New rides, restaurants, entertainment, and more is coming to Walt Disney World in 2022. Here’s what’s next during the 50th Anniversary celebration–construction info, expansion plans, and opening dates so you know what to expect when planning your WDW vacation. (Updated June 10, 2022.)
There’s a good amount still coming for the World’s Most Magical Celebration, which kicked off last October and runs until Spring 2023. Our Guide to Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversarycovers everything that’s new for the 18-month event: nighttime spectaculars & fireworks, attractions, entertainment, decorations, decor, and more.
While the 50th Anniversary celebration itself is lacking, there are still big long-term additions coming to Walt Disney World in 2022 and 2023 that will coincide with the festivities. We visit the parks regularly and monitor announcements–if you want notifications about Walt Disney World news or rumors, sign up for our FREE Walt Disney World Email Newsletter.
When it comes to what’s new, two of the biggest things don’t involve construction at all. First up is Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, the highly-controversial paid FastPass replacement, which debuted last fall. This changes the guest experience, arguably for the worse. Everything you need to know is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World.
Next up is something that should be positive: MagicBand+ is launching at Walt Disney World in Summer 2022! The MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with color-changing lights, haptic vibrations, and gesture recognition. This could end up being one of the surprise additions of the year at Walt Disney World, that does a lot more than guests are expecting. We expect MagicBand+ to start being sold in late June 2022.
With regard to construction, the good news is that many of the biggest projects are finished or don’t impact the guest experience. This includes the massive Disney’s Hollywood Studios overhaul, Animal Kingdom expansion, and resort development. In fact, 3 of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks are looking good and mostly wall-free. There’s not nearly as much construction at Walt Disney World in 2022.
The primary exception is Epcot, which is a sea of construction walls right now, and will be for the foreseeable future–likely through 2023. Nevertheless, work will continue throughout Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, which will likely see a soft reboot or second push in Summer 2022, right around its halfway point.
Here’s a park by park look at everything new and coming soon to Walt Disney World…
At Epcot, the front of the park is looking good as the reimagined park entrance project is finished. Redesigned landscaping, flags, topiaries, and an iconic prismatic pylon fountain in front of Spaceship Earth have all been installed. These are further enhanced at night by an upgraded lighting package, including the Beacons of Magic discussed below.
Behind Spaceship Earth, the central spine of Future World between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase has more walls. The work here is currently the largest construction project at Walt Disney World, which results in a lot of visual blight to the front of Epcot. Basically, the entire center of Future World is enclosed by construction walls right now.
The good news is that there’s now a walkway running directly from the main entrance to World Showcase that passes in front of Creations Shop and Connections Cafe & Eatery. This is much easier and more efficient than using the bypass on the other side that winds around the Land, Seas, and Journey into Imagination pavilions.
Not much is going to be built in the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit™️ above, which will become CommuniCore Hall & Plaza. This area will be home to trees, an enchanted garden, planter, and festival area. It’ll also feature an outdoor stage, demonstration kitchen, and character meet & greet.
This area has already been torn up for almost 3 years, and won’t be finished for at least 1 more. The closure of Walt Disney World resulted in this overhaul being paused for roughly one full year, with Imagineering going back to the drawing board. Many elements were scaled back, cut entirely, or reworked. The original plans were much more ambitious than simply planting trees and rebuilding a structure they demolished.
Moreover, Walt Disney World has indefinitely delayed or cancelled a handful of Epcot projects. In Future World, there’s the Spaceship Earth Overhaul & Enhancements. The “story light” component of this has been delayed indefinitely.
Other upgrades have debuted with Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary, including “Beacons of Magic” and an all-new projection mapping effect on the outside of the geodesic sphere. For the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival–which runs through July 4, 2022–there’s a special “Colors of the Wind” segment from Pocahontas. It’s nothing to plan your evening around, but it’s a nice touch.
Right behind Spaceship Earth, the Creations Shop and Club Cool are both now open. These were built in the former Innoventions building, where MouseGear was previously located.
On the other side of the building, Connections Cafe & Eatery is also now open in the space that used to house Electric Umbrella. In addition to a counter service restaurant, this is now Epcot’s permanent Starbucks location.
The biggest addition coming to Epcot this year is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is a hybrid roller coaster. This blockbuster attraction opened at Walt Disney World to kick off the Summer 2022 tourist season. Cosmic Rewind is awesome–the best new ride at Epcot in decades.
At Space 220 Restaurant, guests board a special space elevator that ascends to the stars. Upon arrival, you enjoy a celestial panorama from the space station, with the ability to peer out and enjoy daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up.
Harmonious, a new nighttime spectacular has debuted in World Showcase Lagoon. This is one of the biggest entertainment spectacles Walt Disney World has ever created. We’ve seen it several times and find Harmonious to be a mixed bag.
This nighttime spectacular is very different from its predecessors, and we’d strongly recommend checking out our Best Harmonious Viewing Locations at Epcot for advice on where to see it. We regularly see guests camped out in spots that offered good views of IllumiNations, but are subpar for Harmonious.
Moving deeper into World Showcase, the newest E-Ticket attraction to open at Epcot is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. This family-friendly trackless dark ride is part of an expansion of the France pavilion. This was delayed by over a year to the start of the World’s Most Magical Celebration.
In addition to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, this expansion to the France pavilion includes a variety of retail and restaurant additions, most notably La Crêperie de Paris. This crêperie offers both table and quick-service options featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jerome Bocuse.
Next we turn to the uncertain Epcot projects. First up is the Play Pavilion, which replaces Wonders of Life. At one point, this was also intended to open “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.” An official date has not been announced for this, but we’d anticipate this pavilion will open at some point in 2022.
It would make sense for the Play Pavilion to debut not long after Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. That would mean the World Discovery neighborhood would be finished, leaving “only” the work in World Discovery and Nature. However, Walt Disney World has said absolutely nothing about this project in 2 years. It’s possible it’s done entirely and just sitting there or has been totally abandoned and will never debut. We truly have no idea. There haven’t even been credible rumors about it.
Along those lines, Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will debut…at some point. Supposedly. Maybe? If all went according to plan, it would’ve by now. Disney confirmed over a year ago that it’s still coming despite the show being cancelled, but there haven’t been any other updates since. We wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen.
Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will be the next iteration of the interactive scavenger hunt around World Showcase that previously featured Kim Possible and currently Phineas & Ferb. It should be a good way to engage kids in an area of Epcot they often find “boring.”
A smaller scale addition that’s definitely coming to the front of Epcot is Moana: Journey of Water. This is the first-ever attraction based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit film, Moana. This water maze will be a lush environment where guests can interact with living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting.
Construction is now vertical on Moana: Journey of Water, and it’s reasonable to expect that it will debut in Spring 2023. Walt Disney World has not offered an opening year or even season, but we do know that this is being actively worked on and moving at a brisk pace.
Next up is Magic Kingdom, where Cinderella Castle is all decked out for the World’s Most Magical Celebration. It’s also the centerpiece of Disney Enchantment, a new nighttime spectacular that debuted for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Disney Enchantment is an evening extravaganza that features songs mostly from recent movies, and purports to take guests on a journey filled with adventure and wonder. It’s a fireworks show with enhanced lighting, stunning pyro and projection effects that extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street.
As for Jungle Cruise, the goal was to add more humor, wildlife, and skipper heart, while also reflecting and valuing the diversity of the world around us. Gone are some antiquated stereotypes; added are a ton more monkeys.
Magic Kingdom’s next big project on the horizon is the TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster being built in Tomorrowland behind Space Mountain. This addition has zero guest impact because it’s outside the existing boundary of Magic Kingdom, meaning no construction walls in pathways.
This is another attraction that was planned to open in time for the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. At this point, it’s likely that TRON Lightcycle Run will not debut until Fall 2022 at the earliest. While this attraction is outside Magic Kingdom’s existing berm, its construction has resulted in closures to the Walt Disney World Railroad through at least mid-2022.
We doubt that Splash Mountain will close before late 2022 or early 2023 at Walt Disney World. It’s entirely plausible that Disneyland’s overhaul starts first, conceivably finishing prior to work on the Magic Kingdom incarnation even beginning. Meaning this might not even start at Magic Kingdom until 2023 or 2024.
There’s not really anything major on the horizon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. For the 50th Anniversary, Walt Disney World added “Disney KiteTails” to the Discovery River Amphitheater.
Performers fly wind catchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while out on the water with elaborate three-dimensional kites— some stretching to 30 feet long—depict Simba, Zazu, Baloo, and King Louie. These colorful creations dance through the sky to the beat of favorite Disney songs in an uplifting, vibrant experience for the whole family.
What’s next for Animal Kingdom is unclear. Primeval Whirl permanently closed and there have been rumors and speculation, of varying degrees of credibility, that what’s currently Dino-Rama is the next big expansion site at Walt Disney World. The demolition of Primeval Whirl has added fuel to the fire, with fans hoping an official announcement comes at the 2022 D23 Expo. Rumored replacements have ranged from Indiana Jones to Zootopia to a revival of the Excavator roller coaster plans (or something similar).
Pessimistically, Walt Disney World has slowed and stretched out construction timelines, and already has projects lined up between now and 2023 or 2024. The company’s conservative approach and lethargic pace doesn’t instill confidence that anything with Dino-Rama is happening in the next 5 years. But we shall see! (While all of those ideas sound fun, Animal Kingdom could really use another family-friendly dark ride more than anything else.)
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, all major projects are now finished. The final piece of the puzzle in the relaunch of Disney’s Hollywood Studios was Mickey & Mickey’s Runaway Railway. It’s inspired by the recent cartoon shorts and brings guests through the screen to take a ride inside a zany cartoon world.
As you can read in our Spoiler-Free Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Review, we enjoy this attraction. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s a solid addition. Additionally, the Mickey Shorts Theater has debuted and is playing an original short film in the style of the popular Disney Channel animated series “Mickey Mouse.”
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is also now open–and is now a couple years old. This themed universe is the biggest addition to Walt Disney World in years. The first phase included all shops, dining, and the Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run ride.
That was followed by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the flagship attraction of Galaxy’s Edge. As we covered in our spoiler-free review, this ride is absolutely worth the wait. It’s one of Walt Disney World’s top 5 attractions, and the best thing added to Walt Disney World in at least 25 years.
Although technically behind the park in the Disney’s Hollywood Studios Cast Member parking lot, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser is now open behind Galaxy’s Edge. This offers an immersive visit that further enhances what guests experience in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Toy Story Land has now been open for several years, but due to its popularity and crowds, this area is already receiving an expansion in the form of a gift shop, covered seating area, and new restaurant.
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 has been overhauled.
Cirque du Soleil: Drawn to Life is the most recent thing to debut, beginning its run last holiday season. This is the successor to “La Nouba,” which ran for almost two decades in the iconic white circus tent on the Westside before closing.
A lot of the big Disney Springs additions have been quietly cancelled or postponed indefinitely. This includes Ample Hills and Beatrix neighborhood restaurant.
Next up, Summer House on the Lake will be built on the site that was slated for Beatrix. This California coastal cuisine in a modern setting actually looks better than Beatrix to us.
Aside from that, the re-imagining of Disney Springs is pretty much finished. These changes have 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.
Two resorts opened at Walt Disney World relatively recently. The first of these was Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Our review of this property was mixed, with our ultimate conclusion being that it offered strong bang for buck and was very appealing for a certain type of traveler.
Next, Disney’s Riviera Resort is the latest DVC Resort. This property is adjacent to Caribbean Beach and offers direct Skyliner access to Epcot. Our Disney’s Riviera Resort Review covers the pros & cons of these Disney Vacation Club accommodations.
This DVC resort, along with Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation are connected to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the recently-added Disney Skyliner gondola system, which opened a couple of years ago.
Throughout 2022 and beyond, several resorts are undergoing refurbishment, construction, and expansion projects. In particular, there are a lot of room renovations, particularly at Value Resorts and DVC properties.
As you can probably tell, there is a lot that’s new and coming soon to Walt Disney World in the next few years. 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!
Which attractions coming to Walt Disney World in 2022 or beyond 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!