Whether you’ve been a frequent guest at this exhilarating destination and your kids grew up coming here, or you’re a newcomer, the theme park capital of the world continues to grow, adding spectacular, high-tech offerings for 2023. New thrill rides at popular theme parks, exciting newly-opened venues, and delicious restaurant concepts, including a European beer spa, have just opened or are coming soon. It’s definitely time to put Central Florida, Kissimmee, and Orlando on your travel plans for this year.
I was hosted by Universal Orlando Resort and LEGOLAND. All opinions are my own.
1. ¡Vamos! – Báilalo
Universal Orlando Resort
A new street show invites Universal Orlando Resort guests to hip-hop to the music and release their best dance moves. At “¡Vamos! – Báilalo,” you can join in a high-energy Latin dance experience in the New York neighborhood of the theme park.
Watch as a dozen dancers take to the streets for a loud and proud 12-minute performance, while you’re invited to let loose, belt it out, and dance along to the alluring beat of the Latin rhythms.
2. Universal’s Great Movie Escape
Dare you try the new escape room at Universal CityWalk at Universal Orlando, the mega entertainment venue known as the “Epicenter of Awesome?” With restaurants, shopping, and entertainment options galore, CityWalk is a great place to share the good times and make lasting memories with family and friends.
The granddaddy of movie adventures, Universal Orlando Resort at CityWalk has just opened its first escape room called “Universal’s Great Movie Escape.” You’ll discover two different games to be played, one story is based on Jurassic World and the other is based on the Back to the Future films. Both challenge guests to be a part of their favorite movies in eight immersive environments that feature state-of-the-art encounters, detailed sets, and captivating storylines that allow you to step into your favorite blockbuster films like never before. Can you make it out of the room in time based on the clues? It’s ideal for kids and adults alike.
3. Pirate River Quest
LEGOLAND® Florida Resort
New at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is the Pirate River Quest that allows big and little skippers to navigate the smooth waters with a ride down the historic canals of the former Cypress Gardens amusement park. This 25-minute leisurely boat ride driven by your own private captain meanders through the passageways with stops to see the LEGO® pirates fight it out and recapture the lost treasure of Captain Redbeard as the story unfolds, brick by brick. Kids will laugh at the rowdy LEGO® pirate crew, a troop of mischievous monkeys, and even a fearsome kraken. PirateFest Weekends have also returned with LEGO® character meet-and-greets, pirate-themed shows, and LEGO® build activities.
Pro Tip: Head to this ride as early as possible in the day as the line tends to be long.
4. Peppa Pig Theme Park
Opened in 2022 at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is the Peppa Pig Theme Park Florida, located right next door (requires separate admission). The park is aimed at preschoolers and those who adore the adventures of Peppa, George, and their family with rides, shows, and even a LEGOLAND® Hotel. Kids will love jumping in the “muddy puddles,” just like Peppa.
5. Pipeline: The Surf Coaster
Don’t sit this one out. SeaWorld Orlando is constantly trying to up its game with new rides and attractions. This super-exciting ride lets guests stand up on the newest thrill coaster and feel like they’re actually surfing. This is the longest roller coaster track and it feels like the fun goes on forever. Riders will feel the power of the ocean in a whole new way, making “Pipeline” a new obsession for those who love to challenge their fears.
6. Reef Plunge
Aquatica At SeaWorld Orlando
Opened at SeaWorld Orlando’s Aquatica water park last year is the Reef Plunge. This new ride is designed for guests to splash, twist, and turn their way through more than 330 feet of clear tubing, all while moving past dolphins, leopard sharks, and other marine life.
7. Tank America
Try your hand at driving an authentic FV-433 military tank and see what it’s like to navigate 17 tons of steel on the half-mile track at Tank America. Obstacles, mud, and even a chance to crush a car await you.
8. Disney’s Blizzard Beach
After being closed for renovations, Disney’s Blizzard Beach reopened in November of 2022. New additions include fun-tastic features from the Frozen films at Tike’s Peak. At the kids’ area, little splashers will enjoy seeing Olaf and his Snowgie friends wading in the pool, plus Anna and Elsa’s igloo castle. Older guests can test their skills on ski jumps, bobsleds, and toboggans. Take the plunge at Summit Plummet, which incorporates a vertical drop and a dark tunnel.
Pro Tip: While reservations are not usually required at the water parks, check out their website to be sure.
9. My Beer Spa
The only traditional European Beer Spa in the entire U.S. has just opened as My Beer Spa Orlando. If you’re not familiar with a beer spa, think about a place where beer is the main focus, from beer-soaking treatments to straw beds and sauna rooms. Imagine soaking in a thermal tub filled with foamy, moisturizing hop infusion made with the same ingredients as traditional beer. After you’re done, relax in the sauna and indulge in their complimentary beer tower, where you can try Central Florida’s best local beer.
10. The Wheel
As a family-fun destination, ICON Park is filled with 50-plus rides, attractions, and restaurants that make it a great place to dine and explore. One of its newly-opened dining spots is Sloppy Joe’s, a Florida icon from Key West. Become immersed in the vibes with tropical drinks, fabulous cuisine, and live music.
Anchored by the 400-foot-tall Wheel, their newest addition to come soon is “The Wheel: The Great Florida Road Trip, A Classic Vacation and Photo Travelogue with the Flamingo Family.”
This is part a game, part a history lesson, and all fun as guests learn about Florida before the mega theme park era and over-the-top resorts changed the landscape. Guests will go through an exciting, interactive, and high-tech journey that highlights the historic Florida locations that have attracted families for generations, with cameras in hand (provided as part of the experience). Snap pictures and send home a postcard.
11. Max Action Arena
ICON Park’s Max Action Arena, which opened in November 2022, will lift you out of your comfort zone with a variety of real-world and virtual experiences using cutting-edge game technology. The 8,000-square-foot entertainment center features zero latency extreme virtual reality, adventure rooms, axe throwing, and an escape room. With zero latency extreme virtual reality, you’re not just playing a game — you’re in the game! And that’s just the beginning.
Visitors to the area will find exciting new restaurant choices. Some new eateries have just opened or are coming soon. Check their websites for locations and hours.
Look for Celebration Brewery, opening in the spring of 2023. This family-owned brewery, taproom, and brewpub will serve up craft beer paired with delicious food and a strong sense of community.
Cowboy Chicken from Texas will be making its debut soon at the Sunset Walk Promenade in Kissimmee’s Margaritaville. Look for a menu of slow-roasted rotisserie chicken, brisket, and turkey with healthy side dishes like green beans and spinach. Cowboy Chicken also serves family platters, so it’s a great place to bring the grandkids. Don’t forget to save room for Jeanette’s homemade peach cobbler.
Other new restaurants that have just opened, to round out the dining scene, are Ataj Moroccan Restaurant, Lola’s Mexican, and Three Sisters Speakeasy.
Make your plans to visit Central Florida, Orlando, and Kissimmee this year. Bring your grandkids and delight them with all of these new offerings, plus all of your traditional favorites. There’s magic in the air and it’s just waiting for you to share.