Though Walt Disney World set overall attendance records in 2014 (as it has pretty much every year in recent memory), Universal Orlando Resort also set records in 2014 for the most growth for the second year running. Though 2015 might see some stagnation from both of these theme park titans (neither of which is opening a new attraction this year), 2016 could be the year that turns the tides.
Though we’ve already taken a look at how 2016 will be a big year all around central Florida, next year will see the completion of several different high profile projects all around both Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World that will include new attractions, hotels, restaurants and more. Here’s a quick look at how these two theme park giants are going to go to war in 2016:
1. New rides
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Next year, both Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World will each be opening a brand new high-profile attraction. Though it has been under construction since last year, Islands of Adventure will debut its all-new Skull Island: Reign of Kong ride, which is said to use next generation animatronics, massive projection screens and brand new special effects that haven’t been seen in any theme park attraction before, ever.
However, even though Skull Island: Reign of Kong is exciting from a technical standpoint, Walt Disney World has an ace in the hole: Frozen. Formally detailed earlier this week, Epcot’s Frozen Ever After attraction is going to use the same projection-enhanced animatronics that are currently in use at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and will feature the characters (and music) from both the first Frozen film as well as the Frozen Fever short, recounting the story of the events of the first film.
Both of these rides are definitely going to impress, but if we had to choose a winner, we’d have to go with Walt Disney World's Frozen Ever After attraction. Though there has been a bit of a backlash in recent months against all things Frozen, there’s no denying this IP is far more popular than King Kong. Even though we’re quite excited about the technology going into Skull Island: Reign of Kong, Frozen will most certainly draw more visitors in 2016.
Advantage: Walt Disney World
2. New hotels
In addition to new rides, 2016 will also bring new hotels to both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort. Over in Lake Buena Vista, Walt Disney World will be opening the first phase of its long in-development Flamingo Crossings project, which will bring two new Marriott-branded hotels (with 500 suites between them) to the western edge of Walt Disney World on a 450 acre lot. Though Walt Disney World hasn’t been publicizing this project very much, Flamingo Crossings is still on track to open in early 2016.
However, Universal Orlando Resort has been very vocal in getting guests excited about its new hotel project, the Caribbean-inspired Loews Sapphire Falls Resort. With an island theme complete with beaches, waterslides, a zero-entry pool, on-site restaurant and more, this new hotel (which will add 1,000 on-site rooms to Universal Orlando Resort) will be something amazing indeed. With over twice the amount of rooms, and some seriously expert theming, this new resort will easily be more impressive than the first phase of Flamingo Crossings at Walt Disney World.
Advantage: Universal Orlando Resort