If you haven’t been to Disney World in a few years and you’re going back soon, let us first say — congratulations!
We’re sure that you’re very excited to plan your “magical” vacation! Awesome rides, delicious snacks, favorite characters, and spectacular entertainment…who wouldn’t be? But there are a few things that you need to know before you go, and today we’re sharing that list with you!
Several New Things Are Open
In the past few years, Disney World has had a HUGE surge of openings, whether for new lands, rides, or experiences. There’s so much to see that you may have missed! Let’s check out some of the highlights.
Pandora — The World of Avatar
Back in 2017, Pandora — The World of Avatar opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, and it shocked guests with its gravity-defying mountains and beautiful nighttime bioluminescence. The land is home to two rides, a quick-service restaurant, a snack stand, and a gift shop.
If you haven’t stopped by yet, make sure to ride Avatar Flight of Passage, try the Night Blossom at Pongu Pongu, and nosh on some cheeseburger pods from Satu’li Canteen on your next visit. Then you’ll have truly experienced Pandora!
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Galaxy’s Edge opened at Hollywood Studios in 2019, first with just one ride. Rise of the Resistance opened later that year and kicked things up a notch with what many people refer to as the “best Disney ride ever.”
Here, you can build a lightsaber, assemble a droid, pilot the Millennium Falcon, escape the First Order, and greet some of your favorite characters. The merchandise shops and restaurants have some of the best theming in Disney World, plus some really unique items, so don’t forget to check them out as well!
Toy Story Land
Next door in Toy Story Land, guests are transported to the minuscule (or giant, depending on your point of view) world of Andy’s backyard. You can ride Toy Story Mania, Alien Swirling Saucers, or the ever-popular Slinky Dog Dash as you experience life from the size of a little Green Army Man.
Woody’s Lunch Box is a fan-favorite stop for meals, serving up traditional lunch box foods like sandwiches, soups, and even Totchos (which are basically nachos on tater tots!). And coming soon, you’ll be able to enjoy barbecue at Roundup Rodeo BBQ, a new table-service restaurant that is currently under construction.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Also in Hollywood Studios, you’ll find the newly opened Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, located in the Chinese Theatre at the end of Hollywood Boulevard. This new attraction replaced The Great Movie Ride and stars Mickey Mouse and friends in a wild adventure through the cartoons.
The ride uses trackless technology (just like Rise of the Resistance!) and it’s perfect for guests of all ages. If you loved the most recent set of Mickey Mouse shorts, then this ride will be right up your alley!
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
In 2021, EPCOT’s France pavilion received a new attraction called Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure! This trackless attraction takes guests through Chef Gusteau’s restaurant kitchen in Paris while immersing riders in the sights and smells of France!
Gran Destino Tower
Moving on to the resorts, Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is also fairly new. This tower adds a surprising level of luxury to a Moderate Resort, allowing you to get Deluxe accommodations for moderate prices.
But the addition of the tower didn’t just bring new rooms — it also brought new dining experiences! Guests can enjoy delicious meals and beverages from Toledo, the Dahlia Lounge, and the Barcelona Lounge. If you head up to Toledo or the Dahlia Lounge, make sure to check out the stunning views all around Walt Disney World Resort.
Disney’s Riviera Resort
And speaking of stunning views, you can also enjoy some spectacular sightlines from the top of Disney’s Riviera Resort, another new hotel. This Disney Vacation Club property was added in 2019 and offers some very high-end accommodations and amenities.
It’s home to its own Disney Skyliner station along with multiple restaurants, two pools, a gift shop, and plenty of places to lounge and enjoy the beautiful Florida sunshine. Topolino’s Terrace on the rooftop offers a family-friendly character breakfast with Mickey and pals in the morning, followed by a signature meal with a dress code in the evening. (And both are delicious!)
And finally, our last notable addition at Walt Disney World is the Disney Skyliner! This new gondola-style transportation system connects Disney’s Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and Riviera Resorts to EPCOT and Hollywood Studios.
The main station is located at Caribbean Beach and offers transfer lines to each spot on the system. Some gondolas are decorated with Disney characters while others are solid colors, but either way, you’ll have a breezy ride and a spectacular view of Walt Disney World Resort!
Entering the Park is Different
Now that we’ve discussed the new things you can experience, let’s talk about your park day. If you haven’t been in a while, entering the theme parks may be different than what you’re used to. For starters, security no longer does individual bag checks — instead, you’ll remove certain items from your bag and then walk through some scanners.
Also, MagicBands aren’t quite as necessary as they used to be since Disney World rolled out the new MagicMobile service. MagicMobile allows you to access your park tickets on your phone without a MagicBand or Key to the World card. Although, you may still use those other methods if you prefer.
There Are Some Big Dining Changes
While you’re at Disney World, it’s very likely that you’ll be visiting at least one restaurant, so let’s discuss some dining changes you need to know about. For starters, most of your quick service dining will require you to use Mobile Order on the My Disney Experience app. You’ll place your order in the app for a specific time window, then pick it up once the food is ready instead of ordering at the counter.
Also, dining reservations can be made 60 days in advance of your vacation. The window was previously set at 180 days out but decreased significantly when Disney World reopened. And if you don’t snag those reservations, you can check for day-of availability via the Mobile Dine Walk-up Waitlist offered at many table service spots. Simply scan the QR code at the restaurant’s entrance or check the My Disney Experience app to see what’s available!
Some Things Have Changed Due to the Pandemic
Ever since Disney World reopened, some offerings have been suspended and haven’t yet returned. We’re still waiting for an update on the Disney Dining Plan, and experiences like the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique and the Harmony Barber Shop are still closed. Before visiting the parks, guests must also make Park Pass Reservations to reserve their spot in the parks for the day. Additionally, park hopping is now allowed only after 2PM.
During your visit, there may be specific guidelines in place in regard to face coverings or other health and safety measures.
Some Free Perks Have Been Discontinued
A new Fastpass replacement called Disney Genie arrived in 2021. Disney Genie is a paid service that allows guests to bypass the standby line at some of Disney’s popular attractions. Additionally, guests can pay extra to skip the lines and virtual queues as part of a new pay-per-ride service called Individual Attraction Selection.
There’s a lot to learn about Disney Genie, so make sure to take a look at how it works before your next vacation!
Speaking of replacements, Disney’s Magical Express service is no longer available. Instead, guests must find an alternative transportation service to get them to and from their Disney resort.
Guests have a few different options, such as taking a Mears Connect bus from the Orlando International Airport, using a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft, or (eventually) taking the high-speed train.
Staying Onsite Isn’t the Same
If you’re used to staying at a Disney World Resort, there are some differences that you may want to note before your trip. Thanks to new technology in the My Disney Experience app, you can now check-in completely on your phone, even using the app to unlock your hotel room door!
As far as resort perks go, MagicBands are no longer free with your resort stay (encouragement to use MagicMobile instead) and Extra Magic Hours are no longer available, but Disney World introduced a new perk, Early Theme Park Entry, in its place.
The Parks Look Different in General
In general, the parks are looking a bit different than what you may be used to. Some old shows and rides are gone, particularly at Hollywood Studios, where sections of the park were demolished to make way for the two new lands.
At EPCOT, you’ll notice quite a bit of construction around, thanks to the massive transformation of the park that’s currently in progress. Future World has already split into 3 new “neighborhoods”, but there will be new attractions, merchandise locations, and plenty to explore in the future.
Well, those are the basics of the things you need to know for your next trip! If you haven’t been in a while, there’s plenty to see and so much more coming in the future. Stay tuned to DFB for the best tips, tricks, and advice for your vacation!
When was your last visit to Walt Disney World? Let us know in the comments!