15 New Experiences at Walt Disney World Resort

Last week, I had the pleasure of getting to know the Disney Parks better. I put together this awesome list of 15 New Experiences at Walt Disney World Resort! Disney invited us to stay with them to check out the new stuff they have to offer! It was an awesome family vacation that I will never forget!

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Star Wars – “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular’’

The new Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular is the new nighttime show at Disney Hollywood Studios. It celebrates the Star Wars saga with fireworks, lasers, projections and other amazing special effects paired with Star Wars-themed music and iconic characters and scenes from all 7 Star Wars films! The effects are state-of-the-art and epic! The show goes on all around you. It starts by being projecting onto the Chinese Theatre and is punctuated by a tower of flame shooting tongues of fire skyward as well as powerful crisscrossing spotlight beams, creating lightsabers in the sky. I could not capture the awesomeness on camera so you definitely have to see it yourself. 

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“It is a Disney sky show like none other,” Roddy said. “We are actually able to cast fireworks to tell different parts of the Star Wars story, in colors identifiable with the film whether it’s green for Yoda or creating a starfield up in the sky. Projection mapping technology allows us to dramatically overtake the buildings with images from the Star Wars saga. Custom animation delivers motion picture moments and perspectives never before experienced. And surround sound makes it seem like a TIE fighter just flew past and exploded next to you. “So many of the things we love about Star Wars we were able to bring to life,” he said.

Galactic Food

Before “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular’’, we at some galactic food and drinks at the Star Wars Launch Bay. There are adorable novelty desserts and specialty foods inspired by a galaxy far, far away, such as Blue Milk Panna Cotta, Padawan Limeade, BB-8 Lemon and Butter Cream cupcake. Guests also can purchase admission to the Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party during the fireworks show featuring themed desserts, specialty drinks and a souvenir Chewbacca stein.

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Star Tours – The Adventures Continues

Fans of Star Wars and Star Tours will experience journeys involving new characters and adventures from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Based on the Star Wars films, Star Tours takes guests to multiple Star Wars destinations where they interact with characters from throughout the saga. The show is in Dolby 3D so you feel like you are really there. It is extremely vivid and realistic experience. There are so many different variations, you will want to go on Star Tours again and again.

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Star Wars Launch Bay

The Star Wars Launch has everything a Star Wars fan could want! It is located at the Animation Courtyard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Special Character Encounters – After entering a themed atrium complete with replicas of Star Wars props, guests can journey to the dark side and encounter Star Wars characters such as Kylo Ren on the bridge of his First Order Star Destroyer, or they may choose the light side by stepping into a makeshift Rebel base and coming face to face with Star Wars characters such as the most famous co-pilot in the galaxy, Chewbacca.

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Launch Bay Theater – Guests hear directly from the creative minds behind the Star Wars saga in a short video that includes exclusive interviews with the directors, writers, producers and other key movie crew members who bring the saga to life.

The Cantina – This setting, inspired by the unsavory “hives of scum and villainy” in the Star Wars galaxy, is a fun place to explore and take photos near elements of the cantina, such as a holochess table. Holochess is a game seen in Star Wars.

Star Wars Game Center – Guests can play current and upcoming video games, including new Disney Infinity 3.0 content created exclusively for this location.

Themed Galleries – The entire Star War Launch Bay is a gallery of replicas, props and Star Wars inspired art. The Preview Gallery offers guests exclusive looks at replicas of props, artifacts and memorabilia from the latest movie in the saga, starting with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Among the items on display are costumes, ship models, droids and artwork.

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Launch Bay Cargo – A unique shopping area where guests may bring home a variety of Star Wars merchandise, including original artwork and collector’s items. You can also make your own custom Star War Magic Bands and Cell Phone cases. The light sabers are epic. We ended up buying one so that we can play lightsaber fighting at home.

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Star Wars: Path of the Jedi

Guests looking to relive the stories from the Star Wars saga or be introduced to the iconic characters, including those from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, can watch an abridged, cinematic reel celebrating the Star Wars saga (episodes I- VII) in a theater setting near Echo Lake at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple

Kids can join in on the fun with Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple right next to Star Tours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Kids will be guided to the site of a secret and ancient Jedi temple where they will face villains such as Darth Vader and the Seventh Sister Inquisitor from the popular Disney XD series Star Wars Rebels, and discover if they have the makings of a true Jedi.

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Stormtrooper Patrols

As you enjoy the attractions of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you may come face to face with First Order Stormtroopers who will patrol various areas of the park, interacting with guests during their mission to find members of the Resistance. They are awesome and so much to take pics with! The characters get really into their job!

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Harambe Market

Get the authentic flavors and feeling of being in Africa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Harambe Market is a bustling marketplace alive with the aromas and flavors of African street foods. Built around a Colonial-era train depot design complete with a 1960s water tower, Harambe Market has foods with the true flavors of Africa. We ate there right before we went on the Kilimanjaro Safaris wild animal adventure.

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“Boats, trains and travel led to the discovery of exotic spices that were traded and brought from foreign lands,” Chef Lenny DeGeorge says. “These foods have been tailored for the locals. With the ribs, we have a ras el hanout spice blend, which has about 20 different spices mixed in. The berbere spice is on the chicken skewer and the kebab sandwich. We used madras curry powder in the corn dog batter.”

With the recent addition of the Festival of the Lion Kingtheater district and the new market, Harambe Village has nearly doubled in size and “you feel like you are actually in a real village in Africa,” says Walt Disney Imagineering show producer Emily O’Brien.

Harambe Market offers shaded tables for dining, and area shops sell wares from Africa. The marketplace will offer direct access to Kilimanjaro Safaris, the Wildlife Express train to Rafiki’s Planet Watch and a path to Asia attractions like Expedition Everest.

Magic of Nature – Disney’s Animal Kingdom After Dark

The Tree of Life Awakens

The theme park’s iconic Tree of Life will undergo extraordinary “awakenings” throughout the evening as the animal spirits are brought to life by magical fireflies that reveal colorful stories of wonder and enchantment. High-tech projections of nature scenes take on a magical quality as they appear to dramatically emanate from within the Tree of Life.

Kilimanjaro Safaris after Dark

Each evening, the popular Kilimanjaro Safaris daytime experience is artfully bathed in the glow of sunset with special lighting allowing guests to explore this attraction well into the night. During the expedition, guests can now encounter the nighttime behavior of the wildlife and better tune in to the unique vocalization of the animals Plus, there are two new species to discover: African wild dogs and hyenas. I have not seen this yet, but I have heard it is amazing. Can’t wait to check it next time.

The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic

For the summer, Discovery River becomes the stage for music and pageantry in a limited-engagement show inspired by Disney’s hit live-action film The Jungle Book. The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic is a live show filled with music and special effects that celebrates the new film and the classic songs, now infused with an Indian influence.

Harambe Wildlife Parti

When the sun sets, the popular Village of Harambe will become a hot spot with the new Harambe Wildlife Parti. Here, “party animals” can dance alongside a variety of entertainers and local street musicians, and enjoy the lively rhythms of African music. Guests can also partake in exotic foods and libations, and explore the diverse wares of village artisans and merchants in the vibrant marketplace.

Discovery Island Carnivale

The spirited community of Discovery Island has come together to celebrate their love of the natural world with the Discovery Island Carnivale. This nightly experience will captivate guests with lively music, jubilant dance, vibrant costumes, stilt walkers and tasty culinary creations — winding from one end of the island to the other.

The Jungle Book Alive

The Jungle Book Alive is a new nighttime show live singers, dancers, musicians and fire performers celebrate the epic story of The Walt Disney Studios’ “The Jungle Book” in a limited-engagement nighttime extravaganza at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park at Walt Disney World Resort.

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The Discovery River Theater is the perfect place to host the “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic.” The music is my favorite part! You will love hearing your favorites like “The Bear Necessities” “Trust in Me,” and “I Wan’na Be Like You.”

The 25-minute show is awash in special effects that include fire, and massive water-screen projections. While some of the cast tell the story from water’s edge and inside the theater, multiple barges and boats become additional sets pulsating with dozens of performers, scenic backdrops and light and fire effects.

As guests depart Discovery River Theater, they can continue celebrating in other areas of Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where the evening comes alive with wondrous new nighttime experiences and a party-like atmosphere

Frozen Ever After

No wonder summer is Olaf’s favorite season – it’s the perfect time for guests to explore the kingdom of Arendelle. For the first time in forever, “Frozen Ever After” is now open at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion at Walt Disney World Resort. The new attraction inspired by the blockbuster hit Frozen celebrates a “Summer Snow Day” in a family-friendly adventure. This is best ride that I have seen EVER! WOW! It is extremely realistic and makes me so excited to see what new ride will be owning next. You have to see this ASAP!!!

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A stone archway greets guests to the kingdom of Arendelle. A royal proclamation poster announces the “Summer Snow Day” celebration as guests begin their stroll. On their way to the harbor, guests will get a peek inside Kristoff’s ice house, as the “Official Ice Master and Deliverer” and walk through “Oaken’s Tokens” at the port of Arendelle. Visitors should watch the sauna door, where Oaken likes doodling in the steam!

Guests board their boats at the harbor, and Sven and Olaf kick off their journey in the Willow Forrest before sailing through Troll Valley, and up the North Mountain. Anna and Kristoff welcome guests to the palace, while Olaf twirls on the ice.

When the glittering doors open leading to the Ice Palace Great Room, guests are encouraged to sing along to Elsa’s familiar anthem, “Let It Go” as the Queen’s ice magic surrounds them.

As the boat glides back down the mountainside, happy Snowgies surround Marshmallow. He roars his mighty greeting with a blast of his cold breath on guests’ return to the Bay of Arendelle.

Fun Facts:

Frozen Ever After is the first Frozen-themed attraction.

Guests can witness Elsa’s ice magic on Frozen Ever After.

Composers Bobby and Kristen Lopez created new lyrics to the cherished Frozen film songs.

All of the original voice talent from the film returned and recorded dialogue and songs for the attraction

Frozen Ever After features the most advanced Audio-Animatronic figures to date and the first to be all- electric, which provides fluid movements and the ability to animate in new ways.

Walt Disney Imagineering traveled to Norway to research architecture, décor and artifacts; guests will find their inspiration at the Royal Sommerhus and throughout the pavilion.

The design of Royal Sommerhus and the surrounding area is modeled after a traditional Norwegian cabin in Trondheim.

Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus

You can meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus right near the new Frozen Ever After ride at Epcot. Royal Sommerhus is Elsa and Anna’s permanent character greeting at Disney Parks. The rural retreat is inspired by a cabin in the countryside of Norway. Anna and Elsa have opened their charming country cottage for visitors.

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Decorations and family heirlooms adorning the foyer walls reflect the Royal Family of Arendelle. The sisters’ receiving room includes details reflecting their personalities: snowflakes on the white wooden shutters and rug for Queen Elsa, and a sunflower pattern throughout Anna’s area.

Soarin Around the World

Sourin Around the World is an amazing ride that makes you feel like you are in virtual reality. You forget that you are on ride and get to soar above the world at Epcot. 

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Riders on the new Soarin’ Around the World become globe-trotting travellers as they take a global glide over land and sea, flying over and through some of the iconic scenery in the world. The exhilarating aerial adventure immerses guests in a multi-sensory experience, complete with stunning sights, spectacular sounds and even subtle scents. Soarin’ Around the World is located at The Land Pavilion in Future World at Epcot.

Employing high-definition, laser-projected footage and innovative motion-based ride technology, all developed by Walt Disney Imagineering, Soarin’ Around the World literally lifts 87 guests at a time 40 feet aloft into an 80-foot projection screen dome. The effect is that guests’ entire field of vision is filled with panoramic beauty, giving them the sensation that they are actually flying over the globe’s grand landmarks, natural and manmade.

Among the many sights on view during the exhilarating fly-over: The Great Wall of China, the Great Pyramids of Egypt or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Aromas fill the air, bringing to life scents like grass over Africa, an ocean breeze over the South Pacific and roses over India

Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine – Disney Springs

Celebrity Chef Art Smith is bringing a taste of real Florida to Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort. The food is amazing! 

Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine showcases the cuisine of Chef Smith, who was born and reared in the town of Jasper, Fla., on the Florida-Georgia border. After 25 years of preparing award-winning meals for celebrities and heads of state and appearing on television, he is making Florida his home once again.

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With farm-to-fork cuisine that showcases the bounty of Florida, and design inspired by turn-of-the century Florida architecture of the late 1800s, Homecoming will feature traditional Southern favorites with sophisticated, chef- inspired creations. The 6,000-square-foot, 200-seat restaurant “is where Florida heritage meets New Southern cuisine,” explains Smith.

“I couldn’t be happier about coming back to Florida and Walt Disney World Resort,” he continues. “To be able to prepare the food I love in the place where I have so many special memories is a dream come true.” Smith is a sixth generation Floridian, and his family still raises cattle, pecans and heirloom vegetables on their ancestral farm.

Smith says he is especially pleased with the restaurant’s Disney Springs connection, as he recalls summertime gatherings at the springs in the Northern part of Florida, casual get-togethers known as “homecomings” when family and friends gathered to share Southern specialties, enjoy homemade desserts and maybe sip a hand-crafted cocktail under the shade of live oak trees.

“Once we heard the story of his passion for Florida and his vision for the restaurant, we knew that it was a perfect match” said George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “We’re thrilled to welcome Chef Art back to the state and share his spirit of Homecoming with our guests from around the world.”

Homecoming Cuisine

“The menu is a big part of my ongoing homage to Florida’s bygone era,” explains Smith. “We will proudly and prominently support the Fresh from Florida campaign and the vast majority of our seafood, produce, poultry and beef will be from local farms, ranches or fisheries.”

The “rustic-chic” restaurant has a glass-walled show kitchen and the Southern Shinebar that celebrates an era where characters might have created some homegrown spirits on their homesteads just beyond the springs. The bar will feature whimsical cocktails, punches and coolers, including some made with now-legal variations of moonshine.

Smith’s expertise is all over the menu from Southern favorites like homemade pimento cheese, Church Lady deviled eggs, low country shrimp and grits, kale salad with Sweet Grass Dairy cheese and spiced pecans and a grilled Blackstrap pork chop with sawmill gravy. “Each dish has a little Florida twist and makes guests feel like they’re on the back porch with me for every meal,” says Smith.

Desserts will be a specialty, with cakes, pies and delectable sweets made daily and shipped from a bakery in Hamilton County, including the restaurant’s signature Mockingbird Cake. “Southern women, using delicious ingredients and love, are the world’s best bakers,” explains Art.

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Disney Springs

This summer Disney Springs is the place to be by day and by night! With a Grand Opening Summer Celebration taking place all season long, Disney Springs features an array of hard-to-pass- up deals and a variety of delectable new dining options at the newest neighborhood–Town Center, plus free nightly entertainment featuring more than 20 different acts performing across all four neighborhoods – The Marketplace, Westside, The Landing, and Town Center.

There are tons of new stores like the Coco Cola store! Some of the most unique and recognizable names in retail such as UNIQLO, Vince Camuto, Anthropologie, Zara, Lilly Pulitzer, Columbia Sportswear, LACOSTE, Under Armour, kate spade new york, Sephora and Oakley all call Town Center home.

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Wrapped in Florida-inspired, made-for-strolling promenades, arcing footbridges, flowing streams and waterfront charm, Disney Springs treats Walt Disney World Resort guests to an exciting blend of shopping, dining and entertainment with a Disney touch. By day or night guests can expect a vibrant scene at Disney Springs, whether they are shopping world-class brands, enjoying high-quality entertainment, having that special dining experience, pleasure boating on Village Lake or hopping a balloon skyward for spectacular views of Walt Disney World and beyond.

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