If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World in the last few years you are in for some big changes! There are supposed to be 50 Changes implemented for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary by 2021. This includes things as big as new lands, and as small as new character meet and greets. Apart from all the planning now needed to make the most of your trip, you’ll also see new Disney Rides, Disney Restaurants, Shows and Lands. Plus, you’ll also see some of your favorite things retire. With Walt Disney World making significant changes every year to meet demand and continue challenging Universal Studios, even more changes are coming in preparation of the anniversary of Walt Disney World in 2021. Here’s the list so far!
Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom OPENS July 11, 2020 and Epcot and Hollywood Studios OPENS July 15, 2020. Read all about Walt Disney World’s Opening Plans .
Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Plans
We’re breaking this down by park, in list style. Hopefully this will give you a good idea of EVERYTHING happening at all 4 Disney Parks, Resorts and property-wide. This includes the construction that is most recent, replacement rides, new restaurants and everything planned for Disney’s 50th Anniversary celebrations. This post is updated regularly and will reflect projects that have been affected by the 2020 closing of Walt Disney World. Scroll the post for a list of items that are new ( and have recently retired) per park, the new logo, the new pink Cinderella Castle and everything you need to know.
When is the Disney World 50th Anniversary?
The “official” 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World is October 1, 2021. But never fear! We won’t have to wait that long Disney anniversary celebrations to start. Previous anniversary celebrations have lasted a full 15 months, and while we don’t know a starting date yet! We will share it as soon as we have it. History has shown that the start date for Walt Disney World anniversary celebrations happens a couple months prior. If we had to guess, we’d say plan for August 2021 as a potential starting month for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary and November or December 2022 for the anniversary activities to end. As a result, you have plenty of time to make your way to Disney for the 50th anniversary in 2021.
Will Disney’s 50th Anniversary be Delayed?
Take a look at the Disney Construction Projects for 2020 at Walt Disney World. These changes after closing of the Disney Parks will no doubt have an effect on the ability to complete some projects by deadline. But, for the most part, we believe the major and almost-completed projects will begin to complete as soon as construction staff is back in full.
When Can you book Disney for 2021?
If you’re worried about room availability for the 50th Anniversary at Disney World and all the limited capacity at the parks, know that Walt Disney World announced that Disney 2021 Packages release on June 28, 2020. BUT, rumor around town is that you can book starting June 24th. So, get ready to be up early and have a plan b and c in place for your dates and resort choices. Flexibility will be key!
When’s the Best Time to go to Walt Disney World for the 50th Anniversary?
Ok guys, we’ll be honest about this one. 2020 has seen so many changes, and this will surely delay some construction we’ve been waiting on. And as Disney crowds go, as soon as the celebration dates are announced you can just plan on it being crowded. So we’re going to stick to some tried and true Disney Pro Tips on this one. We like visiting the times of year that are least crowded, least expensive and with the best weather. Read our post about the Cheapest and Most Expensive Times to visit Walt Disney World, to get a clearer picture. Following the history we’d say Jan- Feb 2022, we like the first week of March, the third week of September, and really mid October to the week before Thanksgiving, November 2022 would probably be the best times to visit. Packages for 2022 won’t even release until Summer 2021, so you have plenty of time to think it over.
What are the Plans for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary?
Along with all the changes in entertainment, rides, restaurants and services, we also get a new Logo and an Event Name. The anniversary happenings will be called The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” Complete with 50th Anniversary Disney Snacks, Merchandise, and temporary events across the parks. Much like we saw the Incredible Summer in 2018, we’d expect special events available for a limited time throughout the anniversary year
New Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Logo Reveal
The New Walt Disney World Logo encompasses sparkles alongside strong purple, blue and pink hues no doubt honoring some of the more recent color trends at Disney. Imagination pink, Purple potion, and Unicorn colors have been merchandise darlings this past year and are clearly represented in the new mood board for the Anniversary.
Changes Coming for the Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary
As part of Disney’s 50 Magical enhancements before the 50th, we’ve been tracking all the comings and goings of rides, restaurants and shows at all 4 Walt Disney World parks, Disney Resort changes, and new services. Check out everything happening in our lists here.
Magic Kingdom Changes for 2021
- Splash Mountain is being re-themed as Princess and Frog. Per Disney Parks Blog.
- Disney Characters added to It’s a Small World Ride by 2021. Similar to Disneyand’s Version.
- Introduction of the Hub Grass in front of Cinderellas Castle, for lounging and dessert parties.
- Wreck it Ralph Attraction to replace Stitch’s Great Escape by 2022
- Skipper Canteen Jungle Cruise Restaurant comes to Adventureland
- Happily Ever After Fireworks Show replaces Wishes
- Not So Spooky Spectacular Halloween Fireworks debut 2019 at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
- PeopleMover Refurbishments coming, including new areas and scenes within the ride
- Tomorrowland Re-imagining to match white and blue Tron Lightcycle theme and new Entrance sign.
- Carousel of Progress Updates
- Instagram darling, The Purple Wall, is refreshed with geometric graphics.
- Tron Lightcycle Roller Coaster completion by 2021 in Tomorrowland
- New Castle colors announced in a Rose-Pink hue. Construction begins Summer 2020 in honor of Cinderella’s 70th Anniversary.
No longer at Magic Kingdom
- Royal Merry Makers are cut
- Move it Shake it MousekeDance it Parade finishes late 2019
- Muppets: Great Moments in History cut
- Hallowishes Fireworks Show Retires
- Wishes Fireworks Show Retires
- The Main Street Electrical Light Parade retired 2018
- Stitch’s Great Escape Closed 2018
- Magician Mickey Character Meet and Greet no longer includes a “talking Mickey”
- Move it, Shake it, Dance it, Play it Parade retired 2019
- Captain Jack’s Pirate Tutorial retired 2018
Hollywood Studios Changes for 2021
Hollywood Studios has been under construction for about two years. With quite a bit still to do,Hollywood Studios and Epcot are the parks that will have the biggest changes going into the 50th Anniversary in 2021.
- Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge Rise of the Resistance opens to massive success. Boarding pass system implemented.
- New park logo debuts in 2019 for 30th anniversary
- “Studio” Parking lot names are replaced by character names, preparing to remove studio theming of park.
- Fantasmic is refreshed 2017
- Additional Star Tours storylines added for a possibility of 26 different ride experiences
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular refurbishment and new storylines 2020
- Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge open Aug 29,2019. Land open in phases.
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run Ride: A new ride with simulations similar to Star Tours that allows guests to “control” the ride together.
- Rise of the Resistance Ride exceeds expectations, a boarding pass system is in place to accommodate crowds. Here’s how to get a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance.
- The Galactic Datapad App is in Disney Play for immersion experience and gaming
- Galaxy’s Edge New Restaurants and Shops
- Toy Story Land opens June 2018
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Woody’s Lunch Box Quick Serve
- Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant coming in 2021
- Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway debuted at the Chinese Theater March 4, 2020
- Mickey Shorts Theater opened March 2020
- Star Wars Galactic Nights show debuts 2017
- Grand Avenue is created as walkway to Galaxy’s Edge
- Baseline Tap House added on Grand Avenue
- Introduction of the Sunset Seasons Greetings show at Christmas
No longer at Hollywood Studios
- Star Wars A Galaxy Far Far Away stage and show are removed Feb 2020
- Meet and Greet with Toy Story 4 Bo Peep cancelled Feb 2020
- New Mike and Sully Meet and Greet in the One Man’s Dream building cancelled Feb 2020
- Citizens of Hollywood street show scaled back, some street shows retired.
- The Great Movie Ride closes
- Lightning McQueen’s Race Academy Closes late 2019
- Wonderful World of Animation Nighttime Show debuts for 30th Anniversary Closed late 2019
Epcot Changes for 2021
Epcot is getting a major overhaul. The biggest news to come out this years D23Expo 2019 was that Epcot would be transformed and demolish Innoventions West to create new spaces aligned with four new areas of the park; World Celebration, World Discovery World Nature and World Showcase. The new four sections of Epcot create experiences aligned to different universal themes. Read about the full changes to Epcot here.
- Epcot name is officially changed back to EPCOT Feb 2020
- Choza de Margarita, a permanent outdoor food kitchen, is added to Mexico
- Interactive Play Pavilion in Wonders of Life Building
- Addition of Journey of Water with Moana based theme to include waterfalls and interactive experiences in World Nature scheduled for 2022
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse Craft Drafts & Barbecue replaces Liberty Inn. Read the review.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is an indoor “storytelling” Rollercoaster that catapults guests into space backwards and allows 360 control of the coaster car. Completion planned by 2021
- Le Creperie de Paris. Authentic French Creperie is announced for Epcot France anticipated 2020
- Awesome Planet, a new movie arrives at The Land Pavilion replacing Circle of Life in 2020
- Frozen Ever After replaces Maelstrom
- Takumi Tei, an artisan Japanese restaurant, opens 2019
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in France anticipated completion 2020
- Space 220 Restaurant opens in Future World (soon to be World Discovery) to be located next to Mission Space. Completion in 2020
- The Spike the Bee Pollen-Nation scavenger hunt game is introduced at Flower and Garden Festival 2018
- Epcot Forever is in interim evening digital show over the lake in World Showcase, opened Oct 1, 2019.
- Epcot evening show Harmonious debuts late 2020 to replace Epcot Forever.
- Wondrous China, is the new China CircleVision film to replace old film in China, Epcot.
- Canada Far and Wide, CircleVision is the new Canade 360 film premieres with Festival of the Arts 2020
- Mary Poppins Attraction to open in Epcot in UK by 2021, may be delayed or cancelled.
- Soarin’ Update happened in 2016 changed to Soaring Around the World
- Beauty and the Beast Sing Along opens January 2020
- International Festival of the Arts debuted in January 2017, now an annual art festival at Epcot
- World Celebration is the planned entrance name for Epcot to transition before 2022
No longer at Epcot
- Innoventions West to be demolished
- Ellen’s Universe of Energy closes.
- Leave a Legacy walls came down at Epcot Spring 2019
- Liberty Inn Restaurant in America, Epcot closes July 8, 2019
- Circle of Life with Timon and Pumba closes at The Land building
- Maelstrom is refurbished with Frozen theme
- Spaceship Earth not closing BUT will close for 2 years once Epcot entrance construction starts
- Starbucks in Epcot Plaza and Club Cool not closing but relocated during renovation
- Illuminations: Reflections of Earth night time show retires 2019
Animal Kingdom Changes for 2021
If you haven’t gotten to Pandora: World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom yet, know that this lands popularity has ranked Animal Kingdom in the #2 most popular theme park spot, second to Magic Kingdom. Lots of people, lots of awesome, lots going on.
- Pandora, World of Avatar Opens Spring 2017
- Flight of the Banshee, consistently still seeing 120-180 minute waits 3 years after opening.
- Na’vi River Ride
- Satuli Canteen Quick Service
- Pongu Pongu Counter Service
- Rivers of Light We Are One night show debuts in 2019.
- Up! A Great Bird Adventure opens 2018
- Tiffin’s Restaurant opens in 2017
- Tree of Life Awakenings evening digital show opens, with seasonal overlays
- Introduction of Kevin, from Up as wandering character at Animal Kingdom
- Donald Duck’s Birthday Bash takes on a potentially permanent setup in Dinoland
- Addition of New Christmas Offerings, including large animal marionettes and digital show arrives in Animal Kingdom in 2019.
- Animal Kingdom After Hours now offered for late night park time.
No longer at Animal Kingdom
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch Conservation Center closes 2018. Intermittently open.
- Flights of Wonder Closes, replaced by Up! A Great Bird Adventure.
- Animal Kingdom’s parade is removed from the programming schedule
- Primeval Whirl set to intermittent operations.
Disney Resort Changes for 2021
One of the biggest ways Disney is meeting the needs of more guests is by upgrading current resorts and establishing new resorts. Disney resorts are and have been going under refurbishment or scheduled to before the 2021 deadline.
- Refurbishments begin at Saratoga Springs 2020
- Victoria and Albert’s Bistro, replaces Citrico’s Restaurant at the Grand Floridian may complete by end of 2021.
- Enchanted Rose Lounge: The Beauty and Beast inspired Bar and Lounge at Grand Floridian opens Fall 2019
- The Coronado Springs Gran Destino Tower Refurbishment completed in 2019
- Disney Riviera Resort and Villas opens as a new DVC property Dec 16, 2019
- Topolino Terrace, a rooftop restaurant atop Riviera opens now.
- Topolino Mickey’s Breakfast a la Art debuts as the best new character dining experience. Read the Review.
- Star Wars Immersion Resort 2-night, 3 day experience on the Galactic Starcruiser under construction. Reservations available late 2020.
- Caribbean Beach Resort construction completes December 2018
- Sebastian’s Bistro opens as Caribbean Beach’s new Table Service Restaurant.
- Coronado Springs adds Toledo’s Restaurant, on the rooftop. Read the Toledo Review.
- Three Bridges Waterside Bar and Grill at Coronado Springs opens Summer 2019
- Magic Kingdom to Grand Floridian Bridge The broken walkway from Magic Kingdom that leads to the Grand Floridian is set to be connected providing another option for walking guests to avoid the monorail or buses. Completion in 2020.
- Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge resort begins construction on River Country Water Park site, located between Fort Wilderness campgrounds and Wilderness Lodge 2022. May be delayed or halted.
- Princess and the Frog Restaurant to open at Reflections: A Disney Lakeside Lodge May be delayed or halted.
Walt Disney World Changes Park Wide
At all four parks Disney has done things to connect, make things easier and offer new experiences. The transportation efforts have been to offset huge crowd increases. See our 5 rules to keep from getting locked out if the parks it maximum capacity.
- Dessert Parties and special viewing areas are added for most evening shows, available at an additional cost.
- Park to Park Bus Service begins at Walt Disney World late 2019
- New Bus Fleet arrives, with usb charging ports in the seats
- Disney Skyliner Gondola stations will be available at Disney’s Art of Animation/ Pop Century Resorts, Disney’s Riviera Resort, Epcot International Gateway, and Hollywood Studios Main Gate. Disney Skyliner Gondola Transportation System open September 29, 2019. Read the Review.
- Club 33 locations are being built in all four parks. See where!
- All 4 Disney Parks now serve alcohol with meals
- Minnie Van Service available for guests at all Disney Resorts
- Disney Genie App supposed to debut in 2020 to help streamline planning experiences including both Dining and Fast Pass Reservations, offering a complete Disney Vacation experience crafted specifically for you.
- Implementation of the Disney Park Pass System to accommodate 2020 needs as a result of the closure.
Disney Cruise Line Changes
Disney Springs Changes
Disney Springs has been morphing ever since it stopped being Downtown Disney. Now a fairly upscale shopping and restaurant experience Disney springs is continually adding amazing things to the non-park day experience. We love that you don’t have to pay admission or have a ticket to the parks to enjoy Disney Springs. And that the Disney buses still bring you there! Here’s some of the new things.
- Cirque de Soleil announces Drawn to Life, a new show highlighting Disney Storytelling and a familiar score to immerse guests in Disney Magic at the Cirque de Soleil location in Disney Springs March 2020. Read for more details.
- Cookie Dough Food Truck opens by September 2019
- Beatrix, neighborhood restaurant, coffee house and market open by 2020
- Ample Hills Creamery Disney Springs location set to open in 2020 ( Ample Hills Creamery has filed for Bankruptcy, so this will affect opening at this time.)
- Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill opens
- Jaleo, a new Spanish restaurant featuring tapas opens
- City Works Eatery and Pour House featuring craft beers is set to open Winter 2019
- Chicken Guy, Guy Fieri’s quick serve restaurant opens, makes our best quick serve list.
- Pepe by Jose Andres opens
- Sunshine Churros Kiosks opens Aug 2019
- World of Disney store is refurbished
- New Mac and Cheese Food Truck
- NBA Experience opens Aug 12, 2019
- Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew to arrive in 2020
- Gideon’s Bakehouse serving cookies, cake slices and coffees. Opening in 2020
Walt Disney World Vacation Planning Changes
If you haven’t been to Walt Disney World in the last few years you may not have gotten a chance to do your own DIY planning via the My Disney Experience app, have a go at fast pass booking ( p.s. its not on paper anymore), or experience the joy of magic bands! Here’s the big planning changes we’ve seen. And if you need a fresh look at how to do the whole planning thing check out our 12 step post.
- Introduction of Magic Bands as identifier for park ticket, resort key, and fast pass band.
- Introduction of more streamlined Fast Passes. , FP+ was temporarily(?) suspended in 2020.
- A stricter Disney Planning Timeline for Restaurant and Fast Pass reservations.
- The My Disney Experience App gets an overhaul in summer 2018 with interaction between family members planned, as well potentially being able to unlock your resort room with the app.
- Mobile Order arrives at 40+ Restaurants across the parks for mobile food pick up so you don’t have to wait in line.