Exciting Disney Happenings in 2018
The next few years promise to be the most exciting at Disney theme parks since basically the invention of Disney theme parks. That’s not an exaggeration, either. Since The Walt Disney Company delivered a series of 17 stunning announcements about the future of their parks, Disney fanatics have waited breathlessly for the impending changes. Thankfully, several of them start in 2018. So, as 2017 comes to a close, let’s take this opportunity to discuss the exciting Disney theme park happenings in 2018.
Seven Days a Week in 2018!
Disney introduced the Epcot International Festival of the Arts in 2017. It ran for three days a week for a period of five weeks from January 13th through February 20th. The goal was to expand Epcot’s World Showcase food kiosks even more. Disney had variations of the original Epcot International Food & Wine Festival more days than not in 2017 for this reason.
In 2018, they’re expanding their plans. The next iteration of the Epcot International Festival of the Arts will run from January 12th through February 19th next year. While you may wonder how that’s longer, the catch is the operating period. The Festival of the Arts is now open seven days a week, meaning that Disney’s added about 20 more days to the proceedings. If you visit in January or February, you’ll get to enjoy more than a dozen Food Studios, each of which has unique culinary fare.
The 2017 version of the festival was a huge success, making its expansion a foregone conclusion. Three or four years from now, you may feel confused when Disney IS NOT running some sort of festival at Epcot. They currently run four, and each one has added several days during its most recent run. And that’s a good thing since you’ll always have a new reason to visit Epcot.
The End of the Road
Are you a fan of major league baseball? Do you root for the Atlanta Braves like any good-hearted person? If so, I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that Atlanta’s run as a part of Walt Disney World empire is coming to a close. The good news is that you’ll have one more chance to watch the Braves before they move southwest to North Port, Florida.
Yes, the annual tradition of watching Atlanta Braves spring training games at ESPN Wide World of Sports ends this year. The Braves had tried to move to a more conveniently located part of Florida for a couple of years. They finally found one and gave notice to Disney. That means 2018 is your final opportunity to watch MLB spring training at Disney, a truly regrettable turn of events for fans of America’s game and America’s team.
UPDATE on 2/1/2018: Since the Atlanta Braves Training Stadium isn’t going to be ready for 2019, Disney obliged them with another year as host.
The first spring training game is on February 26th, while the last one takes place on March 24th. You can read the full schedule at this tweet.
On the plus side, ESPN Wide World of Sports isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s expanding in 2018. Disney built a new venue that will debut in 2018. You can read the details and see an artist’s rendering on the Parks & Resorts blog.
Do You Like Toys?
Prior to 2017, the most recently constructed themed land at a Disney theme park was Cars Land in 2012. Presuming that we don’t count the New Fantasyland reboot, Walt Disney World hadn’t had a major expansion since the opening of Asia at Disney’s Animal Kingdom…in 1999.
Given the paucity of true expansions, the recent timeline at the parks is shocking. Pandora – The World of Avatar opened in 2017, and another sci-fi themed land based on a film franchise debuts in 2019. Maybe you’ve heard of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…
In between these two major expansions, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will add another themed land. Yes, Toy Story Land is almost ready to open to the public. In fact, the construction process has been so smooth that many of the major pieces are already in place. Still, the expectation is that Disney will save Toy Story Land until Memorial Day weekend in 2018, as that’s their favorite holiday to reveal major new attractions and expansions.
What’s the Story?
What should we expect from Toy Story Land? Disney’s actually been forthcoming about the details well in advance of new land’s debut. We know that it’s 11 acres in size, which is smaller than the 26-acre expansion for New Fantasyland. It’s on a par with the 12-acre spacing of Pandora – The World of Avatar, though. Given that Pandora has reinvigorated Disney’s Animal Kingdom, there’s plenty of cause for optimism with Toy Story Land.
The new themed land will add two new attractions to Hollywood Studios. It’ll also claim Toy Story Midway Mania! by adding a new entrance. You’ll no longer enter the attraction via Pixar Place. Instead, you’ll head through Toy Story Land, which makes sense in theory but will require an adjustment period for a lot of us.
As for the original attractions, you’ve likely heard about one of them. The construction phase of Slinky Dog Dash is so far along that the roller coaster tracks are in place, the coaster carts are onsite, and Jessie & Rex are already in place above the ride. In other words, it’s nearly ready. But what is it?
Out of all the Toy Story characters, the oldest is the Slinky Dog. This toy actually traces its history back to a couple of years prior to Disneyland’s opening. It’s stood the test of time as a simple but fun concept for children. Disney has built a large-scale production of the dog as a coaster cart. It’s the setting for Slinky Dog Dash, which is NOT a clone of Slinky Dog Spin or Slinky Dog Zigzag Spin, international Disney rides that use the same character.
The premise is that Andy has built a “Mega Coaster Play Kit” roller coaster in his backyard. Riders jump into the Slinky Dog and enjoy a family-friendly ride past giant-sized versions of the various Toy Story characters. No, this won’t be a thrill ride like Avatar Rite of Passage or Expedition Everest. Instead, it’s a family coaster with a single aspiration: to put a smile on the face of everyone who rides it.
Less is known about the other attraction at Toy Story Land. Alien Swirling Saucers may sound like a certain ride at Universal Studios Florida (Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl), but it’s actually a kindred spirit to a Cars Land attraction. It apparently employs the same concept as Mater’s Junkyard Jamboree, although it replaces the Cars characters with The Claw and the Little Green Men from Toy Story.
The premise is that the aliens want to capture your toy car using The Claw. You spin and move around the attraction’s floor to avoid them. Despite the presence of The Claw, nothing Disney has said indicates that you will move off the ground on this ride. That would be a pleasant surprise if you could get chosen, though. Alien Swirling Saucers is a straightforward themed ride that’s intended to please children in particular.
Finally, Toy Story Land will have a new restaurant called Woody’s Lunch Box. It’s a Quick Service restaurant that looks like your school lunch box expanded hundreds of times in size. Disney’s promising old school root beer floats and other childhood favorites. We won’t get a full menu released until 2018, though.
Do You Like Food?
Disney Springs is home to the other exciting 2018 additions. Several new eateries are planned for the next year, four of which are in the same complex. Disney news fanatics are likely tired of hearing about The Edison by now, as it’s been promised for several years now. This nightclub is already popular in Los Angeles, but its Orlando version hasn’t gone smoothly. It’s been delayed several times. A recent marketing post indicated that it will definitely arrive in 2018, though. And it’s about time. Seriously, I planned to eat here during a vacation in April of 2016!
Disney recently announced three other establishments will join The Edison in the same building area. Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante is, well, an Italian place with a twist. It leads to a sub-basement where Enzo’s Hideaway Tunnel Bar uses the themed underground tunnels to sneak Prohibition-era booze past the cops. Anyone who loves Italian food and booze will relish a visit to Enzo’s restaurant and (not so) hidden speakeasy bar. If just want a pizza, however, you can head over to Pizza Ponte, the nearby Quick Service establishment built by the restauranteurs, the Patina Restaurant Group.
All four of these restaurants and bars are located in the same block/building area of Disney Springs. If you’re in the mood for something classier (or less gangster), Wine Bar George is also finally set to open. It too has suffered some delays, but sommelier George Miliotes is finally ready to offer more than 100 vintage grape concoctions to Disney fans. Personally, I’d go with the speakeasy, though.
Obviously, Disney has big things in store for 2018. A longer festival, a final year of Braves’ spring training, several new restaurants and bars, and even an entirely new themed land are on the docket over the next 12 months. And the amazing part is that 2019 will bring even greater improvements to the parks.
After reading this, you should have one overriding thought. You need more Disney Vacation Club points!!!