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News and Views

Celebrities help with grand openings

Walt Disney World was the center of media attention last week as the Walt Disney Company rolled out the red carpet for the world press. On Wednesday night, Julie Andrews opened Mickey's PhilharMagic in the Magic Kingdom. The next day, astronauts Wally Schirra, Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, Bruce McCandless, Mae Jameson and Guion Bluford, Jr. helped Disney CEO Michael Eisner, and Hewlett-Packard Chairman Carly Fiorina open the Mission: Space attraction in Epcot to much hoopla. Stay tuned as we present a big recap of all of the openings and announcements from last week's press event.

Magical Gathering planning tools available this week

In its continued quest to bring new visitors to its resorts, Disney is tapping a new segment: Large groups of friends, and families organizing reunions. Disney's new Magical Gatherings promotion is kicking off with a new Web site to provide you with tools for planning your Magical Gathering or Grand Gathering (eight or more people). You can now go to the promotion's site (link) to order a video or DVD, CD, and booklet package to help you plan your vacation offline. Beginning this Wednesday, you can use an online planning tool to:

  • Establish a group to plan your Magical Gathering, then create and send electronic invitations to family and friends
  • Participate in group chats to discuss vacation plans
  • Compile your own and group “favorites” of Walt Disney World attractions
  • Produce custom polls and cast votes on “must-see” activities for the group's itinerary
  • Browse other Walt Disney World Web pages and share them with group members
  • Build a complete vacation itinerary
  • Embellish messages to group members with animation of Tinker Bell as she winks, pouts, or pixie-dusts the screen

Grand Gatherings will have the ability to reserve special experiences, including “Magical Fireworks Voyage,” “Safari Celebration Dinner,” “International Storybook Dinner,” and “Good Morning Gatherings.” More services are also available, including meals, tours, photographic services, florist services, two-way radios, and special merchandise. Services are available to parties traveling after November 16.

High speed online @ WDW

Walt Disney World is finally beginning to roll out high-speed Internet access at its deluxe, home-away-from-home, and other convention resorts. The service costs $9.95 for 24 consecutive hours, and is charged to the room account. You must supply your own computer and Ethernet cable. The rollout has already started, with the Coronado Springs Resort going online on October 1—presumably for the larger number of conventions. The Yacht & Beach Club Resorts will follow on November 4, with the Contemporary and Grand Floridian resorts coming online on December 2. The Boardwalk Inn and Villas will get hooked up just before New Year's, and the Villas at the Wilderness Lodge will come online at the end of February. The Old Key West Resort will be wired at the beginning of April, and the Saratoga Springs Resort will be Internet-ready when it opens next spring.

Wireless Internet also now available

Guests with wireless connection-enabled laptops or PDAs will be able to get Internet access from from the common areas of some of the same resorts that are coming online with Ethernet connections. The cost is $4.99 for the first 60 minutes or $9.95 for 24 consecutive hours. Billing will be via a secure credit card transaction using the on-screen Internet connection. Wireless cards will be available for purchase in each resort's business center. Wireless access (provided by Smart City) is available at the Grand Floridian, Contemporary, Yacht Club, Beach Club, and Coronado Springs resorts. Access will be available in the main lobbies, convention center hallways, and main pools at those resorts.

Halloween Hayrides at Fort Wilderness

Guests can enjoy hearing “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” during hayrides at the Fort Wilderness Resort on October 17, 18, 45, 25, 29, 30, and 31, and November 1. The 20-minute rides will run from dusk until 10:00 p.m. Tickets must be bought on the day of the ride, and are on a first-come, first-served basis. Wagons hold up to 30 guests, and will be available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Fort Wilderness Kennel, and from 3 p.m. until they are sold out at the location across from Pioneer Hall where the ride will load. There will be approximately 10 to 12 hayrides per night. Tickets are $10 (ages 10 and up) and $8 (ages 3-9). Children under 3 are free.

If you have a large group that can fully load a wagon, you can reserve group tickets in advance by calling (407) 824-2734. You must pick up and pay for group tickets before 3 p.m. or they will be resold.

Ears to the ground

…During testing last week, the Wishes fireworks firing spot atop Peter Pan's Flight caused a small fire on the roof. It was put out quickly, and there was no internal damage.

…There is now a photo background for Brother Bear in the Animation Courtyard at the Disney-MGM Studios.

...Mission: Space Race Online is now up. Go to the Mission: Space web site for more info on how to play.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain is scheduled to be closed for refurbishment through Saturday, November 22.
  • The Swiss Family Treehouse is closed for refurbishment through Friday, October 24.
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic is now officially open.
  • Wishes: a Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams, the new fireworks show for the Magic Kingdom, has now replaced the venerable Fantasy in the Sky show.
  • The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter closed for good on October 12. It is now undergoing a major rehab and will reopen in mid- to late-2004 as Stitch Escape!
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress is open from park open to park close for the duration of the Stitch Escape! construction.
  • Timekeeper is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the duration of the Stitch Escape! construction.
  • Adventureland now opens at 10 a.m. on non-peak days.

Epcot

  • The Eiffel Tower structure at the France pavilion is due to return from rehab in December.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Magic of Disney Animation is closed for refurbishment through November 23.
  • Residential Street at the Disney-MGM Studios has been closed and is undergoing demolition to prepare the site for a new “E-ticket stunt-show attraction” believed to be an American version of the popular Moteurs… Action! stunt show from the Walt Disney Studios at Disneyland Paris.
  • Due to the loss of Residential Street, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights will not be presented this holiday season. It is expected to return in some form for 2004.
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is receiving a lot of rehab work through November, reportedly on the ride control system and cable replacements. The Tower is closed through this coming Saturday, and opens again on Sunday running one side only through Monday, November 17. Capacity will be decreased during the rehab, but should be offset by smaller off-season crowds smaller crowds.
  • Sets from the upcoming Haunted Mansion movie are now open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known closures at this time.

Resorts

  • Boardwalk Resort – The Keister Coaster slide is closed through October 29 for refurbishment. During this time, the 190,000-gallon Luna Park pool will remain open, and Boardwalk Resort guests can use the Stormalong Bay pool complex at the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts (ID may be required).
  • Pop Century Resort – This resort officially opens on December 14.
  • Port Orleans Resort – A two-year extensive rehab of this resort's rooms is ongoing. For Phase I, French Quarter closed May 4, 2003. Phase II will involve Riverside going down in sections. We have not yet heard a date for completion of Phase I.
  • Polynesian Resort – This resort is seeing the longhouses refurbished one by one. Each longhouse under rehab is walled off and isolated during its rehab. There are only a couple of longhouses remaining. Hawaii is currently in rehab thru October 17, 2003. Concierge has been moved to Tahiti during this period. Tonga is scheduled for rehab through December 20. Niue is the only other longhouse currently scheduled to undergo rehab, and is tentatively scheduled for January 18 to May 2, 2004. Rarotonga has not received a rehab yet, but is not on the current schedule.
  • Shades of Green – Major construction and rehab is ongoing at this Morale, Welfare and Recreation-run resort for the members of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Department of Defense. It is currently expected to reopen in March 2004.
  • Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa (a Disney Vacation Club resort) has a tentative grand opening date of May 1, 2004.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach undergoes refurbishment from October 26 through December 13.
  • Typhoon Lagoon undergoes refurbishment beginning on December 14.

Elsewhere

  • The All-Star Cafe at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex is now closed Mondays through Wednesdays. It is open Thursdays through Sundays, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Park Events

October

  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom. October 3, 5, 10, 14, 16, 19, 24, 26, 30 and 31.
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – Included with park admission, sample wine and food from 25 countries (link). October 18 to November 16.
  • The Funai Classic at Walt Disney World Resort will feature many of the world's top golfers, including Ernie Els, Retief Goosen, Jim Furyk, Scott Hoch, Lee Janzen, European Ryder Cup captain Bernhard Langer, PGA champion Shaun Micheel, 2003 Hall of Fame inductee Nick Price and Scott Verplank. Tiger Woods is also expected, though he has not formally committed yet. The tournament will take place on the Magnolia and Palm courses. October 23 to 26.
  • 999 Happy Haunts Ball at the Magic Kingdom. October 27, 28, and 29.

November

  • Festival of the Masters - 150 artists and their creations on display at Downtown Disney's West Side. November 7 to 9.
  • ABC Super Soap Weekend at the Disney-MGM Studios. November 8 and 9.
  • Pin Trading Cruise aboard the Disney Wonder. November 16-20.
  • Festival of the Seasons at Epcot featuring lighting displays, fun window displays, and more. November 28 to December 24.
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot lets you celebrate holidays in the style of the World Showcase countries. November 28 to December 30.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom – Order by phone at (407) W-DISNEY (934-7639). November 30, December 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18 and 19.

December

  • Doll & Teddy Bear Weekend. December 7.
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort opens December 14.

January 2004

  • Disney's Health and Fitness Expo (link). January 9 & 10.
  • FamilyFun Magazine Family Fun Run (link) January 10.
  • Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon January 11.
  • Annual Passholders' Cruise (4 nights) on Disney Magic. January 25.

April 2004

  • Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. April 16 – May 30.

May 2004

  • Walt Disney World Inline Marathon (link). May 2.

Current Discounts & Promotions

New Disney Visa Dream Maker Package - Kids Stay Free!

That there is a new Disney's Visa “Kids Stay and Play Free” Package, available most nights January 4 through June 12, 2004, where when you buy a full-price Walt Disney World Dream Maker Package with your Disney?s Visa card, for each adult on the package, one child (3-9) gets a free Ultimate Park Hopper pass for the length of stay. 4-night minimum. Plus you receive $100 in Disney Dollars per package at check-in! Go to Disney's Kids Free Web page (link) for more information, or call your travel agent and book using package code ZXFA. You must book your package by January 2.

Great rates at the Swan and Dolphin

Are you planning a trip this fall? Check out this offer from the Swan and Dolphin:

  • WDW Annual Passholders can book rooms as low as $139 per night, plus tax and resort fee, through the end of 2003, including a free upgrade! Rates include a free upgrade, and are subject to availability.

Get more details and the discount codes at MouseSavers.com.

Military Salute hotel and cruise discounts available

Active U.S. Military personnel or spouses are also eligible for a 40% savings per night (based on the non-discounted price of the same room) at select Walt Disney World Resort hotels, and special rates on Disney Cruise Line sailings. This offer is available most nights through December 19 at Walt Disney World, and for most sailings through December 18 on the Disney Cruise Line. Hotel rooms and staterooms are limited at this special rate.

For more information, call (407) 939-7424 for Walt Disney World, and (800) 951-2659 for the Disney Cruise Line. You must be 18 or older to call these numbers.

Free 5-day Park Hopper for Active Military

Disney is offering a special for active duty military—a free five-day park hopper ticket, as well as discounted companion tickets. Offer valid through December 19 and includes all active military personnel, including Coast Guard, as well as activated National Guard and Reservists. See their official Web site (link) for more information.

Annual Passholder and Florida resident rates available

WDW Annual Passholder and Florida resident rates are available at select Walt Disney World resorts for check-ins now through November 24, and November 28 through December 26. Discounts range from approximately 30 to 45 percent off regular rack rates.

Plan ahead and save a few bucks

The Walt Disney World Resort is encouraging visitors to buy their theme park tickets before they even leave home, by offering a slight discount on advance purchases. You can save as much as $22 per adult, per ticket with the “Advance Purchase Savings” program.

You can also receive these Advance Purchase Savings with packages purchased through AAA.

Multi-Day Tickets
Gate Prices
Advance Purchase Price
Savings
4-Day Park Hopper: Adults
$208
$192
$16
     Children ages 3 - 9
$167
$152
$15
5-Day Park Hopper: Adults
$239
$217
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$192
$172
$20
5-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$269
$247
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$216
$197
$19
6-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$299
$277
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$240
$222
$18
7-Day Park Hopper Plus: Adults
$329
$307
$22
     Children ages 3 - 9
$264
$247
$17

Annual Passholders

Receive 10 percent off the price of their lunch meal at selected Walt Disney World Resort hotel restaurants, and the discount is good for up to three guests. The offer is valid Mondays through Fridays. Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) for locations and reservations.


Park Hours

Sun
Mon
Tues
Wed
Thurs
Fri
Sat
 
10/13
10/14
10/15
10/16
10/17
10/18
 

MK 9a-8p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-7p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-6p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-8p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-6p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-9p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-11p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

10/19
10/20
  • MK = Magic Kingdom
  • EF = Epcot, Future World
  • EW = Epcot, World Showcase
  • MGM = Disney-MGM Studios
  • AK = Animal Kingdom
  • BB = Blizzard Beach Water Park
  • TL = Typhoon Lagoon Water Park

MK 9a-6p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p

MK 9a-7:30p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7:30p
AK 9a-5p
BB 10a-5p
TL 10a-5p


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 10/13

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Tuesday 10/14

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Wednesday 10/15

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 8p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Thursday 10/16

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Friday 10/17

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Saturday 10/18

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Sunday 10/19

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p

Monday 10/20

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 4p

Fantasmic 7:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 4p



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(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.