New food, entertainment, rides — and one very special meet-and-greet.

By Carlye Wisel
May 22, 2016
Disney World New Summer Experiences
Credit: Thomas Kelly

Whether you haven’t taken the kids to Disney World since they were little or literally just stepped off the plane, there’s so much coming to the parks and beyond this summer. Not only can families soon ride rollercoasters in the dark, experience Frozen in real life, and watch new shows day and night, but taste, try and enjoy more than you could just a few months ago.

Come face-to-face with giraffes on a nighttime safari, feel the Force Star Wars fireworks, or choose to have a spectacular dinner instead — you can do it all this summer at Walt Disney World.

When Animal Kingdom unveils itself at nighttime beginning Memorial Day Weekend , guests can ride Expedition Everest and Kali River Rapids in the dark and even take a trip on the Kilimanjaro Safaris lit by an ever-present sunset. Family favorites like Turtle Talk with Crush and Toy Story Mania are also receiving fresh updates with the addition of Finding Dory characters for the undersea favorite and a much-needed third track that’ll slash wait times for the 4D arcade shooting game.  Though Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and It’s A Small World are still the same, they are among the first few rides that now interact with guests’ MagicBands. The next time you ride, pay close attention to their digital posters and screens — you or your children’s names may be up there!

Summer visitors to Disney World will be further than a monorail ride from Shanghai Disneyland, but Epcot will be showing a new film in the flight favorite Soarin’ come mid-June. Though the fresh orange groves will be long gone, it’s looking like Soarin’ Around The World, which debuts at the Chinese park, will be as awe-inspiring as the original.

And, most importantly, the long-awaited Frozen Ever After ride will finally be up and running this summeron June 21st, taking guests through on a journey through Arendelle where they’ll witness plenty of familiar faces while listening to that signature, inescapable ballad once more. Just next door, princess meet-and-greets will be changed forever when Elsa and Anna move into their cabin at Epcot’s Norway Pavilion as the other half of its forthcoming Frozen expansion. No opening date within June has been announced yet for either, but guests hoping to meet Olaf will have to travel to an entirely different kingdom — Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Once there, guests can enjoy a meet-and-greets with the adorable snowman as well as a Fantasia-inspired Mickey and glamorous Hollywood Minnie, which are all available now. Your kids will love meeting Disney Junior’s Princess Elena, who is set to arrive in the Magic Kingdom later this summer, but your co-workers will get a kick out of those Inside Out selfies when you head to Epcot to meet Joy and Sadness, as well as Baymax from Big Hero 6, all of whom are currently making Instagram magic inside the park.

Three entirely new shows are coming to Walt Disney World as well. Magic Kingdom will introduce a never-before-seen castle show called Mickey’s Friendship Faire this summer, and a new nighttime show themed for The Jungle Book, as well as other evening entertainment, will arrive at Animal Kingdom on Memorial Day Weekend. The biggest debut of all will be Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, a fireworks show combining video projections, lasers, special effects, and towers of fire that will wow fans of both the Light Side and Dark Side when it arrives later this summerJune 17th.

All that fun will surely work up an appetite, and with over a dozen new food locations, a Mickey pretzel will never have to suffice as an on-the-go meal. (Hey, we’ve all been there!) Tiffins, an inventive and worldly signature restaurant, will serve coriander-spiced pork ribs and black-eyed pea fritters to guests within Animal Kingdom beginning in late May, while its Nomad Lounge & Cocktail Bar will offer an exclusive custom beer as well as cocktails sourcing ingredients from Asia, Africa and South America. Brooklyn-based Ample Hills Creamery just opened its doors at Disney’s Boardwalk Hotel and is on its way to becoming a family favorite with unique flavors like Chocolate Milk & Cookies, Nonna D’s Oatmeal Lace and Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, each served in a choice of six different cones (including cookie and pretzel options!) or in a customizable sundae. And, by the end of the summer, neighboring restaurant Flying Fish will re-open with its reimagined concept as well as an attached magic-themed Abracadabar lounge, offering craft cocktails with more than just a magician’s touch.

And then, of course, there’s Disney Springs. The area formerly known as Downtown Disney has nearly completed its transformation and has so much more than you can even imagine experiencing from your last visit. If you fancy yourself a foodie, there will be enough to enjoy your own personal food festival. Want the best burger on Disney property? Head to D-Luxe Burger, where you can pair your french fries with a custom selection of dipping sauces. Satisfying a sweet tooth once everything has closed? Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATM is the place to be. There are gourmet pastry shops, poutine kiosks, Japanese street food, sausage sandwiches and everything in between. And, if you need to take a breather from all those delicious bites, exploring the many new shops at their Town Center, which will continue to open throughout the summer months, should do the trick.

New attractions, entertainment, shows and snacks, all within a few month’s time? Summer vacation has never looked better.