Walt Disney World tops the vacation list for generations of travelers. It’s a magical place where lasting memories are made, and now there’s even more to love. As part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration,” Walt Disney World is continuing to mark its 50th anniversary with the rollout of exciting new experiences and attractions.
Budgeting time on a Disney vacation can be challenging since there’s always so much to see and do at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Here are nine new things you won’t want to miss on your next trip to Walt Disney World.
Walt Disney World hosted my visit, but all opinions expressed are my own.
1. Guardians Of The Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
As an ardent fan of roller coasters and the Guardians of the Galaxy films, I was excited to experience EPCOT’s newest major attraction. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is one of the largest enclosed roller coasters in the world, and this thrilling ride is an audiovisual treat.
Set in EPCOT’s first “other-world” pavilion, called the Galaxarium, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind begins with an incredible pre-show experience filled with Guardians of the Galaxy characters, elaborate storytelling, and a virtual journey to a Nova Corps ship. Then, it’s “save the galaxy” time on this immersive omnicoaster ride featuring Disney’s first-ever reverse-launch, roomy Starjumper vehicles that rotate 360 degrees, and a fantastic soundtrack that changes with each ride and alters the feel of the entire experience. “September” and “Conga” had me dancing the whole time.
This family-friendly coaster has a 42-inch minimum height requirement. Riding Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind feels like surfing through space and time, and the experience is exhilarating. It was so much fun that I wanted to do it again and again.
Pro Tip: On Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, seating choice affects the overall experience. After riding the attraction numerous times in various locations, my personal favorite is the front seat’s smooth glide. The back seat provides maximum thrills. Dark indoor coasters and reverse-launch rides can be disorienting for some people. I didn’t experience any motion sickness, even on back-to-back rides.
2. Space 220 Restaurant
Vacationers can enjoy an out-of-this-world culinary experience at Space 220 Restaurant, a popular dining venue in EPCOT’s expanded Mission: SPACE pavilion. At this memorable dining attraction, the immersive experience is mind-blowing and the space-themed atmosphere is the star of the show.
After checking in at the Departure Lounge and receiving a boarding pass, guests board a “space elevator” and blast off on a simulated scenic journey to the Centauri Space Station. Upon arrival, they can enjoy lunch or dinner while taking in panoramic views of the space station, astronauts, planets, satellites, and stars. While the meal is on the expensive side, the unique interstellar experience and virtual day and evening views of our planet from 220 miles above the Earth are phenomenal.
Pro Tip: Space 220 reservations sell out quickly, so make bookings as soon as possible. If you can’t obtain a reservation, check the restaurant early to see if you can join a walk-up waiting line for the Space 220 lounge. It’s part of the main dining area, so you can still enjoy the incredible views.
3. ‘Disney Enchantment’ And ‘Harmonious’ Nighttime Shows
Magic Kingdom Park And EPCOT
Nightly entertainment has long been a memorable highlight of Walt Disney World vacations. As part of “The World’s Most Magical Celebration” marking Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, Disney has introduced two new spectacular nighttime shows.
“Disney Enchantment” at Magic Kingdom Park is designed to inspire viewers to believe in the magic and power that lives within them. The show features a stunning display of fireworks, Disney music, colorful enhanced lighting, state-of-the-art projection effects, and characters from Disney and Pixar films.
Taking place at EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon, “Harmonious” is one of the biggest nighttime shows ever created for a Disney theme park. “Harmonious” celebrates how Disney music and stories can inspire people around the globe. The show features Disney songs performed by a culturally diverse group of worldwide artists, fireworks, giant floating screens, lights, lasers, and a wide array of images and stunning special effects.
Pro Tip: It’s wise to stake out your viewing spots early for these popular nighttime events. To watch “Harmonious,” look for places with unobstructed views of the World Showcase Lagoon, including the Showcase Plaza area and near the Mexico and Norway pavilions.
4. New Quick-Service Dining Venues
EPCOT And Disney Springs
EPCOT is home to a wide variety of favorite restaurants, and now there are new dining spots to try. The light and airy Connections Café and Eatery is conveniently located near popular attractions in EPCOT’s World Celebrations area. The Connections Café is EPCOT’s new Starbucks location, so it’s a great place to stop for a beverage in the morning. The Connections Eatery menu includes lunch and dinner items, kids’ meals, and allergy-friendly options.
Other new EPCOT casual dining venues include Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue at The American Adventure pavilion and the France pavilion’s La Crêperie de Paris. If you’re heading to Disney Springs, satisfy your sweets craving at Salt & Straw, a new artisanal ice cream shop featuring an assortment of unique flavors. Their ice cream is delicious.
Pro Tip: Tables and seating areas at the Connections Café and Eatery have charging stations, making this an excellent place to recharge and relax. Try the popular Liege Waffle if you’re in the mood for dessert.
5. Drawn To Life Presented By Cirque Du Soleil And Disney
This dazzling new show is the first-ever theatrical collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Imagineering, and Walt Disney Animation Studios. Drawn to Life depicts the story of a young girl who discovers an uncompleted animation bequeathed to her by her late father, a Disney animator. Guided by an amazing pencil, the daughter delves into the world of animation and embarks on an uplifting personal quest filled with Disney memories from her childhood. The show’s beautiful artistry, incredible acrobatic performances, and brilliant choreography kept me spellbound throughout the entire production.
I’ve enjoyed combining Cirque du Soleil shows with dinner in Disney Springs on past visits. This shopping, entertainment, and dining district is home to dozens of fantastic dining options. The performance lasts about 90 minutes, so make dinner reservations with your show time in mind.
Pro Tip: A few children from the audience are selected to go on stage to draw pictures during the Drawn to Life pre-show. If your group includes kids, you may want to purchase seats close to the stage to maximize their chances of being chosen.
6. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Set in EPCOT’s expanded France pavilion, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ushers guests into the world of Disney and Pixar’s award-winning film, Ratatouille. This family-friendly 4D ride has no height requirement, allowing kids to enjoy the experience.
Seated in trackless rat-shaped cars that swivel quickly, guests feel like they’ve been shrunk to Remy’s size while zipping under oversized props and scurrying through Gusteau’s restaurant. Riders become immersed in sights, sounds, and special effects from Ratatouille, and the stirring rat race is a fun experience for all ages. This dark indoor attraction features lots of screens, and 3D glasses bring the characters and scenes to life.
Pro Tip: Enjoy all the incredible details and storytelling in this culinary-themed ride through Gusteau’s Paris restaurant. Afterwards, stop in at nearby Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie or Crêpes À Emporter by La Crêperie de Paris for an authentic taste of France.
7. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Are you looking for a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience that will take your family’s Disney vacation to a whole new level? Walt Disney World launched its much-awaited Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser experience at Disney’s Hollywood Studios earlier this year. During this memorable two-night adventure aboard the Halcyon starcruiser, guests can immerse themselves in their own unique Star Wars story and live out their intergalactic dreams in a highly interactive way.
Guests engage with characters, crew, other passengers, and even droids throughout their Galactic Starcruiser journey. Some highlights include lightsaber training, memorable live theater, role-playing interactions with Star Wars characters, galactic-themed dining and entertainment, and bridge navigation training. Storylines and gameplay missions come to life via the Star Wars: Datapad inside the Play Disney Parks app. Guests’ individual decisions profoundly affect how their personalized experience unfolds, so no two “voyages” are the same.
With cruise-like inclusive rates of $5,999 for four in a cabin, this immersive experience is probably best-suited for avid Star Wars fans and families with older Star Wars-loving children and teens. Some Galactic Starcruiser activities have minimum age requirements, such as 7 years and older for lightsaber training.
Pro Tips: Prepare well ahead of time to get the most out of your Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser adventure. Think about what your story will be. If you and your family want to arrive in character, you can purchase Galactic Starcruiser outfits in advance from shopDisney. Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is a tech-intensive experience, so pack portable chargers for your journey to a galaxy far, far away.
8. Dazzling New Performances And Shows
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond! recently opened at the Theater in the Wild at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. This newly reimagined 25-minute stage show takes families into the beloved undersea world depicted in the Disney and Pixar hit animated film Finding Nemo. The production is filled with visually immersive storytelling and features music, animated puppets, live performers, dancers, and innovative special effects.
Disney KiteTails is another colorful new attraction taking place on and over the Discovery River Lagoon. The short show features massive kites and character props from beloved Disney movies like The Lion King and The Jungle Book.
Pro Tip: Disney KiteTails was modified recently, and the show is performed on an unscheduled basis during the daytime. For the best chances of seeing the outdoor show, take a break near the Discovery River Lagoon and keep an eye on weather forecasts throughout the day.
9. Exciting Ongoing Developments
EPCOT And Throughout Walt Disney World
More new additions and innovations are on the way at Walt Disney World. One of the most anticipated is EPCOT’s Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana — the first Disney Parks experience based on Disney’s popular Moana movie. This walk-through attraction in EPCOT’s World Nature neighborhood is designed to encourage Disney guests to meet and play with water in a fun way while learning how to protect our world’s natural water resources. Another new area coming to EPCOT, the CommuniCore Hall and Plaza, will provide beautiful settings for the theme park’s popular festivals and musical performances.
Disney also just introduced a new MagicBand+ in late July. The next-generation wearables offer the same popular features as previous versions, plus they enable guests to engage in exciting interactive experiences throughout all four Walt Disney World parks. Guests at select Disney Resort hotels may also experience the rollout of Disney’s new “Hey Disney!” digital voice assistant using Amazon Alexa technology and devices later this year.
Pro Tips: Disney’s new MagicBand+ wearables are now available on the shopDisney website. Annual Passholders and those with reservations at a Walt Disney World Resort may be eligible for a special discount on MagicBand+ orders through their Disney account. Guests can also use Disney MagicMobile or an old MagicBand to perform select functions, including theme park and guest room entry.
Before heading off to Walt Disney World, download the free MyDisneyExperience app well in advance and get comfortable with its features. The app will help you to keep track of plans, make reservations, and get current wait times for theme park attractions so you can pack lots of Disney magic into your next trip.
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