Central Florida’s theme parks will have a spate of new attractions opening over the next three months as Autobots take on Decepticons, the animal tribes of Chima battle over “chi,” pirates battle over treasure, penguins open their 30-degree home to visitors (Brrr!), space shuttle Atlantis goes on display, and the characters of Madagascar come to life.
The first to open will be Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation, a live show featuring characters from the Madagascar movies, which will debut at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay on May 18. The 20-minute original show, with pop music performed by a live band, will follow Alex the Lion, Gloria the Hippo, King Julien, Mort and the Penguins during a vacation adventure. Info: buschgardenstampabay.com.
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin will open at SeaWorld Orlando on May 24. The attraction will combine an adventure ride with animal habitat — in this case, penguins, more than 250 of them — kept at a warm (for the Antarctic) temperature of 30 degrees. Empire of the Penguin is notable for its trackless ride system and a mechanism that allows guests to pick the intensity level of the ride. How big a thrill do you want? Info: seaworldorlando.com.
Transformers: The Ride – 3D will open at Universal Studios June 20, but characters are already roaming the park and a shop is selling Transformers merchandise. The dark ride, with 3-D and flight simulator technology, features a high-speed chase and lot of action centering on a battle between the Transformers and Decepticons over AllSpark, a source of energy. Not many surprises expected here — the ride will be almost identical to rides at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Singapore. Info: www.universalorlando.com.
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Over on the coast, the Kennedy Space Center will open an exhibit built around space shuttle Atlantis at the Visitors Complex on June 29. The $100 million, 90,000-square-foot exhibit celebrates the 30-year space shuttle program and features Atlantis, the last of the retired orbiters to go on display. More than 60 interactive exhibits about the shuttle program, the International Space Station and the Hubble Space Telescope will be part of the display. Info: www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
At Magic Kingdom, a new interactive game is being tested by a limited number of guests. A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas is expected to go into full use in Adventureland before the end of spring. In the game, guests will use a pirate map and “magic” talisman to take part in pirate raids and search for treasure. The next phase of the Fantasyland expansion, Princess Fairytale Hall, won’t open until late in the year. Info: disneyworld.com.
Legoland’s newest ride, the Quest for Chi, is tentatively scheduled to open in July, although a date has not been announced. The ride — a very wet experience with water cannons blasting between the ride vehicles as well as from observers on the sidelines — is based on Lego’s newest product series, Legends of Chima. The story line: Animal warriors battle for “chi,” a mystical energy source. On the new ride, guests will join the battle. The ride will be the centerpiece of a new “land,” the World of Chima, which will also include Speedorz Arena, where players will build and race Speedorz chariots, a 4D movie and character meet-and-greets. Info: florida.legoland.com/.