The phrase “new and must-do in ’22” has a nice, rhyming ring for theme park lovers heading to the Orlando area this new year.
Some oldies but goodies are returning like Mardi Gras celebrations at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World’s Typhoon Lagoon water park, which is reopening for the first time since March 2020.
There are also brand new adventures awaiting vacation goers seeking sun, sand or even a taste of outer space from the Star Wars universe or real life.
Guests should check with each venue in advance for face mask and admission policies, which are subject to change.
►From Iron Gwazi to Peppa Pig: 2022’s most anticipated theme park rides and attractions
►The cheapest way to do Disney: How to save without sacrificing the magic
Walt Disney World
First and foremost: The trams are coming back! The trams are coming back! After a long, COVID-forced hiatus that started when Walt Disney World reopened in July 2021, tram service returned from parking areas to Magic Kingdom in December, with Epcot, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom to follow in 2022.
►Make way for MagicBand+: Disney’s new technology will ‘unlock all kinds of magical moments’
►Come explore with us: Sign up for USA TODAY’s Travel newsletter
World’s Most Magical Celebration continues
It’s not totally new in ’22, but the 18-month party that started on Oct. 1 will continue as Walt Disney World Resort celebrates its 50th anniversary.
And a couple of the new-to-all parts of the party are stellar standouts.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Disney World’s Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser: Food, activities, more
Disney World’s new Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is still being built, but we got a first look. Here are the new details fans should know.
Staff Video, USA TODAY
This one’s going to be the spaced-out treat of a lifetime for Star Wars fans: The inaugural voyage of Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser at Walt Disney World Resort begins on March 1, 2022.
Galactic Starcruiser promises to be a two-night immersive event like no other in this neck of the woods, aboard the Halcyon starcruiser.
It’s billed as a vacation experience “going beyond anything Disney has created before, inviting guests to become the heroes of their own stories during a two-night adventure where they see, feel and live their own Star Wars story.”
Know in advance: This one’s expensive, with rates varying depending on how many are in your party, the type of cabin you choose and when your voyage departs. For departures between Aug. 20, 2022, and Sept. 17, 2022: $1,209 per guest, per night, or $4,809 for the whole package. Some of what’s included along with your stay: meals; admission to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for an excursion to Galaxy’s Edge; valet parking; a Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser MagicBand; and “ongoing, immersive and interactive entertainment, where choices determine your experience.”
If you’re not on a “voyage,” you won’t be able to just walk in and look around, as at other Disney hotels.
Reservations are available by phone only at this time. Call (407) 939-1800 between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. ET.
►Here’s what you get: Is Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience worth the cost?
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Coming to EPCOT this summer, a coaster for the cosmos and the whole family — and for Guardians of the Galaxy fans, it should be nothing short of breathtaking.
Cosmic Rewind, officials say, will be the park’s first “other-world” showcase pavilion as well as the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster. You’ll travel through Xandar’s treasures “until the moment when the Guardians of the Galaxy arrive, and an intergalactic chase through time and space begins.”
Kennedy Space Center
It will offer an up-close look at real spacecraft and “visionary designs for solutions to propel the pathway of human deep space travel.” Once inside the “spaceport of the future,” visitors will “launch on one of four spectacular deep space journeys.”
Visitor Complex entry is required.
Universal Orlando’s VelociCoaster is a heart-pounding thrill ride
Universal Orlando’s VelociCoaster is not for the faint of heart. The thrill ride reaches speeds of 70 mph, and includes a 155-foot drop.
Christina LaFortune, Florida Today
If you haven’t ridden VelociCoaster, why not? The newest attraction at Jurassic World at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure opened in June 2021, and it’s terrifying but thrilling. Those who brave it can expect to go 155 feet in the air, plunge into an 80-degree drop, hit speeds of up to 70 mph and face an intense barrel roll right above the Islands of Adventure lagoon — in pursuit of the velociraptor gang from the “Jurassic World” films, Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo.
Rock the Universe
Florida’s biggest Christian music festival, created to support youth ministry, runs Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. Rock the Universe acts include Casting Crowns, for KING & COUNTRY, Matthew West, Big Daddy Weave and Zach Williams.
Mardi Gras is back
Laissez les bons temps rouler, y’all. Universal’s Mardi Gras returns to Universal Orlando Resort in 2022, running Feb. 6 through April 25. It’s billed as “louder, spicier and better than ever,” and a “family-friendly version of the iconic Big Easy bash.” Expect parades, concerts, Cajun cuisine and culinary choices from around the world at the parks and hotels.
This party’s included with Universal Studios Florida admission, or annual or seasonal passes, but blackout dates apply.
Military Freedom Pass
This “thank you for your service” for active duty and retired military members gives military personnel and their families daily park entrance through Dec. 31, 2022, with no blackout dates. It covers both Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, and it’s $199.99 per adult. For an additional $35, military personnel and their families can purchase the 3-Park 2022 Military Freedom Pass which includes admission to Universal’s Volcano Bay water theme park. Check for customizable vacation packages, too, that include hotel stays and theme park tickets.
Story continues below.
You’ll need to “sea” this to grasp its beauty — and best of all, you’ll be at the Brevard Zoo as you take in “Life Beneath Our Sea.”
Twelve sand sculptures by world-class artists stand along the trail in Wild Florida, allowing guests to “venture under the sea.”
The exhibit opened in November, but if you haven’t had a chance to see it yet, “Life Beneath Our Sea” continues through April 30, 2022. Entrance is included with zoo admission.
Contact Kennerly at [email protected] Twitter: @bybrittkennerly Facebook: /bybrittkennerly.