11 new Disney World attractions coming in 2021 — and what visits may be like this year
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It’s fair to say that 2020 was not the year the Walt Disney Company (or any of us) planned for — or wanted. It would be overplayed to say it was an “unprecedented year for Disney”, but, it most certainly was. Disney theme parks had faced a limited number of very temporary closures before 2020 for hurricanes, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and the like, but they hadn’t experienced anything even remotely on this scale and magnitude.
The idea of Disneyland being closed for an entire year wouldn’t have sounded remotely believable as 2020 roared in with full crowds and big plans, but it now looks like that will indeed be the case, at a minimum.
But, 2020 wasn’t an entirely lost year for the Disney theme parks, especially for Walt Disney World, which reopened in July and has been able to stay open since that time. In fact, 2021 should be a very special year at Disney World as the park ushers in its golden anniversary after first opening on 1 October 1971.
And, in fact, not only will there be plenty to celebrate at Disney World in 2021, there will be some all-new attractions and offerings, too. So as we look ahead and put the past squarely behind us, here are 11 new things coming to Disney World in 2021 — and words on a couple that may tip-toe into 2022.
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Disney notoriously holds its cards very close, so there is plenty we aren’t actually certain about when it comes to opening timelines, which we’ll get to shortly. However, the new Ratatouille attraction opening in the France pavilion in Epcot in 2021 is as sure of a bet as it gets.
This trackless ride “shrinks” you down to rat-size and takes you through Gusteau’s kitchen. It already exists at Disneyland Paris and was within a few months of opening when the world went on pause in March 2020. Disney has recently stated that Ratatouille will open in 2021, and we expect that perhaps it could even open in the first half of the year.
This will also be the first moving attraction in that section of Epcot’s World Showcase, which should make the area more lively and kid-friendly than before. We’re counting down to Remy making his official debut at Disney World in 2021.
La Crêperie de Paris
Also new to the France section of Epcot in 2021 will be La Crêperie de Paris, offering both table- and quick-service dining options. The 2021 opening date of this restaurant was confirmed in November 2020 at the D23 Fantastic Worlds Celebration by Melissa Valiquette, vice president of Epcot.
We would not be shocked to see this open around the same time as Ratatouille, but regardless of exact timing, we fully expect that this new dining option will open its doors in 2021.
Related: Best restaurants at Disney World
The Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, an Autograph Collection Hotel
Continuing the theme of leading with the additions we are most confident will actually happen in 2021, the new Walt Disney World Swan Reserve hotel is on track to open in the summer of 2021.
While you can earn and use Marriott Bonvoy points at this Autograph Collection hotel (like its sister hotels the Disney Swan and Dolphin), the hotel is located on true Disney property and within walking distance to both Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the back entrance of Epcot. Coincidentally, this is right near the area where Ratatouille will be located.
The Swan Reserve will lean heavily into an ample number of suites and larger rooms that are rated for families of six to 10 people. It’s also much smaller than the neighbouring Swan and Dolphin, so from the rooftop space to the poolside bar, this property should be able to maintain a somewhat more intimate vibe without losing easy access to the theme parks.
When it opens in July, this hotel will be a Category 6 Marriott, costing from 40,000 – 60,000 points per night.
New Epcot nighttime show: Harmonious
Originally set to debut in 2020, Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon is getting an all-new nighttime show — Harmonious. This is a pretty big deal, as Disney has said that Harmonious will be one of its largest nighttime shows — ever.
Harmonious will lean on five moveable six-story floating platforms, colourful lights, lasers, pyrotechnics, 25-foot LED walls, familiar music and more to create the innovative nighttime show. The show is said to be a beautifully crafted nighttime dreamscape of Disney music and images, reimagined by diverse cultural musicians and artists from around the world. It’s hyped to be a transformative experience, where Disney music will have the power to inspire and unite us all.
It’s important to note that Disney has still put a pause on nighttime shows in the interest of social distancing, so that return may ultimately be what influences exactly when Harmonious can take centre stage at Epcot.
Space 220 restaurant at Epcot
Originally set to open in late 2019 or early 2020 is the all-new restaurant, Space 220. When you enter this restaurant, located near Mission: Space in Epcot you will head out of this world to 220 miles above in a “space elevator”.
In the recent updates provided by Epcot’s vice president at D23, construction at Space 220 was said to be making “great progress”. On Disney’s website, this restaurant is listed as simply “coming soon” — both of which give hope for a 2021 opening. When it does open, it will offer “American cuisine, more than 1,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines and a wide selection of craft beer.”
Polynesian Village reopens with Moana theming
The iconic Disney Polynesian Village Resort has not fully reopened since its March 2020 closure. The Disney Vacation Club villas within the resort have reopened, but the actual hotel and several key amenities have remained shuttered.
However, the hotel, which is one of the Disney World original properties dating back to 1971, is scheduled to reopen in the summer of 2021 with some new Moana theming.
This hotel reopening makes our list as it won’t just be a standard makeover, but there will be an all-new infusion of “Moana” theming when the resort officially reopens. The property is currently accepting reservations for dates beginning in late-July.
Other Disney resort hotels with announced reopening dates in 2021 are: Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort (22 March), Disney’s Beach Club Resort (30 May) and Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (6 June).
New addition to the Hall of Presidents
Located within Liberty Square in the Magic Kingdom is the Hall of Presidents. At some point in 2021, Joe Biden will likely join the other 44 U.S. Presidents on the stage. (Fun fact: There are 44 Presidents currently on stage instead of 45 as Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms as both the 22nd and 24th president.)
While the attraction could probably benefit from a total shake-up which would obviously take longer (Hamilton-style historical review anyone?), assuming Disney simply adds President Biden to the stage, we’d expect that to happen in the second half of 2021. That timing estimate is based on how long it took for Disney to create the animatronic and associated speeches for Presidents Obama and Trump during their respective first years of office.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser resort
There’s no upcoming ‘hotel’ opening I’m more excited about in the world than the Star Wars: Galatic Starcruiser hotel. Of course, using the word hotel to describe the cabins and experience aboard the Halcyon Starcruiser is vastly underselling it.
When it opens, the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser will be an immersive two-night experience where you leave Earth and enter space and the Star Wars universe. A stay here will also include taking a transport to the planet of Batuu (aka Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge within the neighbouring Disney’s Hollywood Studios).
Before the pandemic, it was announced that the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser was set to begin taking reservations before the end of 2020.
While that milestone hasn’t happened yet, it is still possible that the hotel could be completed in 2021. However, the immersive nature of the experience may put the first launch on hold until some social distancing requirements can safely be relaxed. If this opens in 2021, we expect it to be toward the end of the year.
Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Toy Story Land
Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been the fastest-growing park at Walt Disney World over the past few years.
It’s seen the additions of two entirely new lands (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Story Land), as well as the opening of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway. However, the expansion of table-service dining within the park hasn’t nearly kept up with the rest of the growth. In fact, there hasn’t been any new table-service restaurants added to the park in years.
Originally set to open in 2020, Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Toy Story Land will hopefully finally open in 2021 to provide a new dining option for families for a sit-down meal surrounded by Woody and his friends. This restaurant will be located near the giant Woody at the main entrance to Toy Story Land.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
We’ve now firmly entered extremely uncertain territory when it comes to what will actually open at Disney World in 2021.
However, Disney has recently publicly discussed the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction at Epcot enough that we think it still has a shot at a 2021 debut as was originally scheduled. Before the pandemic hit, both this and Tron (that we will get to in a moment) were to be a part of Walt Disney World’s 50th-anniversary celebrations in 2021.
In fact, at the previously mentioned recent D23 online chat given by both the vice president of Epcot and Imagineer Zach Riddley, it was announced that Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind had reached a major milestone in construction. Specifically, the ride has entered the push/pull testing phase, which is when Disney puts ride vehicles on tracks for the very first time.
While Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind could still open in late 2021, we would not be surprised to see this attraction slide into 2022. Coincidentally, that year is actually the 40th anniversary of when Epcot first opened in 1982, so that timing could make sense, too.
Tron Lightcycle Power Run
Before everything changed, Tron Lightcycle Power Run was going to be the newest, hottest ride at Magic Kingdom in 2021, a likely tentpole for the park’s 50th-anniversary celebrations. However, while Disney remains characteristically silent on timing updates, there are plenty of rumours that this ride won’t open in 2021.
But since Disney has yet to comment on the new timing for Tron, it’s still theoretically possible it could be prioritized and still open at the end of 2021 so we will include it here on this list … with our fingers tightly crossed.
What trips to Disney World will be like in 2021
While we don’t know exactly which new attractions will ultimately open at Disney World in 2021, we do know a bit about what visits to the Most Magical Place on Earth should be like next year.
Notably, Park Hopping returned on 1 January, albeit in a modified form. You still need to make an advance Park Pass reservation to visit a Disney World theme park in 2021, but beginning at 2 p.m. you can then hop to another theme park without having to have a reservation for that second park.
We expect other traditional Disney World offerings to slowly reappear throughout the course of 2021. For example, Disney’s evening Electric Light Pageant just recently returned to the Seven Seas Lagoon each evening. It’s also been announced that Disney’s Blizzard Beach waterpark will reopen on 7 March, for the first time since the pandemic hit a year prior.
Character dining and interactions will likely remain distanced for some time to come, but we expect more of these opportunities to continue to return during the next year.
Face masks will still be required at Disney World for guests ages two and up for the foreseeable future, but Disney is creeping upwards on guest capacity limits. This is true both within the parks as a whole, and on individual rides as Disney continues with plexiglass installations and/or decides that certain rides can safely hold more guests thanks to existing high backs or similar.
As the pandemic is, unfortunately, taking a turn for the worse, we expect to see some discounts and sales at Disney World, at least for the first few months of the year. Disney has already launched an offer that includes two bonus park days on resort and ticket packages of four nights or longer through 25 September 2021. There’s also a discount of up to 35% off Disney resort hotels that runs through mid-April 2021.
The COVID-19 vaccine rollout will likely mark a series of baby-steps that inches Disney World back to something that more closely resembles the “old normal” by the end of the year. There are some pandemic-era changes we hope that Disney World keeps for the long-term, but some old favourites, such as nighttime fireworks, will be warmly welcomed when they can safely return.
2021 will bring Disney World not only its 50th-anniversary celebration, but some new attractions to boot. It’s likely the park won’t unveil quite as many new additions next year as was originally planned, but from Ratatouille to the new on-property Swan Reserve hotel, there are a few Disney World additions that are a pretty sure bet for 2021.
Featured image courtesy of Matt Stroshane/Disney Parks
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