Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 19-26, 2017

by Alan S. Dalinka, contributing writer
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Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 19 – 26, 2017

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

Writer's note: To those who continue to celebrate: Happy Hanukkah! And since this update will next appear after Boxing Day and during Kwanzaa, an early Merry Christmas to those who celebrate each holiday. Finally, to be fully inclusive, enjoy the other winter holidays and be sure to get through airing all of your grievances during Festivus so we can start the new year fresh.

Yesterday, we brought you the Disney Parks Star Wars Special December 2017 Update for Both Coasts covering the opening night of Star Wars: The Last Jedi at Disney Springs, the ribbon cutting of the brand new "hyper-reality" experience Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire from ILMxLAB and The VOID (also at Disney Springs), and the second edition of Star Wars: Galactic Nights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, including its special panel presentation about Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge coming to that park and Disneyland in 2019. That means that this Update will be almost Star Wars-free other than a few more photos in our Views around the World.


In a week dominated by Star Wars around Walt Disney World Resort, it was fun to discover Lego Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader battling it out in the gingerbread display's recreation of the Characters in Flight Balloon at Amorette's Patisserie at Disney Springs. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Since our last Update, Disney Parks Blog completed its first ever "12 Days of Disney Parks Christmas" posts featuring daily "new details about events, entertainment, attractions and more" at Walt Disney World, as well as Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, and Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii (plus two bonus posts about Disney Parks in Hong Kong and Shanghai). You can find them all at this Disney Parks Blog recap. Unfortunately, save for the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge panel's comments on Saturday night, which were also posted under the "12 Days" label, there were no really big, game-changing revelations, and, indeed, we covered the bulk of the larger details for Walt Disney World Resort last week.

Also since our last Update, The Walt Disney Company made a little announcement of its own about its agreement to acquire 21st Century Fox, including the Twentieth Century Fox Film and Television studios and other businesses for approximately $52.4 billion in stock. I am sure we will provide more in-depth coverage of this huge acquisition elsewhere on MousePlanet, but the most notable aspects of the announcement that can involve Walt Disney World Resort include:

  • Bob Iger will remain Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company through 2021 (rather than 2019, as previously announced).
     
  • Additional Marvel intellectual properties, such as X-Men will join Disney's portfolio.
     
  • Avatar will become a Disney property (if you have not noticed or been paying attention, merchandise for Pandora-The World of Avatar currently includes "©Fox" or "©Twentieth Century Fox").

And for those folks that like to say they would rather visit Universal Orlando Resort instead of Disney who do not realize that Marvel is already owned by Disney (though the Islands of Adventure attractions were licensed to Universal Orlando Resort for before Disney's acquisition), the intellectual property of another Universal attraction and surrounding area, The Simpsons, is also part of Disney's acquisition of Fox. I will say this: it will be interesting to see the next phase of the theme park "arms race" of competition between the resorts in light of this next wrinkle in the complex web of intellectual property ownership and distribution agreements. As speculation begins to appear out there as to what may happen next, keep in mind that Universal's parent company, Comcast, is still a dominant cable television and internet provider, and it once even tried to acquire Disney (once upon a time).

One final note before moving on to the rest of our news and regular features: tomorrow, December 20, marks the anniversary of my first published appearance as the temporary fill-in writer to "lighten the workload for Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix over the Holidays Season." As regular readers know now (and maybe Adrienne knew then), a few weeks later I became the regular Updater and have had a blast thanks to our readers, colleagues here at MousePlanet, the folks at Disney and its participating partners, and, indeed, even many of the folks that cover Disney Parks and Resorts (and more) for other publications. As always, keep the comments and constructive criticism coming whether in the comments section, by email, or on MousePlanet's Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Unless there is major news, next week I'll provide a look back at some of the major news around Walt Disney World in 2017 with comments about what we now know to expect in 2018.

This week, I will kick things off with nearly the same first news item as last year. Here we go.


News and Views

'Tis The (Peak) Season Again | A New Cirque du Soleil Show in Development for Disney Springs | Patina Restaurant Group Previews New Concepts at Disney Springs | Epcot Disney on Broadway Concert & Candlelight Processional Narrators Calendar | Views around the World | One Passholder's Tip | This and That | Crowd Forecast

'Tis The (Peak) Season Again

Historically, we are entering the busiest time of the year at the Walt Disney World Resort. As you can see below from the Crowd Forecast from TouringPlans, the forecast for this week is for nearly the largest crowds (8s and 9s out of 10), and, based on our experience in past years, we can expect even bigger crowds next week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day. A few changes Disney implemented over the past few years will put an ever-so-slight damper on the crowd levels in some places, but there is little doubt that the parks and resorts are going to be busy, so plan accordingly.

Remember that last year's introduction of tiered park pricing for one-day tickets means that you must have purchased a "Peak" ticket to visit during a "Peak" day. So, while you are "free" to use an unexpired "Peak" day ticket to visit a park during a "Value" or "Regular" day, the opposite is not true; and, you may recall, one day tickets for Magic Kingdom are more expensive than the other parks. Gold and Silver Passholder blockouts are in effect the rest of 2017.

If riding certain rides with the shortest waits possible is important to you and your fellow visitors, remember to use your Disney FastPass+ reservations. All park guests with valid admission media can book up to three (with category limitations at Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, and in Pandora–The World of Avatar in Disney's Animal Kingdom) in advance, so it is a good idea to buy your tickets and set up your My Disney Experience account ahead of your visit. Indeed, as we have observed numerous times throughout 2017, there is no need to make your first major wait of the day the wait in line at the ticket booths at TTC or the park gates!


Open since just May, the beauty of Pandora–The World of Avatar and its attractions continue to draw larger crowds to the Disney's Animal Kingdom than in the past. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Of course, be aware, that since it opened, Disney's FastPass+ service "sells out" of reservation capacity for some attractions like the extremely popular Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom, and even in its second year of operation, Epcot's Frozen Ever After attraction at the Norway pavilion during the advance windows open only to resort guests, so if you are planning only a few days out, your choices may be limited—and even more so at this time of year. Of course, cancelations and other Disney magic may occur, so it never hurts to keep going back to the My Disney Experience App or to the in-park kiosks to check during the day of your visit.

Expect that Table Service dining reservations bookings will also be limited and walk-ups at many locations are turned away. Check the My Disney Experience App, 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463), Guest Relations, and/or Disney Resorts Concierge Desks for the latest availability. For the Quick Counter Service locations, be sure to check out the new Mobile Order feature added to the My Disney Experience App during 2017. Like buying your park tickets in advance, it allows you to skip a long line of folks ordering food with a cast member and proceed right to the pick-up window when the App notifies you that your order is ready.

The best advice at this time of year around Walt Disney World is to remain patient, especially with other guests, and, most of all, the cast members. The parking lots can and will fill up; I personally have seen the Magic Kingdom parking lot closed, and cars backed up along World Drive from the toll plaza all the way the two miles to the ramps from Epcot one recent Christmas Day afternoon. The parks can reach capacity and close: remember that Disney's Hollywood Studios is operating with reduced capacity because of the closure of the Streets of America and Backlot areas to make way for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and Toy Story Land; Epcot tends to have the most breathing room, even on days the park sets attendance records, though remember that the high-capacity-per-hour Ellen's Energy Adventure at Universe of Energy is now closed to make way for the future Guardians of the Galaxy themed adventure.


The Guardians of the Galaxy-themed attraction replacing Ellen's Energy Adventure is expected to open in time for Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary in 2021. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

A New Cirque du Soleil Show in Development for Disney Springs

Just days before La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil takes its final bow at the theater located on the West Side of Disney Springs, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced that it will continue its nearly twenty year collaboration with Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. A new original show is now in development by Cirque du Soleil that will pay homage to Disney's rich history of animation. "We are incredibly inspired by Disney's immense creative universe. We are convinced that bringing Disney's magic to life on stage will touch audiences and bring them back to their childhood," according to Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group.


"La Nouba" by Cirque du Soleil takes its final bow on December 31, 2017. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The details and debut of the new show have not yet been announced. La Nouba closes after its last performance on December 31.

Patina Restaurant Group Previews New Concepts at Disney Springs

As regular readers will recall, Patina Restaurant Group is developing a dining and entertainment complex in the Landing area of Disney Springs that encompasses the former footprint of Pleasure Island's Adventurers Club and BET Soundstage (and, before that, the Neon Armadillo) Club. Once fully open, the complex will include The Edison, Maria & Enzo's Ristorante, Enzo's Hideaway Tunnel Bar, and Pizza Ponte. As we mentioned last week, Michelin star winning Chef Theo Schoenegger, previously Executive Chef at Sinatra, an Italian fine dining restaurant located at Wynn Las Vegas and Patina Restaurant Group's signature location, Patina, located at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, will be the Executive Chef of Maria & Enzo's and Enzo's Hideaway.


Four Patina Restaurant Group concepts are opening soon at Disney Springs. Images courtesy of Patina Restaurant Group.

After a number of construction-related delays, we finally had the opportunity to take a hard hat sneak peek tour of the complex last week. Even though construction was still on-going during our media tour (we learned later last week that many public tours won by guests were cancelled after the media tours due to on-going construction), the attention to detail in the complex is quite impressive. From authentic antiques in The Edison, to Art Deco-inspired art in the main dining room of Maria & Enzo's, and high-quality themed finishes throughout (and even artistic grafitti in the Hideaway), these venues will immerse guests in their story.


From the top level of the Orange Garage, the scope of the new Patina Restaurant Group's complex can be seen along the shore of Lake Buena Vista. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


On Wednesday, December 13, Patina Restaurant Group conducted a hard hat, sneak peek media tour of its new concepts opening soon at Disney Springs. Images courtesy of Patina Restaurant Group.

Earlier this month, Disney Parks Blog revealed the storyline for these venues to fit them within the overall story of the Landing neighborhood that replaced Pleasure Island. In the story, when approaching the complex from the West Side, the first structure is the former Disney Springs Air Terminal. It has an Art Deco structure reminiscent of those of the early 1930s. The terminal was originally home to a small bakery in the terminal's lobby owned by Italian immigrants Maria & Enzo who, after the terminal closed, purchased the entire complex and preserved it.


Approaching the complex from the West Side, the first structure is the former Disney Springs Air Terminal. The smokestack is at the former powerplant that will be the home of The Edison. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

First, Maria & Enzo opened Pizza Ponte (which we did not get to tour), an extension of the bakery in the story. It will be a quick service location with Sicilian-style pizza by the slice, sandwiches, and pastries. They then expanded and preserved the terminal as a restaurant, their namesake Maria & Enzo's, showcasing a southern Italian menu. Surrounding the main dining room, an impressive period-style mural depicts the destinations once served by seaplanes that departed the terminal as well as a period-style metal globe chandelier. Signage in the main dining room recalls its prior use as the departure lounge for the terminal; you may also be selected for seating in the smaller "First Class Lounge" (or request it when you make a reservation).


The quick service Pizze Ponte is located immediately next to the bridge. Maria & Enzo's is next door in the main terminal building, and The Edison is beyond that near the smokestack. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The globe chandelier above the main dining room of Maria & Enzo's is surrounded by the period-style, geographically accurate mural of locations that the former Disney Springs airport served (in its backstory). Photo courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.

As the story of the complex continues, after the couple purchased the terminal, Enzo discovered a former "bootlegger's hideout" in the tunnels beneath the terminal that connected it to the power plant next door. Now Enzo's Hideaway, entered by walking down the stairs next to STK Orlando, the former speakeasy has a wall of grafiti that furthers the tales of its storied past. The Roman-inspired dining menu will also include adult beverage nods to its storied rum-running past: it will include a selection of mixed craft cocktails. A "Sunday Supper" will allow guests to bring their own beverages without a corking fee and the venue will also host hard ticket events.


The themed tunnels of Enzo's Hideaway are (outside the storyline for the complex) actually some of the tunnels that previously included backstage Pleasure Island cast member areas and green rooms for performers. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


A grafitti wall created by the designers of Enzo's Hideaway continues the story of the tunnel's past. Photo courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.

Guests in the Hideaway can make their way through the tunnels all the way into the lower level of The Edison in the former powerplant. The Edison is billed as a "lavish industrial Gothic-style destination for fine food, handcrafted cocktails and exciting nightlife." The impressive, detailed decor of The Edison includes actual antique pieces and (outside the storyline) a nod to the venue's Los Angeles counterpart. Guests that enter from the main entrance along the walkway between the complex and STK Orlando (rather than the Hideaway tunnels) will immediately see a larger industrial-style mechanical clock before descending the staircase (which is some of the steel that remains of the former Adventurers Club) to the main room on the lower level.


Antique boilers are a focal point for guests entering The Edison from the Hideaway tunnels (and all guests that make their way downstairs). Photo courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.


A large mechanical clock faces the main, upstairs entrance to The Edison. Photo courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.


The theme of The Edison is called "Industrial Gothic." Photo courtesy Patina Restaurant Group.

During the day, The Edison will be family friendly with an American cuisine lunch menu and an early evening dinner menu. Around 10 p.m., however, the venue becomes an adults-only (21-and-up) nightspot "unlike anything else at Disney Springs" with what Patina calls a "groundbreaking beverage menu" and dining options which will include a "bartenders breakfast" (traditional breakfast foods served late at night or in the wee hours of the morning). Aerialists and other entertainers will appear throughout the night. During its adults-only nightspot hours, the venue will have a dress code (no ball caps, sleeveless shirts or flip-flops, for example) and will have a cover charge. Its nighttime operations, we have been told however, will not be quite as risque as its Los Angeles counterpart, but rather more in keeping with its Disney property locale like the Pleasure Island clubs of the past.

So far, we know that The Edison will open with a sold-out, $150/person New Year's Eve Grand Opening party from 7:30 p.m. until midnight on December 31. During its dining operations, The Edison seats 280 guests. While The Edison can be configured for parties and corporate rentals for up to 450 guests, The Edison announced that it was selling 350 tickets for the Grand Opening. The Edison will offer discounts for Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, Cast Members, and Tables in Wonderland cardholders, and it is expected that the other table-service venues will as well, but, as of publication, dates and operating hours for the rest of the new complex have not yet been announced. The complex is expected to be fully operational in early 2018.

Patina Restaurant Group also operates Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs, and Via Napoli and Tutto Italia at Epcot's Italy pavilion at Epcot. At D23 Expo back in July, Disney announced that Patina will also manage the new space-themed restaurant to be built in Future World East at Epcot.


Two new ramen dishes are now offered at Morimoto Street Food, the outdoor counter service window at the restaurant. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka, sampling the chicken.

Epcot Disney on Broadway Concert & Candlelight Processional Narrators Calendar

The America Gardens Theatre on the shore of World Showcase Lagoon opposite the entrance to The American Adventure is home to numerous shows throughout the year. The nightly Candlelight Processional continues its performances there through December 30, and then, starting January 12, the Disney on Broadway Concert Series takes the stage Fridays through Mondays during the Epcot International Festival of the Arts.

For the convenience of our readers, we list all of these performances in our Google Calendar of Epcot Events. You can also add it to any Calendar that supports the iCal format (like iPhone and Mac) by copying this link.

The calendar is provided "As is, where is" and without any guarantees, as a courtesy. Given the effort it took to create it, we do respectfully request that you do not post our entire calendar on another site without first asking our permission. We do not know why Walt Disney World Resort has not created this sort of functionality outside of the My Disney Experience app itself.


Candlelight Processional continues nightly through December 30. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Views Around the World

We have a few views from all four Theme Parks this week, including a few from my first visit to the Behind the Seeds tour at The Land pavilion in a number of years, and, as promised yesterday (and mentioned in the Writer's Note today), more images from Disney's Hollywood Studios on Saturday night while I was there as an invited media guest for Star Wars: Galactic Nights. Even this week, as always, bits of news are amongst the photo captions.

Magic Kingdom (& surrounding area)


Be aware that traffic patterns are changing around the Magic Kingdom Parking Toll Plaza. For the second time in as many months, the pattern for traffic heading to Magic Kingdom area resorts that now bypasses the Toll Plaza has changed. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Flyover ramp construction continues all around the Magic Kingdom Parking Toll Plaza area. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


At least as of this weekend, there were no visible indications at The Hall of Presidents as to when its new show will debut and no estimate is provided on the My Disney Experience App. The Muppets Present Great Moments in History show does include appearances by Sam Eagle above the entrance to the Hall (in the Declaration of Indepence version of the show). Just before publication, we did hear reports of the attraction having "soft" (unannounced) openings on Monday and WFTV-Orlando reports that the attraction officially reopens today. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Epcot


The team responsible for decorating the greenhouses at The Land pavilion appear to be making the winter melon a decoration akin to a pickle on a Christmas Tree. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


There is more holiday decor in the greenhouses at The Land pavilion than in recent years. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The Behind the Seeds tour remains true to Epcot's "edutainment" mission. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The methods of growing tomato plants displayed on the Behind the Seeds tour yield crops for approximately 18 months. The harvested tomatoes are served at Epcot. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Even in areas that can only be seen by cast members and guests on the Behind the Seeds tour, there are "hidden" Mickeys in The Land pavilion greenhouses. Panoramic Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


An interesting fact mentioned on the Behind the Seeds tour this week: this palm tree is growing faster than expected and may reach the roof before the roof is scheduled to be replaced in approximately 2022. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's Hollywood Studios


Planets representing the Dark Side and Light Side of the Star Wars universe appear on banners on the red carpet for guests arriving for the Star Wars: Galactic Nights Event. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Warwick Davis talked about one his best known roles before introducing the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge panel. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


As we covered yesterday, Scott Trowbridge, Portfolio Creative Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering discussed some of the details of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The Imagineering and Lucasfilm team working on Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge were particularly excited by research trips to places like Istanbul and Marrakesh where they discovered details like those shown here. Expect to see this level of detail in the new land. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Star Wars: Launch Bay (in the Animation Courtyard) now shows models of props relevant to "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


For Star Wars: Galactic Nights, the regular lighting and Aerosmith music of the Rock 'n' Rollercoaster were replaced by projected starfighters and Star Wars music. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Without the visual cues like the road signs along the track about when the corkscrew and turns occur, the Rock 'n' Rollercoaster almost seemed like a different ride during Star Wars: Galactic Nights. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


The Chinese Theatre was lit as if by the First Order ahead of the finale of Star Wars: Galactic Nights. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


For the first time in a long time, Miss Piggy stands atop a fountain rather than a planter box in the Grand Avenue Park (formerly Muppets Courtyard). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney's Animal Kingdom


Disney's Animal Kingdom, including Pandora–The World of Avatar, has longer operating hours than during the holiday seasons of past years, but is not scheduled to remain open as late as it did during this past summer season. There is no scheduled New Year's Eve countdown, for example; the park will close hours before midnight on December 31. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Even when the largest lotus flower barge does not appear in the Rivers of Light show, the show may go on (as it did here, on December 13, without that barge's fire effects). Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney Springs


Last week I asked does anyone know what these Disney Springs characters are supposed to be. Thank you (below) to Disney Creative Entertainment Director Tom Vazzana for his Tweet in response. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Construction continues at the site of Wine Bar George toward its anticipated opening in the Spring. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


Construction continues at the site of the new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill next door to the Coca-Cola Store. It is expected to open during 2018. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.


It is a rather busy time of year to visit Santa along the Christmas Tree Trail. At this location, guests are given a "return time" so that they do not have to wait in line for the amount of time posted on the sign. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

One Passholder's Tip

This section of the Update provides our MousePlanet readers with the benefit of my years of experience as a longtime Walt Disney World Four Parks Annual Passholder, and lots of personal trial and errors, one (often weekly) tip at a time.

One Passholder's Tip #39: You can actually buy Disney Gift Cards to save money!


Disney Gift Cards are sold in many stores, not just at Disney Parks and Resorts. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Just as I wrote last week, often I hear folks complaining about how much money everything costs at Walt Disney World Resort. But where last week I wrote about watching fellow guests actually throwing money away, this week, as many folks may be searching out last minute gifts (which I hear are often gift cards), I thought I would take a moment to talk about one of the lesser known ways to save a little money when visiting Walt Disney World Resort (and all of the other Disney Parks and Resorts, Stores, and Disney Cruise Line ships where they are accepted).

Before getting into the details, be aware that this tip requires you do a bit of research about the credit cards you carry and the stores where you shop. Like I have often written about visiting Walt Disney World Resort, the more homework you do in advance, the more likely that you will have a better experience. For this tip, you need to know which of your credit cards provide with cash back, at what rate, at what stores, and whether those things are true when purchasing gift cards from those stores. Then, you need to be sure the stores you are purchasing gift cards from are not selling counterfeits—a good rule of thumb to start with when it comes to counterfeits is if the deal seems to good to be true, it probably is.

So, if you are following the thoughts behind the homework, the tip here is to look for legitimate merchants that sell Disney Gift Cards for less than face value. Membership clubs, for example, sometimes sell Disney Gift Cards for up to a 5% discount over their face value. For example, in the past, I have found a well-known club selling $100 denomination Disney Gift Cards for around $95. It is a small savings, but it is real.

Next, whether or not you find the cards sold at a discount, this second part applies when you use a credit card that pays you cash back. Some credit cards pay cash back on all transactions; some pay cash back at certain stores at certain times. This is where your homework comes in and this is where your own personal discipline for making sure that you do not end up paying a high transaction fee or interest on your purchase is also required. When you find a place that sells legitimate Disney Gift Cards at a discount and then get cash back for your purchase, your savings when spending at Walt Disney World go up just that much more. Indeed, when you make your food, merchandise, or other purchases around the Resort that are eligible for other discounts you get (Passholder, DVC, Tables in Wonderland, etc.), your savings are even bigger when you pay with the Disney Gift Card you bought at a discount and/or received cash back for purchasing.

Again, this Tip truly does require that you do homework, read rules, and be vigilant. Mileage varies (even when you are not trying to earn miles) as some of the rules may change from time to time on your credit cards and, as I said, you have to watch out for unscrupulous merchants and deals that truly seem "too good to be true." Remember, Membership Clubs may charge entrance fees or surcharges to certain levels of membership that may alter your results. Other retailers may not accept credit cards for gift card purchases. Some credit cards will not pay cash back for gift card purchases. Be governed accordingly and happy shopping.

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

This and That

…Passholders still have an opportunity to pick up their special gift magnet at Disney's Hollywood Studios. While supplies last, Walt Disney World extended the offer through December 23. Be sure to have your Pass card and Photo I.D. and visit the shops on Hollywood Boulevard.

…Don't forget, there is still time to #ShareYourEars on Instagram, Facebook & Twitter! Photos can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram between now and December 25, 2017. Note that the images must be publicly shared for Disney to count them toward the campaign.

…Also don't forget the "Disney Parks Magical Christmas Celebration" on ABC-TV on Christmas Day, December 25 from 10 a.m. until noon Eastern. Julianne Hough and Nick Lachey host the Walt Disney World Resort performance segments and Jesse Palmer co-hosts from Disneyland for its parade and performances, including Idina Menzel singing "When You Wish Upon a Star" from the steps of Sleeping Beauty Castle. You may spot yours truly during the performance of 98° at Cinderella Castle. If you have the new "Made with Magic 3.0 Connected Ear Hat" you can even "Glow at Home" with a Bluetooth connected smart device and the Shop Disney Parks app.

…Anala and Jeda, the first Sumatran tiger cubs born at Disney's Animal Kingdom, are slowly being introduced to their habitat at Maharajah Jungle Trek. As you may recall, earlier this year, one of the tiger viewing areas was refurbished to prepare for the park's participation in a breeding program to further conservation efforts of the Species Survival Plan of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums to protect this critically endangered species. There are fewer than 500 Sumatran tigers remaining in the wild.


Disney Parks Blog shared a first look at the Sumatran tiger cubs at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Video © Disney.

…In the past few weeks, we have taken you on a photo tour of some of the holiday displays around the resorts of Walt Disney World. This week, Disney Vacation Club posted its own video tour of highlights.


Disney Vacation Club shows highlights of the holiday displays at the resorts around Walt Disney World. Video © Disney.

Disney Parks Blog provided some additional details about Levy Restaurant group's reimagining of the former Portobello Country Italian Trattoria next door to Paddlefish which will reopen as Terralina Crafted Italian in early 2018.


Construction continues at Terralina Crafted Italian towards an anticipated opening in early next year. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

…Walt Disney Parks & Resorts was recently honored by Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) as an industry leader in providing safe, quality dining experiences to guests with allergies and special diets at the 20th annual Food Allergy Ball in New York City. Be sure to inform the Walt Disney World cast member taking your order of any allergies and sensitivities you have. From personal experience dining with friends, I have seen Disney Chefs explain food preparation techniques and options in depth at a table-service location to assist guests with food sensitivities and allergies select menu items that help avoid cross-contamination concerns.

…Earlier this month, George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort, announced that the Resort donated $50,000 to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida to support the needs of evacuees from Puerto Rico recovering from the devestation of Hurricane Maria. The Resort and its cast members have supported the food bank for more than 25 years. The Resort also donated $1.1 million to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, and Disney VoluntEARS also delivered more than 25,000 gifts to Toys for Tots in Central Florida for the holidays.

…Last night, Disney Parks Blog showed a "first look" at two new MagicBand 2 colors at Walt Disney World. The first, released yesterday, is brown and currently features the Seven Dwarfs as well as a few diamonds dug from their famous mine for $22.99. The other, debuting on January 8, is a solid-color millennial pink (a "softer" shade of pink with a "delicate hue) which is described as an addition to the "rose gold" of the popular Minnie Ears. The new band will sell at retail for $12.99.

…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 email in the box below.

 

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Crowd Forecast

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Date Overall
Tuesday, December 19, 2017 8 / 10
Wednesday, December 20, 2017 9 / 10
Thursday, December 21, 2017 8 / 10
Friday, December 22, 2017 9 / 10
Saturday, December 23, 2017 8 / 10

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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 email.

2017 Resort Events

  • Star Wars Experiences – Opened December 1, 2015 (ongoing)
  • Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire – The VOID at Disney Springs (Marketplace neighborhood) now open!
  • Holidays at Walt Disney World – Started November 9
  • Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – December 21 & 22
  • Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (formerly known as Holidays Around the World) – November 19 to December 30
  • Candlelight Processional at Epcot – November 24 to December 30

2018 Resort 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. For current information on runDisney registration dates and capacity, see Lorree Tachell's runDisney Race Capacity Updates in the Team MousePlanet forum on our MousePad discussion board.

2018 Disney Vacation Club Moonlight Magic Events (Including Event Reservation Opening Dates)

  • Moonlight Magic at Magic Kingdom – January 11 & 28; February 6, 2018
    Members with Resort Reservations: Now open!
    All Members (pending remaining availability): December 21, 2017
     
  • Moonlight Magic at Disney's Animal Kingdom – March 21; April 17; May 16, 2018
    Members with Resort Reservations: February 8, 2018
    All Members (pending remaining availability): February 22, 2018
     
  • Moonlight Magic at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon – May 30; June 11, 2018.
    Members with Resort Reservations: April 19, 2018
    All Members (pending remaining availability): May 3, 2018
     
  • Moonlight Magic at Epcot – July 16; August 13, 2018
    Members with Resort Reservations: June 6, 2018
    All Members (pending remaining availability): June 20, 2018
     
  • Moonlight Magic at Disney's Hollywood Studios – September 19 & 26; October 3, 2018
    Members with Resort Reservations: August 30, 2018
    All Members (pending remaining availability): September 13, 2018
Introduced in 2017 as part of Membership Magic Ever After, complimentary Moonlight Magic events invite Disney Vacation Club Members (that are eligible for the Membership Extras benefits) and their guests to visit Disney Parks at the end of their regular operating hours and after the park has closed to the public. Members (and their parties) with reservations find shorter-than-usual wait times on popular attractions, meet rare characters, enjoy complimentary refreshments, have dance parties, and more. Please note that, in order to allow as many Members as possible to enjoy Moonlight Magic, only one event date for each participating park is available per Membership. Visit disneyvacationclub.com during specified reservation windows to (attempt to) secure access to the event as well as to find additions to the Moonlight Magic event slate, updated party hours, and transportation information.

Refurbishments and Attraction Closures

Note: Not all attraction closures have been officially confirmed by Disney, and are all subject to change at any time. All refurbishment schedules are estimates only. We recommend checking for updates as you plan your visit. All information is subject to change without notice. To get the most recent updates, visit DisneyWorld.com or use the MyDisneyExperience App on your iOS or Android device.

Magic Kingdom

  • Splash Mountain – will close again for refurbishment scheduled early January through early February 2018.
  • The Hall of Presidents – My Disney Experience no longer lists a show re-opening date though just before publication we have heard of "soft" (unannounced) openings on Monday, and WFTV-Orlando reports that the attraction officially reopens today.
  • Stitch's Great Escape – closed on a "seasonal" basis - My Disney Experience currently says "an expected re-opening [is] scheduled in late 2017."

Epcot

  • Ellen's Energy Adventure at Universe of Energy – Closed August 13, 2017, to make way for a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed attraction in approximately 2021.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

  • The Great Movie Ride – Closed August 13, 2017, to make way for Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway at a date to be announced.

Disney's Animal Kingdom

  • Flights of Wonder - Final shows on December 31, 2017

Blizzard Beach

  • Closed for Seasonal Refurbishment through January 6, 2018
    Note: closure includes Winter Summerland Miniature Golf

Typhoon Lagoon

  • Seasonal Refurbishment scheduled to begin January 7, 2018

Disney Springs

  • DisneyQuest – Closed as of July 3, 2017, to make way for The NBA Experience.
     
  • Portobello Country Italian Trattoria – Closed April 24, 2017. Will reopen as Terralina Crafted Italian, a new concept from James Beard award-winner and Top Chef Master Tony Mantuano and Chef Justin Plank. Its website, terralinacrafteditalian.com now says the restaurant is "Coming This Winter."
     
  • Wolfgang Puck Grand Café – closed its West Side location on August 1, 2017. Its location is being transformed to Jaleo, a restaurant featuring Spanish cuisine. A new Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill is under construction next door to the Coca-Cola Store and is expected to open in 2018.
     
  • La Nouba by Cirque du Soleil – ends its run on December 31, 2017. A new Cirque du Soleil show is now in development with is premier date to be announced.

Resorts

  • Caribbean Beach – Centertown, the resort's marketplace, will be expanded with new waterfront dining and retail shopping areas. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in Summer 2018, with the overall project completed 2019-20. Due to the work, the following food service and retail locations are currently closed:
     
    • Old Port Royale Food Court
    • Shutters at Old Port Royale
    • Banana Cabana Pool Bar
    • Calypso Trading Post
       
  • Coronado Springs – A new 15-story tower overlooking Lago Dorado, the resort's central lake, will add 500 rooms featuring suites and concierge level services, and a rooftop dining facility that will include panoramic views of nighttime fireworks shows at the Theme Parks. The resort also plans to refurbish current resort rooms and transform some of its landscape. The project is expected to be completed 2019-20. DisneyMeetings.com offers an extended look at concept art for the re-imagined convention facilities and hotel.

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

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.

Travel Discounts for Annual Passholders

BE AWARE THAT MANY OF THE 45th ANNIVERSARY OF WALT DISNEY WORLD RESORT DINING DISCOUNTS WILL END ON DECEMBER 23, 2017. 2018 DISCOUNTS HAVE NOT BEEN ANNOUNCED AS OF THIS PUBLICATION AND OTHER DISCOUNTS AND BENEFITS HAVE EXPIRED OR CHANGED AS OF OCTOBER 1, 2017. ALSO, BE AWARE THAT THE PASSHOLDER (GOLD) CARD AND PHOTO I.D. MUST BE SHOWN TO RECEIVE A DISCOUNT AND OTHER BENEFITS.

For the most up-to-date list of locations offering dining discounts to Annual Passholders, visit this page of DisneyWorld.com. Be aware that dining locations that previously were participating in the 20% discount celebrating the 45th Anniversary (excluding alcoholic beverages, tax, and gratuity), have announced that they will continue to do so through December 23, 2017. Many other dining locations offer Passholders 10% discounts during some or all meal periods (also excluding alcoholic beverages, tax and gratuity). The special 30% discount offered at several dining locations during limited hours has ended.

The latest information on this page of DisneyWorld.com lists discounts at many merchandise locations across Walt Disney World Resort, including many locations that continue to show 20% discounts off regularly priced merchandise.

Magic Strollers, "a Disney featured stroller provider," is continuing to honor its $5 discount on stroller rental when staying at a Disney Resort Hotel and using coupon code WDWAP17 to arrange your rental. It is once again listed on the Passholder website.

Visit the DisneyWorld.com Special Offers page (filtered for Passholders) for information, or call (407) 939-7676 to book by phone.

Additional information about available "Passholder Extras" are available here, including discount game tickets to the NFL Pro Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, an Orlando Magic Jersey Offer for purchasing or renewing an Annual Pass at Amway Center in Orlando, a 15% discount on the Ultimate Nights of Adventure VIP Tour at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Spa & Salon Discounts around Walt Disney World Resort, Amphicar Tour discounts at Disney Springs, runDisney Early Registration discounts, Best Friends Pat Care discounts, Children's Activity Centers discounts, and more (including discounted stays at Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii).

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

Discounts for Disney Rewards VISA Credit Card Holders

REMINDER TO MAGICBAND USERS: YOU MUST STILL SHOW YOUR DISNEY VISA CREDIT CARD TO RECEIVE DISCOUNTS AND OTHER PERKS; DISCOUNTS ARE NOT AUTOMATICALLY APPLIED EVEN IF YOU HAVE LINKED YOUR DISNEY VISA CREDIT CARD TO YOUR MAGICBAND.

To conserve space, we have eliminated some of the participating location details of the Disney Visa Rewards offers from this section. Visit Disney Visa Rewards website for the latest participating location information.


20 percent off Joffrey's coffee/tea kiosks

Disney Visa cardholders receive 20 percent off their entire purchase at Joffrey's coffee/tea kiosks throughout Walt Disney World, including Tea Traders Café by Joffrey's, and online at Joffreys.com with code: VISABEANS


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. Discounts are not available on Premium VIP tours, programs exclusive to groups, or group team building programs.


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). Offer excludes alcoholic beverages, merchandise, tobacco, room service, holiday buffets, tax and gratuity. Discount does not apply to the following dates: 12/24/17, 12/25/17, 12/31/17, 1/1/18, 2/14/18, 4/1/18, 5/13/18 and 7/4/18, and may not be available at all meal times. Visit this page of disneyrewards.com for the latest list of restaurants and 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 this page of disneyrewards.com.

Cardholders also receive 10% off select merchandise purchases of $50 or more at the following Walt Disney World Resort Operating Participant merchandise locations including Basin, Basin White, Chapel Hats, Good Fortune Gifts and House of Good Fortune, kidsHeritage, Luxury of Time, Marrakesh Emporium Arts & Crafts, Joffrey's coffee/tea kiosks and Tea Traders Café by Joffrey's, Sperry and Volcom.


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. Visit this page of disneyrewards.com for participating locations and restrictions.


10 percent off select recreation experiences

Disney Visa cardholders receive 15 percent off the non-discounted price of the recreation experiences listed below:

  • Carriage Rides at Disney's Port Orleans Resort and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
     
  • Horseback Trail Rides at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground

Free character photos 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 complimentary downloads of your photos (one time per day), which may be accessed in the MyDisneyExperience App (or website).


Free character photos at a private meet and greet location at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Present your Disney's Premier Visa Card or Disney Rewards Visa Card for access to a private character meet and greet at the Star Wars Launch Bay in the Animation Courtyard at Disney's Hollywood Studios for the cardholder and up to five guests. The event is hosted daily from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. You'll receive complimentary downloads of your photos (one time per day), which may be accessed in the MyDisneyExperience App (or website).

Travel Discounts for Military Personnel

Thanks to our reader Dr. Smith who alerted us to the website militarydisneytips.com.


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.


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.


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 militarydisneytips.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.


2018 Armed Forces Salute Tickets

January 1 through December 19, 2018

  • Four-Day Park Hopper Tickets: $226.00
  • Four-Day Park Hopper PlusTickets: $266.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Tickets: $246.00
  • Five-Day Park Hopper Plus Tickets: $286.00

NOTE: Spring Blockout Dates have not yet been announced! Tickets must be used by December 19, 2018.


Read more information at militarydisneytips.com, visit your base ticket office, or when at Walt Disney World, visit Shades of Green.


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

Travel Discounts for Florida Residents

Expect Winter 2018 offers will be announced soon.

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

Travel Discounts for Canada Residents

Canadian Residents can now receive special pricing on theme park tickets to Walt Disney World Resort in Florida until February 10, 2018. Save 20% on advance purchase of 4-Day or Longer Magic Your Way Tickets

Savings compared to the price of the same ticket sold online at Disneyworld.ca. Tickets are valid for one Theme Park per day unless Park Hopper option is purchased. Tickets and options must be used within 14 days of first use. First use must be on or before December 31, 2018. Proof of Canadian residency required. Offer not valid at Theme Park ticket window.

All adult Guests who will use Canadian resident tickets or passes must present valid proof of Canadian residency that includes government-issued photo ID to exchange the certificate for a valid ticket at the Theme Park ticket window or Guest Relations prior to first use. Tickets and options are nontransferable, nonrefundable and exclude events/activities separately priced. Admission is subject to capacity closures and to other restrictions.

Check disneyparks.ca for the latest offers from Disney.

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

Travel Discounts for U.K. Residents

The website GetWestLondon.co.uk has an updated list of some of the offers available to folks planning ahead to holiday at Walt Disney World Resort from the United Kingdom.

You can see the latest offers for U.K. residents on Disney World's U.K. packages website.

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


 

Comments

  1. By carolinakid

    The HOP show is on YouTube. They've got 45's mannerisms down completely. Even the thumbs up. It's uncanny how they do that!

  2. By Dave1313

    Great to see Miss Piggy's fountain back to normal!

    Thanks also for sharing the tiger cub video. That was great! I hope to see them in the spring sometime.

    Oh, yeah, and Happy Holidays back to you and all the users and staff here at MousePlanet!

  3. Discuss this article on MousePad.