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Update for July 18 – July 24, 2011

Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Coming Soon | Refurbishment/Attraction Closures | Discounts/Promotions

News and Views

Downtown Disney adds bowling, but Hyperion Wharf derailed | More Food & Wine Festival details revealed | HGTV celeb schedule for Food & Wine announced | "Room for 1 More" Haunted Mansion merchandise event | Sounds Like Summer band replaced | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

Downtown Disney adds bowling, but Hyperion Wharf derailed

While Downtown Disney has seen—and continues to see—a great deal of movement, enhancement and addition of shopping, dining, and entertainment, it appears that the Hyperion Wharf project at Downtown Disney has been (at least temporarily) derailed.


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Dining locations such as T-Rex Cafe, Paradiso 37, and the Pollo Campero/Fresh A-Peel/Babycakes NYC venue have appeared in Downtown Disney Marketplace, and Portobello Yacht Club was reborn as Portobello on Pleasure Island.

Recent development in shops has included the expansion of the LEGO Imagination Center at the Marketplace, the move of Orlando Harley-Davidson from Pleasure Island to a new location on the West Side, and the new Dine-In Theatres at the AMC Downtown Disney 24. Later this summer, Apricot Lane Boutique will move into the Pleasure Island location vacated by Orlando Harley-Davidson.

The latest news is that Ridemakerz will be moving out of the former Virgin Megastore on the West Side to an unspecified location in the Marketplace to make room for Splitsville, an entertainment and dining venue that features bowling, billiards, dining, music and nightlife. The 50,000-square-foot venue will join the Splitsville chain's other locations in Tampa and Miami in Florida, and Fredricksburg, Virginia, and Fairview, Texas.

According to Splitsville's website, "We got rid of the old concessions stand to make room for a gourmet kitchen serving up everything from hand-cut steaks and hand-tossed pizzas to fresh rolled sushi, signature entrees and mouthwatering desserts." Bowling lanes are spread throughout the location in clusters, and billiards tables, bars, and dining rooms also help to divide the space.

The availability of bowling has not apparently killed the 100-lane venue still slated for construction at the Wide World of Sports Complex, though the opening of that project has now been pushed back to 2015.

As for Ridemakerz, since it appears that no current leasees are showing signs of wanting to leave, look for the make-your-own-car shop to move into one of the rooms within either World of Disney or Once Upon a Toy, since Ridemakerz has locations within Disney Stores, such as the flagship location in New York City's Times Square.

While shopping and dining changes move forward, largely at the Marketplace and the West Side, there has been a distinct lack of new construction on Pleasure Island where Motion and the Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club were demolished and the new Hyperion Wharf development was to take place. "During the course of this site work, we identified opportunities to further refine our master plan and are pausing to evaluate them," according to Vice President of Downtown Disney Keith Bradford. "While we’re moving quickly, it will admittedly cause a delay in construction. But we’re willing to bet that any delay will be worth the wait once we’re able to share details about the exciting work we’ve been doing."

This could well be another halt called by Disney Parks Chairman Tom Staggs, who had previously put the brakes on the New Fantasyland project to reassess and make some changes to the plan in order for the new expansion to be more attractive to all guests and not just princess-obsessed young girls. Those changes were met with enthusiasm from the core Disney fan audience. If this halt to a second ill-considered plan by former Disney Parks Chairman Jay Rasulo, perhaps some of the plans for converting the nightclub area of Pleasure Island into family-friendly shops and restaurants will also be pulled back. While Motion and the Rock 'n' Roll Beach Club buildings are down, the Adventurers Club, Comedy Warehouse, and Mannequins still stand. It will be interesting to see whether Staggs directs a U-turn on the plans or if the Hyperion Wharf project will just receive minor tweaks and continue forward. We'll let you know when we hear more.

More Food & Wine Festival details revealed

There's some new information coming out of last Saturday's Epcot Food & Wine Festival Preview Dinner, presented by the Tables in Wonderland program. The theme of the Festival, "Passport to a World of Flavors," will bring a vintage travel theme to the event, and will be carried through decorations, guides, and more. The planter at the park's main entrance will feature a passport behind a train, a cruise ship (in the Disney Cruise Line's colors), and an airplane. The planter along the causeway from Future World to World Showcase will feature luggage with wine, bread, grapes and other supplies sticking out of them. The Marketplace Discovery Passports will also return, matching seamlessly with the event's theme this year.

The Festival Guide, listing all special events, dates, and time, will be posted online at the event's website on August 12. Guests will then have four days to look it over before reservations open at 7 a.m. EDT on August 16. You'll be able to book your reservations via phone by calling 407-WDW-FEST (407-939-3378), or online at the event's website. For those wondering about the schedule for the Party for the Senses, which now runs later in the evening than last year, it appears that guests won't miss Illuminations after all; on select Fridays and Saturdays during the festival, the park will close at 10 p.m.

For a great writeup of information presented at the dinner and a look at some of the kiosk menus and some of the food items, check out a write-up by Suzannah DiMarzio of Zannaland on the Disney Food Blog.

Calling all with a spirit of adventure!

Are you ready for MouseAdventure: World Explorers III? The third iteration of the scavenger hunt/puzzle quest/race through Walt Disney World's parks takes place on Saturday, November 12 at Disney's Hollywood Studios (the game has been going on at the parks of the Disneyland Resort for more than 10 years now). Do you think that you know Disney's Hollywood Studios? We bet you don't know them 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 and sign up now.

HGTV celeb schedule for Food & Wine announced

As we noted last month, HGTV will be sponsoring the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, with network personalities appearing on the "HGTV Stage" at the Festival Center each weekend. We've now got the official lineup so that you can see when your favorite star will be appearing. The schedule is, of course, subject to change:

  • September 30-October 2: Vern Yip – "HGTV Urban Oasis," "HGTV Design Star"
  • October 7-9: Monica Pedersen – "to Sell"
  • October 14-16: Erin Loechner – "Design Happens"
  • October 21-23: Taniya Nayak – "Designed to Sell"
  • October 28-30: Kim Stoegbauer – "On-line Party Inspiration"
  • November 4-6: Lisa LaPorta – "Designed to Sell"
  • November 11-13: Emily Henderson – "HGTV Design Star" Season 5 winner, "Secrets From a Stylist"

"Room for 1 More" Haunted Mansion merchandise event

For the first time in six years, Walt Disney World will be hosting a Haunted Mansion-themed merchandise event. On Friday, September 30, the "Room For 1 More" event will give guests the opportunity to dine among the crypts, purchase limited-edition event products and collectibles, bid on other special items, meet and greet artists, participate in a conversation with Imagineers, and more. The event actually takes place at the Contemporary Resort, where the Mansion's cemetery will be recreated. Tickets cost $285 per person and are available through a random selection process. Requests must be made by July 20. You can get a look at the merchandise catalog and the "skeleton" itinerary at the Art of Disney Parks website.

Sounds Like Summer band replaced

Guests attending the Sounds Like Summer concert series last week expecting to hear Frontiers, a Journey tribute band, didn't get what they expected. Following the band's performances on Sunday and Monday evenings, Disney cancelled the band's remaining performances. A post Tuesday afternoon on the band's Facebook page stated "We regret to announce that the remainder of this week's shows have been cancelled by Disney. I wish I could elaborate on this, but current circumstances won't allow it. I can only say we deeply regret this decision, and we apologize to our friends & family who had plans to visit us this week. More information will be forthcoming."

On Wednesday morning, lead vocalist Jeremey Hunsicker posted further information in a note, indicating that the cancellation was due to what he believed was a vocal cord hemorrhage that he suffered the prior week. Later in the comments, he noted that if it were up to him, he would have likely continued with the week's shows while taking steroids to try to manage the damage, but that "[l]uckily for everyone, Disney felt that further shows would worsen an already bad situation…." Hunsicker is on total voice rest for at least a week, and expects to get a further diagnosis this week. We wish Hunsicker a speedy recovery.

In place of Frontiers, Disney brought in local band Micah & the Reason. The last-minute booking (made Tuesday morning, according to the band's Facebook page), turned into a gig for the rest of the week.

Thanks to MousePlanet reader Courtney Suchart for tipping us off!

Send us your menu photos!

We've recently completed a major update of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see the list. Please help us keep the menus up to date! Send photos or scans of park menus to menus@mouseplanet.com to help us keep our listings updated!

Construction update

Here is the listing of interesting items from paperwork filed with Orange County in the last week:

  • Magic Kingdom Tomorrowland Rocket Stage – construction work.
  • Magic Kingdom Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin – floor repair carpentry.
  • Magic Kingdom Splash Mountain – fan coil replacements.
  • Magic Kingdom Magic Carpets of Aladdin – mechanical.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid – mechanical work, electrical.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Mombassa Marketplace – construction work.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Camp Minnie-Mickey food kiosk – carpentry.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom tram load/unload area – general construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Dino Institute gift shop – carpentry.
  • Downtown Disney West Side DisneyQuest – general construction.
  • Grand Floridian Resort & Spa engineering trailers – contractor general conditions.
  • Wilderness Lodge – carpentry.
  • Wilderness Lodge Trout Pass pool bar – roof.
  • Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground loop pool area – carpentry.
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge Boma bakery floor – contractor general conditions, mechanical.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort Splash Pad – remove and replace safety surface.
  • Saratoga Springs Resort Congress Park pool, deck, and pool building – general construction, MEP.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Dig Site pyramid – paint.
  • Coronado Springs Resort Casitas pool laundry building – carpentry.
  • Coronado Springs Convention Center dumpster pad – concrete work.
  • Caribbean Beach Resort Old Port Royale main kitchen – electrical.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort Magnolia Bend South pool, deck, and building – mechanical.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort Magnolia Bend building 80-85 pool – mechanical.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Resort Magnolia Bend laundry buildings – carpentry.
  • Pop Century Resort – pump replacement.

Quick takes …

…A nearly year-long rolling refurbishment of the MouseGear merchandise location at Epcot has now been completed. Changes included the lowering of display fixtures; dispersal of cash registers to locations throughout the store; new color-coded signs, labels and directional maps; new carpeting; and new cast member costumes. Look for the hidden Mickeys on the back of the new costume shirts!

…Disney released a new video last week showing some of the design decisions and the creative process involved in the creation of the show building and ride for Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid attraction that will debut as part of New Fantasyland in late 2012 or early 2013. The video is part of a longer video that is now on display at the Walt Disney: One Man's Dream attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Check out the shorter video from the comforts of home:

…Jiko – The Cooking Place at the Animal Kingdom Lodge has garnered yet another honor for its wine list. Wine Enthusiast Magazine has included the restaurant as one of America's 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2011.

…Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members, don't forget that this coming Saturday, July 23, will be the Sizzling Summer Sale at World of Disney at Downtown Disney Marketplace. Doors open for the sale at 6 a.m. and the sale runs through 9 a.m. Discounts of up to 50 percent off will be available. For more information, visit the Art of Disney Parks website.

…Disney Design Group artist Randy Noble will be at the Art of Disney store at Downtown Disney Marketplace at the end of the month to premiere new artwork and sign some of the pieces. On Friday, July 29, from 6-8 p.m. and Saturday, July 30, from 8-10 p.m., Noble will be there as his "Sorcerer Mickey Triptych 1, 2, & 3", "Goofy Fun!", and "Best Friends" are made available as limited edition reproduction giclees and open edition prints. For more information, check the Art of Disney Parks website.

…Some fans of the Kingdom Keepers book series, about a group of young people protecting the Disney parks from the forces of evil, can now take advantage of a new program at the Magic Kingdom. Youth groups of 10 or more can participate in the Kingdom Keepers Quest, which was developed around the book series and written by Kingdom Keepers author Ridley Pearson (himself a teacher). The quest involves problem solving, visualization, observation, creativity, math skills, language arts, and critical thinking. Take a closer look at the program:

…The "Balzac" inflatable ball kiosks that were located in the Epcot breezeways have been removed.

…Registration for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012) is now open.

…Registration is now open for all races during the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend of October 1. Sign up now for the Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay, Disney Family Fun Run 5K, and Disney Kids' Races. Registration for the individual half marathon is now full. The half marathon relay is 77 percent full, and kids races are 88 percent full.

…Registration for the events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 7) is now open. Note: Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge is now 80 percent full. The Marathon and Half Marathon are each 50 percent full.

Crowd update

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Crowd information and forecasts are provided by TouringPlans.com, the Web site 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."

Crowd levels will be high all week long as we're in the height of the summer "tour group" season. These numbers are greatest impacted by vacationers and tour groups descending upon Walt Disney World Resort. 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
Monday, July 18, 2011 9 / 10
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 9 / 10
Wednesday, July 20, 2011 9 / 10
Thursday, July 21, 2011 7 / 10

As indicated at the outset, crowds will be very high this week as vacationers descend upon Walt Disney World Resort for the remainder of the Independence Day holiday. 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!

  • The Magic Kingdom is our Park to Avoid on Monday and Wednesday this week.
  • The Magic Kingdom and Epcot are the both the Best Parks on Saturday and Sunday.
  • Expect extremely heavy crowds this week, falling off a bit as we head into the weekend.

See Disney World crowds for the next 365 days.
Get Disney World wait times on your iPhone, Android or smartphone.
Do more. Wait less.

 

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Coming up


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

  • Mickey's Toontown Fair – closed permanently to make way for Fantasyland expansion.
  • Main Street Fire House – closed July 10.
  • Enchanted Tiki Room – Under New Management – closed since January 13, due to a fire. Expected to reopen with its original, classic show on August 16.
  • Fronterland Shootin' Arcade – closed for refurbishment through September 30.
  • The Lunching Pad – closed for refurbishment August 29 to September 16.
  • Casey's Corner – closed for refurbishment August 30 to September 14.
  • Swiss Family Treehouse – closed for refurbishment September 8 to November 17.

Epcot

  • No known current refurbishments.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Voyage of The Little Mermaid – closed for refurbishment August 13 to September 3.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment September 4-24.
  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment September 5-24.
  • Lightning McQueen replaces Herbie the Love Bug at Lights, Motors, Action! – begins later this summer.

Animal Kingdom

  • Primeval Whirl – closed for refurbishment through September 14.
  • It's Tough to be a Bug! – closed for refurbishment August 15 to September 30.

Resorts

  • Saratoga Springs Resort Congress Park leisure pool – closed for refurbishment August 1 to September 2.
  • Port Orleans Riverside Magnolia Bend leisure pool – closed for refurbishment September 5 to October 7.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – closed for annual refurbishment October 30 to December 3.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed for annual refurbishment December 4 to March 17, 2012..

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.

Current Discounts & Promotions

Free dining returns

Last week, Disney announced a two-tiered free dining package for Disney Visa Rewards cardholders, and the package becomes available to the general public today. The free dining plan is available for stays August 28 through September 24. The deal includes lodging, base Magic Your Way passes (you can upgrade them with any of the available add-ons), a 20-page Disney's PhotoPass Photo Book, and the free dining plan. You may add additional pages to your Photo Book, at standard cost, if you wish.

If you choose a Value resort for your stay, you'll receive the free Quick Service Dining Plan (two quick-service meals and two snacks per person per night, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). If you'd prefer to stay at a Moderate, Deluxe, or Deluxe Villa Resort, you'll get the free standard Disney Dining Plan (one table- service meal, one quick-service meal, and one snack per person per night). Those at Value resorts can upgrade their Quick Service Dining Plan to the standard plan for the difference in the plan's cost. The dining plans do not include gratuities or alcoholic beverages.

Note: Since these dates are already within the 180-day booking window, some table-service restaurants might already be completely booked, so don't assume you can book any specific restaurant without checking first. Of course, if dining is the most important part of your trip, you can book your dining reservations first to lock in your favorites, then find a resort for those nights. You can always cancel the dining reservations if you can't get a resort for those dates.

You can book through August 27 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes for the Disney Rewards Visa package are I25 for Value resorts and O2M for Moderates and above. The codes for the general public were not available at publication time.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7211, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Room-only discount for late summer/early fall

If your travel dates don't quite link up with the free-dining promotion or if you'd rather get a room-only discount and buy your food yourself, you're in luck. A new room-only discount has been released for Walt Disney World stays Sunday through Thursday nights during the period from August 14 through October 1, 2011. Rates start at $69 per night for Value resorts, $129 for Moderate resorts, $189 for Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Wilderness Lodge, and $209 for Disney's Saratoga Springs and Old Key West Resorts. Note that these rates are not available for Friday and Saturday nights.

The offer does not includes suites or three-bedroom Grand Villas. Some other restrictions apply and the number of rooms available is limited. You can book your reservation now through August 13.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7837, or your travel agent. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are Small World Vacations and MouseEarVacations.com.

Passholder discounts for summer

Walt Disney World has announced a new set of passholder discounts for stays through mid-August. The discounts provide 20  to 35 percent off for stays most nights through August 13. Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Disney's Polynesian Resort are excluded for all date. Passholders will save 35 percent at Deluxe Villa resorts, 30 percent at Deluxe resorts, and 20 percent at Moderate and Value resorts.

Passholders can book through the day before arrival. Beware, though as rooms may go fast. The number of rooms available at these rates is limited. Suites and three-bedroom Grand Villas are not included. An adult passholder must show their pass at check-in. Minimum length of stay requirements may apply for Friday or Saturday arrivals.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World passholder website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-7414, or your travel agent and using booking code QT9. MousePlanet's preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com and Small World Vacations.

Passholder merchandise discounts extended through 2011

Walt Disney World passholder merchandise discounts have been extended through the end of 2011. Epcot After 4pm, Weekday Select, Seasonal and Annual Passholders get 10 percent off purchases at selected locations, while Premium Annual Passholders (including bicoastal Premier Annual Passholders) get 20 percent off. The discount is available at Walt Disney World-owned and operated shops, but not those stores owned by "operating participants" (third-party stores). The discount is also not valid on a long list of products, and can not be combined with other discounts, offers or promotions. For a full list of what is not included in this discount, check out the Art of Disney Parks Web site.

Military ticket offer

From now through September 28, 2011, 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 October 1, 2011.

Disney has stated that the offer will be extended through September 2012, but as of press time the Walt Disney World website has not been updated to reflect this.

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 six tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or their spouse, but not both) for themselves, family members, and friends, and all tickets must be purchased at the same time. If the immediate family has more than five dependents, additional tickets may be purchased for the dependents, however, additional tickets for guests may not be purchased. 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 or participating U.S. military base ticket offices.


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


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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.