You’re vaccinated, PCR-tested, and armed with sanitizer. And, as life returns to some semblance of normalcy, you’re starting to dream about travel. We’re here to tell you: Don’t sleep on Disney. Even if you’ve been in the past, even if your littles are starting to age out of their princess obsession, even if there are no kids in the picture – Disney has been hard at work over the pandemic. There are a ton of activities and attractions that are new (or at least new to you) making your first return-to-travel adventure to Orlando, Florida worth the wait.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
The parks will never be the same now that Star Lord and his crew have landed in Epcot. This next-gen rollercoaster, which opened to the public in late May 2022, puts you and your fellow time-travelers on a path to save the world – all to the soundtrack of Peter Quill’s mixtapes. Six songs play in rotation (we heard Congo and Disco Inferno the two times we rode). The music is loud, everyone is singing at the top of their lungs and the individual vehicles that make up your coaster move 360 degrees, so you are sometimes in the front, sometimes in the back, but always in the middle of the action. Oh, and the ride begins backward!
The incredible Galaxy’s Edge world in Disney’s Hollywood Studio is now home to two of the best new rides in the park, Millennium Falcon and Rise of the Resistance. Millennium Falcon is a pure thrill: Pick your job – as a pilot, engineer or gunner and help complete a smugglers run while at the controls of the most famous ship in the galaxy. Rise of the Resistance is pure immersive fantasy. The experience itself lasts for more than 20 minutes – and there are multiple “rides” and multiple “wait, how did they do that?” moments throughout the journey.
Kimberly Anwar, owner of Magic Family Getaways, a travel agency that specializes in Disney travel, also highly recommends the new Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser experience. At more than $5k for two nights for a family of four it’s not cheap, but “it’s the most immersive experience out there,” she says. “Every cast member is playing their part throughout four different timelines over two days.”
Anwar notes that when you break down the costs, per person – the experience, the park tickets, all meals, concierge service, transportation to the parks, you start to see the value, and adds that it’s comparable to other high-end Disney resorts like the Grand Floridian. And demand is high, she says. “The clients that we’ve had experience it loved it so much they booked again!”
Nestled in the heart of the Epcot’s French pavilion is a new rats-eye-view of the world, a ride where you sneak into a French kitchen, scuttle under tables and wire racks, get mopped up, and almost get caught by the executive chef. It’s delightful and a great all-ages break as you make your way around World Showcase.
Everest: Single Rider Line
Even with ride lines back to pre-pandemic levels, there’s a secret to getting on the best attractions without the wait. Hit the single-rider line! We have found this especially true at Everest, where on a recent trip, we were able to ride three times (!!) in about 20 minutes. Line, shmine.
Lest you forget that Disney is in the heart of tropical Florida, you will likely appreciate cold hydration, and our favorite delivery mechanism is Dole Whip, the frozen delight that you’ll have completely forgotten about and that is only available at Disney World.
Drinking “Around the World”
Traveling with littles? No matter. Put them in PJs. Get them good and tired so they fall asleep in the stroller. Now you crazy kids can explore the real Epcot fun after dark! Start in Canada with a La Fin Du Monde beer and drink your way around the “world” – sipping champagne in France, Ginga Kogen in Japan, and Schöfferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen in Germany. Date night!
Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp
Pay your respects to your favorite legally challenged swashbuckler, still the star of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and still languishing in the treasure room at the end. (Will let you draw whatever parallels to recent events you see fit.)
Coronado Resort Glow Up
From the Gaudi-inspired bar design to the live flamenco music at night to the al fresco movies out on the lawn, The Coronado resort has gone through a serious pandemic glow up. “I love this resort for couples,” says Anwar. “The best part is that they have a concierge level in the tower — it comes with drinks, food, alcohol, snacks, continental breakfast — plus the concierge services, to help you with rides and reservations.”
Art of Animation: Best Budget
Yes, Disney can be a hit to your wallet, but deals are there for taking if you know where to look. One of our favorite ways to save more money for the souvenir shop is to stay at Art of Animation — an on-property resort themed with the trifecta of Little Mermaid, Cars and Lion King. Animation is also on the Skyliner route, which is a new gondola-esque no-waiting way to get from the resort to Epcot and Hollywood Studios. Staying here you get all the perks of an on-property resort (early Lightning Lane access, extended hours at the park, etc), and is often half the price of on-the-monorail resorts.
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