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Walt Disney World will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 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! Additionally, I will update this article as new things are announced.
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 September 3, 2020.)
Magic Kingdom Changes
The Magic Kingdom may be the flagship park of Walt Disney World, but Disney is not focused on changing much here. Most of the new things at the Magic Kingdom will be celebrations and special events.
- 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. Hopefully, this coaster will still open sometime in 2021. This is by far one of the most anticipated additions coming to Disney World!
- Additionally, due to the construction on the TRON coaster, the Walt Disney World Railroad is stationary for the foreseeable future.
- Expect the official 50th anniversary celebration to last from May 2021 through the end of 2022, so you will have lots of time to experience it. You can join the celebration at all four of the Disney World parks. (Disney has not yet released updated details of the celebration, but expect it to be smaller in scope than what was originally planned.)
- 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. There is no word on if and when these refurbishments will happen now.
- The annual, special-ticketed Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been canceled for 2020.
- Lastly, the Pirates League has closed. A replacement, if any, has not yet been announced.
If you are visiting Epcot between now and 2023, be prepared. You will see lots of construction walls up. The majority of the changes coming to Disney World in the next few years are at Epcot. Disney is currently working on a major update of Epcot. The work here will not be finished until probably 2023 or 2024. This extensive overhaul of Epcot will look different now, due to the pandemic. 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. This is about to change. 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. Check here to see where to find the characters now.
- Electric Umbrella is also now closed.
- Mouse Gear is currently in a temporary location.
- Art of Disney will 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. It was scheduled to open in the Spring 2021, but we don’t know if this will still be the case after the long closure of the parks in 2020.
- Space 220, a new space-themed restaurant is nearing completion. It is located between Mission Space and Test Track. There is no word now on when this restaurant will open.
- 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.
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.
- 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 by 2021.
- Additionally, a new statue of Walt Disney is being added to an area called Dreamer’s Point.
- Additionally, an updated fountain will be added.
- As mentioned above, what was Innoventions East will become home to a new quick service restaurant, an expanded Mouse Gear, Starbucks, Club Cool, a beer garden, and more.
- 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 2021.
Epcot: World Showcase Changes
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a new Ratatouille themed ride, is underway in the back of the France pavilion. Construction should be completed by October 2020. We expect this ride to open soon after.
- 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.
- 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 if and when this will now open.
- 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.
- Epcot Forever, the temporary replacement nighttime show is now showing each night. This show includes fireworks, lasers, and kites.
- Another new fireworks show, Harmonious, was scheduled to begin in the Fall of 2020, but all firework shows have been halted due to the pandemic. This is the largest nighttime spectacular Disney has ever created for a park. There is no word yet on when it will start.
- 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.
- RUMOR: According to rumor, Disney is adding a Brazil pavilion to World Showcase. Given the state of the world (both inside and out of Disney), this is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
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. You can now book fastpasses for Millennium Falcon.
- 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 should open sometime in 2020 or early 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. Expect this opening to also 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.
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 those changes.
- 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 coming to Disney Springs in 2020. It will be an immersive and interactive experience. No new information is available on the opening of this store.
- 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.
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. For help planning your Disney World vacation, see my step-by-step guide, best resources, and quick tips. Happy travels!