Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 27, 2016 - January 2, 2017

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer
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Walt Disney World Parks and Resorts distribute free New Year's Eve party hats and horns. I have an extensive hat collection dating back to December 31, 2002. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Writer's Note: It's Alan S. Dalinka back with you for another week. I am looking forward to 2017 and another Disney Parks hat! On with the Update....


News and Views

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? | Epcot International Festival of the Arts Broadway Stars Announced | Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway Passed Away | Views around the World | This and That | Crowd Forecast

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?

Historically, this is the busiest time of the year at the Walt Disney World Resort. The Crowd Forecast from TouringPlans, like last week, is again for the largest crowds (10 out of 10).

Based on our observations around the Resort over the last week, though, the tiered ticket pricing changes Disney implemented over the past year, plus the currently strong U.S. Dollar creating currency exchange rate disadvantages for visitors from South America, United Kingdom and Europe, may actually have put a damper on the peak season's crowd levels. That is, after all, what Disney claimed was being sought when it announced the tiers. Now, to be sure, Magic Kingdom was still very busy on Christmas Day, with backups reported on World Drive from the Toll Plaza to beyond the ramps to Epcot in the morning. But, while the local TV stations were flying their helicopters over the parks and reporting on crowds at what they call the "attractions," there were no social media reports of park gate closings around the Resort.

There were generally heavy crowds at the Magic Kingdom on Christmas Day, though not crushing. Bonnie and Donald Fink report that they were able to see and do everything they wanted because of skillful use of FastPass+ reservations and by managing expectations. HDR Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Main Street was a wall of people on Christmas Day. At times, the backstage passage from between The Plaza Restaurant and Tomorrowland Terrace behind The Main Street Bakery (Starbucks) to Town Square near Tony's restaurant was open to ease congestion. Photo by Donald Fink.

I visited a very pleasant Epcot on Christmas Day afternoon and evening. When I arrived at just after 4 p.m., the parking lot was set up with barricades to provide overflow parking on the grassy areas, but the regular parking lot was less than two-thirds full and the overflow areas were empty. Inside the park, except for the 180 minute standby line I saw at Norway's "Frozen Ever After" at around 7:30 p.m., the crowd levels were more akin to the quiet days just after Thanksgiving than a holiday period. The World Showcase promenade was not particularly crowded, some of the Holiday Food Marketplaces had minimal or no lines, and my friends and I were able to walk up to Spice Road Table at Morocco and get a table with no wait (though most other table service restaurants were turning away guests without reservations). As I drove to Epcot, I took a look at World Drive at the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza, and the newest reaches of its main parking lot (in some of the footprint of the former Walt Disney World Speedway) were not being utilized.

Construction along World Drive near the Magic Kingdom Toll Plazas is increasingly visible. While reports early on Christmas Day were that the road was backed up beyond this point all the way to Epcot, this photo was taken at 4 p.m. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

On Christmas Day, overflow parking areas set up in the Epcot parking lot's grassy areas were not needed. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

On Christmas Day, some of the Holiday Food Marketplaces had little or no lines to get food. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Whether crowd levels this week, and especially New Year's Eve, will reach their historic peaks, we do not know. For Annual Passholders, only Platinum and Platinum Plus Passholders can visit the parks this week (as well as the "Epcot After Four" Floridian Passholders); Gold, Silver, and Weekday Select Passholders remain blocked out until next Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Whether or not the parks are packed, our best advice at this time of year is still to remain patient, especially with other guests, and, most of all, with the Cast Members who are working while you are celebrating a holiday.

As we highlight the New Year's festivities scheduled for each of the parks below, I will provide a few of the strategies I have developed and employed when visiting Walt Disney World all but one December 30-31 since 2002 (of course, your mileage may vary).

As evening on Christmas Day approached just before the second night of Hanukkah began, a rainbow appeared over World Showcase. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Magic Kingdom – December 30 & 31

Magic Kingdom celebrates the New Year both on December 30 and 31, complete with a "countdown" for those with early bedtimes, and presentation of the "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks and a countdown to midnight. Keep in mind that since both Holiday Wishes and the "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks show include perimeter fireworks, some of the roads around the Magic Kingdom will be closed. In addition, "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks include a launch site in the Seven Seas Lagoon that mirrors the one behind the park, so some transportation in and around the Seven Seas Lagoon may be suspended for a time.

Much of the entertainment offered during this year's Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is offered both nights as well. In past years, DJs entertain on the Castle Stage and Tomorrowland Stage in between other scheduled entertainment, and that is likely (but not confirmed) again this year.

Some of the entertainment of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party is performed for all guests during the final days of the year. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade replaces the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade on the schedule at noon and 3:30 p.m. through December 31. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


In case you missed it, I provided Live coverage of Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade on Friday on our Facebook page. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.


I also provided Live coverage of the "holidays" finale of the Mickey's Friendship Faire show on Twitter. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Magic Kingdom is scheduled to remain open until 1 a.m. on both nights. Extra Magic Hours on the night of December 30 (early morning of December 31), keep the park going for Resort guests until 3 a.m., and then reopening for Resort guests at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. for everyone else) on December 31. Highlights both days and nights include:

  • Mickey's Royal Friendship Faire (with Holiday Ending) – five showings
  • A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas! – six showings
  • Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade at Noon and 3:30 p.m.
  • A Frozen Holiday Wish at 6:15 p.m.
  • Mickey's Most Merriest Celebration at 6:50 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m.
  • Holiday Wishes New Year's Celebration at 7:30 p.m. (includes a New Year's Eve "countdown")
  • Once Upon a Time (Castle projection show) at 8:15 p.m. and 12:45 a.m.
  • New Year’s Eve eve presentation of “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks at 11:50 p.m.

I have visited Magic Kingdom on December 30 nearly every year since 2002 to enjoy the slightly smaller crowds and to view the "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks with the midnight countdown. As a Resort guest, I have enjoyed the extra-late (super-early) Extra Magic Hours (which in some years stretched all the way to 4 a.m.) on many December 31 mornings, riding the "Mountains" (except Splash because December nights can be "Florida cold" and, sometimes, actually cold), and the other classics and E-Tickets with increasingly minimal waits as park closing approached.

To date, I have avoided Magic Kingdom during New Year's Eve itself. Aside from the in-park crowds, my main concern has been just how long it could take Disney Transport (also known as the "bus") to get me back to my resort when everyone departs the park (tens of thousands) at the same time. Perhaps, if I were to stay at Bay Lake Tower or the Contemporary and I could walk back to the resort, I would reconsider Magic Kingdom on New Year's Eve. In addition to whatever FastPass+ reservations I would make (as long in advance as permitted), attractions that may help fill the day without long queues given their high capacity and turnover include:

  • Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority People Mover
  • Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor
  • Hall of Presidents
  • Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room
  • Swiss Family Treehouse
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic

Epcot – December 31

New Year's Eve entertainment is scheduled from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Like all of the other "Holidays Around the World" entertainment around Epcot, Candlelight Processional at the America Gardens Theatre has its final performances on December 30. On December 31, a Latin band takes over that stage.

Though Epcot's celebration of Holidays Around the World ends on December 30, Hanukkah (which is capable of numerous English spellings), continues until sundown on January 1, 2017. Kwanzaa also concludes the same day. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Epcot's New Year's Eve celebration also includes a DJ at the Future World Fountain Stage; dancing to a DJ under flame effects and a smoke-billowing dragon at the China pavilion; the British Invasion on the stage at the United Kingdom pavilion; a Euro-pop DJ and lasers at the Italy pavilion; and a “Silent Groove” party at the Japan pavilion.

The "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" fireworks show is performed twice on New Year's Eve, each show with a different ending. The 6:00 p.m. show includes the final showing of the holiday finale ("Let There Be Peace on Earth") for the season. The 11:40 p.m. performance does not include the holiday finale, but instead is immediately followed by fireworks launched from behind the pavilions of World Showcase saluting New Years already celebrated around the world and then a countdown to the New Year (in past years begun with "...and now it's our turn!")

My park of choice to ring in the New Year has most often been Epcot. Epcot's pathways are nearly all broad (with the most notable exception, the choke-point in front of the Mexico pavilion). There are numerous places to breathe in Future World and along much of the World Showcase Promenade. You can even be fairly isolated from the hubbub of the New Year's Eve crowd for a few moments if you are looking for that sort of thing. The less-visited nooks and crannies of the park tend to remain quiet: try the museums at Morocco, Japan and China; the Stave Church at Norway; and more.

This part of the World Showcase Promenade gets very narrow and congestion will likely be made worse this New Year's Eve by ongoing construction in front of the Mexico pavilion. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

On New Year's Eve, backstage paths are often opened to help with crowd flow from the World Showcase toward the main exit—in the past, they have gone from the gate between China and Norway to Test Track on the East, and from World Showplace to Imagination on the West. If you have never been backstage, it can be an interesting, un-themed look at Epcot (though, scrubbed and spruced up even more than you see on a backstage tour, sort of like folks do when having company visit their homes at this time of year).

In any event, in addition to whatever FastPass+ reservations you may make (usually, pretty far in advance), you do not have to spend New Year's Eve waiting in lines and, generally, can still get a full day's entertainment at Epcot. Although it is theoretically possible for the park to reach the point where its gates will close, its capacity is so large that I have never been unable to park hop over to Epcot (after first visiting another park) or even to re-enter the park after visiting Disney's BoardWalk (or my room) for dinner on New Year's Eve. Some of the high-capacity options are:

  • Future World
    • Universe of Energy - Ellen's Energy Adventure
    • Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable - the movie at Land Pavilion
    • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival at Imagination Pavilion
  • World Showcase
    • Circlevision 360º films at Canada and China
    • Multi-screen film at France
    • The American Adventure*

It is even possible to select a good New Year's Eve fireworks viewing location an hour or even less before midnight, especially for a usually solo visitor like me. Pro tip: when the torches around the World Showcase Lagoon are lit (which, on most nights, is a half hour before Illuminations), see which way their flames are pointing and select a location along the shore away from where they point. The regular Illuminations fireworks can generate a lot of smoke: it will obstruct some of your view; the holiday finale generates even more. The final display as the New Year begins brings to mind the scene with Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche in the climactic eruption scene in the 1997 movie Volcano. If the smoke is not blowing toward the southern shore of World Showcase Lagoon, you can pick a spot that also has a view of Magic Kingdom's fireworks off in the distance to the north; on the other side of the Lagoon, there are many spots where you can also see fireworks over Disney's Hollywood Studios.

The northern section of World Showcase Promenade provides views of some of the fireworks at Disney's Hollywood Studios. On Christmas Day, just after sunset, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular could be seen from near the Mexico pavilion. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

For me, and lots of other folks, another prime appeal of spending New Year's Eve at Epcot is the easy ability to walk back to one of the Epcot Resorts through the International Gateway ("Epcot's Backdoor"); Disney's BoardWalk Resort, Disney's Yacht & Beach Clubs, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin are all within a reasonable walk. As a DVC Member, I have spent many New Years at Disney's Beach Club Villas (which is the closest resort to Epcot) and at Disney's BoardWalk Villas (which is only a slightly longer walk). Disney's Friendship boats also operate between the International Gateway and those resorts, even after the fireworks, but boat capacity is rather limited.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios – December 31

Because of the ongoing construction of Star Wars and Toy Story Lands, Disney's smallest Florida theme park's public areas and operating attractions are more limited than they have been in years, possibly going all the way back to the park's earliest days. Nevertheless, it may still be possible to ring in the New Year there.

Beginning at 7 p.m., there will be "a high energy DJ dance party" at the Center Stage (in front of the Chinese Theater), leading up to a countdown to midnight and fireworks celebration. The DJ dance party will pause for the final scheduled showing of the “Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM!” nighttime spectacular at 9 p.m. The “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” will be shown just after midnight. There are also two scheduled showings of Fantasmic!, at 8 and 9:30 p.m.

While Disney's Hollywood Studios has only limited excellent viewing areas for its nighttime fireworks and projection spectaculars, there are other areas that provide satisfactory views, such as this location near the Hyperion Theater. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka..

Unlike earlier versions of fireworks shows at Disney's Hollywood Studios which launched most fireworks from the Chinese Theater building itself, the current spectaculars make significant use of a launch site across World Drive behind the park. That means that guests are now allowed to stand close enough to feel the heat from flamethrowers like these used during the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. Note, however, standing in this location sacrifices your ability to see many of the fireworks launched from behind the park. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Before the closing of Streets of America, I visited the Studios on New Year's Eve quite a few times. There were many high-capacity places to spend the day. In recent years, I was a very regular attendee at showings of The Comedy Warehouse Holiday Special. Unfortunately, the park could not (or chose not to) find a venue in which to mount the show this year. The huge stadium for Lights! Motors! Action! Extreme Stunt Show was also demolished this year to make way for construction of new lands. In addition, after its twenty year run, the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights was retired very early this year.

There are still a number of places around the park to find entertainment without waiting in lines all day:

  • Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
  • Beauty & The Beast Live on Stage
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
  • Voyage of the Little Mermaid
  • Star Wars: Path of the Jedi (movie)
  • Star Wars Launch Bay (movie and props display)
  • Disney Junior - Live on Stage! (if you are willing to sit on the floor)

And, certainly, do not forget to check out some of the many performances of the Citizens of Hollywood on Sunset or Hollywood Boulevards. These talented actors and improvisers help give the park some much needed character, especially now as it undergoes its years-long transformation into its next form.

Also, on the up-side of a New Year's Eve visit to this park, it is possible to walk to the Epcot Resorts after the park closes—you could even walk all the way to Epcot's back door before closing if you want. The path that runs along the waterway is marked and lit. Disney's BoardWalk Villas are the closest to the park, followed by the Swan and Dolphin. The same Friendship boats that serve Epcot and its resorts also make their way to this park.

Disney's Animal Kingdom – No New Year's Celebrations Scheduled

Although Disney's Animal Kingdom was open until 11 p.m. every night this past summer, with the continued delay of the premier of the nighttime Rivers of Light show and the opening of Pandora – The World of AVATAR still at least another half a year away, the park has gone back to closing earlier, often earlier than all of the other parks. On New Year's Eve, that is again the case: the park will close at 8:30 p.m. It should still be possible to take after dark safaris and view Tree of Life "awakenings," but if you decide to visit the park on New Year's Eve, be sure to get a times guide and park map to confirm what hours attractions you want to visit are operating.

Some attractions in Disney's Animal Kingdom, have even shorter operating hours than the park. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

With no resorts directly connected to the park by walkways—not even the namesake Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge—remember that transportation will be required to park hop. When ready to depart, this may be a good day to try Disney's new Express in-park-to-in-park transportation (for an extra fee) that debuted and we reported on earlier this month.

With its earlier closing time, this park also is probably the best option for families that do not plan to ring in the New Year in a park at all. On Christmas Eve, for example, there was no line for the nighttime safari during its final hour of operation and, generally, the park's pathways were fairly uncongested.


In case you missed it, I provided a few peaceful Live moments at the base of the Tree of Life on Christmas Eve on our Facebook page and on Twitter. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

In any event, there are a number of high capacity attractions that often do not require a FastPass+ reservation to experience:

  • Festival of the Lion King
  • Flights of Wonder
  • Finding Nemo: The Musical
  • It's Tough to Be A Bug

Also, in addition to animal enclosures scattered throughout the park, there are two places that are often overlooked and rarely crowded where you can also view animals: Maharajah Jungle Trek in Asia is home to tigers, lion-tailed macaques, and more; Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (formerly known as Pangani Forest Exploration Trail) in Africa is home to gorillas, zebras, meerkats, and more.

Several lion-tailed macaques can be seen on the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

In the cooler winter weather, the tigers at Maharajah Jungle Trek can be quite active. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

At Gorilla Falls, the patriarch of the silverback family group looks rather fierce, even when yawning. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

One of the Gorilla Falls silverback bachelor group stares back at the guests. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's BoardWalk Resort - Atlantic Dance Hall

Atlantic Dance Hall at Disney's BoardWalk Resort is hosting an adults only (21 years-and-over) New Year’s Eve party. The party costs $42.60/person (tax included, but not gratuity) and includes treats, music, party hats and horns, a unique (but distant) view of Epcot's fireworks, and a champagne toast at midnight. Other adult beverages will be available at a cash bar. Doors open at 9:00 p.m. Guests must be 21 years or older with valid ID to enter. For reservations, call (407) WDW-DINE.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts Broadway Stars Announced

Disney released a few additional details about the new Epcot International Festival of the Arts that begins January 13, 2017, and continues for six weekends through February 20. This week's announcement provides details about performing artists "celebrating all styles and genres of music – with the Disney twist – all around Epcot." Specifically, in collaboration with Disney Theatrical Productions, music and Broadway talent scheduled on the America Gardens Theatre stage includes:

  • January 13-16 and 20-23: Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland performing songs from: Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Mary Poppins, and The Little Mermaid
  • January 27-30 and February 3-6: Kerry Butler and Kevin Massey performing songs from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, Newsies, and Aladdin
  • February 10-13 and 17-20: Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White performing songs from Disney’s The Lion King, Aida, Aladdin and The Little Mermaid

Performances will be 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8 p.m. Friday through Monday of each festival weekend.

Additional visual and live performances are scheduled in Future World Plaza including Epcot Living Statues and performances by Central Florida high schools, university and college talent appearing through a partnership with Disney Performing Arts. Epcot’s American Music Machine will also perform on the Future World Fountain Stage.

Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway Passed Away

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the Christmas Eve passing of Disney Legend Charlie Ridgway who, during his long career at Disney, helped coordinate media coverage of the opening of all four Disney Parks at Walt Disney World. He was 93, and MousePlanet extends its condolences to his family, friends, and former colleagues.

Views Around the World

This week, given that the crowds were not as massive as feared, I visited all Four Parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and Disney Springs too with a brief stop over at Disney's Wilderness Lodge. The parks photos are largely sprinkled through this week's Update by their subject matter, but there is still more to see.

Magic Kingdom

With the renovations to the dock area apparently complete, a new permanent sign now stands at the entrance to the Magic Kingdom's ferryboat dock. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Epcot

Much of the construction and landscaping that had been underway around the World Showcase Promenade has wrapped up in time for the New Year's crowds. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

As we reported last week, the animatronic alligators are back on the Living with the Land boat ride, although they do not seem to move. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


For those who wanted to vicariously visit Epcot for a few moments, I provided a Live look at Spaceship Earth on our Facebook page and on twitter. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

Hollywood Studios

As we noted a few weeks ago, Moana now meets guests in a newly built room in the back of One Man's Dream. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Moana is happy to meet fellow navigators and to talk about her explorations. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Animal Kingdom

With no more construction cranes or scaffolding visible around the floating mountains of Pandora - The World of AVATAR, we are starting to get a look at what the nearly completed area will look like from the park's gates when the new land opens next Summer. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

From the Nomad Lounge at Tiffins Restaurant, additional theming is becoming apparent on what will be the main entry bridge from Discovery Island to Pandora - The World of AVATAR when it opens next summer. HDR Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

On Christmas Eve, Flik was posing for photos in a much more photogenic location than usual, across from Pizzafari on Discovery Island. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Mickey and Minnie greet guests in holiday sweaters at their outpost on Discovery Island. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney Springs

Lighted signs can now be seen at the as-yet-to-open Planet Hollywood Observatory. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The upcoming Planet Hollywood Observatory's outdoor bar area now has signs. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

At long last, a new paddlewheel is being built at the future Paddlefish restaurant. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

With its opening is delayed until "Early 2017," work continues at Paddlefish restaurant even as late as 10:30 p.m. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

By last weekend, the new Town Center Starbright Holidays photo backdrop we reported on last week was already replaced by a temporary beverage station. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Resorts

Construction of the cabins that will become part of the soon-to-be announced Disney Vacation Club Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge continues. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The expansion of Disney Vacation Club to the soon-to-be announced Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney's Wilderness Lodge continues. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's Wilderness Lodge has set up a temporary holiday gift and snack stand in the lobby that is expected to remain at least until the end of the year. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

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

This and That

…Last week's rumor is this week's reality (part 1). All Four Parks now have designated Annual Passholder park entry lanes. Presumably, those with Annual Passes are more familiar with the TouchPoint/Finger-readers and move through more quickly. Reports suggest that the the lanes will remain in place until at least sometime in January 2017, but no word on whether they will remain beyond that.

Signs mark the Annual Passholder entry lanes at each of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks. Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Last week's rumor is this week's reality (part 2). Four more Magic Kingdom Table Service Restaurants began serving select alcoholic beverages last week. Joining the Be Our Guest Restaurant which began serving wines back in 2012 with its dinner service, are Tony's Town Square Restaurant, Liberty Tree Tavern, Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, and Cinderella's Royal Table. Each location offers a selection of beverages which compliment their food offerings. For example, Skipper Canteen has a "global" beverage menu, with drinks such as a riesling to pair with Trader Sam's head-on shrimp. Alcoholic beverages are not available to-go; Magic Kingdom still has no stand-alone bars and alcoholic beverages are not available at kiosks or any quick service/counter locations in the park.

An "Adult Beverages" Menu is now available at Skipper Canteen and other table service locations at Magic Kingdom. Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Updating last week's news...while Stitch's Great Escape in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom is open for the season, its hours are limited. The future of the attraction is unknown beyond the end of 2016.

Though open for the holiday season, Stitch's operating hours are limited. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…On Disney Parks' Christmas Day ABC-TV broadcast, Disney showed off more upcoming news about Pandora – The World of AVATAR at Disney's Animal Kingdom, including some of the footage previously shown but not released at last month's Destination D event at Walt Disney World. WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Central Florida included that Pandora news on its broadcasts on its website.

…And finally, beyond Walt Disney World Resort, Wet 'n Wild which opened in 1977, closes its doors forever this Saturday, December 31, 2016.

…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.

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Crowd Forecast

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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, December 27, 2016 10 / 10
Wednesday, December 28, 2016 10 / 10
Thursday, December 29, 2016 10 / 10
Friday, December 30, 2016 10 / 10
Saturday, December 31, 2016 10 / 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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Resort Events

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 – Opened December 1, 2015
  • Holidays at Walt Disney World – November 7 through December 31, 2016
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot – November 25 through December 30, 2016
  • Candlelight Processional at Epcot – November 25 through December 30, 2016

2017 Resort events

  • Epcot International Festival of the Arts – January 13 through February 20, 2017
  • Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – March 1 - May 29, 2017.
  • MouseAdventure – Saturday, March 4, 2017
  • Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – August 31 through November 13, 2017.
  • Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic – Dates TBD
  • Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party –Dates TBD
  • Holidays at Walt Disney World –Dates TBD
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party–Dates TBD
  • Holidays Around the World at Epcot –Dates TBD
  • Candlelight Processional at Epcot –Dates TBD

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.

2017

2018

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

2017

  • Liberty Square Riverboat – closed January 3 – 12, 2017 for refurbishment.
  • Walt Disney World Railroad – closed January 9 – March 2, 2017 for refurbishment.
  • The Magic Behind our Steam Trains guided tour – closed January 9 – March 2, 2017 during the Walt Disney World Railroad refurbishment.
  • The Hall of Presidents – closes January 17, 2017 to add an audio-animatronic figure of the 45th president of the United States. Expected to reopen July, 2017.

Epcot

Permanently closed:

  • Sum of All Thrills – closed permanently on September 14.
  • Storm Struck – closed permanently on September 14.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Permanently closed:

  • Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure
  • Studio Catering Co.
  • Meet & Greet: Mike and Sulley at Streets of America
  • Magic of Disney Animation
  • The Writer's Stop
  • Academy of Television Sciences Hall of Fame

Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • Kali River Rapids – closed January 3 – February 13, 2017 for refurbishment.

Blizzard Beach

  • Closed October 23 – December 24 for seasonal refurbishment.

Typhoon Lagoon

  • Closed December 24 – March 11, 2017 for seasonal refurbishment.

Disney Springs

  • Fulton's Crab House – closed for refurbishment. Scheduled to reopen in Early 2017 as Paddlefish
  • Planet Hollywood – closed for refurbishment and transformation into Planet Hollywood Observatory to reopen soon.
  • Disney Quest – scheduled to close sometime in 2017.

Resorts

  • 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's All-Star Sports – the Grand Slam Pool closed October 10 for refurbishment, and is expected to reopen by December 2. The Surfboard Bay Pool will remain open.
  • Disney's Pop Century Resort – the Computer Pool closed October 31 for refurbishment, and is expected to reopen by December 23. The Hippy Dippy Pool will remain open.

Elsewhere

  • Disney Osprey Ridge Golf Course – permanently closed.

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.


Travel Discounts for Everyone

All of these packages can also be booked through MousePlanet's partner travel agency Get Away Today.

Early Spring room-only offer

Save 15–25 percent off the published rate for stays most nights January 1 through April 8, 2017.

  • Save up to 25 percent off Disney Deluxe Resort or Disney Deluxe Villa Resorts
  • Save up to 20 percent off Disney Moderate Resorts
  • Save up to 15 percent off Disney Value Resorts

The offer excludes the following hotels and room types:

Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney's Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

You must book by December 21, 2016.

Early Spring Kid-sized Vacation offer

This package includes hotel and park tickets. The sample offer advertises a 2-day/3-night stay in a standard room at a select Disney's All-Star Resort, with one park per day Magic Your Way base tickets for $1,032 for a family of three.

Valid for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights from January 2 through February 16 and February 20 through April 6, 2017. As with the room-only offer, you must book by December 21, 2016. and the following room types are excluded:

Campsites, three-bedroom villas, Disney's Art of Animation Resort – The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

Early Spring Family Magic offer

This package is targeted towards families with older children. The sample package is based on two adults, a teen and a 'tween, and includes a 4-day/4-night stay in a standard room at a select Disney's All-Star Resort with one park per day Magic Your Way base tickets for $1,896.

Valid for arrivals most Sunday through Thursday nights, from January 2 through February 16 and February 20 through April 6, 2017. As with the other offers, you must book by December 21, 2016. and the following room types are excluded:

Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney's Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

Magical Vacation Package offer

This is a version of the Family Magic offer, but adds the Disney Dining Plan to the mix. Instead of giving a package price, this offer tells you that you can save from $300 to $500 or more on a 5-night, 6-day package for a family of 4. This offer also has different valid dates, from January 1 through March 7, 2017.

You must book by December 21, 2016. and the following room types are excluded:

Campsites, 3-bedroom villas, Disney's Art of Animation Resort—The Little Mermaid Standard Rooms, the Bungalows at Disney's Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, The Villas at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Bay Lake Tower at Disney's Contemporary Resort, Disney's All-Star Movies Resort and Disney's Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter.

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.


Travel Discounts for Annual Passholders

None at this time. If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!

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 Tour
    • Behind the Seeds
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
    • Backstage Tales
  • Multiple Theme Parks and Backstage Areas
    • Ultimate Day of Thrills VIP Tour
    • Ultimate Day for Young Families VIP Tour
    • Ultimate Day at Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
    • Backstage Magic
    • Disney's Holiday D-Lights (offered seasonally)
    • Disney's Yuletide Fantasy (offered seasonally)
    • Wilderness Back Trail Adventure

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
  • Narcoossee's

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
  • Cape May Cafe

Disney's Hollywood Studios:

  • The Hollywood Brown Derby (see restrictions)
  • Hollywood & Vine (see restrictions)

Epcot:

  • Biergarten Restaurant (see restrictions)
  • Coral Reef (lunch only)
  • Le Cellier (lunch only)
  • Rose & Crown Dining Room (lunch only)

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex:

  • ESPN Wide World of Sports Grill

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 most days 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 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. at the Imagination Pavilion at Epcot (enter near the jumping fountains near the exit to the Magic Eye Theater). You'll receive one free character photo download per day.


Star Wars meet and greet at Disney's Hollywood Studios' Star Wars Launch Bay

Present your Disney's Premier Visa Card or Disney Rewards Visa Card for access to a character meet and greet at Star Wars Launch Bay for the cardholder and up to five guests. The event is hosted daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. inside Star Wars Launch Bay at Disney's Hollywood Studios. You'll receive one free character photo download per day.


Travel 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:

  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Option for $196 each, plus tax
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Water Park Fun and More Option for $196 each, plus tax
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun and More Options for $230 each, plus tax.

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 percent, based on room category.

The 2016 offer is valid most nights from January 3 through December 19, 2016.


2017 Military Salute – 4-Day or 5-Day Military Promotional Ticket discount

Through December 19, 2017, 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:

  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Option for $209 each, plus tax
  • Disney 4-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun and More Options for $246 each, plus tax.
  • Disney 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper Option for $224 each, plus tax
  • Disney 5-Day Military Promotional Tickets with Park Hopper and Water Park Fun and More Options for $261 each, plus tax.

Walt Disney World Resort tickets may be used January 1 through December 19, 2017, except that the tickets may not be used April 9–23, 2017.

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, 2017.

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 percent, based on room category.

The 2017 offer is valid most nights from January 1 through December 19, 2017. Like the ticket offer, the hotel discounts are not valid April 9–23, 2017.

Travel Discounts for Florida Residents

None at this time. If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!

Travel Discounts for Canada Residents

MousePlanet reader Scott S. alerted us to a new offer for Canadian residents. Canadian residents receive a 25% discount on 4-day or longer tickets purchased by February 28, 2017. The discounted rate for a 4-Day adult base ticket is $244.00 USD, compared to $325.00 USD when purchased at the gate. A 10-day adult base ticket is $300 USD, a savings of $100 from the main gate price.

This offer is only good for Canadian citizens with valid passport, or residents of Canada with valid proof of Canadian residency. The tickets are sold as an exchange certificate, and must be exchanged for park ticket upon arrival. There is no expiration date on the unused tickets, but once activated the tickets must be used within 14 days of first entry.

You can see the full details on the Walt Disney World website. Thanks Scott for the heads up!

If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!

Travel Discounts for U.K. Residents

None at this time. If you know of an offer we haven't listed, please drop us an email with the details!


 

Comments

  1. By Niwel

    We will be at WDW next week (we fly in the 1st and will be at Disney Springs) and we are playing through the 6th. Any sense on crowds? We have all of our FP+ for the attractions we really want. So bummed we won't be there for the Broadway Stars, but glad we can enjoy holidays at Disney Springs.

  2. By asdhollywood

    Quote Originally Posted by Niwel View Post
    We will be at WDW next week (we fly in the 1st and will be at Disney Springs) and we are playing through the 6th. Any sense on crowds? We have all of our FP+ for the attractions we really want. So bummed we won't be there for the Broadway Stars, but glad we can enjoy holidays at Disney Springs.

    The week after New Year's used to reliably be a quiet time around the Resort -- relatively speaking, of course. DVC Members pay the most points per night the last two weeks of the year, and the least points per night in January, so that increasingly skews that. Add in Marathon weekend, the first year of tiered AP blackouts that end before you arrive, various school holiday breaks because New Year's Day is on the weekend, a decline in South American, UK and European tourists... and it's really hard to say what January 2017 will look like crowd-wise. Indeed, I think we'll see Disney's sense of it when we see how early it rolls out (and how steeply it discounts) Florida resident ticket offers and just when it raises general ticket and AP prices again--2016 was the first time I paid the same price as the year before to renew my AP; I'm guessing that after Pandora opens at AK, my next renewal price will be higher, with even bigger increases ahead as Toy Story and Star Wars Lands approach opening in 20??.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  3. By Niwel

    Thank you -- we are staying off property (but right across the street from Disney Springs) -- and plan to take advantage of the "after 4 shuttle" to DS.
    I'll keep you posted next week!

  4. By davidgra

    While the tiered ticket prices and weak currencies outside the U.S. probably had something to do with lower crowds this Christmas, I'd imagine the new annual pass options with dates blocked out for more categories had a significant impact this year, too. We opted for the Platinum Pass in 2016, but we realized we really didn't need it, as we never go during any of the most crowded times of the year, so we'll be getting one of the passes available to DVC members in 2017.

  5. By asdhollywood

    Quote Originally Posted by davidgra View Post
    While the tiered ticket prices and weak currencies outside the U.S. probably had something to do with lower crowds this Christmas, I'd imagine the new annual pass options with dates blocked out for more categories had a significant impact this year, too.

    I agree. By tiered ticket price, I intended to include the tiered APs in that thought.

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