Walt Disney World has been accused of lagging behind Universal Orlando when it comes to spending on new additions in recent years. However, there are now a number of major projects underway at the resort, most of which are due to be completed by 2017.
The two biggest areas of focus are Disney's Animal Kingdom and the Downtown Disney area. Animal Kingdom will see its opening hours extended, as well as the addition of the Pandora - The World of Avatar expansion. Downtown Disney, meanwhile, will undergo a complete transformation to become Disney Springs, in an effort to make it more competitive with Universal's CityWalk.
Some elements of these projects have been confirmed, and indeed some are due to open imminently. Others, however, remain simply rumors - and Disney itself has probably not fully decided on the final line-up of shops and restaurants.
Let's take a look at 20 new rides, shops and restaurants that are either confirmed or rumored to be on their to Walt Disney World by 2017.
20. Avatar "flying ride"
Opening in: 2017
The headline ride in Pandora - The World of Avatar will be a major, "E-Ticket" attraction that will offer a simulated experience of flying over Pandora on a banshee creature. It has been compared to Soarin' at Epcot, but it is likely that the Avatar ride will actually be considerably more technologically advanced - supporting enhanced, more realistic movements and 3-D video on a wrap-around sceen.
The plans show four separate theaters, spread across four floors. The show itself will be projected onto an enormous, IMAX-style curved screen, just as it is in the Simpsons Ride at Universal Studios Florida. Riders will board vehicles that rise to one of three show levels in front of the screen, in a similar style to the Universal attraction.
19. Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar
Opening in: TBC
Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar opened several years ago at the Disneyland Hotel, and is inspired by the Jungle Cruise and Enchanted Tiki Room attractions. It also incorporates elements of the Adventurer's Club, one of the most popular nightclubs in Walt Disney World's now-defunct Pleasure Island area. It has proven to be very popular, serving up tropically-themed appetizers, desserts and cocktails.
Little surprise, then, that Disney fans are salivating at the prospect of a version of the bar coming to the revamped Disney Springs. However, other rumors have suggested that Trader Sam's could in fact be on its way to Disney's Polynesian Resort, which is currently undergoing an expansion to add a host of Disney Vacation Club properties.
18. Marketplace Co Op
Opening in: Spring 2014
Occupying the space that was formerly Team Mickey next to TrenD in Downtown Disney will be the Marketplace Co Op, which is due to open in spring 2014. This will showcase new and innovative Disney retail concepts, serving as a kind of public "laboratory". A total of six sub-stores will be featured, including:
- Beautifully Disney – A beauty destination for woman featuring make-up, fragrance and beauty accessories.
- Cherry Tree Lane - Accessories for the sophisticated woman with a passion for scarves, shoes, bags and jewelry.
- D-Tech on Demand – A place to personalize and customize your own electronic accessories.
- The Trophy Room - Vintage-inspired, lifestyle sports apparel and collectibles.
- Centerpiece - Home products for Guests that want a splash of Disney in their room furnishings, textiles and everyday ware.
- Zoey and Pickles - A girls’ destination containing the latest trends and glamour for the up and coming fashionista.
17. Rivers of Light
Opening in: TBC
Disney is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to expand the offerings at Disney's Animal Kingdom, which has often been accused of being a "half-day park". The resort's fourth theme park has always closed earlier than the resort's other parks, partly because of the need to protect its animal residents from excessive noise. However, Disney is now working to install a new night-time show, and will begin opening the park until late.
The show will be hosted around and above the Discovery River and will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery. Rumored to be named "Rivers of Light", it is also expected to include the illumination of the iconic Tree of Life. That will involve replacing all 100,000+ artificial leaves on the tree with new ones that light up. Although no opening date has been specified, barges containing props and equipment for the show have already been spied on the river.
16. Italian Restaurant
Opening in: 2016 (TBC)
The Patina Restaurant Group, which operates the Via Napoli, Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto restaurants at Epcot's Italy Pavilion, is expected to open a yet-to-be-named Italian restaurant as part of Disney Springs. It appears that it will be located in the space that was formerly occupied by Pleasure Island's 8Trax and Mannequin's clubs. A work permit filed with Orange County suggests that it will consist of "two floors, a new dining area and cast and guest restrooms".
15. Walt's Place
Opening in: TBC
Another yet-to-be-confirmed addition to the Disney Springs line-up is "Walt's Place", which may be a revival of "Walt's Attic", a concept that was originally proposed for the BoardWalk area of Walt Disney World. This was to be a restaurant that celebrated Walt's life in the 1920s and 1930s.
14. Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Opening in: Spring 2014
The new roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will take guests on a musical journey through the diamond mine and enchanted forest from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Guests will swing from side-to-side in its unique cars, as well as passing through Snow White's cottage.
You can find out everything you need to know about the ride by reading through our extensive Seven Dwarfs Mine Train guide.
13. World of Coca Cola
Opening in: 2016 (TBC)
There are rumors, reported by TheDailyCity.com, that a World of Coca Cola attraction is on its way to Disney Springs. There have been suggestions in the past that this could replace DisneyQuest, but that seems unlikely. If it does go ahead, the attraction is likely to be similar to World of Coca Cola attraction in Atlanta, which tells the story of the history of Coca Cola as well as selling Coke-related items.
Opening in: 2014
Starbucks outlets have been springing up all over Disney resorts recently, including in the theme park themselves. Two will form part of Disney Springs, with both expected to open in 2014. A small, grab-and-go outlet is opening in the Marketplace, while a larger venue with seating will open in the West Side.
11. Food Trucks
Opening in: Phases to 2016
Disney Springs has been reported to include a host of food trucks - as many as 10. In fact, four of these showed up in mid-2013 in the West Side area, selling quick-service items such as meatballs, ribs and corn dogs. We can probably expect more to show up over the next two years.
yuck to AVATAR - just yucky ! AK is my favorite park Exp Everest favorite ride - HATE the AVATAR & sci fi theme - yuck
I agree. What a forgetful movie and to allow a creep like James Cameron to share the Disney vision is regrettable.He is using Disney and his ability to access imagineers and artists (to his own advantage to produce sequels to an already forgetful movie).
I would like to see world of Coke in Disney Springs!
This is kind of ridiculous. SO, there are 4 actual attractions listed here ... out of your 20. The other like 16 are just ways to try and soak more money out of the guests. Nightclubs, shopping, etc, aren't attractions, period.
I don't believe I've referred to restaurants being attractions anywhere in this article (not intentionally anyway). In fact I deliberately chose a title that makes a distinction between a ride and a restaurant.
Walt Disney World IS spending a lot of money on changes. You can draw your own conclusions on whether it is spending it wisely.