12 Best Things at Walt Disney World in 2019
The Most Magical Place on Earth definitely delivered many magical memories for Disney fans. Here are the best things that happened at Walt Disney World this year.
12. Maleficent Returns
In a shocking twist worthy of a movie ending, Maleficent breathed fire so hard that she melted her throat. Alas, this scene took place on Main Street, U.S.A., where horrified guests fled in terror. Nobody expects a parade float to catch on fire, much less at Magic Kingdom.
Maleficent went down for repairs. The incident occurred in May of 2018, but the dragon wouldn’t return for the rest of the year. In January of 2019, the fire-breathing lizard queen finally returned to the Festival of Fantasy parade. MickeyBlog livestreamed the event on our Facebook page, and the joy on the faces of guests is unmistakable.
We never thought we’d miss the Evil Queen, but Magic Kingdom felt emptier without those horns.
11. Haunted Mansion Ride Photos
Do you know how many Walt Disney World attractions offered ride photos at the start of 2019? 12!
Park planners were undoubtedly aware of the statistic, and they picked correctly when deciding what should come next. The only choice for the 13th ride photo is Haunted Mansion, right? Now, guests who stare at paintings too long find themselves immortalized on PhotoPass.
10. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party Pass
Oh man, this one caught everybody off-guard. I’ve never met a person who dislikes Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Everyone agrees that it’s a masterpiece.
The one lament that Orlando residents express is that they can’t afford to go as often as they’d like. The tickets cost about $125 each, but Magic Kingdom hosts this event about 40 times a year. Nobody’s willing to pay $5,000 to visit that many times.
Impressively, Disney invented a solution to this complaint. For the first time ever, Magic Kingdom sold the Party Pass. For $299, it entitled owners event access for every party but one! Disney sold Halloween separately, but they still gave passholders almost 40 chances to party!
Here’s hoping that this becomes a standard Halloween option.
9. Mid-Day Admission Tickets
This one’s long overdue. For years, Disney fans begged the company to sell afternoon park tickets. Most theme parks provide this option to show up later in the day when the park feels less congested.
Disney’s resisted for several reasons. The most important one is that Disney maintains tight control over park traffic. Another is that Walt Disney World parks never really clear out the way that less popular parks do.
So, the company had a good reason never to offer this kind of ticket. Thankfully, Disney decided to reward its fans in 2019. Park officials introduced the Mid-Day Magic Ticket, which allows guests to enter at noon. You can spend most of your day at Disney while spending less on tickets!
8. Disney Villains After Hours
In recent years, Disney After Hours has become one of the most popular ticketed events at Magic Kingdom. On certain nights, guests get to stay at the park after it closes to the public. The event costs a little over $100 a night most of the time.
Somebody at Disney came up with a great idea to charge more. In 2019, the company introduced a new version of the same premise. Disney Villains After Hours works the same as the other version. However, the characters that you love to hate are in charge of the night.
Villains run the parades, hold character meetings, and generally scowl their way through the party. It’s uniquely entertaining to those of us who have wanted a Villains-based theme park for years now. From Disney’s perspective, this event earns more money, too. Tickets cost more than the regular version of Disney After Hours. It’s excellent for everybody.
7. Extra, Extra Magic Hours
In anticipation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, park planners planned for the worst. They projected unusual traffic at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and wanted to satisfy demand by any means.
Disney introduced something clever. The park added Extra, Extra Magic Hours, opening as early as 6 a.m. on some days. This extra time rewarded guests staying at official Disney resorts. They received up to three hours of park time when nobody else could enter.
My family visited Hollywood Studios on the last day of Extra, Extra Magic Hours. We weren’t even in a rush to do anything, yet we experienced the entirety of the new themed land in a couple of hours.
This official hotel amenity worked so well that I’m confident Disney will use it again at some point. And it proves that you should always stay at a Disney resort during your vacation.
6. Improved Buses and Monorails
Yes, Disney has experienced many transportation issues in 2019. The Worst of list chronicles several of them. Still, we feel that park officials deserve a lot of credit for some recent changes.
During the second half of 2019, Disney displayed improvements on buses and monorails alike. Some of the buses received new paint jobs. Imagineers added artistic images of beloved Disney characters like Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck.
Movie characters from Moana and Frozen also starred on the new-look buses. Best of all, these buses added USB ports so that guests could charge their devices during the ride.
The monorails also received some upgrades. They received makeovers that made them look younger. Also, each one got a new straight and identification so that guests would know which vessel they were on. Okay, the buses got better renovations, but progress is progress.
5. Resort Character Greetings
During recent hurricanes, Disney has earned a lot of great press for its tactics. Hotel management brings characters to the resorts, where kids fight off boredom by playing with their costumed friends. It’s a wonderful strategy that makes the best of a bad situation.
A couple of years ago, I asked why Disney doesn’t do this more often. During 2019, they finally agreed with me on the point. A few Disney resorts have started hosting character greetings.
These interactions aren’t available all day, and they’re not an option every day. However, on some lucky occasions, you’ll run into friends like Stitch and Goofy when you’re visiting a Disney resort. It’s another magical improvement.
4. Gran Destino Opens
An open secret at Walt Disney World is that the company needs more hotel rooms. People really want to stay at official resorts for some of the reasons I’ve listed here and plenty more. Hotel occupancy rates are usually around 90 percent, which is the envy of the travel industry.
This past summer, Disney opened Gran Destino Tower, a 15-story expansion at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort. This new tower adds almost 500 standard rooms and 50 suites to the hotel’s inventory.
More importantly, Gran Destino Tower evolves Coronado Springs into what people are calling a Moderate Plus resort. In other words, the hotel slots into the Moderate Tier, and Disney prices it that way. However, its décor and ambiance match Deluxe Tier resorts. So, Gran Destino Tower elevates a hotel stay at Coronado Springs.
3. Disney’s Riviera Resort Opens
Much of what I just said applies to the Riviera as well. This resort opened only a couple of weeks ago. Technically, it’s a Disney Vacation Club property, but anyone can book a hotel room here. And people really should.
This resort celebrates the marvelous vacations that Walt and Lillian Disney shared during the 1930s. Elements of the French and Italian Riviera are on display throughout the building. It’s a gorgeous property with spectacular logistics, as it comes with a Disney Skyliner station. Speaking of which…
2. Disney Skyliner Opens
Obviously, the openings of new things at Walt Disney World are a big deal. Even so, the top two that I’m about to discuss absolutely dwarf the rest in terms of importance.
The future of Walt Disney World doesn’t rely on the Disney Skyliner or anything. Still, park planners are adamant that this mid-air gondola system could revolutionize the way that people hop around the four theme parks and possibly even Disney Springs.
The Disney Skyliner system runs continuously throughout the day, and each gondola carries up to 10 guests. In a matter of minutes, hundreds of passengers can move from one destination to another.
Of course, the early days of the Skyliner haven’t been perfect. Several outages have received headlines, and so Disney must prove that the system can operate consistently.
The company clearly has confidence that this will happen. Plans are already in place for future expansion. Whether that happens or not, the Skyliner already connects two theme parks and several Disney resorts. It’s already terrific in its current form and should only get better from here.
1. Star Wars Land Has Perfect Launch
You knew what this was going to be. Since Disney first announced the project, the idea of Star Wars Land has captivated virtually everyone. Even non-Disney fans want to visit the parks now to check out Batuu. Seriously, the same people who tease me about visiting Orlando so often are the first ones to ask about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Disneyland famously struggled a bit in the early days of Star Wars Land. Guests didn’t attend in the volumes that Disney had expected. In Orlando, the situation worked differently. The themed land of Black Spire Outpost has proven popular since day one.
Guests love the restaurants, the shops, and the overall theming. Also, the first ride, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, became an immediate crowd-pleaser. However, the star of Batuu wouldn’t arrive until the end of the year.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has redefined theme park greatness with its stunning quality. This 15-minute ride experience blurs the concept of waiting in line, as Imagineers have introduced some attraction elements before the main portion.
The second Galaxy’s Edge attraction features the most unique ride design ever. And it’s proven so popular that Disney’s had to change the Boarding Group rules at least four times. Plus, they’ve opened the parks 2 ½ hours earlier as needed. The success of Rise of the Resistance is the cherry on top for Disney, which has hit a grand slam with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.