2018 is upon us! To some theme park fans, 2018 might seem like a forgotten year, sandwiched between the major debuts of Pandora (2017) and the upcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (2019). Since being a bit more positive should be on everyone’s new year’s resolutions, we are pointing out the things that we are most excited for at Disney World in 2018. Maybe we could point out that we are including Disneyland because it was hard to fill out a full 18 items without getting a bit too repetitive (yes, we are always excited for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival every year)… but that would go against the spirit of positivity, now, wouldn’t it?

Jokes aside, 2018 should be an amazing year for those of us lucky enough to spend some time in Disney parks from coast to coast. Here’s what you can look forward to this year.

New and Exciting Things at Disney World in 2018

Toy Story Land Concept Art

Toy Story Land opening in Summer 2018 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Much like how I described 2018 as the forgotten year, Toy Story Land seems to be the forgotten expansion. While not as anticipated as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Toy Story Land should be a good, solid addition to Hollywood Studios. With two new rides (including the incredibly fun looking Slinky Dog Coaster), new dining options, and a really fun theme, Toy Story Land will add much needed capacity to the park. It will also surely be a hit with younger guests.

Artist at Festival of the Arts - Epcot - Disney World

Return of Festival of the Arts at Epcot – January 2018

One of last year’s best surprises was Epcot’s Festival of the Arts. While it has many of the traditional staples of an Epcot Festival (Food booths? Check. Limited edition merch? Oh, for sure, check), Festival of the Arts has enough interactive, educational, and creative elements to make it wonderfully its own thing. Where else in Disney World can you take a workshop on photography or making topiaries? Fortunately, the festival is being expanded this year, running from January 12 through February 19. Do yourself a favor and check out this festival.

Animal Kingdom Entrance - Walt Disney World

Animal Kingdom Turns 20

Disney World’s fourth theme park opened on Earth Day in 1998, and 20 years later there is plenty of reason to celebrate at Animal Kingdom. DAK just opened a major expansion with Pandora and completed its transformation into a full day theme park. While nothing has been formally announced, don’t be surprised if Disney has announces some special events to celebrate Animal Kingdom’s birthday this April.

Russell - Up - Animal Kingdom

“Up” Show at Animal Kingdom

Flights of Wonder is one of my favorite shows at Animal Kingdom. Well, I should say was. That show is going away, being replaced by an Up-inspired show, featuring Russell and Dug. Normally, I wouldn’t be excited about one of my favorite things being replaced, but the show is supposed to still be focused on showcasing the wonders of different bird species. Since Flights of Wonder largely hadn’t changed for two decades, I’m excited to see if this new version of the show can breathe new life into it when it takes flight this year.

Disney Springs

A Bevy of New Restaurants at Disney Springs

I am a huge fan of Disney Springs. It’s the perfect place to spend a day away from the parks, with plenty of fun options to eat, shop, and hang out. However, I’m usually most interested in the eating part. Joining the recently opened speakeasy The Edison are seven new establishments: Terralina Crafted Italian, Wine Bar George, Jaleo, Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Enzo’s Hideaway, and Pizza Ponte.

Caribbean Beach Resort RenderCaribbean Beach Resort renovations debut in Summer 2018

Caribbean Beach is getting an all new lobby, a new restaurant and poolside bar, as well as an expanded Centertown Market. Summer 2018 and beyond might be a great time to book a stay at this resort.

Grand Floridian - Disney World Resort

Grand Floridian turns 30 and is celebrating in style.

Who knew that the Grand Floridian could be considered a millennial? Disney World’s grandest resort is turning the big 3-0 this year, and the resort will be holding a gala to celebrate on June 30th. The event begins at 7 pm and is $195 per person. Make reservations by calling 407-WDW-DINE.

ESPN Wide World of Sports is getting a massive expansion

Disney World’s all-purpose sports facility is getting a touchdown of an expansion, with six additional basketball courts, new entries and concession areas, as well as capacity for 8,000 additional guests. Or maybe that’s a three-pointer? A goal? Field goal? Whatever the sports analogy is, it should be great for events held at the complex.

Exciting Things at Disney World AND Disneyland in 2018

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire at Downtown Disney and Disney Springs

This immersive VR-experience featuring characters from Rogue One is already open at Disney World, and it is getting rave reviews as the best virtual reality experience out there. Disneyland’s version opens in the upcoming days. I cannot wait to check this out for myself.

Batuu - Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Pre-Star Wars crowds… and prices

I am as excited as anyone for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but I have felt a disturbance in the Force regarding two inevitabilities: crowds are going to increase and ticket prices are going to go up once we can all go visit Batuu. But that’s a problem for 2019 James. 2018 James can just enjoy the crowd levels and prices for what they are right now. How’s that for living in the moment?

Millennium Falcon Ride - Star Wars Galaxy's Edge

Seeing the construction come together and new glimpses of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

One of the coolest parts of living close to Disneyland while Cars Land was under construction was seeing the land go from a flat lot to an amazing mountain range over a couple of years. Last year was a lot of fun looking at the Star Wars land’s progress, especially being able to catch a glimpse of the massive, full-size AT-AT (seriously, they look huge). I think this year will be just as fun for guests at Disney World and Disneyland, as they see the construction progress as we race toward 2019.

Exciting Things at Disneyland in 2018

Mickey Mouse - Paint the Night

The Return of Paint the Night at California Adventure

Paint the Night is my favorite Disney parade, full stop. So I am beyond excited that it will be making its return to the Disneyland Resort this year, albeit at a different resort. It will also be fun to see what new additions will make it to the parade this year.

Pixar Fireworks - Disneyland

“Together Forever–A Pixar Nighttime Spectacular” Fireworks

Disneyland has a new fireworks spectacular in the works this year as part of Pixar Fest. Considering how much I loved their last show, Disneyland Forever, I’m excited to see what Disney has come up with for the new Pixar-themed fireworks.

Pixar Play Parade Lamp

Pixar Play Parade additions

The Pixar Play Parade is moving its way over to Disneyland proper, with a few new additions for Pixar Fest. Expect new floats featuring Luxo Jr, Inside Out, and Up.

Slider - California Adventure Food and Wine Festival

Expanded Food & Wine Festival at California Adventure

Since its return two years ago, California Adventure’s Food & Wine Festival has been a success. A delicious, delicious success. This year, DCA’s Food & Wine Festival is being bumped out to 6 weeks, and I’m hoping this year will be the best fest yet. Look out for it this spring.

Disneyland - Lobster Nachos - Cove Bar

New Theme for Ariel’s Grotto and Cove Bar

Much like the Flights of Wonder refresh, take this one as nervous excitement. I’m a huge fan of the Cove Bar, and I’ve had some great times with my nieces at Ariel’s Grotto. While I’m still not 100% sold on Pixar Pier as a concept, the most promising part to me is the refresh and retheming of these two dining options at DCA. Disney has a really solid track record when it comes to refreshing restaurants lately, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for something that exceeds the Cove Bar and Ariel’s Grotto when they reopen. At the very least, please don’t get rid of the Lobster Nachos!

Disney After Dark Events

Disneyland recently announced a new series of events called Disney After Dark. The first event is a Throwback Nite on January 18. This particular event throws back to Date Night at Disneyland, a special event from the early days of Disneyland featuring music, dancing, and plenty of debonair outfits. I love this type of special event that nods to Disneyland’s storied past, and I’m excited to see what else Disney comes up with for Disney After Dark.

New Additions Coming to Downtown Disney

In addition to the Star Wars VR experience, Downtown Disney will be debuting at least two new establishments. First is Splitsville, the luxury bowling experience that is already a hit with guests at Disney Springs. Second is Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer, famous for their burgers, beer, and “CrazyShakes.”

That’s it for this preview of the most exciting things in the year to come. What are you most excited about in 2018 at Disneyland and Disney World? Let me know in the comments below! I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises along the way that we don’t even know about yet.




James is a lifelong Disney Parks fan. While at the parks, he loves finding new details, learning more about Disney World history, and taking pictures. His favorite WDW attractions include Spaceship Earth, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.
James is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.

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