The new year brings fun and excitement everywhere but especially at Disney. With each new year comes a fresh Disney Vacation Club Member point allotment as your use year arrives. January means Walt Disney World Marathon weekend early in the month and the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts shortly after. With continued reopenings, regular refurbishments and new rides and restaurants, there’s so much more to know! We’ve got it all for you here each month. Whether you’re planning your next vacation or hoping to be inspired to book one, we hope this Walt Disney World news and updates roundup helps to keep you in the know.
Here on the blog, we aim to keep DVC Members and Disney fans up to date with information that can enhance their next Disney World vacation. So what else is going on these days at the most magical place on earth? Enjoy these Walt Disney World
Walt Disney World
January 2023 News and Updates
The 50th Anniversary is Now Limited Time Magic
It may not have lived up to the hype but the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Walt Disney World is taking place during quite a time. Some offerings have already gone away but there is a lot still going on for the 50th. Miss you, Kite Tails! The celebration launched October 1st, 2021 but has always been slated for eighteen months. The resort wide overlay comes to an end March 31st, 2023. That gives you a few months left to enjoy the earidescence of it all.
Some things will stay. Disney has announced the Spaceship Earth lighting addition at Epcot will be a permanent feature. Each season, the park icon lights up to new music for a limited time to celebrate the current offering. Will that continue? That we don’t know. But the Spaceship Earth lights might be the most beloved thing to come out out of this era.
Continued Reopenings At Walt Disney World Resort
There are still many restaurants, shops, shows, special offerings and more that haven’t returned since Walt Disney World parks and resorts reopened in 2020. We’re dedicated to including offerings that have not returned in our Disney World updates and also note progress on what’s still missing so you can be informed. For example, Disney proudly announced trams would return in 2022 then quietly removed related information online late in the year. Only Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have trams at this time. Disney also promised character meet and greets would return to normal by this summer. As we enter into a new year, many character meets are still distanced, drive by or float by style. We’re also keeping you up to date with what is back so you can plan different things you’ve missed into your upcoming trips! It feels great to finally get to enjoy old favorites again.
Trams, Where Art Thou
In 2021, Disney shared trams would return to all four Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in 2022. Trams take guests from their cars to near the front of the parks and back at the end of their visit. A welcome form of transportation for tired feet at the end of the night. Remember Epcot has one of the largest parking lots in the entire country! As the end of the year approached, Disney removed wording from their site that suggested trams would still return in 2022. Perhaps better luck in 2023?
This isn’t the first time we’ve been told specific things would return to normal without follow through. The Disney dining plan and regular character meet and greets have both been promised without delivery. Hopefully the rest of the meet and greets are back to normal this year. We’ll keep you updated on all of this moving forward. Now that Bob Iger is back as Disney CEO it would be great to see the parks finally return to normal with everything open and operating as it should be.
A Germany Pavilion Store Has Reopened
Volkskunst in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot has reopened. The special shops in each country are part of what makes World Showcase a delight to explore. Now you can find interesting trinkets and treasures again in this shop. Cuckoo clocks, nods to Snow White and steins can all be found in this corner of Germany. Some of the best Disney World news is the little things like this.
Additional Restaurants Returning to Normal
Two of the most iconic Disney World restaurants are returning to normal in early 2023. Cinderella’s Royal Table is located inside Cinderella Castle and serves up memorable dining experiences. As of February 28th, 2023 the characters will finally return! This restaurant has been open again for such a long time and operating without the full experience since it reopened. Now guests will be able to get the full royal experience yet again as the princesses return to this character dining venue.
Chef Mickey’s is returning to normal as well but in another way. From Disney’s site: “Now through February 28, this restaurant offers family-style dining. The buffet experience will return on March 1. Check back soon to view the buffet menu.” This is a popular restaurant as well and one of the many unique dining options at Disney’s Contemporary Resort next to Magic Kingdom.
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2023
The 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend takes place January 5th through the 8th. If you’re interested in participating at a later time, this event is typically always held around the first weekend of January every year. Christmas cheer is still going strong at Disney World for these races. This is the longest distance race event at Disney at 26.2 miles on a course that usually takes runners through all four parks. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend also presents the Goofy and Dopey Challenges. These invite runners to participate in multiple or all race events of the weekend!
So what does race weekend mean for those visiting but not participating? Usually not much except for some early morning rerouting. The races start before the sun is up and end pretty early. The one to watch is always the full marathon on Sunday. This is usually wrapping up around lunch time and may cause some delays as you’re traveling around property. The course goes down World Drive, the main road at Disney World that leads to Magic Kingdom, and crosses some other important routes. Running races have been going on at Disney World for decades at this point and organization is key when it comes to pleasing runners and day guests.
You may notice on the DVC point chart 2023 lineup that January is still a non-peak travel period. Despite the popularity of runDisney races, there is often a lull of crowds at Disney after the big holiday rush. This means while many travel in for race weekend fun, you can still expect to spend less points for your stay. If you’re staying at a DVC resort during the races, it’s possible you’ll be able to see it all happening from your hotel. I recommend at least taking a peak outside if you’re up early! Especially if you’re staying in Epcot area resorts on the water for the marathon. This is close to the end of the race and it’s really special to see people accomplishing something so grand. Or should I say, grand and miraculous? The finish line isn’t too far from Spaceship Earth!
Splash Mountain to Close Permanently January 23rd
The Frontierland attraction that takes guests down a memorable drop will soon close for a major transformation. Splash Mountain will go away forever on January 23rd. The ride will reopen some time in 2024 as Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. The update will feature characters from the 2009 animated classic film The Princess and The Frog and some new ones too. Anyone who has stood on the bridges around Splash Mountain and watched guests’ reactions after the drop knows this is a special ride. The joy on people’s faces says it all. The layout of the ride won’t be changed so you can expect the same great thrills. With a closure of this length, it’s expected the same track, drops and such will be part of the new attraction.
Splash Mountain already features many bayou like spaces inside. However, it is very stylistic in its shapes and art aesthetic. I’m hoping we see quite the transformation with the use of new lighting and animatronics. From what we’ve seen in the concept art, the new ride should be stunning. Get your last ride in on this classic version of the Magic Kingdom attraction on January 22nd or sooner. You can read more about Disney World news and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure on the Disney Parks Blog.
EPCOT International Festival of the Arts Opens January 13th
The home of Spaceship Earth has also become the home of festivals. In 2023, the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts runs from January 13th through February 20th. This is one of the shorter festivals but has a similar structure to other Epcot events. Expect food booths with delicious items inspired by art or art themselves. On the stage in the America pavilion you can enjoy shows with Broadway performers. EPCOT International Festival of the Arts also has quite a few communal and individual art projects around for guests to participate in. This event takes place during normal park hours and is included with a regular day ticket.
Harmonious Going Away at the End of the 50th
We knew a new nighttime show was coming to Epcot, we just didn’t know when. Head of parks Josh D’Amaro shared at the 2022 D23 Expo that the park would once again be given a fresh firework show. This Disney World news came as a surprise for many as Harmonious was brand new and seemingly meant to stay. Now Disney has included Harmonious in the round up of things going away after the 50th anniversary celebration at Disney World. The celebration officially ends March 31st, 2023. We can assume that will be the last day to see Harmonious.
This is an update because anyone could have easily perceived the new Epcot show to debut later in the year, perhaps for the actual one hundred year anniversary of the company. At this time we don’t know if Epcot will be in between shows for a while or not. It’s still a mystery if all of the Harmonious hardware installed in World Showcase Lagoon will also be removed along with the show. Just speculating here but this could result in some construction considering it took a while for it to be constructed. Then again, Epcot has one of the two big firework shows held each night so that surely makes it a priority. I’m sure we’ll hear more soon since this is just a few months away!
Disney Cruise Line Celebrates 25 Years
Just a short, one hour car ride from Disney World will bring you to the Port Canaveral Disney Cruise Line terminal. We know many Disney Vacation Club Members love Disney Cruise Line, too. For that reason, we’re sailing in with this fun update. The 25 year celebration in 2023 commemorates the founding of Disney Cruise Line. Here’s what you need to know. Disney Cruise Line sailings will celebrate from May to September of 2023 with a Silver theme. You can expect many of the additions the parks have for overlays like this including new character outfits, special entertainment and themed treats. The Castaway Club also has a new tier. Those who have sailed 25 times or more will become Castaway Club Pearl.
Moonlight Magic at Disneyland Resort
Moonlight Magic is back in 2023 with a west coast event. Disney California Adventure will host the DVC exclusive night of fun on February 1st, 2023. Disney Vacation Club Moonlight Magic events are for Members who are eligible for all Membership Extras. Registry information has not yet been released.
Carousel Coffee is Coming to the BoardWalk Resort Lobby
Exciting Disney World news regarding the transformation at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn Resort! We’ve been covering the new additions at BoardWalk over the last year. First, BoardWalk Bakery changed to BoardWalk Deli. Then Belle Vue Lounge got a furniture refresh. We’ve also seen the former ESPN restaurant start to transform into The Cake Bake Shop. This fancy new restaurant will serve brunch, lunch, dinner and an afternoon tea. Now we have a name for the coffee shop opening in the place of the Dundy’s Sundries store. Carousel Coffee will serve coffees and many treats right off of the main lobby. Specialty drinks like the cinnamon bun frozen blended coffee with whipped cream will be waiting for you near the check in desk.
There’s more than just coffee at Carousel. You can expect tea options as well and pastries. Menu items include a crunchy raspberry danish, vintage Mickey & Minnie sugar cookie, banana bread, croissant, blueberry muffin, chocolate muffin, NJ crumb cake, bagels and a Mickey brownie. Between Carousel Coffee and BoardWalk Deli, this resort has gotten a real sweet treat makeover!
These all sound like a great addition for those who own Disney Vacation Club at Disney’s BoardWalk Villas and DVC Members who may use their points to stay at the resort. BoardWalk is a favorite among Disney goers thanks to its classic yet luxurious decor and fabulous location near Epcot. Take a look at our current Disney’s BoardWalk Villas resale DVC listings.
Grand Floridian Lobby Refurbishment Ahead
The Disney Parks Blog has shared that the massive, ongoing Grand Floridian refurbishment will also include a lobby makeover. Specifically, here’s what was written: “The ongoing renovation will also include an upcoming refurbishment of the lobby, which will maintain the classic theming you know and love with some fresh new enhancements.” The Grand will be 35 years old in 2023. It seems the resort will be fully refurbished around this time.
We’ve seen the rooms recently redone into a Mary Poppins Returns theme. The Big Pine Key building was transformed into another DVC space. That big change brought a new studio room style as well. Victoria and Albert’s was refurbished as was Citricos and Narcoosee’s is closed for its upgrades right now. Entire building roofs have been replaced as interiors were redone, giving the resort a fresh feeling. The Grand Floridian is a treasure of Walt Disney World Resort and Disney Vacation Club. I’m hoping the new lobby still has the bright white and cozy classic ambiance we’ve come to love. Let’s focus on the words classic and theming in Disney’s statement and hope that’s what we get.
New ECVs at Walt Disney World
New Electric Conveyance Vehicles have been spotted around the parks. These can be rented for $50 per day and require a refundable deposit of $20 at Walt Disney World Theme Parks and $100 at water parks and Disney Springs. ECVs can not be taken from one property to another but the rentals are transferrable so you pay just once for the day. A new ECV just must be secured in each location.
Avatar: The Way of Water Released in Theaters and Park Additions
The sequel to the world’s highest grossing film was released in December. Avatar: The Way of Water faced many delays and a sky high budget but we finally made it to this point! The original 2009 Avatar film inspired an entire land at one of Disney World’s theme parks, Animal Kingdom, including the popular attraction Avatar Flight of Passage. Enjoy a flying ride on a banshee through Pandora’s incredible landscapes. The Na’vi River Journey also enchants guests on a peaceful boat ride with colorful flora and fauna.
There were some park additions to celebrate the new film hitting theaters. You may find special menu items a la the new movie at Satu’li Canteen which is the quick service restaurant on Pandora. Aside from this land, Disney’s Animal Kingdom celebrated the debut of Avatar: The Way of Water with special projections on the Tree of Life in the center of the park. While these seem to be temporary, there have been rumors that director James Cameron is interested in updating the Flight of Passage attraction to bring in elements from the new film. With the five year old attraction still wildly popular, Disney could go either way on this. The ride certainly doesn’t need an upgrade right now. However, based on initial reviews, Way of Water could wash more magic over the land with its stunning visuals.
If you love Pandora and staying close to the magic of that unique world, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is an excellent home resort to consider. It’s also just a fun place to spend your points. It has its own savannas and memorable animal encounters each stay. Just a quick bus ride will have you and your family at Animal Kingdom early and ready for a full day of thrills and nature magic.
Roundup Rodeo BBQ Restaurant Opening Pushed Back
Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will have a new restaurant soon, just not quite as soon as we thought. Roundup Rodeo BBQ has been under construction for years and the most recent anticipated opening date shared was somewhere near the end of 2022. Disney has now shared an updated opening for spring of 2023. The interior of this restaurant will feel similar to the larger than life queue of Toy Story Mania attraction in the land. Expect lots of oversized, familiar toys from the films.
Refurbishment Schedule and Disney World News and Updates
The beginning of the year can bring about some strategic refurbishments after the holiday rush. As mentioned above, Splash Mountain will be closed for quite some time starting in January as it transforms into a new attraction. To see refurbishments at the time of your visit, see Disney World calendars, look at the bottom of each park and click on Closed for Refurbishment. This is an excellent way to keep up with additional Walt Disney World news updates, closures and openings.
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