In March 2020, Walt Disney World was the first of Florida’s theme parks to close and the last to reopen five months later with the strictest rules for face masks and distancing as it closed down experiences like parades and fireworks.
For the summer of 2022, the Mouse is roaring again with its first Marvel attraction, several new restaurants and attractions, and relaxed rules on face masks, fireworks and hugging characters.
Disney’s World’s 50th anniversary celebration, which started in 2021, is carrying on through early 2023. Cinderella Castle has had a makeover, and there are 50 golden statues of classic characters sprinkled throughout the parks, some of them interactive.
If you haven’t visited the parks in a while, the FastPass is gone and the Disney Genie digital planning system has taken its place. Unlike the free FastPass, you now have to pay $15 per day to minimize time in line or pay a la carte for a Lightning Lane to popular attractions.
After postponing construction on many features, Disney is now rolling them out with gusto for 2022. Here’s what you can find this summer at Walt Disney World.
The most obvious change at Epcot is the construction walls. Major upgrades are coming to the park, especially in front around the globe Spaceship Earth, where a new park entry will have a redesigned hub, an event space and bandshell. But most of that is still behind those construction walls.
The big opening this spring was Disney World’s first Marvel attraction, the new coaster Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. It is also Epcot’s first roller coaster, and it’s a big one. The sheer size of the building is impressive — it could fit four Spaceship Earths. The steel tracks make for a super-smooth trip that can make you feel like you are floating in outer space as pop music plays in the speakers and actors from the Guardians movie talk you through the mission.
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Next to the Guardians ride is the new Connections Cafe, a huge quick-service eatery located adjacent to the new Creations Shop and the Walt Disney statue Dreamers Point, a “reimagining of the front of the park and the entry experience,” the park announced.
There’s a new outer space-themed eatery, Space 220, where visitors board a special “space elevator” that appears to ascend to the stars with an aerial view of Epcot. The restaurant has a prix fixe menu of $35 for lunch and $60 for dinner.
The park has completed an expansion of the France pavilion that includes a creperie and the new ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Originally slated to open in 2020, the trackless ride with no height limitation finally opened in October of last year. Riders are “shrunk” to mouse size and go on a swerving adventure through Gusteau’s Parisian restaurant from the Pixar hit Ratatouille.
To end the night, Epcot has a new show in its lagoon called Harmonious. It is filled with Disney music in multiple languages and includes large-scale floats, LED panels, fountains, lights, fireworks and lasers.
The park is stretching its 50th anniversary celebration over 18 months, running until spring 2023. The celebration has brought a new nighttime show and lots of golden decor, especially at the newly blinged-out Cinderella Castle.
The castle is the centerpiece of the new nighttime show Disney Enchantment, with special pyro and projection effects that for the first time extend from Cinderella Castle down Main Street.
This year marked the return of Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire at the base of Cinderella Castle. It came back after its two-year absence with a new song (Where the Magic Feels Like Home) and 50th anniversary-style costuming. Also returning recently is the Festival of Fantasy parade with character-loaded floats and a fire-breathing dragon.
Coming this summer are new enhanced Magic Bands, which are expected to start at $49.99. A park news release said the new MagicBand+ will come alive at various times with color-changing lights, vibrations that will interact with nighttime shows and elements around the parks, such as the golden Fab 50 sculptures.
The last attraction to open before the pandemic closure was Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, and it remains a popular family attraction, taking riders through a trippy cartoon world. 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 biggest addition to this park was the 2017 addition of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with its rides and heavily themed market and restaurant. It’s because of that addition that you might notice visitors wearing special buttons as they wander the park that show they are guests of Disney’s new boutique hotel, Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which opened in March.
One of the features of a pricey stay at the hotel (it’s $6,000 for a family of four for a two-night stay) is a field trip to the theme park. They are brought there by a special “transport,” a highly themed box truck, and delivered to the park with some missions to accomplish.
The Fantasmic! show will be returning to the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, though an opening date has not been announced other than “sometime in 2022.″ The park has said new scenes have been added that reference newer movies like Frozen and Moana.
Also returning this year but not yet given an opening date is Star Wars Launch Bay, a space filled with art, props and merchandise from the Star Wars films. The attraction wasn’t reopened after the pandemic closure in 2020. The park has confirmed that it will reopen and meet-and-greets with characters will return this summer.
The big new thing at Animal Kingdom didn’t last long. Disney KiteTails debuted in October at the Discovery River Amphitheater, featuring wind catchers and elaborate three-dimensional kites depicting Lion King characters, flying over the water.
The kite show soon became the butt of hilarious memes for the many times they crashed, either on purpose at the end of the show or on accident due to high winds. Disney removed the show from its schedules in early May, but you still might get a chance to see a kite version of Simba, Zazu, Baloo and King Louie. The park has announced they will still be used in “unscheduled performances” with the kites being pulled along Discovery River Lagoon.
No opening date has been announced but the park has said this summer it will reopen a freshly reimagined show, Finding Nemo: The Big Blue… and Beyond, which first opened in 2007. In addition to a new script that incorporates Finding Dory, the show will feature new scenic set pieces (some as big as a car) and a new LED video wall designed to visually extend the world created by the physical sets on stage.
If you go
$109-$159, since tickets are subject to dynamic pricing that changes by the day; $104-$154 for children ages 3-9. Parking is $25. 1375 E Buena Vista Drive, Orlando. 407-939-5277. disneyworld.com.