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Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary in October 2021. In preparation, there are a lot of new things coming to the resort. 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 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.
So, some of the deadlines in this article may be inaccurate because Disney has yet to update them.
We will update this article as new information becomes available. (Updated April 7, 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 subject to change at any time. They include:
- Masks are mandatory for everyone age 2 and up. They must be worn at all times except when actively eating or drinking while stationary. Starting April 8, you can also temporarily remove your mask for outdoor photos, as long as you are appropriately distanced from others. (There are relaxation stations in each park where you can take a break from the masks.)
- 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.
- Park hopping is limited to after 2:00 pm and only if the park you are hopping to has availability.
- There are no traditional parades. Disney does have pop up cavalcades throughout the day.
- Firework and nighttime shows have been suspended since the resort reopened. Disney is hopefully going to slowly bring back the nighttime shows sometime this year.
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.
- Splash Mountain will be rethemed to Princess and the Frog. No date has been announced for this yet.
- The Tomorrowland Transit Authority: Peoplemover is currently undergoing a refurbishment. It is expected to reopen in April 2021.
- 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 is also getting an update to some of its scenes. While there is no announced date for this work to be completed, it will be sometime in 2021. Work ha already begun on this update.
- The Hall of Presidents is getting updated as well. A Joe Biden audio-animatronic will be added. There are also rumors that the Muppets may be added to the show. There is no date of completion on this yet.
- Lastly, the Pirates League has closed. A replacement, if any, has not yet been announced.
- The official 50th anniversary celebration will start on October 1, 2021 and last for 18 months. The celebration will happen at all four of the Disney World parks. (Disney is beginning to release details of the celebration. You can find all the details on their website.)
- The annual, special-ticketed Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party was canceled for 2020. While there has been no official announcement, it is expected that the party will return for 2021.
- Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, the annual special-ticketed Christmas party at the Magic Kingdom was also canceled in 2020. It is expected to return in 2021.
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 is being converted into three new neighborhoods: World Nature, World Discovery, and World Celebration.
- The Fountain of Nations, Innoventions East, Club Cool, and Character Spot are now closed. See where to find the characters at Epcot during the construction.
- Electric Umbrella is 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 is being built. It features rotating ride vehicles and a reverse launch, which is a first for Disney. Expect this to open in late 2021 or 2022.
- Space 220, a new space-themed restaurant is nearing completion. It is located between Mission Space and Test Track. This is now expected to open in Summer 2021.
- 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.
- Spaceship Earth, the icon of Epcot, was supposed to get a major refurbishment that last 2-3 years. Disney has announced that this refurbishment will be delayed, but they have not said when it will take place.
- Additionally, a new statue of Walt Disney is being added to an area called Dreamer’s Point.
- Additionally, a new fountain has been added.
- As mentioned above, what was Innoventions East will become home to a new quick service restaurant, an expanded Mouse Gear, Starbucks, Club Cool, and maybe more. This should be finished by the end of 2021.
- A new Festival pavilion will be built (probably), but it will look different than what was announced. No details have been given.
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. This is scheduled 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. Construction is almost completed. 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. We do not know when this will open, but it is anticipated to open on October 1, 2021 along with the new Ratatouille ride.
- A Mary Poppins and Cherry Tree Lane experience in the United Kingdom pavilion has now been canceled.
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts and Barbecue is now open. It features a huge smoker in the middle of the outdoor seating area.
- A new fireworks show, Harmonious, is currently being installed in World Showcase Lagoon. This is the largest nighttime spectacular Disney has ever created for a park. This is expected to open by October 2021.
- Lastly, Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure has closed and is being replaced by Disney’s Duck Tales 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. Galaxy’s Edge is the second new land added to this park, following Toy Story Land.
- 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‘s opening has been delayed by at least 8 months. Expect it 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. This park has gotten the most love over the last few years, though, so this is understandable. Here are the few things happening in Animal Kingdom.
- Primeval Whirl is now permanently closed.
- Lastly, Rivers of Light, the nighttime show at Animal Kingdom, is also permanently closed. We are unsure if a new version of it or another show will replace it at some point.
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 was to open sometime in 2021, but will be delayed.
- 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 being updated. 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.
- A new Cirque du Soleil show, called Cirque du Soleil Drawn to Life, about Disney animation is in the works for Disney Springs. The status of this show is unknown at this time.
- Beatrix, a neighborhood restaurant, is also coming to Disney Springs. It features a bakery, grab-and-go market, bar, coffeehouse, and healthy options.
- Unfortunately, a second location of Ample Hills Creamery, which was in the works for Disney Springs will not open. Also, the original Disney World location at the Boardwalk is now permanently closed.
- Everglazed Donuts and Cold Brew is now under construction at Disney Springs. There is no word yet on when it will open.
- 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.
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.
- Lastly, Disney Genie, a digital assistant, will help you plan your future trips with customized itineraries, dining and fastpasses. It is unknown when (or if) this will begin.
- Disney’s Magical Express, the free transportation to and from Orlando airport to the Disney resorts will cease to exist after 2021.
- 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.
Walt Disney once said the parks are “something that will never be finished.” And as you can tell from the above list, there are many changes coming to Disney World over the next few years.
It is an exciting time to be visiting this unique vacation destination. Be sure to check back here periodically for updates.
For an updated list of refurbishments, see touringplans.com.