What’s New & Next at Disney World in 2021
New rides, restaurants, hotels, and more are coming to Walt Disney World in 2021 and beyond. Here’s what’s next for the coming years, plus construction info, expansion plans, opening dates. We also cover how ‘important’ each of these additions is for vacation planning. (Updated November 27, 2020.)
Our latest updates come courtesy of the Thanksgiving night ABC special, the Wonderful World of Disney: Magical Holiday Celebration. Prior to this, there was the EPCOT: Magic of Possibility panel. These are just two of several Christmas season shows that typically tease Walt Disney World’s plans for the coming year. With more in the coming weeks, we should know very soon what’s planned for 2021 at Walt Disney World!
Some of these big additions were supposed to debut this year. Most notably, the Streets of Paris, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Space 220 Restaurant in Epcot. These are instead now coming in 2021. Then there are the additions previously scheduled for 2021, some of which are still happening–others have been delayed a year. We visit the parks regularly and monitor announcements–if you want notifications about rumored or official opening dates, sign up to receive our FREE Walt Disney World Email Newsletter.
Speaking of which, we also do regular updates on construction and changes at Walt Disney World, you can see a listing of our latest updates here. The good news is that many of the biggest construction projects have now wrapped up. This includes the massive Disney’s Hollywood Studios overhaul, Disney Springs redevelopment, Animal Kingdom expansion, and more.
In fact, 3 of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks are looking good and mostly wall-free. The lone exception to that is Epcot, which is a sea of construction walls right now, and will be for the foreseeable future. Aside from that, there’s not nearly as much construction at Walt Disney World right now as there has been in the last few years. Nevertheless, work continues in advance of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021.
Here’s a park by park look at everything new and coming soon to Walt Disney World…
Before we get started, it’s worth emphasizing that the future of Epcot is very much up in the air. While the big transformation has resumed work, Walt Disney World has made a lot of cutbacks, changes and cancellations. Officially, many construction projects are simply postponed or delayed. Unofficially, most projects that have not yet started have been shelved indefinitely–they will be quietly cancelled. This is true throughout Walt Disney World, but primarily at Epcot.
At Epcot, the front of the park is half behind walls as the new park entrance project inches forward, and the central spine of Future World between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase has more walls as Innoventions is in the process of being demolished. Through 2022, there are temporary walkways acting as a bypass around the center of the park. The work here is currently the largest construction project at Walt Disney World, which results in a lot of visual blight to the front of Epcot. Basically, the entire center of Future World is behind walls right now.
This massive redesign at the front of Epcot will eliminate Future World and replace it with 3 new neighborhoods, including a 3-level festival center. This has already resulted in a sea of construction walls at the front of the park. Walt Disney World hasn’t announced a timeline for this project, but we don’t anticipate it being done until 2023.
However, Walt Disney World has indefinitely delayed or cancelled a handful of Epcot projects. In Future World, the 2-Year Spaceship Earth Overhaul has been shelved, and it’s possible the same is true for Play Pavilion, Moana Journey of Water, and the Festival Center. Other projects likely will be reworked or cancelled. Basically, the concept art above is no longer an accurate view of the Epcot overhaul.
Prior to the closure of Walt Disney World, Epcot Forever was the temporary nighttime spectacular, to be replaced by Harmonious in 2020. Fireworks shows have been temporarily cancelled, but construction on the Harmonious infrastructure has resumed and is moving at a fast pace.
Harmonious now appears to be one of the high-priority projects for Walt Disney World. While no debut date has been set for the show, our expectation is Memorial Day 2021 at the earliest, and October 1, 2021 at the latest. When Harmonious premieres will likely depend less upon construction and more on when the CDC relaxes physical distancing guidelines.
Disney has stated that Harmonious will be the largest nighttime spectacular ever created for a Disney theme park. Concept art and descriptions make it look like a mix of World of Color and traditional fireworks show with floating set pieces, LED panels, dancing water fountains, pyro, lasers, spotlights, and more.
Harmonious will celebrate how the music of Disney inspires people the world over, carrying them away harmoniously on a stream of familiar Disney songs reinterpreted by diverse artists from around the globe. In addition to the nighttime spectacular, Walt Disney World recently revealed that there will be a daytime fountain show on World Showcase Lagoon.
Also in Future World, the Space 220 Restaurant is being built adjacent to Mission: Space and will also open in 2021. It was originally scheduled to debut late last year, then early this year, and now there’s no specific opening date. Our expectation at this point is that Space 220 Restaurant will not debut until 2021 when restrictions on restaurant capacity are lifted. The internal target we’ve recently heard for Space 220 Restaurant is “between March and May 2021.” That seems reasonable to us.
As we cover in our Space 220 Restaurant Opening & Info post, the concept sounds incredibly promising and interesting. At Space 220 Restaurant, guests will board a special space elevator that will ascend to the stars. Along the way, viewports will give you an aerial view of Epcot as you travel high above the planet. Upon your arrival, guests will enjoy a celestial panorama from the space station, with the ability to peer out and enjoy amazing daytime and nighttime views of Earth from 220 miles up.
Additionally, the Play Pavilion will replace Wonders of Life in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary. An official date has not been announced for this, but we’d anticipate this new pavilion will open at some point in Fall 2021 or early 2022.
It would make sense for the new park entrance and Play Pavilion to debut as ‘phase one’ of the Epcot reimagining. It would also be logical for another bypass corridor to connect from the new front entrance to this area, which will include Play Pavilion and the next attraction.
The biggest announced addition for Epcot is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, which is a hybrid roller coaster. Now that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has opened, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the biggest-budget project currently being built at Walt Disney World.
Officially, Cosmic Rewind will debut “in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary.” However, it’s unlikely that target can still be met due to construction work halting during the closure. Originally, we expected it to open in Summer 2021. Now, we believe Summer 2022 is more likely, but that’s not official.
A smaller scale addition coming to the front of Epcot is Moana: Journey of Water. This is the first-ever attraction based on the Walt Disney Animation Studios hit film, Moana. This water maze will be a lush environment where guests can interact with living water in a beautiful and inspiring setting.
We originally anticipated that Moana: Journey of Water would debut in 2022. Although we feared it had been cancelled, Walt Disney World offered another update on Moana: Journey of Water in November 2020, suggesting that the project is still moving forward.
Moving to World Showcase, the other E-Ticket coming to Epcot is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a family-friendly Ratatouille trackless dark ride that will open in an expansion of the France pavilion. This was supposed to debut in Summer 2020, but we now believe it’ll open by Memorial Day 2021.
As you can see in our latest Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Construction Photos & Info update, the attraction is virtually finished and could open pretty much whenever. We do not believe Walt Disney World will choose to launch this while theme park capacity is significantly reduced. Again, its debut will be dictated by CDC guidelines on physical distancing.
In addition to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, this expansion to the France pavilion will include a variety of retail and restaurant additions, most notably La Crêperie de Paris. This crêperie will offer both table- and quick-service options featuring a menu from celebrity chef Jérôme Bocuse.
It’s our understanding that La Crêperie de Paris is totally finished and will be ready to go whenever physical distancing and capacity limitations are lifted. Officially, Walt Disney World has indicated La Crêperie de Paris will open in 2021.
Along those lines, Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will debut…at some point. If all went according to plan, it would’ve by now. Guests will be able to use the Play Disney Parks mobile app to search for priceless treasure alongside Scrooge McDuck, Donald, nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, Launchpad and Webby with Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure.
Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will be the next iteration of the interactive scavenger hunt around World Showcase that previously featured Kim Possible and currently Phineas & Ferb. It should be a good way to engage kids in an area of Epcot they often find “boring.”
In terms of new things that have opened at Epcot, there’s Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint in the American Adventure. We are huge fans.
There’s also a trio of new films: Awesome Planet in the Land pavilion, Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-long in France, and new Circle-Vision 360 film for the Canada Pavilion. Two of these are decent, one is an absolute abomination.
Next up is Magic Kingdom. The big substantive project here right now is the TRON roller coaster being built in Tomorrowland behind Space Mountain. This is another attraction that was planned to open in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary on October 1, 2021.
Recently, there have been credible rumors that TRON Lightcycle Run will not debut until roughly a year later in 2022. While this attraction is an expansion to the park outside its existing berm, its construction will cause closures to the Walt Disney World Railroad through at least 2021.
In terms of work that’s finished, Cinderella Castle’s Royal Makeover started shortly before Magic Kingdom closed back in March, and is now totally finished.
The next projects on the horizon are a refurbishment to Hall of Presidents that will add Joe Biden. It’s likely this closure will begin in early 2021 and last through the summer, unless there’s a bigger overhaul to the attraction, which is a possibility.
Following that, there’s the Princess and the Frog reimagining of Splash Mountain at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland. It’s unclear when this project will begin and end. The project is not very far along–conceptual design work is underway and Imagineers will soon be able to conduct preliminary reviews and develop a timeline for when the transformation can start to take shape.
Personally, I’m doubting that both coasts’ Splash Mountain attractions will close before 2022. (For a number of reasons, it’s highly unlikely that Tokyo Disneyland’s Splash Mountain will change at all.) It’s entirely plausible that Disneyland’s overhaul starts first, conceivably finishing before work on the Magic Kingdom incarnation even begins. Meaning this might not even start at Magic Kingdom until 2023.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, all of the major projects are now finished. The last piece of the puzzle in the relaunch of Disney’s Hollywood Studios was Mickey & Mickey’s Runaway Railway, which debuted shortly before the parks closed back in March.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is inspired by the new cartoon shorts and brings guests through the screen to take a ride inside a zany cartoon world. As you can read in our Spoiler-Free Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway Review, we enjoy this attraction. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s a solid addition.
Additionally, the Mickey Shorts Theater has debuted and is playing an original short film in the style of the popular Disney Channel animated series “Mickey Mouse.” The Mickey Shorts Theater will offer photo ops in addition to the film, plus some fun details.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is now open in its entirety. As we discuss in our Star Wars Land Info & Galaxy’s Edge Guide, this new themed universe is the biggest addition to Walt Disney World in years. The first phase opened last fall, and included all shops, dining, and the Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run ride.
That was followed by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance last December. This is the flagship attraction of Galaxy’s Edge, and as we covered in our spoiler-free review, was absolutely worth the wait. It’s one of Walt Disney World’s top 5 attractions, and the best new thing added to Walt Disney World in at least 25 years.
With that said, it would seem that most guests agree with our review. The protocol for experiencing the attraction is unprecedented, as there’s no FastPass+ nor is there a standby line.
Our comprehensive Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance covers everything you need to know. It’s updated regularly with new info and more answers to questions readers were frequently being asked by readers in the comments.
Toy Story Land is also now open. We share our thoughts on this new area in our lengthy Toy Story Land Review. The good news is that Toy Story Land is already receiving an expansion!
Next up is a New Roundup Rodeo BBQ Table Service Restaurant Coming as an Expansion to Toy Story Land. Backstage facilities have already been removed to make way for this restaurant, which we anticipate will open in 2021. (No official date has been announced.)
There’s not really anything major on the horizon for Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, Pandora – World of Avatar is still the “hot new thing” and will remain biggest addition in over a decade at Walt Disney World until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. Likewise, Avatar Flight of Passage remains the most popular ride in all of Walt Disney World. For tips & tricks on beating the crowds, read our Ultimate Guide to Pandora – World of Avatar.
There are two other new additions that are relatively minor but still are worth mentioning. First is Otter Grotto, a really nice otter habitat with both under and above water viewing areas. Second, is a walk-around Kevin, the bird from Up. For something seemingly simple, she (yes, Kevin is a she) draws massive crowds–guests are really drawn to this character.
Then there’s Disney Springs. This is the entertainment and shopping district previously known as Downtown Disney. Producing a comprehensive list of what has opened here in the last ~5 years would be daunting, as around 75% of this area is new or newly-redone.
A lot of the big Disney Springs additions for 2021 have been quietly cancelled or postponed indefinitely. This includes the “Drawn to Life” Cirque du Soleil show, Ample Hills, and Beatrix neighborhood restaurant. The good news, though, is that Disney Springs is getting a Gideon’s Bakehouse in December 2020!
Aside from that, the re-imagining of Disney Springs is pretty much finished. These changes have made fans of both of us big time with solid additions such as the Boathouse, Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar, Morimoto Asia, the Edison, 4 Rivers Cantina, and more. Jaleo by José Andrés and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill have also recently opened.
Read our Table Service Restaurant Rankings for Disney Springs and Counter Service Restaurant Rankings for Disney Springs Springs if you want better insight as to which of the many, many dining options to choose. The newest addition to Disney Springs is the NBA Experience, which just debuted.
Two new resorts opened at Walt Disney World last year. The first of these, debuting over the summer, was Gran Destino Tower at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. Our review of this property was mixed, with our ultimate conclusion being that it offered strong bang for buck and was very appealing for a certain type of traveler.
Next, Disney’s Riviera Resort is the newest DVC Resort, which debuted in December. This property is adjacent to Caribbean Beach and offers direct Skyliner access to Epcot. Our Disney’s Riviera Resort Review covers the pros & cons of these new Disney Vacation Club accommodations.
This new DVC resort, along with Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, and Art of Animation are connected to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via the new Disney Skyliner gondola system, which opened last fall.
For all of the basics and our full thoughts, read our Skyliner Gondola Review: Walt Disney World’s Most Magical Flight on Earth article. We’d go as far as recommending a Skyliner resort for your next trip to Walt Disney World, as it offers a huge advantage in terms of transportation.
Throughout 2021 and beyond, several resorts are undergoing refurbishment, construction, and expansion projects. In particular, there are a lot of room renovations, particularly at Value Resorts and DVC properties.
We would recommend consulting our list of Construction & Refurbishments at Walt Disney World Hotels, which we update regularly for insight into changes at existing hotels.
In terms of new projects, Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort is now under construction behind Galaxy’s Edge. Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Resort will offer an immersive visit that further enhances what guests experience in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Our Guide to Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort covers everything you need to know about this project. While its opening has probably been delayed by a year, the good news is that it’s not cancelled entirely. That’s what happened to Walt Disney World’s other big hotel and Disney Vacation Club project, Reflections, A Disney Lakeside Lodge. That nature-inspired resort hotel was being built on the former River Country water park as well as part of the Fort Wilderness Campground.
As you can probably tell, there is a lot that’s new and coming soon to Walt Disney World in the next few years. After years of relative stagnation, Disney has kicked expansion at its Florida properties into high gear, resulting in the biggest construction boom in decades. With that said, don’t fret too much about the construction–even with an unprecedented amount, must of its out-of-the-way of guest areas, and there are still a ton of attractions to do at Walt Disney World no matter when you visit!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Which new attractions coming to Walt Disney World in 2021 or beyond are you most excited to experience? Are you delaying your next visit to maximize seeing ‘new stuff’ or moving it forward to avoid the crowds? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
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