A familiar theme at Fla. parks: Summer brings hot new attractions

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A rendering of the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.
A rendering of the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.
Robert Silk
Robert Silk

From Universal to SeaWorld and from Disney to nearby Tampa’s Busch Gardens, theme parks will be unveiling much-anticipated attractions as the searing heat of May morphs into something even more sultry over the summer. 

Going large is Universal, which is gearing up to unveil Skull Island, Reign of Kong at its Islands of Adventure park. No opening date has been announced, but the media has been invited to preview the attraction in late June, present company included, so stay tuned.

Universal promises that Skull Island will be one of the biggest attractions at its twin Orlando theme parks. It will feature a three-story-tall version of Kong himself, and guests will experience the ride on a 17-ton expedition truck that independently navigates the jungle-themed environment of Skull Island using positioning technology.

In the late summer, Islands of Adventure is also slated to see the reopening of the Incredible Hulk Roller Coaster, which has been closed since this past September. The renovated coaster will follow the same track as before but with a modern ride vehicle. Other enhancements will include an outsize attraction entrance featuring the Hulk and a new storyline for the ride.

New roller coasters, meanwhile, are expected to open this summer at SeaWorld and Busch Gardens. SeaWorld will likely strike first with the June 10 unveiling of Mako, a 200-foot-tall attraction named after the iconic shark species. Reaching speeds of 73 mph, it will, at least for now, be Orlando’s fastest and longest coaster. Mako will be the centerpiece of a 2-acre SeaWorld plaza that will feature educational exhibits about humanity’s impact on shark populations.

At Busch Gardens, the spinning roller coaster Cobra’s Curse is close to opening, as well, though the park has yet to name a specific date. The steel-frame, serpentine thrill ride will span 2,100 feet, last three-and-half minutes and feature 70 feet of vertical lift.

Thrill-seekers will ride within inches of the fangs of an 80-foot-high snake king statue before spinning forward, backward and finally freely at speeds of up to 40 mph.

At Disney, the new rides opening this summer will be of a more gentle variety.

On June 17, Soarin’ Around the World, the cinematic simulator attraction, will open at Epcot. It will replace Soarin’, which closed in January. Soarin' Around the World will visit famed human-made monuments, including the Great Wall of China and the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Also in June, Epcot will see the opening of Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion.

Riders will board a boat and sail to the North Mountain of Frozen’s fictional kingdom Arendelle, where Queen Elsa has created an ice palace that she has opened to her subjects.

In conjunction with the Frozen Ever After opening, Disney will unveil Royal Sommerhaus, the country retreat for Elsa and Princess Anna. There, visitors will be able to visit the royal cabin and view artifacts from the childhoods of Elsa and Anna.

Finally, Disney will begin leaving Animal Kingdom open into the night for the first time on Memorial Day weekend. Though no attraction will be added to the park, lots of new entertainment will be unveiled. Among the offerings will be a light show within the park’s signature Tree of Life; African street dancers in Harambe Village; and the show “Jungle Book: Alive With Magic.”

The delayed opening of the elaborate “Rivers of Life” laser lightshow, featuring an original orchestral score, is also supposed to happen this summer.

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