Tad's Note: 2014 was a great year to visit the Orlando theme parks. We put together this list of what opened at Disney World, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando in 2014, so you can see what's new and what's changed since you've last visited. Want to know what's coming this year? We have the most current list of what's coming to the parks here.
This is one of my favorite topics, because I love looking forward to all of the great things we can experience, and I love being able to share this with you ... almost as much as I love sharing my videos on our YouTube channel!
Special Note: Only brand-new experiences are listed here. You'll find recurring events on our When to Visit page under Special Events & Holiday.
- On March 9, Disney debuted a brand-new daytime parade, replacing Celebrate A Dream Come True in Magic Kingdom. The Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade will celebrate New Fantasyland right on Main Street U.S.A., with new floats, vibrant costumes and a new soundtrack. It will pay homage to Disney film favorites, including "The Little Mermaid," "Sleeping Beauty," "Peter Pan," "Tangled" and "Brave."
- Universal's Cabana Bay Beach Resort, a brand new, 1,800-room hotel, is already booking reservations for stays beginning March 31. The hotel is themed after 50s and 60s iconic beach resorts and will feature family suites as well as a retro, 10-lane bowling alley, two main pools and a lazy river. While guests will enjoy early theme park admission, they will not receive complimentary Universal Express Unlimited ride access unlike the other Universal hotels.
- Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins are joining the character dining experience Disney Jr. Play 'n' Dine at Hollywood & Vine on Jan. 26.
- Aquatica is set to debut the tallest, steepest, multi-slide water ride May 9. The drop slide named Ihu's Breakaway Falls will be 100-feet-tall.
- Disney's final attraction in New Fantasyland will come to life sometime in the spring! The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train will be a family coaster that will transport guests through the mine where the Seven Dwarfs spend their days digging for gems, and will feature the music and characters from the Disney classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."
- MyMAGIC+ and FASTPASS+ are perhaps the biggest experiences of Walt Disney World this year. These new initiatives aimed at enhancing the user experience have been steadily rolling out in test, with a full rollout now expected for 2014. The centerpiece of MyMAGIC+ is the MagicBands, RFID bracelets that will serve as tickets and room keys, similar to the existing Keys to the World card. Guests would be able to use these “MagicBands” to make purchases in the parks as well as interfacing with FASTPASS+ kiosks and PHOTOPASS by simply touching their band to one of the RFID devices. This has officially launched!
- A new waterfront eatery was planned for Morocco in Epcot's World Showcase by year's end and opened in early 2014. Spice Road Table features small plates and beverages, and includes indoor and outdoor seating.
- On May 23, Duplo Valley will open at LEGOLAND Florida. The new area of the park geared to toddlers will include farm-themed attractions, a train and a mini tractor ride, and a water play area.
- Without a doubt, the biggest unveiling of 2014 is also the one shrouded in the most mystery. While Universal Orlando has announced The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley, there are still more tantalizing details to be revealed, including the shops, restaurant and marquee attraction based on Gringotts bank. The new area will be centered around Harry Potter's London and will be built in Universal Studios across from the existing Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure. Guests will be able to travel between ‘London’ and Hogsmeade aboard the Hogwarts Express.
- Aqua Drag Racer, a twisting, speeding and dropping waterslide that will have guests racing against each other, opened June 12 at Wet n Wild in Orlando.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios is playing host to Disney's villains for the first-ever Villains Unleashed event for one night only on Aug. 23. Fifty villains will come together for the event, which will offer character meet-and-greets, dance parties and more. Guests are encouraged to wear their favorite villain costumes.
- After a few delays, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay's Falcons Fury officially opened Sept. 2. At 335 feet, the soaring ride is the largest freestanding drop tower in North America!
- The heroes of Disney's coming film "Big Hero 6" Hiro Hamada and his sidekick robot Baymax are headed to Disney World some time this fall. The 3D film opens Nov. 7.
- A new Haunted Mansion-themed shop is set to open some time this fall in the space formerly occupied by Yankee Trader in Magic Kingdom.
- Trattoria Al Forno is set to open some time this winter in the space formerly occupied by Kouzzina by Cat Cora in Disney's Boardwalk entertainment area.