New rides, restaurants, entertainment, and more is coming to Walt Disney World in 2023 & 2024. Here’s what’s next after the 50th Anniversary celebration concludes next year–construction info, expansion plans, and opening dates so you know what to expect when planning your WDW vacation. (Updated December 26, 2022.)
According to Walt Disney World, the “big” thing happening right now is the World’s Most Magical Celebration, an 18-month anniversary event running now through March 31, 2023. Honestly, the additions 50th Anniversary festivities have been underwhelming. The fireworks aren’t as good as what they replaced, and the whole thing feels more like a celebration of new characters than Walt Disney World turning 50.
While the 50th Anniversary celebration itself is lacking, there are still big long-term additions coming to Walt Disney World in the next few years. At this point, we’re mostly looking forward to Spring 2023, as that’s when the next big ride, restaurant, and more open. While we don’t yet have specific opening dates for most of this, 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.
Second, the MagicBand Plus. This is more of a mixed bag, which you can read all about in our MagicBand+ Review: The Good, Bad & Ugly! The MagicBand+ is now available and features color-changing lights, haptic vibrations, and gesture recognition. It also features two interactive minigames.
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 primary exception is Epcot, which is a sea of construction walls right now, and will be for the foreseeable future–likely through late 2023.
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.
Between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase, it’s a sea of 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 4 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. It’s nothing to plan your evening around, but it’s a nice touch, and there are also seasonal versions of the show for the park’s various festivals (and, for now, EPCOT’s 40th Anniversary).
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. (See our Connections Cafe & Eatery Review for recommendations and photos.)
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 earlier this year. 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.
Because of this, Walt Disney World has already announced that Harmonious will be replaced with a new show in late 2023. While an end date has not yet been officially announced, Disney has strongly hinted that it’ll end on March 31, 2023 with the rest of the 50th festivities. It’s likely that the interim Epcot Forever fireworks will return following that, while demolition/construction occurs in the lagoon.
In the meantime, 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 the previous fireworks, 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.
In a surprising turn of events, another project that had radio silence for over 2 years just debuted: DuckTales World Showcase Adventure. You can now play this game once you’ve downloaded (or updated) the Play Disney Parks app.
Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure is 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.”
Another 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 progress is coming along nicely. At the D23 Expo, Disney announced Moana’s Journey of Water will debut in late 2023. The company also revealed a big surprise–a towering Te Fiti figure that will be the centerpiece of the water maze!
Speaking of surprises, a Figment Meet & Greet is coming to EPCOT! You’ll once again be able to meet Figment in person at EPCOT “by the end” of 2023 according to Walt Disney World. No word yet on whether he’ll be joined by Dreamfinder, but we sure hope so!
The way that’s worded, it could be any day between today and December 31, 2023. However, that would not be the word choice if the intent were to open this anytime soon. I know staffing shortages are still impacting character appearances, but this isn’t that. Perhaps this is somehow related to the new Figment feature film being made by Seth Rogen?
Finally, we turn to the uncertain Epcot project: Play Pavilion, which will or might replace 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 it’s possible that Walt Disney World will open this pavilion at some point in 2023.
It’s also possible that Play Pavilion plans have been abandoned entirely, and it’ll never open. Walt Disney World has said absolutely nothing about this project in over 2 years. There haven’t even been credible rumors about it. Honestly, the only thing that gives us hope is that, like the DuckTales game, most of the work for this was done pre-closure. So it’s still possible that, also like that, Disney could make an announcement out of nowhere that the Play Pavilion is going to open this summer.
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 nighttime spectacular that debuted for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.
Like Harmonious, this fireworks show has been met by a mixed response from fans. As a result, Walt Disney World announced that Happily Ever After will return to Magic Kingdom in 2023! It’s expected that the show will feature a range of updates and enhancements, such as projections on Main Street and more. No date has been set for Happily Ever After’s return, but our expectation is April 2023.
Magic Kingdom will be “plussing” an iconic attraction in 2023 with the addition of the Hatbox Ghost. You may recognize this popular character from the attraction at Disneyland Resort in California.
If you’re unfamiliar with the history of this character, here’s a primer. Adding Hatbox Ghost to Haunted Mansion after so many years seems like thinly-veiled fan service, and it probably is. But who cares? the figure is cool, the effect is awesome, and it’s a nice plussing for the attraction. Plus, is it really so bad that there are Imagineers with their finger on the pulse of what the fan community wants who are willing to lovingly embrace the history of the park?.
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. Disney announced that TRON Lightcycle Run will open in Spring 2023, which means it will not debut this year as expected. The Walt Disney World Railroad, which was previously closed due to TRON construction, has returned.
Following that, there’s the Princess and the Frog reimagining of Splash Mountain at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The name of the new attraction evolving from 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. According to Disney, the reimagined ride will open at Magic Kingdom in Florida and Disneyland in California in late 2024.
It’s premature to get excited about any of these, as these are only ideas being thrown around at this point, and a final proposal 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.
There’s not really anything major on the horizon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom that’s official, nor is there much that’s new.
There was KiteTails for the 50th, but that concluded its run. The only other 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’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. This was essentially confirmed during the “A Boundless Future: Disney Parks, Experiences and Products” presentation at D23 Expo.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro offered a sneak peek at concept art for the future in addition and teased what was to come in a few years. He revealed blue sky pitches and “potential expansion” opportunities and “early concept exploration” for Dinoland USA at Animal Kingdom. One of those included detailed concept art for a Moana Mini-Land at Animal Kingdom that would replace Dino-Rama.
The other is a Zootopia Expansion for Animal Kingdom that would be built beyond Dino-Rama. The concept art show that both of these proposals are simultaneously viable. The detail of the concept art suggests they are far along in the development. The caveats offered by Disney indicate that they have not yet been greenlit or funded, meaning that they may never happen.
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 opening in the next 5 years. But we shall see!
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 few 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.
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 2023 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.
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 2023 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!