Hi there! Welcome to our weekly roundup of the most interesting theme park news around the Walt Disney World Resort, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and other theme parks.
Here are this week’s theme park highlights:
- Soarin' at Epcot is set to close Jan. 4 for an extended refurbishment that will allow it to be transformed into Soarin' Around the World. Additionally the ride will be expanded from two theaters to three, allowing more capacity on the most popular ride inside the park. Guests journeying to far-flung lands such as Monument Valley and the Great Wall of China on the new Soarin' will be doing it with the help of an IMAX Laser 4K projection system that will offer vastly improved brightness and quality of images.
- Universal Orlando took Florida Today inside construction of Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which is set to open at Universal's Islands of Adventure in summer 2016, and got the first real details about what to expect on this massive attraction. Did you catch where I said massive? Temple doors are estimated to be three stories tall, with the ride vehicle being 40 feet long. Guests are expected to be part of the storytelling on the ride, which will feature five or six scenes with "dinosaurs and creatures from an underworld that you haven't seen before," said Mike West of Universal Creative. Finally, it will clock in under six minutes.
- A lucky few of you might have snagged a ticket to Disney's one-time special event to celebrate the release of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," which sold out very quickly. Ticket holders will be among the first to see the new film around 8 p.m. Dec. 17 at Disney Springs' AMC Theater, then they can head to Disney's Hollywood Studios for a private party until 2 a.m. As part of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" Opening Night Event, party-goers can dress up in Star Wars costumes and will be able to ride Star Tours, visit the new Star Wars Launch Bay, attend a Star Wars dance party and experience the new Star Wars fireworks show.
- Famed chef Rick Bayless of "Top Chef Masters" has signed on to bring Frontera Fresco to Disney Springs. The Mexican restaurant will feature hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, fresh-made guacamole and Mexican braised meat entrees. There is no timetable for when it will open.
- Universal Orlando has extended its 25th Anniversary Concert Series, with shows planned on select nights in November. Jason Derulo, Colbie Caillat and Flo Rida are among the performers who will take the Music Plaza Stage inside Universal Studios Florida. Regular park admission is needed to get in.
- Over at Universal Studios Hollywood, Halloween Horror Nights has been extended further into November to accommodate even more horror fans. Guests can get tickets for Nov. 6 and 7. Want to go? Be sure to check out our YouTube channel, because we caught all of the houses and scare zones.
- Epcot has added a new entertainment act to the Morocco Pavilion. Ribab Fusion celebrates Morocco’s Amazigh culture with styles such as funk, Afropop and more traditional sounds.
- The Disneyland Resort Diamond Celebration continues, and so do the prizes! As part of its Diamond Days sweepstakes, Disneyland is giving away this beautiful crown inspired by the film "Sleeping Beauty." The winner will also receive a vacation package. Want to see the crown up close? It's on display at Disneyana on Main Street.
- Minnie's holiday dining event at Hollywood & Vine has been expanded year-round! Minnie and her pals will be available for dinner in a seasonal rotation of decor, costumes and menu items. Breakfast and dinner at the restaurant inside Disney's Hollywood Studios will continue to offer Disney Jr. characters for all of your tadpoles.
That’s it for the theme park news this week. Have a great weekend!
If you’re thinking about a trip to Disney World, make sure to check out the other news, tips and information we post to the blog throughout the week. If you’re ready to plan your trip, we recommend you start with our Orlando Planning Guide.