New Rides, Shows, and Eats at Walt Disney World by 2017

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Rivers of Light Animal Kingdom

Disney has been hard at work preparing to bring lots of new experiences to the Walt Disney World parks. Many rumors are swirling, but we’ll just share the confirmed new rides, shows, and restaurants that should be at Walt Disney World by 2017.

The two areas preparing for the most newness are Animal Kingdom, and Downtown Disney. Let’s look at Animal Kingdom first.

  • Harambe Marketplace – Set to open in 2015, this expansion of the Africa area of Animal Kingdom park will include a quick service area, with several windows offering different types of food.  Quick Service has been much needed in Africa, so this will be a welcome addition. The Marketplace should ease some of the heavy traffic through the streets of Africa.
  • New Restaurant in Discovery Island – A table service restaurant will be coming to this location. No word yet on what type of food will be offered, but a dining location near the front of the park will be another nice addition. This is also scheduled to open somtime in 2015.
  • Rivers of Light – Many have considered Animal Kingdom only a “half-day” park. While, unfortunately, I think this is due to the small number of thrill rides available here, I have always disagreed. There is so much to do at Animal Kingdom!  That aside, the park does close earlier than any of the other Walt Disney World parks, primarily for the safety and comfort of the many animals present.  Battling against the half-day park stereotype, Animal Kingdom will now have this late night experience. Rivers of Light is slated to be around and above the Discovery River. It will include floating lanterns, water screens, and live music. No opening date has been given, but evidence of work toward this nighttime show is all around, as the Tree of Life is surrounded by construction walls, and barges have been seen on the river carrying props and equipment.
  • Nighttime Kilimanjaro Safari – This very popular attraction has guests running for it first thing in the morning, or being sure to secure a FastPass. Now, it will have a late night version with a different story line centering on the animals that are nocturnal. No start date has been released for this addition to the attraction.
  • Avatar Boat Ride – Due to open in 2017, this attraction in the still-under-construction, and somewhat controversial, “Pandora – The World of Avatar” area will be a dark ride that guests ride through on a boat. Bioluminscent plants and possible animatronic inhabitants of Pandora will be seen along the route. This family attraction is much needed at Animal Kingdom.
  • Avatar “Flying Ride” – Ride on a banshee creature over Pandora. Building on the technology used in Soarin’ at Epcot, this ride will have the imagery projected onto a large IMAX curved screen, and riders will board vehicles that rise to one of three levels of the screen. This, too, is due to open in 2017.


So, what’s coming to Downtown Disney (or Disney Springs, as its new name will be)?

  • Morimoto Asia Restaurant – Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto will open this “pan-Asian” restaurant in the Spring of 2015. a series of exhibition kitchens will allow guests to see food being prepared with traditional Asian methods.
  • The Hangar – Due to open in late 2015, this aviation themed restaurant will be located near Paradiso 37 in Disney Springs.
  • The Boathouse – Opening sometime in early 2015, The Boathouse will have three dining rooms, three bar areas, and will be the launch point for several small water cruises, including an Italian-style Dessert Cruise.
  • Amphicars – Also opening in early 2015, these small watercraft will launch from The Boathouse, for guests to tour around Disney Springs. No word on what rental fees might be, yet.

And other locations that are getting new rides or restaurants:


  • Frozen-themed Boat Ride – I know, I know, lots of people are tired of Frozen. Lots of people aren’t tired of Frozen, but don’t think it belongs in World Showcase at Epcot.  Regardless, Maelstrom made its final voyage in October, 2014, and construction has begum on the Frozen ride. Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, says that the ride will follow the plotline of the movie, and will feature several musical moments.

Just outside Walt Disney World’s West Gate:

  • Flamingo Crossings Hotels – A new shopping and entertainment complex is in the works by Disney – Flamingo Crossings. The first two entities to take up residence there will be SpringHill Suites, and Towne Place Suites, an extended stay arm of Marriott hotels.  Due to open in early 2016, the two hotels will have 500 suites available between them.

Polynesian Village Resort:

  • Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto – Inspired by the Jungle Cruise, and incorporating elements of the Adventurer’s Club from old Pleasure Island, Trader Sam’s is being installed as part of the massive refurbishment at Polynesian Village Resort. It promises a themed lounge area, serving up handcrafted tiki cocktails in souvenir mugs, and Polynesian-style appe-teasers. Opening in 2015.

So what do you think about all the new things coming to Walt Disney World?  Which is your favorite?  Which disappoints you most and why?

I’m Jeri and I’m a Disney Addict!  I’m also an Independent Travel Agent with World of Magic Travel Services, the preferred travel agency of Chip and Co. and Disney Addicts. If you’d like to make a visit to Walt Disney World to be among the first to experience any of these new offerings, I’d like to take the burden of planning off your shoulders.  My services to you are always completely free, and I’d love to help make your vacation more magical. You can contact me today for more information and a free quote at



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6 thoughts on “New Rides, Shows, and Eats at Walt Disney World by 2017

  1. I’m really sad to see Norway’s Maelstrom go, especially for a far more commercially-based ride. The World Showcase is promoted as being a way of visitors to have a cross-cultural experience, while the movie “Frozen” is popular, it is not representative of Norway or its people. I hate to hope that any exhibit at Disney fails, but I hope this one does and they bring back something that is more in keeping with the theme of the showcase.

  2. So many new things! I’m just glad I’m coming and staying all summer long. I think it’s going to be a fun-filled adventure for me and my son. I’really excited about Morimoto Asian restaurant.

  3. I agree! I fear the same thing. I would hope Disney would listen to us, but I fear they would chalk us up to naysayers who are simply against “change.” It’s not that at all. I hope that whoever is the main executive who spearheaded this change is kept in check. Disney has always fiercely protected its “brands” and World Showcase should be handled like a “brand” itself, and its brand integrity should be protected. I am pretty sure that one of the largest and ever-growing events (and revenue-generators) in Walt Disney World history would be the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, enjoyed as a taste of other countries – not a taste of animated movies. Don’t get me wrong – I love all the animated features, as well as their representation in all the other parks! It’s just that World Showcase offered something completely different. Disney may look at how popular the new Frozen attraction is and think they did right. It’s not to say that it won’t be enjoyed – heck, I’m sure my family and I will enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean that replacing a beloved pavilion was the right thing to do.

    (sheesh – I guess I feel pretty passionate about this!)

  4. Agree 1000%. I fear any of the other pavilions are at risk for the same “gutting”. France? UK? It just depends on the setting of the next smash-hit animated Disney movie!
    The other parks are a fine setting for showcasing the animated features! Keep them there and leave the cultural aspects of the WS alone!

  5. Couldn’t agree more. I would have totally been fine with a Frozen ride in either Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios, this just feels like they are gutting the spirit of World Showcase.

  6. It’s all wonderful and I look forward to each and every one – well, except one. The one change that is disappointing is Norway in Epcot. My whole family was disappointed in November, knowing that Maelstrom had closed since our last visit without getting a final chance to ride it before we got there. But then we were even more disappointed to find that the Stave had been replaced with all Frozen-references and artwork as opposed to Norway history. Also, the stores were overflowing almost entirely with Frozen-themed merchandise. A large minority of Epcot guests will never get a chance to go to Norway in person. It was always such a treat to spend time in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot. Frozen was a great movie with great characters, but I sure wish Disney wouldn’t have used it as a replacement for the authentic Norwegian exposure that we all used to get after visiting the Norway Pavilion. They even shut down the Norway movie. Disney named World Showcase “World Showcase” because it was a place that showcased other countries – not their animated movies.

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