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Update for December 19 – 25, 2011

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

News and Views

"Green home" coming to Innoventions | More dining, entertainment options added for holidays at Disney's Hollywood Studios | Pepper Market becomes a buffet | Expedition Everest Challenge details announced; registration open | Disney Cruise Line cracks down on youth activity policies | Construction update | Quick takes | Crowd update

"Green home" coming to Innoventions

Innoventions is the future home to a green home exhibit presented by Green Builder Media. Once open, the Vision House will display and encourage sustainable building techniques and sustainable living choices, including whole-home automation, energy efficiency, water conservation, indoor environment quality, security, multi-generational design, and durability.


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The display will feature a guided tour of the "house" by an Innoventions cast member, showing off all of the features of the home. Once the tour is completed, guests will be able to experience interactive kiosks for further information on sustainable living.

Green Builder Media will fit out the home with the help of several sponsors. Technologies on display include a Chevy Volt electric vehicle (GM) and an electronic vehicle charging station (Siemens), high-efficiency heating and cooling systems and controls (Trane/Ingersoll Rand), whole-home automation system and door hardware (Schlage/Ingersoll Rand), indoor air-quality ventilation solutions (Panasonic), LED lighting solutions (Sylvania/Siemens), water-conserving fixtures and home stand-by generators (Kohler), smog-eating tile roofs, cultured stone, and other exterior systems (Boral), and Energy Star-certified home appliances (Bosch).

Once guests return home, they can take advantage of online, mobile, digital, and social media tie-ins to the exhibit.

More dining, entertainment options added for holidays at Disney's Hollywood Studios

With the increase in crowds for the holiday season, Disney's Hollywood Studios is adding more dining and entertainment options to keep lines from building up too long.

Two of the kiosks from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival—as well as hot dog carts—have been installed at the park to provide additional dining capacity. One of the food kiosks, "Ristorante Italiano," located near the Muppet Theater exit, is offering minestrone soup, and penne pasta with or without meatballs. The other, "Happy Holidays," located along Echo Lake near the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, is serving a pot roast sandwich, clam chowder, and chili. Both kiosks also offer beverages.

Meanwhile, we noted last week that the Comedy Warehouse would be performing shows in the theater normally occupied by Sounds Dangerous. The park will also see the return of holiday-themed animated shorts to the Premiere Theater. "Mickey's Christmas Carol," Phineas & Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas," and "Prep and Landing: Naughty vs. Nice" will be shown from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., December 23 through 31.

Pepper Market becomes a buffet

The food court-style dining at Pepper Market in the Coronado Springs Resort has been reimagined as an all-you-care-to-eat buffet for breakfast and lunch. Dinner service is a la carte. The new configuration is only a test, but reports so far are positive. Lunch offerings include carved-to-order "roast of the day," pizza, pasta, wraps, salads, and (of course) Mexican fare. The location also now offers a buffet breakfast that includes French toast, waffles, pancakes, made-to-order omelets, biscuits and gravy, and more. Non-alcoholic drinks and dessert are included in the buffet costs. Cost for breakfast is $14.99 for adults ages 12 and up and $8.99 for children ages 3-9. Lunch is $16.99 for adults and $9.99 for children ages 3-9.

Send us your menu photos

Click on the "Dining" section from our Walt Disney World Guide to see our complete list of of the park restaurant menus from Walt Disney World. 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.

Expedition Everest Challenge details announced; registration open

We've finally got details on the next Expedition Everest Challenge. The evening race is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 2012, and starts at 9:30 p.m. The 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) race is open to individuals as well as teams of two, and includes five scavenger hunt clues and five obstacles. Teams can register in the Men's, Women's, Co-Ed, and Military divisions of the race. The course runs through Disney's Animal Kingdom after dark, and all participants get admission to a post-race party inside the park. There will be entertainment along the race course and at the party afterward. The race has a 16 minute-per-mile pacing requirement, and anyone not able to maintain the respective paces will be picked up and transported to the finish.

Participants will receive a race tech shirt, a personalized race bib (no personalization if you sign up after April 5), an official race finish time, post-race refreshments, and—for those that finish the race—a special fifth edition Expedition Everest Challenge finisher medal.

For those without their own transportation, Disney will provide transportation for the event from Event Host Resorts.

Registration for the races is now open, and costs are listed below. Theme park tickets must be purchased in advance with registration and are only valid from April 28 through May 12, 2012.

 
Individual registration
Team registration
Register by date Registration only Registration and
1-day park ticket
Registration only Registration and
1-day park ticket
February 26, 2012
$89
$129
$175
$249
April 15, 2012
$99
$139
$190
$269
May 5, 2012
$109
$149
$205
$289

The night's runDisney Kids' Races will be held at 8:30 p.m., where children ages 4-10 can participate in a shorter version of the Challenge. Participating kids will receive a T-shirt, personalized bib (again, no personalization if you register after April 5), post-race refreshments, and a finisher medallion for those who finish. Kids age 9 and up can participate in the main 5K event. Registration for runDisney Kids' Races costs $15 per child.

For those not running in the adult race, post-race party tickets are available for purchase. The party in the park will feature some attractions, including Kali River Rapids, Dinosaur, Expedition Everest, and the Dinoland U.S.A. area. the post-race party is a hard-ticketed event, so standard park admission including annual passes will not be allowed. Party tickets cost $44 for adults ages 10 and up and $24 for children ages 3-9.

Disney Cruise Line cracks down on youth activity policies

The youth activities on the Disney Cruise Line are arguably the best offered anywhere, with separate areas tailored to specific age groups from 3 to 17 years old. In the past, DCL has generally been willing to accommodate passengers who ask that their child be allowed to participate in out-of-age-group activities, most commonly when a mature 10-year-old wants to join an older sibling in the pre-teen Edge club, or parents ask that an 18-year-old who is still in high school be allowed to hang out in the Vibe club designed for ages 14 to 17.

In an internal memo sent to DCL cast members, the cruise line has instructed that age divisions be strictly enforced, and specifically instructed that 18-year-olds not be allowed to participate in youth activities. This poses a challenge for high school seniors who may have already turned 18, but may not be ready to participate in the less-structured 18*21 Club activities with college-aged passengers . Where Vibe is an actual lounge, staffed by youth counselors and offering a variety of activities and diversions from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily, the 18*21 Club is usually just a line item on the daily schedule, with only one or two organized meets a day.

Passengers who have called to ask about this very recent change are told little more than "there is now a need to maintain consistency across the fleet." One parent who has a child while will turn 18 during their upcoming cruise was received conflicting information from Disney Cruise Line representatives about what will happen on her son's birthday, and is still unsure if he will be allowed to remain in the Vibe club with his younger brother, or will spend the last three days of their cruise in the areas allowed to adults.

The cruise line has also implemented a new policy restricting parents from being in the youth clubs to do more than drop off and pick up their children, and requires adults to wear a lanyard or sticker whenever they are in the secured area. This change means parents can no longer participate in the youth activities with their children. While not a very common occurrence, some parents would stay with their children for a while to ease their fears about being left alone in a new environment.

To accommodate parents who can no longer participate in youth activities with their children, especially the popular "Flubber" or "Anyone Can Cook" sessions, a series of Open Houses will be offered in the Oceaneer's Club and Oceaneer's Lab during the cruise. Any passenger can attend these open house sessions, which are considered "non-secured" programming, and can come and go freely. Whenever an open house is offered in one venue, either the Oceaneer's Club or the Oceaneer's Lab, secured programming will be offered in the other venue to ensure young passengers always have a secured venue.

Construction update

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

  • Magic Kingdom Main Street U.S.A. bridge to hub – concrete & metal repair.
  • Magic Kingdom Plaza Pavilion auxiliary heating unit – mechanical.
  • Epcot Future World West kiosk – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Voyage of the Little Mermaid – queue modifications.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Theater of the Stars – queue modifications.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Theater of the Stars – construction.
  • Disney's Hollywood Studios Muppet Theater – construction.
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Kali River Rapids – construction.
  • Transportation & Ticket Center – electrical.
  • Disney's Contemporary Resort Convention Center Fantasia Ballroom – electrical.
  • Disney's Polynesian Resort building 1 – mechanical.
  • Disney's Yacht Club Convention Center – electrical.
  • Disney's Yacht Club Convention Center – paint and wallcovering.

Quick takes …

…The Main Street Electrical Parade goes on hiatus from January 20 through February 10, 2012. In combination with Fantasmic's hiatus from January 9 through February 12, this leave the parks short two of their night-time spectacles for three weeks.

…We're hearing that the starting and ending points for the parade at Disney's Animal Kingdom have been shifted. The parade now enters and exits at the gate between Pizzafari and Creature Comforts on Discovery Island. With this change, the parade would no longer pass through the village of Harambe in the park's Africa section. This would avoid congestion problems through the village, especially as we head into the busiest weeks of the year at the park.

…Each year, the initial announcement of the Disney Dining Plan is made without a listing for third-party operating participants. As time goes on, deals are struck with the participants, and by the start of the new year, the plan is complete with a full listing. The latest batch of third-party restaurants have been added for 2012. The Boardwalk Pizza Window has been added in the Quick Service category. Table Service restaurants just added are Bongos Cuban Cafe, House of Blues, Paradiso 37, Portobello, Rainforest Cafe (both locations), and T-Rex. Fulton's Crab House and Wolfgang Puck Dining Room have been added in the Signature Dining category. You can see the current list on the Walt Disney World website.

…Registration is open for events for the 2012 Disney Princess Half Marathon (scheduled for the weekend of February 24 to 26, 2012). The Princess Half Marathon is 77 percent full, the Royal Famly 5K is 51 percent full, and the Royal Family Kids' Races are 71 percent full.

…Is this the week that adult races start selling out? Registration is still open for events for the Walt Disney World Marathon 2012 (on the weekend of January 5 to 8, 2012). If you were considering entering one of these, now's the time. As of this week, registration is at:

  • Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge – 99 percent full
  • Marathon – 98 percent full
  • Marathon Relay – 98 percent full
  • Half Marathon – 99 percent full
  • Family Fiesta 5K – 96 percent full
  • Kids' Races – 97 percent full (The Mickey Mile and All Kids Dashes on Friday, January 6 are sold out. All dashes on Saturday, January 7 are still open.)
  • Pasta in the Park Party – 89 percent Full

Crowd update

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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."

Expect a crowded week at Walt Disney World! 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, December 19, 2011 8 / 10
Tuesday, December 20, 2011 8 / 10
Wednesday, December 21, 2011 8 / 10
Thursday, December 22, 2011 10 / 10

Crowds will be heavy this entire week. 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!

  • Christmas will bring a lot of vacationers to Walt Disney World.
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Parties ended Sunday; Christmas entertainment is now included with park admission!
  • Following a Touring Plan is important during the heavy portions of the Christmas season!

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; reopens as headquarters for the new Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom interactive game in early 2012.
  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed for refurbishment January 9 to May 27, 2012.
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant – closed for refurbishment and moving to Storybook Circus January 9 to February 17, 2012.
  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed for refurbishment January 28 to February 3, 2012.
  • Main Street Electrical Parade – will not be performed January 20 to February 10, 2012.
  • Magic Carpets of Aladdin – closed for refurbishment February 26 to March 10, 2012.

Epcot

  • No known closures.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • Fantasmic – is not performed January 9 to February 12, 2012.
  • Studio Backlot Tour – closed for refurbishment February 13 to March 10, 2012.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – closed for refurbishment February 13 to March 10, 2012.

Animal Kingdom

  • Kali River Rapids – closed for refurbishment January 23 to February 9, 2012.

Resorts

  • Grand Floridian Spa – closed through mid-2013 for refurbishment.
  • Pop Century Resort – repairs of concrete deck at Hippy Dippy Pool through September 28, 2012. The pool will remain open during the work, but some small sections of the pool deck will be closed periodically throughout this period.

Water Parks

  • Typhoon Lagoon – closed December 4 to March 17, 2012 for annual refurbishment.

Elsewhere

  • Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays. The show will not be performed:
    • January 17 to 21, 2012
    • March 20, 2012
    • May 15 to 26, 2012
    • July 24, 2012
    • September 18 to 22, 2012
    • November 27, 2012

Current Discounts & Promotions

Room-only discounts for February through June

Disney has released a room-only discount for all nights from February 21 through June 14, with the exception of the Easter peak from April 1 to 12. Discounts vary based on date. However, many resorts are excluded from the discount, including All-Star Movies Resort, Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, Contemporary Resort, Beach Club Villas, Wilderness Lodge Villas, and premium views at Animal Kingdom Lodge.

For stays on the nights of March 9 to 31 and May 25 to 27, guests receive discount rates of:

  • 15 percent at Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, standard view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Fort Wilderness Cabins, Port Orleans Riverside Resort, Pop Century Resort, All-Star Music Resort, and All-Star Sports Resort
  • 20 percent at Animal Kingdom Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs Resort
  • 25 percent at Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Boardwalk Inn, and Wilderness Lodge
  • 30 percent at Saratoga Springs Resort and Old Key West Resort.

For all other nights during the discount period, the discounts are:

  • 20 percent at Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, standard view rooms at Animal Kingdom Lodge, Fort Wilderness Cabins, Port Orleans Riverside Resort, Pop Century Resort, All-Star Music Resort, and All-Star Sports Resort
  • 25 percent at Animal Kingdom Villas, Boardwalk Villas, Caribbean Beach Resort and Coronado Springs Resort
  • 30 percent at Saratoga Springs Resort, Old Key West Resort, Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Boardwalk Inn, and Wilderness Lodge.

You must book this discount by January 22 for arrival dates through March 31 and February 28 for dates through June 14. The 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 by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code N6P. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Free dining for January through March

A two-tiered free dining package is available for stays for selected arrival dates from January 8 through March 29. The deal includes lodging, base Magic Your Way passes (which you can upgrade with any of the available add-ons), and the free dining plan.

If you choose a Value resort for your stay, you'll receive the free Quick Service Dining Plan (two quick-service meals and one snack 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, plus one resort refillable drink mug per person). 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 December 17 while availability lasts, but reservations may go fast. The discount codes are P49 for Value resorts and F4M for Moderates and above.

Reservations may be booked through the Walt Disney World website, by calling Walt Disney World at 407-939-1880, or your travel agent. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

Room-only discount for January and February

A room-only discount was released for early next year. The discounts are available for travel from January 2 through February 20, 2012. Guests receive discount rates of:

  • 25 percent at value resorts except All-Star Movies Resort, which is 20 percent
  • 30 percent at moderate resorts except Port Orleans French Quarter Resort, which is 25 percent
  • 35 percent at deluxe and deluxe villa except Animal Kingdom Lodge and Polynesian Resorts, which are 30 percent

You must book this discount by December 21. The 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 by calling (407) 939-1917 or your favorite travel agent and mentioning discount code UU7. MousePlanet’s preferred Disney travel providers are MouseEarVacations.com (link), Small World Vacations (link) and Get Away Today (link).

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 website.

Military ticket offer

From now through September 28, 2012, 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 September 30, 2012. Blackout dates are December 26 to 31, 2011; April 1 to 12, 2012; and July 4, 2012.

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 twelve Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased, activated and/or used by any Eligible Service Member or spouse during the life of this promotion, and no Eligible Service Member or spouse may purchase, activate and/or use more than six Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets during any single week of the promotion. One of the Disney 4-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.

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, visit the Walt Disney World website, 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.