Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 28, 2021 - January 3, 2022

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 28, 2021 - January 3, 2022

You can view a larger version of each of the photos included in the Update by clicking on the photo. Each photo will open in a separate tab without a caption rather than a slideshow-type gallery like we had in the past.

 News, Views & Writer's Note

To all that celebrate, Happy Kwanzaa!

As we wrap up this season full of holidays, let me wish everyone a safe, healthy, and happy new year. Let's all do our part to try to make 2022 the best of the 2020's we've experienced (so far)!

Speaking of health, just a little bit up I-4 from Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort has modified some of its health and safety protocols over the past week, and now, like Disney, requires an appropriate face covering of guests and cast on its property, visiting and working in indoor locations around Universal. Indeed, in the wake of the spiking COVID-19 positivity rate in Central Florida and the apparent communicability of the omicron variant, at Disney Springs yesterday afternoon, I observed around half the guests in the very crowded outdoor shopping, entertainment, and dining venues opting to wear face masks as well (except where folks were actively eating and drinking, of course). The State of Florida has no face covering requirements (and repeatedly has blocked enforcement of municipal and county-imposed restrictions), so it remains important to be aware of the requirements of the private property you decide to visit.

As you might expect, the week between Christmas and New Year's Day is again very busy around Walt Disney World Resort, including Disney Springs.

The photo backdrop outside the Disney Springs AMC Dine-In Theaters currently advertises the 20th Century Studios-distributed "West Side Story" film from director Steven Spielberg.

Even from the top level of the nearly-filled Monday afternoon Orange Garage, you can see guests filling the walkways of The Landing neighborhood of Disney Springs.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

As we face Walt Disney World Resort's usually busiest days of the year, Magic Kingdom welcomed back twice-daily showings of Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade for all guests, and has been showing the Mickey & Minnie's Very Merry Memories show at the Cinderella Castle stage several times each late afternoon and evening. Both of those entertainment offerings were previously available only during the nighttime hard ticket After Hours holiday parties. Before the pandemic, it was Magic Kingdom's longstanding practice to make some of the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party entertainment available the last two weeks of the year, and the addition of these day-guest offerings represents another step of the return of regular park operations. Since the temporary closure of the Resort in March 2020, there have been no regularly scheduled parades or castle shows, so the holiday offerings represent the return of those; from Destination D23 back in November, we know that plans are in the works for an early 2022 return (but no dates announced just yet) of Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade and an updated Mickey's Friendship Faire (featuring new elements as part of the World's Most Magical Celebration, the 50th anniversary of the park and the resort) castle show.

Walt Disney World Resort did announce the March 31, 2022 reopening of Disney's All Star Resort, which has been closed to guests since March 2020. Disney acknowledges that when Disney's All Star Resort reopens it will mark the first time in over two years that all of the Walt Disney World Resort hotels are open to guests.

For those heading to the parks to ring in 2022, both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT have special countdown fireworks shows scheduled for the first time since the end of 2019. Magic Kingdom brings back showings of its "Fantasy in the Sky" fireworks show on both December 30 and 31 at 11:50 p.m. (Disney Enchantment is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. on those nights). EPCOT is launching "Cheers to the New Year: A Sparkling Celebration," a one-night-only New Year's Eve celebration starting at 11:54 p.m. on December 31. Harmonious is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. and, remember, the Festival of the Holidays officially concludes December 30, so you may not find your favorite storytellers around, but there may be other special entertainment offered throughout the day.

As of this Update, neither park has any Disney Park Pass reservations remaining for Annual Passholders (and remember, there are several pass categories that block out the last two weeks of the year, and new pass sales have been suspended for a few weeks). If your tickets have the Park Hopper option, remember that it only becomes valid after 2 p.m., and we have seen instances where Magic Kingdom has reached capacity and paused admission of Park Hoppers. The good news for those that park at TTC, though, is that the courtesy trams have been back in operation there the past few weeks; we haven't seen dates of when to expect their return at the other parks beyond "soon."

I won't be heading to the parks to see 2021 end. My strategy of many New Year's past of finding the "people eater" attractions (big theaters, and other high capacity venues) just doesn't seem all that attractive to me this year, and, coupled with the on-going "transformation" of EPCOT, many of the previously open spaces to walk around that park are now regularly more clogged with guests because construction walls limit so much of the former Future World real estate. Ironically, after ringing in 2020 in my usual fashion (Magic Kingdom at night on December 30, and EPCOT at night on December 31) with a Disney Vacation Club member stay at Disney's Beach Club Villas, I had already decided to take a break from visiting the parks on the nights of December 30–31 before we'd even heard of COVID-19. That remained an easy decision as 2020 came to an end amid the pandemic, and, though the parks had reopened, there were no special in-park events scheduled to avoid crowding. Nothing about current Disney Park operations convinces me to return to the parks to ring in 2022, and I probably won't return to ring in 2023 because when my Annual Pass comes up for renewal this summer, I'm very likely going to step down from the top pass to the one that blocks out only the five days around Thanksgiving and the last two weeks of the year, as (according to current prices) it represents a savings of hundreds of dollars.

2020 New Year's Hat at EPCOT
I rang in 2020 at EPCOT and decided then that I was going to take a break from spending subsequent New Year's Eve celebrations at the parks. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

There's no other headline-worthy news to share this week. In fact, I can't think of a year where any major Walt Disney World announcements were made between Christmas and New year. That means that, along with the This & That & Reminders below, I can fulfill my promise from an Update a few weeks ago to share a bit more of the highlights of the 2021 Destination D23 event. For those of you that follow these Updates week after week, thanks for your readership and loyalty, and you can look forward to more of the same reporting from me in 2022.

A Few More Highlights of Destination D23 Celebrating 50 Years of Walt Disney World Resort and Beyond

The 2021 Destination D23 event took place at Disney's Contemporary Resort Convention Center from November 19 to 21. MousePlanet was invited to attend, and I previously reported on many of the parks and resorts-specific announcements made at the fan-centered event run by the official Disney fan club. In addition to making news, though, these sorts of events share nostalgia from the past, and, in particular, with this year's event focusing on Walt Disney World's 50th anniversary, the event included artifacts and people from its past and present.

The overall theme of Destination D23 at Disney's Contemporary Resort from November 19 to 21, 2021 was centered on the 50th Anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort, and featured nods to many attractions of the past.

Walt Disney Imagineering Presented "50 Years of Dreaming and Doing" featuring pieces from former Walt Disney World theme park attractions.

The robotic housekeeper from EPCOT's former Horizons attraction stood between hats from Disney's Hollywood Studios' former attraction The Great Movie Ride and some smaller Audio Animatronic characters, like Tom Morrow 2.0, formerly of Innoventions.

The characters guests passed first aboard The Great Movie ride were from the movie "Footlight Parade," and one of those characters was on display at Destination D23.

Randy Morris, the pianist that played on Main Street U.S.A. on October 1, 1971 (at what was then Coke Corner and is now Casey's Corner), returned to Magic Kingdom to perform there again on October 1, 2021, and then performed on stage on November 20 at Destination D23 as part of a tribute to Walt Disney World's 50th Anniversary..

There are more than 20 curated galleries and exhibits on display around Walt Disney World Resort, including in the parks. These museum-type displays are created and maintained by specialists in Walt Disney Imagineering, add another level of dimension to visiting the Resort.

And, looking to the future, work is moving forward on the new statue of Walt Disney which will become part of EPCOT. The full-sized statue (not shown here), will be part of a new outdoor park-like area to be located somewhere between Spaceship Earth and World Showcase Plaza.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Ashley Eckstein, perhaps best known to Star Wars fans as the voice of Ashoka Tano, and Bret Iwan, best known to Disney fans as the current official voice of Mickey Mouse, are also both entrepreneurs and have become friends because of the time they have spent together at Disney D23 events. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

And, finally, since Disney acquired many of the assets of the 20th Century Fox studio, naturally, Disney archives now include pieces from that studio's history in its collection. At Destination D23, since "Home Alone" now is available for streaming on Disney+, attendees had an opportunity to see one of the pajama tops worn in the film by actor Macaulay Culkin during the final pajama party. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…Gino, the patriarch of the lowland gorilla family group at Gorilla Falls at Disney's Animal Kingdom, recently celebrated his 40th birthday.

…Heading into 2022, Disney has unveiled its new Mickey Mouse Spring Collection and Winnie the Pooh Home Collection which are now available.

FINAL REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village's highly popular "Night of a Million Lights Holiday Lights Spectacular" has returned for its second annual showing. Last year's edition attracted over 90,000 visitors to the Village and USA Today named last year's event as the "Number One Thing To Do In Orlando In December." Night of a Million Lights enables guests to immerse themselves in an exquisitely decorated fairytale neighborhood which wish families call home during their stays. Guests can enjoy a 360-degree dancing lights show set to music; explore a sparkling tree trail; view larger-than-life holiday displays; take photos at one-of-a-kind step-in frames and backdrops; visit Santa in his elaborately decorated summer house inside a holiday marketplace; and enjoy a guided storytelling tour of dozens of magnificently lit villas from the comfort of a tram, included in the price of the ticket. A majority of the lights were donated by Walt Disney World. For those that miss the Osbourne Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios, this display is very reminiscent of that, especially back in the time that Residential Street was still standing on the park's Backlot. Night of a Million Lights runs through January 2, 2022, from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily, with entry times staggered to prevent crowding. Tickets are available at www.gktw.org/lights Note: dates may sell out in advance.

Night of a Million Lights
Give Kids The World Village Night of A Million Lights runs through January 2, 2022, at 210 South Bass Road in Kissimmee, Florida. Proceeds benefit the Village's not-for-profit mission of providing free wish trips to critically ill children and their families in Central Florida. File photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Usual Writer's Note (One More 2021 Time)

I've already talked about the uptick caused by the omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus above, but, as usual, I close out the update with some important reminders of how both travel rules in general and the Walt Disney World Resort's "phased reopening" in response to the global pandemic keep things in flux. Those traveling to or from overseas need to be sure to check with the places you are visiting and traveling from or through for the latest rules. Last week, for example, I wrote about my experience traveling to Hawaii—which has some of the strictest rules of any of the states because, as an island state, its hospitals could become easily overwhelmed. For Walt Disney World Resort, be sure to check the "experience updates" page of Walt Disney World website for the latest information you need to know before you visit.

Sales of new Walt Disney World Annual Passes have been paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Disney reserved the right to pause those sales when it reintroduced its new Annual Passes. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers regardless of the pause in new sales. Even with this pause and the uptick in COVID-19 positivity rates, it remains unlikely that the Resort will shut down again in the near-term. Remember, though, that Disney already imposes guest restrictions that are stricter than those imposed by the State of Florida, and, as a private property owner/operator, it may impose further restrictions even if the State does not. To visit any Disney theme park, Disney Park Pass reservations are still required in addition to valid admission.

Disney Parks continue to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. At Walt Disney World Resort, everyone ages 2 and up are required to wear face coverings in all indoor locations. Outdoors, face coverings are optional in most locations for vaccinated guests, and required for unvaccinated guests. All guests continue to be required to wear face coverings on buses, monorails, and on Disney Skyliner. Walt Disney World Resort encourages guests to get vaccinated, and has mandated vaccination for new hires and existing cast members in most roles.

And, with regard to the weather, as always, if you're heading this way, please stay informed of the latest weather. Here in Central Florida, at this time of year, while we often get some of our best weather, temperatures can range significantly during the day (a 30° to 35° swing across a day or two is not unprecedented). The good news for park goers and other outdoor activities is that it rains only occasionally, and, in fact, it seems the weather predictions of rain are a bit more accurate at this time of year. Your mileage may vary.

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Resort Reservations, 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.

This page of DisneyWorld.com features all the offers the Resort has publicly announced.

Annual Passholders can save up to 25% and Florida Residents can save up to 20% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights January 2, 2022 through March 10, 2022.

Our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages, and include its complimentary Concierge Services. More details are here. 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.

Remember, as we shared last week, Get Away Today noted Disney's temporary policy changes through January 3, 2022: early theme park entry benefit for Disney Resort hotel Guests (and select partners) extended from 30 minutes to 60 minutes; and specific attractions will be included in the paid Disney Genie+ service rather than as individual Lightning Lane entrance purchases. Following Get Away Today on social media can also help you get the latest details and benefits for Walt Disney World Resort guests.

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 to Friday 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

Speaking of Hawaii, as I was earlier, Walt Disney World Annual Passholders also can save on stays on select rooms over at Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa in Ko Olina, Hawaii, from January 4 through April 8, 2022: up to 30% for stays of 5 or more consecutive nights, and up to 25% for stays of 4 consecutive nights. (From my personal experience, even as a repeat visitor to Oahu, a week is a good amount of time to spend on the island, particularly if you have a rental car or other transportation arranged.)

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

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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.



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