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Top Walt Disney World Entertainment Experiences We Can’t Wait to Return

There’s no doubt that the parks at Walt Disney World have opened their gates mid-pandemic with many changes.  From limited restaurants to reduced hours, there’s lots of modifications to be aware of.  It’s the absence of many beloved entertainment offerings, however, that we really miss!  Here are 10 entertainment offerings that we can’t wait to return, and we look forward to so many of Disney’s treasured Cast Members in entertainment coming back!

1. Happily Ever After

Let’s start off with a BANG- it would be an understatement to say that Walt Disney World guests love fireworks!  Happy Ever After is an epic nighttime show at the Magic Kingdom that’s more than fireworks.  We love the beautiful castle projections, the inspirational soundtrack, and the synchronized fireworks display, of course.  We are hopeful that Disney’s recent fireworks testing means that nighttime shows are literally on the horizon, but it may be awhile before we see full nighttime spectaculars because they tend to draw large crowds of closely-packed guests. 

Castle Fireworks

2. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Review

Hoop-Dee-Doo is a rollicking dinner theater performance at Disney’s Fort Wilderness and Campgrounds.  It’s not only very popular, it’s also Disney’s longest running performance- over 45 years and counting!  The combination of close seating, singing, and lots of performers in an indoor dining setting make this show a no-go until physical distancing guidelines loosen. 

3. Festival of the Lion King

One of Walt Disney World’s most unique performances is the Festival of the Lion King, located at Animal Kingdom.  This theater-in-the-round style show combines dance, acrobatics, singing, and fun audience participation.  From the music to the costuming, everything about this show is of extremely high quality and it’s often a much-needed respite from the heat of Animal Kingdom!

 

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4. Finding Nemo: The Musical

Animal Kingdom is home to another amazing, broadway-quality show- Finding Nemo:The Musical.  This 40-minute musical version of Finding Nemo is full of songs composed by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez of Frozen fame.  You may be surprised at how much you’ll fall in love with this show and all of the catch songs, and you may just find yourself missing them the next time you watch the film!

5.  Beauty and the Beast: Live on Stage

This timeless Broadway-style show has been running at Hollywood Studios for almost 30 years!  Beauty and the Beast features some of the most memorable Disney songs of all time and still draws large crowds several times a day at the Studios.  Though the theater is outdoors, it remains closed due to the pandemic.  We can’t wait to relive this “tale as old as time!”

Beauty and The Beast Live On Stage

6. Fantasmic

Hollywood Studios’ nighttime spectacular, Fantasmic!, is a guest favorite and rightfully so.  This performance features some of our favorite characters (where else will you see Steamboat Willie?) and tells the story of Mickey harnessing the power of his imagination to defeat evil.  Fantasmic has it all- pyrotechnics, fireworks, live performers, music, water screens- and we can’t wait to see it return!

7. Epcot Forever/Harmonious

This one’s a bit complicated, because when the pandemic shuttered the parks, Epcot was in the middle of an interim nighttime performance called Epcot Forever.  The show has received mixed reviews; let’s face it, IllumiNations is one tough act to follow!  Whether we get to see Epcot Forever again, or the next nighttime entertainment we see in the park is the yet-to-debut Harmonious- we look forward to having some food and drinks and awaiting the evening entertainment in Epcot around the World Showcase.  

Credit: Disney

8. Festival of Fantasy Parade

The only parade at Walt Disney World recently has been the spectacular Festival of Fantasy Parade, and boy do we miss it!  Catchy music, dynamic floats full of our favorite characters, and amazing costuming are just a few of the things we can’t get enough of with this parade!  The random character cavalcades are an understandable substitute at the moment, but we long for the full-scale performance to return when it’s safe for the crowds to gather again.  

9. Character Meet & Greets

Many guests, from kids to adults, love meeting and greeting characters!  Side-by-side photos and autographs simply aren’t possible right now, but Disney has found ways to give us some character magic as best they can until things return to normal.  The character cavalcades that can be seen throughout the parks are one way to get your fix.  or some parks, the cavalcades are a bonus- Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios don’t have parades normally and the pop-up cavalcades have actually added to their entertainment!  We’ve also recently seen Disney roll out modified character dining, sans autographs and hugs.  Dining with characters in the room who are more than happy to pause at a slight distance for a selfie is enough to give guests that much-needed magic. Still, we can’t wait to hug Mickey again!

Credit: Disney

10. Street Performers

Disney is so good at infusing the parks with detail, and it’s often the smaller-scale entertainment that really makes the atmosphere magical.  The Dapper Dans and Citizens of Main Street at the Magic Kingdom are a most obvious example of Disney’s “streetmosphere.”  We also can’t wait to see the Green Army Drummers in Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios and the JAMMitors at Epcot make their returns.  Exploring the parks isn’t the same without happening upon all of these charismatic performers!

Honorable Mention: Drawn to Life- Presented by Cirque du Soleil

We’re giving a bonus nod to entertainment that won’t be returning, but premiering in the future.  “Drawn to Life” is Cirque du Soleil’s newest performance at Disney Springs, originally scheduled to debut in April of 2020. The show is now scheduled to debut on February 10, 2021. We’re excited to see what a Cirque show celebrating Disney animation brings to the table!

How do you feel about the absence of entertainment and it’s impact on the Disney parks magic?  Which performances are you most excited to see return?  

About Meredith Smisek

Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart and works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, dog, and parrot. Meredith's hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, and "talking Disney" with anyone she knows who is planning a trip to Disney or has just returned.