Walt Disney World Resort Updateby Marie Rossiter, contributing writer
Update for December 9 – 15, 2014
Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Resort Events | Refurbishments and Attraction Closures | Discounts and Promotions
runDisney announces 2015 as final year of Expedition Everest Challenge | 2015 Star Wars Weekends dates and dining packages announced | Disney Magic Maker package price increases | Walt Disney World Holiday Event Guide | Views from Around the World | Discussion of the Week | Crowd update
Two big announcements came from runDisney last week about the 2015 Expedition Everest Challenge scheduled on May 2 and 3, 2015: open registration begins on December 16, and next year will be the last time this race will happen.
The Expedition Everest Challenge consists of a 5-kilometer (3.1-mile) run through Disney's Animal Kingdom and a scavenger hunt. Those who complete the challenge get an Expedition Everest Challenge compass finisher medal, and gets to attend a post-race party.
Additional event highlights include:
- 5K trek with obstacles
- Clues to solve before you reach the summit
- Course through Disney's Animal Kingdom at night
- Disney entertainment on-course and at the post-race celebration
- Event weekend transportation from the event host resorts
Unlike previous years, the 2015 Expedition Everest Challenge will not include a family-specific event.
- A Champion short-sleeved tech shirt in women's and men's cut
- A personalized race bib (register before March 3, 2015)
- An Expedition Everest Challenge Finisher medal
- Post-race refreshments
- Admission to a special post-race party inside Disney's Animal Kingdom
Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members were able to register early last week and filled their allotted capacity within 24 hours of opening, according to the runDisney official website. Those looking to compete in the final Expedition Everest Challenge should head over to the official runDisney webpage for general registration beginning December 16.
Star Wars fans got an early holiday gift last week when Disney announced the dates for the 2015 Star Wars Weekends at Disney's Hollywood Studios:
- Weekend I: May 15–17, 2015
- Weekend II: May 22–24, 2015
- Weekend III: May 29–31, 2015
- Weekend IV: June 5–7, 2015
- Weekend V: June 12–14, 2015
In addition to the special character meet-and-greet opportunities, celebrity autograph signings, and exclusive merchandise, Star Wars Weekends will once again feature a number of special dining experiences, including:
- Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast: visitors can have breakfast and meet some of their favorite film characters such as Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Greedo, Jawas and Stormtroopers. Cost: $49.99 per adult and $31.99 per child ages 3 to 9. Taxes are included in this price, but not gratuities.
- Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine: a character dining experience featuring Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and more, dressed up as some of the most popular Star Wars characters. Cost: $57.99 per adult and $34.99 per child ages 3 to 9. Taxes are included in this price, but not gratuities.
- Jedi Mickey's Star Wars Dine at Hollywood and Vine plus Fantasmic Package.The meal package is the same as above, but this one also includes seats to the evening's first showing of Fantasmic – Disney's Hollywood Studios' fireworks and music extravaganza. Cost: $63.99 per adult and $38.99 per child ages 3 to 9. Taxes and gratuities are not included in this package.
Reservations are open for all of these packages and can be made by calling (407) 939-3463 or by visiting the official Star Wars Weekends webpage.
Anyone looking to pre-purchase a Memory Maker package to capture their vacation photos now pay $169 plus tax, a $20 increase as of December 3, 2014, according to Rikki Niblett from our sponsor TouringPlans.com.
The at-park purchase price for the photo package remains the same at $199, plus tax.
Disney's Memory Maker is a photo package where everyone in a travel party can be in the picture thanks to photographers placed around the theme parks. The photos are linked to a MagicBand or a park entry ticket and can then be downloaded at home. Disney photographers can add special features to the photos, including characters and other fun effects. Other recent additions to the Memory Maker package include animated characters and even ride videos on Disney's Hollywood Studios' Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and the Magic Kingdom's Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
For more information on the advanced purchase option for Memory Maker, visit the package's official webpage.
Heading to Walt Disney World during the holiday season? Here's a helpful guide of all the special events happening around the resort to help you plan a magical holiday trip.
A Frozen Holiday Wish – The Walt Disney World holiday season kicked off with a live streaming event of the new A Frozen Holiday Wish show in front of Cinderella Castle. According to Disney Parks Blog, the resort will share a number of live streaming events throughout the season. Didn't get a chance to catch the live stream? Watch the following video:
A Frozen Holiday Wish Show. Video by Disney Parks.
You can also head over to our MousePad forum to get a full review of the show.
Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – This annual hard-ticket event shows off the best and and most festive side of Walt Disney World during the holidays.
The event runs from 7 p.m. to midnight on select nights through December 19. In addition to returning Christmas Party attractions like the the fireworks show, this year debuts new Frozen additions to Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, a new meet-and-greet with Jack Skellington as Sandy Claws in Storybook Circus, and the "Holiday Hootenanny!" at the Diamond Horseshoe.
The Entertainment Schedule is packed, so you'll need to decide what's most important to see during your five hours at the party:
- Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas Parade featuring the Frozen characters – 8:15 and 10:30 p.m.
- A Frozen Holiday Wish – 6:15 and 8:00 p.m.
- Celebrate the Magic – 9:15 p.m.
- Holiday Wishes – 9:30 p.m.
- Celebrate the Season – 7:30, 10:05, and 11:20 p.m.
Since A Frozen Holiday Wish and Celebrate the Magic are offered on non-party nights, you can safely skip those and see them another night if you want to maximize your party time.
There are two dance parties, with some interesting characters you might not normally see:
- Holiday Hootenanny at the Diamond Horseshoe, featuring the Country Bears, Clarabelle Cow, Horace Horsecollar, and Clara Cluck.
- Club Tinsel at Cosmic Rays, featuring Phineas and Ferb
Plus, there are 18 Character Appearance spots marked on the event map. The big new addition is Sandy Claws, making his first event appearance at Storybook Circus.
Cocoa and cookies (or "healthy alternatives," should you want them) are available at:
- Sunshine Tree Terrace
- Tortuga Tavern
- Columbia Harbour House
- Pinocchio Village Haus
- Tomorrowland Terrace
- Cosmic Ray's Starlight Caf
- The Crystal Palace
Event merchandise, including a pin, T-shirt, ornament, and limited edition Magic Band, are available at:
- Frontier Trading Post – pin only
- Ye Olde Christmas Shop – shirts, pin, ornaments only
- Big Top Souvenirs – Magic Band only
- Star Traders – shirt and pin only
Most park rides are open during the event, including the Jingle Cruise and the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Based on wait times during Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, cast members said the line for the Mine Train is only about 30 minutes. I'm not a big fan of doing rides during the special events, since you can do those during normal operating hours, but people who could not get a Fastpass+ for this new ride may want to take advantage of the shortest standby lines you're likely to see.
Epcot is beautiful and lots of fun during the holiday season with a series of events that all ages will love:
An International Yuletide Extravaganza – Experience a world of cheer with unique entertainment celebrating the spirit of the season. Share in the sights and sounds of some of the world’s greatest holiday festivities during Holidays Around the World at Epcot. Amid joyful music and seasonal food favorites, time-honored traditions come alive as costumed performers share their country’s holiday heritage throughout World Showcase.
Candlelight Processional – World Showcase, American Gardens Theatre at 5:00pm, 6:45pm, and 8:15pm
One of the most beloved holiday traditions at Epcot is the Candlelight Processional, a retelling of the Christmas story by a celebrity narrator accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and a mass choir.
- November 28 and 29 – Jodi Benson
- November 30 to December 2 – Neil Patrick Harris
- December 3 and 4 – Jonathan Groff (new on the schedule)
- December 5 and 6 – Whoopi Goldberg
- December 7 to 9 – LeVar Burton. Community Relations Night is December 7 at 5:00pm. No day guest bookings are available for the 5:00 show.
- December 10 and 11 – Edward James Olmos
- December 12 to 14 – Joe Morton (new on the schedule)
- December 15 to 17 – Chita Rivera
- December 18 to 20 – Ana Gasteyer (new on the schedule)
- December 21 to 23 – Marlee Matlin
- December 24 and 25 – Isabella Rossellini
- December 26 and 27 – Blair Underwood
- December 28 to 30 – Steven Curtis Chapman
Located at the America Gardens Theater. This spectacle is held on select nights, and due to its popularity, often fills up quickly. Unless Guests have purchases a Candlelight Dinner Package, attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis. All entertainment and celebrity narrators are subject to change without notice.
For the hearing impaired, an American Sign Language interpreter translates the legendary account, allowing guests of all kinds the opportunity to enjoy the event.
Candlelight Processional Dining Packages – If you want to ensure that you have a seat at a Candlelight Processional performance, you can purchase one of Disney's Candlelight Dining Packages that are available on select nights during the holiday season. These packages include a meal and a guaranteed seat for one Candlelight performance. Call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463) to make your reservation. These packages are popular and sell out quickly, so don't wait too long to book it.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth – World Showcase Lagoon, nightly at 9:30pm
The World Showcase Promenade comes alive nightly with the brilliance and splendor of music, lights, lasers, water fountains, and custom pyrotechnics in Disney's signature nighttime spectacular, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. From November 28 through December 30, Disney presents a unique finale to celebrate the season. With the song "Let There Be Peace on Earth" at its center, this special musical finale features a special message of peace and good will.
Holiday Storytellers – World Showcase, daily from November 28 through December 29
Throughout the holidays, World Showcase comes alive with the legends and lore of the season. Listen to the stories of France's Père Noël, Italy's La Befana, and the United Kingdom's Father Christmas. Please refer to the Times Guides for show times.
Epcot Holiday Merchandise
Be sure to stop by Santa’s Village in The American Adventure where you can get your favorite gifts from toys to stocking stuffers and all your Christmas tree trimmings. No matter where you go in Epcot you will find the perfect holiday gift.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
Disney's Hollywood Studios offers its Frozen Holiday Premium Package November 7 through 19, November 21 through December 9, and December 11 through January 4, 2015. The new VIP package gives fans exclusive opportunities throughout their day at the park, including:
- Reserved seating for a performance of "For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration"
- Reserved viewing for the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights
- A Frozen-themed dessert party with special Anna and Elsa cupcakes and other sweets
- A holiday-themed lithograph
- A Frozen pin
Tickets for this VIP experience costs $89 (plus tax) per adult, and $59 (plus tax) per child ages 3–9. These prices include gratuity.
To make a reservation, call (407) 939-1854.
The sights, sounds and experiences at Walt Disney World during the holidays bring extra magic to resort and theme park visitors. This week, let's take a tour around "the World" to see some of the holiday festivities, decorations and merchandise!
Disney Hollywood Studios
MousePad forum member Goodnplenty wants to know about exchanging special park event tickets at Magic Kingdom:
Good news and bad news. My relatives from up north have changed their trip to WDW from December to March. One person just broke their foot and the other is having difficulty from a mini stroke that happened a month ago. So where's the good news? They've offered me their 5 Christmas Party tickets since they can't get refunds. The tickets are hard tickets with no one's name on them. So here's my question. I told them to go ahead and call WDW and just see if some kind of refund or credit might be possible. Has anyone ever done this? And the 2nd question. On the site the tickets are "non-transferable" but these are hard paper tickets with no name. Can I use them? Thanks for any tips or help!Have any experience with Walt Disney World special events and tickets? Head over to the MousePad Discussion Forum and talk about it!
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Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – December 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 18, 19
- Richard Petty's Junior Ride-Along Experience – at the Richard Petty's Driving Experience
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 7–11, 2015.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 19–22, 2015.
If 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.
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 7–11, 2015. Most events sold out.
- Disney Castaway Cay Challenge – January 12, 2015 – sailing on the Disney Dream cruise ship.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 19–22, 2015. All races are sold out, but some associated events are still available.
- Expedition Everest – May 1–2, 2015. Registration opens December 16, 2014
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 6–7. Registration opens March 17, 2015.
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 6–10, 2016. Registration opens April 28, 2015.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 18–21, 2016. Registration opens July 14, 2015.
For current information on registration dates and capacity, see Lorree Tachell's runDisney Race Capacity Updates in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.
- The Haunted Mansion – closed December 1–19 for refurbishment.
- Wishes Nighttime Spectacular – replaced December 20–31 by Holiday Wishes.
- Splash Mountain – closed January 4–30, 2015.
- Cinderella's Royal Table – closed January 5 through March 6, 2015 for refurbishment.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed January 23–27, 2015 for refurbishment.
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – closed February 2 through March 6, 2015 for refurbishment.
- Harmony Barber Shop – closed February 2 through March 30, 2015 (dates subject to change).
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed March 4– 7, 2015 for refurbishment
- "it's a small world" – closed March 10–15, 2015 for refurbishment
- Fantasmic! – closed November 19–21 for refurbishment.
- Flame Tree Barbecue – January 5 through March 31, 2015
- Kali River Rapids – closed January 20 through February 4, 2105; March 10–13, 2015.
As previously reported by MousePlanet, some refrigerators in non-Disney Vacation Club rooms at Walt Disney World are being replaced due to a product defect. All Walt Disney World Resort rooms—with the exception of DVC Villas, the family suites at the Art of Animation and All-Star Movie resorts, and the cabins at Fort Wilderness—are impacted. Disney says "the schedule for replacing the refrigerators at these Resorts is expected to last several months."
In the interim, if you have a reservation at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel and need a refrigerator for medical reasons, we recommend contacting your resort directly to inquire about availability during your trip. The hotel should be able to arrange for one if your room does not yet have a new refrigerator, but supplies may be limited while they work to replace all of the malfunctioning units.
- All Star Music Resort – refurbishment of its Intermission Food Court is scheduled for reopening on December 21, according to our sponsor TouringPlans.com.
- Polynesian – Never Land Club Children's Activity Center closed for refurbishment through January 1, 2015.
- Polynesian – refurbishment of the lobby ongoing.
- Wilderness Lodge – refurbishment of its Silver Creek Springs Pool through late November 2014.
- Typhoon Lagoon – the entire park closed through December 20 for refurbishment.
- Blizzard Beach – the the entire park closed January 4, 2015 through March 3, 2015.
- Disney Osprey Ridge Golf Course – permanently closed.
- Downtown Disney Lots H, I, J, and K (in Westside area) closed until further notice for Disney Springs construction.
- Downtown Disney Bridge 4 and restrooms on Pleasure Island are temporarily closed for ongoing construction work.
- Cirque du Soleil La Nouba – performs Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update. For your convenience, we have grouped the discount offers based on the intended audience. Check out the category that best matches you, and pick the offer that works best for you. And keep those tips coming—let us know if you find a better or different offer, so we can share it with other readers!
Discounts for Everyone
2014 Free Dining offer for general public
Sue from Small World Vacations reports the general public can book Stay/Play/Dine Discounts through December 29, 2014. Offer details:
Stay / Play / Dine Discounted Magic Your Way Packages
Room Only Discount – Tickets and Dining Can be Added
Call your travel agent, contact Small World Vacations, or call Walt Disney Travel at (407) 939-7741 to book these offers.
Memory Maker pre-arrival discount
Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney Memory Maker pre-arrival packages. For $169 plus tax, Walt Disney World guests can digitally download any photos associated with their Memory Maker account, including photos taken on attractions. The advanced purchase price is a $40 savings. Applicable taxes are charged to all orders.
Special offer only available from this link, and must be made more than three days prior to arrival at the Walt Disney World Resort. All sales are final, and not eligible for an exchange or refund.
Discounts for Annual Passholders
Rates starting at $79 per night on select dates this fall
Disney released new fall discounts for annual passholders for the following travel dates: Now through December 23, 2014. Rates begin at $79 for value resorts (Sunday through Thursday stays) and go up from there. Book through December 20, 2014.
Advance reservations required. No group rates or other discounts apply.
Length of stay requirements
Discounts only applied to travel dates that are valid offer travel dates
Additional per adult charges may apply if more than two adults per room
Number of rooms allocated for this discount is limited.
Discounts for Disney Rewards VISA & Debit Card Holders
2014 Free Dining Offer for Disney Rewards VISA & Debit Card Holders
Sue from Small World Vacations reports the Disney Rewards VISA and Debit Card Holders can now get a free dining discount when booking a qualifying Walt Disney World vacation package.
2014 Vacation Dates
Free Quick Service Plan
Free Table Service Dining Plan
Room and ticket discount for travel dates from February 24 through June 15
No discounts available March 6–14 and April 13–19. Buy a minimum four day ticket and get a day free.
Room discounts include:
20 percent off select guided tours
Disney Visa cardholders receive 20 percent off the non-discounted price of selected guided tours for up to 10 people. The cardholder must participate in the tour, and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card. Tours included:
10 percent off select restaurants
Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off the check when you pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Discount excludes alcohol.
10 percent off merchandise
Disney Visa cardholders receive 10 percent off at participating Disney-owned retail location when you spend a minimum of $50 and pay with a Disney's Visa Card and/or Disney Rewards Redemption Card (be sure to request the discount). Read all of the restrictions on the Disney Visa website.
Free 5" x 7" character photo at a private meet and greet location at Epcot
Present your Disney's Premier Visa Card or Disney Rewards Visa Card for access to a private character meet and greet at Epcot for the cardholder and up to five guests. The event is hosted daily from 1:00 to 7:00 p.m. inside Innoventions West at Epcot. You'll receive one free 5" x 7" character photo per day.
Discounts for Florida Residents
|None at this time.|
Discounts for U.K. Residents
2014 Free Dining offer for U.K. residents
2014 Free Dining offers for U.K. 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 seven-day ticket depending on travel dates. These particular offers are valid for U.K. residents only.
Discounts for Canada Residents
Fall 2014 Free Dining offer for Canada residents
Free Quick Service Plan
Free Table Service Dining Plan for moderate resorts
Free Table Service Dining Plan for deluxe resorts
Free Table Service Dining Plan for deluxe villa resorts
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Marie here.