10 new attractions and offerings coming to Disney World in 2022
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The last two years have been filled with dizzying changes at the Walt Disney World theme parks. While some of the changes were of the pandemic protocol variety, others were genuinely exciting new offerings in and around the parks.
At Disney World, 2021 brought us Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure attraction along with the La Crêperie de Paris and Space: 220 restaurants, all within Epcot, which is undergoing its own transformation. There were also new nighttime shows at both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom, a fresh look for multiple iconic monorail hotels — including The Polynesian and Contemporary Resort — and the opening of the Swan Reserve Hotel.
Also in 2021 was the debut of the replacement program for FastPass, known as Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. This is a paid service that changes how you’ll need to approach future trips to Disney.
But, some other attractions and restaurants we’d hoped to see in 2021 suffered delays that will push them into 2022. Couple that with Disney World stretching out its 50th-anniversary celebration that kicked off in October 2021 for 18 months, and some marque new attractions and experiences await Disney guests in 2022.
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Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind debuts
When Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens May 27, 2022, it’ll mark a lot of “firsts” for Disney.
It will be the first rollercoaster-based thrill ride at Epcot in the park’s 40-year history, the first reverse launch coaster in any Disney park and the first Marvel attraction at Disney World (we’ll spare you the legalese, but long-standing licensing agreements between Marvel, Universal Studios and Disney are to blame).
The experience begins with a “planetarium-like exhibition” that introduces visitors to the people, culture and advanced technologies of Xandar. If you’re familiar with the Guardians of the Galaxy films, Xandar is home to the intergalactic police force, the Nova Corps.
As often happens in Marvel movies (and on rollercoasters), something goes wrong during your tour and an adventure ensues. Onboard the coaster, the cars rotate 360 degrees to point you toward massive screens where the action will play out as you ride.
Disney hasn’t released a specific height requirement or top speed just yet, but they are billing it as a family-friendly ride. During an interview earlier this year, Walt Disney Imagineering’s Ashley Levine described it to TPG as being “more thrilling than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, but not quite as adrenaline-inducing as Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.”
And after a peek inside the show building where the coaster lives a few months ago, we can tell you it looks to be shaping up to be a really big, unique experience.
Continued Epcot transformation
Walt Disney once said that Epcot will always be in a state of becoming. If you’ve visited Epcot anytime in the past few years, the ever-present construction walls and mounds of dirt are proof positive that it wasn’t just a clever turn of phrase.
Over the past few months, Epcot has opened an outer space-themed eatery, debuted a new nighttime show and completed an expansion of World Showcase’s France pavilion that includes Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and an authentic crêperie.
All those construction walls aren’t coming down just yet, though. In addition to the upcoming opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in summer 2022, work is underway on Connections Cafe, a quick-service eatery that will be located adjacent to the new Creations Shop and Dreamers Point, a “reimagining of the front of the park and the entry experience for guests,” per the Disney Parks Blog.
The focal point of the area will be a statue of Walt Disney doing what he did best – dreaming.
No official opening date has been announced for Connections Cafe or Dreamers Point, but the fate of other planned projects at Epcot is still less clear. During 2019’s D23 Expo, plans were revealed for an interactive Play! Pavilion and a walkthrough attraction based on Disney’s “Moana.”
Disney hasn’t said much about either of these since the start of the pandemic, but we certainly spy construction where the water feature should be and we love any attraction where the kids can play (bonus points for being indoors and air-conditioned), so we’ve got our fingers crossed for more information soon.
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser launches
We’ve already written extensively about what you’ll be able to do onboard the Star Wars Hotel, officially known as the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, and how to get a reservation. And now we’re more ready than ever for this all-inclusive, two-day Star Wars-themed experience after a sneak preview that Disney shared during the recent Destination D23 fan event at Disney World.
If you need a quick refresher, when you book a stay for the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, you’ll spend two nights eating, sleeping and breathing Star Wars on board the Halcyon luxury starship (which, per the website’s FAQs, doesn’t actually travel to space, in case you were wondering).
Dressing the part is encouraged, and there are opportunities to participate in role-playing scenarios where you can choose to help the good guys (or the bad guys) on secret missions.
You can also relax in your room and watch TV, but with the steep price tag, we’d recommend playing along to get the most bang for your intergalactic buck. After seeing Disney Parks experiences and products chairman Josh D’Amaro wield a glowing blue lightsaber during a training exercise and punch the Halcyon to hyperspace, the idea of emptying our wallets for a simulated trip to space is getting easier and easier.
New rooms at the Grand Floridian
One of the buildings that housed hotel rooms at the Grand Floridian resort will soon be transformed into 200 Disney Vacation Club resort studios. These new studios will feature an all-new look that maintains the turn-of-the-century Victorian theme of the resort but with a fresh and modern approach. These studios will accommodate up to five guests each with a projected opening date of summer 2022.
New parade and cavalcade at Magic Kingdom
Aside from Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade that runs exclusively during Magic Kingdom’s after-hours holiday party, true parades have yet to make a return to Disney World since the pandemic reopening. That’s all about to change when Magic Kingdom’s Festival of Fantasy Parade returns in early 2022.
Weather permitting, Festival of Fantasy will take to the streets every afternoon and exact times will be available on Disney World’s daily calendar. If you aren’t a parade person, we recommend hopping in line for one of Magic Kingdom’s more popular attractions during this time. Wait times are usually much shorter because guests are waiting for the parade to roll by instead of waiting in line.
Parades may be on their way back, but that doesn’t mean the cavalcades Disney debuted to thwart COVID-era crowds are on their way out. The short, mini-parades are here to stay (for now) and Disney is even adding a new one to the lineup.
When the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade debuts at Magic Kingdom in early 2022, it will feature, according to Disney, “the most Disney characters of any cavalcade to date,” including favorites from “Moana,” “The Incredibles,” and “Coco.”
Like the current cavalcades, Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade will run multiple times daily and showtimes will be available in the My Disney Experience app.
New stage show at the Magic Kingdom
Since 2016, Mickey’s Royal Friendship Faire has played (almost) daily on Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage. Like much of Disney’s entertainment lineup, the show did not return when Disney World reopened in July 2020 after a months-long closure due to COVID-19.
During the recent Destination D23 fan event, Disney shared that the show will be replaced in early 2022 by the all-new Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire. Based on what Disney has shared so far, the two shows appear similar, but the new one will feature Mickey and friends in their shimmery, “ear”idescent 50th-anniversary duds.
Nighttime show returns to Hollywood Studios
Magic Kingdom isn’t the only park bolstering its entertainment next year. Disney also recently shared that Fantasmic! would be returning to Hollywood Studios’ Hollywood Hills Amphitheater sometime in 2022.
When it does return, it will do so with a new show scene with live performers, daring stunts, special effects and more. Disney has yet to share which characters will be featured in the new sequence, but we’re hoping a newer hit like “Coco” or “Moana” joins the classics like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin” that have been a part of the show since it opened.
Updated version of “Finding Nemo: The Musical”
Since Disney reopened after its temporary closure, fans have been wondering when “Finding Nemo: The Musical” would return to Animal Kingdom’s Theater in the Wild. We got our answer in September when Disney announced the show would not be returning, replaced instead by an updated version of the popular stage show.
“Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!” is set in the timeline of “Finding Dory” and begins in the familiar Marine Life Institute from the film. The same skilled puppeteers and popular sing-along songs will be there, but we’re guessing they’ll sneak a few new earworms in there, as well.
The show is currently scheduled to open sometime in 2022.
MagicBands have been around at Disney World for nearly a decade, so you are probably already familiar with their basic functionality. You can use a MagicBand to unlock your hotel room door, enter Disney’s theme parks, pay for food and purchases and link PhotoPass photos taken in the parks. You can also use it to tap into your attractions booked with the new Genie+ program.
The new MagicBand+ will have these same capabilities, along with additional features that will make your visit feel even more magical. MagicBand+ has the ability to light up and vibrate, allowing guests to interact with nighttime spectaculars, lands like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the golden “Disney Fab 50 Character Collection” statues placed around the park for the 50th-anniversary celebration.
You’ll have to purchase MagicBand+ if you want to use it (RIP complimentary MagicBands), so it’s worth pointing out that you don’t need one. With a combination of the My Disney Experience app and the Disney Magic Mobile service, you can use your phone to perform any of the above-mentioned tasks (though you do have to provide your own lights and vibrations).
Related: Is Disney’s new Genie+ worth it?
Amazon Alexa technology coming to Disney rooms
Beginning in 2022, all Walt Disney World hotel rooms will be outfitted with Echo Show devices pre-loaded with the new “Hey Disney!” Amazon Alexa skill. Soon, you’ll be able to ask your very own in-room voice assistant what time the fireworks start, when the next bus will arrive and more. You can even request to have towels and pillows delivered to your room.
In addition to useful planning tips and hotel requests, “Hey Disney!” will have fun features like Disney trivia, interactive adventures with favorite Disney characters and stories for kids. The “Hey Disney!” skill will be available to purchase for your at-home devices, too, allowing you to bring the magic of Disney into your home.
What visits to Disney World will be like in 2022
It is likely that the details surrounding a 2022 Disney World visit will evolve as the months pass, just as the rules and protocols evolved in 2021. However, there are things we know for sure.
First, we know that demand for the Disney parks is up and crowds have returned. While some days are certainly busier than others, long gone are the days of half-empty parks. If you want to experience a large number of attractions, you’ll probably want to utilize the 30 minutes of early access in the morning for Disney resort guests and/or the late-evening access given to deluxe resort guests on select nights.
We also know that if you want to minimize your time in line, you probably want to explore getting Genie+, at least for some of your park days. It adds $15 per person, per day to your total cost but in our tests, it saved three hours in line in one day.
You’ll still need to make an advance park pass reservation to visit in 2022, and if you want to dine in Disney’s sit-down restaurants, you’ll want to make your reservations 60 days before your trip starts.
Unless the pandemic worsens dramatically, it’s likely that visits to Disney in 2022 will continue to inch closer back to feeling normal in many respects. There will be more parades, nighttime shows and live entertainment than there was throughout much of 2020 and 2021.
But on the flip side, you will also have to pay for things that were free in the past. Complimentary Magic Bands for Disney resort guests and free FastPass selections are already gone. And, come January 1, so too is the free Magical Express Bus transportation to and from the Orlando International Airport.
That said, there’s still a lot to look forward to at Disney World in 2022 with the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel experience and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind debuts likely topping the excitement charts for many guests.
Featured image by Summer Hull/The Points Guy
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