Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 31, 2023

by Alan S. Dalinka, staff writer

Walt Disney World Resort Update for January 31, 2023

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 Writer's Note, News & Views

As MousePlanet's Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix and Lisa Stiglic covered on our social media channels over the past week, The Walt Disney Company has begun celebration of its 100th anniversary with the Disney100 offerings out at Disneyland Resort in California. Adrienne's recap of the offerings can be found in yesterday's Disneyland Resort Update.

Walt Disney World Resort itself continues its 18-month-long celebration of its 50th anniversary through the end of March. So far, we don't know any particular ways in which the company plans to celebrate its 100th anniversary here in Florida. As I've mentioned in the past couple of weeks, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT will switch their fireworks shows on April 3 to more nostalgic fare, with an updated Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom and the return of the “temporary” EPCOT Forever pending later 2023 development of a new show that Disney has (so far rather vaguely) tied to its 100th anniversary celebration.

Of course, if you're just looking for Disney100 merchandise, you'll be in luck around Walt Disney World Resort. Right after Christmas, World of Disney at Disney Springs switched over the first room to that new collection. More offerings are appearing around the Resort as well, and, shopDisney.com will also provide online options.

It seems unusual not to know a general "theme" for Walt Disney World Resort's marketing for the balance of 2023 and beyond, with the March 31 conclusion of the World's Most Magical Celebration rapidly approaching. But, of course, EPCOT's seasonal festivals continue across whatever the whole resort is doing, and as mentioned last week after the February 20 conclusion of Festival of the Arts, the Flower & Garden Festival gets underway on March 1 and runs to July 5.

Artful EPCOT concludes February 20
Just outside Disney Springs on State Road 535, a billboard advertises the 2023 edition of Artful EPCOT. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Last week, Disney Parks Blog provided a first look at the menu for Roundup Rodeo BBQ opening at Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios on March 23, 2023. Stay tuned in coming days or weeks for what else may be headed to Walt Disney World in 2023 and beyond.

Roundup Rodeo BBQ exterior construction
Exterior construction at Roundup Rodeo BBQ appears to be nearing completion this past week ahead of the restaurant's scheduled March 23, 2023 opening in Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

TRON Lightcycle / Run Opens April 4 with Virtual Queue, Individual Lightning Lane Purchase Option, and Complimentary Lockers

Since our WDW Resort Update last week, Disney shared a few more details about the TRON Lightcycle / Run attraction opening at Magic Kingdom on April 4, though it has not yet shared the dates for previews as of publication, and, of course, I would not be surprised if those details are released today since it is a Tuesday, after all, and Disney seems to release Walt Disney World news often on Tuesdays. Just last Tuesday, the marquee was installed at the attraction.

As we long assumed, when TRON Lightcycle / Run opens it will not offer a standby queue and it will not be one of the attractions guests that purchase Genie+ will be able to access via Lightning Lane. Instead, guests will be required to either use the virtual queue in the My Disney Experience app or purchase individual Lightning Lane (“a la carte”) entry on the day of their visit from the My Disney Experience app (pricing will be set daily and can be reviewed in the app before purchase).

Disney has not yet shared the exact details for either queue opportunity. Right now, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind at EPCOT offers a virtual queue that opens at 7 a.m. anywhere that guests have Internet access if they have EPCOT park reservations and valid admission media in their My Disney Experience accounts. It also offers a second virtual queue opportunity at 1 p.m. for those with EPCOT park reservations, and have used a valid ticket to actually enter EPCOT. On nights that Deluxe Resort guests enjoy after-hours park access, they have a third opportunity to attempt to enter a virtual queue at 6 p.m.

For existing attractions with the individual Lightning Lane purchase option, guests of Disney Resort hotels (and select others including Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin and Shades of Green) may attempt to purchase one attraction access at 7 a.m. on the day of a park visit. All other guests may attempt their first purchase when the park where the attraction is located opens.

Disney also announced that TRON Lightcycle /Run will have a “double-sided and digitized locker system” to store bags and loose items while guests ride. The lockers will be complimentary and will pair with MagicBand, MagicBand+, or ticket media so that the locker can be opened with a tap. Those that do not have tappable media will be provided a card to assign to their locker. Guests will be required to place all items either in a locker before boarding or in a small compartment on the vehicle that can hold cellphones, glasses, or wallets.

Finally, and not surprisingly, TRON Lightcycle / Run will also offer Disney PhotoPass photo and video linked to guests’ My Disney Experience accounts. Guests will either need to wear MagicBand or MagicBand+ linked to their account while riding or have logged in to the My Disney Experience app on their mobile device prior to riding, have Bluetooth enabled for the app, and brought their mobile device aboard the ride and stored it in the small Lightcycle compartment during their ride.

Views of Disney's Hollywood Studios

Since my West Coast colleagues were sharing images and details from Disneyland's Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway's debut last week, I made a visit over to Disney's Hollywood Studios to see if I could catch a ride. On Thursday afternoon, when I passed the attraction that opened featuring the song "Nothing Can Stop Us Now" in March 2020 just before a pandemic temporarily shutdown all of Walt Disney World Resort, I saw that it had a posted 65 minute standby queue and I kept on walking past the Chinese Theatre. When I completed a loop around the park, I noticed that the attraction had closed and was being evacuated. Being a savvy park-goer, I knew to keep an eye on the doors to the building as I browsed the shops of Hollywood Boulevard and, indeed, within a fairly short time, saw that they had reopened. I entered the queue and enjoyed the ride in less than 30 minutes total.

Disney's Hollywood Studios
The late afternoon winter sun is low in the sky behind the gates of Disney's Hollywood Studios. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway opened inside the Chinese Theatre at Disney's Hollywood Studios in March 2020. Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar sold separately.

Goofy is the engineer of the train, so, of course, havoc ensues.

Chuuby is a new character created for Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway.

The ride takes place inside the cartoon world, so guests step into and out of the cartoon to experience it.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

While Disneyland's version of the attraction details in its queue that has generated lots of rave reviews from my MousePlanet colleagues (and lots of others on social media), the Florida version maintained the look of the interior of the Chinese Theatre from its previous attraction The Great Movie Ride. Unlike Disneyland, Disney's Hollywood Studios also features a separate theater that shows "Vacation Fun: an original animated short with Mickey & Minnie."

The exit of the "Vacation Fun" theater features photo backdrops that tie to both the new short film and Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway. I have only very rarely seen guests spending time in this area (especially in good weather).

The theater's exit resembles Mickey's iconic pants.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Daisy & Donald Duck
Speaking of pants, neither Daisy nor Donald Duck wear any. They still make distanced appearances from time to time on a balcony above the restrooms near the park's entrance. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Notwithstanding how busy the parks have been for quite some time, there remain quite a few closed venues in each, and some with odd hours. Granted, before the pandemic, there were locations in all of the parks that only operated seasonally or for part of the day, but, to my eyes and experience, it seems the resort remains in a "phased" reopening rather than full operations. Here, at Disney's Hollywood Studios, there remains no word on whether Voyage of the Little Mermaid or Jedi Training shows will ever return (or be replaced), and there are retail locations that do not operate daily.

Jedi Training has not returned to the stage outside of Star Tours, and is no longer listed in My Disney Experience.

The Stage 1 Company Store opposite the exit of Muppet-Vision 3D was closed during my park visit last week and is listed in My Disney Experience as "Temporarily Unavailable."

It's A Wonderful Shop, right across the way from Stage 1 Company Store was also closed during my park visit and is listed as "Temporarily Unavailable."

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

A cast member and Rizzo was greeting guests outside PizzeRizzo during my recent visit. This restaurant is one that I have often found closed long before park closing time in recent years. Over at EPCOT, I recently was surprised to discover that Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion stopped serving its hot foods at 4 p.m. on a busy Saturday night with the pavilion's three attractions all operating. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney Skyliner was closed for scheduled maintenance last week, and with its gondolas on the line, provided some nice still photo opportunities from the Disney's Hollywood Studios parking lot. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

This & That & Reminders…

…Yesterday, Disney announced a $500,000 donation to five local conservation organizations in Central Florida as part of its Disney Planet Possible project: Conservation Florida, Florida Wildlife Corridor Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Lake Nature Center, and Wekiva Wilderness Trust. The grants will assist with such things as expanding land protection initiatives, ensuring healthy tree canopy coverage in underserved communities, finding solutions to clean drinking water for those in need, and funding educational opportunities for youth in the community.

…REMINDER: Disney Vacation Club announced eight Moonlight Magic complimentary event nights at Walt Disney World Resort in 2023 for eligible members and their guests. As with past events, members with qualifying Disney Resort hotel reservations on the event nights get a first shot at making reservations. Pending availability, eligible members without reservations get their chance to register after that. The first two events are at EPCOT on February 8 and 15, 2023. Eligible members with hotel reservations can register on the DVC member website beginning on January 25, 2023. If space remains available, registration for the February 8 event opens on February 2, and registration for the February 15 event opens on February 9. The additional event nights (for which registration details have not yet been published) are:

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios – May 11, September 13
  • Disney's Animal Kingdom – July 11, August 2
  • Disney's Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – May 23, August 23

…REMINDER: Looking ahead to Valentine’s Day, several of the Disney Springs operating partners have given us a heads-up about their specialty offerings to share with you here. As always, reservations are recommended:

  • Jaleo – Special Valentine’s Day menu featuring a variety of Spanish tapas and desserts to share
    • Cono de higado de pato con membrillo ($8 each)
      Tartelleta de coliflor y caviar ($18)
    • Tartelette of cauliflower purée and Royal Ossetra Caviar
      Foie gras and quince paste cone
    • Carpaccio de Vieras con frambuesas y pétalos de rosa ($28)
      Scallop carpaccio with raspberries and rose petals
    • Lubina a la pobre ($38)
      Branzino with sliced potatoes and onions
    • Chuletón a la parrilla ($158)
      32 oz. Josper grilled ribeye served with confit piquillo peppers
    • Sorbete de fresa y Cava con espuma de chocolate blanco ($16)
      Strawberry Cava sorbet with white chocolate foam
    • Sopa de frutos rojos ($15)
      Cold berry soup with olive oil yogurt ice cream
  • Morimotto Asia – Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto’s pan-Asian special Valentine’s Day only menu
    • Appetizer: 5 spice candied Ice fish “SHIRAUO AMEDAKI” ($18)
      Japanese ice fish , 5 spice powder, Tobanjan and Ginger
    • Entrée: Whole lobster lo mein noodle XO sauce ($50)
      Whole lobster, lo mein noodle, Bok choy and Seafood XO sauce
    • Entrée: Red Miso Glazed Faroe Island Salmon ($39)
      Bok choy, Shaoxing gastrique, grilled rice cake and Morimoto duck broth
  • The Edison – nostalgic 20’s special menu on Valentine’s Day only
    • Entrée: Butter poached lobster linguine ($42)
      Sauteed broccolini, blistered, maine lobster, pistachio cream sauce
    • Dessert: Chocolate covered bacon ($22)
  • Maria & Enzo’s and Enzo’s Hideaway – special Italian menu on Valentine’s Day only:
    • Arancini al Tartufo ($19)
      Black truffle risotto, fior di latte mozzarella, parmigiano crema
    • Short Rib Lasagna ($36)
      Fresh egg pasta, red wine braised short rib, besciamella, ricotta, fior di latte mozzarella, parmigiano, stracchino, extra virgin olive oil
    • Torta di Pane al Cioccolato ($16)
      Brioche, dark chocolate custard, fresh raspberries

Disney Parks Blog shared the details of a new family-friendly entertainment offering every Saturday morning starting at 10:30 a.m. at Waterview Park. The new “Disney Springs Kids Club” features interactive acts that will vary each week, plus a DJ hosting games singalongs and more. The opening act this past Saturday was Wassalou, the Afropop band from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

…While we are taking about Disney Springs, here are three images of things there that caught my eyes (and camera) this week.

The M&M Store's photo opportunity window is decorated for Valentine's Day, and this caught my eye because of the news this week that M&M was going to suspend use of its characters in advertising. I will pass by again soon and see if this change results in the removal or change to this photo opportunity.

Inside the LEGO Store, I noticed the life-size Grogu from Disney+'s "The Mandalorian" built out of LEGO bricks. The third season of the show is scheduled to begin streaming on March 1, 2023.

Construction at the site of the future Summer House on The Lake Restaurant continues to rise above the surrounding construction walls. The restaurant will be Chicago's Lettuce Entertain You Restaurant Group's first venue in the neighborhood, joining many other Chicago-area operators and chefs like Levy Restaurants and Rick Bayless, just to name a couple at Disney Springs (and Portillo's nearby).

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

…REMINDER: Drawn to Life, the show from Cirque du Soleil and Disney, is now running its new 2023 schedule at Disney Springs, including new matinee show times on Sundays. The family-friendly show tells the story of the love between a father and a daughter, drawing inspiration from Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 100-year heritage of storytelling. It recently celebrated its first anniversary of its debut, and now has two performances daily, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 5:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and on Sundays at 1:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets and more information are available at cirquedusoleil.com/drawn-to-life.

…REMINDER: Walt Disney World Golf, until March 31, 2023 or until supplies last, is offering its 50th Anniversary celebration merchandise at a special 50% OFF discount! Visit the Pro Shops to see and purchase the collection items.

Orlando Sentinel and other reputable media sources report that there have been recent developments connected to Disney’s 1.8 million-square-foot corporate campus at Lake Nona, Florida, that will serve as a new home for 2,000 high-wage employees in Disney’s Imagineering and Theme Parks divisions. The timeline for the campus sets its opening in 2026.

…REMINDER: Give Kids The World Village's 2023 Gingerbread Run is Saturday, February 11th at 7 a.m. Run in person or in the virtual event. More information and registration is at this page of GKTW.org. Proceeds benefit the not-for-profit organization that provides week long cost free Central Florida vacations to critically ill children and their families.

The Usual Writer's Note

Face coverings remain optional across all of Walt Disney World Resort. Remember to check this page of DisneyWorld.com for the latest requirements.

Based on experience over the past three years, it is unlikely that the State of Florida will impose new requirements. Disney may impose more stringent requirements than the State, so, again, be sure to pay attention to updates to the policies around Walt Disney World Resort.

As has been true throughout the past several years, if you're traveling to or from overseas, be sure to check with the places you're visiting and traveling from or through for the latest rules. Though most requirements have been relaxed or removed, it remains important to check on and abide by the most up-to-date COVID-19 testing and vaccine requirements for entering the United States whether as a citizen, permanent resident, or visitor (and be aware of who needs a visa).

Disney Park Pass reservations continue to be required for admission to Walt Disney World theme parks in addition to a valid ticket. If your tickets have the Park Hopper option, Park Hopping only becomes available after 2 p.m. daily, and only after you have first visited the park for which you have made a reservation that day. There have been instances where Magic Kingdom has reached capacity and paused admission of Park Hoppers, as Disney reserves the right to do so at all the parks.

Speaking of Annual Passes, sales of new ones continue to be paused in all categories except the Florida Resident Pixie Dust Pass. Current Passholders may continue to purchase renewals in all tiers regardless of the pause in new sales. We continue to see no official words from Disney about its plans to resume sales of new passes for the Florida parks, but it seems increasingly likely during 2023.

Disney recently added a "Courtesy" section to its "know before you go" webpage on DisneyWorld.com which states:

Be the magic you want to see in the world. You must always remember to treat others with respect, kindness and compassion. Those who can't live up to this simple wish may be asked to leave Walt Disney World Resort.

Finally, as for the weather, it is winter in Central Florida too. Some of the region's best weather happens at this time of year, but as we have seen again this winter, a Central Florida winter day can see temperatures vary by 30° or more in any given day. And, while the usual Tropical Storm season is still months ahead, Central Florida can have rainy days that are more akin to what northern states see in spring or fall; in other words, the rainy may last for hours rather than the hour-or-so typical Florida afternoon summer thunderstorm. Central Florida can also see drought this time of year, so you may see no rain for quite a few days or weeks in a row. In other words, have a look at the forecasts and be prepared.

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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.

With the new year, Disney announced its resort hotel offers for the spring and summer of 2023 at Walt Disney World Resort. While many folks expected Disney to return the Disney Dining Plan, the package offered to start off the year does not go quite that far.

Guests that purchase non-discounted 5-night, 4-day vacation packages that include a room at select Deluxe or Deluxe Villa Resorts and theme park tickets for arrivals most nights from July 1 to 10, and August 1 to September 14, 2023, can get up to a $750 digital Disney Dining Promo Card. The Dining Promo Card can be used to purchase meals, snacks, treats and beverages at select participating dining locations across all of Walt Disney World Resort (from table service, to quick service, food carts, and more).

On other dates and at other Disney Resorts, lower value Disney Dining Promo Cards may also be available when purchasing a package. The top values are:

  • Up to $150 per room per night at Disney Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts
  • Up to $100 per room per night at Disney Moderate Resorts
  • Up to $50 per room per night at Disney Value Resorts

As always, there is a lot of fine print and exclusions to study so as to know what you are getting. For example, campsites, 3-bedroom villas, and Cabins at Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge are not eligible; gratuities are not included. The Dining Promo Card cannot be used at merchandise locations or candy kitchens, and cannot be used at the non-Disney hotels on or around property (like Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin, Four Seasons, Disney Springs Resort Area Hotels, Bonnet Creek, and Walt Disney World Gateway hotels). The digital Dining Promo Card is not valid after September 30, 2023, and will be emailed to a guest when checking in at their Disney Resort hotel.

Read more about the details of the offer and check availability on this page of DisneyWorld.com. You can also contact your travel agent, including MousePlanet’s sponsor GetAwayToday.

With the start of the year, Disney also announced its first round of 2023 Florida Resident and Annual Passholder Offers. Through April 27 (subject to blockout dates), Florida Residents can get Disney Weekday magic Tickets for 2 days of theme park admissions (one park per day) for $175 plus tax. Blocked dates include all Saturdays and Sundays, as well as March 13-17, April 3-7, and April 10-14, 2023. Tickets do not have to be used on consecutive days; park reservations are still required; Park Hopper and/or Water Parks and Sports options available for additional fees.

Florida Residents can also save 30% on a 3-day ticket or 40% on a 4-day ticket. A one-day, one-park Florida Resident Ticket is also available starting at $109 plus tax, and Park Hopper Option can be added for an additional fee to all of the ticket types. Tickets are only valid for admission on specific dates selected.

Proof of residency is required. Disney now allows that to be done online when purchasing tickets from DisneyWorld.com. More information about all the tickets and verification requirements is available on this page of DisneyWorld.com.

Florida Residents can also save up to 20% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most Sunday through Thursday nights January 2 to February 28, 2023, and most nights March 1 to April 30. The amount of discount varies by hotel and does not correspond to the usual Deluxe-Moderate-Value breakdown. For more information, details, and availability, visit this page of DisneyWorld.com.

Annual Passholders can save up to 30% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights May 1 through July 10, 2023. Visit this page of DisneyWorld.com for details (and you may be required to log in with your My Disney Experience account to see the rates and availability).

MousePlanet’s travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. When you book a Walt Disney World Resort Package with Get Away Today with a minimum 3-night stay at a Disney Resort Hotel plus tickets, you receive its complimentary concierge service which includes:

  • Free Price Monitoring – if a special comes out after you book, we'll automatically apply it!
  • Dining Reservation Assistance – we wake up early and snag those hard to get dining reservations so you don't have to.
  • The GAT expert team is available to you! Contact them any time for extra assistance with your vacation planning; transportation, theme park recommendations, etc.

You can get a free Walt Disney World Resort vacation quote by calling 855-GET-AWAY (and tell them MousePlanet sent you) or, you can find sample prices and submit a free quote request here.

Looking to go beyond Walt Disney World Resort when visiting Central Florida? 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.