Family Travel: What’s New at Walt Disney World Resort?

Part of the China Pavilion at Epcot. Photo by Janna Gaber
Part of the China Pavilion at Epcot. Photo by Janna Gaber

Epcot

Epcot is our family’s favorite Walt Disney Park. Its World Showcase has 11 national pavilions which feature the architecture, culture and foods of countries from around the globe, from China to Germany to Canada. We always start at one end of the pavilions and sample the food and shops at every single national pavilion.

The big news these days can be found at the Norway Pavilion, where Frozen Ever After is now open. The family-friendly ride features characters from the Disney hit Frozen, and takes guests on a trip through the fictional Norwegian town of Arendelle, all set to the musical’s well-known songs. Adoring little fans can also visit the famed princesses, Elsa and Anna, at their Royal Sommerhus next door. My favorite part of any visit to the Norway pavilion includes a stop at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe for a pretzel-shaped sweet almond bread pastry.

New attractions at Walt Disney World - Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion takes guests through the kingdom of Arendelle from the Disney animated hit, “Frozen.” Photo by Matt Stroshane
Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion takes guests through the kingdom of Arendelle from the Disney animated hit, “Frozen.” Photo by Matt Stroshane

Epcot is also home to some of Walt Disney World’s top thrill rides, including the ever-popular Test Track and Mission: SPACE (not recommended for those who get motion sick). The hang-gliding experience, Soarin’, has also been a crowd favorite – and it’s certainly one of mine. In the past, Soarin’ took guests on a hang-gliding adventure over California, but a brand new Soarin’ Around the World opened in June. This new “flight” takes guests over some of the world’s most unique man-made and natural attractions, from the Great Wall of China to Sydney Harbor.

The authors son checks out the Star Wars Launch Bay. Photo by Janna Graber
The author’s son takes a photo in the Star Wars Launch Bay at Hollywood Studios. Photo by Janna Graber

Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios highlights the world of show business with thrilling rides, Broadway-style shows and entertainment. Many attractions feature favorite TV or movie themes, from the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

I’ll admit that my favorite ride at Hollywood Studios is still Toy Story Midway Mania!, a 3-D ride-game where you can shoot at moving targets as you move through the game. (What’s not to like about that?) This attraction has always been one of the most popular in the park; happily, a third track was recently added to move the line through quicker.

The new Star Wars Launch Bay is an interactive walk-through attraction featuring all things Star Wars. Guests can meet Chewbacca or even Kylo Ren. At the Launch Bay Theater, you can see a 10-minute feature video celebrating the Star Wars saga and then learn more about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with some behind-the-scenes exhibits.

The new nightly Star Wars fireworks show, “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular,” combines fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and video projections to turn familiar buildings into Star Wars scenes. Photo by Gregg Newton
The new nightly Star Wars fireworks show, “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular,” combines fireworks, pyrotechnics, special effects and video projections to turn familiar buildings into Star Wars scenes. Photo by Gregg Newton

Star Wars is also the theme of Hollywood Studio’s new nighttime show – Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. This new nightly extravaganza uses fireworks, pyrotechnics and video projection to turn familiar buildings into Star Wars destinations.

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