It's now official: Over the next three years, Downtown Disney is magically transforming into Disney Springs.
Tom Staggs, Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, announced last Thursday that construction will begin next month on converting the area to Disney Springs, which is expected to be complete in 2016:
"A few years ago, we had some plans in place, actually, to do a transformation of Pleasure Island… something called Hyperion Wharf. And the fact is, we took a look at that, we stepped back—Bruce Vaughn; our creative head for Imagineering, Meg Crofton, who you all know well—and we took a hard look at it and concluded that we could do better. And so, despite the fact that we knew there was an opportunity there, we wanted to make sure that we took advantage of it. And so we took a little extra time, and have some new plans…"
The theming of Disney Springs is inspired by Florida's waterfront towns and natural beauty. The back story states that the springs in the middle of the area drew the first settlers, and the town grew from there. The four shopping and dining districts comprises its own neighborhood. The expanded area will feature many walkways, lots of landscaping, and—of course—bubbling springs that will tie the area together.
Although construction starts next month, a Disney spokesman was not able to tell MousePlanet where work would start. When we find out, we'll let you know so that you can plan accordingly. Once construction gets under way on the two new parking garage, though, you'll probably be better off taking Disney transportation to the area until the structures are finished.
Wait—parking garages? Yes. The new design calls for two large, five-story parking structures to be built, one on the current location of the West Side parking lots and the other on much of the site of the Marketplace parking lots. Together, the structures will accommodate 6,000 vehicles. Parking will be free. This should both help to alleviate the difficulty finding parking in the area and also provide a shaded area to park during the hot summer months.
The entrance gateway area will feature a water tower and a pond. To the east of this scene will be one of the parking garages. To the west will be the three bus loops and the other parking garage.
As noted when leaks started appearing a month ago, Pleasure Island will become The Landing, which will feature "inspired dining." This area is the "commercial district." No potential tenants have been named, though many possibilities have been batted about. The waterway between the island and the mainland will be expanded and become the highlighted Springs.
The Town Center, featuring "sophisticated" shopping, dining, and relaxation offerings, will spring up on the site of the current Pleasure Island parking lots. It will be the main entry area to Disney Springs, adjacent to the only remaining bus depot and between both parking garages. The area adjacent to the Springs on both the Town Center and Landing sides will highlight the waterway. The Marketplace and West Side will remain, with some structural differences.
The Marketplace will see the further expansion of World of Disney, already the largest Disney store in North America. In addition, a pedestrian causeway will span the lake inlet from the current Marketplace Dock to a plaza between Fulton's, the LEGO Discovery Store, and T-Rex Cafe. The model of Disney Springs also shows the smokestacks and paddle wheel returned to Fulton's, though the name remains and will not be changed back to the Empress Lilly. While the Cap'n Jack's building appears in the model and on the concept art, the restaurant itself will close (and likely be replaced with a new concept).
The West Side will see the addition of several "abandoned" elevated railway tracks which, according to the back story, originally brought deliveries via train to the "warehouse district." These elevated areas will both provide balcony areas for shopping, dining, and relaxing and provide much-needed shade during the day in the "exuberant" and "lively" area.
The additional space will provide room for plenty of new shopping, dining, and entertainment venues, increasing the count from the current 75 to more than 150 locations.
Disney is working with state and local officials to build a new stream ramp off of the existing Exit 67 from I-4 that will split off before reaching Epcot Center Drive. The new ramp, which would most likely cut between the Team Disney building and the Typhoon Lagoon parking lot, would exit directly into the western parking garage. It's uncertain whether a similar ramp could be created for eastbound traffic on I-4, as cars will already be on Epcot Center Drive following the cloverleaf exit from the highway. Either way, this will help to alleviate traffic to the expanded recreational, dining, and entertainment district along Buena Vista Drive. There's no word on if or when work on this will be completed.
Now that Disney Springs is official, what's your opinion? Let us know in the comments below.
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Effective this coming Saturday, March 23, all U.S. Disney parks will no longer allow children under 14 into the parks without supervision. The new policy was determined after consultation with child welfare organizations, guest surveys, and in conjunction with the Red Cross' recommendation of the age as the minimum age for babysitting. Guests under age 14 must now be accompanied by a guest older than 14. This age will be in effect for all theme parks at both Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort, as well as Walt Disney World's water parks and DisneyQuest. Previously, there had been no minimum age for Disneyland parks and guests under the age of 8 needed to be accompanied by a guest aged 14 or older at Walt Disney World.
Since younger guests generally do not carry photo identification with them, guests who appear to be age 14 or younger will be engaged by cast members at the entrance to the park to determine whether or not the guest is old enough to enter the park on their own. If the child is underage, their parent or guardian would be contacted to either accompany the child into the park or take them back to their resort or home.
Do you feel that this is an appropriate age, should younger children be allowed without supervision, or should kids be older before being allowed into the parks on their own? Let us know your opinion in the comments below.
There is nothing more heartbreaking than a baby who is born too soon having medical complications that leave them with medical difficulties for life, or worse, that never let them leave the hospital alive. On April 28, I will once again walk to raise money for the March of Dimes. The March of Dimes mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth, and infant mortality.
MousePlanet readers and MouseStation listeners have helped me to raise nearly $25,000 for this worthy cause over the last seven years. This year, my goal is to raise another $4,000. We're more than halfway there, with only 41 days until the walk, so let's see if we can hit the $4,000 mark!
You can also walk with me, either in person or virtually, by joining Team MousePlanet and getting your friends and family to contribute! You can go to my fundraising page to sponsor me, or the Team MousePlanet page to join in and walk yourself! Help us to provide a better chance to prevent prematurity and to help those babies that are born prematurely!
Annual Passholders will finally get their shot at using the RFID entry points, and will be able to use the Fastpass+ entries once the system is fully live. They won't be getting the MyMagic+ wristbands just yet, though. Instead, passholders will be issued durable plastic passes that contain an RFID chip embedded in it. The plastic passes will also work with the existing Fastpass machines.
The new cards will be issued starting this Wednesday, March 20, for all new annual pass purchases. Guests with current non-RFID passes may trade them in for the new plastic passes from March 20 through May 19 at Epcot's Odyssey Center. There is no word yet what will be in place for passholders that do not visit before May 20, but at that point it will likely require a visit to any Guest Relations location. We'll have more information as it becomes available.
The new cards will feature a green background and a colored stripe with the words "Walt Disney World Passholder" and the MyMagic+ logo. On passes that include parking, the stripe will be orange. Those that do not carry parking privileges will have a black stripe.
This week's Limited Time Magic promotion will cost you to participate, but it's a new idea that Disney hasn't done before in this way. Now through next Sunday, March 24, while supplies last, you can buy a special Eggs-perience park map and a set of egg-shaped stickers at four locations at Epcot for $4.95 plus tax. Using the map, you would then search the World Showcase pavilions (except Mexico) for specially Disney-themed Easter Eggs. Once you find an egg, you would place the matching sticker next to that pavilion on the map. You'd then turn in your completed (or not completed) map at Port of Entry at World Showcase Plaza for a "surprise."
The eggs are decorated to represent Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Chip, Dale, Agent P, and Figment. At the Disneyland Resort version in Disney California Adventure, the last two stickers are replaced by Lightning McQueen and Mater.
You can purchase the map and stickers at Pin Central, Port of Entry, International Gateway, and Heritage Manor at the American Adventure pavilion. We are hearing that the "surprise" for turning in your map is a box of two Vinylmation key chains, which regularly costs $12.95. The purchase of the map and stickers is not eligible for any discounts.
While it's not a huge event like the return of the Golden Horseshoe at Disneyland Park, this is an interesting, fun experience and not a straight merchandise-related "special sale" or a rebranding of something that would have been scheduled anyway. While Disney has done similar scavenger hunt-type events before, they have been few and far between, and this is the first time that something in this vein is being held. Let's see what next week brings!
For the peak Easter Week crowds, Disney's Hollywood Studios will again offer an additional way to get reserved seating for Fantasmic, the park's nighttime spectacular. Taste of Hollywood to Go returns from March 25 through April 4, offering reserved seats along with a choice of five boxed meals for adults and two for children ages 9 and under. Guests can choose which showing of Fantasmic their reservations are for, subject to availability, with one reserved seat per purchased meal. Meals may be picked up at Min & Bill's Dockside Diner from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The adult meal choices are:
Kids' meals available are:
Adult meals are $15.99 each, while kids' meals are $5.49. Both include a 20-ounce soft drink or water. Reservations can be made up to 24 hours in advance at the Walt Disney World Dining Line, 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). A credit card is required for the reservation, with a 24-hour cancellation policy. Payment will be made upon pickup of meals, and the Disney Dining Plan may be used (the meal is one quick-service entitlement). If you are unable to make a reservation in advance, you can check the day you are in the park for any remaining availability.
A 13-year-old Missouri boy died on Tuesday at Florida Hospital South after being pulled from the Hippie-Dippy Pool at Disney's Pop Century Resort at around 9:30 p.m. last Sunday. Anthony Johnson was swimming at the pool with family members. The children were playing and jumping into the pool, when it was realized that nobody had seen the boy in a few minutes. Johnson's cousin spotted the boy, and pulled him out of the pool. The boy was in water that was only four feet deep at the time.
Johnson's father performed CPR, assisted by vacationing Buffalo firefighter William Cybulski. Paramedics arrived and took the boy to Florida Hospital Celebration Health, where he was breathing but in critical condition. He was later transferred to Florida Hospital South, where he remained in critical condition until his death.
Lifeguards are on duty at the pool from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. at this time of year. When the lifeguards go off duty, signs are posted that the pool is not attended and that guests swim at their own risk. The pool was occupied by a number of guests at the time of the incident. At that time, Disney issued a statement saying "Our concern is for the young man and his family. We have reached out to the family to offer our assistance and support."
After the boy's death, Disney released a statement noting "We are saddened by Anthony Johnson’s passing and our hearts go out to his family, friends and loved ones. We have reached out to his family to offer care and assistance during this difficult time."
The following is a listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:
The following is the list of upcoming runDisney events and their registration statuses:
Do you participate in (or consider signing up for) runDisney events? Visit our Team MousePlanet forum on the MousePad discussion board, where you can join our community of health-minded readers and staff.
…Would you rather sing in Spanish than English? Inspired by Devin Velez, one of the Top 10 in this season of American Idol—who sings in both English and Spanish—The American Idol Experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios has added nine Spanish language songs to the list of songs that guests can choose to perform and compete with. Songs include both popular songs by Latin artists and Spanish translations of the Disney songs selected most often at the attraction. Here's the list of new songs:
…Say goodbye to Disney Channel Rocks and the Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The two entertainment events will both have their last performances on Saturday, April 6. At this time, there is no planned replacement for either.
…Two of the guests for Star Wars Weekends have been announced, both of whom will appear for two of the four weekends. Fan favorites Ray Park (Darth Maul) and Warwick Davis (Wicket the Ewok) will return again this year, with Park appearing the first two weekends and Davis during the second and third weekends. Event hosts James Arnold Taylor (voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Clone Wars) and Ashley Eckstein (voice of Asoka Tano in The Clone Wars) have said that they will be returning again this year. This year's event takes place Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from May 17 through June 9.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of Return of the Jedi, this year's event logo features Jedi Mickey Mouse on a speeder bike racing through the trees on the forest moon of Endor with Chip and Dale on his steering fins as they try to evade scout troopers. Image © Disney.
…Disney, Star Wars and baseball collided last week at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, as classic characters from the film franchise as well as Disney versions of characters appeared before and during Atlanta Braves spring training games Friday and Saturday against the New York Mets and New York Yankees, respectively. Entertainment during the game included seventh-inning stretch music from the X-Wing Sax Quartet, Star Wars trivia competitions, and more.
…A new temporary stage opened last week at Epcot. Called "Melody Gardens," the stage will host performances by Disney Performing Arts Programs groups.
…Construction is expected to begin this week on the third bus loop at the Magic Kingdom. The new loop will accommodate larger buses. Construction is expected to take place only during the day.
…Upcoming runDisney events and their registration statuses are:
…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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A Passholder discount is available for most dates through March 22. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available.
Guests will receive 35 percent off at select Deluxe and Deluxe Villas Resorts, 30 percent off at select Moderate Resorts, and 25 percent off at select Value resorts. Moderate and Value Resorts have additional blackout dates.
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, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts range from 20 percent to 35 percent and availability varies by date.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-1895 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code S6Z. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
A Passholder discount is available for most dates April 2 through June 3. Passholders can book this discount through the day of arrival if rooms are still available. The discount is a two-level discount, with a lower price per room if the room is booked by March 31.
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, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and standard rooms at Disney's Art of Animation Resort are not included. Discounts vary by accommodation type and date, and availability varies by date.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World Passholder website or by calling (407) 939-7926 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
You can now can book room-only and Magic Your Way package reservations at select Walt Disney World resorts for 15 percent to 30 percent off of standard rates most nights from April 1 through June 14. You must book your reservations by March 31.
Guests can receive 30 percent off at all Deluxe and Deluxe Villas Resorts, except for all Magic Kingdom resorts (Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Disney's Wilderness Lodge and the Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge), which offer 20 percent off, and Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas, which is not available at a discount. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge only offers the discount for Standard-view rooms.
Discounts of 25 percent are available at all Moderate Resorts, including Disney's Coronado Springs Resort, Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney's Port Orleans Riverside Resort, and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort Cabins.
Guests can also get a 20 percent discount at Disney's All-Star Sports Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort, and Disney's Pop Century Resort
Fifteen percent discounts can be had for family suites at Disney's Art of Animation Resort. Standard rooms in the Little Mermaid-themed section are excluded. Also excluded are Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, All-Star Music Resort, three-bedroom Grand Villas, and Fort Wilderness campsites.
If you add minimum four-day Magic Your Way tickets to your room to make it a package, you will receive discounts on both your room and tickets.
The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Minimum length-of-stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.
You can make your reservation through the Walt Disney World website, or call (407) 939-1283 or your favorite travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).
Florida residents can get discounted three- or four-day tickets through early June. The Discover Disney ticket provides three days of base admission for $119 plus tax, or four days for $129 plus tax. The Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun & More Options can be added for just $28.50 each, plus tax. The tickets are priced the same for adults and children.
Tickets are available for purchase from now through June 3, and may be used through June 7. Passes may not be used during the Easter peak weeks from March 23 through April 5.
For more information or to purchase tickets, check out the special deal website or call 407-939-1283.
Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney PhotoPass+ pre-arrival packages. For $149.95 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 more than 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 are charged to all orders.
This special offer is only available from this link or by calling the Guest Support line at (407) 560-4300 before you arrive at Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.
The package might 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, and Princess Storybook Dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
From now through September 28, 2013, 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 $156 per ticket, plus tax (up from $138 last year), or with both the Park Hopper and Water Parks Fun and More options for $184 per ticket, plus tax (up from $165). No Base ticket is available with this offer.
These tickets expire after September 28. Blockout dates are March 24 through April 4 at all ticketed locations, and July 4 at Magic Kingdom park only.
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. Tickets may be purchased by active and retired military personnel for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. One of the Disney four-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.
You may upgrade the tickets 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.
In addition, specially priced rooms are available to active and retired U.S. military personnel at select Walt Disney World resorts for stays most nights through September 28, except for March 25 through April 4, 2013.
For complete information regarding Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets and discounted resort rates, 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.