With 2023 tickets, hotels, and packages now available, you might have planning your 2023 Disney World vacation on your mind!
Well, HANG ON! Before you book those finalized Disney decisions, there are some things you need to know before heading to Disney World this year. From closures to ways to save, to new offerings; we’re taking you through EVERYTHING you need to know before booking Disney World in 2023!
Now, we do have some tried-and-true tips for planning a Disney World vacation — no matter the year! You can check out our ULTIMATE guide to planning a Disney World vacation and if you want to be a REAL pro, take a look at our DFB Guide ebooks too! But in this post, we’re going to talk about the new and next things that will be especially important for 2023 Disney guests. Let’s dive in!
When To Go
Deciding what time of year to go on your Disney trip can be tricky, and there are a few things that will factor into the decision for 2023.
Dates to Know
Disney World crowds and ticket prices can fluctuate depending on the time of year. Though crowds were moderately unpredictable in 2022, you can certainly expect some busier times around any major holidays, Spring Break, and any major events — like the first day of EPCOT Festivals, ride openings, and more.
Beyond that, some times of year are CHEAPER than others. In the last year or so, we’ve seen cheaper ticket prices and hotel rates in late January, early February, late August, and September — and you can even find some cheap dates in the first weeks of December. When fielding dates, make sure to check out how hotel rates and ticket prices change if you travel at a different time!
Speaking of cheaper times of the year, you’ll also want to consider planning your Disney trip around discounts! Disney regularly releases hotel and ticket discounts throughout the year — often in late winter/early spring and sometimes into the summer and early fall.
We make sure to share the latest Disney discounts here on DFB so you can keep an eye on them. And, if you happen to book and a discount comes out later that would apply to your trip, don’t panic! You can call Disney to modify your reservation and apply a discount you would otherwise have missed.
Alright, this next one is a BIG one. Disney World is already expensive, and it’s pretty standard for Disney to raise prices on park tickets, hotels, merchandise, and more. We’ve traditionally seen price increases at all times of the year, but in recent years the biggest have taken place in the early months of the year.
In 2022 for instance, we saw ticket prices increase subtly in February 2022 and hundreds of food and beverage price increases hit in January. As a rule, Disney World just gets more expensive as time goes on, so traveling in early 2023 could mean you miss some of the big increases.
Disney Park Passes
Finally, you’ll want to keep Disney Park Passes in mind before you book for 2023. Disney Park Passes are Disney World’s theme park reservation system and you need valid park admission AND a Park Pass to enter a park on a given day.
Before you book, keep in mind that these tend to book up around holidays and events and you NEED to book them right after you buy admission — so that there’s no chance you’re locked out of your desired park during your trip.
PLEASE NOTE: As of April 18th, Annual Passholders are now able to visit the Walt Disney World theme parks after 2PM WITHOUT a Park Pass reservation (with some exceptions). The exception applies to Annual Passholders wanting to visit Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays. If an Annual Passholder wants to go to Magic Kingdom on Saturdays or Sundays, they’ll need a Park Pass regardless of what time they want to visit. Keep in mind, Annual Passholder blockout dates continue to apply, so you’ll want to take a close look at those when planning your visit.
P.S. Though this post is about changes in 2023, you can click here to learn about MAJOR Park Pass changes for ALL guests that are coming in 2024!
Genie+ and Perk Updates
Recently, there have been some changes to perks for Disney guests and you’ll want to make sure you know what to expect.
Genie+ was introduced in October 2021, but updates remain a regular occurrence. Genie+ is the paid replacement of the complimentary FastPass+ system and allows guests to skip the standby line at some attractions through the use of a Lightning Lane. If you are headed to Disney World in 2023 and haven’t used Genie+, you’ll definitely want to learn how it works. Don’t worry, we can help with our step-by-step guide!
Genie+ starts at $15 per ticket, per day, with park-specific pricing introduced in June 2023. In late 2022 the service fell victim to surge pricing and can be more expensive depending on when you are visiting the parks. That said, as of March 20th, 2023, guests who purchase the Disney Genie+ service are now able to download their on-ride attraction photos on the day of purchase at no additional charge!
Though we mentioned it briefly above, it bears repeating: A MAJOR change came to Disney Genie+ on June 27th. Disney World guests now purchase Genie+ based on the park that they want to visit.
Guests can either buy a single-park Genie+ option or a multi-park option. See the new purchasing process HERE.
Extra Theme Park Hours
If you’re planning on staying at a Disney World Resort hotel or Good Neighbor hotel, you’ll also want to be aware of the extra theme park hours perks. Most Disney World hotels and good neighbor hotels offer Early Theme Park Entry to guests where guests can enter the parks 30 minutes ahead of park open with a valid Disney Park Pass. Deluxe-level resort hotels also offer Extended Evening Hours on select nights.
And, there’s an update that’s particularly relevant to 2023 (and next year, to boot)! Early Theme Park Entry AND Extended Evening Hours were initially introduced as a part of the 50th Anniversary Celebration but was extended PAST the celebration’s end date and through at least 2024.
And, if you haven’t been to Disney World since 2021, you’ll want to be aware of a big shift in airport transportation perks for Disney World hotel guests. The Magical Express, a complimentary airport shuttle service, has been discontinued — so airport transportation is a little trickier.
Now, you’ll need to take rideshare, rent a car, get a taxi, book a shuttle bus or van, use a private car service, or book a new shuttle option like Mears Connect Driven by Sunshine. These options vary in cost but you WILL need to pay to get to your Disney World hotel from the airport and back now.
Park Ticket/Park Hopper Price Increases
Disney World has also announced new ticket pricing. Disney has implemented “park-specific pricing” only for 1-day, 1-park tickets. This means your 1-day, 1-park ticket to Magic Kingdom on a particular date may cost you MORE than a ticket to, say, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, on that same date.
Here’s a breakdown of what a 1-day, 1-park ticket will cost under this new system (which, again, begins on December 8th):
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom — $109-$159 (prices are staying the same as current costs)
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios — $124-$179
- EPCOT — $114-$179
- Magic Kingdom — $124-$189
The price of the Park Hopper add-on will also vary based on when you are visiting Disney World. So it will be more expensive if you are visiting for Christmas time than if you were to visit February.
Disney World has a habit of refurbishments and changes and some could affect your 2023 Disney World trip.
End of the 50th Anniversary
And we LOVED celebrating it all here with you on the DFB!
Closures and Refurbishments
Closures and refurbishments are pretty much the norm in Disney World. At any given time, your favorite ride could get some TLC for a few months or the pool at your go-to hotel could shutter for a bit. You’ll want to keep an eye on refurbishments and closures here on DFB so you don’t get caught unaware.
We share a weekly refurbishment report each week, so keep your eyes on the site and subscribe our newsletter for the latest news.
Splash Mountain Closure
Splash Mountain in Frontierland is — as of January 23, 2023 — permanently closed. The crowds came out in full force on January 22nd for one last splash on this attraction which opened in July of 1989. The ride has closed to make way for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
The retheme of the ride will bring characters from Princess and the Frog, along with new music, new animatronics, and a new storyline. The new ride is expected to open in late 2024.
In May 2023, Disney announced that the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser would be closing permanently. The final voyage for the Star Wars Hotel took place from September 28th-30th, 2023, and it is now closed.
Here’s the statement a Disney spokesperson has released on the matter: “Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is one of our most creative projects ever and has been praised by our guests and recognized for setting a new bar for innovation and immersive entertainment. This premium, boutique experience gave us the opportunity to try new things on a smaller scale of 100 rooms, and as we prepare for its final voyage, we will take what we’ve learned to create future experiences that can reach more of our guests and fans.”
Though some offerings will be unavailable, some NEW offerings will crop up in 2023 too!
Disney 100 Years of Wonder Celebration
The Walt Disney Company is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023. EPCOT is serving as the HOST of the 100th Anniversary celebration in Walt Disney World! The festivities officially kicked off on September 22, 2023 and will last through December 31, 2023.
LOTS of new additions have joined the park for the occasion, including a new, platinum Mickey Mouse statue, a character-filled mural, and more platinum decorations in World Celebration, and an evening light show on Spaceship Earth (set to “When You Wish Upon a Star”). And of course, Mickey and Minnie are decked out in their best for a new meet and greet in the Imagination! pavilion.
EPCOT is still under a LOT of construction too and it should look PRETTY different come late 2023.
We’re looking forward to the new Communicore Festival Center in World Celebration which is slated to reach completion in December 2023. And the Journey of Water — Inspired by Moana walkthrough attraction officially opened on October 16th, 2023!
Click here to GO INSIDE EPCOT’s Moana-Inspired Journey of Water Attraction! And find our FULL VIDEO WALK-THROUGH here!
TRON Lightcycle Run
Note that, in order to ride TRON during its opening phase, guests need to secure a Boarding Pass via Disney World’s Virtual Queue system OR purchase an Individual Lightning Lane through Disney Genie, as this attraction does NOT offer a Standby line.
WE RODE TRON in Disney World — Here’s Everything You Need to Know! And you can CLICK HERE to see our full ride-through VIDEO!
New Fireworks Shows
And Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular, Disney Enchantment, was introduced in 2021 as part of Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration. However, the show — which made its debut on the 50th Anniversary of Magic Kingdom (October 1, 2021) — ended its run with its final showing on April 2, 2023.
Then, April 3, 2023, delivered the RETURN of the Happily Ever After fireworks show to Magic Kingdom! The return of this beloved spectacular has a nod to Disney Enchantment, though, as Happily Ever After now features all-new projections which come to life all the way down Main Street, U.S.A.!
Ahead of 2023, some new technology offerings became available in Disney World, too! MagicBand+ was released in the parks. Wearing this new band allows you to interact with the parks in a whole new way.
And a new complimentary perk is currently in the process of rolling out to guests at the Disney World hotels. “Hey, Disney!” offers “custom voice assistance” to guests staying at Resort hotels in Walt Disney World! The service, which works with Alexa on Amazon Echo devices, assists guests with room amenities, guest services, planning, and weather info… AND it will bring along LOTS of extra Disney MAGIC to make all of these things a lot more FUN!
In late November 2022, “Hey Disney!” made its debut in a testing phase in a limited number of rooms at Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort.
Disney had previously shared that this initial launch is taking place “before expanding in phases to additional Disney Resort hotel rooms across Walt Disney World.”
In May 2023, we saw that the ‘Hey, Disney!’ Alexa Voice Assistant had been added a room at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, and we’ve also been informed that “Hey, Disney!” has arrived at Port Orleans Resort — French Quarter and Saratoga Springs Resort, so the rollout to other Resorts has officially begun!
Returning After Hours Events
New in 2023, After Hours has come to EPCOT! The event kicked off at EPCOT on June 1st, 2023.
After Hours events are separately ticketed parties where you can stay in the Disney theme parks for 3 hours after the park closes. There are specialty treats and drinks included in your ticket, and because the number of tickets sold for the parties is limited, you can often find lower wait times than usual on the rides and attractions.
Finally, we gotta let you know about some dining changes. We ARE Disney FOOD Blog, after all!
New and Returning Restaurants
The new table service spot serves barbecue fare, and you can see the FULL MENU for this Family-Style dining experience here. Though this spot is NOT a Toy Story character meal, the theming is pretty incredible nonetheless!
During a media preview, we got the chance to step inside the NEW Roundup Rodeo BBQ, and there is SO MUCH TO SEE!
We also got to DIG IN to TONS of BBQ fare… TOY STORY-style!
The restaurant currently has locations in Chicago and North Bethesda, and they’re known for serving up menu items like pizzas, sandwiches, pasta, and more. Concept art has been released, but no official opening date has been announced yet.
MORE new restaurants hitting the scene in 2023 include:
- Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya is NOW OPEN in EPCOT’s Japan pavilion;
- EET by Maneet Chauhan will open in “late 2023” at Disney Springs;
- Blue Ribbon Corn Dogs will be coming to Disney’s BoardWalk in 2023
Disney Dining Plan
Well, at long last, we have an answer to the question that a LOT of folks considering a trip to Disney World have been asking. As it turns out… The Disney Dining Plan is RETURNING to Disney World for stays starting on January 9th, 2024!
Bookings are NOW OPEN as of May 31, 2023. We know that some will be disappointed that it’s not returning in 2023; however, if you are considering a 2024 trip, you can read all the details here!
The Disney Dining Plan is RETURNING to Disney World for stays starting on January 9th, 2024! Read all the details HERE!!
MORE Character Experiences
As of September 10th, Figment is NOW MEETING GUESTS in the Imagination Pavilion in EPCOT!
We don’t know the exact date, but we will let you know as soon as he materializes…
Remember, also, that Character Meet-and-Greets are still in a phased process of returning. You see, Traditional Character Meet-and-Greet started to return to Disney World in April 2022. But not all of these beloved experiences returned at that time. In fact, a few select Character Greeting locations remain closed (you can find all the ones that are OPEN here).
That said, the tide continues to turn, and NEW meet and greets are hitting the scene, too! For instance, a new meet and greet with Ariel from the live-action version of The Little Mermaid officially opened on May 26, 2023 — the opening date of the film — in Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
You can meet the live-action Ariel in Walt Disney Presents.
AND guests can spend time with even MORE Disney Royalty, as Disney Princesses are BACK at Cinderella’s Royal Table in Magic Kingdom as of February 28th, 2023!
This restaurant has been presenting a modified experience with Cinderella greeting guests from a distance since it reopened in September 2020 (a few month after Walt Disney World reopened from its temporary closure). But now it is a full-fledged Character Meal featuring several Disney Princesses once again!
Get ready to eat like royalty because because breakfast and lunch are BACK at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion as of May 14th, 2023! (Until this date, Akershus did not begin serving daily until 2:45PM.)
This family-style breakfast is All-You-Care-to-Enjoy!
Fairytale Garden (on the path to the right facing Cinderella Castle) has been “transformed with whimsical decor inspired by La Familia Madrigal,” so you’ll get an extra special experience if you stop by to say hello to Mirabel. Not only that, but Mirabel’s uncle, Bruno, is a new part of the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade, also at Magic Kingdom! (We finally can talk about Bruno, apparently. 😉 )
AND Moana is now greeting guests in Disney’s Animal Kingdom! If you want to meet her, you can find her on Discovery Island (of course, she’s on an ISLAND for her meet and greet) at Animal Kingdom. As you walk over the bridge towards the Tree of Life, make a right turn towards DinoLand. The entrance for visitors is right before the DinoLand sign.
For times on when you can meet Moana, be sure to check the My Disney Experience app when you’re in Animal Kingdom!
Also Moana is now meeting guests in EPCOT’s World Nature, right near the entrance to Journey of Water!
Not only that, but Disney has shared that EPCOT’S upcoming CommuniCore Hall will also be the location of a new Mickey & Friends meet-and-greet!
We’ll be on the lookout for more announcements from Disney about CommuniCore Hall, the new Mickey & Friends meet-and-greet, and everything currently in the works at Disney World.
And that just about does it for what you need to know before you get ready for Disney World in 2023. Remember to follow along here on DFB for all the latest updates so you know EXACTLY what to expect!
Got questions about your 2023 vacation? Ask them in the comments!