New rides, restaurants, entertainment, and more is coming to Walt Disney World in 2024 & 2025. Here’s what’s rumored and official: construction info, expansion plans, and opening dates so you know what to expect when planning your WDW vacation. (Updated February 20, 2024.)
Walt Disney World is basically in-between development cycles right now, which is either a good or bad thing depending upon your perspective or when you last visited. Ahead of the 50th Anniversary, many major additions were built to add new lands and attractions. This included Toy Story and Star Wars lands, TRON Lightcycle Run, and the overhaul and expansion of EPCOT. All of that is now open.
When it comes to what’s new, several of the biggest things don’t involve construction at all, but rather, are changes to the guest experience. First up is Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, the highly-controversial paid FastPass replacement. This is far and away the most consequential change in the last few years, and it is imperative that you understand this system before visiting. Everything you need to know is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Walt Disney World.
Another major change occurred when the Disney’s Magical Express airport shuttle service ended. Now, visitors arriving to Orlando International Airport will need to rent a car, use Uber/Lyft, or arrange for an alternative shuttle service via Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine. See our Guide to Airport Transportation for Walt Disney World for the pros & cons of each option.
Speaking of transportation, there was a positive change made with the return of free overnight self-parking for guests staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels. This fee had been added a few years ago and was a major source of outrage at the time. Free parking is a major distinction that few off-site hotels around Orlando offer.
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 right now than any other time in the last 5 years. The only exception is EPCOT, which still has some walls around CommuniCore Hall and Plaza. Even there, it’s not nearly as bad as last year–you can easily navigate directly from the front of the park to World Showcase without having to go around any walls. Now that’s what I call progress!
Here’s a park by park look at everything new and coming soon to Walt Disney World…
The front of EPCOT 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 mesmerizing Beacons of Magic synchronized displays.
Between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase, the new World Celebration gardens are now open. This is essentially just walkways, seating areas, and planters. It’s a major improvement as compared to the last few years, when it was construction walls surrounding the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit™️. But it’s also not anything of substance and it’s hard to see what took so long. You’ll pass through and maybe stop for a photo with the Walt Disney statue, before continuing on your way. At night it looks nice.
The only area of World Celebration that has yet to open is CommuniCore Hall & Plaza. This festival space will feature an outdoor stage, demonstration kitchen, and character meet & greet. There’s no indication as to when that could occur, and it’s already been delayed repeatedly. Our best guess is that it opens in early June 2024.
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 recent addition at EPCOT is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is a hybrid roller coaster. This blockbuster attraction opened at Walt Disney World at the start of last summer. 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.
The next project on the horizon in World Discovery is a Test Track 3.0 Ride Reimagining. Walt Disney World announced at Destination D23 that the attraction will receive an update inspired by World of Motion! That’s exciting news that’s aimed squarely at longtime Walt Disney World fans.
While it remains to be seen exactly what that means, it’s cause for optimism. Test Track 3.0 is a low-floor, high-ceiling kind of project…and one being paid for by someone else, so it’s not even coming at the expense of another (higher priority) Walt Disney World project! Win-win! It sounds like this is fairly early in development, so we’re not expecting it to debut until late 2024 or 2025.
Another addition at 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 interactive water exploration trail is now open.
Journey of Water is a new walk-through experience located within World Nature – the EPCOT neighborhood dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty and balance of the natural world. It’s a lovely little addition that captures the spirit of EPCOT.
Nearby, you’re also able to meet Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse in the Imagination pavilion. The couple meet in the lobby of the Magic Eye Theater, which is home to the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. (You do not need to watch that in order to see them.)
Also in the Imagination pavilion, you’ll once again find Figment. The not-so-little purple dragon is meeting in the ImageWorks area, which is the exit of Journey into Imagination. You can either ride the attraction and see him on your way out, or enter through the gift shop. We highly recommend meeting Figment!
On this same side of the park, Soarin’ Over California is back. Walt Disney World has not confirmed when its run will end, but it’s still running as of late February 2024. It could end literally any day now…or stick around for years. We’re somewhat surprised it’s still being shown.
The OG Soarin’ is better than Soarin’ Over CGI, and I’m really happy that other Disney fans will be able to experience it again for the first time since 2016…or even ever. (We’ve done it many times during its limited engagements at Disney California Adventure, and will happily ride again at EPCOT.)
Turning to World Showcase, you can currently catch Luminous The Symphony of Us, has now officially debuted as the new nighttime spectacular. This replaces Harmonious, which was intended to be a permanent lagoon show but failed, and the interim EPCOT Forever. Luminous is very good, and should stick around for years to come.
The newest E-Ticket attraction to open in World Showcase is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. This family-friendly trackless dark ride is part of an expansion of the France pavilion.
In addition to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, this area features La Crêperie de Paris. This crêperie offers both table and quick-service options featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jerome Bocuse.
Next up is Magic Kingdom, where Happily Ever After is now back and being performed nightly. The beloved nighttime spectacular features enhancements, such as projections on Main Street and more. Walt Disney World fans love Happily Ever After and are coming out in full force to see it.
Our Viewing Guide to the Happily Ever After Fireworks at Magic Kingdomcovers the best & worst spots to see the nighttime spectacular. Perhaps most importantly, it shares a few great low-crowds locations for those who don’t want to be in the crush of crowds. (Seriously, don’t underestimate the chaos and congestion, which can be downright uncomfortable, especially for those with strollers or ECVs.)
Magic Kingdom is also home to the biggest and newest ride at Walt Disney World: TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster in Tomorrowland behind Space Mountain. The Walt Disney World Railroad, which was previously closed due to TRON construction, has also returned.
TRON Lightcycle Run is already proving to be one of the most popular rides at Walt Disney World, and is relatively unique in NOT offering a traditional standby line. See our Virtual Queue Strategy Guide for TRON Lightcycle Run for how to experience the attraction for free. As with Cosmic Rewind, you can also purchase Individual Lightning Lane line-skipping access.
With that said, neither the free nor the paid option is simple or straightforward. There are two times to join the virtual queue–one is early in the morning and the other is in the afternoon–and both fill up within seconds. Buying Lightning Lane access is slightly easier, at least if you’re staying on-site. To that end, read our Ride Review: Is TRON Lightcycle Run Worth Your Time or Money? to determine if the hassle or expensive is justified.
Finally, there TRON Lightcycle Run has some issues with larger guests not fitting into the ride vehicles due to weight, height, and more. If you’re tall, have muscular legs, or are plus-sized, you might have issues with the normal lightcycles. We cover everything you need to know in TRON Lightcycle Run Problems for Larger Guests. If you think you could have problems fitting into the lightcycle, we’d strongly recommend reading that. Not only does it cover common issues, but also suggestions for improving your chances of ‘successfully’ riding the attraction in a standard seat.
This Audio Animatronics ghost has materialized in a different spot than his California counterpart–and one that’s controversial among fans. Nevertheless, it’s cool to see Hatbox Ghost at Walt Disney World, and that Haunted Mansion continues to receive refreshes from Imagineering.
Speaking of the classics, a Pirates of the Caribbean Tavern is coming at some point to Adventureland (near the attraction). Expect this to be like Oga’s Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, except themed to pirates.
It’ll be an intimate setting, featuring the Barker Bird Audio Animatronics figure. No timeline has been given, but we expect this to debut in 2024.
Another nearby classic is receiving a reimagining: Country Bear Musical Jamboree. The new show is coming in Summer 2024, the Bear Band will be reinterpreting favorite Disney songs in different genres of country music. Imagineers are envisioning the new experience as a homage to the classic musical revues in Nashville and they’re working with Nashville musicians to get the authentic country sound.
The Country Bear Jamboree will still have the fun and friendly tone fans enjoy with the same famous characters like the loveable Trixie, Big Al and others. Above is the concert-style poster art Imagineering created to promote the reimagined Country Bear Musical Jamboree. As a result of the reimagining, Country Bear Jamboree is currently closed.
As in Frontierland, there’s the Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, which is the reimagining of Splash Mountain is Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The reimagined ride will bring guests into the world of “The Princess and the Frog” after the events of the movie. As a result, Splash Mountain is now closed at Walt Disney World.
Originally intended to open in late 2024, the timeline has been accelerated dramatically and the company announced during Mardi Gras that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open in Summer 2024. There isn’t yet an official date, but the summer season for Disney is typically Memorial Day to Labor Day. Our guess is that Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opens in mid-to-late June 2024, with a brief preview period before that.
After Tiana’s Bayou Adventure is finished, it appears that Walt Disney World will turn its attention to that ride’s neighbor. At the last D23 Expo, the company shared a variety of Villains, Encanto, and Coco Concepts for “Beyond Big Thunder.” Given what we now know about the Animal Kingdom plans (below), Encanto and maybe Coco are now probably off the table for that.
It’s premature to get excited about any of these proposals, as these are only ideas being thrown around at this point, and a final plan for the plot has not yet been decided. The salient point is not the specifics–it’s that Walt Disney World intends upon building a major expansion on par with New Fantasyland. We should hear more during the 2024 D23 Expo in Anaheim.
There’s not really anything major on the horizon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom that’s official, nor is there much that’s new.
The only official thing is Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond, which is a reimagined version of Finding Nemo: The Musical. The show is substantially similar, but it’s a tighter production with a shorter runtime. Still has the songs and puppets that made the musical a winner!
What else is next for Animal Kingdom is unclear. Primeval Whirl permanently closed and the company has confirmed that what’s currently Dino-Rama is the next big expansion site at Walt Disney World. They’ve also officially announced that the replacement will be the Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom.
What’s still not 100% confirmed is what this area will feature. Walt Disney World has teased Encanto and Indiana Jones concepts that are supposedly just “under consideration.” It’s our understanding that they’re a done deal, and the above concept art is what will be built. But that’s not official until Disney confirms it, and even then, recent official projects have been cancelled even after construction started. So it’s really not a sure thing until construction commences beyond the point of no return, so to speak.
Our expectation is that DINOSAUR will close in late 2024 or early 2025 for conversion into Indiana Jones Adventure, which should open roughly a year or so later–but probably not before Spring 2026.
The other thing we know for sure is that a Zootopia Tree of Life Showis replacing It’s Tough to Be a Bug. This is significant not just on its own, but also because this effectively takes Zootopia Land out of play for Animal Kingdom. Our expectation is that this debuts in Late 2024, but no timeframe has been given.
Pessimistically, it’s likely that Tropical Americas replacing Dinoland will take much longer. Walt Disney World has slowed and stretched out construction timelines, and already has projects lined up between now and Late 2024. The company’s conservative approach and lethargic pace doesn’t instill confidence that anything with Dino-Rama is opening before 2026. But we shall see!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The newest addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in Toy Story Land. Due to its popularity and crowds, this area has already received minor expansions in the form of a gift shop and covered seating area.
Aside from that, a lot has happened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the last several years. At the front of the park, you’ll find Mickey & Mickey’s Runaway Railway, which was inspired by cartoon shorts and brings guests through the screen to take a ride inside a zany cartoon world.
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.
There have been other additions to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the most popular of which is the Mandalorian and Baby Yoda walk-around characters who meet and greet guests. The dynamic duo does not have specific appearance times, nor do they have a dedicated location. You’re most likely to spot them around Black Spire Outpost between 10 am and 5 pm.
The Mandalorian and Grogu are insanely popular and usually mobbed by guests. If you want the best chance to see them with the lowest possible crowds, be in Galaxy’s Edge as close to 10 am as possible.
Much less popular is Batuu Bounty Hunters, an interactive game that can be played with the MagicBand+, which is itself is another relatively new addition to Walt Disney World. (See our MagicBand+ Review: The Good, Bad & Ugly! for more–including whether you should buy the MB+.)
On another Star Wars note, Ahsoka will become part of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris in Spring 2024.
It’s nice to see Star Tours continuing to get love even after Galaxy’s Edge, and the new destinations have all been really well done. There’s much less demand for Star Tours these days, but do not sleep on it. The attraction is still fantastic–and fresh!
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 entertainment offering to debut, performing in iconic white circus tent on the Westside. In addition to that, Salt & Straw scoop shop has opened, as has Gideon’s Bakehouse. There are also a bunch of new stores, from M&M’s to Corkcicle to Lululemon.
In terms of major additions, Summer House on the Lake has been built on the site that was slated for Beatrix. This California coastal cuisine in a modern setting actually looks better than Beatrix to us. Summer House on the Lake is now open!
Another new Disney Springs restaurant is EET by Maneet Chauhan, a modern Indian restaurant that replaced Wolfgang Puck Express location in the Marketplace. We’re really looking forward to this one, which is also now open.
WDW Resort Hotels
Two resorts opened at Walt Disney World within the last few years. 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 few years ago.
As you can probably tell, there is a lot that’s new and coming soon to Walt Disney World in the next few years.
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 2024 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!