Welcome to Please Remain Seated, FamilyVacationist’s monthly theme park news column by Tarah Chieffi. Keep reading for the latest news and tips from the world of Disney, Universal, and other popular amusement parks.
I’m someone who prefers to look for the silver lining in every situation, but there’s no getting around the fact that the past couple years have been tough on all of us. That’s why for me the holiday season feels even more meaningful this year than ever before. I am so thankful for my family, my friends, and the opportunity to share my love for theme parks with everyone reading this.
In the spirit of looking at the bright side, this month’s column will be looking ahead at what’s coming up in the world of theme parks for 2022. In addition to new attractions, there are two new U.S. theme parks opening next year. And because we’re smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, I’m also sharing how theme parks are honoring various winter traditions and some festive recipes you can make at home.
From my little theme park column to you, happy holidays and best wishes for lots of silver linings in 2022!
Theme Park News for December 2021
Sesame Place is Coming to San Diego
If your little one can’t get enough of Cookie Monster, Big Bird, Elmo, and all their Sesame Street neighbors, you might want to consider a West Coast vacation to the all-new Sesame Place San Diego. Slated to open in March 2022, the family-friendly theme park will have rides, shows, parades, and a water park themed to your favorite Sesame Street characters. There will also be an immersive play area where kids can explore familiar spots from the show and meet the residents of Sesame Street for storytime and photos.
The park will also be a Certified Autism Center (CAC), meaning staff receive autism sensitivity and awareness training, there will be designated quiet spaces, and a sensory guide for parents will be available on the park’s website.
PLAN A TRIP: 10 Autism-Friendly Vacation Spots for Families
Tickets and season passes are available now, including a platinum level pass that grants access to every SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Sesame Place theme parks across the U.S.
Peppa Pig Theme Park to Be Accessible to All Kids
Speaking of accessibility, when the world’s first Peppa Pig Theme Park opens on February 24, 2022, it will also be designated as a Certified Autism Center, with staff training and a sensory guide similar to Sesame Place.
During last month’s IAAPA expo in Orlando, park representatives also shared that Peppa Pig’s Balloon Ride will have wheelchair accessible “balloon baskets” that kids who use wheelchairs can roll directly into without needing to transfer out of their chair. The Muddy Puddles Splash Pad (the attraction I’m most excited for, by the way), Peppa’s Pedal Bike Tour, and the Fun Fair carnival games are also being built with kid-friendly accessibility in mind.
Peppa Pig Theme Park will be located adjacent to LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Florida. Tickets and annual passes are available now and some packages include admission to both parks.
Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland to Close in Early 2022 for a ‘Reimagining’
Disney recently shared that Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland would close in March 2022 for a major makeover. Currently, the land is where kids can go to explore the homes of Mickey, Minnie, and all their friends, plus ride Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and Gadget’s Go Coaster.
There will be more “grassy play spaces” and “play activities and attractions,” including the all-new CenTOONial Park. Located at the entrance to the land, CenTOONial Park will have a fountain with water tables made for play and a tree with roots designed for kids to crawl on, over, and under.
Disney has not released which, if any, of the current rides will remain in Toontown, but we do know Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will celebrate its grand opening when the land reopens. If you’ve been missing the iconic Toontown hills as much as I have, you’re in luck. The hills were removed when construction began on Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, but during last month’s Destination D23 fan event at Walt Disney World, Disney Parks chairman Josh D’Amaro announced the hills will return when the land reopens in early 2023.
Destination D23 Fan Event Download
The reinstallation of cartoon hills was far from the only news announced at the Destination D23 event. These events usually contain a slew of announcements about what’s to come in the world of Disney. Let’s break it down by park and take a look at the biggest projects coming down the pipeline. Cozy up because there’s a lot to unpack here.
- Avengers Campus will open in summer 2022 at Walt Disney Studios Park, similar to the land that opened at Disney California Adventure earlier this year.
- The park will kick off its 30th anniversary celebration on March 6, 2022, with limited-time shows, parades, and new costumes for Mickey and his friends.
- A new “port” (a.k.a. land) called Fantasy Springs is scheduled to open at Tokyo DisneySea in 2023. According to TDR Explorer, Fantasy Springs will include areas themed to Tangled, Frozen, and Peter Pan, plus a new hotel.
Shanghai Disney Resort
- Work is underway on a Zootopia-themed land, though no opening date has been set.
- In addition to the Mickey’s ToonTown makeover, construction will begin in 2022 to update a portion of Downtown Disney with new shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
- Construction has already begun on a new tower at the Disneyland Hotel. The design of the rooms and public spaces is inspired by Walt Disney Animation Studios’ classic films.
- Fanstasmic!, World of Color, and the Main Street Electrical Parade will return in 2022.
Walt Disney World
- EPCOT’s transformation isn’t complete just yet! A statue of Walt Disney is in the works that will be installed near Spaceship Earth, and a new quick-service restaurant called Connections Cafe and Eatery is being built near the new Creations Shop.
- Also at EPCOT, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster will open in summer 2022.
- Fantasmic! will return to Hollywood Studios in 2022
- Magic Kingdom’s “Festival of Fantasy” Parade will return in early 2022, but that doesn’t mean cavalcades are on their way out. In fact, a new “Disney Adventure Friends” will debut later this winter.
- A special 50th anniversary castle show called “Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire” is coming to Magic Kingdom early next year.
- An updated version of “Finding Nemo: The Musical” is coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 2022. “Finding Nemo: The Big Blue…and Beyond!” is set in the timeline of “Finding Dory” and will have both new and favorite songs from the original show.
Tips For Your Trips
Celebrating Holidays from around the World at U.S. Theme Parks
I love the holiday season, but I am very particular about reserving my holiday cheer until after Thanksgiving. Theme parks don’t follow my self-imposed celebration schedule because they want as many guests as possible to enjoy the holiday decor, entertainment, and treats. They also incorporate global holiday traditions and celebrations outside of just Christmas for that same reason.
Here’s a few of the ways you can celebrate various winter holidays at America’s theme parks:
- At the Disney Festival of the Holidays at Disney California Adventure, guests can listen to live music and watch traditional dances honoring Hanukkah, Diwali, and Kwanzaa.
- Also at Disney California Adventure, guests can revel in Hispanic holiday traditions, including Three Kings Day, during Disney ¡Viva Navidad!
- At Six Flags Fiesta Texas, guests can see festive live performances of Feliz Navidad Con Mariachi Los Soberanos, and dine on pork tamales, a traditional Mexican holiday dish.
- Select Universal Orlando hotels hold menorah lighting ceremonies each evening during Hanukkah.
- Sesame Place Philadelphia holds an annual Hanukkah celebration with a menorah lighting ceremony, dreidel games, and Sesame Street characters.
Holiday Theme Park Recipes
If, like me, you live much too far from your favorite theme parks to pop over whenever a new holiday treat pops up on the menu, I found a couple of recipes that we can make from the comfort of our own homes (whilst plotting our next theme park trip, obviously).
To me, there is something about foods on a stick that scream “theme park” and these recipes pretty much prove my theory. Last December, Universal Orlando shared this recipe for Apple Strudel on a Stick and Disneyland shared a recipe for Peppermint Marshmallow Wands. Whether you prefer fruity desserts or chocolatey, there’s a theme park holiday food on a stick just for you.