While we were at Walt Disney World Resort, Florida last week, I was lucky enough to catch a press conference about everything that’s new and coming up at the parks. There’s exciting news of two new lands: a Star Wars themed land, and a new Toy Story land, plus more information on Pandora: The World of AVATAR, which is coming in 2017. We also had some sneaky peeks of attractions and shows that are due to open, including Rivers of Light and new nighttime Kilimanjaro Safaris. Step this way for all the news (by the way, I had to write really, really quickly while people were talking so please excuse any errors or omissions):
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is in for some major new attactions, some of which are already open. We were delighted to experience a breathtaking preview of the new Star Wars-themed firework display called Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular, which features music from the Star Wars films.
Also at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Animation Courtyard is Star Wars Launch Bay – one of the things that Disney do really well with their newer attractions is to make queuing really interesting. Here, you can see special concept artwork as you’re waiting, then you can actually meet Star Wars characters (I’m not going to ruin it and tell you which ones – I’ll just say that one is pretty darned scary), plus there are all sorts of incredible original memorabilia as well as replicas from all the Star Wars movies, including items from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s a must-see, even if you didn’t think you were much of a Star Wars fan.
One of the biggest announcements for Disney’s Hollywood Studios is news that a whole new Star Wars-themed land will be arriving. This brand new, 14 acre site will be themed to recreate a new planet on the outer rim, where you can walk through the alien markets, stop for a bite to eat, visit a dinner club or cantina (doo do doo do do do doooooo) and even FLY THE MILENNIUM FALCON (yup, you read that right), plus a ride that will transport guests into the middle of an epic Star Wars battle. Pass me my lightsaber.
As if this isn’t enough, a fabulous new 11 acre Toy Story Land will also be coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The land will recreate Andy’s back yard and shrink guests to the size of a toy. I’m particularly looking forward to the brand new Slinky Dog Dash – a huge family coaster that will whizz guests all around the park (I grabbed you a very hasty snap of the animation), plus those cheeky little aliens are back with Aliens Swirling Saucers . One of my favourite attractions, Toy Story Mania! will also be expanding, adding a third track to the existing popular attraction, which will be opening Memorial Day Weekend (the last weekend in May).
Not to be missing out on all the fun, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be the home of the Pandora: The World of AVATAR. Created with James Cameron and inspired by his film, AVATAR, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will see the world of Pandora brought to life, complete with the bioluminescent rainforests – including the beautiful Tree of Souls – plus the floating mountains and stunning Banshees (which always kind of remind me of How to Train Your Dragon). Guests will be able to take a magical, musical gondola-type journey through the forest and on AVATAR Flight of Passage guests will fly high on a Banshee over the whole, vast world of Pandora, giving the most amazing views of this incredibly beautiful world.
Opening very soon at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is the brand new Rivers of Light. Expected to open this summer, we were lucky enough to experience a preview of this innovative new evening show, created in a brand new open-air water theatre on Discovery River (not sure if that’s the correct name) in the shadow of Expedition Everest (which is even more incredible at night). Rivers of Light features beautiful floating lilies, which open out into the most amazing floating lanterns, with swirling images created on screens of water and all sorts of beautiful music. We got a tiny peek and if that’s anything to go by, it’s going to be spectacular. The photos really don’t do it justice.
The iconic Tree of Life will also be awakening, with beautiful new scenes projected onto it featuring sweet woodland animals (this bit made me cry, it was so lovely), all set to music – again, photos don’t do it justice.
Charlie and I were lucky enough to experience one of my favourite attractions, Kilimanjaro Safaris, and the opening hours have now been extended so you can travel across the African savanna at night, under the glow of a very cleverly created shimmering orange sunset.
The whole of Animal Kingdom now comes alive at night, with live performers, music and more – it’s fabulous (check out Charlie having a little dance on the video!).
Not to be outdone, Epcot will see new Frozen attractions when Arendelle comes to the Norway Pavilion. We were very lucky to have breakfast in Norway (I know!), meet the Royal Family (I was having an appallingly bad hair day too) and were allowed to have a very quick look behind the wall at the building work (no pictures allowed, I’m afraid). The Royal Summerhus is where you’ll be able to meet Anna and Elsa – it’s their country retreat, filled with lots of treasured family photos and trinkets from when they were young. There will be lots of outdoor space and greenery and it looks like it’s going to be really pretty. Replacing the old Maelstrom ride will be a new Frozen Ever After attraction, using all original cast voices, where Queen Elsa will be creating a special ‘Winter in Summer’ celebration and visitors will experience a journey to Elsa’s secret Ice Palace on this all-new boat ride.
Also at Epcot, one of my favourite rides of all time, Soarin’, will complete its magical transformation and become Soarin’ Around The World. I got a bit confused between this and Shanghai’s Soarin’ over the Horizon, but I think it’s opening on June 17th. The brand new, 4D version will swoosh guests over some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. I can’t wait for this one.
I can’t sign off this roundup of everything new and magical at Walt Disney World without mentioning the fantastic new Disney Springs area. This waterfront area is packed with dining, shopping, bars and entertainment venues and is looking gorgeous already, despite the ongoing building work. You can go for dinner, linger over a cocktail, catch a movie, go bowling, shop ’til you drop, or just wander and enjoy the gorgeous location – you can easily spend an entire day there.
Disney Springs is split into four areas: The Landing, The Marketplace, West Side and the Town Centre. The Town Centre is the newest part. Built in a Spanish revival-style, it’s going to look really lovely and eventually will have a Sephora, Anthropologie, Kate Spade and many more, in fact, 30 new venues by the end of the summer. So many top names are joining Disney Springs – I’m not sure where they’ll all be located, but you’ll be able to shop in UGG, Lilly Pulitzer (I love the bright patterns in here), L’Occitane en Provence, PANDORA, Tommy Bahama, UNIQLO and Zara too. New dining options include a steakhouse/lounge with cocktails and a nightly DJ called STK, an incredible-sounding new ‘Industrial Gothic ‘restaurant and bar called The Edison that will feature more cocktails and live entertainment and a fab new pizza place called Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza.
It’s all SO EXCITING that I’m trying to persuade Mr English to just move us all to Orlando. No luck so far 🙂
If you’d like to see more of our fabulous Awaken Summer Disney trip, how about a little video? Don’t forget to look out for Charlie’s little dance routine (and the cute high five at the end):
As always, huge hugs and massive thanks to everyone at Disney Destinations who work so hard to make every Disney trip completely magical and to Jamie Morton for the fabulous video. I love you all xx
Where we stayed:
14 nights in Orlando from £2,899pp, including car hire
14 nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick to Orlando, accommodation at the 5V Disney’s Boardwalk Inn with car hire included. Price is per person based on two adults travelling and sharing a standard room, including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on January 18 2017. To book: visit www.virginholidays.co.uk, call the Hotline 0330 0378269, or visit one of our 110 stores in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or stores nationwide.
14 nights in Orlando from £665pp
14 nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays including scheduled Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick to Orlando, accommodation at the 3V Disney’s Pop Century Resort with car hire included. Price is per person based on two adults and two children travelling and sharing a standard room, including all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Price is based on a departure on November 09 2016. To book: visit www.virginholidays.co.uk, call the Hotline 0330 0378269, or visit one of our 110 stores in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco, Sainsbury’s or stores nationwide.
14-Day Disney Park Ticket for the price of 7
Ultimate flexibility and unbeatable value: six parks in ONE ticket – Disney’s Ultimate Ticket is the only ticket you need. Only available to purchase in the UK, you can come and go as you please to all SIX Parks at one incredible price. Disney 14-Day Ultimate Ticket for the price of Disney’s 7-Day Ultimate Ticket is available for Walt Disney World hotel bookings made until 31 Dec ’17 for arrivals throughout 2017.