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The new year is bringing new attractions and experiences to Disney and Universal parks from coast to coast. We’ve got the latest news that travel advisors need to know to impress theme park-loving clients in 2020.
Disneyland ResortStarting the year in grand style, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opened January in Disneyland, thrilling guests with its immersive storytelling and action-packed adventure.
From Feb. 28 through April 21, the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival will showcase the culinary heritage of the Golden State. The guest-favorite annual event features California-inspired bites and beverages at more than a dozen Festival Marketplaces. Plus, clients can participate in cooking demonstrations and seminars with Disney and celebrity chefs, and kids can get into the act during the Junior Chef experience with Chef Goofy.
The first new daytime parade in nearly 20 years will make its way down Main Street U.S.A. beginning Feb. 28. Led by Mickey Mouse, “Magic Happens” features nine floats inspired by classic and modern Disney stories including “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Frozen 2,” “Moana” and “Coco.”
"We wanted to open the parade with Mickey because it's about whimsical Disney magic, and Mickey is the most magical individual we know," said show director Jordan Peterson. "We think it sets the perfect groundwork for the rest of the parade."
This summer, clients visiting Disney California Adventure will experience phase one of the much-anticipated Avengers Campus. Throughout this interactive land, clients can meet Avengers such as Iron Man, Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Wasp, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Black Panther. Guests can also help Spider-Man on the first Disney ride-through attraction to feature the famous web-slinger. And, thanks to an autonomous “stuntronic” robot, clients may also see Spidey flying above Avengers Campus.
Walt Disney World ResortThis year at Walt Disney World, guests can hop onboard a runaway railway to travel inside a wacky Mickey Mouse cartoon, scurry through a supersize kitchen with Ratatouille’s Remy and journey 220 miles above Earth to dine at Space 220 restaurant.
“There’s no place in the world where families can experience more magical adventures than at our Disney theme parks,” said Joann Delgin, director of travel agency sales for Disney Resorts.
On March 4, Disney’s Hollywood Studios will showcase its multiyear transformation with the first ride-through attraction themed to Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
“What I can promise with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway is that you can expect the unexpected,” said Kevin Rafferty, creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering. “Get ready for a new story, a new attraction theme song, surprises around every corner, and brand-new — like you’ve never seen before — theatrical magic."
(Fun fact: The same whistle used for the steamboat in 1928’s “Steamboat Willie,” the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, is used for the train in Runaway Railway.)
The largest-ever transformation for a Disney park is underway at Epcot. The France pavilion is bringing two favorite stories to life in 2020: In January, a “Beauty and the Beast” sing-along movie provided fans with a fun twist on the “tale as old as time” with new narration by Angela Lansbury (Mrs. Potts in the original animated film). And this summer, Chef Remy will be cooking up fun on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
On the family-friendly attraction, riders shrink to rat size and race through Gusteau’s kitchen on trackless ride vehicles. Additionally, this winter, Space 220 restaurant, a one-of-a-kind dining experience, will take Epcot guests 220 miles above the Earth to dine in a space station.
This year, following the success of last summer’s separately ticketed Disney Villains After Hours at Magic Kingdom, the special event — which features scoundrels such as Cruella de Vil and Captain Hook — has been expanded to 24 select nights from Feb. 7 through July 10.
“This is a great event for families because you get to dress up,” said Ramit Kapoor, senior manager of marketing strategy for Walt Disney World. “And for the first time ever, we're doing a processional through Main Street, and all your favorite villains are coming out.”
Universal Orlando ResortThe good times will roll every night through April 2 at Universal Studios Florida with the 25th annual Mardi Gras celebration. The family-friendly version of the famous New Orleans street party features a parade with six new floats designed by the same company that has created floats for the NOLA celebration since 1947 (there's even an area for kids with an unobstructed view).
Clients will also hear performers straight from Bourbon Street and taste authentic gumbo, jambalaya and po boys. Plus, the new Carnival Around the Universe tasting tent features dishes inspired by carnivals worldwide. On select nights during the event, world-class musical artists — including Diana Ross, Kool & The Gang, Luis Fonsi and Chris Young — will take the stage for live concerts.
On March 17, the 2,050-room value category Dockside Inn and Suites will open, joining Surfside Inn & Suites, its sister property at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort. With both standard rooms and two-bedroom suites — and rates starting at less than $100 per night — Dockside Inn and Suites will offer all the benefits of a Universal Orlando on-site hotel at an extra-affordable price point.
“Endless Summer Resort is truly a value hotel in every respect,” said Vince LaRuffa, senior vice president of resort marketing and sales for Universal Orlando Resort. “It’s opening up the Universal vacation experience to a broader segment of the population, and we think it’s a game-changer in the hotel marketplace, particularly in the attractions area.”
In spring 2020, a new live cinematic stunt show will debut at Universal Studios Florida, featuring Jason Bourne from the Bourne action movie franchise.
“We strive to create new, exciting guest experiences that make clients’ vacations even more epic year after year,” said Robyn Ryan, senior director of travel industry sales for Universal Orlando Resort. “We’re thrilled to be able to continue doing that with the newest addition coming to our destination that blurs the lines between stage and cinema in one action-packed show.”
Universal Studios HollywoodFrom March 19-20 in California, Universal Studios Hollywood is teaming up with television network Bravo for the first-ever Bravo’s Top Chef Food & Wine Festival. This separately ticketed and all-inclusive event will take clients into the world of top-rated culinary competition television show “Top Chef.”
There will be live Quickfire Challenges featuring chefs from “Top Chef Season 17 All Stars L.A.”; food and wine pairings; panels with show alums; and stations featuring recipes inspired by "cheftestants,” such as roasted red snapper with green tomato salsa verde and drunken doughnuts with champagne-raspberry jam. Vegan and vegetarian dishes will also be available.
Universal lovers can also look forward to a new attraction based on “The Secret Life of Pets” films that will feature the original voice cast. Opening March 27, The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash! will use facial recognition and enhanced gesture tracking to turn riders into stray puppies looking for forever homes . Plus, guests will be a different puppy each time they ride , so they’ll create a new experience every time.
During the third Running Universal event on April 26, clients can race through the theme park and world-famous studio backlot for 10K, 5K and Kids’ 1K runs alongside the colorful creatures from the 2016 animated film “Trolls” and the upcoming sequel, “Trolls World Tour.”