Walt Disney World News September 2023

Epcot Food and Wine Remy Rat

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party and The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival are in season. So what else is happening with Disney World news this September? The newest attraction for visitors this year is Tron Lightcycle / Run. We should be getting close to detail announcements about the new nighttime show debuting at Epcot. Previews are happening for the Moana water exhibit in Epcot however we don’t have an official opening date yet as of early September. Let’s see what other Walt Disney World news September 2023 has in store for us.

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, including the tips in this Disney World News September 2023. 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. If you’re planning one, have a magical trip!

A special note for all Disney Vacation Club Members who have a February use year. This is your reminder to bank points by September 30th! For more information see: What Does Disney Vacation Club Use Year Mean?

Disney World News September 2023 Dates to Remember

Here we have some dates related to Disney World news September 2023 and beyond.

Now through September 30th | Cirque du Soleil Drawn to Life $59 ticket deal

July 27 – November 18 | Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

August 11 – November 1 | Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (select dates)

September 8-10 | Destination D23 Event at Walt Disney World Resort

September 15 | Mirabel Meet and Greet Opens at Magic Kingdom

September 22 – December 31 | Disney 100 at Epcot 

November 11 – December 20 | Disney Jollywood Nights (select dates)

An white Epcot Food and Wine Disney gift card with a bracelet attached with Chef Minnie on it

Continued Reopenings At Walt Disney World Resort

We’ve been covering Disney World’s post reopening come back for quite a while now. Disney World reopened in 2020 running a very lean operation. So many things have returned to the parks and resorts but many have not. There are still many temporarily unavailable closures. Some of which may greatly impact your trips. We want to help you set expectations and plan your trip based on what is available.

With so many shows that haven’t returned, it’s good to know a new Vice President of Live Entertainment at Walt Disney World Resort has been named. David Duffy joins the magic in Orlando from Disneyland Paris. 

Some things to know before you go:

  • Trams are not back at Epcot or Hollywood Studios but will return some time this month.
  • Park Hopping is still only available after 2:00 p.m. 
  • The Disney Dining Plan isn’t currently available in 2023 but returns in 2024.
  • 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian is still closed and…
  • The tea room at the Grand Floridian is still closed but resort construction has reached the lobby..
  • The Pirates and Pals Fireworks Voyage has not returned to Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
  • The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutiques at the Grand Floridian and Disney Springs are not open.
  • It’s A Wonderful Shop, Stage 1 Company Store, In Character and Disney Studio Store are still closed at Hollywood Studios.
  • Disney says DVC pool hopping is still suspended.
  • Saratoga Springs Senses Spa and Beach Club’s Ship Shape Massage Salon Fitness are still closed.
  • Services like having your purchases delivered to the front of the park or to your room are paused.
  • Disney Annual Passholders still need park reservations to visit parks for a full day.
  • Many shows have not reopened yet like: Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Citizens of Hollywood, Jedi Training, Citizens of Main Street, Main Street Trolley Show, Move It! Shake It! Street Party, Once Upon a Time, The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats, Serveur Amusant, Swotu Waya Pandora Drummers, Pandora Utility Suit Pilot and more.

We do our best to continue to share things as they return.

Trams Returning to Epcot and Hollywood Studios September 2023

If you feel like you’ve heard this before, you have. It was originally announced in late 2021 that trams would be returning to Walt Disney World theme parks soon. Since then, trams came back to Magic Kingdom in December of 2021 and Animal Kingdom in May of 2022. The other two parks have had no trams since the pandemic closure. Disney is now promising trams will return to Epcot and Hollywood Studios in September of 2023. We’ve seen trams testing already.

Not Returning: A Disneyland Hotel Dining Update

A quick Disneyland mention as we know many DVC Members visit the west coast parks as well. Disney has announced the Steakhouse 55 restaurant at Disneyland Hotel will not reopen. The space will instead be open seasonally as a bar and lounge. This comes as a surprise. With the addition of The Villas at Disneyland hotel DVC tower, another restaurant would be great at the resort. When it was announced that there would be a Fort Wilderness cabins DVC home resort, upgrades to the property, including restaurant enhancements, were also promised. The Orange County Register reports that the Old Hollywood glamour inspired Steakhouse 55 will be replaced with a lighter, brighter interior that matches the lobby aesthetic better.

Steakhouse 55 closing is also odd because its name inspired a restaurant at Disney World that opened in 2021. During its recent lobby renovation, Disney’s Contemporary Resort at Disney World closed The Wave restaurant and opened Steakhouse 71 in its place. Steakhouse 55’s name pays homage to the year Disneyland opened. Steakhouse 71 does the same at Disney World and it opened during the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. You can see more in our Bay Lake Tower dining guide.

Tree of Life lit with color images in front of a dark sky

Disney World News September 2023

Tree of Life Awakenings Return in November

Disney has shared the the Tree of Life Awakenings will happen again starting in November. Projections on the park icon were introduced in 2016 along with other nighttime additions like lighting on the safari for rides after dark. At the time, the park had enhancements so it could stay open at night . In a way, this is related to changes after the pandemic reopening. We have not seen Disney’s Animal Kingdom open late since the parks reopened! The Tree of Life Awakenings are returning because they were put on pause when Disney would have had to extend the hours again in order for this show to go off when it’s darker later in the summer.

A lot is being done to bring guests to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and more evenly distribute guests among the four parks. Bonus reservations are often offered for annual passholders and there are different kinds of specially priced tickets meant to entice visitors to the park that’s proudly not a zoo. Maybe returning to hours that stretch into the evening and reopening the nighttime experiences offered at this park would help? People love Pandora at night and the sunset safaris were a big push for Disney in the before times.

Stormalong Bay Closing for Refurbishment in 2025

Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club pool will be closed for refurbishment for quite a while but Disney is giving ample notice. Many think Stormalong Bay is the best pool at Walt Disney World. It will surely be missed in early 2025. From Disney:

“Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts Refurbishment
From January 2025 through May 2025, Stormalong Bay and Shipwreck Pool at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts will be closed for routine maintenance. Guests may see or hear construction work during daytime hours. During this time, Guests are welcome to swim at the Tidal, Admiral and Dunes Cove leisure pools.”

If Disney’s Beach Club Villas is your home resort, it might be a good time to try another resort if pool time is a must. However, if the pool isn’t as important to you, the closure could open up some Beach Club Villas availability. 

Destination D23 Happening, Disney World News September 2023

Another big D23 event is coming up. D23 is the official fan club of Disney and offers two flagship events that alternate years. The D23 Expo is a celebration of all things Disney and usually focuses on new offerings from all facets of the company from parks to movies to merchandise. There are some historical, talent and design presentations and panels as well. The other D23 event is Destination D23, formerly called Destination D. The focus was historical in nature with interviews and discussions with former Imagineers for example. Disney fans now sometimes expect news at this event as well. Destination D23 dates are September 8th to the 10th. There isn’t anything official on the horizon for Disney World additions these days. It’s possible we may get some Disney World news September 2023 updates from this event. 

Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana Details

Playing with water in creative ways, thanks to technology and Imagineering, seems to be what we can look forward to when Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana opens this year. Disney calls it an “immersive exploration trail.” Guests will see characters and familiar visuals from the film in this new Epcot feature. We’ve learned recently that guests will not need to use a MagicBand to interact with special elements in the walk through exhibit. There will also be a way to experience it without getting wet. The trail lights up at night so you may want to experience it at more than one time of day on a visit.

Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya restaura t entrance

New Japan Pavilion Sushi Restaurant Opens

Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya restaurant is now open at Epcot. This new offering replaces Tokyo Dining and soft opened at the end of August. You’ll find Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya next to Teppan Edo above the Mitsukoshi store. This venue has tables that overlook World Showcase Lagoon and can provide an interesting perspective of nighttime spectaculars. Remember that Cast Members working on International Programs are back, making the Epcot pavilions even more special and authentic! Shiki-Sai: Sushi Izakaya has reasonable prices with menu items from about $15 to $35. There are also some over the top selections like the Fune for 4 to 6 people. This dish is a “Boat presentation” showcasing premium sushi and sashimi.

The Mandolorian Times Now in My Disney Experience App

Disney is making it somewhat easier to spot some of your favorites in the galaxy. Since it’s 2019 opening, Galaxy’s Edge has had minimal entertainment. Since the debut of the most recent season of the show, the Mandolorian and Grogu have been out and about around the Star Wars land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In the My Disney Experience App, go to the map view of Disney World and zoom in on Hollywood Studios and Galaxy’s Edge. Select characters from the drop down menu up top and you’ll be able to see times for The Mandolorian on the day of your visit.

Mirabel Meet and Greet at Magic Kingdom Opens September 15th

A while ago, Disney announced Mirabel from the animated hit Encanto would be making her way to meet guests at Magic Kingdom. This meet and greet replaces the Merida themed meet and greet next to Cinderella Castle. This Fantasyland location is an outdoor meeting area. The standby queue lines up on the walkway that leads up to behind the castle. The space will open re-themed to make the perfect back drop for this new character.

In the past, Disney World used to have themed summer overlays celebrating the newest or most popular film of the time. Encanto came out in an interesting period. The animated feature was in theaters on November 24th, 2021 and came to on Disney+ on December 24th, 2021. The film became wildly popular with young audiences after the streaming release. Still, there hasn’t been too much of a presence in the parks. Especially not compared to what Disney used to do for hits like this in the past. We’ll see how popular Mirabel is when she starts to meet guests this month!

Disney Stakeholder Call

The Walt Disney Company’s Third Quarter 2023 Financial Results Conference Call happened in early August. Bob Iger spoke about the state of the company, noting films studios, parks and streaming are the focus of the next five years. While up overall, Disney saw softer performance in the domestic parks during this time period. In the earnings report Disney says, “The decrease in operating income at our domestic operations was due to lower results at our domestic parks and Disney Vacation Club, driven by lower unit sales, partially offset by an increase at Disney Cruise Line.” Even with all of this, Walt Disney World Resort is still performing above 2019 levels. 

Avocado toast with greens on a colorful Disney plate
Avocado toast from The Artist’s Palette

Saratoga Springs Quick Service Menu Makeover

Over at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, guests can enjoy a refreshed menu at The Artist’s Palette. This quick service restaurant is located in the main resort lobby building near the High Rock Spring Pool. Some new items include an avocado toast at breakfast and a turkey BLT with house made pimento cheese. There’s also a new horseshoe dessert called the Derby Day pie, playing into the race track theme of the property. This sweet treat “features a pie shell with chocolate-nut filling topped with buttercream and horseshoe décor,” according to the Disney Parks Blog. Favorites like the Saratoga Salad and Ham & Cheese Panini will return to the menu. See more yummy places to eat here in our Saratoga Springs restaurants dining guide.

Contempo Cafe Quick Service Menu Additions

Members who love Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort will be happy to discover that the Contempo Cafe quick service restaurant is also offering some new menu items to eat. If you’ve ever taken a look through the glass at the desserts here, you know they are some of the most creative. From princess glitter to edible monorail embellishments, the Contempo Cafe sweets are a delight. On your next visit, look for the Monorail S’more Brownie. This fudgy brownie has a graham cracker crust and marshmallow crème with a monorail topper. Contempo Care now has Signature Deluxe Cookies which look like Crumbl cookies if you’re a fan. There’s also a 5-Legged Goat Fruit Tart celebrating Mary Blair’s beautiful mosaic art character.

Disney World News September 2023: Dining Reservation Improvements

Disney shared some exciting details about enhancements made to the dining reservation system. In the My Disney Experience app and online, users will now be able to see a wider range of time slots available for restaurant reservations. It will also be more clear which menu will be available at the time of each reservation.

We’ve seen other fixes this year to simplify the user experience when it comes to dining. If it’s been a while since you’ve made a reservation, cancellations and modifications have also been simplified. You can easily modify reservations more than two hours before. The two hour rule doesn’t apply to every restaurant. Experiences paid for in advance have a different cancellation policy. This includes dinner shows like Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, firework dessert parties and dining inside Cinderella Castle. 

For most restaurants now, though, you’re able to change your mind a few hours in advance without penalty. This is valuable. We can plan out our whole week but sometimes we see a menu in passing and wish we had that place booked instead. Being able to cancel, modify or change your time more easily, makes for higher quality trips. Did your day go differently than planned? Can’t make it on time? See if there’s a later reservation. Decide you want to sleep in and cancel that morning reservation right in the app!

Pro tip: Check for anything you weren’t able to get the day before you want to dine or the day of your intended visit. Spots do open up as people cancel.

Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties Selling Out

Disney World’s spooky yet adorable Halloween event has been taking place every week at Magic Kingdom since mid-August. Many of the lowest priced nights have now sold out. Every year we usually see a similar pattern in ticket sales. Halloween night at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party sells out first in the summer. Then as the party approaches, nights with the cheapest tickets start to sell out. This usually means events where discounts are available to those with a Disney World annual pass and eligible Disney Vacation Club Members.

There are some new and updated details at Not So Scary in 2023. Mickeys’ Boo-To-You Parade has some enhancements including new costumes and characters. The fall themed unit of Boo To You now has dancing scarecrows. In the past these duet-ing dancers wore country style attire like jean shorts, boots and cowboy hats. You’ll also see Ursula float by, similar to the three fairies in Festival of Fantasy. It’s quite the neat effect. Clarabelle Cow, Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck are also in the parade in their Sanderson Sisters costumes. Outside the park, keep an eye out for color changing monorails in Halloween colors, too!

Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer Serving as Advisors to Disney

There’s a rumor that Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer are both in contact with Disney’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger and other leaders at the company again. Both are former Disney executives who partnered in Co-Founder and Co-CEO roles to create a media company after leaving The Walt Disney Company. Candle Media describes itself as a next-generation media company. A positive outlook is a core part of the brand. Staggs and Mayer are now said to be consulting for Disney, working with those in TV to plan next steps for that side of the company. 

Rumors have been swirling about what Bob Iger and Disney will do with TV in the age of streaming. While streaming hasn’t had the success Hollywood executives hoped for, it’s still looking like the way forward for home entertainment. Bob Iger has made many changes since his late 2022 return, including company restructuring and reassigning major leadership roles. Acquiring was Iger’s legacy in his first term as CEO. Is it possible that he will be remembered for one or more divestitures in his second? 

Who is Disney’s Next CEO?

Tom Staggs lead Disney Parks through one of their peak times from 2010 to 2015 as the Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. This is the position that Josh D’Amaro is in now. This segment of the company has since been renamed Disney Parks, Experiences and Products and is sometimes referred to as DPEP. In 2015, Tom Staggs moved into the role of Chief Operating Officer of The Walt Disney Company. About a year later, Staggs and Disney decided to part, though he stayed on to advise Bob Iger a bit longer. 

Kevin Mayer served in different roles with major impacts in his time at Disney including acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm. As the Chairman of Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, Mayer lead the launch of Disney+ but left in 2020. 

Bob Iger recently extended his time as CEO at Disney. He now plans to serve through the end of 2026. Part of his return is carefully selecting and preparing his successor. The person to fill the position has not yet been public. Tom Staggs and Kevin Mayer were both contenders for the role while at Disney. Even the mention of this kind of consulting partnership is exciting to Disney fans. Tom Staggs is remembered by many for being approachable, fun and high energy at D23 events.

Epcot International Food and Wine entrance set up 2023 with Remy the rat holding a strawberry and an ice cream scoop shaped event sign

Disney vs. DeSantis Continues

What’s this about: The battle between Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida, and The Walt Disney Company is still ongoing. In short, Disney is alleging that Ron DeSantis is infringing on their right to free speech. When Disney came out against legislation of his they disagreed with, he dismantled a longstanding district the company operated in in Florida. There are other actions seen as attacks by the governor. Disney says these efforts are retaliatory, and so, they are suing those involved.

The governor is countersuing. Both parties are asking for the other party’s charges to be dropped. There are many more details, surely more eloquently notated by others, but this is enough to get caught up. The timing of the case is under consideration. Disney is asking for 2024 while the governor, who is running for president, is asking for 2025 after the election.

The latest: Disney has received much public support on this. To no surprise, many fans of the company have openly cheered for The Walt Disney Company in this matter. Now journalists and Republican former leaders have put forth support for Disney’s right to free speech without government retaliation.

It seems because Ron DeSantis is running for president, he says he has moved on from the feud with Disney and wants them to drop the lawsuit. He still wants to keep the efforts Disney is suing for in place though so that seems unlikely.

 Why the Disney DeSantis lawsuit matters

Why this matters to theme park fans: Upon reopening, Disney took their time bringing the parks back. The parks still aren’t all the way back to normal really. With covid restrictions behind us, it has many wondering what the hold up is. Bob Iger returned as CEO in the fall of 2022 and quickly made big changes, pulling power and funds and laying off 7,000 people. Still, it seems like Walt Disney World could be bracing for impact. Perhaps, this Reedy Creek Improvement District situation has a bigger impact than we can measure.

We’ve heard Bob Iger say they company wants to invest $17 billion in future projects in Florida. Josh D’Amaro says some of that number is for current projects. The threat to hold back development at Disney World affects future guests and potential cast members. It could be the difference between getting new rides or not or how in depth refurbishments go.

Recent Disney World Updates to Know and Remember

Here we’re keeping track of recent updates we’ve already talked about that you’ll want to keep in mind for any upcoming trips.

The new Roundup Rodeo BBQ restaurant is open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Narcoossee’s is open at the The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa after refurbishment.

The nighttime shows at Magic Kingdom and Epcot are Happily Ever After and Epcot Forever again.

TRON Lightcycle / Run is open at Magic Kingdom and uses virtual queue and Lightning Lane.

You can buy a Disney Annual Pass for Walt Disney World again.

Annual Passholders can enter the parks after 2:00 p.m. with no reservations, except for Magic Kingdom on the weekends.

Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party 2023 tickets are on sale.

Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party tickets are on sale.

Jollywood Nights, the new Hollywood Studios holiday special ticketed event, tickets are on sale. Nights have started selling out.

Disney Genie+ now has park specific pricing by day.

Characters have returned to Pixar Place at Hollywood Studios.

Live action Ariel is meeting guests at Hollywood Studios.

See additional information that may impact your hotel stay in our DVC resort refurbishment schedule.

DVC Resale Experts Can Help

Does this Disney World news September 2023 edition leave you wanting to book a trip? DVC Resale Experts is a licensed real estate broker with a team that specializes in resale DVC. Whether you’re adding on points, buying or selling Disney Vacation Club, the Experts can help you find the right price to place a bid with or list your contract for. Our independent, licensed real estate agents are former Disney Vacation Club Guides. They have decades of pixie dusted experience selling DVC and delight in providing excellent service to their clients. The Experts have seen it all and are happy to answer your questions throughout the process.

DVC resale prices can pleasantly surprise Members interested in selling DVC. See our resale DVC listings for a look at real time availability and pricing. Ready to sell DVC? Get in touch for a complimentary valuation of your specific contract today. There may be someone waiting on our Buyer Wish List for a contract just like yours.

Disney Blogger Nicole and Disney CEO Bob Iger

Sparkly Nicole

Nicole is a native Floridian who attended the University of Central Florida and decided to call the land of theme parks home. She’s been sharing magical tips, tricks and Orlando travel and tourism favorites online for over a decade.

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