adventure and use elements such as wind, water, smoke and special lighting effects.
The addition of a new attraction, Heroes and Legends is underway at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It will showcase the heroism of America's early space pioneers while guests experience the thrills and dangers of America's earliest space missions through high-tech elements and special effects.
A twist on the classic French brasserie, DoveCote in downtown Orlando is the next project for James Beard nominated chefs, James and Julie Petrakis, who also own Winter Park's Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder and Swine & Sons, set to open in spring.
Cask & Larder at Orlando International Airport will be the airport outpost for the popular Winter Park restaurant that was named one of Esquire magazine's Best New Restaurants in America in 2014, will open in the summer.
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Written by David Sibila, Senior Manager of Content and Social Media for Visit Orlando. He's a TV producer turned content and social media strategist, hands-on dad and a casualty of four rescued pets.