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What's New at Disney World in 2017 and Beyond

by Tad on May 17, 2017 10 Orlando

Aloha, frog friends! To celebrate the opening of Universal’s Volcano Bay, we’re having a cool contest. By entering our Leapin’ Lava Family Vacation Sweepstakes, you could win a 3-day trip to the Universal Orlando Resort that includes on-site hotel stay, park tickets and more! Hop over here for official rules and information on how to enter. Good luck!

'Sup! Welcome to Tad's toadally awesome list of what's new at Disney World and Universal in 2017 and Beyond! As the Frog Family’s resident thrill seeker, tech junkie and head Frog Videographer—thank you very much—I’ve been keeping score on all the attractions and experiences headed to the Orlando theme parks over the last few years.

Things were really hopping at Disney World and Universal in 2013 and 20142015 was laid back—like yours truly on a weekend—but 2016 saw some sweet additions all across the 407 ( AKA Orlando). I had a blast riding Mako at SeaWorld Orlando—check out my video. Disney World gave us Frozen Ever After at Epcot and great projection shows popped up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom. The big guys were in charge at Universal’s Islands of Adventure,  where we welcomed back The Incredible Hulk Coaster and met the big ape himself—no, not my dad—King Kong on Skull Island : Reign of Kong. #bigguy

Be sure to swing by here often as you get closer to your trip, because we'll be adding to this list! You'll love seeing what's new at Disney World and Universal in 2017 and beyond! See you in the parks!

What's New at Disney World in 2017

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Pandora

Pandora - The World of Avatar—Opening May 27— Inspired by James Cameron’s 2009 movie, this new land will transport guests to the world of Pandora, home of the Na’vi. Full of bioluminescent plants and centered by the impressive floating mountains, the area will feature two attractions. On the Na’vi River Journey, guests will travel down a sacred river hidden within a bioluminescent rainforest. The attraction's finale has an “unforgettable encounter” with a Na’vi Shaman. The other attraction, the Avatar Flight of Passage, will send guests soaring over Pandora on a flying Banshee. Sweet.

Rivers of Light—Now Showing—Animal Kingdom's first nighttime show celebrates the beauty of all living things and features water, sound, dramatic lighting and special effects.

Epcot

Epcot International Festival of the Arts—Running from Jan. 13 through Feb. 20, this new festival will celebrate visual, performing and culinary arts. Look for appearances by Disney artists and celebrity chefs, and enjoy performers singing hits from Disney's Broadway shows. Hoping for someone to sing "One Jump Ahead" from Aladdin. Get it? Nod if you're with me. Cool.

Choza Tequila— Mid 2017—An authentic outdoor tequileria offering hand-crafted margaritas and classic Mexican cuisine will open outside of the Mexican Pavilion in World Showcase.

Magic Kingdom

Happily Ever After Nighttime Spectacular—Now Playing - This new show lights up the night sky above Cinderella Castle. Projection mapping will combine with Disney storytelling, pyrotechnics and classic Disney characters in a show that will inspire guests to find their own "Happily Ever After". Two unique parts of this show will be an original score and original, hand-drawn animation of characters like Ursula, Aladdin and Tiana.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Troopers

Star Wars Guided Tour—Beginning Jan. 2, blast off on a seven-hour VIP guided tour of everything Star Wars. Special seating for Jedi Training - Trials of the Temple (ages 4-12 may participate in the show) and priority boarding on Star Tours - The Adventure Continues are just a few of the perks on this premium tour. (Darth Vader Voice) We would be honored if you would join us.

The Music of Pixar LIVE A Symphony of Characters—Opening May 26This show will feature a live symphony orchestra playing music from Disney•Pixar films. There's a good bet that your favorite Disney•Pixar characters will be making an appearance as well.

Disney's Typhoon Lagoon

Miss Adventure Falls—Now Open—A splashing good time is in store aboard this family-style raft attraction. Guests slide down on a white water rafting adventure past the lost and glittering treasure of the fabled Captain Mary Oceaneer. With a ride time of two minutes, this is one of the longest water attractions at both Disney Water Parks. Kowabunga!

Disney's Wilderness Lodge

villas-wilderness-pool-render

The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge are now the Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. New name=new amenities! The former quiet pool, Hidden Springs, is getting reimagined to tell the backstory of Boulder Ridge. Fashioned after an old quarry, the Boulder Ridge Cove pool area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool. The new Geyser Point Bar and Grill and a new quick-service restaurant will give all guests more dining options. #allthefrenchfries

ESPN Wide World of Sports 

A new cheerleading and dance venue will debut mid-2017 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. This one-of-a-kind venue will accommodate 8,000 fans and has the ability to be configured for events such as volleyball, basketball and concerts. A large number of cheerleading competitions are held at Disney World, and the ESPN complex hosts the Cheerleading World Championships each April. Lily, the resident jumper, will certainly enjoy this.

Disney Springs

New dining, drinking and entertainment venues will be hopping up in 2017.

Planet Hollywood Observatory—Now Open—Reimagined as an observatory, the familiar Hollywood-themed restaurant returns with a fresh look inside as well as on the menu. Celebrity chef Guy Fieri lends his culinary flair to the menu's burgers and sandwiches. I liked this place from my last visit so much that ... I'll be back. If my parents want to go.

Paddlefish—Now Open—The former Fulton's Crab House (and Empress Lilly before that) floats back with an upscale modern-yacht interior design. On the menu, there will be returning Fulton's favorites along with new bites, such as table-side guacamole with Maine lobster and a “build-your-own” lobster boil. Mom gave a "Here, take my money!" remark when she heard about this one.

The Polite Pig—Now Open—Local owners and James Beard award nominees James and Julie Petrakis bring wood-fired smoked and grilled items along with innovative beverages and craft beer to the Town Center area of Disney Springs. The Polite Pig will be a sister restaurant to The Ravenous Pig in nearby Winter Park.

The Edison—Late 2017—Resembling a 1920's electric company power plant, The Edison will feature food, cocktails, live entertainment, cabaret and music. It will feature distinct areas, with the Lab Performance room featuring entertainment such as palm readers, DJs and (ooh) contortionists. The Edison will be a sister restaurant to its Los Angeles location.

Disney Springs - The Edison

Unnamed New Restaurant—Fall 2017—A new restaurant will replace Portobello Country Italian Trattoria. The new restaurant will be overseen by James Beard award-winner and Top Chef Master Tony Mantuano.

Wine Bar George—Fall 2017—Master Sommelier George Miliotes returns to Disney (he helped open California Grill in 1995) with an intimate wine bar that will resemble a winemaker's home estate. I'm a teenager and don't know what any of that means, but mom says it's fancy, so, cool. Yay, wine people.

What's New At Universal Orlando in 2017

Volcano-Bay-Full-Reveal-1440x900 (1)

Universal's Volcano Bay—Opening May 25—Universal Orlando Resort's third theme park features Krakatau—the fire and water volcano—that looks over this water playground full of thrills and relaxation. The park will feature all kinds of water rides, from slides to wave pools and rafting adventures to smaller places for your tadpoles. Don't expect long lines or having to carry tubes around. Volcano Bay's unique TapuTapu wearable will take care of those hassles. Note to self—test waterproofing of GoPro.

Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon—Now Open—Visitors follow Jimmy Fallon—Host of NBC's The Tonight Show—on board a "flying theater" that zooms you around famous New York City landmarks. Pre-show activities let guests interact with Hashtag the Panda, listen to The Ragtime Gals and send their very own Thank You Note.

Christmastime at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter—Nov 18—Yes, you want to spend your winter break at school. This year, muggles and students will be able to experience Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley trimmed with festive holiday decorations on the buildings and within the shops of the Wizarding World. There will also be holiday-themed food and drinks, as well as entertainment. The highlight of Christmastime at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter will be a holiday show taking place on Hogwarts Castle. This new experience will use mapped-projection technology to "cast a spell" onto the castle and feature iconic moments from the films.

 Universal's Holiday Parade—Nov 18—A re-imagining of the park's long-running Macy's Holiday Parade, this extravaganza will feature Dreamworks favorites such as the Minions, Shrek and Madagascar. Yes, Santa will be there as well. Brand new balloons will also premiere.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort

Ninjago the Ride at LEGOLAND California - Ninja Meet-and-Greets

LEGOLAND Ninjago World—Inspired by the popular LEGO building sets and the “LEGO NINJAGO: Masters of Spinjitzu” TV show, this new land will let aspiring ninjas practice their Spinjitsu and battle enemies on LEGO NINJAGO THE RIDE. This kicking new land opened on Jan. 12.

LEGOLAND Beach Retreat—Now Open—Surf's Up LEGO fans! Located inside the LEGOLAND Florida resort, this family-friendly hotel features 83 beach-themed bungalows and 166 total rooms. The guest bedrooms feature plenty of amenities and decorated with beach-themed LEGO artwork and details. The bungalows offer outdoor play areas and shaded patios.

SeaWorld Orlando

Seven Seas Food Festival —Runs Feb 11 through May 13—Expanding to 14 weekends in 2017, this popular food festival is inspired by street food from Asia, the Caribbean, South America and the Mediterranean. New foods will expand the festival's food offerings and various craft beers will be available.

Dolphin Nursery—Summer 2017—A redesigned nursery will give guests an up-close experience of the care SeaWorld employees give to dolphin mothers. Multiple-level viewing through acrylic windows will give visitors a close-up view of mothers and their calves. People LOOOVE dolphin videos. ALL. THE. YOUTUBE. LIKES.

Electric Ocean—Summer 2017— SeaWorld Orlando's new end-of-day spectacle event will immerse guests in a sea of wonder with bioluminescent lighting, music and pathway entertainment.

Kraken Virtual Reality (VR) Roller Coaster—Summer 2017—SeaWorld's thrilling coaster is landing a digital upgrade. Visitors will wear VR headsets and be plunged into a deep sea mission where they will encounter creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past. This will be Florida's first VR coaster (and really hard to get on-ride footage of).

What's New at Disney World and Universal in 2018

Universal Studios Florida

Fast & Furious: Supercharged at Universal Studios Florida

  • Fast & Furious: Supercharged—2018. Based on the popular film franchise, the new Fast & Furious: Supercharged will put guests in the middle of the action, where they'll explore the headquarters of Dom Toretto's underground racing world and be part of a high-speed chase with some of the films' stars. This will be similar to Fast & Furious: Supercharged that opened at Universal Studios Hollywood.  Check out the video here. Fast & Furious at Universal Studios Florida will be located in the San Francisco area of the park.

2019 and Beyond

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Star Wars Land

  • Star Wars-themed land—2019—This can't come here fast enough. At 14 acres, a Star Wars-themed land will be the largest land at Disney World. It will transport guests to a never-before-seen planet, with two new attractions—One based around a secret mission aboard the Millennium Flacon and another that will place guests into the middle of a battle between the First Order and the Resistance. Read full details about Star Wars Land here.
  • Toy Story Land—No Date Announced—An 11-acre land will rise up around Toy Story Mania, offering a Buzz-sized perspective on Andy's backyard. Look for oversized building blocks and game board pieces, plus a brand new family coaster aboard the Slinky Dog and an alien saucers spin based on the little green aliens — and the claw! Big fan of the little green guys.

Universal Orlando Resort

Shigeru Miyamoto with Nintendo

  • Universal has partnered with Nintendo to bring to life experiences based on Nintendo's games, characters and worlds. The first new addition—Super Nintendo World—will open at Universal Studios Japan in 2020. Orlando and Hollywood versions are set to follow.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at what's new at Disney World and Universal in 2017 and beyond. Make sure to come back to see what's been added as you get closer to your visit. 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 in 2017 & 2018

Stay cool!

Keep hopping, Tad!
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Comments
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Ridah kaiko Feb 22, 2017 at 10:30 a.m.

Wow! That's so amazing...I will definitely plan for this...Thank you.

Reply
camille Veltri Mar 13, 2017 at 6:25 p.m.

where is the best place to stay in Disney, and what is the best price

Reply
FrogBlog Mar 13, 2017 at 2:57 p.m.

Hi Camille,

That depends on how much you want to spend, and how close you want to be to a particular theme park. Consider one of Disney's Moderate hotels, like Disney's Caribbean Beach resort. It's close to Epcot!

Keep Hopping!

Leap

Reply
Nay Mar 19, 2017 at 3:16 p.m.

Blue heron beach resort condo. It's 2 miles from Disney world parks. Restaurants are walking distance.Publix grocery store is close too. They provide bus rides to the parks. Great price, clean and nice facilities.

Reply
Slynn Mar 27, 2017 at 1:54 a.m.

We stayed at the Blue Heron also a few years ago. It was perfect for us. We had one teenage boy with us. The shuttles were nice. Property was nice too!

Reply
PJ May 19, 2017 at 3:27 p.m.

A great place to stay is Orange Lake Resort. It's only 3 miles from the Magic Kingdom. I rent a 6th floor villa overlooking a golf course that sleeps 8 people for only $145.00 per night. The resort is massive and has its own water park, pools and lazy river. Restaurants and shopping on premises.

Reply
Patrick Apr 7, 2017 at 1:07 a.m.

We have stayed at the All Star Music resort three times ,it's not fancy but all you really need . A clean room,food on site,and great swimming pool s

Also offers free shuttle service to all Disney Parks. Price is very reasonable .

Reply
Heather Berechree May 1, 2017 at 9:10 a.m.

I am from Australia but I have been to WDW a number of times. My question is about the free Dining Plan and Dining Plans in general. We are not big eaters and have never thought them good value for money but we plan to be at WDW during a time that partly coincides with the free dining offer. My question is how long does the dining plan last. If for example we stayed 5 nights at one hotel with the free dining plan offer then moved to another hotel that was not offering the dining plan would we be able to use outstanding dining points (if there were any) once we moved to the second hotel or do they expire the day we move to the other hotel. I am somewhat confused my this. Thanks for your help

Reply
FrogBlog May 1, 2017 at 1:16 p.m.

Hi Heather,

We're not familiar with dining plans moving from hotel-to-hotel. Perhaps some of our other readers know. You can always call 407-WDW-DINE to get exact info from Disney.

Keep Hopping!

Leap

Reply
kristin May 6, 2017 at 10:55 p.m.

Hello. You will be able to use dining credits for only the days that you are staying at the qualifying Walt Disney World hotel. Depending on if you upgrade or not there are two different plans. We find as a family of four that it saves us a ton of money. Only certain hotels qualify and you do have to upgrade to the park hopper option on the tickets to be eligible. I hope that helps!

Reply
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