BY TIM HEDGLEY, GROUP TRAVEL EDITOR
Orlando is the theme park capital of the world, and with new rides coming every year, there is always a reason to go back.
2019 has been another great year for Florida, with new attractions added across the state. Sesame Street Land opened at SeaWorld Orlando, delighting the youngest guests with their favourite furry friends, interactive elements across the land, and SeaWorld’s first daily parade.
Thrill seekers should head to Tampa, where Florida’s tallest launch coaster has taken off this year. Tigris catapults riders through an exhilarating array of looping twists with forward and backward motion, breath-taking drops, a 150-foot skyward surge, and an inverted heartline roll, reaching a top speed of more than 60 miles per hour. The new coaster races riders along more than 1,800 feet of steel track designed to mimic the awe-inspiring agility of the world’s largest and most powerful cat – the tiger.
But that’s not all. SeaWorld Parks recently promised to add a new attraction to every park, every year. So no matter if you have never been to Florida or if you come back every year, there will always be something new to do.
What does 2020 have in store?
Iron Gwazi – Opening Spring 2020 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
A new legend is surfacing in 2020 at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay with the evolution of Iron Gwazi, North America’s tallest, and the fastest, and steepest hybrid coaster in the world. Manufactured by Rocky Mountain Construction, Iron Gwazi will be 206 feet tall, feature a 91-degree drop, and reach top speeds of 76 miles per hour. The journey will include three inversions and 12 airtime hills as it races along more than 4,075 feet of purple steel track. With a 48” height requirement, Iron Gwazi will be an exciting thrill attraction that families can take on together.
“Iron Gwazi is the evolution of a classic wooden coaster into a modern icon,” said Stewart Clark, Park President of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. “From the bones of the original Gwazi, a new legend rises, reaching taller heights and faster speeds, delivering the next-level thrills that our coaster fans crave and expect from Busch Gardens.”
While elements of the former wooden attraction will be integrated into the new ride, the steel track and reimagined layout of Iron Gwazi present an entirely unique experience that tells a different story. Iron Gwazi will highlight the best of both worlds — the classic nostalgia of a wooden coaster and the bold innovation of a steel coaster. Thriving and adapting over millions of years, this evolutionary crossroad is perfectly represented in the crocodile, the largest living reptile and the animal inspiration for Iron Gwazi.
Ice Breaker – Opening Spring 2020 at SeaWorld Orlando
Making its debut in spring 2020, riders will shiver through family friendly adventures on SeaWorld Orlando’s first launch coaster: Ice Breaker. Named after the icy Arctic summits, Ice Breaker will feature four launches, both backwards and forwards, culminating in a reverse launch into the steepest beyond vertical drop in Florida — a 93-foot tall spike with 100-degree angle.
Located near the Wild Arctic Attraction, the ride’s theme is reflective of this area with a nod to Ice Breaker’s conservation partner, Alaska SeaLife Center. Primarily dedicated to marine research, education and wildlife response, the Alaska SeaLife Center mission matches closely to SeaWorld Orlando’s, making them a perfect partner to help educate riders about the Artic and its inhabitants.
“The Alaska SeaLife Center is excited to grow our partnership with SeaWorld. For many years, SeaWorld has been a stalwart supporter of the Center, and particularly our Wildlife Response program,” said Tara L. Riemer, President and CEO of Alaska SeaLife Center. “We are grateful for SeaWorld’s contributions of funding and staff over the years to further our mission. This new collaboration will continue efforts to highlight Arctic rescue and conservation stories.”
The opening of Ice Breaker is the perfect addition to SeaWorld’s ever-growing ride portfolio. From the roller coaster thrills of Mako, Manta and Kraken, to the water rapids of Infinity Falls and the flume fun of Journey to Atlantis, Ice Breaker joins the park’s famed attractions as a must-do experience in Orlando.
Discovery Cove and Aquatica
Feeling full of adrenaline after all those new thrills? Take time to chill at Discovery Cove and Aquatica Orlando.
Discovery Cove is a tropical day resort where guests enjoy a one-of-a-kind opportunity to swim with dolphins, rays and tropical fish, and hand-feed exotic birds. At Discovery Cove, guests experience the most exciting animal encounters the world has to offer in a breathtaking tropical atmosphere. Discovery Cove is a paradise of rocky lagoons surrounded by lush landscaping, tropical reefs, winding rivers, a resort-style pool complete with waterfalls, and pristine white-sand beaches.
From tranquil beaches and exhilarating wave pools, to high-speed water slides, Aquatica, voted USA’s #1 waterpark, delights all ages and interests. This one-of-a-kind waterpark is home to some of the world’s most thrilling water rides, featuring 42 slides, rivers and lagoons and 84,000 square feet of sparkling white, sandy beaches.
Opening in 2019, KareKare Curl is Aquatica’s newest ride, delivering a high-adrenaline, weightless adventure. Riders will swoop through the bright blue and orange closed tube, then flash down a steep drop and soar up KareKare Curl’s curved wave wall, getting a feeling of weightlessness at the top, before making a splashdown.
The opening of KareKare Curl signals the second year in a row that Aquatica Orlando has unveiled a new attraction, following the opening of Ray Rush in 2018, a fully-loaded water adventure which combines three unique slide elements into one action-packed attraction the entire family can enjoy together. It was recently named the world’s best new water ride in a USA poll.
Best way to visit
The best value ticket for visiting SeaWorld Parks in Florida is the Discovery Cove Ultimate Package, which includes a one-day reservation at Discovery Cove (with 30-minute dolphin swim experience, meals and snacks included) plus 14-days unlimited entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens and Aquatica Orlando, with free parking included at all parks. Prices start from £192 per person. For more information, visit www.seaworldparks.co.uk.