Walt Disney World in Florida is always coming up with new ways to delight their guests and this year is no exception. My son and I recently visited and experienced some exciting new attractions. We were happy to see that several favorite nighttime shows had also returned. Here’s what you can expect to find at Walt Disney World in 2023 and 2024.
TRON Lightcycle / Run located at Magic Kingdom Park; Photo courtesy of Abigail Nilsson and Disney
TRON LIGHTCYCLE / RUN
TRON Lightcycle / Run opened to great fanfare in April 2023. Based on the film TRON: Legacy, the ride continues the story as guests enter the digital world via gateways opened by Grid creator Kevin Flynn’s son, Sam Flynn.
Located in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, it’s the fastest roller coaster in a Disney theme park. The attraction’s 10-acre footprint is the largest expansion of Magic Kingdom since New Fantasyland opened in 2012.
During the ride, guests mount their own Lightcycle and race through eight Energy Gates against the Grid's most menacing Programs. It uses speed, visual effects, and pulsing music to create a thrilling ride. My son is six feet two-inches tall and muscular, and he barely fit comfortably on the Lightcycle. While the standard TRON Lightcycle / Run seats might not fit everyone, there’s a separate cart in the back of some ride cars that is more accessible. You can test out the TRON Lightcycle vehicle at the ride entrance.
The ride is very popular, so plan your visit carefully. You can utilize the park’s virtual queue or purchase a paid individual Lightning Lane pass to ride.
Magic Kingdom fireworks show; Photo by Shawn.ccf/stock.adobe.com
RETURN OF FAVORITE NIGHTTIME SPECTACULARS
Some favorite nighttime shows have returned to Walt Disney World. The ever popular “Happily Ever After” once again lights up Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park. The nightly fireworks show includes scenes from popular Disney stories along with brand-new projections that even extend down Main Street U.S.A.
At EPCOT, the show EPCOT Forever is back. The fireworks and multi-media show takes place in the World Showcase Lagoon. It features inspiring music and scenes from the park’s rich history.
ROUNDUP RODEO BBQ AT DISNEY’S HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS
Roundup Rodeo BBQ is sure to be a favorite with families. Located in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the new restaurant serves barbeque-inspired comfort foods. The Toy Story table-service restaurant serves up toy-sized tasty dishes that will please even the pickiest eaters.
Moana live character reenactment can be seen at Discover Island, Disney's Animal Kingdom; Photo courtesy of Mariah Wild and Disney
NEW AND RETURNING CHARACTER GREETINGS
Character greetings have now returned as a part of the Walt Disney World experience. Moana greets children at Discovery Island in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Figment is now available at the Imagination! Pavilion. Other popular characters have a new home at Communicore Hall in EPCOT. Later this fall, Mirabel from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ film Encanto will greet guests in Fairytale Garden surrounded by whimsical décor inspired by La Familia Madrigal.
THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF DISNEY’S ANIMAL THEME PARK
Disney’s Animal Kingdom turned 25 this year and celebrated with the return of entertainment shows at the park including “Festival of the Lion King” and “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!”
Storm Troopers at the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride located in Disney's Hollywood Studios; Photo by Joni/stock.adobe.com
OTHER RIDES NOT TO MISS
If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World for a while, you’ll want to check out some of their other newer attractions.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewinds at EPCOT opened in May 2022. This thrilling roller coaster, which is fully enclosed and uses a reverse launch, takes guests on an intergalactic race through the galaxy. The onboard audio features hit songs from the 70s and 80s.
The queue at this popular attraction is part of the experience. Without ruining the surprise, I can say that it was one of the biggest "How'd they do that?" surprises.
Since my son is a huge Star Wars fan, we couldn’t wait to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, which are in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge neighborhood puts you right in the middle of a far-flung destination at the galaxy’s edge, an immersive experience that is sure to please Star Wars fans.
One of our favorite experiences was a visit to Oga’s Cantina, a spaceport bar with background music played by aliens and drinks crafted for intergalactic tastes. You’ll need a reservation to visit the tavern, so plan well ahead of your visit.
In the France pavilion at EPCOT, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is another must-see attraction. During the trackless ride, which opened in 2021, guests feel like they have been shrunk to the size of a mouse and experience a thrilling adventure at the Parisian restaurant from the Pixar hit Ratatouille.
Colorful firework display at EPCOT; Photo by Jonatan/stock.adobe.com
WHAT TO EXPECT IN LATE 2023
EPCOT has been undergoing a multiyear transformation. The Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, is the latest addition to the park. Opening in late 2023 in the World Nature section at EPCOT, Journey of Water isn’t a ride, but rather a new exploration trail where you can learn the story of water on our planet. This interactive experience allows you to discover water’s many roles, along with opportunities to interact with the water. Just like Moana, you may find that water has a mind of its own.
This fall, the new World Celebration neighborhood in EPCOT will be completed. The new World Celebration land, including Communicore Hall and Communicore Plaza, will host future festivals and gatherings at the park.
Disney will also introduce an all-new EPCOT nighttime spectacular later this year. It promises to be a dazzling display of music, pyrotechnics, lasers and lighting blended into a story that reminds us that we are more alike than different.
Princess Tiana greets guests alongside other royal friends at Princess Fairytale Hall at Magic Kingdom Park; Photo courtesy of Matt Stroshane and Disney
LOOKING AHEAD IN 2024
Coming in late 2024, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Magic Kingdom. Based on Disney’s 2009 film The Princess and the Frog, this log flume attraction promises to take guests along with Princess Tiana, Prince Naveen, and their friends as they host a party at Tiana’s Place for the people of New Orleans.
Whatever you plan to see at Walt Disney World, it helps to plan ahead with dining reservations and park tickets. At present, theme park reservations are required. Beginning January 9, 2024, theme park reservations will no longer be required for date-based tickets.