What’s New & Next at Disney World: 2019-2021

Wondering what new rides, shows, restaurants, and other things are coming soon to Walt Disney World, and what has recently opened? In this, we cover what’s next on the horizon for 2019 through 2021, and offer construction info, expansion plans, and more for the theme parks and hotels, plus how ‘important’ each of these additions is in terms of vacation planning. (Last updated September 4, 2019.)

This used to be information we covered near the top of our Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Guide. However, during a recent update to that post, we realized this section was getting longer and longer due to all of the changes at Walt Disney World, causing the guide to balloon to over 7,000 words. Since we describe that planning guide as “WDW101” offering a crash course in the basics of trip prep, it probably should not be the size of a Tolstoy novel.

Of course, what’s “new” is in the eye of the beholder. If you are an Annual Passholder, much of what we discuss here is old news. By contrast, if you’re a first-timer, everything about Walt Disney World is brand new. We tend to take a middle ground approach, treating the last year or so as new-ish, as we’ve found many of our readers are fans who visit Walt Disney World every 1-3 years…

If you’re someone who visits every few years, you might also be wondering when to visit. As you’ll see in the sections that follow, there’s a ton of construction right now with some major expansion projects debuting between now and Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021.

We could devote an entire post to whether you should go in 2019 or wait, analyzing the pros and cons of visiting versus delaying. And we have! In our Should You Visit Walt Disney World in 2020…or Wait for 2021? post, we weigh all pertinent considerations, including price increases, likelihood of heavier crowds, hotel availability, new attractions, construction, and more.

Speaking of which, we do monthly updates on the biggest construction projects at Walt Disney World, you can see a listing of our latest updates here. There is an unprecedented amount of construction at Walt Disney World right now, with even more to start in Epcot later this year. The good news is that many of the hotel projects are starting to wrap up, but you can expect a rolling wave of work between now and 2022.

Here’s a park by park look at everything new and coming soon to Walt Disney World…

Epcot

We’ll start at Epcot, as that’s where the big transformation is about to begin. Much of what’s currently Future World (too many things to list here) is slated to close on September 8, 2019.

In addition to what has already been announced, we anticipate more changes, additions, and closures to be announced for Epcot in the next year or two. Most of the replacements, depicted in the concept art below, should debut in phases between 2020 and 2022…

As you can see above, a massive redesign will occur at the front of Epcot, eliminating Future World and replacing it with 3 new neighborhoods, including a 3-level festival center. This will result in a sea of construction walls at the front of the park beginning in mid-September 2019. Work has already started to remove the old Leave a Legacy tombstones.

Walt Disney World has confirmed that Spaceship Earth will be reimagined during this time, but details of when it’ll close or the closure’s duration have not been announced. Previously, we reported on the rumor of a 2-Year Spaceship Earth Overhaul that could begin in late 2019.

In the more immediate future, Walt Disney World has announced that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth will be retired and replaced at the end of Summer 2019, with Epcot Forever debuting the next day on October 1, 2019.

Also on October 1, 2019, “Walt Disney Imagineering Presents the Epcot Experience” will debut in the Odyssey Pavilion near Test Track. This will be a showcase and preview center for everything that’s coming soon to EPCOT!

Epcot Forever will run for a little less than a year before the permanent replacement, HarmoniUS, debuts sometime in 2020. Disney has stated that HarmoniUS will be the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney theme park.

Concept art and descriptions make it look like a mix of World of Color and traditional fireworks show with floating set pieces, dancing water fountains, pyro, lasers, spotlights, and more (DRONES?!?!).

In January 2020 as part of the 2020 Epcot International Festival of the Arts several new movies will debut at Epcot. This includes Awesome Planet in the Land pavilion, Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-long in France, and new Circle-Vision 360 film for the Canada Pavilion. The new Seamless Circle-Vision 360 film for China, called Wondrous China, will debut at a date to be determined.

Also in what’s presently Future World, the Space 220 Restaurant is being built adjacent to Mission: Space and will open in Late 2019. Space 220 will feature internationally-inspired cuisine plus over 1,000 bottles of the wines and a wide selection of craft beer.

Additionally, the Play Pavilion will replace Wonders of Life in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. An official date has not been announced for this, but we’d anticipate this new pavilion will open at some point in 2020 or early 2021.

It would make sense for the new park entrance and Play Pavilion to debut as ‘phase one’ of the Epcot reimagining.

The biggest announced addition for Epcot is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is a hybrid roller coaster that will debut in Future World sometime in 2021. We’re expecting Summer 2021, but that’s not official. This is the biggest-budget project at Walt Disney World now that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open.

The other E-Ticket coming to Epcot is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a family-friendly Ratatouille trackless dark ride that will open in an expansion of World Showcase’s France pavilion, with an official debut “season” of Summer 2020.

Also back in World Showcase, Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue (or as we’ve been calling it, “Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint”) will open in late 2019 or early 2020.

Next, a Mary Poppins Expansion is Coming to World Showcase. This will include a Cherry Tree Lane area, and an attraction of some sort. No opening date has been announced, but we’re expecting this to come in 2021 at the earliest–perhaps 2022.

There are also credible rumors that two new countries will be added to World Showcase, among countless other rumors. Epcot is the next ‘big’ re-imagining for Walt Disney World after the expansion at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is finished, with Disney planning to invest over $1 billion into Epcot.

Some of this work is expected to take until 2023, meaning it all will not be done in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021.

Magic Kingdom

Next up is Magic Kingdom. The big substantive project here right now is the TRON roller coaster being built in Tomorrowland. This is another attraction that will open in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary in 2021. While this attraction is an expansion to the park outside its existing berm, its construction will cause closures to the Walt Disney World Railroad through at least 2020.

In addition to TRON Lightcycle Power Run, there are other aesthetic changes occurring in Tomorrowland to help the coaster blend with the existing land. On a substantive note, we anticipate several new pieces of entertainment and attraction overlays being announced soon for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is now open–at least, the first phase. This includes all shops, dining, and the Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run ride. (Read our First Impressions of Star Wars Land at Walt Disney World.) On December 5, 2019, the flagship attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will open.

Toy Story Land is also now open. We share our thoughts on this new area in our lengthy Toy Story Land Review. If you’re just looking for strategy, check out our Toy Story Land FastPass+ & Strategy post.

With that said, Toy Story Land isn’t quite done. Next up is a New Roundup Rodeo BBQ Table Service Restaurant Coming as an Expansion to Toy Story Land. Backstage facilities have already been removed to make way for this restaurant, which we anticipate will open in late 2020 or early 2021. (No official date has been announced.)

New entertainment has also come to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for 2019. The Incredibles have taken over the former Pixar Place, with new meet & greets, a dance party, and more. Over on the other side of the park, Lightning McQueen’s Race Academy is now operating.

The biggest remaining piece of the puzzle in the relaunch of Disney’s Hollywood Studios is Mickey & Mickey’s Runaway Railway, and that will debut in Spring 2020.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is inspired by the new cartoon shorts and brings guests through the screen to take a ride inside a zany cartoon world. Our expectations are high for this–and so are Disney’s; they’re already planning to clone the ride at Disneyland!

Animal Kingdom

There’s not really anything major on the horizon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, Pandora – World of Avatar is still the “hot new thing” and will remain biggest addition in over a decade at Walt Disney World until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. Likewise, Avatar Flight of Passage remains the most popular ride in all of Walt Disney World. For tips & tricks on beating the crowds, read our Ultimate Guide to Pandora – World of Avatar.

Elsewhere at Animal Kingdom, the nighttime spectacular Rivers of Light is now a couple of years old, and just received a remix: Rivers of Light: We Are One for Summer 2019. This new version of the show features scenes from Disneynature films and animated movies. While we enjoy Rivers of Light, opinions about it are mixed, and you definitely don’t need a FastPass+ or dining package for it.

Throughout 2019, Animal Kingdom will be celebrating the Lion King‘s 25th Anniversary with “Hakuna Matata Time Dance Party” on Discovery Island, which will feature Timon and Rafiki. Other than that minor offering, the only recent addition has been a walk-around Kevin, the bird from Up, which is actually pretty cool.

Disney Springs

Then there’s Disney Springs. This is the entertainment and shopping district previously known as Downtown Disney. Producing a comprehensive list of what has opened here in the last ~5 years would be daunting, as around 75% of this area is new or newly-redone.

The re-imagining of Disney Springs is almost done now, and it has made fans of both of us big time with solid additions such as the Boathouse, Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, the Edison, 4 Rivers Cantina, and more. Jaleo by José Andrés and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill have also recently opened.

Read our Table Service Restaurant Rankings for Disney Springs and Counter Service Restaurant Rankings for Disney Springs Springs if you want better insight as to which of the many, many dining options to choose. The newest addition to Disney Springs is the NBA Experience, which just debuted.

During last week’s D23 Expo, we learned that the next big thing on the horizon at Disney Springs is a Cirque du Soleil show inspired by Disney animation and storytelling.

This new Cirque du Soleil show will feature acrobatic performances, dazzling choreography, musical masterpieces, and whimsical characters, and debuts on March 20, 2020.

Resorts

At present, several resorts are undergoing refurbishment, construction, and expansion project. We would recommend consulting our list of 2019-2020 Construction & Refurbishments at Walt Disney World Hotels, which we update regularly for insight into changes at existing hotels.

In terms of new projects, a Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort has been announced for Walt Disney World, which will offer an immersive visit that further enhances what guests experience in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This resort is unlikely to open until 2020, at the earliest.

Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort just opened in Summer 2019. Disney’s Riviera Resort, new Disney Vacation Club Resort, is also currently being constructed adjacent to Caribbean Beach, and will have its grand opening festivities on December 16, 2019.

This new DVC resort, along with Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation will be connected to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the new Disney Skyliner gondola system. This new gondola transportation will debut on September 29, 2019.

As you can probably tell, there is a lot that’s coming to Walt Disney World in the next few years. Far more than what has opened in the last several. After years of relative stagnation, Disney has kicked expansion at its Florida properties into high gear, resulting in the biggest construction boom in decades.

With that said, don’t fret too much about the construction–even with an unprecedented amount, must of its out-of-the-way of guest areas, and there are still a ton of attractions to do at Walt Disney World no matter when you visit!

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

Your Thoughts

Which additions at Walt Disney World are you most excited to experience? Are you delaying your next visit to maximize seeing ‘new stuff’ or moving it forward to avoid the crowds? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!


28 Responses to “What’s New & Next at Disney World: 2019-2021”
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