Extra Magic Hours, a popular perk for those staying at Walt Disney World Resort hotels, will be shrinking, likely effective January 1, 2013. The benefit currently allows park guests to enter one selected theme park each day one hour before non-resort guests, or stay in the park and enjoy attractions for three hours after official park closing.
A change has been made to the Extra Magic Hours page on the Walt Disney World website so that it now reads: "Each day, one of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks opens one hour early or remains open up to 2 hours after regular closing time." A review of the official park hours on the website finds that evening Extra Magic Hours are still listed as running three hours through December 31, 2012, but there are no Extra Magic Hours at all listed starting on January 1. It seems likely that this will be the day that the change will be implemented.
With the expected increased demand at the Magic Kingdom park when New Fantasyland opens by the holiday season, it's possible that cutting back on the Extra Magic Hours will allow Disney to extend the regular park hours without pushing back the time that the last guest leaves the park. There has been no indication yet that park hours will be extended, however.
The change does not affect on Disney's Animal Kingdom or the two water parks, as they only have morning Extra Magic Hours. Regular park hours at Epcot will likely not change, as the park's standard has been that it closes at 9:00 when Illuminations: Reflections of Earth begins. That leaves Disney's Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom as the parks that could potentially see longer hours for all guests. We hope to have more information for you next week.
The Crow's Nest area is closed for refurbishment. The sign has also been removed. The original ticket booth had been sponsored by Kodak for many years and was dedicated to selling film and camera supplies. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
You've got just over three weeks to warm up your dialing fingers. Reservations for special events at the 17th annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival open at 7 a.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday, August 14. A full schedule of all events will be posted on the Walt Disney World website by the end of July, so that you'll have plenty of time to figure out which highly-popular events you'll want to reserve first.
The weekly Party for the Senses is back on October 6, 13, 20, and 27, and November 3. There are now three levels of ticketing for the party: General admission for $145 (including gratuity, plus tax), reserved table seating on the main floor for $170 (including gratuity, plus tax), and a reserved table in the premium Wine View Lounge for $270 (including gratuity, plus tax). There are limited seating available for general admission, which gives you entrance to the event at 7:30 p.m., while both reserved seating tickets get you a specialty cocktail and early admission at 7:15 p.m. The Wine View Lounge also includes a premium bar, artisanal cheese station and a few other extras. All tickets include admission to the evening of exotic treats from Disney and celebrity chefs, as well as wines, beers and other beverages from around the world. The evening's repast features entertainment by performers from Cirque du Soleil "La Nouba."
While that's the headliner attraction, it's not the only special reserved event at the Festival.
The new Marketplace VIP Access Chef Tour ($90 plus tax) takes place every Wednesday beginning at 10:30 a.m., and includes five pre-selected dishes and five pre-selected beverages on the two-hour tour. The tour includes behind-the-scenes stories from the chefs.
Also new this year is the Italian Regional Food & Wine Luncheon in the Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar ($75 including gratuity, plus tax), which takes place Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. The luncheon features wines paired with casual, authentic dishes. The Italy pavilion's Via Napoli restaurant continues to host its series of Festival events, as well. Tutto Italia hosts a White Truffle Lunch on November 4.
The 3DDD dessert parties also return this year, as well as many other favorites. There will also be a Magic of Healthy Living Dinner featuring Andrew Zimmern and Bryan Voltagio on Friday, October 19, and 6:30 p.m.
Watch for more event information, and get ready to dial when the lines open!
Registration is now open for MouseAdventure: World Explorers IV! The fourth annual running of the scavenger hunt/puzzle quest/race through Walt Disney World's parks takes place on Saturday, November 3 at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom (the game has been going on at the parks of the Disneyland Resort for more than 11 years now). Do you think that you know the Magic Kingdom? We bet you don't know it as well as you think you do! Test your wits against those of our puzzle masters. For more information, check out the MouseAdventure information page.
Disney has announced this winter's Holiday events, and it looks very much like last year.
Castle Dreamlights begins its nightly glow on November 2 and runs through January 1, 2013. Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party this year runs November 9, 12, 15, 16, 25, 27, 29, 30, and December 2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21. This year's event carries a day-of-event price of $64.95 plus tax (adults) and $59.95 plus tax (children ages 3-9), with a $6 discount available for advance purchases for some dates and $10 advance purchase DVC and Passholder discounts as well. The special holiday events from the Party become standard daily entertainment in the Magic Kingdom beginning December 22.
Meanwhile, Disney's Animal Kingdom turns Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade into Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade from November 9 through January 2, 2013. There'll also be special holiday entertainment and meet-and-greets.
Disney's Hollywood Studios gets into the act with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights, which runs from November 9 through January 4, 2013. There's no word yet on whether we'll see a repeat of The Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special, which was performed six times daily from Christmas Day through New Year's Eve.
Epcot begins its celebration on November 23, the day after Thanksgiving. Holidays Around the World features international storytellers, the Candlelight Processional and the special holiday tag to Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Holidays Around the World runs through December 30. Isabella Rossellini is scheduled to narrate the opening nights of the Candlelight Processional. Other scheduled narrators include Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris, Trace Adkins, and Olivia Newton John. Gary Sinise returns to his traditional spot including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The lineup of narrators so far is here, with more names to be announced.
Candlelight Processional dining packages can now be reserved online or by calling the Disney Dining Line at 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). Package prices vary based on guest age, preferred dining time and preferred dining venue. Lunch packages range from $32.99 to $55.99 for adults 10 and older, and $12.50 to $17.99 for children 3 to 9. Dinner packages range from $49.99 to $66.99 for adults 10 and older, and $14.50 to $26.99 for children 3 to 9.
Downtown Disney won't be left out, either, as the Festival of the Seasons is expected to run from November 17 through December 31, with Santa available for meet-and-greets daily November 17 through December 24. Santa Goofy will take over for the jolly old elf from Christmas Day through the end of the year. The shopping and dining district will also feature school choirs and bands performing on the dock stage.
The resorts will also be putting on their Christmas finery, including the popular gingerbread house at the Grand Floridian Resort and the gingerbread carousel at the Beach Club Resort. Special Thanksgiving offerings will be available at some dining locations, as well.
There's been much discussion about shops for Belle's village, but little has been said about the retail additions to The Little Mermaid area. These merchandise locations in the Imagineering scale model of the land back up to the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train's mountain so as to maintain a smooth transition of theming in that area. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
High aloft on Dumbo, you can catch a glimpse of several activities going on. Toward the forefront may possibly be the frame for the shops in the Little Mermaid area. Toward the center is the steel frame for the shipwreck outside the attraction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Still up in the air on Dumbo, you can see the front of the construction. There is considerable space between current attractions and where the construction is visible. In the background lie the new gates, also under construction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Cement columns in the foreground will serve as fencing, with completed rockwork appearing in the background. Behind the rocks is the backstage area for The Little Mermaid attraction. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Construction continues on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train attraction with a new row of beams going in front of the contoured beams erected earlier. The construction gives a sense of height, but not yet the huge footprint of the ride. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Send us your menu photos
Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to firstname.lastname@example.org to help us keep our listings updated.
Disney's PhotoPass service has announced a new summer discount on Disney PhotoPass+ pre-arrival packages. For $169.95 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests receive a voucher to exchange for a PhotoPass+ card upon arrival at the resort, a Photo Gallery CD with over 400 stock photos ($39.95 value), a unique code to create and order a photo CD upon return from their trip ($169.95 value), print packages at select dining locations ($29.95 value each), and digital photos from select attractions ($14.95 value each). Applicable taxes will be charged to all orders.
This special offer is only available from this link or by calling the Guest Support line at 407-560-4300, and only prior to arrival at Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.
The package may take as long as 14 days to arrive, and you must bring your voucher from the package to redeem it, so make sure that you order far enough in advance to allow your materials to arrive.
Attractions currently participating in the program are Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Rock 'n' Roller Coaster, Expedition Everest, and Dinosaur. Current participating restaurants are 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Chef Mickey's Cinderella's Royal Table, Tusker House Restaurant, Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
Wait time for slides are lengthy at Typhoon Lagoon around 3:00 p.m. last Wednesday. Both Typhoon and Blizzard Beach were closed due to capacity for a few hours during certain days this last week. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Crowds pack Castaway Creek. It's best to go to the water parks either first thing in the morning or after 3:00 p.m. You may be turned away from the park mid-day. Even Disney buses may be stopped by the traffic flow. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The following is a listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
…Last year, Le Cellier at Epcot's Canada pavilion had its dinner service upgraded from one dining plan credit to a 2-credit Signature Dining experience, while its lunch service remained one credit. This year, lunch will join dinner in the Signature Dining category. This will come as a disappointment to those who were planning on visiting the restaurant for lunch to avoid the dinner surcharge.
…Registration for the February 22–24, 2013, fifth annual Princess Half Marathon Weekend is now open.
…Registration for the September 28–29 Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend is now full. The related runDisney Kids' Races are now 59 percent full and the 5K is now 58 percent full, and the Disney Villains Hollywood Bash after-party is 57 percent full.
…If you want to run for the wine glass, fork and spoon, register now! Registration for the November 9-10 Disney's Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend is 95 percent full.
…Registration for the January 10-13, 2013, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is now open. Registration for Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is 86 percent full, the full Marathon is 72 percent full, and the Half Marathon is 63 percent full.
…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun MouseAdventure bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, go to the MousePlanet main page and enter your email address in the top right box labeled "Join the MousePlanet Newsletter." Click Join, then fill out the fields in the registration page, including your first and last name. The Newsletter is free, but you must complete this registration to receive it, even if you may have signed up for one with us in the past.
Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the website of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, to help you better plan your trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. TouringPlans.com gathers wait time data from a team of in-park researchers and users of their Lines mobile phone application, and then predicts crowd levels for the next 365 days. Using a scale from 1 to 10, TouringPlans.com has a 90 percent accuracy of predicting the crowds to within 1 point, helping visitors prepare for their trips so they can "Do more. Wait less."
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Walt Disney World has announced a free dining offer for Disney Visa card members and the general public. The offer is valid for stays most nights September 30 through October 4, October 19 through November 1, November 9-15, November 23-29, and December 10-13, 2012. As with the most recent offers, guests staying at Value resorts receive a free Quick Service Dining Plan, while guests staying in Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa accommodations receive the standard Disney Dining Plan. Guests can upgrade their dining plan for the usual difference in price between each dining plan.
The offer is only available for packages including room, tickets, and dining, and all members of the party much purchase the same package and tickets. Minimum length of stay is three nights with two-day base tickets; maximum stay on the package is 14 days. Some blackout dates apply.
Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, and the Little Mermaid standard view rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included in this offer, and you must book by September 29 to get this offer.
Remember: If you're planning to play MouseAdventure: World Explorers IV on November 3, you can get free dining as long as you arrive by the preceding Thursday, November 1.
You can make your reservations through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-7631 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code F8Z (Disney Visa) or X9N (general availability) for Value resorts or D85 (Disney Visa) or I87 (general availability) for Moderate, Deluxe, and Deluxe Villa Resorts.
A new room-only discount has been released for this summer. The discount is available for stays most nights from August 15 through September 29 and must be booked by August 14.
Discounts vary by resort:
Other room types may be available at varying rates.
This discount does not include suites, 3 bedroom Grand Villas, and Disney's Art of Animation Resort.
No other discounts or group rates apply. The number of discounted rooms at these rates are limited, and additional minimum stay lengths may apply for weekend arrivals.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website or by calling (407) 939-1894 or your favorite travel agent and using discount code T47.
A Passholder discount is available for most dates July 22 through August 14. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. As with all discounts, rooms available at these rates is limited, and minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals. No group rates or other discounts apply. Suites, 3-bedroom Grand Villas, and Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included.
Discounts range from 20-30 percent and availability varies by date.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7283 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code C87. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
From now through September 28, 2012, active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with either the Park Hopper or Water Parks Fun and More option for $138 per ticket, plus tax, or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $165 per ticket, plus tax. No Base ticket is available with this offer.
The tickets expire and may not be used after September 30, 2012. July 4, 2012 is a blockout date.
Eligible service members include active or retired members of the U.S. military including the U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reservists. Disney Military Promotional Tickets can be purchased at Shades of Green or at a participating military base (MWR/ITT) office. There is no tax charged for these tickets but they must be activated at a theme park ticket window. Tickets may also be purchased at Walt Disney World Park Ticket Offices and Guest Relations Offices where tax will be charged. No more than twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets purchased on each occasion must be for use by the Eligible Service Member or spouse. This offer is for active or retired members of the U.S. military, including the National Guard, Reservists and the U.S. Coast Guard. Valid military identification is required. The tickets are non-transferable and may not be resold.
The tickets may be upgraded to Seasonal Passes or Florida Resident Weekday Select Passes (for Florida Residents), or Annual Passes, Premium Annual Passes, or Disney Premier Pass with credit toward the upgrade based on the actual price paid. The no-expiration option and other upgrades, such as additional days, are not available.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets, military personnel may call 407-939-7830, visit the Walt Disney World website, or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.
(Send an email to Mark Goldhaber)
Mark (@MPMark) is a veteran of dozens of trips to Walt Disney World starting in 1972, with a few Disneyland trips thrown in for good measure. As a Disney stockholder and a Disney Vacation Club member, Mark is always in touch with what's going on with The Mouse. Mark serves as MousePlanet's Walt Disney World content coordinator. Mark is a senior information technology manager working for the State of New York. He lives in the suburbs outside Albany, New York, with his wife and son.