There's always something new cooking at Disney World. From new attractions and parades to improved smartphone apps and massive park expansions (and, yes, price increases), here's what to expect at Walt Disney World in 2014.
Walt Disney World Ticket Prices Increase
The price of admission when Walt Disney World opened in Orlando back in 1971 was a mere $3.50, albeit sans individual attraction ticket books. Adjusted for inflation, that adult one-day ticket would still be an extremely affordable $20.50. Alas, the current price of an all-inclusive single-day adult Magic Kingdom Park admission ticket is actually $99, up from $95 in February of this year. Kids ages three to nine pay $93.
Single-day adult tickets for Epcot, Disney's Animal Kingdom, or Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney MGM Studios) cost $94 each ($88 for kids ages three to nine). You can combine access to other parks with a Park Hopper Option for an additional $35 per ticket.
Admission-price increases generally occur just in time for school breaks and summer vacations in February and June. This also coincides with the park's busiest seasons.
New Fantasyland at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom
The brand-new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction launched late May of this year, but that was only the latest in a multiyear expansion of Fantasyland.
The last couple of years have witnessed a complete revamp of Magic Kingdom's Fantasyland—some attractions have been removed to make way for new ones. Gone is Snow White's Scary Adventures, for example. In its place are a new Goofy ride and a revised Dumbo ride; a Beauty and the Beast-themed restaurant; a The Little Mermaid grotto; and the Princess Fairytale Hall, a meeting place where guests can enjoy time with their favorite Disney princesses.
Now New Fantasyland is divided into two sections: the Enchanted Forest and Storybook Circus. Walt Disney World News (the theme park's official news site) calls this the "largest expansion project in Magic Kingdom history," and one that has doubled the size of Fantasyland.
Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
New Fantasyland's jubilation spills from the rides to the streets, where on Magic Kingdom's Main Street, U.S.A., a new parade is afoot. Through costumes, soundtracks, and innovative floats, the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade narrates the story of many Disney and Pixar films, among them an animatronic fire-breathing dragon from Maleficent, Disney's latest cinematic blockbuster; Anna, Elsa, and Olaf from Frozen atop the Princess Garden float; and, of course, the big cheese himself, Mickey.
Walt Disney World App
The My Disney Experience app isn't technically new for 2014, but it does offer even more new features this year. In past years, the app has revolutionized the entire Disney experience. No more having to walk across the park to see if a ride's line has eased—simply check out the attraction's wait time on the app. Better still, reserve your FastPass+ selections directly on the app.
This year, you can also make parade reservations, add up to four FastPass+ selections, and share your itinerary with travel companions. Maps and up-to-the-minute information such as attractions closings are also available in the app.
With the FastPass+, guests may reserve fast-lane access to various rides, exclusive seating at parades and shows, and character greetings—essentially skipping lines by preplanning up to three FastPass+ park attractions per day. Day-of itinerary edits are no problem, too, but FastPass+ tickets are limited and available on a first come, first served basis.
Previously only an option to Disney Resort guests, FastPass+ is now available to all theme park patrons. Those staying at a park resort, however, still have an added advantage: They get first dibs at selecting their FastPass+ experiences 60 days in advance. Day visitors (park guests staying at off-site accommodations) holding annual passes have the option to opt in for their FastPass+ selections 30 days prior to theme park check-in; all other day visitors may make FastPass+ reservations on the day of entry and at FastPass+ kiosks.
Amendment to the No-Wait Rule for Disabled Guests
The New York Post broke the story last year that a morally questionable company was abusing Disney's Guest Assistance Card, a program that granted front-of-the-line access to disabled guests and six of their companions. It seems wealthy families were scheming to skip attractions queues by manipulating the system.
A rotten few ruined it for all special-needs guests, because disabled visitors are no longer allowed to move to the front of the line. Instead, Disney now grants a Disability Access Card that acts similarly to its FastPass+ program: Disabled guests are issued tickets with a return time to the attraction.
Disney Resort guests and annual pass holders receive waterproof wristbands called MagicBands, but all others have the option to buy them once inside the park. The MagicBand acts as a theme park admission ticket, the key to your resort hotel room, a FastPass+ ticket, and even your wallet. The personalized, RFID-equipped MagicBand is designed to handle all of those options with a single tap.
Downtown Disney to Become Disney Springs
Scheduled for completion in 2016 but already underway, Downtown Disney's conversion to Disney Springs will offer more than double the current amount of shopping, dining, and entertainment options. The area is designed to have the look of a quintessential turn-of-the-century Florida town. When all is said and done in two years, expect an open-air promenade, delightful springs, and loads of charm.
On the Horizon at Walt Disney World
A massive, multiyear expansion of Disney's Animal Kingdom, inspired by James Cameron's Avatar movie, just broke ground in January. Walt Disney World News calls the project the largest expansion in the history of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Expect to see Na'vi-themed attractions rolled out gradually in segments and over the next couple of years.
Disney's Polynesian Resort is currently undergoing a massive resort overhaul, including grounds and room refurbishments, with an eye toward completion in 2015. Additionally, Walt Disney World News reports that the 900-acre Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort will open this summer.
—By Patricia Magaña