'Sup! Welcome to Tad's toadally awesome list of what opened at Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and the other parks in 2021! You may know me as the Frog Family’s resident thrill seeker, tech junkie and head frog videographer, but I'm also the frog who keeps tabs on all of the attractions and experiences headed to the Orlando theme parks. I have a few years of experience (see what opened in 2020 and previous years!), and is it just me or do the theme park openings just keep getting better and better as the years fly by?! Even after 2020 — an unusual year for theme parks with temporary closures due to COVID-19 — there was still lots of frogciting stuff hoppening at the parks in 2021!
At Disney World, the 50th-anniversary celebration kicked off in October. Of course, you can't celebrate a big birthday without new rides, restaurants, nighttime spectaculars and more! We frogs turned into rats on Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, dined in outer space at Space 220 and watched the night sky burst into colors in awe with Harmonious and Disney Enchantment. Meanwhile, at Universal Orlando, we raced against raptors on Jurassic World VelociCoaster.
This post can be super hopful as you plan your upcoming trip so you don't miss all of the new experiences, especially if you haven't been to the parks in a few years. You can use it alongside my other post that lists what's coming to the parks in 2022 and beyond ... and let me tell you, 2022 is shaping up to be a toadally rad year already!
What Opened at Walt Disney World Resort in 2021
Harmonious — debuted Oct. 1, 2021 — After EPCOT Forever's limited run, the new main lagoon show is "a worldwide celebration of Disney music" with highlights from the show featuring "Moana," "Brave," "Pocahontas," "Hercules" and many others. Our favorite Disney songs have been reimagined in more than a dozen different languages by a diverse group of artists. The all-new show features massive, floating set pieces, LED panels, moving fountains, lights, lasers, pyrotechnics and more.
Remy's Ratatouille Adventure — opened Oct. 1, 2021 — The France pavilion has received an imported favorite. Similar to the popular 4-D ride Ratatouille: The Adventure that opened at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, guests shrink to Remy's size and scurry to safety within Gusteau's legendary Parisian restaurant. It debuted for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary.
La Crêperie de Paris — opened Oct. 1, 2021 — As part of the expansion in the France pavilion, a brand-new crêperie serves savory and sweet crepes, along with table-service and quick-service dining options, featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jerome Bocuse. It opened alongside Remy's Ratatouille Adventure.
Reimagined main entrance — began construction in 2020; ongoing through 2021 — EPCOT's main plaza will include new pathways, green spaces and a reimagined fountain (which is now complete!). The Leave A Legacy photos have moved just outside the park's gateway in a new, multi-colored display. There will be additional redevelopment to the area between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase Promenade.
Spaceship Earth Lighting — debuted March 3, 2021 — Spaceship Earth's exterior (aka, the big golf ball) has received a special, custom lighting package that connects to its surroundings (including the new entrance fountain, which also features special lighting effects) and offers a unique nighttime experience for park guests. The lighting package, new pavilion flags and EPCOT's new entrance fountain are all available now.
Creations Shop — opened Sept. 15, 2021 — Say goodbye to MouseGear ... Creations Shop has taken over as the park's flagship merchandise location. It features a bold, sleek design that creates an open and bright environment with glass walls and large murals of Mickey Mouse himself.
Club Cool Hosted by Coca-Cola — opened Sept. 15, 2021 — They can't get rid of the Beverly that easily! A revamped Club Cool location opened right next to Creations Shop. The fan-favorite experience of tasting drinks from all over the world has returned with new flavors, and it also offers some new magic to celebrate the global experience of Coca-Cola.
Space 220 — opened Sept. 20, 2021 — Guests have the opportunity to dine in the stars in a space station-themed table-service restaurant located next to Mission: SPACE. You hop in a special elevator that makes you feel like you're traveling to the space station in real-time. Once inside, the restaurant boasts panoramic daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up. It features international cuisine, more than 1,000 bottles of wine and a wide selection of craft beer.
Magic Kingdom Park
Disney Enchantment — debuted Oct. 1, 2021 — As part of Walt Disney World's 50th-anniversary celebration, Disney Enchantment, a brand-new nighttime spectacular premiered at Magic Kingdom. Inspiring everyone to believe in magic, the show features fireworks, enhanced lighting and new project effects that extend to Main Street, U.S.A.
Jungle Cruise reimagination — completed by Aug. 26, 2021 — For years, Jungle Cruise skippers have cracked punny jokes, but now the storyline follows a skipper's journey that takes an unexpected turn. Disneyland's version also completed a similar update in 2021. At Magic Kingdom, the refurbishment took place while the ride was in operation and was completed by the end of the summer.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
Disney KiteTails — debuted Oct. 1, 2021 — To celebrate the 50th anniversary, a new daytime show took flight at the Discovery River Amphitheater. Performers fly windcatchers and kites of all shapes and sizes, while larger three-dimensional kites, depicting Disney animal friends (including Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie), soar through the sky above the water to the beat of Disney songs.
Disney's Polynesian Village Resort retheming — completed July 19, 2021 — This deluxe resort underwent a major refurbishment project. The guest rooms received a new look inspired by "Moana." As of Sept. 5, a new monorail station has opened.
Walt Disney World Swan Reserve — opened Nov. 3, 2021 — As an expansion of the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts, the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve opened its doors. The third hotel adds 349 new guest rooms, including 149 suites, a signature Mediterranean restaurant, a health club and its own pool.
Drawn to Life presented by Cirque du Soleil & Disney — debuted Nov. 18, 2021 — The show must go on! Originally scheduled to debut in 2020, Drawn to Life premiered near the end of 2021. The show is a collaboration between Cirque du Soleil, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering. It tells the story of a love between a father and a daughter and brings timeless Disney stories and characters to life through design, acrobatics, musical scores and brand-new animation.
M&M's Store — opened Jan. 30, 2021 — A new M&M'S store brought a colorful, immersive shopping experience to the West Side of Disney Springs. Sign me up for a sweet supply of chocolate candies!
Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew — opened Jan. 6, 2021 — Hot, fresh doughnuts arrived at Disney Springs! Drool. Located adjacent to Splitsville and near the west entrance and exit of the Orange Parking Garage, Everglazed offers up hand-crafted donuts, cold brew lattes and coffee cocktails.
Gideon's Bakehouse — opened Jan. 16, 2021 — An Orlando native, award-winning bakery, Gideon's is known for its delectably crafted cookies. The cookies are small-batch, but HUGE in size! The nearly half-pound cookies take about 24 hours to create — but you can wash them down with one of Gideon's iced drinks, such as Peanut Butter Iced Coffee. The Bakehouse opened its doors in December 2020 for a soft opening, revealing a haunted library-esque vibe. It officially opened its doors Jan. 16.
What Opened at Universal Orlando Resort in 2021
Universal's Islands of Adventure
Jurassic World VelociCoaster — opened June 10, 2021 — On Jurassic World VelociCoaster, heretofore known as the Jurassic coaster, we felt the rush of the hunt as we raced alongside raptors. We lucky frogs leapt at the opportunity for a Universal Orlando passholder preview in early May, but in June, the apex predator of roller coasters opened to all frogs! The queue itself is an experience — you can watch as the coaster zooms by and the raptors chase after it until they see you. Come face-to-face with a restrained raptor as it rattles in its cage. Everything must go into a locker, which can be found halfway through the queue, as there are metal detectors.
The roller coaster itself is AMAAA-ZING. The two launches are no joke — the ride is very fast (it reaches up to 70 mph) and intense. We were surprised by the airtime given by lots of surprising twists and turns. Our favorite moments were the top hat launch, the zero-g stall (the ride vehicle is inverted for 100 feet) and the barrel roll finale. Frog tip: if you wear glasses, make sure they are super snug, or else they may end up in the lagoon below.
Universal Studios Florida
Jurassic World Tribute Store — open from May 27 through Aug. 9, 2021 — To celebrate the opening of Jurassic World VelociCoaster, Universal opened a tribute store at Universal Studios Florida. The merchandise space regularly switches up its theming based on special events, and this summer, the rooms were themed as the Jurassic World VelociCoaster control room, a raptor paddock and a Jurassic Park lab. There was also a room filled with special treats, including a giant chocolate dinosaur egg! It closed to make way for the Halloween Horror Nights store.
Universal Studios Store — opened April 1, 2021 — Construction went on in CityWalk for the first few months of 2021 until an all-new, much larger flagship Universal Studios Store opened up next to Voodoo Doughnut. The former Universal Studios Store is now the Universal Legacy Store, with props and merchandise to celebrate movies and attractions of yesteryear.
What Opened at Other Florida Theme Parks in 2021
Altitude Burgers — opened March 2021 — Take your tastebuds to new heights at this brand-new burger bar (formerly known as Mango Joe's).
Edy's Ice Cream Parlor — opened March 2021 — We all scream for ice cream! The new ice cream parlor features mega-monster shakes, brownie sundaes and hand-dipped ice cream cones. You can also create your own sundae with your choice of over 13 signature flavors of Edy's Ice Cream.
Lakeside Grill — opened March 2021 — Formerly the Spice Mill, Lakeside Grill now offers a modern spin on Mediterranean cuisine, including grilled kabobs, falafel and hummus. Lakeside Mediterranean Nachos and the Lakeside Mediterranean Burger are also on the menu for those who don't want to stray too far from classic theme park fare. The restaurant's redesign features a 600-gallon aquarium that houses marine reef fish and live coral.
Busch Gardens Tampa
Giraffe Bar — opened March 26, 2021 — Located at Serengeti Overlook, this new bar has panoramic views of Serengeti Plain to accompany cocktails, flights of local craft beers, wines and spirits. For snacks, the menu features vegetarian shareables, such as loaded hummus and oversized Bavarian soft pretzels.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Miniland U.S.A. Shade Structure — opened Nov. 10, 2021 — Miniland U.S.A. reopened with a brand-new shade structure installed. No need to worry about the sweltering sun anymore!
I hope you've enjoyed this overview of what opened at Disney World and Universal in 2021. Don't froget that you can see what's coming to the parks in 2022 and beyond! Hop on over to our When to Visit Orlando page for more planning tips, part of our Orlando Planning Timeline!
Related: Best Time To Visit Disney World