2022 was quite the year for the Sunshine State, and 2023 is already off to a flier. New hotels, new attractions, new thrill rides and a long-distance train line are just some of the things that will make Florida an even more attractive destination for international visitors this year.
2022 was a bumper year
Aer Lingus restarted its Miami flights out of Dublin in October 2022 for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Bonnet Springs Park in central Florida saw the opening of the Florida Children’s Museum, a 47,800 sq ft space full of interactive exhibits that give children a taste of everything from agriculture to music and engineering. A month earlier, in September, Tampa welcomed its first five-star hotel, the Tampa Edition. The big news in Florida’s food scene was the launch of the first-ever Michelin guide to the state, with 15 restaurants in Orlando, Miami and Tampa given the star treatment. And that’s just a taste of what happened. So, can 2023 keep up?
Miami to Orlando…by train
Summer 2023 will see the long-awaited opening of the Orlando section of Brightline, a high-speed rail system that already links Miami to Flort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. This game-changer transport link will be the first time Miami and Orlando are connected by high speed rail, making travel between the two cities simpler than ever.
Additional plans are underway to expand the rail line to Tampa and the Gulf Coast.
Luxury hotels and mega properties
Boca Raton is set to welcome Florida’s second Mandarin property with the opening of the Residences Mandarin Oriental, a 158-room hotel two rooftop pools; fine dining restaurants and bars, including Mandarin Oriental’s signature MO Bar + Lounge, located on the rooftop with an outdoor terrace; and a Mandarin Oriental cake shop. Inspired by both ancient Asian and European traditions, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental will offer holistic rejuvenation and relaxation, as well as a state-of-the-art fitness centre.
Spanning over seven beachfront acres of the Atlantic shoreline on Palm Beach County’s picturesque Singer Island, Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences is a new paradigm of mindful living for those pursuing the best in proactive wellness. Amrit’s team of personal wellness coaches will create individualized programs utilizing the resort’s 100,000 square feet of wellness amenities including: the Aayush Hydrothermal water therapy circuit, indoor/outdoor treatment rooms, an ocean-view demonstration kitchen and plant-centric restaurant, float tank, IV and sound and light therapies, acupuncture, curated skincare, body therapies from around the globe, an extensive hair and scalp rejuvenation program, an array of fitness classes and arguably the most sophisticated, spa-centred Ayurvedic and yoga program in the US. The property’s two new towers – aptly named Peace and Happiness – are home to a resort/residential mix of 155 wellness resort guest rooms and 182 condos.
Evermore Orlando Resort will be a massive and all-encompassing 10,000-bedroom resort complex The property is scheduled to open its first phase by the summer of 2023 with Conrad Orlando, following the injection of roughly $1.5 billion in upgrades that includes brand new vacation homes and villas on the 1,110-acre site bordering Walt Disney World. (Orlando alone has lots going on with it, so check out our deep dive in what’s going on in the City Beautiful)
More thrill rides
The newest thrill ride at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is the Serengeti Flyer. With each swing of the world’s tallest and fastest ride of its kind, riders will soar higher and higher above Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s expansive 65-acre Serengeti Plain while experiencing multiple negative-G moments before plunging back toward the Earth. Serengeti Flyer will feature twin duelling arms that soar progressively higher reaching speeds of 68 mph and a maximum height of 135 feet at the ride’s peak.
Just outside Orlando, a brand-new, swashbuckling quest awaits families visiting LEGOLAND® Florida Resort with the opening of the Pirate River Quest. Board a family-friendly boat ride to search for Captain Redbeard’s lost treasure through an all-new adventure. The quest to uncover the lost treasure unfolds brick by brick as families face a variety of exciting sequences built within lush gardens telling the tales of the rowdy LEGO® pirate crew. Riders will sail through the natural waterways while following the all-new story featuring the newest LEGO pirate friend, Calico Jade, and other exotic LEGO creatures, including a flamboyance of bright flamingos, a troop of mischievous monkeys and even a fearsome kraken.
Opening this spring at SeaWorld Orlando is Pipeline: The Surf Coaster, the world’s first ‘surf coaster.’ Each rider will get the rush of cutting through waves as they race up to heights of 110-feet in the air and feel like they are about to wipe out when they go upside down on a wave curl along the 2,950-feet of track. Pipeline will send riders on a journey reaching max speeds of 60-miles-per-hour, with five different airtime moments and lasting a total of 1 minute and 50 seconds.
Coming later in the year is Journey of Water at EPCOT, a Moana-inspired adventure where guests will take a self-guided stroll along an outdoor trail where they can play and interact with water as it travels from the sky to the oceans and back again. Along the way, learning about the importance of water and discover its playful personality—just as Moana did on her heroic voyage. Journey of Water, will open within World Nature, the EPCOT neighbourhood dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty and balance of the natural world.
Daytona Beach to get an esplanade
After a $30 million investment, spanning a mile of Intracoastal waterway, the Riverfront Esplanade is a premier gathering space and botanical garden in the heart of Daytona Beach. Composed of more than a mile of waterfront running trail with comfortable benches and swings overlooking the Halifax River.