With endless characters to high-five and plenty of themed lands for children to explore, Disney parks are obviously some of the most fun places for kids in America. Although new attractions are added somewhat regularly (often replacing older rides or shows), larger overhauls that create new lands are a bit more rare.
At the recent D23 Expo, held in Anaheim from Aug. 14-16, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced a few changes coming to the U.S. theme parks—changes that include new lands and new rides. As a travel enthusiast, a California native and a Disney lover, I can’t wait to check out some of these additions for myself.
Star Wars Land
A portion of California’s Disneyland and Florida’s Hollywood Studios will be revamped to include Star Wars lands that will tell stories from galaxies far, far away. These 14-acre expansions—Disney’s largest ever—will include two new attractions: one where guests will take on a secret mission aboard the Millennium Falcon and a second where guests will visit a new planet in the midst of a battle.
In addition to the new lands, the Star Wars Launch Bay is coming to both parks later this year. The interactive experience will feature photo opportunities, artifacts from the films and more. A new location straight out of Star Wars: The Force Awakens will also be added to the current Star Tours ride and new characters (including a new villain) will join Tomorrowland’s interactive Jedi Training Academy. At Hollywood Studios, a new fireworks show will feature music from John Williams’ classic Star Wars scores.
Toy Story Land
Exclusively at Florida’s Hollywood Studios, the 11-acre expansion of a Toy Story-themed land will be littered with larger-than-life toys, giving guests the appearance that they have shrunk down to Woody’s size. Set in Andy’s backyard, this land will feature two new rides. The first, a fairly long family-oriented roller coaster, will transport riders through the toy-filled land on the back of Slinky Dog. Another new attraction will include the little green aliens and the Claw as guests spin around on flying saucers. Along with the new rides, the 3D games ride Toy Story Mania! will receive a third track.
Pandora: The World of Avatar
Already in production, Pandora: The World of Avatar is coming to the Animal Kingdom in the park’s largest expansion yet. With the extravagant mountains and forests in Avatar, the new land is expected to be a sight to behold. An Avatar-themed ride called Flight of Passage will allow guests to get a bird’s eye view of the new world on the back of winged Banshees.
In addition to the Pandora expansion, the Animal Kingdom will now be open into the nighttime. A new show called Rivers of Light will debut, combining music, floating lanterns and water screens of various wild animals. The Kilimanjaro Safari will also be extended, offering magical evening trips through an African-inspired savanna with an orange sunset sky. The safari will now be home to two new species: African wild dogs and hyenas.
Soarin’ Around the World
Soarin’ Over California, the popular ride simulating a hang-gliding tour of California, will be replaced with an international version at both California Adventure and Epcot—and we couldn’t be more excited! The current tour takes you over the deserts of Palm Springs, groves of orange trees and the Golden Gate Bridge, but the new version will feature iconic natural and man-made destinations. The new attraction is rumored to include the African Plains, the Great Wall of China and Colorado’s Monument Valley.
Frozen Ever After
It was only a matter of time until Frozen made its way into the Disney parks. The former Maelstrom attraction in Epcot’s Norway pavilion is currently being transformed into Frozen Ever After, a dark ride that takes guests through Arendelle and past Elsa’s mountaintop ice palace. Although the ride is set in summer, Elsa transforms the land into winter for a day. Aside from Elsa and Anna, you will spot Kristoff, Sven, Olaf, Grand Pabbie, Marshmallow and the Snowgies from Frozen Fever. The ride is set to open next year.