Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 17-23, 2016 - Welcome to Disney Springsby Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
Walt Disney World Resort Update for May 17–23, 2016
Disney Springs hosts a grand debut
[Author's Note: This week I'm turning the Update over to Alan Dalinka, who shares a photo tour of the grand opening of Disney Springs. We'll return to your regularly scheduled Update next week. – AVP]
On Sunday, May 15, Walt Disney World Resort officially opened the Town Center "neighborhood" of Disney Springs, the latest major construction milestone in the transformation of the former Downtown Disney area.
Disney Springs is now substantially complete, though there are still several projects underway. Additional stores and restaurants will continue to open through the year, a number of new buildings around Disney Springs are still under construction (like The Edison, now expected in early 2017), and other projects have been announced without any timeline (like the closing of DisneyQuest).
Before Disney announced in 2013 the transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, the area consisted of the Marketplace (the original Disney shopping "Village," which includes the World of Disney store), the largely shuttered Pleasure Island (with the buildings that formerly housed its clubs, which closed back in September 2008), and the West Side (home of such venues as Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba and the soon-to-close DisneyQuest).
The entire area was officially renamed "Disney Springs" in September 2015, and now includes four neighborhoods: West Side, The Landing (the former Pleasure Island), Marketplace, and the new Town Center. This final piece of Disney Springs was constructed on what was previously surface parking lots and service areas for Pleasure Island and the Marketplace.
In a brief 10:00 a.m. pre-rope drop ceremony on this past Sunday, May 15, Keith Bradford, Vice President, Disney Springs, welcomed the gathered crowd:
"We want to welcome you to the newest neighborhood of Disney Springs: Town Center. Once you're inside you're going to get to see things: World Class Shopping and Dining, and Breathtaking views of the Spring that will absolutely blow you away. It is the heart and soul of this Property. Our Imagineers have done a tremendous job in the design and all the details that have gone within that. Today we open 23 new retail locations, stores such as Tommy Bahama, Vera Bradley, Lucky Brand, Zara and others;. we open 7 specialty food and beverage locations such as D-Luxe Burger, Amorette's Patisserie and Sprinkles Cupcakes. You're going to have a blast."
Bradford then welcomed the Rice family from Orlando as the first "official family" to Town Center, and concluded, "So, with that said, thanks so much for being here this morning and welcome to Town Center!"
Contributing photographer Alan S. Dalinka provided live Periscope video coverage of the grand opening ceremony, rope drop, and an initial walk-through of Town Center.
The arcade of shops in Town Center is not enclosed, but provides shade from the sun and will likely become crowded with guests seeking shelter during typical summer afternoon rainstorms. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
More than a dozen additional stores are scheduled to open this spring and summer. Additional quick-service and table-service restaurants are scheduled to open this spring and summer, with the renovations of Planet Hollywood Observatory and Fulton's Crab House transformation into Paddlefish, slated for completion in 2016. The Edison, under construction in The Landing neighborhood (utilizing, in part, the site of the former Adventurers Club), is now expected in early 2017.
A new area for Disney resort buses has been constructed adjacent to the water tower landmark just outside Town Center, which is expected to open within the next few weeks (cast members on-site, estimated May 29; the official Disney Springs map says "beginning early June"). The official map suggests that the existing Disney Resorts bus stops adjacent to Marketplace may be discontinued when the new bus area opens.
The new bus area connects to Buena Vista Drive with newly built, protected/dedicated bus lanes that may ease traffic around the area, though easing traffic will also depend on the timing of the traffic lights which, at least during this past week, were such that guests exiting the Orange garage experienced significant back-ups on the exit ramps.
Of course, as has been true for many years, buses from Disney Springs will not provide direct transportation to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, or Disney's Animal Kingdom theme parks or Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park—all of those destinations still require changing buses at a Disney resort hotel.
In the center of Town Center, "the Gateway" is where guests arriving and departing Disney Springs via Disney Transport resort buses will go once the bus area opens, expected to happen in the next couple of weeks. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Disney buses will enter and exit Disney Springs in marked lanes (see the red area on the pavement) and will have exclusive use of the lighter-colored protected bus lanes in the middle of the road when traveling on Buena Vista Drive. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
To replace parking areas incorporated into the new areas and provide additional parking, two five-level parking structures were built along Buena Vista Drive with pedestrian bridges connecting the structures to Disney Springs. The lot adjacent to the West Side opened in 2014 and is named the "Orange" garage; the new "Lime" garage adjacent to Town Center opened within a couple hours of the Town Center's Grand Opening.
To ease traffic in the area, the Orange garage is connected to an I-4 exit ramp by a newly constructed flyover, and visitors traveling east on Buena Vista Drive likewise use a new ramp on the right side of the road to join the flyover rather than make left turns. According to the official map of Disney Springs, the remaining surface lots near the West Side have been designated "Strawberry", "Watermelon", "Grapefruit," and "Mango."
Like the slightly older Orange garage near the West Side, the Lime garage has extensive signage to remind guests where they have parked. Also like the Orange garage, digital signage and colored lighting indicate the availability of parking spaces throughout the structure. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Boat service between the West Side, The Landing, and Marketplace docks has resumed, weather permitting. Boat service is also available to Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, Disney's Old Key West Resort, and Disney's Port Orleans Resort (French Quarter and Riverside); check maps and signs for boat destinations from each dock. Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is also connected to Disney Springs by a bridge to Marketplace.
Newly completed pedestrian bridges over Buena Vista Drive now provide direct access to the on-property non-Disney hotels along Hotel Plaza Drive.
The elaborate Disney Imagineer-crafted backstory of Disney Springs is illustrated in artwork hung inside the Guest Relations building in Town Center. A 1950s expo is shown to have been the explanation for the West Side's appearance and partially remaining elevated train track supports. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Amorette's Patisserie has a large selection of pastries, from single-serving sizes (mostly around $8), petit cakes ($15), dome cakes in the shapes of Disney characters ($65), to their signature 11-layer cake ($85), as well as alcoholic and other beverages. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
The busiest building during the Town Center grand opening morning was definitely Sprinkles Cupcakes. The building has two lines: one to go inside and one to use the Cupcake ATM (in pink on the right of the photo). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Chef Art Smith, former chef to Oprah Winfrey and other stars, will soon open a 200-seat restaurant called Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine offering what Disney calls "farm-to-fork cuisine." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Between Town Center and the West Side near the Orange garage, work continues on the Coca Cola Store (expected to open this summer) and Planet Hollywood Observatory (which is now is not expected to reopen until this fall). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
Do you love Disney and have a flair for writing? We're currently looking for columnists to cover new areas of the Disney universe for MousePlanet.com.
If you are interesting in adding your voice to MousePlanet, please contact us—we'd love to hear from you!
…The MousePlanet Newsletter is here! The newsletter contains a recap of the week's articles (in case you miss a day), news that may have developed since the weekly Updates were published, and tips about what's happening at the Disney theme parks for the coming weekend. We'll also include a fun bonus, such as an Eye Spy or a trivia question. To subscribe to our free newsletter, just enter your e-mail in the box below.
"Do more. Wait less."
Check here to see if a park event might fall during your next trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. If you know of any in-park events, official or unofficial, that should be listed here, please send us an e-mail (link).
2016 Resort events
- Star Wars Experiences – open
- 2016 Flower & Garden Festival – through May 30
- Gay Days at Walt Disney World (annual unofficial event) – June 2–5. More information on the event website. To whatever degree there are "organized" events, the schedule calls for attendees to visit the parks on these days:
- Thursday, June 2 – Animal Kingdom
- Friday, June 3 – Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Saturday, June 4 – Magic Kingdom (the busiest day of the event)
- Sunday, June 5 – Epcot
- Night of Joy – September 9 & 10
- 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – September 14 – November 14, 2016.
- Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic – dates to be announced.
- Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party –September 2, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 25, 29, 30; October 2, 4, 6, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31
- "Jersey Week" – November 6–13. Expect larger crowds this week as New Jersey students and families take advantage of a fall break created by their school's participation in the New Jersey Teachers Convention.
- Dapper Day at Epcot (unofficial event) – Saturday, November 12. More information at the event website.
- Holidays at Walt Disney World – dates to be announced.
- Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – November 7, 8, 10, 11, 13, 15, 18, 27, 29; December 1, 2, 4, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 22
- Holidays Around the World at Epcot – dates to be announced.
- Candlelight Processional at Epcot – dates to be announced.
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.
- Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend – November 3–5. All races are sold out, with the exception of the runDisney Kids races. Proof of time must be submitted by August 2, 2016
- Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – January 4–8, 2017. The 5K, 10K, and half marathon are sold out. The full marathon, Goofy Challenge, and Dopey Challenge are still available. Proof of time must be submitted by October 4, 2016.
- Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend – February 24–26, 2017. Registration date has not been announced. Proof of time must be submitted by November 15, 2016.
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.
Check here to see if a sporting competition might fall during your next trip to the Walt Disney World Resort. We don't list all events here, but focus on the larger sport and cheer events that might result in extra visitors to the theme parks, and make it harder to secure a hotel room. The All-Star and moderate resort hotels are often the home base for these larger events, so it's worth avoiding those properties if possible.
2016 ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex events
- Special Olympics Florida Summer Games – May 20–21.
- AAU National Club Championship – June 30 – July 3.
- Special Olympics Florida Fall Classic – November 11–12.
- 2016 Pop Warner Super Bowl –December 3–10.
|June 29–July 5||
- Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse – closed July 7 – September 24 for refurbishment.
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – closed August 8 – November 18 for refurbishment.
- Liberty Square Riverboat – closed August 15–21 for refurbishment.
- "it's a small world" – closed August 22 – September 15 for refurbishment.
- Soarin' – closed as of January 4, 2016. Reopens sometime in "summer of 2016" as Soarin' Around the World, with a new ride film.
- Maelstrom – permanently closed for construction of Frozen Ever After attraction. New ride expected to open May 2016.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
- Magic of Disney Animation – building permanently closed for future expansion. Part of the space has been converted to the Star Wars Launch Bay.
- One Man's Dream theater – an expanded sneak peek at Alice Through the Looking Glass began May 6.
- Pizza Planet restaurant – closed for refurbishment. Reopening date TBD.
- Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show – permanently closedto make way for the Star Wars Land expansion.
- Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure – permanently closed to make way for the Star Wars Land expansion.
- Studio Catering Co. – closed to make way for the Star Wars Land expansion.
- Meet & Greet: Mike and Sulley at Streets of America – closed to make way for the Star Wars Land expansion.
Disney's Animal Kingdom
- Tiffins – the park's new table-service restaurant will open Memorial Day weekend for lunch and dinner.
- None scheduled
- None scheduled
- Fulton's Crab House – closed for refurbishment. Scheduled to reopen in fall 2016 as Paddlefish
- Planet Hollywood – closed through June 1 for refurbishment and transformation into a Planet Hollywood Observatory.
- Disney Springs Bridge 4 and restrooms on Pleasure Island – temporarily closed for ongoing construction work.
- Disney Springs Lots A-G – closed through August 1.
- Disney Springs Lots H, I, J, and K (in Westside area) – closed until further notice for construction.
- Disney Quest – scheduled to close sometime in 2016.
May 15 openings:
- Disney Springs Town Center
- The Daily Poutine
- B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co.
- Amorette’s Patisserie
- Sprinkles Cupcakes
May 22 openings:
- Boardwalk Inn
- Flying Fish Cafe closed through September 30 for refurbishment.
- Seashore Sweets – closed as part of the Flying Fish refurbishment.
- Wilderness Lodge and Villas – Hidden Springs pool, resort beach, playground, and Recreation fire pit closed. No opening date provided, but the pool is expected to be closed through 2017. Expect construction-related closures and noise due to construction of the as-yet-unannounced Disney Vacation Club cabins.
- Disney Osprey Ridge Golf Course – permanently closed.
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
Fall Free Dining offer
Back to School room-only offer
Kid-sized Vacation offer
Late Summer Family Time offer
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 $149, a $20 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:
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:
Disney's BoardWalk Inn and Villas:
Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort:
Disney's Contemporary Resort:
Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground:
Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa:
Disney's Old Key West Resort:
Disney's Port Orleans Resort:
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa:
Disney's Wilderness Lodge:
Disney's Yacht Club Resort:
Disney's Hollywood Studios:
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
Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and Villas
Disney's Contemporary Resort
Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
Disney's Wilderness Lodge
Disney's Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
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 Military Personnel
2016 Military Salute – 4-Day Military Promotional Ticket discount
Through December 16, 2016, active and retired U.S. military personnel (including active and retired members of the United States Coast Guard, National Guard and Reservists) or their spouses can purchase:
Walt Disney World Resort tickets may be used January 3 through December 19, 2016, except that the tickets may not be used March 20 – 2016 April 1, 2016.
Active and retired U.S. military personnel can purchase Disney Military Promotional Tickets for themselves and up to five additional family members or friends. No more than six Disney Military Promotional Tickets may be purchased by any eligible member of the U.S. military (or spouse) pursuant to this offer. All tickets and options are non-transferable and must be used by December 19, 2016.
2016 Military Salute – Hotel discount
Disney does not publish the actual discounted rates offered to service members under this program, and instead asks eligible U.S. military personnel to call 407-939-7830 to check pricing, availability and to make reservations. The website Military Disney Tips.com says the offer is 30-40%, based on room category.
Discounts for Florida Residents
None at this time.
Discounts for Canada Residents
None at this time.
Discounts for U.K. Residents
None at this time.
Don't keep it to yourself! Send us your news tips, rumors, and comments.