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DISNEY NEWS ROUNDUP: 2023 Year in Review – 16 Top Stories at Walt Disney World –

DISNEY NEWS ROUNDUP: 2023 Year in Review – 16 Top Stories at Walt Disney World 2023 brought many changes to Walt Disney World. A few new restaurants, a new fireworks spectacular, and a major attraction all opened. Popular offerings like Happily Ever After and annual pass sales returned, while Disney dropped an unpopular resort fee and tweaked Genie+ to give people more options. The transformation of EPCOT is so close to being finished, with the last two projects being pushed back to a 2024 opening. Learn more about the top news stories of 2023 below. Editor’s Note: Top stories appear in chronological order. 1 – January 2023 – Disney World Ended Very Unpopular Extra Fee for Resort Guests In early 2023, Disney announced a very unpopular overnight parking fee for guests staying on Disney World property would end. Many saw the parking fee as a money grab; thankfully, though, Disney reversed some of the magic of staying on property. 2 – January 2023 – Splash Mountain’s Last Day of Operation Sunday, January 22, 2023, was Splash Mountain’s last day of operation. By 8:00 am on that morning, Disney Genie+ selection times for the attraction were already sold out, and many waited hours to ride the attraction on its last day. Splash Mountain closed on January 23, 2023. Imagineers have begun the process of transforming it into Tiana’ Bayou Adventure, which is set to open in late 2024. 3 – March 2023 – Roundup Rodeo BBQ Now Open in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Yee-haw! In March 2023, Andy’s backyard welcomed more toys at Roundup Rodeo BBQ in Toy Story Land. Serving barbecue-inspired comfort foods, this one-of-a-kind dining experience is the first “Toy Story” table-service restaurant in the world. The theming of the restaurant is amazing, while the food is hit or miss. Learn more at the link below. For a full review, food photos, and everything you need to know about Roundup Rodeo BBQ, click here. 4 – March 2023 – 50 th Anniversary Celebration Ended  After 18 months, the 50 th Anniversary Celebration at Walt Disney World officially ended on March 31, 2023. It was a very long celebration, and many felt like it was too long. We think one year would have been better. During January 2023-March 2023, the celebration felt tired, and we heard of many people experiencing celebration fatigue. Soon after the celebration, Disney began removing the 50 th Anniversary embellishments from Cinderella Castle. However, the delightful Beacons of Magic at Spaceship Earth, a short light and music show that plays throughout the evening, remains and is regularly updated depending on the season. Also, Disney confirmed that the Disney Fab 50 character statues throughout the parks will be sticking around. In the fall of 2023, the 50th-anniversary medallions were removed, so they are now timeless. 5 – April 3, 2023 – Happily Ever After and EPCOT Forever Return to Walt Disney World This Week Fan-favorite nighttime spectacular “Happily Ever After” returned to light up the night sky over Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park beginning April 3. The nightly fireworks show fully immerses guests in heartfelt Disney stories as brand-new projections extend down Main Street U.S.A., adding even more magic to this unforgettable spectacle. “EPCOT Forever” also returned to World Showcase Lagoon on April 3. The show sparks fond memories from the park’s rich history by featuring stirring renditions of memorable EPCOT music. 6 – April 4, 2023 – TRON Lightcycle / Run Opened at Magic Kingdom TRON Lightcycle / Run, located in Magic Kingdom, officially opened on April 4, 2023. It’s the fastest coaster attraction in a Disney theme park, alongside its sister coaster at Shanghai Disneyland. Guests can climb aboard Lightcycles for a thrilling race full of coaster thrills with speed, visual effects, music, and a one-of-a-kind ride system that creates an experience like no other. A virtual queue is still in place when TRON Lightcycle / Run and guests also have the option to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane entry for the attraction via the My Disney Experience app on the day of their visit. Learn more at the links below. Click here for our review and what you need to know about TRON Lightcycle / Run. Click here for everything you need to know about the story behind TRON Lightcycle / Run. 7 – April 20, 2023 – Disney Announced New Walt Disney World Annual Pass Sales to Resume  After being on hold for over one and a half years, Walt Disney World annual pass sales resumed to all guests on April 20. After being on hold during the pandemic, a new pass program debuted in September 2021. However, Disney paused sales for most guests in December 2021. Only current passholder renewals and one pass type available to Florida residents have been available. Many locals, DVC Members, and guests who visit often have been eager to purchase the passes. While Disney stated that sales would be limited, only sales on April 20 had wait times to purchase. All annual pass ticket types are currently available. 8 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Celebrated its 25 th Anniversary On Earth Day, April 22, 1998, Walt Disney World invited guests to discover a one-of-a-kind theme park where the magic of the natural world could inspire them. The opening of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park introduced a whole new way to appreciate, enjoy, and interact with animals while delivering incredible new stories celebrating our relationship with the environment. Twenty-five years later, the fourth and largest Walt Disney World theme park still brings together the love of nature and the environment with the magic of Disney. Visit the links below to learn more about Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Click here for “Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park Celebrates 25 Years Showcasing the Magic of Nature.” Click here for “Meet the Residents of Animal Kingdom Who’ve Inspired Guests for 25 Years.” Click here for “The Legacy of Animal Kingdom 25 Years Later.” 9 – June 30, 2023 – New Update to Disney Genie+ Service Now in Effect at Walt Disney World At the end of June, Disney changed the Disney Genie+ plan and how guests purchase it. Rather than only one option that includes all parks, guests can now select either a single-park option or a multiple-park option, subject to availability. With this option, prices will likely be lower at some theme parks compared to others. Magic Kingdom, so far, has been consistently priced higher than other parks and the same price as the multi-park option. We’re happy to see this change because it reduces the cost of Genie+ at the other parks, saving guests money. Guests continue to be able to purchase Disney Genie+ service through the My Disney Experience app on the day of their visit. See the screenshots below for an example of pricing for the service. Pricing continues to be variable based on demand. 10 – July 2023 – Trail’s End Restaurant & Crockett’s Tavern Reopen with New Menu and Refurbished Eating Area In mid-April, Trail’s End Restaurant at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground closed for refurbishment. The popular all-you-care-to-eat table service restaurant is now a market-style quick-service restaurant. On July 27, the restaurant and the adjoining Crockett’s Tavern reopened with new menus and an updated look. P & J’s Southern Takeout, the previous quick-service restaurant, is now closed. As we noted before, we are sad that Trail’s End is no longer a table service restaurant. It was a favorite dining location of ours for many years. Click here for a look at the new menu and refurbished eating area at Trail’s End and Crockett’s Tavern. 11 – August 2023 – New Table Service Restaurant Opens in the Japan Pavilion In August 2023, Japan Pavilion’s newest restaurant, Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya. Cindy loved the atmosphere, and the food was outstanding. There is a wide variety of dishes for every taste and budget. We highly recommend this restaurant and can’t wait to go back! Learn more at the link below. Click here for “BRAND NEW! 10 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya – the Japan Pavilion’s Newest Restaurant in EPCOT.” 12 – October 16, 2023 – Journey of Water: Inspired by Moana Opened Walt Disney World Resort guests visiting EPCOT can now voyage into an all-new adventure with Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. Guests can explore a beautifully landscaped walking trail with fun and surprises around each turn as they engage with water in magical ways like Moana did with the ocean – from a simple greeting to a high five or even a crashing wave of fun. This lush and tropical path is the first Disney Parks experience to immerse guests into a world inspired by the hit Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “Moana.” In addition to experiencing this new attraction, guests have the opportunity to meet Moana in a new area of World Nature. Nestled across from Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, this is the perfect place for fans to snap a few photos, share in a hug, or even recount their important learnings about water conservation with the Wayfinder herself. 13 – November 30, 2023 – The Hatbox Ghost Materializes at Haunted Mansion! The legendary Hatbox Ghost is now materializing within the Haunted Mansion in Liberty Square at Magic Kingdom. The iconic specter comes out to socialize with guests since November 30 as they pass the Endless Hallway in their Doom Buggies. The Hatbox Ghost was also recently featured in the 2023 Disney Studios film “Haunted Mansion.” Learn more at the link below. Click here for more details at the Hatbox Ghost, now at the Haunted Mansion! 14 – December 5, 2023 – “Walt the Dreamer” Statue and World Celebration Gardens Open at EPCOT Walt Disney Legacy Award recipient Cast Members were among the first to see the all-new “Walt the Dreamer” statue that debuted as a focal point of the stunning World Celebration Gardens. The new “Walt the Dreamer” statue shows Walt later in his life when he was dreaming up the initial concepts for the park and the overall Florida Project. His relaxed and reflective demeanor was important to the design of this statue, a nod to the pure optimism he felt for the future and the magic of possibility that was the basis for the dream he never saw come to life. The beautiful greenspaces throughout the World Celebration Gardens feature ample seating and shade, as well as a central planter based on the five rings of the iconic EPCOT logo. Guests are invited to connect with one another and the nature around them in this lush new area. Each of the garden spaces will have their own identities and change with the EPCOT festivals throughout the year. Click here for a first look at the “Walt Disney Dreamer” statue at EPCOT. 15 – December 5, 2023 – “Luminous the Symphony of Us” Debuts at EPCOT Guests visiting EPCOT can now enjoy a brand new nighttime spectacular, “Luminous The Symphony of Us,” which debuted on December 5, 2023. The new show shines a light on the shared experiences that connect people across the globe. With a dazzling display of fireworks, fountains, and lights, the show features two original songs plus new arrangements of iconic Disney hits that enliven the story. Learn about what we thought of the show at the link below. Click here for our review of “Luminous the Story of Us” and what you need to know. 16 – December 14, 2023 – Summer House on the Lake Opens at Disney Springs Summer House on the Lake officially opened its doors at Disney Springs West Side at Walt Disney World on December 14, 2023. It’s summer all year round at the newest restaurant by Lettuce Entertain You, where coastal-chic vibes, a California-inspired menu, and the brand’s first-ever “Cookie Bar” come together to bring the beauty of summer indoors at The Most Magical Place On Earth. Reservations for Summer House on the Lake are now open and can be made on OpenTable. Follow on Instagram and Facebook at @SummerHouseOnTheLake. The restaurant is located in the West Side neighborhood at  Disney Springs  and is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Fridays from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. and on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.

This content was originally published here.

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