Walt Disney World Resort Update for February 17-22, 2021

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for February 17-22, 2021

 Writer's Note, News & Views (Combined)

While most of the United States (and, heck, a whole lot of the Northern Hemisphere) has found itself blanketed in snow and/or chilled to some record low temperatures over this past week, Central Florida continued to see daily high temperatures in the mid-80s until just yesterday and today where the highs have only been in the mid-70s. Wherever you are, I hope you are doing okay and, indeed, still staying well. Don't fret, your weather will improve and here in Central Florida we'll have another cold snap or two before long and then it's heat and humidity, severe storms and hurricane season. It's the Circle of Life.

Spaceship Earth reflects the golden glow of a Central Florida Winter sunset. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The combined Valentines Day and Presidents Day weekend seemed to draw bigger crowds around Walt Disney World Resort. Notwithstanding rumors, we have seen no official statement about whether the parks have increased capacity beyond the previously announced 35% attendance caps. Photos on social media certainly show people in parks and, indeed, crowds at some points, but with queues physically distanced and attractions, shows, and other venues closed, it is sure hard to know for sure. I can tell you that, as an Annual Passholder, it seems to be getting harder to make advance Disney Park Pass reservations on some days for some parks. For example, I was thinking about heading to Disney's Animal Kingdom next weekend, but those reservations currently show full for APs!

As you may recall, Park Hopping once again became available as of January 1, but in a modified form (only for those with the benefit, only after 2 p.m., and only after you have made and used a Disney Park Pass reservation at another park that day). We have yet to see reports of Park Hopping becoming unavailable due to capacity, but as we head toward Spring Break, that may become something to stay aware of during park visits. Indeed, this week, I spotted signs at EPCOT noting that guest tickets will be checked before boarding transportation between parks for Park Hopping eligibility. If you have experienced this, please let us know!

Signs at EPCOT's main entrance advise guests regarding Park Hopping transportation procedures. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Remember, if you are planning to visit, the Walt Disney World Resort's phased reopening has health and safety protocols in place including: mandatory guest temperature checks, limited park capacity managed by requiring guests use of the Disney Park Pass System to reserve date-specific parks visit (plus have a valid ticket - and limited hours for park hopping for those with that benefit), heightened cleaning especially of high-touch areas, physical distancing, and enforced mandatory face coverings (except when eating and/or drinking while stationary and physically distanced from others not in your party). Be sure to check the My Disney Experience or DisneyWorld.com immediately before any planned visit for any last minute changes to phased reopening operations that may impact your visit.

For those of you who are considering a visit in the near-term or more-distant future, our travel partner Get Away Today can now help you with reservations up to 500 days in advance thanks to the latest changes announced by Walt Disney World Resort. More on that below.

Raya and the Last Dragon Experiences Coming to Disney's Animal Kingdom

Walt Disney Animation Studios next feature film is Raya and the Last Dragon which will be released simultaneously in theaters and streamed to Disney+ subscribers that purchase Premier Access on March 5. Disney's Animal Kingdom will offer two experiences related to the upcoming film. The latest trailer for the film can be viewed here or embedded in the following Tweet:

From February 19 through 21, artisans will work on a 40-ton sand sculpture themed to the film's fantasy world of Kumandra and featuring Raya, Tuk Tuk, Sisu the last dragon, and the Ongi. It will remain on display through the end of March.

Starting on February 22, The Animation Experience at Conservation Station will teach guests to draw characters from the film, including Raya's "faithful companion" Tuk Tuk which Disney Parks Blog describes as "part-pill bug, part-pug, part-high speed off-road vehicle and all adorable, Tuk Tuk has been Raya's best friend since she could hold him in the palm of her hand." The experience will include a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration for Tuk Tuk.

Views Around EPCOT

Since our last Update, I visited EPCOT to get a look at some of the new things that have debuted or changed in recent weeks, and to take in some more of the Taste of the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts before it concludes on February 22. The Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival begins on March 3, and, as I saw, in-park preparations are well-underway as well.


The old Leave-A-Legacy "monuments" were removed from the EPCOT entry plaza as part of the park's reimagination of the entrance area in 2019. When that project was announced, the park said that the Leave-A-Legacy images would appear in a new location outside the park gates in the future. Well, as we reported last week, the re-installation got underway. The new, more colorful display, now appears on fences between the parking lot and the newly constructed (but not yet used) security screening location on the east side of the park's main entrance. The colors have been described by Disney as being similar to the new color choices being displayed in the park's reimagination, like the recently repainted ticket "vacation planning" booths (though, to my eyes, they seem closer to the Festival of the Arts color scheme).

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts

The color scheme of the Festival of the Arts signage is similar to the newly installed Leave-A-Legacy display outside the park gates. The Festival concludes February 22. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival

The scaled-down version of the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival begins on March 3 and runs through July 5. Preparations in the park are already well underway.

Frozen's Anna appeared outside the Royal Sommerhus at Norway pavilion for physically distanced interactions with guests near where topiaries of the royal sisters usually stand during Flower & Garden Festival. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Soul of Jazz

As I previously reported, on February 1, to mark the start of Black History Month, "The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure" debuted inside the rotunda at EPCOT's The American Adventure pavilion. The new exhibit includes artifacts from legendary jazz musicians and highlights cities important to the development of the "distinctly American musical art form, originated by African Americans and fusing the influences of many different cultures." There has been no announced ending date for the display.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Transformation of EPCOT

While there has never been a clear timeline for the overall transformation of EPCOT, there are some signs of change visible around the park. When some parts of the EPCOT transformation were announced, like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind taking over the former Universe of Energy pavilion, Disney said these elements would be complete in time for the Resort's 50th Anniversary celebration. The Resort's 50th Anniversary is October 1, 2021. It is not clear what elements are still expected to debut by this fall.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Some construction walls remain in the entry plaza of the park, but, as previously reported, the new fountain and much of the plaza are no longer enclosed by construction walls. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Reminder: 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets Now Available

As the year began, Disney launched its 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket. The $199 plus tax ticket provides four days of park visits. The ticket can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days through June 18, 2021 (but not at all on February 13-15, March 26-April 11, or May 28-31). The Park Hopper option can be added for $42.50/ticket plus tax.

There is also a 3-Day version (with same blockout dates) available for $179 plus tax (add $42.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

A 2-Day version is available to purchase and use only through March 11 (but not February 13-15) for $149/tax (add $37.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

Like other ticket types, guests must also separately make Disney Park Pass reservations for a specific park each date they wish to use a Discover Disney Ticket (and, for Park Hopper, must visit that reserved park and may only Hop when that day's window opens subject to capacity).

This & That…

…Passholders can save 30% on select merchandise at all Walt Disney World owned-and-operated locations through March 2, 2021. Passholders can also receive 25% off select shopDisney.com merchandise purchases of $75 or more from February 21-24, 2021.

…This week, the long sponsorship collaboration between General Motors and Walt Disney World Resort resulted in Chevy's "Magic is Electric" commercial to promoting the upcoming 2022 Bolt EUV (electric-powered car). Yes, GM was an opening day sponsor of EPCOT Center back in 1982, and, through its Chevy brand, is the last remaining Future World pavilion sponsor. The commercial spot which first appeared on Disney-owned ABC-TV Network's season premiere of "American Idol" on February 14, features lots of "characters" found around Walt Disney World (Dumbo, Hitchhiking Ghosts, an X-Wing, to name a few), and was filmed, in part, at the Resort. You can see the full commercial and behind-the-scenes content at chevy.com/ev.

…This week, Raglan Road at Disney Springs announced that its annual St. Patrick's Day celebration "will be a festival like no other." The Mighty St. Patrick’s Festival – Unplugged! will run March 12-17, 2021. Reservations are available at RaglanRoad.com or call (407)938-0300.

Think more acoustic than electric. More intimate than boisterous. The same great live entertainment, with all bands imported from Ireland. The same delicious Irish food and drink. It's the most authentic Irish celebration in America, and it's putting safety first for guests with a reservation-only event.

"Everyone can enjoy the usual lively happenings and practiced hospitality, which includes gift competitions and loads of giveaways," says pub co-owner John Cooke. "And it remains the best Irish hospitality experience in America."

On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, Raglan Road will open at 10 a.m. with a $10 cover charge for guests. Reservations are strongly recommended due to limited space. Guests can book a two-hour slot to join the Raglan Road Irish Pub festivities at Disney Springs, with numbers strictly managed to guarantee social distancing is respected. This year, gathering around bars or stages will not be permitted. The pub requests that guests respect their two-hour booking to ensure that as many of Raglan Road's loyal fans have the chance to enjoy America's finest St. Patrick’s festival.

Raglan Road guests can sip from a huge range of Irish whiskeys, local craft beers and hand-crafted cocktails while choosing from the chef’s selection of authentic Irish dishes, including fresh-caught fish with chips. Those authentic fish & chips also are available to go at the adjacent Cooke's of Dublin counter.

The Mighty Festival – Unplugged! entertainment lineup will begin with the Raglan Road Irish Dancers, plucked from the casts and stages of the world’s greatest Irish dance shows. This troupe of extraordinary dancers will perform throughout the festival.

…We're not sure who was spreading rumors about Patina Restaurant Group's operations at EPCOT's Italy pavilion (and it certainly wasn't MousePlanet), but this week Patina Restaurant Group felt compelled to notify us and other members of the media that it is not, in fact, hiring there. Both of its restaurants, Tutto Italia and Via Napoli, are open at Italy pavilion as part of the park's phased re-opening. Patina Restaurant Group also operates Disney Springs restaurants Morimoto Asia, Pizza Ponte, Maria & Enzo's, Enzo's Hideaway, and The Edison, and all are operating as well under the Disney Springs phased reopening guidelines. Patina Restaurant Group is also the operating partner that will operate Space 220 at EPCOT when that new restaurant opens adjacent to Mission SPACE, but no information has been released about its planned opening date.

…Homewood Suites by Hilton opens this Thursday, February 18 at Flamingo Crossings Town Center. This is the second of Yedla Management Company's four hotels in development to open at Walt Disney World Resort, with Home2Suites having opened in December, and Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn & Suites expected to open in late spring. Flamingo Crossings is physically located on the western portion of Disney property, and the site is about 10 minutes from the theme parks. This new hotel features 229 suites with separate living and sleeping areas; all rooms are pet-friendly and include fully equipped kitchens and complimentary WiFi. Guests receive complimentary hot breakfast daily. Reservations will be available beginning February 25 on Hilton.com or by calling (407)993-3999.

Homewood Suites by Hilton at Flaming Crossings Town Center, Walt Disney World Resort, opens this Thursday, February 18, 2021. Photo courtesy Yedla Management Company.

…Reservations for September 1 and beyond are now open for the Walt Disney World Swan Reserve, the new 14-story tower that will open at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort this summer. Visit this page of Marriott.com for reservations or call (888)236-2427. The new hotel tower features 349 guest rooms, 149 suites plus two presidential suites. The new tower will also feature a new signature Mediterranean restaurant, a grab-n-go cafe, a pool area with elevated deck, a fitness center, meeting and event space, as well as the usual benefits of staying at an official Walt Disney World Resort (plus full access to the rest of the offerings at Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resorts).

Walt Disney World Swan Reserve plans to open this summer. Image courtesy Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.

Walt Disney World Swan Reserve rooms and suites include floor to ceiling windows. Image courtesy Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.

UPDATE As we mentioned last week, Portillo's Lake Buena Vista has moved its expected opening date to March 16. This week, we received the (not unexpected) news that public "sneak peek" previews scheduled for February 22-23 have also been cancelled; they will be rescheduled as the opening date approaches. As this former Chicagoan writer has been excitedly reporting for several months, the Portillo's restaurants feature Chicago-style Hot Dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches, and a whole lot more. Founded in Chicagoland in 1963, Portillo's currently has over sixty restaurants located in several states (the most in the Chicagoland area). It has operated two sites in the Tampa-area for several years, and its first Orlando-area location is located within minutes of Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista (as well as Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World). The company is exploring further expansion in the Orlando area, and is hiring: visit Portillos.com/careers to apply.

…And, overseas, at Shanghai Disney Resort, Clarabelle Cow debuted her new Lunar New Year costume to celebrate year of the Ox.

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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.

Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Packages can now be booked up to 500 days in advance on a rolling calendar. That's right, you can now book packages for travel through early July 2022, and a package can be held for just a $200 downpayment with final payment due 30 days prior to travel.

Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. Get Away Today can also assist you with the new Walt Disney World Resort offer that became available January 5: two free theme park days when you purchase at least a 4-night Disney Hotel stay and 3-Day Walt Disney World Resort tickets (the new offer is valid for vacation packages for travel through September 25, 2021, and does not apply to ticket-only orders). For all theme park ticket holders (day guests, resort guests, and Annual Passholders), though, for the foreseeable future, all guests are required to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

Get Away Today can help you book Disney's latest promotional offers

Get Away Today can also help you book other discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021, including the continuing 35% discount on Disney Hotels for travel through April 17, 2021, which may be the better option for some guests traveling this spring. With Get Away Today's complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it's not a better deal, they will leave everything as is, and keep their eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.

Now through April 30, you can even cancel a reservation up to 24 hours before check0in for free.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. (Responses provided in 1 to 3 business days.) You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday - Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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Only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today!.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). 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.

Be sure to check out Get Away Today's Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.