A lot of people visit Disney’s (DIS) resort in Florida every year. A whopping 51.5 million guests visited Disney World’s four theme parks last year, according to industry tracker Themed Entertainment Association. Another 4.2 million guests checked out one of the resort’s two water parks.
With more tourists traveling to Orlando than even New York City these days, it’s a safe bet that a trip to Disney World may be in your future. It’s not cheap: A single-day ticket to visit Disney World’s Magic Kingdom is now up to $ 105, and that’s before factoring in travel, lodging, meals and other diversions.
You may want to start saving up money. Disney announced some pretty impressive attractions coming to Disney World in the coming months and years during this past weekend’s D23 expo. Let’s go over a few of the things that may make you want to visit or revisit the self-proclaimed happiest place on Earth.
1. Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The biggest and most anticipated announcement at D23 on Saturday was Star Wars Land, a 14-acre themed universe that will take visitors deep into the lore of the George Lucas franchise. One of the two attractions that will anchor the new land lets guests pilot the Millennium Falcon.
Disney didn’t offer up a timeline as to when Star Wars Land will be built. A similar attraction will also open at Disneyland in California. It will probably take several years to flesh this out, making 2018 or 2019 the best educated guesses until Disney tells us otherwise. However, one early treat will come later this year when the existing Star Tours flight simulator adds new ride footage inspired by the upcoming movie.
2. Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
A hot rumor heading into D23’s presentation was that the west side of the Disney’s Hollywood Studios — where several attractions have been closing over the past year — would be transformed into an area themed to Pixar’s properties. It was close, but Disney’s settling for just infinity and beyond.
Disney is dedicating 11 acres of the park to be Toy Story Land. The existing Toy Story Mania will stay, and it’s in the process of expanding capacity. Two new rides will be added. One is a spinning flying saucer ride where guests ride vehicles decorated to look like the green alien claw game toys from the original movie. The more ambitious ride is a family-friendly coaster where folks of all ages get to ride on Slinky Dog. There’s no opening date announced for Toy Story Land, but it’s not as elaborate as Star Wars Land and all of the recent attraction closures should make it easy to open by either 2017 or 2018.
3. Pandora – The World of Avatar at Animal Kingdom
The most ambitious Disney World project outside of Star Wars Land is the richly themed area going up at Animal Kingdom. Set to open in 2017, the new area has been in the works since Disney struck a licensing deal with James Cameron in 2011 to bring his “Avatar” franchise to life.
We’ve known the new land is coming for some time, but D23 offered new details and concept artwork of the island with floating mountains. Two major rides will include a thrill ride where park guests ride banshees and a tamer attraction that features a leisurely canoe ride through the film’s Pandora planet in its state of permanent bioluminescence.
4. Frozen Ever After at Epcot
The popular Maelstrom boat ride closed in Epcot’s Norway pavilion last year, and next year it will reopen as a “Frozen” themed boat attraction. There was a rumble of dissent at first. Purists didn’t want to see Maelstrom close. Norwegians also aren’t happy about a ride being added that doesn’t actually take place in Norway; “Frozen” is based in the fictional Arendelle. However, given the box office success of “Frozen” and the popularity of Anna and Elsa merchandise, there will be plenty of people looking forward to the new attraction.
5. Soarin’ Around the World at Epcot
Soarin’ — a flight simulator at Epcot — will be updated next year. Instead of footage of classic California landmarks, the new ride will feature soaring vistas from all over the world. Disney is in the process of building out a third theater for the popular attraction that should open in time for the switch, helping keep wait times in check.
6. Skipper Canteen at Magic Kingdom
Disney World’s most popular — and expensive — park isn’t getting a major ride anytime soon, but later this year it will open Skipper Canteen just at the entrance to Adventureland. The restaurant will feature wisecracking Jungle Cruise skippers as servers, and hungry patrons will dine in themed rooms. It may not seem like a game changer, but the last major eatery to open at Magic Kingdom — the Be Our Guest Restaurant — has been a rousing success.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. He’s also spending the summer in Celebration, Florida, covering the industry at mouse level. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out The Motley Fool’s one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.