Find out the history behind some of Orlando’s most beloved theme parks
Spring isn’t just a time for flowers to bloom and theme parks to re-open following a brief Florida winter. During this time, Orlando sees a tourism boost as students celebrate spring break. Since you can enjoy the parks all year long as a resident, dive into the history of the area’s most well-known attractions this spring break season.
Disney’s Entertainment Complex Debuts
What began as Lake Buena Vista Shopping Village on March 22, 1975 has evolved into a 120-acre shopping, dining and entertainment destination with more than 150 venues. It is now known as Disney Springs. The recent transition from Downtown Disney to Disney Springs took several years and saw the addition of designer stores like Lilly Pulitzer and UNIQLO, celebrity chef restaurants such as Masaharu Morimoto’s Morimoto Asia and Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming Kitchen and Southern Shine, and the re-imagining of classics like Planet Hollywood and Fulton’s Crab House (now Paddlefish). Guests can end their visit on a sweet note by ordering a cupcake from the ATM at Sprinkles.
Epcot Celebrates Its 25th Year
The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival was introduced during the first week of March 1994, wowing park guests with the most vivid vegetation made by Disney’s own horticulturists. Originally, the festival was held over 38 days. Now, 25 years later, it’s a 90-day event complete with 15 outdoor kitchens around World Showcase and the Garden Rocks concert series featuring performances from fan favorites from the ‘60s to the ‘90s, including The Village People, Rick Springfield and Smash Mouth. Topiaries inspired by Disney characters can be found throughout the park, including Anna and Elsa in Norway, Belle and the Beast in France and, of course, Mickey and all his friends throughout the park.
A New Water Park for SeaWorld
With rides like Dolphin Plunge, which sends guests on an underwater journey with Commerson’s dolphins, and the exhilerating freefall that is Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, Aquatica is the booming baby of SeaWorld. The park first opened on March 1, 2008 to the excitement of tourists and locals alike. As it has grown, so too has its portfolio of attractions, which will reach 13 in total when Ray Rush opens this spring. On this new 60-foot raft slide, families will soar down at 33 feet per second while spinning through tubes and spiraling around a manta ray half pipe.
An Old Favorite Was Introduced
It’s been just over a year since Wet ‘n Wild, America’s first water park, shut its doors. George Millay was the park’s mastermind. “Being in Florida, with all its heat and hot sun, you naturally think about cooling off in water,” he said prior to its opening on March 13, 1997. Wet ‘n Wild had over 15 rides, heated pools and thrill slides such as the Aqua Drag Racer, which was the tallest, fastest slide in Florida. Millay’s creation paved the way for water parks throughout the country, and it had its final splash on Dec. 31, 2016.