Whether it's your first trip to Disney or you're a frequent visitor of The Mouse, one thing is for sure: It's going to be a magical summer with new experiences for all. Enjoy interactions with new characters, amazing new food and beverages and all-new entertainment and accomodations.
"There's never been a better time to visit Walt Disney World than summer 2015, the season we're calling the Coolest Summer Ever," says Walt Disney World President George A. Kalogridis. "And I think it's fair to say there's no one cooler than Olaf which is why we chose him as our official mascot."
That brings us to No. 1 on our list of new Disney experiences, which is:
1. A New "Frozen" Show
Kids cannot get enough of the beloved sister-princesses and the funny snowman who loves summer. And with a sequel coming out, don't expect the "Frozen" frenzy to go away anytime soon. Lines for a meet-and-greet with Anna and Elsa at the Magic Kingdom are still around 90 minutes (get a FastPass+), so Disney is spreading the love over to Hollywood Studios with "Frozen Summer Fun Live" June 17-Sept. 7. The popular sing-along with Anna and Elsa will continue this summer at the Premiere Theatre along with the Frozen Royal Welcome, dance party with DJ Chill and a fireworks show with the characters. New this season, Olaf will be debuting in his own show, "Olaf's Summer Cool Down." In the story, Olaf and his friends are out on summer vacation, and at the end of the 10-minute show, Olaf cools off the guests with a surprise special effect. Visitors can catch one of six performances each day on the main outdoor stage.
"I'll finally see a summer breeze, blow away a winter storm. And find out what happens to solid water when it gets warm! And I can't wait to see, what my buddies all think of me. Just imagine how much cooler I'll be in summer." -Olaf
2. Downtown Disney Expansion
Downtown Disney is undergoing a major transformation into Disney Springs, which will be finalized sometime next year. "There's a lot of work going on as we double the amount of dining, retail and entertainment there," says Kalogridis. "We've had a busy couple of months opening eight new retail locations at the Landing, the first of our four Disney Springs neighborhoods. Our waterside restaurant, the Boathouse, is an example of our growth in dining opportunities, and we're very proud of that addition and look forward to opening Morimoto Asia and STK, two very exciting restaurants later this year, as Downtown Disney continues its transformation into Disney Springs."
While guests must manuever through some traffic and construction to get to the new central parking garage, once inside Downtown Disney is easily navigable for visiting new shops and restaurants. The Boathouse is a collaboration among the legendary Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse in Chicago and Schussler Creative, the company behind T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe, so diners get the best of both worlds with amazing steak and seafood (but save room for the collosal Baked Alaska), served in an over-the-top, fun atmosphere with outdoor decks and amphicars that take visitors on a water tour ($125/hour for three people). New shops at Downtown Disney include Sanuk shoes, the Art of Shaving, Apex by Sunglass Hut, Chapel Hats, Havaianas Brazilian shoes, Sound Lion, Erwin Pearl jewelry and Erin McKenna Bakery NYC.
3. Harambe Market at Animal Kingdom
Like Downtown Disney, Animal Kingdom is also undergoing the largest expansion in its history with plans for a day-to-night experience and the 2017 Avatar land. But ready to go this summer is the new Harambe Market, a Colonial Era-style food stand, located in a newly created space near Kilimanjaro Safari in Africa, serving street-inspired dishes and cool beverages from quick-service windows. Guests can try curried-style corndogs, chicken skewers, kebab flatbread and African-spiced ribs along with watermelon lemonade, specialty rum drinks and African wine and beer.
4. Upgrades at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Walt Disney World's original resort is completing a major makeover. Overlooking the Seven Seas Lagoon are the deluxe Bora Bora Bungalows, which run about $2,100 a night and come with their own high-end kitchen, themed bedrooms, living area and wrap-around porches with views of Cinderella's castle at the Magic Kingdom. But there's also plenty for everyone at the resort, including childcare services at the new Lilo's Playhouse, a renovated pool with children's play area and a fun new bar called Trader Sam's Grog Grotto. Even if you're not staying at the property, a visit to Trader Sam's is worth the trip for its funky ambience based on the popular-themed lounge at Disneyland. Order the Uhoa drink and watch as it catches on fire at the table, upsetting the tiki goddess of disaster. For a non-alcoholic treat, sit outside with a refreshing Dole Whip, a dreamy blend of pineapple juice and icecream, and just take in the view.
5. Water Park Updates
Disney's two on-property water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, just got more refreshing with the addition of healthy salads, Asian rice bowls and frozen hot chocolate with marshmallow whip. Along with an enhanced menu, there's a new event coinciding with the Disney Channel’s "Teen Beach 2." Join the beach party from May 22-June 5 with a throw-back to the 60s. Plus, a new waterpark hopper ticket option allows you to visit both parks in one day.
6. American Music Machine
You really have to hear it to believe it. This talented group of five takes acapella to the next octave. With "Pitch Perfect 2" coming out this summer, and with the big series finale of "Glee," there's more buzz around this genre than ever. American Music Machine will perform all summer at Epcot from Wednesday through Sunday on the main stage, and their shows are included in admission. The group performs hit songs through the decades to today in a creative and unique style created by vocal arranger Tim Davis of “Glee.” No instruments needed with these fantastic voices. What these kids can do just might be cooler than Olaf.
7. Doc McStuffins Comes to Hollywood Studios
The doc is in. Your favorite doctor is making her debut as a meet-and-greet character this summer alongside Jake and Sofia the First in the Animation Courtyard at Hollywood Studios. Be sure to watch the popular Disney Live show, offered 10 times daily, and then get a big hug to make you feel better. Don't forget to bring along your autograph books. The FastPass+ is not offered for the character meet-and-greets at Disney's Hollywood Studios, but while you're waiting you can use ...
8. The New Disney Side App
Disney has been running this popular hashtag/tagline for over a year now. But new this year is an app which transforms you into your favorite Disney character. You can choose to be Anna or Elsa, even changing your background and costume, or perhaps become Capt. Jack Sparrow, Darth Maul or Jafar and share it on social media. It's a fun—and free—way to kill some time while waiting in lines or even in the office while dreaming of your next Disney vacation. #disneyside