What’s New at Walt Disney Theme Parks & Hotels

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A major expansion and a number of exciting new additions in Disney World will bring childhood daydreams and flights of the imagination to life in 2013. Here’s the scoop on the latest changes, expansions and debuts at Disney’s Orlando theme parks, and some insight on what it means for families planning a trip around the World.

What’s New at Magic Kingdom Park

  • Fantasyland Expansion. At Walt Disney World’s flagship theme park, the land of make-believe is undergoing a magical transformation, adding new attractions and experiences, while improving upon some beloved favorites. When completed in 2014, the magical land will be nearly double the size of the original, accommodating more fans in new and increasingly more efficient and interactive ways. In December 2012, Disney unveiled the new Fantasyland, although one major thrill ride is still under construction.
  • Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid. Set in Ariel’s underwater world, this new ride takes guests through the story of The Little Mermaid, featuring all of the film’s classic songs. The dim-lit ride sets families in giant clamshells as they move from Ariel’s grotto through settings under the sea.
  • Enchanted Tales with Belle. Enter Belle and Maurice’s enchanted cottage, where magic furniture springs to life for a captivating session of storytelling. Guests will meet Belle, but also use costumes and props to become a part of the story.
  • Princess Fairytale Hall. In late 2013, the much-anticipated Princess Fairytale Hall will welcome little ones to meet their favorite princesses in one place, with themed chambers for each character.
  • Storybook Circus. Opened in phases starting last spring, this section of the new Fantasyland unveiled its star attraction: Dumbo. Now, instead of one Dumbo ride, visitors have two, complete with an interactive big-top, where kids can play while waiting in line. Parents also receive pagers to alert them when it’s their turn to ride.
  • Celebrate the Magic Castle Projection Show. A new nighttime spectacular combines music, dazzling imagery and special effects to tell the beloved tales of Disney, both old and new. In 2013, more seasonal updates will be presented, including favorite Disney couples around Valentine’s Day, The Little Mermaid during the summer months and Disney villains in time for Halloween.
  • Limited Time Magic. As a special treat to guests in 2013, Disney Parks will unleash 52 weeks of magical experiences that appear and disappear when the next surprise debuts. Some treats will be revealed, while some will need to be discovered. Guests can expect a Valentine’s Day Week celebration with castles bathed in hues of red and pink, Independence Day Week with a 4th of July Fireworks Party, Long Lost Friends Week featuring lesser-known Disney characters available for meet-and-greets, Pirate Week with pirate bands and meet-and-greets and an Unleash the Villains event on Friday the 13th, with parks staying open an extra hour while villains wreak havoc at a dance party.
  • Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. The new role-playing adventure, Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, challenges guests to discover and defeat the Disney villains attacking the Magic Kingdom. Armed with special magical cards, guests follow symbols to find villain hideouts, and then use magic keys and spell cards to stop the villains in their tracks. The game can be played in 15- to 20-minute increments during the day, or continuously for three to four hours.
  • What’s New at Epcot

    • Re-Imagined Test Track. Newly opened is the re-imagined Test Track presented by Chevrolet, located in Future World. As part of the interactive ride experience, guests can create, ride and then be “scored” on the performance of their own six-person “SimCar” vehicle designs.
    • Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. A new interactive game at Epcot turns kids into secret agents in a Phineas & Ferb-themed mission. Using “high-tech secret agent devices”–F.O.N.E.s (Field Operative Notifications Equipment)–to receive clues, guests solve mysteries around the seven World Showcase countries at Epcot. Guests can pick up the F.O.N.E.s at four Agent P kiosks around the World Showcase.
    • What’s New at Animal Kingdom Park
      Kilimanjaro Safaris. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom park, Kilimanjaro Safaris has removed the Little Red story line and opened a zebra savannah in its place. Guests can now experience an expanded exhibit space with additional animals.

      What’s New at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
      The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow Experience. Captain Jack Sparrow is one of Disney’s most beloved new characters, and now, guests at Disney’s Hollywood Studios can be immersed in the action and adventure of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. Guests are put to a pirate test to become a member of the Captain’s crew, and state-of-the-art technology brings the pirate’s life to guests, including an epic ship-to-ship battle.

      What’s New at Downtown Disney
      Splitsville Brings Upscale Entertainment.
      At the end of 2012, Splitsville rolled on to the Downtown Disney West Side scene, bringing new dining options along with weatherproof fun for the whole family. Featuring live music, billiards and 31 lanes of upscale entertainment, the two-story complex also offers patio dining and lane-side delivery of a diverse menu of traditional and upscale fare, from fresh sushi to pizza to hand-cut filet sliders.

      New Dining

      • Be Our Guest Restaurant
        One of the most anticipated restaurants to open in a Disney World theme park, Be Our Guest opened in December 2012 with much fanfare in the new Fantasyland. Located in Beast’s Castle and completed with a lavish ballroom, guests can dine on quick-service lunches and table-service dinners, as well as enjoy a beer or wine in the Magic Kingdom’s first restaurant to offer alcoholic beverages. The French-inspired restaurant seats 550.
      • Gaston’s Tavern
        Also revealed in the new Fantasyland in December, Gaston’s Tavern is a comfy lodge setting for a quick bite to eat. Guests will want to sample a goblet of LeFou’s Brew, a frozen apple juice concoction with toasted marshmallow and a fruit-mango foam.
      • Mickey Check: Kids’ Complete Meals
        Beginning in January, all table-service menus and quick-service menus will feature Kids’ Complete Meals featuring the Mickey Check, a part of Disney’s Magic of Healthy Living.
      • California Grill
        Located at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, the California Grill will close from January through summer as it gets a complete makeover. Both the restaurant’s look and menu will be tweaked.
      • Citricos
        Located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Citricos is now offering a private dining experience in The Chefs Domain for up to 10 guests. The six-course meal is available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and costs $155 per person, plus tax.
      • New at Existing Resorts

        Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
        Moms (well, everyone, but especially moms!) have a place to relax after a long day at the theme parks. The Grand Floridian reopened Senses — A Disney Spa in mid-December of 2012. The remodeled spa is now operated and owned by Disney and provides Disney’s lighting magic and music to complement treatments in one of 15 treatment rooms. Services include water therapy, sugar exfoliation body treatment, rejuvenating citrus facials and even a Princess Pedicure or Magical Manicure for kids ages 4 to 12.

        The resort is also undergoing a new expansion to add Disney Vacation Club villas. Nearly 200 villa suites accommodating as many as 12 people will be opening in the fall of 2013.

        Disney’s Saratoga Resort.
        The spa at Disney’s Saratoga Resort will close from January 2013 through summer as it undergoes a renovation. In the summer, the new Senses — A Disney Spa, will become the last of the spas Disney has taken ownership of and renovated on its properties.

        Aulani, A Disney resort & Spa Resort
        The Hawaiian resort that opened in 2011 has expanded its offering to include a new infinity-edge grotto pool and a new splash pool for the smallest kids. Disney’s Aulani Resort is also offering more dining locations with the addition of a beach grill and a grotto dining spot, the Aulani Cafe.

        For an in-depth look at the parks, see our Disney World and Disneyland destination reviews. Got advice of your own? Visit our Disney Forums and share your tips!

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