If you (or your family) are well acquainted with words like Quidditch and muggle, you may already know the biggest news in Orlando this year. In spring, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will open within Universal Orlando, offering visitors the chance to drink butterbeer at the Three Broomsticks, send a letter via Owl Post, battle a dragon, explore Hogwarts, and more.
But Mr. Potter's wild ride is by no means the only big Orlando news in 2010.
New Customizable Thrill Rides
Universal Studios Florida has debuted its Hollywood Rip, Ride, Rockit, which includes the chance to customize your roller coaster experience by choosing your own soundtrack for the ride. At Walt Disney World's Epcot, the new Sum of All Thrills ride lets riders design their own ride and then experience it in a simulator.
New Air Service
In early March, AirTran will begin service between Orlando and Des Moines. Allegiant Air recently introduced service to Orlando from Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport and Duluth International Airport. Through April 18, Midwest is running seasonal service from Omaha. Internationally, Martinair has started three weekly nonstops from Amsterdam, while Taca introduced three weekly nonstops from El Salvador.
Beyond the Parks
A new contemporary art venue, Blank Space, has opened in downtown Orlando. The Kissimmee Air Museum has added helicopter tours and lessons to its offerings. Dinosaur World has expanded its stable of life-size dino models with new juveniles and babies. And the Orange County Regional History Center has created a Conway Road Walking Tour, which offers a historical look at the area's past.
New Places to Stay
The 1,400-room Hilton Orlando is open for business, as is the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek and the Waldorf Astoria. Other newly opened properties include the Comfort Suites Orlando Airport, the new Bay Lake Tower at the Vacation Club at Disney's Contemporary Resort, a new "EcoGreen" Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites at Lake Buena Vista, and the Westin Lake Mary, Orlando North.
More Ways to Save
If you've seen the commercials (or read about it in our recent story on voluntourism), you already know that there's a way to go free to Disney parks this year. Its Give a Day, Get a Disney Day program will offer 1 million people a free one-day admission pass to Walt Disney World Resort for performing a day of volunteer service with a participating organization.
Find more ways to save on an Orlando vacation with the 2010 Orlando Magicard. The card, offered by the Orlando Convention and Visitors Bureau, is free (you can download it or request it by phone or post) and provides discounts at more than 75 Orlando-area attractions, restaurants, golf courses, and services.
What are your top spots to visit in Orlando?