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By Susan & Simon Veness

If it’s true that time (and tide) wait for no-one, it is especially true of Florida. The Sunshine State is in a constant state of upgrading and improvement, additions and expansions. Purely and simply, it is the most dynamic holiday destination in the world.

We saw wonderful examples of this in 2019, at Walt Disney World (with their new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area), Universal Orlando (adding the fab Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure), SeaWorld (with a whole new Sesame Street land), Busch Gardens Tampa (with the high thrills of their Tigris roller-coaster), Fort Lauderdale (with the grand opening of the massive Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood extension – the world’s largest guitar!) and new resorts in the Florida Keys, such as the gorgeous Isla Bella Resort and The Bungalows in Key Largo.

And the good news is that there will be even MORE to enjoy in 2020, a whole new lineup of the latest and greatest in the theme parks and resorts around the state.

It makes for a mouth-watering array of new temptations and new reasons to visit. So, with no further ado, here’s what you should look out for – and why you should be planning a Florida holiday in 2020…!

Walt Disney World

The House of Mouse is one of the largest drivers of new ideas and attractions, and this year will be no exception. There will be the first ride dedicated to The Big Cheese himself, with the opening of Mickey’s Runaway Railway at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in March. That will be followed by the debut of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new dark ride at the EPCOT park in the summer, as well as a blockbuster special effects show, HarmonioUS. By the time you add in an all-new Cirque du Soleil show – Drawn To Life – at Disney Springs, and a dazzling restaurant, Space 220, also at EPCOT, you have a truly astounding line-up of extra excitement.

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Universal Orlando

Orlando’s other major resort centre will boast two headline new elements in 2020 with the debut of The Bourne Stuntacular show at Universal Studios in the spring and another ride for the Jurassic Park section of their Islands of Adventure park. The former replaces the old Terminator 3-D experience with a cutting-edge indoor stunt performance, featuring a mix of stage magic, cinema and edge-of-the-seat excitement, while the Jurassic World coaster will add still further to Universal’s line-up of thrill rides.

Virgin Voyages

The Port of Miami will see a major new cruise line this year when Sir Richard Branson’s latest brainchild sets sail in March. The 2,700-passenger Scarlet Lady will be the first of four identical adult-focused ships for the novel Virgin brand, and it promises to add a completely different slant to year-round Caribbean cruises from Florida, with a more funky, club-based style (including the first tattoo parlour on a ship!). And, as everyone knows, a cruise makes for a great twin-centre option with a week at sea and a week or two’s stay on land.

Busch Gardens, Tampa

Ready for a high-adrenaline thrill? Look no further than this lovely Africa-themed park in Tampa Bay, where captivating animal exhibits are mixed with a cornucopia of compelling rides. This will be taken to a new dimension in summer 2020 with the opening of Iron Gwazi, which will be Florida’s tallest, fastest and steepest roller-coaster. A hybrid wood-steel construction, it will reach a top speed of 76mph, climb 206ft high and feature a 91-degree drop to ensure max thrills for all coaster fans.

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SeaWorld Orlando

Not to be outdone by sister park Busch Gardens, SeaWorld will continue its move towards ride-based excitement in the summer with Ice Breaker, a novel coaster that aims to deliver a multiple fast-launch experience with a twisting, turning track that should provide plenty of air-time for those who enjoy that particular style of fun!

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Port Canaveral

Continuing the cruise theme, the port nearby to the Kennedy Space Center will also have an exciting new ship to highlight with the arrival of Carnival Cruise’s Mardi Gras in October. This massive addition to Florida’s ocean-going component will feature the world’s first roller-coaster at sea, and ensure this provides something truly different in the wide world of cruising. 

St Petersburg 

Possibly Florida’s trendiest and most happening city – with a burgeoning arts scene, craft breweries and award-winning restaurants – St Petersburg will add to its impressive collection of museums early this year when the Museum of the American Arts and Crafts Movement opens in the spring. In a city already exploding with superbly curated repositories of history and art, this latest arrival will provide an extensive private collection of early 20th century objects from everyday life, including furniture, ceramics, tiles, glass and lighting.

There will be more, of course, as other new developments spring up throughout the year, especially hotels and restaurants, and it all adds to the old cliché – if you haven’t been to Florida lately, you haven’t been to Florida!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Susan & Simon Veness are the UK’s leading experts on Florida, having written about it for more than 25 years and sold more than half a million copies of their books about Orlando, Disney and the Sunshine State.

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