Updated: May 15, 2013
A few weeks ago, my dad wrote a few posts listing all of the major events happening this year at Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando and Universal Orlando, and it got me thinking about all of the other awesome experiences coming to the parks this year … Antarctica! … Transformers! … Princess Fairytale Hall!
It got me brainstorming — and I’ll admit daydreaming a little bit — but while it was fresh in my mind, I decided to write it all down. That way, I could easily come back to the page and update it with new information or just to remind myself of all the things that will be happening after I convince my parents that we should visit
Note: I’ve listed things by season and added dates for the things that are known.
Limited Time Events
- Each week of the year, Disney unveils a set of new limited-time experiences as part of Limited Time Magic that are unveiled periodically here. Two of the big experiences so far this year have been Long Lost Friends Week, where “long lost” characters made a visit to the parks and True Love Week (during Valentine’s) that featured a number of romantic gestures.
- “Sophia the First” and “Doc McStuffins” made their debuts at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Feb. 15 when they’re added to Disney Junior – Live on Stage! after a monthlong refurbishment in mid-February. OPEN
- Mickey and Minnie have a new meet-and-greet area inside Animal Kingdom at the Adventurers Outpost, an indoor retreat, on Discovery Island on OPEN. Other Disney friends will continue to meet at Camp Minnie-Mickey.
- The Kinsey Collection, a national touring exhibit of authentic and rare art, artifacts, books, documents and manuscripts that tell the story of African American achievement and contribution, came to the American Adventure Pavilion in Epcot in March. OPEN
- Disney World was uncharacteristically quiet about the construction taking place between (old) Fantasyland and Liberty Square. It turns out that the area featuring Rapunzel’s tower and village is elaborately themed bathrooms and electronics charging stations. OPEN
- Following in the footsteps of Haunted Mansion, Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad now has an interactive queue, which will allow guests to immerse themselves in the story of an attraction while they wait to board. A little bit of the ride’s enhanced backstory has already been revealed. OPEN
- Kennedy Space Center launched a new interactive exhibit called Angry Birds Space Encounter that features an Eggsteroids Slingshot target game; Red Planet Lazer Challenge and a mirror maze called Danger Zone. OPEN
- Those of you who’ve been drooling over the cone options at Disney California Adventure since Cars Land opened can now find a number of cone creations — like the Chili Cone Queso — at Marketplace Snacks in front of Team Mickey at Downtown Disney. OPEN
- Starbucks makes its Walt Disney World debut June 18 when it opens at Main Street Bakery inside Magic Kingdom. The bakery, which is already closed for the transition, is keeping its name, theming and an assortment of Disney cookies, brownies and seasonal cupcakes, but it will be adding some Starbucks breakfast items and other goodies as well as the Seattle coffee company’s signature drinks. Note: The opening date has been pushed back a month.
- Construction has been progressing swiftly on SeaWorld Orlando’s most ambitious project to date. Antarctica, a combination ride-exhibit featuring real-live penguins, will follow a young gentoo penguin named Puck. Guests will be transported to the bottom of the world starting May 24!
- Young adventurers (and young adventurers at heart) are invited to become Wilderness Explorers and get to know Disney’s Animal Kingdom using field guides, completing challenges and earning badges sometime this spring.
- A new interactive quest launches this spring at Adventureland in Magic Kingdom. In A Pirate’s Adventure: Treasures of the Seven Seas, guests will use a map and special talisman to help them complete pirate raids. SOFT OPENINGS HAPPENING NOW
- Just in time for the summer crowds, Transformers: The Ride 3-D will open at Universal Studios. This flight simulation attraction is expected to be a near clone of the very popular attractions at Universal’s theme parks in Singapore and Hollywood. GRAND OPENING JUNE 20
- L’Artisan des Glaces, an artisan ice cream and sorbet shop, debuts in France at Epcot mid-June. The shop will offer 16 different flavors with fresh ingredients. Adults will have the option of adding liqueurs to their frozen concoctions.
- A second Starbucks location opens at Walt Disney World — this time at Fountain View inside Epcot. Expect more details about what’s to come for this location as we get closer to the opening.
- LEGOLAND Florida has unveiled a new “world” devoted to the “Legends of Chima,” which will feature an interactive water ride and play arena where kids can build and race Speedorz when it opens in July 3.
- California Grill, which boasts panoramic views from atop the Contemporary, is expected to return with new decor, a new menu and a new kitchen late this summer. While some of the new dishes and renderings have been revealed, it remains unknown whether this signature restaurant will have a new name.
- Kennedy Space Center debuts a $100 million interactive exhibit that features space shuttle Atlantis on June 29.
- MyMAGIC+ and FASTPASS+ are perhaps the biggest experiences of Walt Disney World this year. These new initiatives aimed at enhancing the user experience will roll out over the coming months. The centerpiece of MyMAGIC+ is the MagicBands, RFID bracelets that will serve as tickets and room keys, similar to the existing Keys to the World card. Guests would be able to use these “MagicBands” to make purchases in the parks as well as interfacing with FASTPASS+ kiosks and PHOTOPASS by simply touching their band to one of the RFID devices.
We’ve already devoted a few posts to this technology that are worth checking out:
- One of the most eagerly awaited attractions of this year, Princess Fairytale Hall is one of the final attractions set for New Fantasyland. This royal hall, which we’ve only seen renderings of, will feature meet-and-greet areas for Disney’s princesses. A hot topic of conversation concerns the identity of the princesses who will hold court at this location.
- A new waterfront eatery is planned for Morocco in Epcot’s World Showcase by year’s end. Spice Road Table will feature small plates and beverages, and will include indoor and outdoor seating.
As you might have guessed, I am most looking forward to Antarctica. One of my very favorite attractions is SeaWorld’s TurtleTrek, and this penguin attraction looks to build on the live exhibit/attraction experience. I know my sister, Lily, can’t wait for Princess Fairytale Hall to open!
Related: Special Events at Walt Disney World
Related: Special Events at Universal Orlando
Which events are you most looking forward to? Share your thoughts below!