Hard to believe, it has been less than four weeks since my last visit to the Walt Disney World Resort and I’m already trying sneak in a quick trip just to experience all the new attractions and experiences scheduled to open this summer. The Disney Parks Blog opened the flood gates this week with official announcements of upcoming summer attractions, fireworks, restaurant and retail openings, and so much more—my head is still spinning. Each of the four Walt Disney World theme parks, plus Disney Springs, are rolling out new experiences over the next few months. In order to strategically time my next visit to enjoy as many of these as possible, I laid them out in calendar sequence. Perhaps you’ll find this helpful as well?
- While not specifically a new attraction, I’m eager to see the new Dooney & Bourke handbags that will be arriving in the parks at select merchandise locations. Three new designs will be introduced, including black leather bags embossed with Star Wars icons. Check all three styles out here: New Dooney & Bourke Handbags Arriving in Spring.
- As a Disney Vacation Club member, I am eagerly awaiting the opening of a new members-only lounge to be located in the Imagination! Pavilion at Future World in Epcot. This private lounge will offer a comfortable spot to relax and escape the Florida heat with complimentary soft drinks, an all-important wi-fi connection, digital device charging stations and even computers with printers for those who want to kick back old-school style. Member Services Advisors will also be there in case you have any questions about using DVC membership benefits. While this certainly won’t excite DVC non-members, I think this is a terrific addition.
- Sprinkles Cupcakes with a cupcake ATM coming to the Disney Springs Town Center neighborhood. Need I say more?
Memorial Day (May 30, 2016)
Nighttime Magic comes to Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Beginning May 27th through July 2nd, Animal Kingdom will stay open until 11:00 pm!
- “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic” show will debut at the new waterfront stage on Discovery River. The movie music is scheduled to come alive with special effects. This is a limited-time offering, presumably giving way to Rivers of Light sometime in the future.
- The Tree of Life Awakens. I think of this as a re-imagined Celebrate the Magic that takes place on Cinderella Castle. In true Disney tradition, the spirit of Animal Kingdom will be presented with breathtaking lighting and visual effects. I’m really looking forward to seeing this. I have often thought the amazing Tree of Life icon has been underutilized and has great potential.
- Kilimanjaro Safaris After Dark – This popular trek across the savanna has been unfitted with special lighting to allow adventurers to explore the area and the animals who live there well into the evening hours.
- Nighttime Street Parties – Two nighttime dance parties debut at Animal Kingdom. One is the Harambe Wildlife Party and the other is Discovery Island Carnivale. Guests can join the local communities with music, dancing, stilt walkers, food and more.
- Nighttime Attractions – Expedition Everest, Kali River Rapids and the midway games and attractions at DinoLand U.S.A. will now be open for guests to enjoy during the extended nighttime hours.
- Tiffins Restaurant opens at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Located in Discovery Island, this new table service restaurant will offer cuisine and décor inspired by the world travels of the park’s creators with African, Asian and South American influences. Adjacent to Tiffins will be the Nomad Lounge where no reservations will be required to enjoy a varied menu of small bites and beverages as unique as the menu, including handcrafted cocktails and beers.
On occasion, we’ve visited Walt Disney World during the winter months when nighttime falls early. I’ve also participated in two runDisney Expedition Everest Challenges which ran through the park after dark. I can tell you from experience, Animal Kingdom becomes a different park once night falls. One of the most memorable experiences was walking into Asia, home of Expedition Everest, at night with the prayer flags and ambient lighting. The view from the peak of Expedition Everest is remarkable in the dark. I for one am happy that the magic is being extended into the night at this beautiful theme park.
- “Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire” will debut on the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage in the Magic Kingdom, replacing the beloved Dream Along with Mickey. Mickey and his friends have traveled far and wide to invite their new friends to the Magic Kingdom—Tiana and Naveen, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider plus Anna, Elsa and Olaf! This musical stage show is sure to be a hit!
- “Soarin’ Around the World” at Epcot’s Future World opens on June 17th. I cannot begin to contain my excitement! As a huge fan of the original Soarin’ attraction, I’m truly amped to witness more than a dozen wonders found around the world—The Great Wall of China, Sydney Harbor and the Swiss Matterhorn are just a few. And to help accommodate the expected travelers, Soarin’ Around the World has added a third departure gate. The magical multi-sensory experience from the original attraction will be carried over to this new version, including stunning aerial views, reverberating sounds and even the subtle scents that make this ride so special.
- “Frozen Ever After” attraction in Norway at Epcot’s World Showcase. This long-awaited opening will end the speculation of what is actually replacing the Maelstrom attraction. We’ll be able to embark on a boat tour through the kingdom of Arendelle, including Troll Valley, Queen Elsa’s Ice Palace and then on to the Bay of Arendelle. Anna and Elsa will be greeting visitors at their new Royal Sommerhus location.
- “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” is a brand new fireworks extravaganza at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This show is said to be the most elaborate fireworks display to ever take place at this park. In addition to fireworks, the park will light up with pyrotechnics, video projections, a tower of fire and massive lightsabers. I have a special weakness for Disney firework shows, so this is high on my list of priorities!
- Disney will be introducing its first Latina princess, Princess Elena of Avalor! First, La Princesa Elena will first debut on the Disney Channel in her own series. She’s a teenager in a fairytale kingdom who is bold, adventurous and loves her kingdom and family. Princess Elena will appear in the Magic Kingdom sometime in August.
- Rivers of Light, the first nighttime show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, will officially debut sometime this summer (I’m presuming August for trip-planning purposes). The show will be set on Discovery River in the Asia section of the park in an all new waterfront amphitheater built just for the occasion. Illuminated lanterns, water screens, light projections, fountains and an original soundtrack—this is sure to be amazing!
- Disney Springs will have opened 30 new retail and dining outlets by the end of summer! Check out some of the details on the Disney Parks Blog by clicking here: Disney Springs to Open More than 30 Shops & Dining Locations. I am really looking forward to the completion of Disney Springs. I’m anxious to see the updated theming but I’m especially looking forward to the new shopping and dining opportunities!
Whew! Thanks for sticking with me for this long! Walt Disney said that Disney will never be completed as long as imagination is left in the world. Clearly Walt Disney World Imagineers are nowhere near running out of imagination.
What new attraction are you most looking forward to? Now, if you don’t mind, I’m off to study my calendar to see when I can squeeze that trip into the schedule!