A Breathtaking New Land of Fantasy Highlights A New Year Full of Magical Additions, Openings at Walt Disney World Resort

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

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The unveiling of a magical, mythical world of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees anchors an exciting 2017 at Walt Disney World Resort – a year filled with new water park fun, a new festival for Epcot, more openings at Disney Springs, an awe-inspiring nighttime experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and much more.

Here’s a roundup at what the new year has in store:

Pandora – The World of Avatar – A transformational experience unlike any other, Pandora – The World of Avatar, opens in summer 2017. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR, in a breathtaking new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage will send guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee. Bioluminescent rainforests dramatically wrap around Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride.

Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders. “From the place making to the two extraordinary attractions that will be in the land…these promise to set new high-watermarks for the experiential magic we give our guests,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Disney Parks and Resorts.

More Additions to Disney Springs in 2017 – With the multi-year makeover of this hip, happening district for dining, shopping and entertainment in the homestretch, still more exciting openings are on tap for 2017. Great new food and beverage venues lead the way.

  • Paddlefish – Sleek and modern after a bow-to-stern transformation from the former Fulton’s Crab House, Paddlefish will serve fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Unique menu choices for seafood lovers include a build-your-own boil. A new rooftop lounge will serve up a late-night menu and shipshape views of the water and Disney Springs. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
  • Planet Hollywood Observatory – Longtime Downtown Disney-goers will remember the iconic domed restaurant that drew celebrities and fans of the Hollywood scene. The reborn space will be themed to stars of a different kind: a turn-of-the-20th-Century observatory serving up amazing burgers and sandwiches created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, and craft cocktails whose names are inspired by the planets and space travel. Movie memorabilia, video screens, contemporary music and themed merchandise complete the scene.
  • The Polite Pig – A sister restaurant to the Ravenous Pig, a favorite with Orlando locals, The Polite Pig will bring the same focus on genuine Florida cuisine to a broader global audience at Disney Springs. Lunch and dinner menus will feature a variety of wood-fired smoked and grilled items as well as an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including beer, wine and cocktails.
  • Wine Bar George – Orlando master sommelier George Miliotes uncorks his first Disney wine bar in a space reminiscent of a winemaker’s estate warmed by oak wood and cozy lighting. Small plates dominate the food menu but it will be the wines with a starring role: more than 100 selections both by the bottle and the glass in a range of varietals and vintages.

Home to four distinct neighborhoods, Disney Springs treats guests to a world of beautiful open-air promenades, flowing springs, arcing foot bridges and waterfront charm. Venues have doubled – to approximately 150.

New Family Raft Ride at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – Aboard this family-style raft adventure, guests will be immersed in the story of Captain Mary Oceaneer. Legend holds that this treasure hunter roamed the seven seas in search of undersea artifacts – until a rogue storm marooned her at Typhoon Lagoon. Guests gently ascend in treasure rafts, only to plunge into a whitewater adventure where they will encounter some of Mary’s deep sea booty. When it opens in spring 2017, it will be one of the longest attractions (2 minutes) at Disney’s Water Parks.

Rivers of Light – Coming in 2017, this powerful theatrical production takes Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests on a magnificent emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light choreographed to an original musical score. Continuing the park’s transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience, the amazing after-dark show on the banks of Discovery River celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world. With innovative and never-before-seen technology, Rivers of Light will be unlike any other production ever staged at Walt Disney World Resort.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts – Epcot welcomes an all-new festival playing winter weekends and treating guests to a triple scoop of artful fun. For six colorful weekends (Fridays through Mondays) Jan. 13-Feb. 20, visual, culinary and performing arts will take center stage. Each weekend will feature taste bud-tempting and eye-dazzling creations from the Disney culinary team. Meantime, exciting new art from various media will tempt art lovers. Because the artwork will change out, it’s a new art festival every weekend. In addition, the lagoon-side stage at American Gardens Theatre will pulse with favorite showtunes performed by Broadway talent. In a collaboration with Disney Theatrical, songs from some of Disney on Broadway’s award-winning shows including The Lion King, Newsies, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin will be performed. Artists co-performing include Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland, Kerry Butler and Kevin Massey, Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White. Showtimes 5:30, 6:45 and 8p.m. Fridays through Mondays on Festival dates.

Unique All-New Experiences for Dining, Star Wars Fans – A new adventure in Disney dining and the ultimate Star Wars tour are being offered to guests in 2017.

  • Disney’s famed monorail is your connection in a movable feast called Highway in the Sky Dine-Around. The new experience gives guests priority boarding on the monorail for a distinctly Disney dining experience with stops for cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert. From a welcome cocktail at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests call at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (apps), Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (entree) and back to the Contemporary for dessert, cordials and coffee. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
  • For the ultimate Star Wars fan comes the ultimate tour. An all-new Star Wars Guided Tour is a seven-hour immersion in all current Star Wars experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Character greetings, themed dining, ride experiences, insider’s tours, dessert party and VIP viewing of Star Wars: a Galactic Spectacular are among highlights. Offered Mondays and Saturdays, it’s part of several new Star Wars additions announced in December 2016 for the park, including a new onstage sequence in the daytime experience “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.” Star Wars-themed lands are planned for Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

New Cabins and Deluxe Villas coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – In 2017, a proposed new Disney Vacation Club Resort, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, is scheduled to open, featuring new Resort accommodations that include plans for Deluxe Villas and unique waterfront cabins. Other enhancements coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge include a brand-new bar & grill, in addition to a quick-service restaurant. A sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool, part of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is also scheduled to open in summer 2017. Named Boulder Ridge Cove, this area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool.

New Way to Start the Day at Magic Kingdom Park – A new welcome show takes place each day on the Castle Forecourt Stage. Guests can meander up Main Street, U.S.A. to the edge of the Castle and join in the celebration as a Royal Herald delivers a proclamation and welcomes a few familiar characters. Let the magic begin!

New Cheerleading, Dance Venue for ESPN Wide World of Sports – A first-of-its-kind venue specifically designed for the high-energy world of cheerleading and dance team competition opens its doors in 2017 at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The complex is collaborating with Varsity Spirit, the nation’s top cheerleading organization, in bringing the new multi-use venue to life. The venue will include a flexible design that allows for as many as four competition areas. With the ability to seat more than 8,000 guests, the sports and entertainment venue also can accommodate six regulation basketball courts, six regulation volleyball courts or be configured for concerts.

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