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Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October 2021. And Disney’s adding a lot of new things to the resort. They are also changing some old favorites. To keep you up-to-date on all of it and help you better prepare for your next trip, here is a list of the new things and changes coming to Disney World over the next few years.
This list covers the changes in each of the parks, as well as the hotels, transportation, and Disney Springs. As a bonus, I’ll throw in a few credible rumors too!
NOTE–The prolonged closure of Disney World in 2020 due to the global pandemic has caused many of the things originally planned to be unexpectedly delayed or canceled.
We will update this article as new information becomes available. (Updated September 5, 2021.)
- COVID Restrictions Currently in Place
- Magic Kingdom Changes
- Epcot Changes
- Hollywood Studios Changes
- Animal Kingdom Changes
- Resort Changes
- Disney Springs Changes
- Miscellaneous Changes
COVID Restrictions Currently in Place
Since Disney World opened back up in the summer of 2020, they have put many restrictions and policies in place to keep cast members and guests safe. These restrictions are changing all the time. The current precautions include:
- Masks are mandatory for everyone age 2 and up, regardless of vaccination status, in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and on Disney buses, monorail, and Skyliner. Masks are optional in outdoor areas.
- There are no meet and greets with characters. They do make socially distanced appearances, however.
- Character meals have also been modified to maintain social distancing. Not all character meals are back open.
- There are currently no Fastpasses or dining plans.
- You must have a park reservation in addition to a park ticket for each day you attend a park.
- You can only hop to another park after 2:00 pm and only if the park you are hopping to has availability.
- There are no traditional parades. But Disney is doing some small mini-parades called character cavalcades in Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
- Firework shows are back. Fantasmic! at Hollywood Studios has not yet reopened.
Magic Kingdom Changes
Most of the new things at the Magic Kingdom will be celebrations, special events, and updates.
- Disney has given Cinderella Castle a makeover! The castle now has pink hues with darker blue roofs and gold accents.
- Disney is adding a new roller coaster, called TRON Lightcycle Run, next to Space Mountain. This coaster is expected to open sometime in 2022. This is by far one of the most anticipated additions coming to Disney World!
- The Tomorrowland Speedway is expected to get an update to make it more TRON like. This is anticipated to happen around the time of TRON Lightcycle Run’s opening.
- Additionally, the Walt Disney World Railroad is stationary and is getting new tracks. Don’t expect to see the train running again until mid-2022.
- You can now see the new nighttime show, Disney Enchantment each night at the Magic Kingdom. It includes fireworks, lasers, and projections on Cinderella Castle and the buildings of Main Street USA.
- Splash Mountain will be rethemed to Princess and the Frog. No date has been announced for this yet.
- Swiss Family Treehouse and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad were both scheduled to close for refurbishments in April and May, 2020. These have been put on hold.
- Jungle Cruise has just received an update, including some new scenes.
- The Hall of Presidents has recently been updated to include a Joe Biden audio-animatronic.
- Lastly, the Pirates League has closed. A replacement has not yet been announced.
- The official 50th anniversary celebration has started and will last for 18 months. The celebration will happen at all four of the Disney World parks. (You can find all the details on their website.)
- The annual, special-ticketed Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was canceled for 2020. In 2021, it has been replaced by Disney After Hours Boo Bash.
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the annual special-ticketed Christmas party at the Magic Kingdom was also canceled in 2020. In 2021, it will be replaced with Disney Very Merriest After Hours.
If you are visiting Epcot between now and 2023, be prepared. You will see lots of construction walls up. Disney is currently working on a major update of Epcot. The work will not be finished until probably 2024 or 2025.
The pandemic has changed the plan for Epcot’s overhaul. While we don’t know exactly how, it is clear that some plans will change, others will be canceled, and the construction will probably last longer than originally anticipated.
Currently, Epcot is divided into two main areas: Future World and World Showcase. As part of Epcot’s complete overhaul, these two areas will morph into four new neighborhoods. Throughout these new neighborhoods, expect less concrete and more landscaping and winding pathways.
- First of all, World Showcase is staying. See changes and additions coming to individual pavilions below.
- Future World will split into three new neighborhoods: World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration.
- The Fountain of Nations, Innoventions East, Club Cool, and Character Spot have now closed. See where to find the characters at Epcot during the construction.
- Electric Umbrella has also now closed.
- Mouse Gear is currently in a temporary location.
- Art of Disney has also move to a temporary location
- Camera Center is now sharing its space with Pin Traders.
Epcot: World Discovery Additions
- Guardian of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind, a new roller coaster, will open in late 2021 or 2022. It features rotating ride vehicles and a reverse launch, which is a first for Disney.
- Space 220, a new space-themed restaurant is now open. It is located between Mission Space and Test Track.
- Additionally, Taste Track Burgers and Fries, a temporary quick service location, is open near Test Track. This addition will be open while Electric Umbrella is closed during the massive Epcot renovations.
- Disney is transforming the old Wonders of Life pavilion into a new Play Pavilion. It will include lots of interactive experiences, characters, and hands on activities. Think of this as one huge indoor playground. It should be open sometime in 2021.
Epcot: World Celebration Additions
- Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the Epcot Experience is now open in the old Odyssey pavilion. This is a new preview center, which will give you a sneak peek into new things coming to Epcot.
- The massive refurbishment of Spaceship Earth, the icon of Epcot, is delayed. Disney has yet to announce when it will take place.
- Additionally, a new statue of Walt Disney will be added to an area called Dreamer’s Point.
- Additionally, there is now a new fountain.
- Mouse Gear will become a new store called Creations Shop. A new Club Cool will be next door. Both of these will open in Summer 2021.
- A new Festival pavilion is still scheduled, but it will look different than what was announced. We have no details yet.
Epcot: World Nature Additions
- Awesome Planet, a new film, is now open in the Land pavilion.
- Also, Disney is adding “Journey of Water”, an interactive fountain/water feature inspired by Moana, near the Seas Pavilion. Expect this to open in 2023.
Epcot: World Showcase Changes
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new Ratatouille themed ride, is underway in the back of the France pavilion. This will open on October 1, 2021.
- The Canada pavilion now has a new film, Canada Far and Wide, and new projection system.
- World Showcase’s China pavilion is also getting a new film, called Wondrous China. There is no word on when this will debut.
- Additionally, a Beauty and the Beast sing-a-long is now sharing theater space with Impressions de France in the France pavilion.
- La Creperie de Paris, a new crepe restaurant is also coming to the France pavilion. This will open on October 1, 2021 along with the new Ratatouille ride.
- Due to the pandemic, Disney cancelled plans for a Mary Poppins and Cherry Tree Lane experience in the United Kingdom pavilion.
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue is now open in the American Adventure. It features a huge smoker in the middle of the outdoor seating area.
- A new fireworks show, Harmonious, the largest nighttime spectacular Disney has ever created for a park, is now showing nightly.
- Lastly, Duck Tales World Showcase Adventure will replace Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. There is no word yet on when the Duck Tales game starts.
Hollywood Studios Changes
The most anticipated addition in the history of Disney World, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, is now open at Hollywood Studios. This 14-acre addition lets you be part of the Star Wars franchise. Disney also recently added Toy Story Land to Hollywood Studios.
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, one of the land’s two new rides, Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop (a build-your-own specialty lightsaber experience), is now open.
- Rise of the Resistance, the other new ride in Galaxy’s Edge, is also now open. Currently, there is no fastpass or standby line for this. If you want to experience this one, join a boarding group on the My Disney Experience app.
- Mickey’s and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the other big ride is now open in the Chinese Theatre!
- Disney is also adding a new table service restaurant to Toy Story Land. Roundup Rodeo BBQ is expected to open sometime in 2021.
- You can now meet Darth Vadar in Star Wars Launch Bay.
- Lastly, a new theater called Mickey Shorts Theater is also now open! It shows Mickey Mouse short cartoons in the park’s theater district. This is a nice compliment to Mickey’s and Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
Animal Kingdom Changes
Of all the changes coming to Disney World, there are very few happening in Animal Kingdom. Here are the few things happening in Animal Kingdom.
- Primeval Whirl has now permanently closed.
- Disney KiteTails, a new daytime show, is coming to the Discovery River Theater, the previous home of Rivers of Light. It will open October 1, 2021 and feature oversized props and large kites with some favorite characters from Little Mermaid, It’s a Bug’s Life, and Finding Nemo, among other movies.
- Lastly, Rivers of Light, the nighttime show at Animal Kingdom, has also permanently closed.
Disney World has 25+ resorts and hotels scattered throughout the property. And there’s more in the works. So, here’s the current news on changes coming to Disney World as it relates to the resorts.
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a Star Wars hotel, is currently under construction adjacent to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Hollywood Studios. It will be a small, boutique hotel with 2 days and 2 nights of highly immersive, interactive elements. This is to open in Spring 2022.
- Another new hotel, Disney Riviera Resort, a new Disney Vacation Club resort, is now open. Find it next to Caribbean Beach Resort.
- Not only is the Riviera Resort new, but Storybook Breakfast Dining Experience is now open in the Riviera Resort’s rooftop restaurant, Topolino’s Terrace, Flavors of the Riviera. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy make appearances.
- Lastly, Enchanted Rose, a Beauty and the Beast inspired lounge, is now open in the Grand Floridian. Stop by for drinks and small plates.
- The Polynesian Village is undergoing an update and refurbishment. The rooms will have touches of Moana in them.
Disney Springs Changes
As you can probably imagine, there are also quite a few of the changes coming to Disney World are coming to Disney Springs over the next few years as well. Here is a rundown of what we know.
- First, a new Cirque du Soleil show, called Cirque du Soleil Drawn to Life, about Disney animation is in the works for Disney Springs. The show will open on November 18, 2021.
- Beatrix, a bakery, grab-and-go market, and coffeehouse with healthy options, was planned for Disney Springs. Unfortunately, this is now canceled. Disney has not yet announced the replacement.
- Also the plan for a second location of Ample Hills Creamery, which was in the works for Disney Springs has been cancelled. Additionally, the original Disney World location at the Boardwalk is now permanently closed.
- Everglazed Donuts and Cold Brew is now open at Disney Springs.
- A new Target store is also coming to Disney Springs.
- Disney Springs now has a new eating & drinking location in its lineup. City Works Eatery & Pour House is now open. It offers 80+ beers on tap, tons of TV’s for watching the big game (including a 165″ screen), and bar food. It should be a great place to take a break from the crowds to watch some sports and hang out.
- Additionally, a new 10,000 square foot M&M’s Store is open in Disney Springs. It is an immersive and interactive experience.
- Lululemon Athletica, an athletic clothing store, is now open in Disney Springs.
- Another new addition to Disney Springs is Hot Diggity Dogs, a gourmet hot dog food truck.
- The NBA Experience has also permanently closed.
In addition to everything above, there are a few changes coming to the Disney World resort as a whole. Here’s the information on those changes.
- First, Disney Skyliner, a gondola system, is now a part of the transportation lineup at Disney World. Use it to get to Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Pop Century Resort, Art of Animation Resort, Caribbean Beach Resort, and Riviera Resort.
- You can also now get an in-park photo session from Photopass photographers. Capture the Moment will cost $50 for a 20 minute session and $100 for a 40 minute session.
- Disney Genie, a digital assistant, will help you plan your future trips with customized itineraries, dining and other things. It is unknown when (or if) this will begin.
- Unfortunately, Disney’s Magical Express, the free transportation to and from Orlando airport to the Disney resorts will cease to exist after 2021. Mears, an Orlando transportation company, will begin a similar, but paid, service in 2022.
- Sadly, Disney is no longer giving out complimentary MagicBands to onsite guests. You can still buy and use them however. Disney is currently testing a new system that will allow you to use your smartphone like a MagicBand, accessing your park tickets and other elements.
- And finally, Genie+ and Lighting Lane are replacing the Fastpass+ system.. These will launch sometime in the Fall of 2021. Both of these are paid services and will allow you to skip the lines at select rides during your trip.
Walt Disney once said the parks are “something that will never be finished.” And the many changes coming to Disney World over the next few years is a prime example of this. All in all, it is definitely an exciting time to visit this unique vacation destination.
Be sure to check back here periodically for updates.
For an updated list of refurbishments, see touringplans.com.