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December's update on the new attractions, shops and restaurants coming to Walt Disney World includes an intriguing new rumor about a lengthy refurbishment happening at Disney's Hollywood Studios. This month also sees the completion of three projects at Disney's Hollywood Studios and one at the Magic Kingdom. 

With over two dozen new things now confirmed to be coming to Walt Disney World, there is quite a lot to take in! 

27. Homecoming - Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine 

Image: Disney

 

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: 2016

Celebrity Chef Art Smith has announced that he will be opening a new upscale restaurant at Disney Springs in 2016: Homecoming - Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine. As you might expect from the (very long!) name, this new restaurant will feature Florida inspired menu items with farm-to-table ingredients sourced from local Florida growers.

The menu will feature Southern favorites including homemade pimento cheese, Church Lady deviled eggs, low country shrimp and grits, kale salad with Sweet Grass Dairy cheese and spiced pecans, Blackstrap pork chop with sawmill gravy, and a signature Mockingbird Cake.

The interior of the new restaurant will be inspired by turn-of-the century Florida architecture of the late 1800s and will seat 200 guests.. There will also be a dedicated bar area serving hand-crafted cocktails inspired by the sunshine state. 

26. The Ganachery 

 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: December 15th, 2015

The Ganachery will offer guests the opportunity to purchase custom blended chocolates that are hand-crafted onstage by a master chocolatier. The shop will feature fresh chocolate treats made daily, including dark (65 percent custom blend), hazelnut, chipotle and a custom blend flavored with the world’s finest spices and flavors. This sweet shop is confirmed to be opening in just two weeks!

25. Frontera Fresco 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: 2016

Chef Rick Bayless, best known for appearing in reality series Top Chef: Masters, has announced that he is opening a new restaurant serving Mexican cuisine at Disney Springs. Named Frontera Fresco, this new restaurant will serve hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, fresh-made guacamole and classic Mexican braised meat entrees, all crafted with Chef Bayless’ time-honored recipes. The new restaurant is scheduled to open next summer

24. Jedi Training – Trials of the Temple

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: December 2015

The Jedi Training Academy show closed in October 2015 to make way for a new experience coming later this year. Jedi Training - Trials of the Temple will be a new show that will focus on the characters of the Star Wars Rebels animated show on Disney XD. The show will feature all new sets, characters and props that guests familiar with the ‘Rebels’ universe will recognize while still involving younger guests in an interactive way. This new show will open in just a few days

23. Star Wars Launch Bay

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: Now open! 

This all-new walk through experience at the site of the former Magic of Disney Animation opens its gates on December 1st. Inside this new attraction guests can check out special exhibits, play around with demo stations featuring the latest Star Wars videogames plus meet Chewbacca and Darth Vader. This area will also have special merchandise and food offerings. 

22. Millennium Falcon ride

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: TBA

The first confirmed ride for the forthcoming Star Wars Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios will be a flight simulator ride that allows guests to “take the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy, the Millennium Falcon, on a customized secret mission”. While we don't know much about the technology that is going into this ride, we are expecting this to be a signature piece of Star Wars Land, and will likely push the boundaries of what simulator rides can be. Work on this new ride will begin next year, but we have no idea when it might open. 

21. Star Wars Cantina restaurant 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: TBA

One development that was rumored for the original Star Wars Land that ended up making the cut for the reimagined version of this band new land is the iconic Star Wars Cantina. Although the Cantina will no longer be located on Mos Eisley (Star Wars Land will be its own, unique in-universe planet) this dining location will have several familiar entertainment options and will feature the (in)famous Blue Milk drink. Perhaps Disney is hoping Blue Milk will become the new Butterbeer? 

20. The First Order battle attraction

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: TBA

Little is known about the second new ride coming to Star Wars Land. All that has been confirmed so far is that the events of this second attraction are set against the backdrop of the forthcoming Star Wars films (including Episode VII and next year's Rogue One), and guests will be put in the middle of a battle with new Star Wars baddies The First Order.

19. Soarin' Around the World

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: 2016

Early next year Soarin' will go down for refurbishment and when it reopens in the spring, it will be reborn as Soarin' Around the World. This new (ish) attraction will have three theaters, as well as an all new film featuring locations around the world. The spring completion window is actually a little bit earlier than anticipated, as many believed this ride wouldn't return until late 2016. However, it looks like Soarin' will definitely be back to the park in the first half of the year, which is exciting news indeed! 

18. NBA Experience restaurant

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: 2016 or 2017

In summer 2015 it was confirmed that a new "NBA Experience at Walt Disney World" restaurant would be moving in to Disney Springs. Though details were scarce at first, we learned several months later that this new dining and entertainment center would be taking over the spot currently occupied by DisneyQuest. 

It is unknown if the DisneyQuest building will be demolished when it closes or whether the structure will simply be gutted to make room for the new restaurant. However, what we do know is that DisneyQuest is closing in 2016, and the new NBA experience restaurant will be replacing it either late next year or in early 2017. 

17. The Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: December 2015

During a special Jungle Cruise panel at the 2015 D23 convention, Disney finally confirmed the existence of the long rumored Jungle Cruise-themed restaurant at the Magic Kingdom. Officially named The Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen, this new location will be taking over the space occupied by the former Adventureland Veranda restaurant and will be welcoming its first guests in just a few days!

Interestingly, this new dining location will tie into the Society of Explorers and Adventurers, which has been absent from Walt Disney World since the closure of the Adventurer's Club in 2009. Alberta Falls, the proprietor of this new location, is the daughter of the late founder Albert Falls, who is a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers. In an unprecedented move, it was confirmed that some narrative changes will be coming to the Magic Kingdom's Jungle Cruise ride to support the story and theme of this new restaurant.

16. Sunset Showcase theater

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed 

Opening in: December

A new theater has been under construction at the far end of Sunset Boulevard for several months now, and now Disney has finally confirmed this theater as the new Sunset Showcase. As expected, this new theater will house special, limited time engagements throughout the year, starting with the Club disney Dance Party later this year, and Club Villain in early 2016. You can learn more about these new experiences here and here. This new theater will be opening in just a few days! 

15. Frozen Ever After

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed
 

Opening in: May 2016

While we've known about the Frozen boat ride that is replacing Maelstrom since last year, we got our first real details about this attraction this past June. Confirmed to be named Frozen Ever After, this new ride will use the same boat ride system as Maelstrom, and will have projection enhanced animatronics, similar to those in use at the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.

It has also been confirmed that the ride will feature a truncated version of the events of the film, as told by the troll characters, and will also feature a small cameo by the "snowgies" popularized by the Frozen Fever short. Construction is well underway and the attraction is on track to open next spring

14. Royal Sommerhus Frozen Meet and Greet

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed


Opening in: May 2016

Frozen Ever After isn't the only change coming to Norway at Epcot. A new 13,000 square foot Royal Sommerhus meet and greet will be opening alongside Frozen Ever After at Epcot next spring. Work on this new building (which will take over the expansion pad in between Norway and Mexico) is already well underway and is easily visible in between Mexico and Norway. 

It was confirmed at the 2015 D23 Expo that this new attraction will be a regular character meet and greet, without any special effects. Interestingly, the exterior of the building that will house this attraction s actually based on a real log cabin in Norway, helping to evoke the style and design of the country.

13. STK Restaurant

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: 2016

Though it was rumored for quite some time, it was finally confirmed earlier this year that STK Orlando, a 14,000 square foot, two story restaurant would be coming to Disney Springs later this year. 

In a prepared statement, Jonathan Segal, CEO of The ONE Group said of the new location, “We are thrilled to join the Disney Springs family with the launch of STK Orlando,” and added “The combination of an innovative menu and high-energy atmosphere has driven the success of STK, and we believe it will be an ideal addition to Disney Springs, and will help further cement its status as a place for friends and family to gather for fine dining and entertainment.”

12. Slinky Dog roller coaster 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: TBA

A brand new roller coaster is coming to Disney's Hollywood Studios that will form the backbone of the all-new Toy Story Land. Described as a family-friendly roller coaster (so expect low speeds and small height restrictions), this new unnamed attraction will see guests boarding vehicles shaped like Slinky Dog and then zooming around a winding track, passing through tunnels and other landmarks around Toy Story Land.

Work on this attraction (as well as the broader Toy Story Land) is expected to kick off any day now, as Disney has relocated the Sorcerer Mickey meet and greet out out of the former Backlot Tour queue, suggesting that a groundbreaking is imminent. 

11. Buzz Lightyear spinning ride 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: TBA

The second confirmed new attraction for Toy Story Land is a spinning flat ride that will feature a giant Buzz Lightyear standing guard over the famous little green aliens from the Toy Story series, who will take guests around in flying saucer-shaped vehicles while The Claw (oooohhh!) dangles above.

10. New Discovery Island restaurant

 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: Spring 2016

in late November 2015, Disney confirmed plans to convert the back half of Pizzafari into a new table service restaurant: Tiffins. This new signature table service restaurant will open at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Spring 2016 alongside the Rivers of Light show and the nighttime version of Kilimanjaro Safaris.

Tiffins will celebrate the art of traveling, and feature a diverse menu with dishes from several places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Tiffins will be open for both lunch and dinner, and will feature waterfront views from indoor and outdoor seating areas. Though we don’t know anything about specific menu items or prices, we do know that Tiffins will be a “signature” dining experience, which means guests can expect this one to rank somewhere between Be Our Guest and Le Cellier in terms of cost, and those who enjoy using the Disney Dining Plan can assume that meals here will be in the two-credit range.

9. Flamingo Crossings hotels

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: Early 2016

Disney has been quietly developing a new shopping and entertainment complex tentatively named Flamingo Crossings on the western edge of property. The first two tenants for this new area will be TownePlace Suites, Marriott's extended-stay brand, and SpringHill Suites.  These two new hotels are scheduled to open in early 2016 and will have 500 suites between them. Both will be located on a 450 acre lot and will be constructed on Flamingo Crossings Way, right outside Disney World's western gate.

Construction on these two hotels is well under way, with progress easily visible from the street. Recently, a "topping off" ceremony took place as the final structural steel beam was placed for the new complex's first two hotels. While news about the larger Flamingo Crossing project as a whole remains scarce, if you want to brush up on what this project is (and why it matters) we've got a run-down here

Most recently, a third hotel has been confirmed to be coming to Flamingo Crossings, with the Orlando Sentinel hypothesizing that is could possibly be a Hampton Inn. Though we know that this new hotel is on the way, who exactly is behind its development remains a mystery. The Orlando Sentinel also confirmed that this new property will occupy 4.97 acres of land and will add 250 rooms to the resort. 

8. Avatar: Flight of Passage

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed

Opening in: 2017

The headline ride in Pandora: The World of Avatar, now confirmed to be named Avatar - Flight of Passage, 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.

Construction on the ride building is well underway, with the massive steel structure peaking out from the treeline that separates this new area from the parking lot. During a recent interview with Variety, Bob Iger said that he had ridden a prototype of this ride, and it "It felt so real, so lifelike. There’s never been anything like it." 

7. Rivers of Light 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed
 

Opening in: 2016

Rivers of Light is a new nighttime show that will be hosted around and above the Discovery River and will feature live music, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery all centered around an illuminated Tree of Life.

Although no opening date has been specified, barges containing props and equipment for the show have been spied on the river and construction is easily visible from the newly reopened Flame Tree Barbecue restaurant. In addition, "dress rehearsals" are being held after hours which include full audio effects, suggesting that much of the show portion of Rivers of Light has been completed. It has also now been confirmed that this show will open in Spring 2016. 

You can learn more about this new show in the newly-released video below:

6. A new restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Image: Disney

Status: Rumored
 

Opening in: Late 2016

In late November it was confirmed that quick service eatery Pizza Planet will close on January 11, 2016 for a lengthy refurbishment that will last a majority of the year. While that might not be especially noteworthy by itself (after all, a Toy Story-inspired Pizza Planet won’t make sense in this space once Toy Story Land opens), reports have surfaced that this eatery will reopen again much later in 2016, possibly with a new theme that could hearken back to the days of Disney-MGM Studios.  

While just a rumor at this stage, many have hypothesized that because of Pizza Planet’s proximity to MuppetVision 4-D, a Muppets-themed makeover could be in the works. This change would effectively create a mini Muppets-themed land in this spot. This certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing, and would recall the original plans for Disney-MGM Studios, which included quite the extensive Muppets-themed area, complete with a Swedish Chef Cooking School Restaurant where Pizza Planet currently sits, and Gonzo's Pizza Parlor where Mama Melrose's currently sits

5. The Edison 

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed
 

Opening in: TBC

Another confirmed resident setting up shop at Disney Springs is The Edison. This new dining and bar location will be based upon the original nightclub in Los Angeles, and will feature a steampunk theme. Construction has already begun on this location, but no opening date has been announced. 

4. The Planet Hollywood Observatory

Image: Planet Hollywood

Status: Confirmed 


Opening in: 2016

Planet Hollywood has finally confirmed its long-rumored redesign, and will be transitioning into a “turn-of-the-20th-century observatory” in order to jive with the new Disney Springs theme, complete with a Planet Hollywood water tower (replacing the current sign).

“Disney is turning it into a turn-of-the-century Central Florida mining town, and the observatory was a feature at the time,” said Planet Hollywood International founder and chairman Robert Earl. “We’ve gone back to that look for Planet Hollywood.”

In addition to the changes to the building, the name of this establishment will change to Planet Hollywood Observatory and a new menu will be introduced. 

3. Kilimanjaro Sunset Safaris

 Status: Confirmed
 

Opening in: 2016

Disney announced at the 2015 D23 Expo that Kilimanjaro Sunset Safaris will be coming sometime next year, and that work is currently underway on the existing Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction to “magically extend the orange glow of the setting sun” (which means, essentially, they’ll be installing some fancy lights). The only only real difference confirmed to be a part of this new(ish) nighttime experience will be the addition of two new species to the ride: hyenas and African wild dogs.

2. Avatar "mess hall" restaurant   

Image: FOX

Status: Confirmed (kind of)
 

Opening in: 2017

Though Disney still has not officially confirmed the existence of this quick service dining location inside Pandora: The World of Avatar, this new restaurant location was visible in a model that Disney had on display for the event. In addition, during the Parks and Resorts panel, special "in universe" food options were discussed, but not specified. Though we don't know what it will be called, we feel confident saying this rumored restaurant will indeed exist in Pandora: The World of Avatar 

1. Na'Vi River Journey

Image: Disney

Status: Confirmed
 

Opening in: 2017

Housed partially on the ground floor of the same building that will host the flying attraction, The Na'Vi River Journey will be a "C-Ticket"-style boat ride. This attraction will offer a C-Ticket family ride experience that will take guests via canoes through a mysterious, sacred river hidden within Pandora's bioluminescent rainforest. While on this attraction guests will encounter exotic glowing plants and amazing creatures before a finale sequence that will feature a Na’vi shaman, who has a deep connection to the life force of Pandora and sends positive energy out into the forest through her music. 

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