What’s New at Disney in 2023: Park Updates, Cruise Info and More!

Nasreen Stump Avatar
Disneyland in California

If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World in a while, or even if you’ve been in the last two years, things are changing constantly. Rules put into place after Disney reopened are going to be lifted soon. Let’s run through changing Disney rules, new rides, EPCOT’s redesign and upgrades at Disneyland so that you can be informed and ready for your Disney vacation.

Genie+ – Slight Improvement When There’s Nowhere to Go but Up

Let’s face it – Disney Genie+ has been met with mixed reception. When you take something as beloved as FastPass and replace it with a paid tool, that’s bad. But one that requires you to wake up at 7 am on vacation? Worse. Then making the price variable so that on some days it costs $35? It’s like they threw all of their worst ideas in a hat and used them to make decisions. Supposedly they are looking at some options for later in 2023 that will allow folks to purchase and make reservations ahead of their visit. We’ll see.

Partners statue at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom is a great park for families with young children. You can find many rides for small children and other popular attractions there. Photo credit: Sarah Gilliland

Magic Kingdom Changes

If you’ve been keeping up with breaking Disney news, D23 expo announcements or travel sites, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard about the major upgrades and changes at Disney parks. Magic Kingdom Park in particular has a list of new rides, refurbishments and old shows returning.

Tron Lightcycle Run

One of the most talked about new attractions in the Disney theme parks is the Tron Lightcycle Run Presented by Enterprise. Located in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, this brand new ride’s opening date was April 4, 2023. There is also a Tron Lightcycle Power Run at Shanghai Disneyland that opened in 2016.

There are two ways to ride this roller coaster. You can either request to enter the virtual queue using the My Disney Experience app or you can purchase an Individual Lightning Lane paid entry. There is no standby queue or availability through Disney Genie+.

Splash Mountain

Chatter has been brewing since the announcement but then went dormant as we all waited to hear timing. We’ll be seeing Splash Mountain reimagined as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Construction has started. Based on concept art, we know that the theming is inspired by the Disney movie The Princess and the Frog. The expected opening is set for late 2024 so it will be awhile. Splash Mountain has shut down and is in active refurbishment right now.

Haunted Mansion

This fan favorite is gaining a new haunt in 2023. Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion has a character referred to as the Hatbox Ghost. He’ll be joining the Orlando, Florida Haunted Mansion this year. No word yet on which ghost will be kicked out to keep the number at 999 happy haunts!

nightime fireworks at Magic Kingdom
“Happily Ever After.” nighttime show at Magic Kingdom Park (Steven Diaz, photographer)

Happily Ever After is Back

Disney fans weren’t the biggest fans of Magic Kingdom’s Enchantment nighttime spectacular. That show ended in April and the beloved Happily Ever After nighttime show is back. Cheering crowds are loving the nostalgia of the narration; the show even got a few updates on its return.

This show can be viewed from numerous vantage points because it encompasses all of Main Street U.S.A. as projections light it up.

Mirabel Debuts in the Fairytale Garden

If your littles can’t stop talking about Mirabel and Encanto, you’re in luck. Starting later in 2023, Mirabel will have her own character meet and greet in the Fairytale Garden. It is located to the right of Cinderella Castle along the pathway between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Currently, this is where Merida meets take place.

The Walt Disney World Railroad is Chugging Around the Park Again

After being out of commission for what felt like forever, the Walt Disney World Railroad is back. This train chugs around the Magic Kingdom stopping at three stations: Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland and Fantasyland. The whole trip is 20 minutes long and covers a mile and a half. It’s a great way to get kiddos to take a nap on a busy park day!

Special Events at Magic Kingdom

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party returns. It will run from August 11, 2023 – November 1, 2023. We can also (hopefully) look forward to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party returning in late 2023.

Join our Private Disney FB Group for more tips! JOIN HERE
Baby giraffe and mom at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, one of the best zoos in Florida
View animals close-up aboard Kilimanjaro Safaris at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Photo credit: Walt Disney World/David Roark, photographer

What’s New at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2023?

One of the most buzzed about Animal Kingdom additions is the Moana character meet. She’s stationed on Discovery Island at Character Landing. Be sure to add this new character opportunity to your agenda.

Families should be aware that The Boneyard play area will be closed for refurbishment during May and part of June. Don’t worry though; there are plenty of other kid-friendly things to do at Animal Kingdom.

There aren’t a lot of other changes on deck for Animal Kingdom at the moment. Concepts of a Moana area and a Zootopia area have both been discussed at the D23 Expo and we’re crossing our fingers for both!  

starblaster statue in front of epcot guardians of the galaxy reverse launch roller coaster
Don’t forget to grab the requisite picture with the Starblaster located in front of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

A Complete Re-Imagining at EPCOT

While the World Showcase hasn’t seen any major changes since the opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the entire front portion of EPCOT has been redesigned. If you remember Future World from past trips, it won’t look the same when you head there next year. It’s not even new additions; it’s a full new area.

Think of EPCOT as now being made up of four world themes. Three new themes – World Celebration, World Discovery and World Nature – will join the World Showcase.

World Celebration

The area of World Celebration focuses on connecting with a global community. Spaceship Earth is included in this area. In 2023, a character meet with Figment will debut in the Imagination Pavilion.

Dreamers Point at EPCOT

A planned area called Dreamers Point will be located behind Spaceship Earth and will feature a new statue of Walt Disney as Walt the Dreamer.

Building Festivals into the Infrastructure at EPCOT

The World Celebration area will also be an integral part of EPCOT’s festival scene. CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza will be located here. The plaza will feature a stage area for performances while the hall will have a demonstration kitchen and transform throughout the year with each festival. It will also house character meet and greets.

World Discovery

World Discovery explores the wonders of science and technology. This area includes popular attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Test Track, Mission: SPACE and the new Space 220 restaurant.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

This reverse launch coaster opened up in 2022. You’ll need to utilize the My Disney Experience app to ride, either by entering the virtual queue or purchasing an Individual Lightning Lane pass (think paid FastPass replacement). There is no standby line for this attraction.

Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind

World Nature

This new EPCOT neighborhood is dedicated to understanding and preserving the beauty and balance of the natural world. It includes kid-friendly attractions Turtle Talk with Crush, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Soarin’ Around the World and the underwater Coral Reef Restaurant. A new attraction, Journey of Water, will join World Nature in late 2023.

Journey of Water – Inspired by Moana

It’s about time that Disney puts in a feature for fan-favorite Moana. This self-guided nature trail follows the story of water from sky to ocean and back.

Enjoy the night shows at Disney and keep your kids happy with light up toys. Epcot Forever debuted in October 2019.
Nighttime spectacular “Epcot Forever” above Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The show celebrates the past, present and future of the theme park with fireworks, lasers, colorful glowing kites and Epcot music. (David Roark, photographer)

A New Nighttime Spectacular for EPCOT

In October of 2021 EPCOT Forever was replaced by Harmonious. This large and expensive musical extravaganza combined song, language and fireworks. Barges staged in the World Showcase Lagoon held screens that LED light displays were projected onto.

Prior to that IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, EPCOT’s long running nighttime show, ran almost exactly 20 years, ending in 2019.

EPCOT Forever has returned temporarily. Disney will be unveiling a new nighttime show for EPCOT that has not yet been named and will debut later in 2023.

Did you know that you can book a special Disney After Hours experience at EPCOT? Dates in 2023 run from June 1st to August 24th and are part of Disney’s extensive offering of add-on specialty tours.

epcot world showcase at night
Extra Magic Hours can be a great time to wander through the World Showcase to take pictures. Photo credit: Nasreen Stump

World Showcase News

In Norway, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is back to serving all three meals as of May 14th. Families can now book any meal period at this princess character dining experience. In Japan, Tokyo Dining will be replaced by Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya this summer. It will offer a shareable Izakaya-style dining experience as a table service restaurant.

Also don’t forget to download the Play Disney Parks app. There’s a new interactive scavenger hunt with Scrooge McDuck. In Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure you’ll help find and return the 7 lost treasures to each country’s pavilion.

EPCOT Festivals in 2023

If you’re looking to hit up EPCOT’s festivals for special treats and experiences in 2023, we’ve got the dates you need to keep in mind. The EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival will run from March 1, 2023 – July 5, 2023.

The EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival will run from July 27, 2023 – November 18, 2023. Best news? Emile’s Fromage Montage cheese crawl is back.

The last festival for 2023 is the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Dates haven’t been announced for 2023 yet but it will run in November and December.

Want to see Hollywood Studios? Disney prices will be higher this year, so it will cost more to see it!
The Hollywood Tower Hotel is a park icon at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Photo credit: Sarah Gilliland

Disney’s Hollywood Studios Upgrades and Improvements

If you’re heading to Disney’s Hollywood Studios there are a few changes to report. First, Toy Story Land now has a table service restaurant – Roundup Rodeo BBQ. Serving lunch and dinner, this sit down spot is NOT a character meal. It is a family-style, all you can eat experience that is a set price per person. Check out the menu before visiting to see if it’s worth it for your family. From a decor standpoint, this eatery feels like an expanded Toy Story Mania queue.

Second, after some time without a nighttime show, Fantasmic! Returned in late 2022. Currently, two shows a night are being put on.

Ride Closures at Hollywood Studios

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster will be closed for several months. It is slated to reopen during the summer of 2023, but no specific date is given.

Celebrate 100 Years: Goodbye Enchantment, Hello Platinum

Out with Disney’s 50th Anniversary celebration which ended in March 2023 and in with the Disney 100th Anniversary. You may be saying- What? How did they go from 50 to 100 in months? Well, the 50th Anniversary celebrated Walt Disney World. Disney100 celebrates the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Company.

The celebration will contain several different elements including: favorite Disney characters Mickey and Minnie appearing in special platinum outfits; Spaceship Earth special lighting; photograph-friendly 100 backdrops in all four theme parks; character meets at the resorts; special food and drink and, of course,  exclusive merchandise.

The Caribbean Beach Resort’s beach and pool area make it one of the best Disney resorts for kids
With its bright colorful buildings and access to the Skyliner, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort is a favorite Disney World Resort. Photo credit: Gwen Kleist

Walt Disney World Resort: Things to Know

If you’ve been frustrated by some changes that the resorts have made in recent years you’ll be happy with these announcements. First, Disney has brought back complimentary parking for guests at Walt Disney World Resort. Parking fees were instituted back in 2018 and guests saw fees ranging from $15-25 depending on whether you were staying in a value, moderate or deluxe resort.

Ongoing Disney Resort Improvements and Refurbishments

Disney is continuously improving resorts to accommodate guests and keep things fresh. Recent refurbishments at the Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are complete. In 2023 guest rooms at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa will be updated just in time for the resort’s 35th anniversary. Refurbishments at all three All-Star Resorts will come to fruition this year.

Another fun resort addition is Hey Disney! A magical voice assistant. You can ask it when fireworks are, have it tell you jokes and more. It has rolled out at the Polynesian and will be making its way across the resort area over the year.

Disney Dining Plan is Returning for Walt Disney World Resort Guests

Starting on May 31, 2023, guests staying at Disney resort hotels can elect to add the Disney Dining Plan to their trips that start on or after January 9, 2024. After years of the Disney Dining Plan being paused, you can bet that people are excited! More information will be shared by Disney on May 31st.

To answer the most common questions we’ve heard – YES! If you have already booked a trip that starts on or after January 9, 2024, you will be able to modify that trip to add the dining plan! This means that you shouldn’t wait if you see a fantastic offer before the end of May. You can always add it later! Prices are sure to be higher when the booking window first opens up.

Guests at Disney resort property Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser don’t need to worry. This immersive experience will still include dining specific to the galaxy they’re staying in.

Two Disney Dining Plan Types

Currently two dining plan types are offered. In the past there were three levels. The Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan and the Disney Dining Plan, which includes a table service restaurants (ie. character meals). The dining plans are advertised as being a prepaid way to save up to 30% on dining at Disney. In the past there have been specials around free dining plans. Those may or may not return.

Disney Destination D23 at Contemporary Resort

It will be a bit busy on the monorail in September. Disney’s Destination D23 is being held at the Contemporary Resort from September 8, 2023-September 10, 2023. Disney reveals upcoming projects, films and more at this superfan event.

Disney Springs – New Restaurants and Stores

If you haven’t visited Disney Springs in a bit you might not recognize it! A few fun developments at Disney Springs deserve our attention.

Disney Springs Photo Pass Studio

While this spot has existed it is, in my opinion, underutilized. No reservations are required. Just check the hours and stop in to take photos for free! If you’ve got Memory Maker, the pics you take here have free unlimited downloads. If you don’t, there may be a few to download. As with other Disney photo spots you can also take images on your phone. The studio has a backdrop that changes seasonally with the holidays that are coming up (NEW) and a virtual backdrop section that allows you to pick favorite characters from Encanto, Coco and more to pose with.

Summer House on the Lake

A new restaurant, Summer House on the Lake, will be opening at Disney Springs later in 2023. It will be California-inspired and the space will also include a dessert bakery called The Cookie Jar.

“its a small world” at Disneyland . Photo credit: Julie Bigboy

Changes at Disneyland

Disney’s changes aren’t only taking place in Orlando, Florida. These new and exciting upgrades are also extending to California’s Disneyland.

New Attractions, Reopenings and Rule Changes at Disneyland in 2023

Mickey’s Toontown reopened after being closed for renovations on March 19, 2023. This reimagining added grassy spaces like CenTOONial Experience, interactive play stations and Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway (which opened in January).

Disney Vacation Club at Disneyland – Perks and a New Property

Disney Vacation Club members are excited about a new addition at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. The new Disney Vacation Club Star View Station – a Member Lounge provides a spot for DVC members to catch their breath and relax during a busy Disney day.

Speaking of new DVC at Disneyland, a new DVC property The Villas at Disneyland Hotel, opened for sale to existing members on May 2. Purchase will be open to the general public for purchase on May 30th, 2023. It’s slated to open on September 28, 2023.

Read More: 18 Valuable Reasons to Stay at a Disneyland Resort Hotel

Mickey and Minnie in front of the Disney Wish, one of the best cruises for kids
Disney Cruise Line offers the best cruise for kids. Shown here, the new ship Disney Wish. Photo credit: Disney Cruise Line

Disney Cruise Line News

After years of requests, Disney is bringing its MagicBand+ tech to the cruising world. On DCL it will be called DisneyBand+. The bands will be able to unlock room doors, link photos, find magic moments and check kids into the kids’ club.

We have a new ship, the Disney Treasure, to look forward to. It will join Disney’s current fleet which is made up of the Disney Magic, Disney Wish, Disney Wonder, Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy.

In other exciting news, a second Disney island destination is being added in June 2024. Lighthouse Point, on the southern tip of Eleuthera Bahamas, joins Castaway Cay as an exclusive Disney cruise stop.

Read More: What to Pack for Your Disney Cruise

Annual Pass Sales at Disney are Back

After a long pause, Disney Annual Pass sales are back in multiple forms. If you’ve been waiting to buy a pass, now is your chance.

In addition, restrictions on reservations with passes have been lifted and passholders can now visit without reservations after 2 pm, excluding Magic Kingdom on Saturdays and Sundays. Disney is also working on rolling out “good to go” days where passholders and cast members can visit all day without having a reservation.

More Changes to Come

As fast as we can keep up with what’s new at Disney, even more is announced. Check back frequently for the latest as you plan your Disney vacation!

Nasreen’s adventures started out as business travel. Working as a territory sales manager she covered 21 states during her tenure, traveling 3-5 nights a week. As she visited new cities and states, she always worked in a quick stop at a unique or iconic site. A travel writing career was born. When her father-in-law’s cancer came back she started writing and consulting full-time around his chemotherapy schedule. Traveling with her firefighter/paramedic husband, kids, friends and solo allows her to cover a variety of situations and topics. Her four kids (19 year old boy, 13 year old girl, 11 year old girl and 7 year old boy) are professionals at the cross country road trip. After 10 years in Texas, their family is back in the Northeast exploring both familiar and new destinations. There she runs her own business providing go-to-market, sales strategy, podcast, and content marketing consulting for websites and B2B businesses. Whenever possible she writes for a variety of publications in the podcast, travel, and business space. Connect with her on LinkedIn to chat about travel, content, sales, and podcasts!
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *