‘What’s New’ and ‘What’s Next’

Filed in: Walt Disney World Resort, What's New, What's Next

Exciting Attractions & Experiences Crisscross Walt Disney World Resort

“What’s New”

Magic Kingdom

New Fantasyland Takes Flight (May 2014) – The largest expansion project in Magic Kingdom history features attractions and experiences in an area that doubles the size of Fantasyland. Among the novelties, guests are able to fly high with The Great Goofini or with Dumbo, the Flying Elephant. The grand opening took place Dec. 6, 2012 for Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid, Enchanted Tales with Belle, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Gaston’s Tavern and Ariel’s Grotto followed by Princess Fairytale Hall, which opened Sept. 2013. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which takes guests on a musical ride into the mine “where a million diamonds shine,” completed the New Fantasyland expansion when it opened in May 2014.

Glow With the Show Mickey Ear Hats (Oct. 2013) – Glow With the Show Ear hats, fun interactive versions of the famous Mickey Ear hats, burst with color during “Celebrate the Magic,” the nighttime projection show on Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom. The illuminating hats magically change colors in sync with fireworks, shows and each other at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Meet and Chat with Mickey Mouse at Town Square Theater (Oct. 2013) – Dressed in his finest magician duds, Mickey Mouse greets Magic Kingdom guests in his rehearsal room at Town Square Theater. The greatest magic of all happens when Mickey Mouse speaks with guests before helping them create even more memories with photos, autographs and hugs.

Princess Fairytale Hall (Sept. 2013) – Princess Fairytale Hall is the new home for Disney royalty where guests can meet Anna & Elsa, Cinderella, Rapunzel and other princesses, to meet their loyal subjects in the Magic Kingdom. The castle-like entrance features walls of stone and stained glass windows opening up into a large gallery – an airy space with a high ceiling – where portraits of the Disney princesses adorn the walls.

Festival of Fantasy Parade (March 2014) – Magic Kingdom’s daily Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade brings the magical stories of New Fantasyland to Main Street, U.S.A. through fantastic and innovative parade floats, vibrant costumes and an original soundtrack that features beloved songs from favorite Disney films, plus a new parade theme song. A Steampunk-inspired Dragon as the wicked Maleficent stretches 53 feet in length and 26 feet tall with a prickly spinning wheel dead center of the float. With fiery eyes and glowing effects the spectacular dragon was built on an articulating chassis allowing the float to bend and flex as it moves along the parade route – a first for Disney parades. Ariel and friends grace a larger-than-life music box showcasing a colorful musical party “Under the Sea” while Scottish dancers and a float shaped like an enormous bagpipe announce the arrival of Merida. Other floats celebrate Disney Princesses; Peter Pan and Wendy soar above a pirate galleon; Rapunzel and Flynn Rider appear on a longship in search of another “Best Day Ever.”

A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas (May 2013) – “A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas” is an interactive adventure inviting Magic Kingdom guests to set a course for swashbuckling fun with Captain Jack Sparrow. At the Enlistment Quarters (near the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction), adventurers sign on to join Captain Jack’s crew, choose one of five pirate “raids” (with accompanying treasure map) and set out on their journey to find the Treasures of the Seven Seas hidden around Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom.

Starbucks Coffee (Jan. 2013) – Starbucks locations are open at two parks within the Walt Disney World Resort. At Magic Kingdom, Main Street Bakery kept its name and theming and continues to serve Disney favorites like cookies, brownies and seasonal cupcakes, in addition to Starbucks signature beverages and other menu items. Fountain View at Epcot also serves Starbucks products. Each Starbucks location inside a Disney Park reflects the theme of its surroundings.


Nighttime Experiences (April 2014) – While enjoying the nightly fireworks spectacular, guests can sample decadent desserts from around the world paired with the perfect international sparkling wines in an intimate and exclusive environment during the IllumiNations Sparkling Dessert Party. After IllumiNations, guests can sample, sip and stay awhile longer with the Epcot After Hours Wind Down. Award-winning Epcot chefs and sommeliers pair a beverage flight with cultural cuisine; guests can choose from four locations. For reservations to both of these experiences, guests can visit www.DisneyWorld.com/Dining

Spice Road Table (Jan. 2014) – Inspired by the outdoor cafes along the Mediterranean, Spice Road Table in Epcot World Showcase features a variety of Moroccan small plates and specialty drinks. With seating for 120 guests on the outdoor terrace and seating for 60 inside, the waterfront eatery showcases light fixtures, tile work, tapestries and art representing Morocco’s indigenous Berber tribes and is perfect for “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” viewing or relaxing with a selection of Moroccan flavors and cocktails.

“Frozen” – Inspired Norsk Kultur Gallery (Nov. 2013) – A new gallery, Norsk Kultur, opened in the Norway pavilion at Epcot. The exhibit explores how the culture and beauty of Norway inspired the filmmakers during the creation of Disney’s “Frozen.” Norsk Kultur, meaning “Norwegian Culture,” features items such as an authentic hand-made bunad, the traditional costume of Norway; a hardanger fiddle and other handmade instruments; hand-carved artisan furniture; examples of rosemaling (traditional Norse decorative painting) and more.

 The Kinsey Collection (March 2013) – The American story of determination, courage, hope, struggle and inspiration is told through more than 40 pieces of art, artifacts, books, sculptures and documents on display at the Walt Disney World Resort. The American Adventure pavilion is home to the Kinsey’s personal treasures of African-American art and history, amassed from their travels to 90 countries and dating back to the 17th century. The Kinsey Collection is the intersection where art and history meet, a virtual history book opened wide, giving voice to untold stories of accomplishment and contribution. The Kinsey Collection, at the American Heritage Gallery, is included in Epcot admission.

Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (Summer 2013) – Located in the France pavilion, the expanded Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie offers delightful French sweets and savories for Epcot guests throughout the day. Menu items include espressos, pastries, soups, sandwiches, salads and authentic French dishes. The bakery opens daily at 9 a.m., ahead of the 11 a.m. opening of World Showcase.

L’Artisan des Glaces (Summer 2013) –L’Artisan des Glaces, a new artisan ice cream and sorbet shop in the France pavilion, features 16 yummy flavors, all made in-house with fresh ingredients. For grown-up tastes, a shot of liquor can be added on top – served in a martini glass.

Innoventions (continual updates) – Discover tomorrow’s technology today at this hands-on exposition of the world’s newest products and inventions. Guests visit the house of the future, explore cyberspace, test the latest developments in computers and discover the latest breakthroughs in virtual reality and communications.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Frozen Entertainment  (July 2014) – Royal Sisters Queen Elsa and Princess Anna, along with rugged mountain man Kristoff from “Frozen,” join the Royal Historians of Arendelle for a hilarious and interactive retelling of the “Frozen” story in “For the First Time in Forever – a ‘Frozen’ Sing-Along Celebration.” The 30-minute show is presented multiple times daily inside Premiere Theater, inviting guests to sing along to the chart-topping soundtrack.

Glow With the Show Mickey Ear Hats  (Oct. 2013) – Glow with the Show Ear hats, fun interactive versions of the famous Mickey Ear hats, dance to the colors and lights of Fantasmic!, the nighttime spectacular at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Glow with the Show Ear hats magically change colors in sync with fireworks, shows and each other.

Meet Sofia from “Sofia the First,” a popular “Disney Junior” show  (Aug. 2013) – Sofia the First joins other stars of Disney Junior at the meet-and-greet location in Animation Courtyard. Walt Disney World Resort guests can also meet Jake from “Jake and the Never Land Pirates” at the same location.

“Disney Junior-Live on Stage!” (April 2013) – Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins join “Playhouse Disney-Live on Stage!” Since the show premiered in 2001, it has been a chance for younger guests to experience Disney Channel friends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As that circle of TV friends has grown and changed, the Disney entertainment gurus have endeavored to make those new friends part of the vacation fun, too. The show also includes current favorites from Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

“Festival of the Lion King” moves into Harambe Theatre (June 2014) – The popular, high-energy Festival of the Lion King is open in its all-new home, Harambe Theatre. The theatre is featured in the Africa section of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Festival of the Lion King was inspired by Disney’s animated film classic, “The Lion King,” which recently celebrated its 20 year release anniversary.

Macaw Show (May 2014) – In a kaleidoscope of colors, flocks of macaws fly over and around Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in this new animal experience. “Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight,” debuted this summer and was created – in collaboration with Disney Creative Entertainment – by the team that inspires and delights guests at the Flights of Wonder show. Up to six types of macaw can be seen in flight over the park daily.

Wilderness Explorers (June 2013) – Disney’s Animal Kingdom invites guests to become Wilderness Explorers and experience the park in engaging ways to deepen their understanding of animals and the natural world we live in. Inspired by Russell, the wilderness explorer in the Disney-Pixar film “Up,” park guests can earn approximately 30 badges as they learn about habitats and animal nutrition at Conservation Station, to identifying fossils and signaling in DinoLand U.S.A.

New Meet-Up with Mickey and Minnie (May 2013) – Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse welcome Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests to their new exploration headquarters, Adventurers Outpost, on Discovery Island. The all-new indoor retreat is the perfect spot for guests to meet the globetrotting duo as they get ready to set off on their next adventure.

Downtown Disney

MarketPlace Co-Op (June 2014) – A new merchandise location, the Marketplace Co-Op, is open at Downtown Disney Marketplace. The shop features six boutiques that showcase new and innovative merchandise and will serve as a testing space for new Disney retail concepts, shops and products.

Walt Disney World Speedway

Piston Cup Junior Ride-Along Cars (June 2014) – Two new full-size custom character cars, created by DisneyPixar “Cars” creative director Jay Ward, enter the line-up for Richard Petty Driving Experience at Walt Disney World Speedway. The #28 Aiken Axler and #80 Sage VanDerSpin cars are used in the new Piston Cup Junior Ride-Along program. For $59, the Junior Ride-Along program gives children ages 6 to 13 (and at least 48 inches tall) the chance to experience real-life racing excitement as they ride shotgun with a professional driving instructor for three thrilling laps in a specially equipped Piston Cup race car.


The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (Oct. 2013) – The grandeur of one of the premier properties at the Walt Disney World Resort will meet the family vacation style that only Disney Vacation Club can provide at The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. The property features deluxe studios and one-bedroom villas that sleep five guests, as well as two-bedroom villas that sleep nine guests. Additionally, expansive grand villas sleep 12 guests and feature multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, as well as a media room with a home theater system.

California Grill (Sept. 2013) — The iconic California Grill that started a dining evolution at Walt Disney World Resort in 1995 has been completely transformed with a design inspired by mid-century modern California design, and a new menu showcasing seasonal ingredients and a lighter touch.  The reimagined restaurant features dishes such as baked local prawns with charred lemon and wild Columbia River salmon with Zellwood sweet corn pudding.

Senses, A Disney Spa (July 2013) – The opening of Senses – A Disney Spa at Saratoga Springs Resort followed the opening of its sister spa, Senses – A Disney Spa at the Grand Floridian Resort that opened in December, 2012. Each treatment is guided by one of the spa’s core themes – relax, renew or imagine – each of which will create a custom experience.

“What’s Next”

Frozen attraction coming to Epcot (2016)Lovable sisters Princess Anna and Queen Elsa from the Oscar-winning animated blockbuster hit “Frozen” are taking guests on a new journey to Arendelle. The new attraction, which is coming to the Norway pavilion at Epcot, will immerse guests in many of their favorite moments and music from the film. A royal greeting location where guests can meet Anna and Elsa is also in the works.

Meet Hiro and Baymax from “Big Hero 6” (Nov. 2014) – Disney’s new animated feature “Big Hero 6” hits theaters in 3D in November, and soon after, the lovable characters from the film hit the scene at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Guests can step inside the lab from the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, and after the tour, meet Hiro Hamada and his huggable buddy Baymax in Hiro’s garage workshop.

Trattoria al Forno (Dec. 2014) – Guests can enjoy classic Italian cuisine at Trattoria al Forno, the newest restaurant at Disney’s BoardWalk. Open daily for breakfast and dinner beginning Dec. 18, guests can choose from mouthwatering handcrafted mozzarella, fresh cavatelli pasta and pizzas baked in wood-burning ovens. Trattoria al Forno will be open 7:30-11 a.m. for breakfast and 5-10 p.m. for dinner. For reservations, guests can call 407-WDW-DINE or visit Disneyworld.com/Dine.

Starbucks Coffee (Feb. 2015) – Starbucks coffee will be available from a new location inside Disney parks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. At this third location at Walt Disney World Resort, guests can step inside classic trolley car themed-station for their coffee fix. The Trolley Car Café is expected to open along Hollywood Boulevard February 2015. Other locations serving Starbucks products include a location inside Magic Kingdom at Main Street Bakery and another at Epcot at Foundation View. Each Starbucks location inside a Disney Park reflects the theme of its surroundings.

Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (2015) – A sweeping renovation at the iconic Disney’s Polynesian Resort is under way with plans for a 2015 completion. The resort has also returned to its opening day name – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, plus refurbished guestrooms, an all-new childcare area rebranded as Lilo’s Playhouse, a completely renovated Nanea Volcano feature pool area, a new children’s water play area, and an enlarged deck to accommodate poolside seating. The Great Ceremonial House lobby area will be completely renovated with bright open areas, plus the new Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, a highly themed lounge area with handcrafted tiki cocktails and Polynesian-themed “small plates.” An enhanced Captain Cooke’s quick service restaurant, all-new Polynesian Pool Bar & Grill, and a Pineapple Lanai kiosk featuring the world-famous Dole Whip round out the new dining options.

“Rivers of Light” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – An innovative show with live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery called “Rivers of Light” will light up the night at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The show will come to life on the stage of the Discovery River, between Discovery Island and Expedition Everest.

Disney Springs (2016) – The multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, a unique destination that will treat guests to significantly more shopping, dining and entertainment amid beautiful open-air promenades, meandering springs and waterfront charm is currently underway. Disney Springs will feature an eclectic and contemporary mix from Disney and other noteworthy brands in a setting inspired by Florida’s waterfront towns and natural beauty.

Opening Spring 2015 as one of the new venues in The Landing, Schussler Creative’s latest project, The BOATHOUSE will be an upscale, waterfront dining experience featuring spectacular floating artwork: dream boats from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Guests will enjoy a gourmet menu featuring steaks, chops, fresh seafood and a raw bar.

Opening summer 2015 at The Landing, in the heart of Disney Springs, Morimoto Asia is the Japanese chef, Chef Masharu Morimoto’s first pan-Asian dining experience. Morimoto Asia’s culinary elements will provide flavors from across Asia, while exhibition kitchens will showcase the continent’s traditions.

 AVATAR (2017) – Walt Disney Imagineering in collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment is bringing to life the mythical world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s AVATAR, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The awe-inspiring land of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees will become real for Disney guests to see, hear and touch. 

Annual Events

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January) – This annual event features a 26.2-mile adventure race through all four Disney theme parks – Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom and a half marathon. Also included in the weekend is Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, which combines Saturday’s half marathon and Sunday’s full marathon for 39.3 miles of fun, a two-day health expo and a 5K.

Atlanta Braves Spring Training (February-March) – The Atlanta Braves return to Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex for spring training.

Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend (February) – The predominantly women’s half marathon brings women of all ages together to celebrate all the qualities a princess possesses. The weekend features a two-day health and fitness expo geared towards women, a family fun run 5k and kids’ races. New in 2013 are the Disney Enchanted 10K and Glass Slipper Challenge, where participants run the 10K and half marathon over the course of 2 days.

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (March-May) – Future World and World Showcase are blooming with more than 30 million colorful blossoms, interactive garden activities for kids and workshops with national gardening experts during this annual spring festival at Epcot. While exploring the themed gardens, guests can taste sweets and savories from about a dozen food-and-beverage marketplaces surrounding the World Showcase Lagoon.

Star Wars Weekends (May-June) – For several weekends each summer, Disney’s Hollywood Studios turns into a giant Star Wars fan-fest with up-close meet-and-greets for guests with their favorite characters and actors from the film series as well as interactive games, parades, music and fun for the whole family.

Night of Joy (September) – Top contemporary Christian music performers headline this annual celebration throughout Magic Kingdom. The long-running series has played to a combined audience in excess of a million.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party (September-October) – A family-friendly fright-fest in Magic Kingdom featuring a children’s parade, trick-or-treating throughout the park, face painting, and more.

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (September-November) – Savor fine wines and delectable cuisine during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival featuring live entertainment, guest chefs, culinary demonstrations, seminars and winemaker dinners.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November) – The ultimate “Runners’ Night Out” features a half marathon at night.  After finishing, runners and their guests can celebrate their accomplishment at an exclusive after hours party inside the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.  The weekend also includes kids’ races, a family fun run 5K and a health and fitness expo.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights (November-January) – This holiday light display on the Disney’s Hollywood Studios backlot features millions of sparkling holiday bulbs designed by Arkansas businessman and philanthropist Jennings Osborne as a gift to his daughter and the guests of Walt Disney World Resort.

Holiday Splendor (November-January) – Walt Disney World Resort is all aglitter during the holiday season with dazzling lights, spirited song and even snow flurries. Here’s what’s in store: Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom; Candlelight Processional at Epcot; plus caroling, tree lighting ceremonies and visits by Santa.

“Vacation Innovations”

MyMagic+ – With one tap of a MagicBand, Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests can enter their Disney Resort guestroom, access FastPass+ experiences and attractions, use as a payment method for food and merchandise,  enter Disney theme parks and water parks, and connect to Disney’s PhotoPass. With the free My Disney Experience mobile application, park maps and information about attractions, show times, dining, FastPass+ and more are easier than ever to explore and access. MagicBands and My Disney Experience are part of MyMagic+, which has the ability connect nearly all aspects of the guest vacation experience at Walt Disney World Resort.

FastPass+ – Thanks to the the technological advances of MyMagic+, all guests can reserve access to favorite FastPass+ attractions and entertainment experiences before leaving home — or in the parks — giving them more time to explore and enjoy Walt Disney World. This can be accomplished via My Disney Experience.com or at FastPass+ kiosks located in Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. Using the My Disney Experience online site, Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests may make FastPass+ selections up to 60 days in advance of their visit, for each day they have a park ticket. Disney Passholders and Day guests (those not staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel) are able to make FastPass+ selections 30 days in advance of their trip once tickets are purchased.

Disney’s Magical Express – The innovative service offers airport shuttle, luggage delivery and airline check-in for Disney hotel guests. Guests of 24 Disney owned-and-operated hotels at Walt Disney World Resort using Disney’s Magical Express service can check their bags at their hometown airport, bypass baggage claim at Orlando International Airport (MCO) and board state-of-the-art motor coaches to the Vacation Kingdom, where their bags “magically” appear in their room upon check-in. The complimentary service is designed to give Disney hotel guests the stress-free vacation they want. With the service, a family of four can save more than $80 (based on round-trip taxi transportation, plus tip, between MCO and Walt Disney World Resort).