Nighttime spectaculars, new characters, attractions: Disney shares what’s ahead in 2023

New additions coming to each park at Walt Disney World

New Experiences and Returning Favorites for the Whole Family to Enjoy Take Center Stage Throughout 2023 at Walt Disney World Resort (WKMG/Disney)

BAY LAKE, Fla. – Walt Disney World is preparing to thrill its guests with new experiences coming this year and beyond.

The resort on Wednesday shared an exciting lineup of new additions, including new characters meet-and-greet, nighttime spectaculars, restaurants and updates, at Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. The announcements come as Walt Disney World prepares to bid farewell to its 50th anniversary celebration, which concludes March 31.

See each park’s new experiences below.

Disney’s Magic Kingdom

TRON Lightcycle / Run at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort (WKMG)

One of the most exciting thrills coming to Disney’s Magic Kingdom is the new addition of TRON Lightcycle / Run. This thrilling new roller-coaster attraction in Tomorrowland is one of Disney’s fastest attractions. Beginning April 4, guests can climb aboard Lightcycles for a thrilling race throughout the Grid. The attraction blends coaster thrills with speed, visual effects, music and a one-of-a-kind ride system to create an experience like no other. When the attraction opens, guests will need a virtual queue or Lightning Lane entry, which can be booked through the My Disney Experience App. The attraction will also feature new merchandise for guests to take home.

Beginning April 3 at Magic Kingdom, guests will once again see “Happily Ever After” light up the night sky over Cinderella Castle. (WKMG)

Fans of Disney’s nighttime spectacular “Happily Ever After” will rejoice when the show makes its grand return on April 3. The nightly fireworks show will fully immerse guests in heartfelt Disney stories, and new this year, brand-new projections of Disney characters will extend down Main Street U.S.A., adding even more magic to this unforgettable spectacle.

Some new characters are also making apperances later this fall.

Mirabel meet and greet coming to Magic Kingdom (Disney)

Over at Fairytale Garden, just steps from Cinderella Castle and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café, Mirabel from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ hit film “Encanto” will greet guests. Disney said the area will be decked out in whimsical décor inspired by La Familia Madrigal. Until now, “Encanto” fans have only seen Mirabel in the “Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade,” which debuted last year.

Disney said Mirabel’s meet-and-greet adds to a number of others recently reintroduced, like Pete’s Silly Sideshow, Enchanted Tales with Belle and Ariel in her underwater grotto.

Tiana’s Bayou Adventure opening late 2024 at Walt Disney World (Disney Parks Blog)

On Wednesday, Disney leaders also provided a small update on the construction of an all-new attraction, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The new attraction, taking over the former Splash Mountain attraction, is set to open in 2024. Disney said later this summer guests will be able to see a tiara-topped water tower emblazoned with the Tiana’s Foods logo make its way to the Magic Kingdom.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Mickey Mouse at Disney's Animal Kingdom (McReynolds)

And 2023 is also going to be a wild time at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This year, the theme park is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

With the return of entertainment such as “Festival of the Lion King” and “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!,” Disney said there has never been a better time to explore this park. Disney said to celebrate the milestone anniversary, new sweet and savory treats, specialty merchandise and limited-time character sightings will be found across the the park.

In 2023, Walt Disney World Resort is the place to embrace thrills of all kinds. Exciting new experiences set to debut this year include one of the fastest coasters at any Disney theme park, a new restaurant to savor, the continued transformation of EPCOT, returning nighttime spectaculars filling night skies throughout the resort and so much more. (DISNEY) (Disney)

In fact, beginning April 22, which also happens to be Earth Day, fans of Moana will get to meet her for the first time along the shores of Discovery Island.


World Celebration neighborhood at EPCOT (Disney)

EPCOT will have a number of thrills for guests to experience later this year as it debuts new areas as part of its historic and largest transformation. The park is bringing the next generation of immersive storytelling to life through new attractions and experiences.

Later this fall, guests will be welcomed into World Celebration, which will offer a beautiful hub divided into several different gardens, beautiful festival displays, Dreamers Point and CommuniCore Hall and CommuniCore Plaza, a multi-use facility and outdoor event space.

Mickey Mouse and friends will also have a new home at Communicore Hall opening later this year as part of the EPCOT transformation. (Disney)

On Wednesday, Disney shared a new rendering of Communicore Hall, which will also be home to new meet-and-greets for Mickey and Minnie Mouse. Disney also shared news that the long-awaited Figment meet-and-greet, which was first announced at the D23 Expo last year, will make its debut later this summer at the Imagination! pavilion.

Mickey Mouse and friends will also have a new home at Communicore Hall opening later this year as part of the EPCOT transformation (Disney)

Just steps from World Celebration is World Nature. This area is home to the all-new “Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana” experience. The fun interactive outdoor trail offers guests a chance to play and interact with water as it travels from the sky to the oceans and back again.

“By engaging and playing with water, we hope our guests take away a stewardship and friendship towards out natural resources and they want to protect water just like Moana,” said Chelsea Whikehart, producer at Walt Disney Imagineering.

Moana figure unveiled at EPCOT, 16 foot tall Te Fiti statue is part of Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana (Disney Imagineering/Instagram)

Disney said the new experience will open this fall.

As Walt Disney World wraps up its 50th anniversary celebration, the nightttime spectacular “Harmonious” will come to an end. “EPCOT Forever” will make its return to World Showcase Lagoon starting April 3. Later this year, Walt Disney World plans to introduce a new show to World Showcase Lagoon.

Concept art for an all-new nighttime spectacular at EPCOT in 2023 (Disney)

“An all-new nighttime spectacular takes to EPCOT’s lagoon in late 2023. This special show, through music, pyrotechnics, lasers and lighting - our new music as well as our beloved Disney songs reflect the commonality in all of us,” said Tom Vazzana, director of creative development at Walt Disney World live entertainment. In addition to the new show, later this year EPCOT will be the host for the global celebration of The Walt Disney Company’s 100th anniversary.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Roundup Rodeo BBQ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios (WKMG)

Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, some new toys will be welcomed into Andy’s backyard at Toy Story Land.

Beginning March 23, guests will get to experience the all-new Roundup Rodeo BBQ restaurant. This restaurant brings to life the stories, characters and heart from the award-winning Disney Pixar “Toy Story” films. It is a place where guests “shrink” to the size of a toy and feel like they have stepped into a clever, whimsical world filled with beloved playthings.

Offering the same menu at both lunch and dinner, Roundup Rodeo BBQ will serve up a variety of delicious foods including scratch-made cheddar biscuits, fresh salads, delicious house-smoked meats and so much more.

Disney Springs and Disney resorts

There are so many ways to experience the feeling of a Disney Thrill across the Walt Disney World Resort. Whether it’s trying a new attraction, meeting a favorite Disney Character face to face, eating a classic Disney snack or ending the night with a nighttime spectacular, there is something to thrill the whole family. At Disney Springs, guests can experience the thrill of Summer House on the Lake, opening in late 2023 featuring California-inspired artisanal pizzas, pastas, fresh salads, sandwiches and more. (DISNEY) (Disney)

Disney Springs is set to get a new restaurant for Florida foodies to try in the future.

Summer House on the Lake will open its doors to guests later this year. Located next to Salt & Straw and AMC Theaters, this restaurant will embody a breezy, beach house vibe that will pair perfectly with the sweeping views of Lake Buena Vista. Leaders said the restuarant will be serving up California cuisine with some local seafood favorites.

At Disney Springs, guests can experience the thrill of Summer House on the Lake, opening in late 2023 featuring California-inspired dishes. (Disney)

Some of the items on the menu include salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas, tacos and a space focused just on cookies and pastries. This will be the company’s third Summer House restaurant, with other locations in Chicago and Maryland.

Beginning April 1, over at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, guests will once again get to dine at Narcoossee’s. Guests will see a refreshed menu offering a perfect balance of updated classics and new culinary delights. The culinary teams also said chefs plan to bring back house specialties like lobster bisque and new dishes like Blackened Redfish.

At Disney’s BoardWalk, guests can experience the thrill of CakeBake Shop, a new bakery coming late 2023. (Disney)

Meanwhile, over at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort, construction continues on the all-new Cake Bake Shop by Gwendolyn Rogers. Disney described the shop as having a whimsical atmosphere that will be serving up handmade cakes, cookies, French macarons, brownies, dessert bars, pies and cheesecakes. It plans to open sometime this year.

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About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.