Welcome to Tad's totally awesome list of what opened at Disney World in 2015! As the keeper of all things cool (and head Frog Family videographer), I have put together a running list of all the attractions and experiences headed to the Orlando theme parks for the last few years. What opened in 2015 follows below, but you can hop to 2014 and 2013. And don't forget to check out what's coming in 2016 and beyond!
What opened at Disney and Universal in 2015!
- A new interactive queue opened in January at Peter Pan's Flight, one of the most popular rides in all of Magic Kingdom. The queue takes guests through the Darling home as Mr. and Mrs. Darling get ready for a night out! Tinker Bell makes an appearance as does the Darlings' beloved dog, Nana.
- A new Starbucks location, known as the Trolley Car Cafe, opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in February along Hollywood Boulevard.
- New FastPass+ fireworks viewing areas and extra seating opened in February at Magic Kingdom. In the day, it's a nice place to sit down, rest and let the tadpoles burn off some energy. At night, there is room to stretch out while you're waiting, although most people stand for the fireworks. We like these new viewing areas, which are both to the left and the right of the castle when you walk toward the hub from Main Street. If you have selected FP+ for Wishes, you can select either side, space permitting. The enhancements are part of construction around the hub in front of Cinderella's Castle to ease congestion.
- Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace switched places in March, so look for your Dole Whip over near the Enchanted Tiki Room behind the Magic Carpets of Aladdin. There is seating near Aloha Isle and more walk-up windows, so less wait.
- Clyde and Seamore, the popular sea lion duo, returned to the stage at SeaWorld Orlando in a brand-new show, Sea Lions High, in April.
- The first phase of Disney's newest vacation club property, Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows featuring very cool, on-the-water accommodations, opened April 1. While it's the most spectacular addition to the resort, it is not the only one. The famed Lava Pool reemerged from a massive refurbishment in April with a larger deck and seating area, and a new volcano, hot tub and amazing children's water play area.
- Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, similar to very popular Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel, soft opened in April at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort. While us young frogs aren't allowed in, my parents say that it is both "intimate and kitschy" — two words you don't often hear together. There are some fun drinks (that cause all sorts of reactions throughout the bar!) and Polynesian-themed appetizers.
- The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot observation wheel at the new I-Drive 360 complex, opened in May. The Eye offers 360-degree views of Orlando and beyond — on clear days, all the way to the Kennedy Space Center. These air-conditioned capsules hold 15 to 20 people. We're offering tickets for this experience, plus Madam Tussaud's and the SEALIFE Aquarium, which opened along with it.
- Also at the new I-Drive 360 complex, Skeletons: A Museum of Osteology opened March 7.
- The Landing, the first of four phases of Disney Springs, is nearing completion at Downtown Disney. When the expansion is finished, the entertainment area will be double the size of its current footprint. Disney Springs is expected to be double the size of Downtown Disney, and the entertainment and shopping area is expected to have "beautiful open-air promenades, flowing springs and waterfront charm." Full completion of Disney Springs is expected in 2016, and we've got full details on all of what's coming here.
- The fine folks who brought us T-REX Cafe, Yak and Yeti, and Rainforest Cafe will be bringing The BOATHOUSE to the Landing at Downtown Disney. The restaurant,which had its soft opening in April, has three bars — The Captain’s Raw Bar, The Admiral’s Club Bar and The Dock Bar, which is built over the water. Additionally there is live music and romantic guided tours aboard a water taxi, with champagne toasts and chocolate-covered strawberries. For you wannabe frogs, a guided Amphicar that launches from land but takes to water will take guests on a 20-minute tour of Disney Springs' landmarks.
- The LEGOLAND Hotel will officially open at LEGOLAND Florida in nearby Winter Haven on May 15. The hotel will offer terrifically LEGO-themed rooms as well as big bricks and bright colors throughout!
- A new shopping and dining destination, Harambe Market, opened in late May in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The outdoor market is four walk-up quick-service vendors offering street-inspired dishes, a new pathway from Africa to Asia and plenty of shaded places to sit and relax. From the Disney Parks Blog: " 'Kitamu Grill' offers skewered chicken and a kabob flatbread sandwich. 'Famous Sausages' features a corn dog, inspired by a South African sausage called a boerewors, dipped in curry-infused corn batter. 'Chef Mwanga’s' serves a spice-rubbed karubi rib with green papaya-carrot slaw." A fourth window, Wanjohi Refreshments, serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including six South African wines by the glass. There is also Zuri's Sweet Shop, which offers animal-inspired treats. Along with the Harambe Theater, the home for "The Festival of the Lion King" that opened in 2014, Harambe village has doubled in size.
- Turner Classic Movies helped re-imagineer an update and new finale for The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios in June. There is also a classic movie-themed scene that guests can have their photo taken in.
- A fourth and final Starbucks opened in June at Disney's Animal Kingdom in the former location of Creature Comforts.
- Famed Chef Masaharu Morimoto opened his first pan-Asian dining experience this fall at Disney Springs. Guests can dine on everything from dim sum to made-to-order sushi and Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malay dishes. Check out our review here.
- Another big fall opening at Disney Springs was Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar. Themed around Indiana Jones' fearless pilot, the bar features all sorts of interesting memorabilia from his adventures.
- With its first "neighborhood" complete, Downtown Disney was officially renamed Disney Springs in late September.
- A Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant opened in Adventureland at Magic Kingdom in December. The Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen features unique dining rooms, including the once-secret Society of Explorers and Adventurers. Expect plenty of entertainment from the cast, who received their training as Jungle Cruise skippers.
- Construction on the hub at Magic Kingdom was completed in late fall/early winter. Disney redesigned the entire hub area between Main Street U.S.A and Cinderella's Castle, adding more pathways, seating and landscaping. The end result is more room for guests and better views of the fireworks.
- Star Tours — The Adventure Continues at Disney's Hollywood Studios was updated in December with a new adventure inspired by "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." For the first few months of 2016, guests will be guaranteed to experience this new adventure, and then the experiences will return to being random.
- Also in Star Wars news, The Jedi Training Academy was reimagined in early December as Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple. Younglings can now visit the secret site of the ancient Jedi Temple, where they will face Darth Vader along with "Star Wars Rebels" villain Seventh Sister. Star Wars Launch Bay, a new meet-and-greet, food and merchandise location, opened along with "Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular." The new nightly fireworks show pairs Star Wars classics and new tunes from The Force Awakens.
It was a busy for the Orlando theme parks, but the next two years will be even more exciting. If you're planning an upcoming trip, don't forget to check out what's coming in 2016 and beyond. Let us know what you are most excited to experience!