5 Things you can’t miss at Walt Disney World this summer

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happily ever after
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World
With its busiest season upon us, Walt Disney World has unveiled a variety of new experiences and features for guests to enjoy this summer and well beyond. Here are five things you won’t want to miss if you’re visiting the parks.

Pandora – The World of Avatar

This one if an obvious inclusion to our list. Pandora is the biggest addition to Walt Disney World since the unveiling of new Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, and I would argue this is an even bigger game changer. The 12-acre land is based on James Cameron’s Avatar brings two new attractions to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Avatar Flight of Passage is, in my humble opinion, the best ride at any of Disney’s American theme parks. Thanks to technological advancements and a bit of pixie dust, you feel as though you’ve literally been brought into the world of Pandora, feeling its wind in your face as you soar on the back of a banshee. Na’vi River Journey is a much tamer ride but no less visually impressive as you float through a bioluminescent rainforest in search of the shaman of songs.

Happily Ever After Fireworks

happily ever after
Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World

Happily Ever After is the first new non-seasonal fireworks show at Magic Kingdom in nearly 14 years, and while many were sad to see Wishes go, its replacement is nothing short of spectacular. The show combines projections and lasers with traditional pyrotechnics to take you on a journey as Disney characters pursue their dreams. The projections in this show are used a little differently than in other castle projection shows. Instead of the castle becoming a blank canvas to display various scenes, it’s almost always still a castle, just enhanced. It’s a subtle change, but one that I think makes a difference in how your subconscious processes the show. Happily Ever After features a new song recorded by Jordan Fisher and Angie Keilhauer that will undoubtedly be getting stuck in our heads for years to come.

The Music of Pixar Live!

Pixar Live

We’ve already covered this one it its own post but it bears repeating that The Music of Pixar Live! is one of our favorite things at Disney World right now. The live orchestra performance is shown three times each evening through August 27 and features the music and scenes from Toy Story, Cars, Up, The Incredibles, and Monsters, Inc. While portions of the show are absolutely emotional terrorism (broadcasting the saddest portions of Toy Story 3 and Up in public is just wrong), that’s just a testament to the power of music. If just one family that typically wouldn’t take in a live performance like this comes away with a new appreciation, it’s a win.

Copper Creek at Wilderness Lodge

copper creek villa
Photo courtesy of Disney Vacation Club

Copper Creek Cabins & Villas opens to guests on July 17 and is the second Disney Vacation Club development at Wilderness Lodge. The property features 26 over-water cabins and 184 units ranging from studios to three-bedroom grand villas and offers a spacious, secluded escape from the bustle of the parks, but is still just a short boat ride from the Magic Kingdom. Cabins sleep eight and feature gorgeous woodwork and furnishings, a fireplace (for ambiance—this is still central Florida), screened patio, hot tub, and stellar view of the nightly Electrical Water Pageant. And don’t worry, you can book a room here even if you’re not a DVC member.

Also new to Wilderness Lodge is Geyser Point Bar & Grill, located on the shore of Bay Lake and just around the corner from the Magic Kingdom ferry dock. Geyser Point is open from breakfast through late night, so you can stop by for the evening campfire and some libations after the post-fireworks exodus from the park.

Mobile Ordering

satuli canteen dessert

Disney has begun offering mobile ordering at select quick service restaurants, and it will save visitors a ton of time waiting in line. Mobile orderding is currently available at four locations in Animal Kingdom and at D-Luxe Burger at Disney Springs, with several locations at Magic Kingdom next in the rollout. To be certain which restaurants are included during your visit, go to the restaurants area in the My Disney Experience app and filter for “mobile orders.”

Just choose your items in the Disney app at any time the day you plan to eat there and pay via credit card. Tap the “I’m Here” button when you’ve arrived and are ready to eat, and go to the designated line for mobile pickup. (Check out this video for a play-by-play on the process.) There are surely kinks to be worked out in the system (like the fact that AP discounts can’t be processed), but anything that keeps us from waiting in line when we’re hungry has to be a good thing.