There are plenty of new rides, shows and restaurants due to open at Walt Disney World by 2017. Here is September’s update on the latest confirmed and rumored additions to the resort.
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 area formerly known as Downtown Disney. 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 14 new rides, shops and restaurants that are either confirmed or rumored to be on their to Walt Disney World by 2017.
15. Frozen-themed boat ride
Opening in: Early 2016
Disney has announced that Maelstrom will be closing for good in October, and that a Frozen-themed ride will be replacing it in mid-2016. Because of the short construction time, it has been assumed that the same show building and ride system will be used for the new attraction. Though we don’t know much about what exactly will be included in the new ride, comments from Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts seem to indicate that the ride will follow the plotline of the film and feature several musical moments (expecting to be humming the tune of "Let it Go" for the rest of the day after riding).
Maelstrom will see its last voyage on October 5, 2014, and construction on this new attraction is expected to begin immediately afterwards.
14. Haunted Mansion store
Opening in: January 2015
Although the Haunted Mansion is one of Disney’s most iconic attractions, the ride at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom has never had its own merchandise location. Although pop up carts and kiosks have greeted riders at the attraction’s exit over the years with a variety of Haunted Mansion-themed goods, a dedicated merchandise shop has never existed…but it will soon!
The shop is currently under construction across from the attraction in the space where the Yankee Trader shop used to be. Expect to find houseware items, clothing, collectibles and possibly on-ride photos (read more about the new shop here).
13. 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 screen.
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, also in a similar style to the Universal attraction.
While some construction on the land that will house this new attraction has taken place, no work has been done on the actual show building as of yet.
12. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Opening in: 2015
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's Polynesian Village Resort. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto will feature a themed lounge area, and will serve up handcrafted tiki cocktails in souvenir mugs alongside Polynesian-style small plates. Construction at the Polynesian Resort is ongoing.
11. 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. The Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom has also been completely walled off as construction continues on show structures and props.
10. Italian Restaurant
Opening in: 2015 (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". There have been no recent updates about this project, but rumors continue to swirl about this potential new dining location.
9. The Edison
Opening in: TBC
Another rumored resident in Disney Springs is The Edison. This would be based on the original nightclub in Los Angeles, which opened in 2007. It is housed in the Higgins Building basement, a former power plant, and features a post-industrial steampunk theme. This project has still not been officially announced.
Opening in: October 2014
Luxury chain Four Seasons is due to open a new $360 million hotel on Walt Disney World property in 2014. It will feature 444 rooms, 3 pools, a "lazy river", a spa with 18 treatment rooms and extensive sports facilities including tennis courts and a climbing wall. One of the highlights will be a rooftop, Spanish-style steak house known as Capa, offering views of the Magic Kingdom's nightly fireworks. This could come to rival the Contemporary Resort's California Grill as a luxury location from which to observe the pyrotechnics. Though Capa was initially slated to open in September, it has now been confirmed to be opening on October 20, 2014.