Life is always changing, even at places with time-honored traditions like Walt Disney World Resort. The Orlando-based Park first opened in 1971 and has grown into a world of its own, including four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), two water theme parks, six golf courses, two spas and 30 resort hotels, as well as many outlying hotels such as Caribe Royale Orlando in Central Florida.
Yet Disney has never been content to remain with the status quo. The resort opened several new attractions this year. Here’s a run-down of what’s on offer:
Blast off with Mission: SPACE
If you’ve ever dreamed of going to the moon, then Epcot’s newest attraction, Mission: SPACE is right down your alley. Designed using NASA expertise, Mission: SPACE is a simulated space flight so real that you’ll swear you left earth. Your body will certainly feel the other-world effects. The initial “launch” is so intense that riders cannot even lift their heads (centrifuge technology generates this true-to-life sensation). Later, riders experience the feeling of weightlessness. Guests must be 44 inches tall to ride; those prone to motion sickness should skip this attraction.
Strike up the band with Mickey’s PhilharMagic
Among the best attractions at Disney’s Magic Kingdom is the new 3-D film, Mickey’s PhilharMagic. While the eye-popping film is titled for Disney’s biggest star, the cast includes beloved favorites like Aladdin, Peter Pan and Simba. Surround sound theater effects immerse the audience in this animated experience, which is enjoyable for young and old. While several of resort’s other popular 3-D films include features that might be too edgy for younger children, Mickey’s PhilharMagic was designed specifically for the entire family.
Light up the Sky at Magic Kingdom
Disney World Resort has long been known for its nightly fireworks shows, but the Magic Kingdom’s bold, new pyrotechnic efforts in “Wishes” take the show to new heights. This 12-minute spectacle is perfectly synchronized with thrilling music and entertaining narration by Jiminy Cricket. The show is performed above and around Cinderella’s Castle, allowing guests many excellent viewing locations. At several times the size of “Fantasy in the Sky,” Magic Kingdom’s previous fireworks show, “Wishes” puts most city firework displays to shame.
Reflections of China
China has changed a great deal over the years, so it’s only logical that Disney would create a new version of the Circle-Vision 360 film on China that has been showing at Epcot since 1982. This outstanding movie captures today’s China, from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong and Macau to lively Shanghai. Narrated by poet Li Bai, the film is an excellent window into this unique Asian world.
Blast from the Past: Disney’s Pop Century Resort
Some people never really let go of their childhood. For those who remember the good ol’ days fondly, Disney’s new Pop Century Resort will be a blast to the past. This new 2,800-room time capsule offers larger-than-life icons in separate sections featuring the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, each “decade” offering a unique experience. The 1960′s area, for example, is designed in psychedelic colors, adorned with a gigantic Play-Doh Peter, humongous yo-yos and centered on the Hippy Dippy Pool, while the 1980s center on a 40-foot Rubik’s Cube and gigantic Sony Walkman. Rooms in this value-category resort start at $77/night.
If You Go
Walt Disney World Resort
Where to Stay
There are over 30 different themed resorts to choose from at Walt Disney World Resort, each with varying features, benefits and price points.
Bring the RV or set up your tent at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. Sites start at $34/night. There are 784 campsites with hookups, as well as six-person air-conditioned cabins. Transportation is provided to all theme parks, and there are numerous activities to choose from, including a petting farm, campfire sing-alongs and a museum. For information call 407-824-2900.
Disney’s Value Resorts
Rooms start at $77/nights at Disney’s Pop Century, All-Star Sports Resort, All-Star Music Resort and All-Star Movies Resort. Transportation is provided to theme parks, and there are restaurant facilities on-site.
Disney’s Moderate Resorts
These resorts transport guests to other parts of the world, including Port Orleans Resort-Riverside, Port Orleans Resort-French Quarter, the Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs Resort. Rooms start from $133/night.
Disney’s Home-away-from-Home Resorts
If you like cooking facilities and a place to relax after a long day at the park, check out these fully functional home units, including the Old Key West Resort, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, the Beach Club Villas and the Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Prices start at $214/night.
Disney’s Deluxe Resorts
Those looking for an unforgettable resort experience may want to try Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is set on a wild animal preserve, or the Polynesian Resort, Yacht Club Resort, Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, the Boardwalk Inn or Disney’s Contemporary Resort. Rooms start at $194/night.