While there are always things to look forward to for any Walt Disney World visit, 2019 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting years for fans in recent memory — particularly the second half! This is my list of the top 10 things to look forward to in the coming year:
10) Returning Epcot Festivals
I am starting out with something that isn't brand new to 2019, but rather something that is consistently a big draw for many guests to Walt Disney World — and that is all of the different festivals that happen at Epcot throughout the year. 2019 will see Disney continue to find new ways to add to and improve the festivals each year. This can most explicitly be seen with the International Festival of the Arts. This festival, which will run in 2019 from January 19th to February 25th, will see the addition of new layers of entertainment and hands-on elements such as the Paint with a Disney Artist experience where you can create your very own original masterpiece during a guided class for all skill levels.
In addition to the Festival of the Arts, park goers can experience the International Flower and Garden Festival (March 6 – June 3, 2019), the International Food & Wine Festival (fall), and the International Festival of the Holidays (November/December).
9) New Hotels: Riviera Resort and New Gran Destino Tower at Coronado Springs
The Disney Riviera Resort will be the 15thDisney Vacation Club resort and be located at a section that was part of Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort. It will include a rooftop restaurant that will have “unbelievable views of nighttime spectaculars at both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.”
Over at Coronado Springs Resort, the Gran Destino Tower — set to open in July of 2019 — is 15-stories high and will become the new main entrance for guests visiting the resort. This new addition will bring 545 new guest rooms (including 50 suites) to the resort, as well as a grand two-story lobby.
8) NBA Experience at Disney Springs
One thing that has been pretty consistent is new openings at Disney Springs. While more often than not it has been the opening of new dining establishments, in the summer of 2019 we will see the NBA Experience open its doors at the former site of Disney Quest. This new space with unique architecture will be a place for fans of the NBA (and non-fans) to take part in some interactive games and other immersive experiences. It will also feature a store and restaurant. (I guess we can't totally get away from that.)
7) New Restaurants in Epcot: Space 220 and Signature Dining in Japan
Speaking of restaurants, Epcot, which is already known to have some great dining options, will be seeing some new ones added in 2019. Future World will see the addition of a highly themed restaurant that puts diners in outer space with the opening of Space 220 which will be situation next to the attraction Mission Space. To access the restaurant, guests will board elevators featuring digital screens which will simulate traveling to an orbiting space station. Once in the dining room, additional digital screens will immerse the guests and provide a feeling of being in outer space. While details of the menu remain largely unknown, this will undoubtedly be a unique dining experience.
In World Showcase, the Japan Pavilion will see a new table service signature dining experience added that is "inspired by the natural beauty of Japan” and in a setting that is inspired by takumi (which means “artisan” in Japanese). The restaurant will be operated by Mitsukoshi USA, which operates the merchandise, restaurants, and kiosks that currently exist in the Japan Pavilion.
6) New films in Epcot: Update to O Canada! and New Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
In addition to the new Japan signature dining experience, World Showcase will also see some new attractions in 2019. No, not Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure — which isn't expected to be open until the spring of 2020 — but rather an update to the O Canada! film and a new Beauty and the Beast sing-along.
Announced at the recent Destination D event, the France Pavilion will see the addition of a brand new Beauty and the Beast sing-along created by Don Hahn, producer of the animated and live-action Beauty and the Beast films. Note that this new show will not replace the “Impressions de France,” but instead will be run in the same theater, just at different times.
Also announced was that the popular O Canada! film, not surprisingly located in the Canada Pavilion, will receive an update. Hopefully this will be an upgrade to the technology and utilization of the seamless Circle-Vision 360° screens, not a big change to the spirit of the film.
5) New Pixar Additions to Hollywood Studios: Lightning McQueen's Racing Academy and Municiberg
2019 will see a lot of major new additions to Disney's Hollywood Studios, but it will also see a few lower-profile additions related to Pixar. First, Pixar Place will be transformed into a Municiberg city block and will be the location of a party for Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible, and Frozone, a place to meet the one and only Edna Mode, and where you can search for clues for the whereabouts of Jack-Jack.
But the Incredibles are not the only Pixar property that will see a new presence at the park as Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, an all-new show-attraction, is set to open in Sunset Showcase in the spring of 2019. The show will bring guests face to face with racing legend Lightning McQueen, who will be there live and in person, and will also feature a use of a giant screen that's almost two stories tall and 205-feet long which will wrap around guests, immersing them in the brand new story with new animation that has never been seen before.
4) Disney Skyliner
One aspect of the history of Disney Parks and the vision of Walt Disney that I find very interesting is the development of new forms of transportation and the role these can play in improving urban living. Given that, I am very excited for the introduction of gondolas to Walt Disney World with the opening of the Disney Skyliner.
The new transportation system will connect Pop Century, Art of Animation, Caribbean Beach, and the new Riviera Resort with Disney's Hollywood Studio and Epcot, and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2019. The Skyliner will provide guests with a bird's-eye view of Walt Disney World and will also bring a new sense of motion to much of the property as guests see the gondolas soaring by.
3) New Nighttime Shows: Wonderful World of Animation and Epcot Forever
Coming in May of 2019 to Disney's Hollywood Studios is an all new nighttime spectacular, the Wonderful World of Animation. This show is part of the park's 30th anniversary and will cover the 90 years of Disney animation utilizing state of the art projection technology.
While we won't see the permanent replacement for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth in 2019 (that will be A Celebration of Disney Music and is scheduled to arrive in 2020), Epcot will see a new limited-time nighttime experience at the World Showcase Lagoon: Epcot Forever! This show will debut in the fall of 2019 and will feature classic Epcot music — opening with a spark of imagination that grows into an epic spectacle of fireworks, lighting, lasers, and special effects kites. As a big fan of classic Epcot, I am very much looking forward to this show which looks to be a celebration of the history of the park.
2) Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway
While he has been featured in various attractions, Mickey Mouse, the one who "it all started with" has never had a dedicated ride in a Disney Park. Well that is going to change in 2019, as Disney's Hollywood Studios will open Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.
This new attraction — located in the former home of the Great Movie Ride (RIP) — will bring guests into a Mickey Mouse short involving Mickey and Minnie preparing for a picnic, and features a train that Goofy is the engineer for and, shockingly, things don't go as planned. The attraction will feature a new song, practical sound effects and 2½-D technology. This is sure to be a favorite for the entire family and might help draw some people away from the number one item on this list.
1) Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
I thought about being cheeky and listing this as #2 given that it likely won't open until the very end of 2019, meaning most people won't get to experience it until 2020, but who am I kidding? This is the new addition many, many people have been looking forward to ever since it was first announced that Disney had acquired Lucasfilm. Next year will bring to reality the fantasy of entering a world in the Star Wars universe with the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
In this 14-acre land, guest will visit Batuu, a planet located in the outer rim of the galaxy and home to the Black Spire Outpost — an infamous stop for traders, adventurers, and smugglers. In addition to several dining and shopping locations, Galaxy's Edge will feature two major attractions: Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, a simulator ride where you take controls of the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs, and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, where you are put directly into the conflict between the Resistance and the First Order.
So what are you looking forward to the most in 2019? Is it something from this list or something else entirely such as the new Move It! Shake It! Mouskedance It! street party or celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Disney's Animal Kingdom? No matter what excites you most, any trip to Walt Disney World is about creating memories, and 2019 is shaping up to be a very memorable year!
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