A new season is on its way and the parks at Walt Disney World will soon be a flutter with spring break vacationers. There is a lot of Walt Disney World news to cover as spring approaches. This month there are previews for the TRON Lightcycle/ Run attraction, lots of construction going on at Disney Vacation Club resorts and a new restaurant opening in Toy Story Land. The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival kicked off this month. Like other festivals, this park-wide celebration of flowers, plants, topiaries and more is included with regular admission. The Walt Disney World 50th Anniversary Celebration is winding down and officially ends this month on March 31st, 2023. The Disney World news March 2023 brings is magical.
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? The following is a list of Walt Disney World news and updates March 2023 brings. If you’re planning one, have a magical trip!
Walt Disney World News March 2023
Continued Reopenings At Walt Disney World Resort
We’ve been covering reopenings in depth for a long time now. When Disney originally opened after the 2020 closure, people were just happy to walk down Main Street U.S.A. again and see the castle. Now, as three years have passed and many parts of the experience have still not returned to normal, it’s good to know what to expect on your visit. Things do continue to improve, though very slowly at points. We’re staying hopeful and expect Disney Parks to offer the full experience again at some point.
Some things that still have not reopened, and have not been mentioned in quite some time, are restaurants like 1900 Park Fare and the Garden View Tea Room at the Grand Floridian. We know there are big refurbishments going on at the Grand overall. This directly affects Disney Vacation Club Members and we want to keep you up to date. We do have some news about another Grand restaurant coming back soon below.
Enchanted Tales with Belle Now Open
After nearly three years of being closed, Enchanted Tales with Belle is now open again at Magic Kingdom in Fantasyland! This meet and greet is more than just visiting a character. It’s a one of a kind experience that brings you into Maurice’s cottage and on a multi-room journey. Of course Belle is there too but participants also get to put on a show and help tell a tale. Enchanted Tales with Belle opened as part of the New Fantasyland expansion in 2012. Throughout this attraction are wow worthy affects you’ll love.
This comes shortly after Ariel’s Grotto returned just down the way. These two princesses being back in the kingdom is great news for guests. Disney shared that meet and greets would return to normal by early summer 2022. That timeline didn’t work out but at least we continue to see characters offerings getting back to normal. What was nice about these returning as well is that Disney made an announcement for both to reopen in just a few weeks time. Hopefully we get more announcements soon and more quick action is taken as the busy spring break and summer seasons pick up for guests.
Akoya Pearl Reopens in Japan Pavilion
Another store is back at Epcot! Akoya Pearls is a custom picked jewelry experience within the Japan pavilion’s Mitsukoshi store. Japan has some of the best shopping at the park and this is a neat offering. If you’re not familiar with pearl fun like this, guests pick their oyster and a cast member opens it to reveal the pearl they get. There are accessories to accompany the pearl for an additional cost.
More Character Entertainment Returns to Disney’s Hollywood Studios
It’s very likely you’ll see more characters on your next trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s still no word on the Citizens of Hollywood returning but fans of characters will have a few more meet and greets to look forward to. Some are even more rare.
After the 2020 reopening of Walt Disney World theme parks, Chip and Dale began appearing in a gated off grassy area of the park. This allowed characters to social distance from guests. Disney announced the return of traditional meet and greets in 2022. It was stated that park goers could expect all meet and greets to return to normal through early summer of 2022. Nearly a year later, we are still moving along on that progress and this is a big step. Chip and Dale are now appearing at a regular meet and greet in their Rescue Rangers looks near the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular! show.
Over the years, various forms of entertainment have lit up Hollywood Blvd. With no parade or shows, the characters are a much needed addition in the center of the park. Max Goof and Goofy also appear and characters from The Incredibles make their way around too.
Note that some characters may still be appearing from a distance such as above the restrooms near the park’s entrance or behind gated areas. We hope to see more entertainment return to normal soon.
Disney Dates to Remember
Here we have some dates related to Disney World news and updates. We may have covered some in the past but you’ll probably want to keep these in mind as they approach.
March 1st | EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival begins
March 31st | The 50th Anniversary Celebration ends
April 1st | Narcoossee’s reopens at the Grand Floridian after refurbishment
April 2nd | The last day to see Enchantment and Harmonious
April 3rd | Happily Ever After and Epcot Forever Return
April 4th | TRON Lightcycle / Run opens to all guests at Magic Kingdom via virtual queue
April 18th | Annual Passholders can enter the parks after 2:00 p.m. with no reservations. (Just not Magic Kingdom on the weekends.)
Disney Shareholder Meeting Revelations
In February, the first shareholder call since the CEO shuffle brought about some interesting news. Bob Iger shared additional information about the restructuring of the company that’s been going behind the scenes. More power is being given to creatives again like deciding what content gets made, where it’s distributed and how it’s marketed. Previously, those responsibilities were taken from film, television and content producers. Moving forward, we might expect to see these changes bring more amazing stories to theaters and Disney+.
The restructuring did not move Josh D’Amaro who will continue to oversee theme parks, resorts, Disney Cruise Line and everything else in the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products area of the company.
When speaking on restructuring, Bob Iger shared the company will be reducing the workforce by 7,000 jobs. It’s unclear how those job cuts will be distributed across the company but it seems related to more corporate and management type positions and not frontline cast members at the parks. Anyone who has been to the parks over the last few years knows they are still noticeably understaffed. Sometimes, it can really affect your park days. The numbers on the stockholder call showed the parks performing well with Disneyland and Walt Disney World attendance strong and rising still. Guest spending is also up. Hopefully we will continue to see improvements in staffing and more offerings return.
Prioritizing guest experience was mentioned along with respecting guest feedback that some of the high prices were alienating. During the question and answer portion of the meeting, someone asked about pricing. Bob Iger answered by stating Disney was no longer perceived as accessible to many segments of consumers. They acknowledged that already with some action like making parking at the resort free for overnight guests again and expanding the number of days Disneyland tickets are available at the lowest price tier.
We got some not great news on the park pass reservation front. Iger talked about managing capacity and shifting the attendance mix from annual pass holders to folks who come just once. Managing annual pass holders was mentioned which seemed odd. It seems the park pass reservation system, put in place to make conditions safer during the pandemic, continues to be used to strategically benefit the business. Disney recently announced that annual pass holders would soon be able to enter the parks after 2:00 p.m. without a reservation except for Magic Kingdom on the weekends. We now know this begins April 18th. This is a step forward but we’re clearly not seeing the park pass reservation system go away any time soon.
Disney animations fans will be excited to learn Bob Iger officially announced sequels for Toy Story, Frozen and Zootopia. No other information was provided but, wow, this is big news! The recent Nielsen streaming report was highlighted which showed that ten of the top fifteen streamed movies in 2022 were Disney films. Encanto was number one by far. What was even more impressive is that the original Frozen film, released ten years ago in 2023, was number eight on the list.
Bob Iger also announced an Avatar experience will be coming to Disneyland and that we can expect details on that soon.
Disney Battles Cool Off with Nelson Peltz and Reedy Creek News
Investor Nelson Peltz, who was actively seeking a seat on the Disney board, ended his campaign the day after the stockholder call, seemingly pleased with what was said to investors. Bob Iger stated Disney’s goal was to restore the dividends to at least a fraction of pre-pandemic levels. This could be what encouraged Peltz to step down from his very public call for changes at the company. Disney acknowledged this and put out a thankful statement offering some closure on the matter.
If you’ve been following the Reedy Creek news, that issue has also come to an end. As retaliation for having a differing opinion, Florida’s governor chose to take negative action against the Disney corporation. The governor threatened to dissolve Reedy Creek Improvement District which Disney operates within. Long story short, instead of dissolution, basically the name was changed and the governor will now appoint five board members for the district. The most fragile thing at stake was the tax situation. Altering the Reedy Creek arrangement may have cost taxpayers in the same counties as Walt Disney World Resort and eventually guests. Because of the name change and district being kept in tact, it seems the the company’s tax situation will remain untouched. Walt Disney World President Jeff Vahle shared a public statement noting the company is ready to work within the new frame work.
Both of these developments are great pieces of news for Disney fans. The company can now focus their resources, people and financial, on business building endeavors that will enhance the guest experience. Peltz had unknown ambitions for the company and the Reedy Creek deal could have changed the landscape of Disney World as we know it. Now we can keep moving forward.
Flower and Garden Festival Blooms March 1st
The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is back! March 1st through July 5th, guests can enjoy this unique display of character topiaries, the Garden Rocks Concert Series, flavorful food booths and more. As always, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is included with regular admission.
Epcot After Hours Events Announced
For a few years now, guests have been able to enjoy After Hours events at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom on select nights. Think Extra Magic Hours with even less people but for a fee and it includes unlimited snacks, treats and drinks. Now Epcot will have its own After Hours event, inviting guests to enjoy late night attractions starting Thursday June 1st, 2023.
Disney says the event may include following attractions: Frozen Ever After, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Living with the Land, Mission: SPACE, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth and Test Track. It’s important to note Disney says may include. There aren’t guaranteed attraction offerings.
What’s nice about After Hours events is that you can get in a few hours before the event technically starts. Over at Epcot, After Hours events go from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. but guests can enter the park during regular hours starting at 7:00 p.m. That means you could enjoy the nighttime spectacular with an After Hours ticket. You could also get in some of the evening entertainment, shop or dine at restaurants that may not be open during After Hours.
I highly recommend getting to the park much before the start of the After Hours events. If you arrive right at the time it starts, you will be swimming upstream as tens of thousands of guests exit the park. It can be time consuming to even make your way to attractions. You can make the most of your time by entering around 7:00 p.m. Note that if the event starts at 10:00 p.m. the lines for rides may be long for a little while still as day guests finish cycling through. Around thirty minutes after the event starts most attractions will be a total walk on. A Disney fan dream we all share.
There is a pretty significant discount for Disney Vacation Club Members and Annual Passholders. The event either costs $129 or $139 plus tax for regular guests depending on the night. The price for Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members is $99 plus tax all nights Epcot After Hours is available.
Epcot After Hours Event dates are as follows:
Thursday, June 1
Thursday, June 15
Thursday, June 22
Thursday, June 29
Thursday, July 6
Wednesday, July 12
Thursday, July 20
Thursday, July 27
Thursday, August 3
Thursday, August 10
Thursday, August 17
Thursday, August 24
Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests, including DVC Members, have been able to purchase tickets since February 28th. All other guests can purchase tickets starting March 3rd.
After Hours events may also take place at Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom theme parks but event nights and prices vary. At this time, Animal Kingdom is not listed as an option but there is the H2O Glow After Hours at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. The Hollywood Studios event description notes that it includes characters but After Hours events do not include all regular entertainment.
See more information about Disney After Hours events on the official website.
Narcoossee’s Reopens April 1st
Big news for owners at The Villas at Disney Grand Floridian Resort and Spa! Narcoossee’s, the round restaurant on the water that faces Magic Kingdom, will reopen April 1st, 2023. This is especially exciting considering other restaurants at this resort still have not reopened since the initial 2020 closure. Narcoossee’s did reopen after the 2020 shutter and went under renovation after that. Guests could use the dining variety here. With the refurbishment comes a new menu and a new interior to discover.
One of the best things about Narcoossee’s has always been its fabulous firework views. There were some issues with the restaurant layout before that have hopefully been fixed. A door that lead directly to the firework viewing area outside could not be used because it would let bugs into the dining room. I guess that’s a difficulty of being on the water. So, in the past guests would have to exit using the main entrance and walk all the way around the building to gain access to the firework deck. I’m assuming this problem was somehow remedied during the renovation and we’ll be welcomed back to a fully functional establishment with smooth traffic patterns.
The new Narcoossee’s menu takes inspiration from a land and sea concept. The menu is available online or in the My Disney Experience app to take a look at. Disney mentions menu favorites like “Plancha-seared Scallops with Parisian Gnocchi and Surf and Turf featuring tender filet mignon and butter-poached lobster tail” are still available. The Bisque will also be back but with a new table side presentation. New items include an Ocean inspired Charcuterie Board, Roasted Vegetable Paella, Dry-Aged Pork Ribeye Chop and Blackened Redfish. Reservations are now open as of March 1st. Hungry for more? The Disney Parks Blog shared additional information about Narccoossee’s reopening.
Annual Passholders Don’t Need Reservations After 2:00 p.m. Starting April 18th
Recently on the Disney Parks Blog, there were some positive announcements aimed at bringing more value to guests. Disney has been open about hearing feedback that visitors feel the additional cost of a trip to the most magical place on earth. One of the changes announced was a park pass reservation related change for Annual Passholders. Starting April 18th, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders are able to visit the parks after 2:00 p.m. without a reservation. While this may not be the complete removal of the reservation system that many are hoping for, it will allow for some more spontaneity. There are a few things you should know about this update. Full details from the Disney Parks Blog:
“Walt Disney World Annual Passholders: Park reservation requirements will be relaxed for visits after 2 p.m.*
Beginning April 18, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders will be able to visit the theme parks after 2 p.m. without needing a park reservation, except on Saturdays and Sundays at Magic Kingdom Park. Pass blockout dates will continue to apply like they do today. While the theme park reservation system remains important to manage attendance in our parks, especially on busier days, we realize our Passholders enjoy more spontaneous visits – and this change will make that possible. Starting March 20, Passholders will also receive access to Disney PhotoPass lenses and one complimentary Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories experience (age restrictions apply). Visit Cinderella Castle Mural of Memories and Disney PhotoPass Lenses for details, restrictions and other information.*
We are also excited to provide Passholders with a new offering starting March 20 where you can create and share short Disney-themed video slideshows with favorite photos from your theme park visits.”
Disney has hinted more recently at the use of the park pass reservation system being especially useful for the busiest of days. It would be quite the move if we see a transition to only requiring guests to have reservations for those times like Christmas week and Independence Day where the parks actually have neared capacity historically.
The Grand Floridian Walk Way is Temporarily Closed
In 2020, the much anticipated walkway between Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Magic Kingdom opened. This path is a treasure for Disney Vacation Club Members who call The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows home. The Grand Floridian has been undergoing a major refurbishment for many months now. Building by building has been surrounded by scaffolding and completely redone inside and out. Even the roofs and outdoor stairwells have been replaced!
Now the construction has reached the far side of the resort and there is one last building to refurbish. When the Sago Cay building closes for refurbishment it will be surrounded by a fence. This is probably why the walk way to Magic Kingdom will close. Anyone who has taken that path knows it’s a tight area over there. Since we’ve seen the outdoor stairwells be removed on other buildings, it makes sense that that area would need to close. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing though. It would be great if Disney could create a detour for the walking path. As of now, it looks like it will be closed from February 13th to late spring of this year. Based on what Disney has considered summer in the past, this seems to be a months long closure.
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Encanto Package Debuts
During President’s Day weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I saw a handful of little Mirabel’s walking around the park. Earlier this year, a Disney Encanto Package debuted at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique starting at $179.95 plus tax. Guests can choose a makeover inspired by Mirabel or Isabela. It includes hairstyling, shimmering makeup with a face gem, a princess sash, a cinch bag, nail polish, a gown for the character you choose and coordinating accessories. Shoes are sold separately.
At this time there is still only one of three Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques in operation. It’s the Magic Kingdom Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique located inside the bottom floor of Cinderella Castle. This is the only location that requires you to have a park ticket to book an appointment. The Disney Springs location is still closed. The third Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa opened just before the closure of Walt Disney World Resort. It still has not reopened since 2020.
Roundup Rodeo BBQ Opens at Toy Story Land March 23rd
Reservations are now available online or in the My Disney Experience app for the new Toy Story Land restaurant. Roundup Rodeo BBQ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios officially opens on March 23.
Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Closing Temporarily
Guests might be disappointed to find Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith closed at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on their upcoming visit. It’s a regular happening for attractions to undergo maintenance. The downtime for this is a bit longer than one might expect. However, there has not been any announcement about a re-theming of any kind though rumors of the like have been swirling for a long time. Instead, Disney shares the attraction will reopen unchanged, at least in that way, in its announcement.
Disney shared this: “Beginning February 21, 2023, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith will be temporarily closed for refurbishment. This rocktastic attraction will resume its super-stretch limo rides in summer 2023.”
Refurbishment Schedule And Disney World News And Updates
To see refurbishments at the time of your visit, visit 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. For more Walt Disney World news and updates that might impact your trip, take a look at our last Disney updates posts.
We also have another new resource we’re excited to share with you. You can now check our DVC Resort Refurbishment Schedule to keep up with what’s going on at Disney Vacation Club Resorts. We’re including details about upcoming closures and refurbishments at all of the home resorts. There are also notes about recent refurbishments so you can be in the know about what’s been upgraded.
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