Rivers of Light Delayed into 2017, Full List of New Additions for Disney World Next Year

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The unveiling of a magical, mythical world of floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring Banshees anchors an exciting 2017 at Walt Disney World Resort – a year filled with new water park fun, a new festival for Epcot, more openings at Disney Springs, an awe-inspiring nighttime experience at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and much more.

Opening in summer 2017 at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Pandora-The World of Avatar will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey and new food & beverage and merchandise locations. Pongu Pongu (pictured here) will be a special drink location with a design that is as eclectic as its Expat owner. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney Parks)

Opening in summer 2017 at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Pandora-The World of Avatar will bring a variety of new experiences to the park, including a family-friendly attraction called Na’vi River Journey and new food & beverage and merchandise locations. Pongu Pongu (pictured here) will be a special drink location with a design that is as eclectic as its Expat owner. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Disney Parks)

Here’s a roundup at what the new year has in store:

Pandora – The World of Avatar – A transformational experience unlike any other, Pandora – The World of Avatar, opens in summer 2017. In collaboration with filmmaker James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Disney is bringing to life the fantasy world of Pandora, inspired by Cameron’s epic film AVATAR, in a breathtaking new land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage will send guests flying above the jungles of Pandora on a Mountain Banshee. Bioluminescent rainforests dramatically wrap around Na’vi River Journey, a family-friendly boat ride.

Hungry adventurers can recharge at Satu’li Canteen, the main dining location, or Pongu Pongu, a drink kiosk with a design as eclectic as its expat owner. Shoppers can stock up on Na’vi cultural items, toys, science kits and more at Windtraders. “From the place making to the two extraordinary attractions that will be in the land…these promise to set new high-watermarks for the experiential magic we give our guests,” said Bob Chapek, Chairman, Disney Parks and Resorts.

More Additions to Disney Springs in 2017 – With the multi-year makeover of this hip, happening district for dining, shopping and entertainment in the homestretch, still more exciting openings are on tap for 2017. Great new food and beverage venues lead the way.

  • Paddlefish – Sleek and modern after a bow-to-stern transformation from the former Fulton’s Crab House, Paddlefish will serve fresh seafood, steaks and chops. Unique menu choices for seafood lovers include a build-your-own boil. A new rooftop lounge will serve up a late-night menu and shipshape views of the water and Disney Springs. Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.
  • Planet Hollywood Observatory – Longtime Downtown Disney-goers will remember the iconic domed restaurant that drew celebrities and fans of the Hollywood scene. The reborn space will be themed to stars of a different kind: a turn-of-the-20th-Century observatory serving up amazing burgers and sandwiches created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri, and craft cocktails whose names are inspired by the planets and space travel. Movie memorabilia, video screens, contemporary music and themed merchandise complete the scene.
  • The Polite Pig – A sister restaurant to the Ravenous Pig, a favorite with Orlando locals, The Polite Pig will bring the same focus on genuine Florida cuisine to a broader global audience at Disney Springs. Lunch and dinner menus will feature a variety of wood-fired smoked and grilled items as well as an innovative beverage program that serves all drinks on tap, including beer, wine and cocktails.
  • Wine Bar George – Orlando master sommelier George Miliotes uncorks his first Disney wine bar in a space reminiscent of a winemaker’s estate warmed by oak wood and cozy lighting. Small plates dominate the food menu but it will be the wines with a starring role: more than 100 selections both by the bottle and the glass in a range of varietals and vintages.

Home to four distinct neighborhoods, Disney Springs treats guests to a world of beautiful open-air promenades, flowing springs, arcing foot bridges and waterfront charm. Venues have doubled – to approximately 150.

New Family Raft Ride at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – Aboard this family-style raft adventure, guests will be immersed in the story of Captain Mary Oceaneer. Legend holds that this treasure hunter roamed the seven seas in search of undersea artifacts – until a rogue storm marooned her at Typhoon Lagoon. Guests gently ascend in treasure rafts, only to plunge into a whitewater adventure where they will encounter some of Mary’s deep sea booty. When it opens in spring 2017, it will be one of the longest attractions (2 minutes) at Disney’s Water Parks.

Rivers of Light – Coming in 2017, this powerful theatrical production takes Disney’s Animal Kingdom guests on a magnificent emotional journey – a visual mix of water, fire, nature and light choreographed to an original musical score. Continuing the park’s transformation from a day-into-nighttime experience, the amazing after-dark show on the banks of Discovery River celebrates the majesty of nature and the connection between animals and humans in the world. With innovative and never-before-seen technology, Rivers of Light will be unlike any other production ever staged at Walt Disney World Resort.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts – Epcot welcomes an all-new festival playing winter weekends and treating guests to a triple scoop of artful fun. For six colorful weekends (Fridays through Mondays) Jan. 13-Feb. 20, visual, culinary and performing arts will take center stage. Each weekend will feature taste bud-tempting and eye-dazzling creations from the Disney culinary team. Meantime, exciting new art from various media will tempt art lovers. Because the artwork will change out, it’s a new art festival every weekend. In addition, the lagoon-side stage at American Gardens Theatre will pulse with favorite showtunes performed by Broadway talent. In a collaboration with Disney Theatrical, songs from some of Disney on Broadway’s award-winning shows including The Lion King, Newsies and Aladdin will be performed.

Unique All-New Experiences for Dining, Star Wars Fans – A new adventure in Disney dining and the ultimate Star Wars tour are being offered to guests in 2017.

Disney’s famed monorail is your connection in a movable feast called Highway in the Sky Dine-Around. The new experience gives guests priority boarding on the monorail for a distinctly Disney dining experience with stops for cocktails, appetizers, dinner and dessert. From a welcome cocktail at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, guests call at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort (apps), Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (entree) and back to the Contemporary for dessert, cordials and coffee. Offered Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

For the ultimate Star Wars fan comes the ultimate tour. An all-new Star Wars Guided Tour is a seven-hour immersion in all current Star Wars experiences at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Character greetings, themed dining, ride experiences, insider’s tours, dessert party and VIP viewing of Star Wars: a Galactic Spectacular are among highlights. Offered Mondays and Saturdays, it’s part of several new Star Wars additions announced in December 2016 for the park, including a new onstage sequence in the daytime experience “Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away.” Star Wars-themed lands are planned for Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort.

New Cabins and Deluxe Villas coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge – In 2017, a proposed new Disney Vacation Club Resort, Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort, is scheduled to open, featuring new Resort accommodations that include plans for Deluxe Villas and unique waterfront cabins. Other enhancements coming to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge include a brand-new bar & grill, in addition to a quick-service restaurant. A sweeping re-imagination of the former Hidden Springs Pool, part of Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, is also scheduled to open in summer 2017. Named Boulder Ridge Cove, this area will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry pool.

New Cheerleading, Dance Venue for ESPN Wide World of Sports – A first-of-its-kind venue specifically designed for the high-energy world of cheerleading and dance team competition opens its doors in 2017 at ESPN Wide World of Sports. The complex is collaborating with Varsity Spirit, the nation’s top cheerleading organization, in bringing the new multi-use venue to life. The venue will include a flexible design that allows for as many as four competition areas. With the ability to seat more than 8,000 guests, the sports and entertainment venue also can accommodate six regulation basketball courts, six regulation volleyball courts or be configured for concerts.

14 comments

  1. I figured Rivers of Light would be put off until next year at the rate they’re going. Might as well do it right than put out a lackluster show early (and yet still later than they originally advertised). Our one Animal Kingdom day (coming up in exactly 2 weeks now) will basically be a half day with our FPs and then we’ll head over to DHS for a dinner reservation and maybe some meet’n’greets (Chewbacca and Moana, maybe Dr. Strange if he’s still there by then). If we do an October trip maybe we can do the new Avatar rides and see Rivers of Light if it’s not boring.

  2. Blame Tom, or Canada

    I believe everyone can agree the River of Lights delay is all Tom’s fault. Disney is sooooo mad that he crashed the Cast Preview and wrote about it, they’re holding us back just to spite us. Thanks Tom! This is why we can’t have nice things!

  3. Thom

    Fucking pathetic. Honestly. Sorry for the language, but it’s an understatement. That’s a dismal list of updates. And another delay.

    • PJ

      I try to be optimistic, but I agree. Most are money grabs. Nothing much to see here new at WDW Orlando unless you want to waste some money.

    • Jane Hursch

      Harsh language, but yes. Disney has let WDW slide. The Disney Springs offerings look nice. We know it’s not really Disney run or a theme park, but like it a lot better than Epcot now to be honest.

  4. Constant Cash Grabs

    I love that a new DVC property is on the list. For what?! Oh, that’s right…Disney considers charging $500+ a night for a room worth $150 AT BEST a bonus benefit to paying an egregious $3k+ for admission to a crumbling empire that continues to be outdone by the little park that could down the street.

  5. Pat

    Dang, not even the “Disney does everything perfect, if you don’t like it, don’t go” crowd commented on this one. You know it’s really nothing new coming down the road decent when Disney PR takes a back seat.

    Disney Springs looks like the best bet. Good move by Disney to let it be operated by 3rd party. Went last night, and was more entertainment, shows, singing than the theme parks combined. Nice! Great decorations too. No new rides on the list, and I know they’re refurbing areas for avatar, star wars and cars, but not world class theme park it once was for sure.

    • Disney Pete

      Disney Spring is an abomination. It belongs in South Park SoDo SoPa. The only nice thing in there is the Coca Cola store and once in there, is sad to see that there’s more imagination flowing through the people who designed the merchandise for the Coca Cola Store that there was in creating Disney Springs or anything new at WDW. Did Imagineers got new jobs at Coca Cola marketing?

      • Tanesha

        I don’t think Disney Springs is bad at all, but to each their own. I’ll agree there’s more imagination that went into the Coca Cola sore than anything in the last many years or foreseeable future at WDW theme parks. That said, I don’t drink Coke. And I agree that imagineers don’t have much do, am sure they must get frustrated at seeing their ideas slashed by accountants who say,,”emmm, no, lets just put another big store there instead of something fun or imaginative, but you can come up with the sign for prices!”

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