Despite economic uncertainties, travelers are ready to hit the road this summer and throughout 2023. According to Reuters, travel demand is on the rise, with bookings for this summer up 13% compared to the same period last year. With travel essentially back in full swing following the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are revisiting their favorite destinations, perhaps for the first time in years.
Groups considering visiting a Disney theme park in 2023 have a lot of new offerings to look forward to experiencing. Walt Disney World has opened several new rides since the parks shuttered in 2020, including the fan-favorite Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT. In the first few months of 2023 alone, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort launched new rides, restaurants, and entertainment for their guests.
If you are considering or have already booked a 2023 vacation to either Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort, there are plenty of new items to add to your itinerary. Even if you have already visited since the pandemic, there are likely many new things to check out since the last time you visited.
What’s New at Walt Disney World
Let’s start at Walt Disney World, where some significant changes have already occurred in 2023. New Disney World rides and attractions already open include TRON Lightcycle/Run, a new roller coaster in Magic Kingdom inspired by the TRON film franchise. Around the same time, Woody’s Roundup Rodeo BBQ opened in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, bringing family-style barbecue dining to Toy Story Land.
Fans also rejoiced at the return of the popular nighttime spectacular Happily Ever After, playing nightly at Magic Kingdom. New nighttime offerings are coming later this year, with the arrival of a new fireworks show at EPCOT sometime in late 2023.
Speaking of EPCOT, the park will serve as the hub for the 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Company, a year-long celebration that has already kicked off at Disneyland Resort. EPCOT’s multi-year reimagining is coming to a close in 2023, with a new walk-through attraction called Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, coming later this year. This summer, a new restaurant called Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya will open in the Japan Pavilion at World Showcase. It will open in the former location of Tokyo Dining.
These changes at Walt Disney World precede even bigger changes in early 2024. Starting in January, Disney World will bring back the Disney Dining Plan, a popular planning tool where guests would pre-pay for their meals when booking a vacation package. Disney World’s Park Pass Reservation System, a COVID-era measurement that required guests to book a reservation in advance for the park they planned on visiting each day, will no longer be required starting in 2024.
What’s New at Disneyland Resort
Disneyland Resort guests have noticed plenty of new changes in Anaheim, California. The 100th Anniversary of the Walt Disney Company truly shines at The Happiest Place on Earth, with platinum embellishments adorning Sleeping Beauty Castle.
To celebrate the 100th Anniversary, Disneyland launched a brand-new nighttime spectacular at the start of 2023 called Wondrous Journey. An instant hit among fans, Wondrous Journey is “easily the best fireworks show I’ve seen at a Disney park,” says theme park journalist Megan duBois. She adds, “It has great storytelling as well as an iconic song that gets stuck in your head immediately.” Over in Disney California Adventure, another new nighttime show, World of Color: One also debuted this year to celebrate Disney’s 100th Anniversary. These two nighttime shows, plus the return of the daytime parade Magic Happens, make Disneyland Resort ripe with entertainment options. Eric Beigel, co-founder of The Insiders, notes, “??All 3 of these new shows are truly top-tier entertainment, and I think guests should consider making time to see these shows when planning their trips in 2023.”
Disneyland Park also recently unveiled a newly-refurbished Mickey’s Toontown, with upgraded landscaping and new play areas for families. Toontown is also the home of Disneyland’s newest ride, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway. Direct from Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a whimsical dark ride perfect for the entire family. Lindsay Pettit, Disney mom, and creator at @chasingmagicdaily, notes how these changes are ideal for families with young children. She states, “As a mom, I couldn’t wait for the reimagined Mickey’s Toontown to open! Giving families an open play space for their children in Disneyland was something that was needed for a long time. Since the land has reopened, we’ve spent a lot of time just playing in it and letting my kids be kids.”
Work is underway over by New Orleans Square to transform Splash Mountain into a new water flume attraction inspired by the Disney animated film The Princess and the Frog. The new ride, called Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, will not open until late 2024, but Disneyland Park will soon open ancillary offerings, including Tiana’s Palace. The new quick-service dining location will replace French Market Restaurant in New Orleans Square.
In Disney California Adventure, guests will notice new environments and entertainment in the coming months. This summer, the Pacific Wharf area of the park will transform into San Fransokyo Square, inspired by the film Big Hero 6. And over near Avengers Campus, the Hyperion Theatre will be the home of the Marvel-themed Rogers: The Musical, opening for a limited run this summer.
Outside the two theme parks, Disney is preparing to open a big addition to one of their hotels near Disneyland. The Disneyland Hotel will open the new Disney Vacation Club tower in the fall of 2023. The tower of rooms called The Villas at the Disneyland Hotel will include single and multi-room villas available through Disney’s timeshare program. However, non-Disney Vacation Club members may also book a stay using cash. The Villas will officially open on September 28.
Disney continues to announce new projects for both Disneyland and Walt Disney World even beyond 2023. Recently Disney CEO Bob Iger shared that they have earmarked $17 Billion for investment into Walt Disney World over the next 10 years. Disney does not appear to be slowing down investment in their theme parks anytime soon.
Planning a Disney Vacation?
Read our guides to planning a trip to Disneyland and Walt Disney World for the latest from the theme parks and planning tips.