D23 Roundup: Changes and Updates Coming to Walt Disney World

If you’re a person on the internet, chances are you’ve seen lots of chatter regarding D23’s Parks and Resorts panel. Rumors run rampant all year round (vom), but this panel is where the official announcements come from.

Disney Parks Blog has a page of updates and information here, so you’re welcome to hop on over to read the full story. Buuuut I always want to know one thing first: what’s closing. Disney Parks Blog – understandably – tends to bury that information in favor of highlighting the new and exciting. Some of the updates are related to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, too, and may not necessarily be of interest to our WDW visitors. So below, I’ll outline the changes coming to our parks at Walt Disney World.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

The Great Movie Ride is closing for good on August 13, 2017. I’ve heard rumors that GMR would be replaced by a Mickey-themed ride for a while, but this one was still the biggest surprise to me. While GMR was definitely dated and in need of an overhaul, it’s a Hollywood Studios icon! It’s also one more attraction that’ll be closed at Hollywood Studios while Star Wars Land (Galaxy’s Edge) and Toy Story Land are completed.

Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will replace the Great Movie Ride. This will be a “2.5-D” ride based on the new Mickey animated shorts. The description leaves me feeling a little underwhelmed, but I’ll try to reserve judgement until I actually experience it.

Toy Story Land, currently under construction, is set to open in the summer of 2018. Attractions will include the Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers. The concept art gives me Dinorama vibes… I can’t say I’m anxiously awaiting the opening, but I’m sure it’ll be fun.

Star Wars Land, or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as it will officially be called (does that sound super Michael Bay-ish, or is it just me?), opens in 2019. Galaxy’s Edge is evidently set in a “remote trading port” which totally screams Hondo to me. The land will offer “two major attractions” – one that involves piloting the Millennium Falcon, and the other “will make you feel like you’re on a destroyer inside a hangar bay” and “is built on a scale we’ve never done before.” The word “immersive” is used a lot, and there’s going to be a cantina.   I love Star Wars, so while I’m excited for this one, I’m going in with few expectations.

Epcot

Mission: SPACE is getting a themed restaurant! This should be fun, as eateries are less abundant in Future World than they are in the World Showcase.

Ellen’s Energy Adventure will close on August 13 and will be replaced by a Guardians of the Galaxy attraction. This has been rumored for years, so I’m surprised it’s actually happening! I was hugely pleasantly surprised by how much I loved both Guardians movies, so I’m excited for this. I’ll miss the dinosaurs and the opportunity to sit in the dark and air conditioning for 40 minutes, but it was time for a change.

The France Pavilion is also getting a Ratatouille-themed attraction that’s similar to the 4D -ride in Paris. Evidently there are food smells, so please pass my Thanksgiving pants.

Both rides are scheduled to open in 2021, in time for WDW’s 50th anniversary. No word on the Mission: SPACE restaurant yet.

Magic Kingdom

Main Street USA is getting a theatre inspired by Kansas City’s Willis Wood theatre. It’s hard to tell by the concept art exactly where this will be, but I’m thinking behind Tony’s-ish.

And the big one: Magic Kingdom is getting a TRON ride similar to (or the same as?) the TRON Lightcycle Power Run from Shanghai Disneyland. Contrary to what many clickbaity headlines shouted last week, this is not replacing the Tomorrowland Speedway. Based on the concept art, it’ll be located behind Space Mountain. Like the new Epcot attractions, this is scheduled to open in 2021 for the 50th anniversary.

Hotels

WDW is getting a Star Wars-themed resort. Yay, fun! Disney Parks Blog uses that word over and over again: immersive. Apparently it involves a view of space from every room, special attire, and an experience that will “touch every minute of your day.” Well… okay. I’m totally onboard with a Star Wars resort, but I want to be able to see daylight from my room, wear my own damn clothes, and maybe not have an experience “touch 100% of my day.”

There was also talk about the two towers going in at Caribbean Beach Resort. Evidently they’re DVC oriented.

Transportation

The Skyliner has been confirmed. Gondolas will connect Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Caribbean Beach Resorts, plus Hollywood Studios and Epcot’s International Gateway. I have a hard time imagining how efficient this might be, but I’ll prepare to be pleasantly surprised. I’m still holding my breath for a different route into/out of Magic Kingdom that allows one to skip the ferry or monorail.

WDW is also adding Minnie-themed vehicles to take you anywhere on resort property. I’m envisioning something like a Disney uber.

So there you have it. What do you think? Did any of the news surprise you? What are you most looking forward to?

Staying on Disney property: is it worth it?

Is it really a better value to stay at a Disney resort? Won’t staying off-property be cheaper?


Yes, you should stay on property. No, offsite hotels aren’t necessarily always less expensive or a better value.

The Orlando area is abundant in hotels. Literally any type of property you want, we have it.

Because of this, I get lots of questions from friends visiting the area who want economical lodging close to Disney property. You might be surprised to hear that I always encourage them to look into Disney resorts rather than budget-tier off-property hotels and motels. 


Why? Well:

  • Generally speaking, the closer to Disney Property, the more expensive the hotel. With Value and Moderate resorts, I think you you get more for your money if you stay on property.
  • Rates for Value and Moderate resorts are comparable to what you’d find off-property, plus you get the super-fun Disney theming and magic!
  • Complimentary transportation to all parks, resorts, and Disney Springs is yours for the taking when you stay on property. This is especially amazing for trips to the Magic Kingdom if you’re staying at a resort that’s not on the monorail loop – you can skip the TTC and monorail or ferry trip! There are few things worse than being exhausted, sweaty, and having to wait an eternity for the monorail or ferry in order to get back to the parking lot and drive yourself home.
  • Extra Magic Hours! If you’re an on-property guest, you get to take advantage of earlier park openings and later park closings. Parks tend to be more crowded on EMH days (based on my non-scientific observations), but I personally find evening EMH totally worthwhile.
  • No worries about driving in Orlando traffic or trying to navigate the mahoosive Disney complex
  • Disney Dining Plan option (and fellow Diet Coke addicts will appreciate that resort refillable mug option)


The All Star resorts are your most budget-friendly option. I’ve seen rates at this tier as low as $87 per night, which seems like an amazing deal. These Value resorts are heavily themed. 


The next tier up are the Moderate resorts. Structurally, these are very similar to the Value resorts, but theming is a bit more subtle and grown-up. This is where I always opted to stay during our visits, as they feel a little more peaceful than Values and Deluxes.


Disney’s top tier hotels are the Deluxe resorts. Proximity to parks is usually excellent, but these aren’t the luxury hotels I expect for their price point. Imagine something in the realm of a nice Hilton or Marriott, but with way more character, amazing restaurants, and stunning outdoor and pool areas. Personally, I think the rates are a little high for the rooms you get, but would I happily stay in one? Absolutely. The common areas are excellent.


So, if you’re visiting Disney World and your hotel budget is not huge, don’t forget to check rates at your Value and Moderate resorts! Pricing might be better than you’d expect, and the on-property perks are totally worth it.

Like this post? We have lots more hotel-related content coming up! If you have any questions, please leave them below.