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News and Views

Code Orange causes delays, no major problems expected

While law enforcement officials are stating that they expect no major disruptions due to the Code Orange alert currently underway, delays at airports should be expected for the duration of the alert, expected to last another week or so. Passengers on domestic flights at Orlando International Airport are being requested to arrive two hours before departure time, and international passengers, three hours early. Similar precautions are being taken around Port Canaveral, where there will be an increase in patrols. Cruisers should contact their individual cruise lines for security updates.

At Orlando International, changes include increased police patrols, limited hours for terminal-top parking, the closing of some parking-lot entrance ramps and towing of cars at the terminal curb, as well as random searches of cars approaching the terminal.

In addition, the U.S Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S. VISIT) program is expected to commence on January 5 at all 115 international airports in the United States. Customs officials will use photos and fingerprints to instantly check the criminal background of all foreign visitors.

Don't just run fast—register fast, too

The 2004 WDW Marathon and Half-Marathon events are just two weeks away, but Disney has just announced the dates for the 2005 event as Sunday, January 8, 2005.

Most importantly, it has also announced that registration for the 2005 marathon events start on Monday, January 12, 2004—only one day after the 2004 marathon. This is particularly critical if you are considering entering the half-marathon, since registration for the 2004 version sold out in a record-breaking six days this past March.

If you are entered for the 2004 half-marathon and are vacationing in WDW afterwards, it's quite possible that the 2005 version will be sold out by the time you get home; you might want to check for an Internet connection in your hotel room so you can register right away!

To learn more about the 2005 event, including registration options, visit the Disney Sports Web site (link).

Universal gives up on additional land

In the aftermath of the planned merger of Vivendi Universal's entertainment division with General Electric's NBC division, Universal Orlando seems to have given up on its plans to add more theme parks and hotels to combat Walt Disney World. On December 8, Universal Orlando sold the 1,800 acres that would be used for the expansion to Atlanta development company Thomas Enterprises Inc. for an undisclosed sum, reportedly $65 million. Universal originally bought the land in 1998 from Lockheed-Martin for $80 million.

Reportedly, Universal originally planned to build two more theme parks, several hotels and other retail and entertainment centers on the property. While Thomas plans to build a number of tourism-related developments on the land, the deal came with some restrictions. The contract with Universal will only allow the construction of smaller tourist-oriented attractions, none of which could be constructed for an agreed-upon amount of time.

Thomas will be taking over responsibility for the site's clean-up, which accounts for a great deal of the decrease is sale price. The site was contaminated by Lockheed-Martin when there was a weapons-manufacturing facility on the site.

Town for sale!

Apparently giving up on its experiment in urban planning, the Walt Disney Company subsidiary The Celebration Company is negotiating to sell the downtown area of Celebration to an undisclosed buyer. The city center includes 105,000 square feet of retail space, 105 apartments and 94,000 square feet of office space.

Disney sold the golf course to C.S. Golf Partners in September, and with the pending sale of downtown, will be out of the commercial space business in Celebration. The planned community now houses over 8,000 people, in dwellings ranging from apartments to homes starting at about $350,000. While Walt Disney had dreams of creating a new type of city, it is obviously not dear to the heart of the current Walt Disney Company.

UCF's Rosen School to move to new campus in Orlando

The University of Central Florida will open a new campus for the Rosen School of Hospitality Management near International Drive. Orlando hotelier and UCF trustee Harris Rosen donated $18.2 million for the new campus, and $1.1 million for scholarships. Classes at the new campus on Universal Boulevard will begin January 5, with a formal dedication ceremony to take place on February 5.

The new campus will have a 190-seat training dining room, a 9,000-square-foot library, 22 classrooms, a 4,000-seat auditorium and, in the fall of 2005, two residence halls with 400 apartments. The Rosen School now has more than 900 students, and hopes to expand to 1,000 undergraduate and 100 graduate students in the near future. The capacity of the new school is expected to be about 2,000 students.

Papers regarding Disney history head for UCF's Rosen School

Harrison “Buzz” Price, best known to Disney fans for determining the best locations to build Disneyland and Walt Disney World, has decided to donate his papers to the University of Central Florida's Rosen School of Hospitality Management. The 82-year-old Price has already given 71 boxes of papers, with more to come. Some papers are available to researchers now, others restricted to only become available in 2012, and still more to become available after his and his wife's death. Included in the papers are information about the proposed Disney Down Under Resort considered for Queensland, Australia in the 1990s and information about Disney's attempt to create a ski resort at Mineral King in California.

Flower & Garden Festival expands to seven weeks

Walt Disney World has announced that the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will be expanded from six to seven weeks this year. For 2004, the 11th annual festival will run from April 16 through June 6.

To assist in the synergy with its “Magical Gatherings” promotion, the festival showcases new topiary displays of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck grouped in a Magical Gathering of their own. Tinker Bell, the online icon of the Magical Gatherings Web-based, vacation-planning tools, spreads some topiary pixie dust of her own throughout the festival.

In addition to the now-traditional Flower Power concerts at the America Gardens Theatre and the rose walk display, festival features include:

  • Gardening seminars and demonstrations
  • An herb and spice garden at the Morocco showcase
  • A wild geese topiary display at the Canada pavilion
  • A River Restoration Garden focusing on the importance of water conservation and wetlands restoration via a meandering water display lush with native Florida plants
  • The second year of Disney's DogGone Maze children's play area
  • An Outdoor Living display exploring the trend of gardeners' enjoying their home gardens as a retreat or entertainment venue

Each festival weekend will be themed with special speakers and events, including an Art in the Garden Weekend with regional artists performing their art in the park, and an I Dig Bugs Weekend, featuring insect experts and multiple ladybug and butterfly releases.

Ears to the ground

…On Sunday, December 21, Todd English's “bluezoo” Restaurant opened at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel. The restaurant's interior tries to give the illusion of being underwater, with a blue color scheme, and fish and bubble décor.

…Kenai and Koda from Brother Bear will meet and greet children, and then clap paws with them as they cross over the finish line at the FamilyFun Run through Epcot on Saturday morning, January 10.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter has closed for good. It is now undergoing a major rehab and will reopen in Fall 2004 as Stitch's Great Escape!
  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress opens from park open to park close for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Timekeeper opens from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the duration of the Stitch's Great Escape! construction.
  • Country Bear Jamboree is currently running its Christmas show. It closes January 12 to 16 to return to its usual program.
  • Adventureland now opens at 10 a.m. on non-peak days, but opens with the rest of the park (except for Jungle Cruise) on Sundays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Special holiday hours follow: Through Saturday, January 3, all attractions in Adventureland, including the Jungle Cruise, open at the same time as the rest of the park. Hours are subject to change.
  • El Pirata Y el Perico Restaurante in Adventureland has the following special holiday operating hours: Monday and Tuesday, December 29-30: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wednesday, December 31: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Epcot

  • The Wonders of Life pavilion closes on January 5. The Pure and Simple eatery and the Well and Goods Limited shop will remain closed, while the Body Wars, Cranium Command, and The Making of Me attractions will now be open on a seasonal basis. No word yet on the Frontiers in Medicine, Sensory Funhouse, Goofy about Health, and Sports Fitness Areas.
  • It is expected that the Universe of Energy will close for a short rehab in March to remove the ExxonMobil signage after their pavilion sponsorship ends.
  • It appears that the Living Seas pavilion will closing for a rehab in the April time frame. Rumors are strong that Audio-Animatronic characters from Finding Nemo will be added to the pavilion.
  • Food Rocks closes on January 3 to make way for the entrance to the new Soarin' Over California attraction.
  • The Behind the Seeds Walking Tour of the greenhouses at The Land has been officially discontinued during reconstruction of the Food Rocks area into the queue for Soarin'. However, the tour may be given on an unannounced basis until Food Rocks officially closes on January 3. The tours are expected to resume upon completion of the construction.

Disney-MGM Studios

  • Fantasmic! closes from January 26 to 30 for a regular maintenance rehab.
  • Residential Street at the Disney-MGM Studios has been closed and demolished and construction has begun to turn the site into 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 is not being presented this holiday season. It is reported to return on New York Street/Big City Street for 2004.
  • New York Street is undergoing a great deal of construction to change some facades to represent Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. We do not yet have a target completion date for the newly-titled Big City Street yet.
  • Sets from the upcoming Haunted Mansion movie are now open in the old Backstage Pass soundstage and will be open through the end of the year.
  • The Backlot Tour will be closed from January 4 through April 1 to allow construction vehicles free access to the stunt show construction site.
  • The Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage show at the Theater of the Stars closes for refurbishment February 2 to 6.

Animal Kingdom

  • No known closures at this time.

Resorts

  • Pop Century Resort has officially opened.
  • 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 nearing completion of the refurbishment of longhouses. Each longhouse under rehab is walled off and isolated during its rehab. Niue and Rarotonga are the last remaining longhouses currently scheduled to undergo rehab, and are tentatively scheduled for January 18 to May 2, 2004.
  • Shades of Green - Major construction and rehab is ongoing at this MWR-run resort for the military. 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 27, 2004. Reservations will be taken starting on January 5. DVC members can reserve using points on January 5 (home resort) or February 4 (other resorts).

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon is closed for refurbishment through February 28.

Elsewhere

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

Park Events

Ongoing

  • Celebrate Mickey… 75 InspEARations showcases 75 very special interestingly decorated Mickey statues to celebrate Mickey's 75th birthday throughout the Walt Disney World Resort. Through April 2004.
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot lets you celebrate holidays in the style of the World Showcase countries. Through December 30.

January

  • Disney's Health and Fitness Expo at the Disney Wide World of Sports (link). Admission is free to all. January 9 & 10.
  • FamilyFun Magazine Family Fun Run (link) January 10.
  • Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon January 11.
  • 2005 Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon registration opens (link). January 11.
  • National College Cheerleading and Dance Team Championship (link) January 16-18.
  • Annual Passholders' Cruise (4 nights) on Disney Magic. January 25.
  • National Dance Team Championship (link) January 31 to February 1.

February

  • National High School Cheerleading Championship (link) February 7 & 8.
  • Atlanta Braves training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex (link) February 15 - April 2.

March

  • National Cheerleading and Dance Championship (link) March 13 & 14.

April

  • Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. April 16 to June 6.

May

  • Walt Disney World Inline Marathon (link). May 2.
  • Disney Vacation Club Member Homecoming event. May 25 to 27.

October

  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. October 1 to November 14.

January 2005

  • Disney's Health and Fitness Expo at the Disney Wide World of Sports. Admission is free to all. January 7 & 8.
  • Family Fun Run & Kids' Races. January 8.
  • Disney Marathon and Half-Marathon January 9.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Deep discount codes announced

Walt Disney World has announced new discount codes for Annual Passholders, Florida residents, and the general public for check-ins January 1 to February 11, 2004. General public rates start at $55 per night, while AP and Florida rates start at $49 per night. These rates are also available with DreamMaker packages. Visit disneyworld.com or MouseSavers for more details.

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 this Friday, January 2.

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% 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
 
12/29
12/30
12/31
1/1
1/2
1/3
 

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

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

MK 8a-1a
EF 9a-1a
EW 9:30a-1a
MGM 8a-1a
AK 8a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL closed

MK 8a-Mid
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL closed

MK 8a-Mid
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL closed

MK 8a-Mid
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-8:30p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL closed

1/4
1/5
  • 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-7p
EF 9a-7p
EW 11a-9p
MGM 9a-7p
AK 9a-6p
BB 10a-5p
TL closed

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


Entertainment Schedule

Magic Kingdom
Epcot World Showcase
Disney-MGM Studios
Animal Kingdom
Monday 12/29

Mickey's Very Merry Holiday Parade 1p, 4p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10:15p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9:30p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8:30p, 10p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Tuesday 12/30

Mickey's Very Merry Holiday Parade 1p, 4p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10:15p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9:30p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8:30p, 10p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Wednesday 12/31

Mickey's Very Merry Holiday Parade 2p

SpectroMagic 7p, 10:15p

Wishes Fireworks 8:30p

Fantasy in the Sky Fireworks 12a

Illuminations! 7:30p, 11:40p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8:30p, 10p

Sorcery in the Sky Fireworks 11:50pm

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Thursday 1/1

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10:15p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Friday 1/2

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10:15p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Saturday 1/3

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

SpectroMagic 8p, 10:15p

Wishes Fireworks 9p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3p

Fantasmic 6:30p, 8:30p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Sunday 1/4

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p

Monday 1/5

Share a Dream Come True Parade 3p

Wishes Fireworks 7p

Illuminations! 9p

Disney Stars and Motor Cars Parade 3:30p

Fantasmic 7p

Mickey's Jammin' Jungle Parade 3:45p



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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.