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Update for June 18 – 24, 2013

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News and Views

Disney World celebrates Independence Week | Wilderness Explorers opens at Animal Kingdom | Food court makeover slated for All-Star Sports | Quick takes | Crowd update
Our weekly Walt Disney World Update publishes on Tuesdays.

Disney World celebrates Independence Week

Walt Disney World is stretching the Fourth of July holiday into an "Independence Week" celebration from July 1 to 7. The highlight of the week-long event, which is being tied to a Limited Time Magic promotion, is a nightly performance of the "Disney's Celebrate America! A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky" fireworks show at Magic Kingdom. The fireworks will be presented at 10pm on July 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7, and a 9pm on July 3 and 4.

A patriotic pre-parade processational leads the performances of Celebrate a Dream Come True parade in Magic Kingdom July 1 to 7, and includes live performers and Disney characters.

According to the Disney Parks Blog, eateries in all four parks are also featuring special Independence Week desserts, including "Red, White and Blue Strawberry Shortcake at Storybook Treats in Magic Kingdom Park and the Fourth of July Cupcake with apple pie filling, caramel buttercream and apple crisp topping at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Downtown Disney. At Epcot, you can taste the Skillet-Baked Peach Cobbler with Vanilla Whipped Cream or the Red, White and Blue “Baked Alaska” Mousse."

Wilderness Explorers opens at Animal Kingdom

The newest attraction at Animal Kingdom isn't really new at all, but a rebranding of many interpretive exhibits already scattered around Walt Disney World's fourth park. Still, if you didn't know better, you'd be forgiven for thinking the 30 Wilderness Explorers stations were purpose-built for this fun new activity.

The experience begins at a station on the main bridge to Discover Island. There, participants receive the official Wilderness Explorer pledge and their Wilderness Explorer handbook. From there, Explorers are free to roam the park and visit the various stations in any order they wish, completing as many or as few badges as time permits.


Explorers (MouseAdventure producer Joe Stevano, left, and MousePlanet staff member Stephanie Wien, right) receive their Explorer Handbook from a cast member (center) in Animal Kingdom. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Earning a badge takes more than just a quick swing by the station to grab a sticker. Cast members at each outpost are well-trained to guide participants through a study of that particular subject. At the insect station at the base of the Tree of Life, for example, guides describe the major categories of insects, and ask participants which one they are most like. Several live insects are on display for participants to view up close.

At the fossil station in DinoLand, the guide explained how she was having difficulty deciding which dinosaurs to invite to her birthday party (since they're all extinct), and segued into a discussion of modern endangered animals, ending with a not-unexpected conservation message. The fossil station has been in Animal Kingdom for years, but has been given new life with this Wilderness Explorers overlay.


The new Wilderness Explorers activity offers participants a chance to earn 30 different badge stickers—the embroidered patches are for display only. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

While technically geared to children, our group of childless adults were especially captivated by the stations that could tailor their message to an older audience. Instead of searching for footprints at the Yeti station with the younger Wilderness Explorers, the guides here engaged us in a discussion of folk tales from our respective cultures.


A cast member helps an Explorer (Stephanie Wien, left) earn the insect badge by describing different types of insects. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

To be honest, I've seen the Asian cultural representatives in Animal Kingdom before at their old outpost near Yak and Yeti during past trips, but never had a reason to interact with them that would not have simply been, "Hey, you look different, what's that costume you're wearing?" Through this activity, I not only had a reason to approach them, but was drawn into a truly fascinating cultural conversation I don't think I would have experienced otherwise.


The existing fossil station in DinoLand has been repurposed for the Wilderness Explorers activity. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

After completing each station, you earn the corresponding "Merit Badge," a sticker that goes in the Wilderness Explorer Handbook. Finishing all 30 could take quite some time, so my advice to passholders and frequent visitors is to pace yourself. If you are vacationing, pick the badges that look most interesting to your children and skip the rest unless you're willing to devote a full day or two in Animal Kingdom. Of course, given how enjoyable this activity really is, that might not be such a bad idea.

Food court makeover slated for All-Star Sports

Looks like the food court at All-Star Sports is in for a major makeover this summer. Guests who have booked rooms starting August 5 are now being notified by mail that the food court will be closed for refurbishment. Construction begins July 28 when the arcade closes to make room for a grab-and-go food service location. The food court itself closes August 5, at which time the only food offering at All-Star Sports will be the grab-and-go option.

Hot food will be available from the food court at All-Star Music, and Disney will provide bus service between the two properties for All-Star Sports guests who are looking for a hot meal.

The construction is scheduled to continue until sometime in December. It looks like the arcade will be restored to service once the food court renovation is complete.

Quick takes…

...The Main Street Bakery had soft-opening previews Monday at the Magic Kingdom, where cast members and lucky guests got the first look at the newest Starbucks location in Florida. The newly renovated shop officially opens Wednesday.


Starbucks is set to open to the public at the Magic Kingdom this Wednesday. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

...As mentioned last week, Walt Disney World has very quietly rolled out a small fleet of Electric Standing Vehicles (ESVs) for use in the theme parks. The rental vehicles are part of a settlement regarding the use of privately owned Segway Human Transport devices by guests with certain disabilities who prefer to use a standing mobility conveyance rather a seated electric wheelchair or scooter (electric conveyance vehicle, or ECV). The damaged digital camera SD card mentioned in last week's Update was recovered, so we wanted to share a photo of the device in use at the Magic Kingdom.


Walt Disney World has a small fleet of Electric Standing Vehicles available for guests to rent for use in the theme parks where Segways are not allowed. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

...Likewise, here are the promised photos of the new L'Artisan des Glaces Ice Cream and Sorbet Shop in Epcot's France Pavilion. The new shop replaces the former tiny bakery, and offers an assortment of house made ice creams and sorbet flavors.


L'Artisan des Glaces is now open in Epcot's France Pavilion. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.


The ice cream shop looks much larger than the former bakery because one of the two parallel serving lines was removed during the construction. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

...And finally, here is the photo of the clear plastic souvenir Lone Ranger boot offered at Pecos Bill's in the Magic Kingdom. The boot comes filled with frozen root beer for $8.99. Root beer slush is also available without the mug for $3.99, and counts as a snack credit on the Disney Dining Plan. No word on how long these will be available.


The souvenir Lone Ranger boot is available at Pecos Bill's in the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

...As part of a resort-wide initiative to add healthier food choices to Walt Disney World menus, Kona Cafe has added an egg white omelet to its breakfast menu, prepared with roasted red pepper and goat cheese, and served with seasonal berries. MousePlanet's Stephanie Wien ordered the new dish during a recent trip, and says, "It was very tasty. It's a nice lighter option for a place that tends toward the larger, heavier breakfast entrees. The goat cheese was good without being too overwhelming."


A new egg white omelet has joined the menu at Kona Cafe, offering a lighter alternative for those who cannot eat an entire plate of Tonga Toast. Photo by Stephanie Wien.

...Registration is still open for the Princess Half Marathon, which is at 61 percent of capacity as of this writing. The inaugural Enchanted 10K is at 95 percent, and the Glass Slipper Challenge for runners who wanted to tackle both races is sold out. The Kids Races and spectator packages are all still available.

...The Disney Parks Blog has details of a new Catch Stitch! Sweepstakes offering a grand prize of a Disney Cruise.

We're Hiring!

Are you interested in writing for MousePlanet? We're currently looking for columnists to cover new areas of the Disney universe. We're especially looking for Florida locals to provide photos and information for the weekly Walt Disney World Update

If you are interested in contributing to the weekly Updates, or you have an idea for a great new column, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!

Crowd Forecast

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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."

The summer touring season is officially here. TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls, and will help you avoid the dreaded tour groups, with our per-park Crowd Calendar, Lines - Mobile Wait Times App that gives access to current and estimated wait times for attractions, and Touring Plans detailing the best plan of attack for hitting the attractions. Now more than ever, it's a good time to subscribe to TouringPlans.com to plan your strategy to avoid the crowds!

Below are the predicted resort-wide crowd numbers for select days generated by the TouringPlans professional statisticians as measured for the upcoming week. For the access to the full year and per-park crowd level predictions, visit our Crowd Calendar.

Date Overall
Tuesday, June 18, 2013 9 / 10
Wednesday, June 19, 2013 8 / 10
Thursday, June 20, 2013 8 / 10
Friday, June 21, 2013 8 / 10

Check out the Disney World Park Crowd Levels page on TouringPlans.com for park-specific predictions and recommendations on which days to visit and avoid particular parks!

  • Wednesday is the best day to visit the Magic Kingdom.
  • The resort crowd level on Saturday 8 out of 10.
  • Following a Touring Plan is important when crowd levels spike at the park you're visiting!

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or Smartphone.
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Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Adrienne here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Resort Events

2013

2014

runDisney events

2013

  • Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler Weekend (October 4–5) – Registration is open for the Tower of Terror 10-Miler, Happy Haunted 5K Trail Run, Kids Races, Disney Villains Hollywood Bash.
  • Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (November 8–9) – The Wine & Dine Half Marathon is now sold out. Registration is still open for Mickey's Jingle Jungle 5K, Kids' Races, Wine & Dine Finish Line Party.

2014

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (January 9–12) – Sold out: Walt Disney World Half Marathon, WDW 10K, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, Dopey Challenge, Runner's World Challenge. Registration is still open for the Walt Disney World Marathon, Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge, Family Reunion Breakfast and Pasta in the Park Party.
  • Disney's Princess Half-Marathon Weekend (February 21–23) – Registration open, at 61. Events include Disney's Princess Half Marathon individual and team events, Enchanted 10K, Disney Royal Family 5K, Kids Races, post-5K Breakfast, and Pasta in the Park Party. Registration for the Glass Slipper Challenge (both the 10K and half marathon) is sold out. runDisney has announced a special achievement for those running both the Princess and Tinker Bell half marathons.

Do you participate in (or are considering 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.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed June 22 & 23 for refurbishment.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean – closed June 27–30 for an "animation refurbishment."
  • Prince Charming Regal Carousel – closed August 1–21 for refurbishment.
  • Liberty Belle – closed August 5–9 for refurbishment.
  • Jungle Cruise – closed August 19 through September 30 for refurbishment.
  • Cinderella's Royal Table – closed September 10–13 for refurbishment.
  • Princess Fairytale Hall – opens 2013.
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train – opens 2014.

Epcot

  • Fountain View Ice Cream – closed through early September for conversion to Starbucks location.
  • Spaceship Earth – closed August 18-24 for refurbishment.
  • New rest room between America and Japan pavilions – scheduled to open Fall 2013.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Muppet*Vision 3D – closed August 6 through September 2 for refurbishment.
  • Both parades (Disney Channel Rocks and Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun Parade) have ended their run. No new parades have been announced.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known refurbishments.

Resorts

  • All Star Movies – feature icons refurbishment through September 20.
  • All Star Music
    • Feature icons refurbishment through September.
    • Billboard replacement on Broadway buildings 7 & 8 – June 7–27
    • Melody Hall guest check in parking renovation – June 13 through August 7
  • All Star Sports
    • Feature icons refurbishment through September 20.
    • Soft goods replacement in guest rooms through June 7
  • BoardWalk - guest parking lot renovation through June 20
  • Caribbean Beach - Jamaica Village building painting and repairs through June 28
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort
    • California Grill closed through late summer for refurbishment.
    • Second floor lobby wall covering replaced through June 24
    • Renovation of the 14th floor suites and concierge lounge through June 28
    • Soft goods replacement in Contemporary Tower and south Garden Wing guest rooms through July 5
    • Guest elevator renovations – through December 8
  • Polynesian – soft goods replacement in guest rooms through October 4
  • Pop Century
    • Feature icons refurbishment through October 2
    • '70s and '80s guest parking areas refurbishment June 17–28
  • Port Orleans French Quarter
    • Atrium and lobby renovation through June 23
    • Bridge and bus stop vine removal and painting through August 30
  • Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
    • Spa closed through summer for conversion to Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. The spa at the Grand Floridian remains open during this time.
  • Wilderness Lodge
    • Soft goods replacement in presidential and vice-presidential suites through June 28
    • Main building exterior repairs through August 5

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed October 27, 2013 through January 4, 2014 for refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. Will not be performed on the following dates in 2013:
    • July 23
    • September 17–21
    • November 5–6

Current Discounts & Promotions

Discounts for everyone

Free Dining in September

First Disney announced a new Free Dining offer for U.K. residents, then an offer for Disney Visa cardholders visiting selected dates this September. Now the September Free Dining offer is available without using a Disney Visa card. Check in at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel from September 2 to 25 and stay three to 14 nights, and everyone in your party gets free dining. Stay at a:

  • Value Resort – receive the Quick Service Dining plan for free. You can upgrade to the Standard or Deluxe dining plan by paying the difference. Moderate, Deluxe, or
  • Deluxe Villa Resort – receive the Standard dining plan. You can upgrade to the Deluxe dining plan by paying the difference.

There are some restrictions:

  • You must purchase a 2-Day (or longer) Magic Your Way ticket for very member of your party.
  • You must book your travel by July 31.
  • You must book the same tickets and dining plan for every member of your party.
  • Children ages 3–9 must order from the children's menu where offered; children under age 3 are not eligible for free dining.
  • This offer excludes the campsites at Fort Wilderness, the Little Mermaid rooms at the Art of Animation Resort, and all 3-bedroom Villas.

For full details, visit the Disney special offer site.

PhotoPass+ pre-arrival discount

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.

Discounts for Annual Passholders

Passholder room discounts June 4 through August 15

A discount for annual passholders is available for most dates June 4 through August 15. Advance reservations required.

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. Campsites, 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. Moderate and Deluxe Resort suites may be available at a lower discount - check with your travel agent. Full details on the offer website. (AP login required)

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).

Resort Category Resort Name Discount if booked by 6/19 Discount if booked by 8/15
Value Resorts Disney's All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, Art of Animation Family Suites Up to 20% Up to 15%
Moderate Resorts Disney's Port Orleans Riverside, Coronado Springs, Caribbean Beach, the Cabins at Fort Wilderness Up to 25% Up to 20%
Deluxe Resorts Disney's Yacht and Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Animal Kingdom Lodge (standard view), Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Wilderness Lodge Up to 35% Up to 30%
Disney Vacation Club Resorts Disney's Beach Club Villas, Old Key West, BoardWalk Villas, Villas at the Wilderness Lodge, Saratoga Springs, Bay Lake Towers Up to 35% Up to 30%

 

Discounts for Disney Visa cardholders

Disney Visa cardholder room discounts for June 13 through August 14

A Disney Visa cardholder discount is available for most dates June 13 through August 14. The new promotion offers discounts of 5 to 30 percent off room-only bookings, with the option of adding non-discounted tickets and dining plans if desired. Rooms must be booked by June 14 to qualify.

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. Discount percentages shown below are on room only. You can add non-discounted tickets and dining.

Resort Category Resort Name Discount
Value Resorts All-Star Music, All-Star Sports, Pop Century, Art of Animation Suites – 15% 15%
All-Star Movies 5%
Art of Animation Suites only (Standard Mermaid Rooms are not included) 15%
Moderate Resorts Disney's Riverside, Coronado Springs Caribbean Beach 20%
Disney's French Quarter 15%
Disney's Coronado Springs Suites 5%
Deluxe Resorts Disney's Contemporary, Polynesian, Grand Floridian, Yacht Club, Beach Club, BoardWalk Inn, Animal Kingdom Lodge 30%
Disney's Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge Club Level 5%
Disney's Deluxe Resort Suites – limited availability 5%
Disney Vacation Club Resorts Disney's Old Key West, Saratoga Springs, Beach Club Villas, BoardWalk Villas 30%
Disney's Villas at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Kidani and Jambo House) 5%
Disney's Villas at the Wilderness Lodge 20%
Disney Vacation Club Grand Villas are not included 0%

Thanks to MousePlanet sponsor Small World Vacations for the information.

Discounts for Florida residents

Florida resident hotel offers

The Waldorf Astoria Orlando has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5. Residents receive 10 percent off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida resident offer website.

The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort has announced Florida resident rates valid through September 5. Residents receive 10 percent off of the best available rate, along with free transportation to the Walt Disney World Resort. Book using the Florida Resident offer website.

Discounts for US Military

2013 Military Salute offers

From now through September 28, 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.

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.

Discounts for UK residents

2014 Free Dining offer for UK residents

2014 Free Dining offers for UK residents have been released. From the information posted on the Virgin Holidays website, it appears the 2014 program offers free Quick Service Dining Plan plan when booking at a Moderate resort, and free Dining Plan when booking at Deluxe resorts, Old Key West or Saratoga Springs. There are also offers for a free $200 Disney Gift Card and/or a 14-day ticket for the price of a 7-day ticket depending on travel dates. These particular offers are valid for UK residents only.


Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Adrienne here.


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(Send an email to Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix)

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix (@MousePlanetAVP) is an original MousePlanet staffer and manages to find time for all of this while running two retail stores, MouseShoppe and CharmingShoppe.