12 Months of Orlando Magic

Walt Disney World Tickets , Universal Orlando Resort Tickets , SeaWorld® Orlando Tickets , Busch Gardens® Tickets , Orlando , Expert View Column
By AttractionTickets.com’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
Looking back on a full year of the latest highlights from the Theme Park Capital of the World

It’s hard to believe we are getting ready to wrap up another year in the modern history of Orlando, but the calendar doesn’t lie, and December is now half-way through.

That means it is time for our annual review of the last 12 months in Entertainment Central, otherwise known as The City Beautiful (Orlando’s official nickname).

Once again, it has been a year full of excitement and novel experiences, starting almost from the word go last New Year right up to this month. So take a trip back in time with us and let’s highlight the very best of what 2023 had to offer in this part of the world, going month by month.



The New Year was only nine days old when LEGOLAND Florida unveiled its latest attraction, the Pirate River Quest, at this lovely children’s park in nearby Winter Haven. In truth, it was delayed from 2022 from the effects of Hurricane Ian in September, but it still added a very welcome experience, bringing more life back to the former Cypress Gardens area of the park in the form of a cute boat ride on the lookout for pirate treasure!


Pirate River Quest at LEGOLAND Florida



This month was all about swinging thrills as Busch Gardens opened the high-adrenalin Serengeti Flyer, the world’s tallest and fastest ride of its kind. With a double-sided swing seat configuration, this beast of a ride reached up to 68mph in a back-and-forth motion and topped out at 135ft above the Serengeti section of the park. It made sure Busch Gardens maintains its reputation for high-speed excitement, with something for all the family.


Serengeti Flyer at Busch Gardens



As we hit an early spring in the Theme Park Capital of the World, we were able to enjoy the highlight of the Mighty St Patrick’s Festival at our favourite Disney Springs venue, Raglan Road. This has become a genuine annual institution hereabouts, a chance to celebrate “the craic” of a genuine Irish celebration, which is now spread over four full days of great food and live entertainment, including a different headline act each day.


Raglan Road



In many respects, we had all been waiting for April 4 and the grand opening of the Magic Kingdom’s latest and greatest ride, TRON Lightcyle/Run. This smooth high-speed coaster took riders into the realm of The Grid from the TRON movies, providing an immersive experience coupled with a genuinely exciting fast-launch ride. Hitting a top speed of 60mph, it is comfortably the fastest ride in the park and a real beauty, to boot.


Tron at Magic Kingdom



Sticking with the high-speed theme, following hot on the heels of TRON, we had SeaWorld debuting another all-new ride that really thrilled roller-coaster fans. Pipeline: The Surf Coaster was a completely novel type of ride for Orlando, a stand-up style coaster with a seat that adjusted to the twists and turns of the track. It topped out at 60mph, crested at 110ft high and added a full inversion for good measure. A real surfing sensation!


Pipeline at SeaWorld Orlando



We had been waiting for almost half the year for the promise of something new at Universal Orlando, and they finally obliged with the soft opening of the food and beverage outlets for the all-new Minion Land at Universal Studios. It was a tantalising preview of the area itself, as well as step towards the debut of the land’s newest attraction, which was billed as “late summer.” The food was pretty good, though, especially the hugely fun styling of Minion Café and the delicious sweet treats of Bake My Day.


Minion Cafe at Universal Studios Orlando



Fans of EPCOT’s famous Food & Wine Festival (like us!), were able to enjoy a summer bonus with an early start for this year’s celebration. There was barely a break between the Spring Flower & Garden Festival and the autumn enjoyment of the Food & Wine event, which added an extra few weeks this year and set the ball rolling in July. Once again, the Festival provided creative new tastes and some delicious libations to make summer a fab foodie occasion.


Food and Wine Festival



It was a case of back to Universal in August, as the Studios park finally opened the headline attraction of Villain Con Minion Blast and completed the full line-up of their Minion Land. This completely novel attraction combined both a walk-through element and a video game section as guests were invited into the world of the Vicious 6 from the Despicable Me films. With moving walkways and electronic blasters, it is a fun interactive experience that adds an extra dimension to the Minion mayhem.


Villain-Con Minion Blast at Universal Studios Orlando



Disney scored a big hit with their 2021 film Encanto, and it was a natural character enhancement for the Magic Kingdom as the calendar reached September. Replacing the Meet Merida character meet-and-greet in Fantasyland’s Fairytale Garden area, the all-new Meet Mirabel experience brought that essential Encanto magic to this charming corner of the park in a setting drawn directly from the family’s Casita Madrigal.


Meet Meribel at Magic Kingdom Park



Another long-awaited Disney development illuminated the EPCOT scene on October 16, the latest stage of the major transformation of the park’s front section (the former Future World area). Journey of Water Inspired by Moana promised another new character experience and delivered a beautiful interactive walk-through attraction that showcases the importance of water in our environment and encourages a greater appreciation of it – as well as being fun!


Journey of Water Inspired by Moana at EPCOT



Of all our annual events and happenings, the one we often look forward to most of all is the special Christmas celebration at the Gaylord Palms Resort, where ICE! is a genuine winter wonderland. For this year’s immersive theme, the eye-catching ice-sculpted subject was A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the resort’s artisans really went to town on an extensive magical setting for the Peanuts comic strip gang, utilising two MILLION pounds of ice. There’s absolutely nothing like it in Orlando.


ICE! 2023 Charloe brown



Rounding things off this month was a genuine new sensation from Disney. Luminous: The Story of Us has been in the works for more than a year as the latest night-time spectacular at EPCOT, and it delivered all the creative razzamatazz we have come to expect of the park’s live entertainment, a 16-minute display of fireworks, lasers, lights, fountains and music, including Disney film classics and two new theme songs. A true visual extravaganza.


Luminous: The Story of Us



Okay, those are our most memorable moments from another year in Orlando. Now tell us YOUR favourite holiday experiences from 2023 on the AttractionTickets.com Community Facebook page, on Twitter or Instagram.

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