Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 15-21, 2020

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for September 15-21, 2020

Writer's Note & News (Combined)

Thanks to Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix for writing our Walt Disney World Resort Updates while I took a little writing break the past two weeks. For those of you following along our "Fun at Home" shows, even with the little writing break, I kept on running those. And yes, you really should tune in! We've started playing our very own game show on each episode called "Jibe Time" where I pose original, Disney-related hypothetical fill-in-the-blanks questions that have no right or wrong answers, and our players try to come up with fun answers that jibe with as many of the other panelists and viewers for points (and, ultimately, bragging rights).

Shelley Caran from On the Go in MCO recaptured Jibe Time bragging rights last week, and she will be taking on new-to-our-show challenger David Picciano from Now That's Disney. The "Fun at Home" MousePlanet LIVE! Show #24 stream begins, tomorrow, Wednesday, September 16, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 Pacific. Really loyal MousePlanet readers tune in because they know the show serves up free _____________. See, it is that easy, and you can even just keep this page open until showtime and watch it here (or on our Facebook page or Twitter/Periscope channel)!

Your browser may require that you reload the page at showtime. To participate and provide answers in comments during the live show, you need view the show on YouTube, Facebook or Periscope/Twitter where you may need to be logged in to an account. You can also replay the show here after it has concluded.

As you probably know, Walt Disney World Resort continues its phased reopening operations. As I noted when I last reported here (and as I have reported on our recent Fun at Home shows), the parks have reduced operating hours for the usually slow weeks the rest of September. News about new and expanded offerings this fall and upcoming Holiday Season are below in roughly chronological order (so yes, the Holiday Season news is last), but, in the meantime, Orlando Sentinel reports that Walt Disney Company's Chief Financial Officer told investors that the Company expects to be operating about 50% of its Florida resort hotels by the end of the month during the recent Bank of America Virtual Media, Communications & Entertainment Conference. According to Orlando Sentinel, she also said that completing the Star Wars hotel remains a priority. Meanwhile, the refurbishment of EPCOT's Spaceship Earth and its announced new Mary Poppins-themed attraction are on hold.

As we continue to advise, if you plan to visit Walt Disney World Resort, be sure to check the latest requirements of the venue you plan to visit. You can review Disney's requirements here. If you are traveling from out of state, be sure to check your home area's self quarantine restrictions for those that travel to and from Florida. And, of course, keep an eye on the National Hurricane Center's reports. As of publication, there are five active systems being monitored, with none currently forecast to have direct impact on Central Florida in the next five days. For those along the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, are thoughts are with you in the coming days as Hurricane Sally continues its very slow approach (with its very outer-bands providing above-average rainfall in Central Florida the past several days).

Halloween Entertainment Experiences Available this Fall at Magic Kingdom

With Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party cancelled for the season, Magic Kingdom recently announced Halloween-themed options available during its limited phased reopening operations from September 15 to October 31. This past week, additional entertainment details were released.

The socially distanced character cavalcades that have been popping up since the park's phased reopening will now include Mickey Mouse and friends dressed up in Halloween costumes. On some days, there will be cavalcades of Disney Villains; another procession will include Jack Skellington.

Character cavalcades will be Halloween themed.
Character cavalcades will be Halloween-themed at Magic Kingdom through October 31. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

With the recent agreement reached between Disney and Actors Equity for the return of cast members represented by that union, Magic Kingdom will also welcome back the Dapper Dans starting September 20. As part of the Halloween celebration, they will perform "as their undead alter egos The Cadaver Dans."

Savi's Workshop-Handbuilt Lightsabers Returns September 20

The recent agreement reached with Actors Equity appears also to have smoothed the way for the September 20 reopening of Savi's Workshop-Handbuilt Lightsabers in Star Wars Galaxy's Edge at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In this interactive extra-charge experience, guests build keepsake one-of-a-kind lightsabers and bring them to life with a kyber crystal under the guidance of "mystical Gatherers."

Reservations for Savi's Workshop open tomorrow, September 16. Remember, you also need a separate Disney Park Pass Reservation for the same date at Disney's Hollywood Studio. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

The venue's capacity has been reduced to allow for physical distancing. Advanced reservations open on DisneyWorld.com and the MyDisneyExperience App tomorrow, September 16 (and, like dining reservations, do not guarantee you admission to the park; you must make that Disney Parks Pass date-and-park-specific reservation separately). If in the park, you may check on walk-up availability at the shop.

Additional Fall Dining Options at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom

At Magic Kingdom, Cinderella's Royal Table at Magic Kingdom reopens for dining starting September 24, but, as Disney Parks Blog announced, "The princesses will be taking a break from their royal duties greeting guests." The "regal banquet" menu includes main courses including from roasted chicken breast, tenderloin of beef, and a chef's fish of the day.

Minnie's Seasonal Dining returns to Hollywood & Vine at Disney's Hollywood Studios starting September 25. Usually a buffet-style, character dining experience, the venue is making a few changes to promote social distancing and the new health and safety protocols in place around Walt Disney World Resort.

The venue will reopen with Minnie's Halloween Dine, where the "monster feast" is served at your table rather than buffet-style. Instead of meet and greets, guests will be able to "wave and snap photos" of characters. Minnie Mouse will be dressed as a "happy witch;" Goofy will be a "spooky cowboy;" Mickey will be a "funny vampire;" and Pluto gets a Halloween collar. The venue will be decorated for Halloween with themed background music.

Minnie Mouse will appear as a happy witch.
Minnie's Halloween Dine will include character appearances but not meet and greets. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Reservations for both of the above dining experiences opened on September 11 on DisneyWorld.com and on the My Disney Experience app. Remember, of course, dining reservations do not guarantee park admission - you need to make those date and park-specific reservations separately.

Also at Magic Kingdom, Gaston's Tavern has reopened. On October 8, ABC Commissary at Disney's Hollywood Studios will reopen daily for quick service lunch.

Holiday Celebrations in the Time of COVID-19

The "new environment" in which Walt Disney World Resort now operates during these "unprecedented times" brings changes to the way the parks and resorts will celebrate the Holiday Season this year too. The current health and safety measures will take a toll on a number of seasonal "guest favorites" but introduce a few new offerings from November 6 to December 30 (with Highlights from the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays starting on November 27). Decorations, themed merchandise, seasonal food and beverage offerings, and entertainment will be offered across the Resort.

Santa Claus will make pop-up appearances at all four parks and Disney Springs, "waving and exclaiming holiday wishes to all." File Photo from Christmas Day 2019 at EPCOT by Alan S. Dalinka.

As regular readers know, crowd-gathering events are curtailed during this phased reopening of the Resort. There are no full-fledged parades and no nighttime spectaculars featuring fireworks offered. Those limitations continue during the Holidays Season this year. Disney Parks Blog has confirmed that Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party at Magic Kingdom and Candlelight Processional at EPCOT will both be on hiatus as well.

At Magic Kingdom, the new mini-parade character cavalcades will take on "a special holiday twist, with Christmas friends" such as Gingerbread Men, Elves and Reindeer. Toy Soldiers will join the Main Street Philharmonic in marching through the park as well.

While there will be character cavalcades, there will be no Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party during 2020. File Photo from November 12, 2019 by Alan S. Dalinka.

At night at Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle will feature special holiday projection effects including a "whimsical Christmas sweater" and a "regal overlay of red, green and gold ornamentation." There will, however, be no Castle Dream Lights this year. That likely also means Queen Elsa won't be "freezing" the castle either.

The character flotillas on Discovery River at Disney's Animal Kingdom will be holiday themed (one will include Santa), as will the motorcades at Disney's Hollywood Studios. The Hollywood & Vine dining experience at Disney's Hollywood Studios will be transformed to yuletide dining hosted by Minnie Mouse, with Santa Goofy and others joining in.

As usual, EPCOT's holiday celebrations get underway a bit later than the other locations around the resort. Starting November 27, the day after Thanksgiving, the park will offer Highlights from the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays. Some of the Holiday kitchens (food and beverage kiosks) will return, the group JOYFUL! will take the stage inside World ShowPlace to perform holiday music, and Voices of Liberty will perform seasonal songs at the America Gardens Theatre. Characters will also appear in holiday promenades.

Candlelight Processional at EPCOT will be on hiatus during 2020. Enjoy these excerpts of Pat Sajak's turn at the podium in this file video from December 17, 2019 by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney Springs will offer decorated Christmas trees throughout its different districts (rather than along a single Christmas Tree Trail). Disney snowfall will occur in Town Center, The Landing and on the West Side. Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar will again be transformed into Jock Lindsey's Holiday Bar with decorations and limited-time menu offerings.

The resort hotels will have decorations and Christmas trees in their lobbies for the holidays. The gingerbread houses, however, will also be on hiatus.

Fall Florida Resident Special Offers

Walt Disney World Resort is offering Florida Residents discounts. Of course, reservations are required, limited, and subject to availability. Remember, however, the Disney Park Pass reservations system has different "allotments" of reservations for ticket purchasers, resort guests, and Annual Passholders.

Florida Resident Disney Magic Flex Ticket

Florida Residents can purchase this ticket to visit for 2, 3 or 4 days, one park per day. The 2-day ticket is $130 plus tax and must be used in its entirety by September 30. The 3-day ticket is $174 plus tax and must be used by December 18 (but is blocked out November 21-28). The 4-day ticket is $195 plus tax and likewise must be used with December 18 (and is also blocked out November 21-28).

Florida Resident Merchandise Discount

Florida Residents can receive a 20% discount on select merchandise at Walt Disney World Resort owned and operated locations on Mondays through Thursdays starting today, September 15 through October 29. Proof of residency required.

Florida Resident Resort Hotel Discounts

Florida Residents can save up to 35% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels (Deluxe and Villas), 30% (Moderate), 25% (Value) for stays most nights through December 25, 2020. Details and availability are on this page of DisneyWorld.com. If considering a resort stay, don't forget to check out the offers from our travel partner, Get Away Today, below.

Give Kids The World Village to Host Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular

Give Kids the World Village, the nonprofit resort near Walt Disney World Resort in Central Florida that provides critically ill children and their families weeklong, cost-free vacations, but has temporarily closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, issued a press release last week about an upcoming event to provide a way to celebrate the Holiday Season this year and support the Village.

Give Kids the World Village will celebrate Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular for 53 nights, from November 13, 2020, until January 3, 2021. Artist rendering courtesy Give Kids the World Village.

The text of the release follows:

For 34 years, the non-profit Give Kids The World Village has been brightening the lives of critically ill children and their families from around the world; and now, local businesses led by Presenting Sponsor Dreams Unlimited Travel will have the chance to illuminate the Village – literally. For 53 nights from Friday, November 13, through Sunday, January 3, 2021, the Village will come alive with Night of a Million Lights, a walk-through holiday light spectacular that is sure to warm the hearts of Central Florida residents. More than one million lights will adorn the 84-acre whimsical Village, including a 150-foot lighted tunnel leading to 33 decorated villas; more than 50 larger-than-life holiday-themed wireframes, some spanning more than 40 feet; an enormous incandescent gingerbread arch; and out-of-this-world space-themed decorations showcasing the Village's newest centerpiece, Henri's Starlite Scoops. Adding to the fully immersive lights and sounds experience, Santa Claus will greet guests from the balcony of Towne Hall, with Give Kids The World's beloved ambassadors, Mayor Clayton and Ms. Merry, on hand to lend some holiday cheer.

Corporate and community partners can get into the holiday spirit by adopting a villa, with the creative freedom to decorate it however they'd like for display throughout the 53 nights of the event. A friendly contest among the villas is guaranteed to bring some added fun and excitement, with long-time Village supporter Dreams Unlimited Travel already planning on ways to outshine the competition.

"We can't think of a better way to celebrate the season than by shining some light on the wonderful work Give Kids The World does to bring happiness and hope to critically ill children and their families through this event," said Dreams Unlimited Travel CEO Pete Werner.

Beginning on October 1, guests can purchase tickets on the Give Kids The World website at www.gktw.org to walk among the brilliant lights, vote on their favorite villas, and take part in a variety of family activities in a socially distant manner. Most of the Village's wheelchair-accessible attractions will be available at no cost, including The Enchanted Carousel, Marc's Dino Putt, Kelly's Sunny Swing, and Lori's Magical Flight – all elaborately decorated for the holidays. Complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream will also be served throughout each evening. In addition, guests can visit the Village's most iconic venue, the Castle of Miracles – featuring a mysterious forest, a wishing well that burps, a magic tree that makes pillows, and more. The Castle is highlighted by thousands of stars that fill the ceiling and the adjoining Star Tower, each placed in honor of a wish child who has visited the Village.

Proceeds from the event will support Give Kids The World's mission to provide wish vacations for critically ill children and their families. When wish-granting organizations receive a request from a critically ill child who wants to visit any of the world-class theme parks Central Florida has to offer, Give Kids The World fulfills the wish – providing each child and his/her family with a magical week-long stay at absolutely no cost. Each family receives transportation, accommodations in one of the Village's 166 storybook villas, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment, tickets to Orlando's world-class theme parks and attractions, and priceless experiences at the Village. Since 1986, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 176,000 families from 50 states and more than 76 countries.

"Children with critical illnesses face countless appointments, treatments and hospital stays, and they are often told ‘no' due to the limitations of their illness. We feel privileged to give wish children and their families a week of ‘yes' where they can forget their worries, experience joy, and spend priceless time together," said Give Kids The World President and CEO Pamela Landwirth. "We look forward to sharing some holiday joy with the community while making it possible for future wish children to have their wishes fulfilled."

Give Kids The World Village closed to wish families in mid-March due to the global pandemic, delaying more than 4,000 wishes. The Night of a Million Lights is designed to raise funds to ensure that wish trips can return bigger and better than ever before once the time is right reopen.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

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.

With Disney now accepting Resort Hotel reservations for 2020 and 2021, our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Disney has resumed new park ticket sales, but, at present and for the foreseeable future, requires guests to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). As prices go up, it becomes even more important to pay heed: Don't get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks. When available, only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today.

Get Away Today Logo

When you book your Walt Disney World Resort vacation* with Get Away Today for travel through September 26, 2021, you'll get a $100 Booking Bonus! Your booking bonus includes a $50 Disney Gift Card for your trip + a $50 Get Away Today credit for future travel valid for any of our destinations.

Plus, when you book with Get Away Today, you'll receive all of the perks that come standard with your Walt Disney World® Resort package and these bonuses:

  • Complimentary Concierge Services, including detailed planning assistance. A certified Disney Travel Agent is more valuable now than ever before as there have been many changes to the Park experience.
  • Complimentary Price Monitoring. If Disney releases a discount or special that can be applied to your reservation, we will do so automatically!

*Walt Disney World Resort vacation must include 2-night or longer Disney Resort Hotel and at least two theme park tickets to qualify for $100 Booking Bonus and complimentary concierge service.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here.

Get a vacation quote from Get Away Today.

Checkout Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.