Universal Orlando welcomes new attraction, Volcano Bay

Disney World to open Pandora later in the week

Volcano Bay
Volcano Bay

ORLANDO, Fla. – Two big grand openings are scheduled this week at some of Central Florida's most popular theme parks.

Volcano Bay opened Thursday.

The new water park along Interstate 4 includes a 200-foot volcano shooting into the sky. Inside the man-made structure is a raft ride and several other attractions.

Disney will debut "Pandora: The World of Avatar" on Satuday at Animal Kingdom.

The 12-acre land, inspired by the "Avatar" movie, cost a half-billion dollars to build.

The marquee attraction is Flight of Passage, where a 3-D simulator plunges riders into a cinematic world. You feel like you're riding on the back of a banshee, a bluish, gigantic, winged predator that resembles something out of the Jurassic era. Wearing 3-D glasses and straddling what resembles a stationary motorcycle, you're strapped in, then the lights go out, a screen in front lights up and you're swooped into a world of blue, gigantic aliens called Na'vi, with moon-filled skies, plunging waterfalls, jumping marine animals and towering ocean waves.

The ride provides an enchanting and intoxicating five minutes that touches all the senses. Blasts of air and spritzes of mist hit your face, and as you fly through a lush forest, a woodsy aroma wafts through your nostrils. A visitor could go on the ride 20 times and not catch half the visual details.