“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”—except for Mickey and Minnie! They and all their Disney pals have been up to a whole bunch in 2018, including celebrating Mickey Mouse’s milestone 90th birthday. The entire cast of characters has a busy 2019 to look forward to. Here’s a roundup of the latest meeting developments at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.
1. Disney Meetings Rebrands as Disney Meetings & Events
In October, the Disney Meetings division added an “ampEARSand” to become Disney Meetings & Events. The announcement was made at IMEX America in Las Vegas. Disney invites planners to use cast member’s imaginations to “imaginear” a creative event in one of the resorts’ hotel ballrooms or in-park experiences.
2. Toy Story Land Opens at Disney’s Hollywood Studios
You’ve got a friend in me-etings! Since Toy Story land opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on June 30, visitors have enjoyed riding Slinky Dog Dash rollercoaster and Alien Swirling Saucers. There’s no private event space inside this park-within-a-park, but think outside of the toy chest to bring the theme to a ballroom. Green army men can march in for a character appearance. Take your imagination to infinity and beyond by decorating with oversized blocks, crayons and more. Customize a menu to include alien macaroons.
More: 7 Toy-riffic Ways to Incorporate Toy Story Land into Meetings
3. Swan and Dolphin Resort Breaks Ground on New Meetings Hotel Tower
Conveniently located on Disney property (although not owned by the mouse), Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort broke ground Nov. 27 on The Cove, a new, 14-story tower with 349 guest rooms. The hotel expansion will add more than 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including two ballrooms, a dozen meeting rooms and rooftop reception venue with nightly fireworks views. The new structure will open fall 2020 and is accepting group bookings beginning March 1, 2021.
More: Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort to Add Hotel Designed for Groups
4. New Group Dining Options Open at Disney Springs
Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, has a menu-full of new private-dining options. George Miliotes opened Wine Bar George, the only master sommelier-led wine bar in Florida, in May. More than 130 wines are available by the ounce, glass or bottle. The 6,000-square-foot space can accommodate up to 300 guests. Keep the party going until the wee hours at The Edison, open since January. This 1920s-themed restaurant features an aerial act and live musical performances to entertain guests. Cap off the night with one of its delectable milkshakes or a lollipop tree with bubble-gum whipped cream. Paddlefish, which was named Orlando’s best seafood restaurant in 2018 Orlando Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards, has private event spaces for groups of 30 to 250.
More: Walt Disney World Resorts Adding Exciting New Group Options
5. Coronado Springs Releases Renderings of Major Expansion
Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort is adding a new two-story lobby, boardroom and multipurpose rooms to its current 220,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. A new 15-story tower will contribute more than 500 guest rooms to the inventory, and a new rooftop restaurant and lounge will offer panoramic views. Expected to open in Summer 2019, Villa del Lago will be a floating bar and grill connected to the resort grounds by bridges. It will accommodate up to 150 guests.
More: Sneak Peek at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort Expansion
6. Yacht & Beach Club Opens New Ballroom
Mickey was on-hand at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort in September to introduce the new 16,000-square-foot Newport Ballroom, which can be divided into eight breakout sections. The ballroom’s lobby and gallery areas add 4,600 sq. ft. of prefunction space. In total, the resort’s expansion tacked on an additional 28,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, bringing the total to almost 100,000 sq. ft. The hotel has 1,190 guest rooms.
7. The Force is With Star Wars
A fun group activity is now open at Disney Springs in Florida and Downtown Disney District in California. At The Void, guests go undercover as Stormtroopers in this multisensory hyper-reality experience, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire. A galaxy far, far away is closer than ever with the much-anticipated launch of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Summer 2019 at Disneyland and late Fall 2019 at Disney World. A fully immersive Star Wars-inspired hotel is also under development in the Orlando area. Guests will check in to the starship for a multiday adventure, dress in character attire and view space from all windows.
More: Greater Orlando: The Yummiest Place on Earth
8. Paradise Pier Becomes Pixar Pier
On June 23, what was originally named Paradise Pier inside Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim got a new moniker, Pixar Pier. It was outfitted in new signage, which includes rebranding of the rollercoaster, which is now called Incredicoaster. The area is made up of Incredible Park and Toy Story Boardwalk (which will add Jessie’s Critter Carousel in 2019). The Ferris wheel, now called Pixar Pal-A-Round, is the focal point of Pixar Promenade.
9. Fans Get First Look of Disney Skyliner Gondola
In November, some of Disney’s most dedicated fans got a sneak peek at one of Disney World’s upcoming additions. Those in attendance at D23’s Destination D: Celebrating Mickey Mouse event were first to see one of the gondolas that will be part of Disney Skyliner. The new transportation system is set to open in Fall 2019. It’ll connect Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot to four resort hotels—Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, as well as the proposed Disney’s Riviera Resort.