Walt Disney World Resort Update

by Marie Rossiter, contributing writer
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Update for March 9 – 16, 2015

Go directly to: News & Views | Join our Networks | Resort Events | Refurbishments and Attraction Closures | Discounts and Promotions

News and Views

Two major attractions to get expansions | Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace to switch locations | Magic Kingdom Express Monorail to reduce hours through summer | Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid reopens | Galactic Gathering to open Star Wars Weekends on May 14 | Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Guide: March 13-17 | Views around the World | This and That | Crowd update

Two major attractions to get expansions

Disney has confirmed that two of its Walt Disney World theme park attractions—Epcot's Soarin' and Disney's Hollywood Studios' Toy Story Midway Mania—are undergoing a major expansion to help alleviate the crowds at these two popular rides.

Soarin' is seeing two major upgrades: a new theater to hold more riders, as well as updated screens and projection system to improve the visitors' experience, according to a post on Disney Parks Blog.

Toy Story Midway Mania is getting additional track , also making it easier to get more people through the ride faster.

At this time, "no immediate impact" is expected during the construction project, according to Thomas Smith, Disney Parks Blog's Social Media Director. Both projects have a scheduled late 2016 completion deadline.

Aloha Isle and Sunshine Tree Terrace to switch locations

Magic Kingdom visitors looking for a refreshing Dole Whip or Citrus Swirl may notice a change in Adventureland starting next week. This Thursday (March 12), Aloha Isle—home of the famous Dole Whip and other pineapple treats—switches locations with Sunshine Tree Terrace, which serves the Citrus Swirl, the Dole Whip's orange counterpart. Visitors can still find their favorite snack on the menu; the change is simply location-based.

Disney has not given a reason for the switch, according to a post by Rikki Niblett of our sponsor TouringPlans.com. However, Niblett said rumors suggest that the Adventureland Veranda may be refurbished into a restaurant, which would affect the current Aloha Isle location.

Magic Kingdom Express Monorail to reduce hours through summer

In another of a series of changes to the Walt Disney World monorail schedule, Disney announced last week that the Magic Kingdom Express Line is the next route affected by infrastructure updates and constructions.

Starting tomorrow (March 10), the monorail line starts reduced hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. According to a post from our sponsor TouringPlans.com, anyone needing to get to the Magic Kingdom should use the resort monorail or take a watercraft to the park. 


Work performed over the resort monorail beam in the Contemporary means that the Express monorail stops at the Contemporary to pick up guests on the way to the Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Epcot monorail is unaffected. Disney did not provide a completion date for this stage of the project, but should likely last through the summer.

Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid reopens

As MousePlanet readers may recall, our refurbishment schedule recently listed the Magic Kingdom's Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid as being closed for some upgrades. Last week, the New Fantasyland attraction reopened early for visitors and there are noticeable changes to the ride.

On March 5, Seth Kubersky of our sponsor TouringPlans.com, had the chance to ride the upgraded attraction and outlined the important improvements he saw along the way in a blog post:

  • The biggest improvement is the "Under the Sea' scene, which designers re-imagined with blacklights. This change helps make the under sea creatures' color really "pop" while hiding the background area, which visitors noted had been a distraction pre-refurbishment.
  • More fish have been added to the ride track. While they may not move, it is better than looking simply at rocks along the way.
  • Ariel's red hair has changed to look less wet and more soft during the above the sea scenes.

Galactic Gathering to open Star Wars Weekends on May 14

Star Wars fans looking for exclusive merchandise from the annual Disney's Hollywood Studios' Star Wars Weekends are invited to a special, hard-ticket event on Thursday, May 14.

Galactic Gathering, which runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., gives visitors the chance to buy new merchandise made exclusively for the 2015 Star Wars Weekends, according to a Disney Parks Blog announcement. The Galactic Gathering packages include:

  • A "Rebel" or "Empire" retail MagicBand. Visitors can choose which side they want when they register online.
  • A commemorative trading pin.
  • Darth's Mall Light Speed Pass, which provides expedited entry to Darth's Mall for all five weekends.
  • First chance to buy Star Wars-themed Disney gift cards.
  • First chance to pre-purchase select merchandise including personalized Aurebesh nametags, D-Tech phone cases, Dooney & Bourke handbags, and limited edition pins and Vinylmation.
  • A Han Solo-inspired bucket of popcorn
  • An opportunity to meet Disney characters, Disney Design Group Artists, and Ashley Eckstein for Her Universe.

Tickets are limited and cost $250, but does not include park admission, which is required to attend the event. Interested visitors can register online now. The tickets are non-refundable, and photo ID is required for anyone age 18 or older.

Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Guide: March 13-17

The 2015 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival completed its first full week, and the sights and smells around the park are fantastic.


For the first time ever, Chip 'n' Dale appear as topiaries with the rest of the Disney gang. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The annual event showcases incredible topiary creations sculpted to look like classic Disney characters, and gardens filled with flowers of every color of the rainbow. Guests can also attend live demonstrations on how to grow their own gardens and sample a variety of international cuisine to throughout the 75-day festival.

Each weekend, Epcot presents special events that include music, seminars, tours and more. Make sure to check the guide below and/or pick one up at the parks to get information on how to make reservations. We'll have an event guide updated each week for MousePlanet readers.

Here's what you can expect for Week #2 of the 2015 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival:

Friday, March 13    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
Connect with Disney's Horticulture: Tips from Disney Horticulturists abut growing and maintaining the gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort. 10:00 – 4:00 Festival Center
Jaret Daniels, Ph.D - Tips on how to plant your own garden 11:00, 2:00 Greenhouse Stage
Steve Nordmeyer, Garden Gate Magazine Noon, 3:00 Fresh Epcot Stage
"Planting Pointers" 1:00, 4:00 University of Florida Stage
English Tea Garden Tour 1:00, 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Chef Demo 3:00 Port of Entry, Showcase Plaza
Garden Rocks Concert Series: Pablo Cruise 5:30, 6:45, 8:00 American Gardens Theater
Saturday, March 14    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
Connect with Disney's Horticulture: Tips from Disney Horticulturists abut growing and maintaining the gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort 10:00 – 4:00 Festival Center
Ask an Expert: Master Gardeners from IFAS at the University of Florida. 10:00 – 4:00 Festival Center
Jaret Daniels, Ph.D, Tips on how to plant your own garden 11:00, 2:00 Greenhouse Stage
Steven Nordmeyer, Garden Gate Magazine Noon, 3:00 Fresh Epcot Stage
"Planting Pointers" 1:00, 4:00 University of Florida Stage
English Tea Garden Tour 1:00, 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Chef Demo 3:00 Port of Entry, Showcase Plaza
Garden Rocks Concert Series: Pablo Cruise 5:30, 6:45, 8:00 American Gardens Theater
Sunday, March 15    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
Connect with Disney's Horticulture: Tips from Disney Horticulturists abut growing and maintaining the gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort 10:00 – 4:00 Festival Center
Ask an Expert: Master Gardeners from IFAS at the University of Florida 10:00 – 4:00 Festival Center
Jaret Daniels, Ph.D, Tips on how to plant your own garden 11:00, 2:00 Greenhouse Stage
Steven Nordmeyer, Garden Gate Magazine Noon, 3:00 Fresh Epcot Stage
"Planting Pointers" 1:00, 4:00 University of Florida Stage
English Tea Garden Tour 1:00, 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Chef Demo 3:00 Port of Entry, Showcase Plaza
Garden Rocks Concert Series: Pablo Cruise 5:30, 6:45, 8:00 American Gardens Theater
Monday, March 16    
Gardens of the World Tour: A three-hour tour of special displays and international Gardens. 9:00 – noon Epcot
St. Patrick's Day Celebration See Times Guide at park American Adventure, World Showcase
English Tea Garden Tour 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy
Tuesday, March 17    
Gardens of the World Tour 9:00 – noon Epcot
St. Patrick's Day Celebration See Times Guide American Adventure, World Showcase
English Tea Garden Tour 3:45, 6:15 Tea Caddy

Views around the World

Our photographers captured some big construction reveals this past week, as well as lots of colorful displays from the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival for those of us who need a shot of spring.

Magic Kingdom


The iconic Partners statue in front of Magic Kingdom's Cinderella Castle can be enjoyed by fans once again after being crated during construction. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Construction walls are down and guests can now enjoy the east side of the hub expansion at Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Work continues on the northern part of the hub at Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Epcot


Flowers blanket the shore of Future World, with Journey Into Your Imagination in the background. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Anna and Elsa of Frozen make their premiere at this year's Flower and Garden Festival. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Disney Pixar's new film Inside Out showcases and Emotion Garden. From Anger to Joy each spread has its own floral look and feel. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Bambi and friends look right at home in the outdoor setting of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.  Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


China celebrates the Year of the Sheep, which includes goats. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Snow White shows off her finest greenery at the 2015 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival which runs through May 17. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Even the small German town in this railroad garden celebrates their own spring festival. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Animal Kingdom


A new retail location greets guests approach the front gates of Disney's Animal Kingdom. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.


Detail work continues on the new African Marketplace. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This and That


Sonny Eclipse is out from under the refurbishment tarps and is entertaining guests again in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Sonny Eclipse is back performing at Magic Kingdom's Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe after a little refurbishment.

…As the world premiere of the new live-action Cinderella quickly approaches (Friday, March 13), the Contempo Cafe at Disney's Contemporary Resort created a cupcake in its honor. The sweet treat is only available until the stroke of Midnight on March 31.

…Michael and Diane Greening, a couple celebrating their Valentine's Day anniversary decided to visit three Disney Parks in one day: Tokyo Disneyland at 9:30 a.m., then Disneyland in Anaheim, California at 11:00 a.m. local time, and, finally, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom at 11:00 p.m. local time. Michael said they couldn't decide where to go to celebrate their special day, so they settled on all three for a trip totalling 27 hours and 50 minutes, according to a WESH-2 news report. The cost of their anniversary trip was somewhere between $13,000 and $15,000.

...In honor of the upcoming release of the live-action Cinderella movie on March 13, Disney is offering a special sweepstakes with a grand prize that gives one lucky family a taste of what "happily ever after" is about. Cinderella's Perfect Fit sweepstakes awards one grand prize, consisting of:

  • A one-night stay inside the Cinderella Castle suite
  • Three nights at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel
  • Four 5-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper and Water Parks and More options
  • A Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique makeover for one child ages 3 to 12.
  • A $500 gift card

Entries can be submitted online through the sweepstakes' official Web page until March 29.

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MousePlanet is seeking Orlando-based photographers to share their theme park observations and photos with our readers. If you're an excellent photographer with strong communication skills, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!

Crowd Forecast

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Save time and money at Walt Disney World. 

TouringPlans.com can help you avoid falling into the typical tourist pitfalls 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
Tuesday, March 10, 2015 8 / 10
Wednesday, March 11, 2015 7 / 10
Thursday, March 12, 2015 6 / 10
Friday, March 13, 2015 7 / 10

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!

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Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments. Email Stephanie here.
Talk about these stories and more on our Walt Disney World discussion forum here.

Resort Events

2015

runDisney events

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.

2015

2016

  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 6–10, 2016. Registration opens April 28.
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 18–21, 2016. Registration opens July 14.

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.


Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Magic Kingdom

Disney's Animal Kingdom

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Resorts

  • Polynesian – refurbishment of the lobby and pool area ongoing.

Water Parks

  • Blizzard Beach – the the entire park closed through March 3.

Elsewhere

  • 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.

Current Discounts & Promotions

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

Memory Maker pre-arrival discount

Disney's PhotoPass service provides a discount on Disney Memory Maker pre-arrival packages. For $199 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 $169, a $30 savings. Applicable taxes are charged to all orders.

Purchase 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

None at this time.

Discounts for Disney Rewards VISA & Debit Card Holders

15 percent off select guided tours

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 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:

  • Magic Kingdom Park
    • Disney's Family Magic Tour
    • Disney's Keys to the Kingdom Tour
    • Disney's The Magic Behind Our Steam Trains Tour
    • Walt Disney: Marceline to Magic Kingdom Tour
  • Epcot
    • Gardens of the World (offered seasonally)
    • The UnDISCOVERed Future World
    • Disney's Dolphins in Depth
    • Epcot DiveQuest
    • Epcot Seas Aqua Tours
    • Epcot Behind the Seeds (15 percent discount)
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
    • Wild by Design
    • Backstage Safari
  • Multiple Theme Parks and Backstage Areas
    • Backstage Magic
    • Disney's Holiday D-Lights (offered seasonally)
    • Disney's Yuletide Fantasy (offered seasonally)

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.

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas:

  • Boma
  • Jiko (see restrictions)
  • Sanaa
Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas:
  • ESPN Sports Club
  • Flying Fish Cafe (see restrictions)
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort:
  • Shutters at Old Port Royale
Disney's Contemporary Resort:
  • The Wave...of American Flavors
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground:
  • Trail's End Restaurant
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:
  • Citricos (see restrictions)
  • Grand Floridian Cafe
Disney's Old Key West Resort:
  • Olivia's Cafe
Disney's Port Orleans Resort:
  • Boatwright's Dining Hall
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa:
  • The Turf Club Bar and Grill
Disney's Wilderness Lodge:
  • Artist Point (see restrictions)
  • Whispering Canyon Cafe
Disney's Yacht Club Resort:
  • Captain's Grille
Disney's Hollywood Studios:
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby (see restrictions)
  • Hollywood & Vine (see restrictions)
Epcot:
  • Biergarten Restaurant (see restrictions)

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.


15 percent off all Disney spa and salon services

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of any salon treatment valued at $45 or greater or any 50-minute or longer spa service at the spas and salons at Walt Disney World Resort listed below:

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

  • Senses – A Disney Spa
  • Ivy Trellis Salon
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Senses – A Disney Spa
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas
  • Zahanati Massage & Fitness Center
Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Olympiad Fitness Center
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
  • La Vida Health Club
  • Casa de Belleza Salon
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
  • Sturdy Branches Health Club
Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
  • Ship Shape Massage Salon Fitness

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

14 days for 7-day park tickets plus up to 4 nights free in 2015.

Get up to 4 free nights when you book a 7-night or longer stay at a Disney hotel for select dates in 2015 and you can also get Disney’s Ultimate 14-Day ticket for the price of 7 offer. Applicable to arrivals between February 1 and December 6, subject to availability. Restrictions apply – see official website for details.

  • Get 1 free night at Disney Moderate and Value Resorts or 2 free nights at Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts for a between 7 and 13 nights.
  • Get 2 free nights at Disney Moderate and Value Resorts or 4 free nights at Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts for a stay between 14 and 20 nights
  • Get 3 free nights at Disney Moderate and Value Resorts or 6 free nights at Disney Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts for a stay of 21 nights.
Book by March 31.

Discounts for Canada Residents

None at this time.



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