The 13 BIG Updates From Walt Disney World This Week (November 21-27, 2016)

Originally published in Theme Park Tourist…

This week at Walt Disney World was a busy one, even though it was a holiday week. From the addition of two new upcharge experiences  at the Magic Kingdom to the confirmation of a new limited-time event at Epcot, and even some exciting news about Rivers of Light, there has been quite a lot going on at the resort over the past seven days!

Programming note: Though we normally devote some time to Orlando-area parks outside Lake Buena Vista, there has been so much going on at Walt Disney World over the past seven days that we decided to forgo the “beyond” this week. You’ll hear about all the news from Universal Orlando Resort, Busch Gardens Tampa and SeaWorld Orlando in next week’s update!

1. The Epcot International Festival of the Arts announced for 2017

Image: Disney

Earlier this week it was announced that there would be a new annual festival debuting at Epcot in 2017: the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. This new event will debut in just two months, kicking off in January 2017, and will include art demonstrations, broadway performances, and of course plenty of culinary treats to sample. You can read more about this event here.

2. Epcot International Food and Wine Festival extended in 2017

Image: Disney

In even more news about special events at Epcot, dates were released this week for the 2017 edition of The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Interestingly, this year’s event will be getting underway a full two weeks earlier than it did in 2016, now kicking off on August 31 and lasting until November 13, 2017 for a record 75 days in total, the longest (by far) this event has ever gone on for. We’ve got more on why Disney is extending thse events here.

3. Rivers of Light Cast Member previews kick off

Rivers of Light

Image: Disney

Cast Members at Disney’s Animal Kingdom were able to attend previews of Rivers of Light over the weekend, which is a strong indication that this show will open to guests in the very near future. And while Disney has not yet made any official announcement about an opening date for the show since its delay earlier this year, with this latest development, we’d expect an announcement in the very near future.

4. Moana moves into One Man’s Dream at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

A brand new Moana meet and greet experience debuted this week inside the One Man’s Dream attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Guests wanting to meet Moana will need to walk through the museum portion of this attraction, past the theater, and can then walk into a beachy alcove with a projected waterfall, where they can wait to meet Moana. It is currently unknown whether this is a permanent meet and greet space, or something temporary akin to the first Anna and Elsa meet and greet at Epcot back in 2013.

5. New D-Living store now open at Disney Springs Town Center

Image: Disney

The new D-Living shop in the Town Center district of Disney Springs is now open. This store sells seasonal home decor including furnishings, housewares, and décor, the majority of which can already be found at the Marketplace Co-Op as well as World of Disney. However, if you’re looking for a less crowded shop with only home goods for sale (and don’t feel like walking to the Marketplace area of Disney Springs), this location offers a great option.

6. Fast-casual dining comes to ABC Commissary for dinner

ABC Commissary

ABC Commissary

Beginning in just a few days on November 30th, the ABC Commissary quick service dining location at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be changing its dinner service format. Instead of offering counter service, this eatery will instead begin offering a fast-casual dining experience that features additional menu items that will be made-to-order instead of made in advance.

Guests who stop by this dining location for dinner (which will now be served beginning at 3:30 PM) will be able order their meal at the register as they have always done, and can then to take a pager and find a seat while their food is cooked and brought directly to their tables.

7. Tiana’s Riverboat Party Ice Cream Social & Parade Viewing announced for the Magic Kingdom

Image: Disney

Beginning November 29, Disney will begin hosting a special upcharge experience every day on the Liberty Square Riverboat attraction at the Magic Kingdom. Available for $49 per adult and $29 per child age 9 and under, guests who want to take part in Tiana’s Riverboat Party Ice Cream Social & Parade Viewing will be able to enjoy not only guaranteed viewing of the Festival of Fantasy parade, but also a number of treats, including a variety of desserts, hand dipped ice cream with toppings, ice cream novelties, snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages while they visit with beloved Princess and the Frog characters Tiana and Naveen.

8. New “Kingdom Cabanas” available to rent at Magic Kingdom Park

Image: Disney

Beginning this week Disney has begun offering “Kingdom Cabanas” for rent in Tomorrowland. These pop-up tents are near Space Mountain are available for guests to rent at the Magic Kingdom Park beginning today. Each tent costs $691 (with tax) per day to rent, and is able to accommodate up to 8 guests and includes a number of amenities, including the following:

  • Private and shaded seating
  • Cold beverages & snacks
  • A lockable storage trunk
  • Electronic device charging stations
  • Sunscreen, hand sanitizer, & insect repellent
  • A small refrigerator
  • Personalized Mickey ears
  • Reserved viewing space for parades and fireworks

9. Pizza kiosks open at Disney’s All Star Resort bus stops

Image: Disney

Earlier this week two pizza kiosks opened at the bus stops for Disney’s All-Star Music Resort and Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort. Guests can now pick up fresh pizzas from these kiosks on their way back to their rooms every evening from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM. If this proves to be a popular offering, we will likely see this type of amenity rolled out to other value resorts in the near future.

10. New concept art of Star Wars Land released

Image: Disney 

During a special event Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Bob Chapek unveiled a new piece of concept art that shows how Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios will look once the sun goes down. Much like the upcoming Pandora – The World of Avatar, it looks like Disney is going to be trying to provide guests with a new and unique nighttime experience for this land, which has just started construction, and does not have an opening target date yet.

11. runDisney 2017-2018 race and registration dates confirmed

Image: Disney

The following registration and race dates for runDisney’s 2017-2018 events have been announced:

  • Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend: On sale December 13, 2016 (Event August – September 3, 2017)
  • Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Weekend: Packages now available (Event September 21-24. 2017)
  • Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend: On sale January 17, 2017 (Event November 2-5, 2017)
  • Super Heroes Half Marathon Weekend: On sale January 31, 2017 (Event November 9-12, 2017)
  • Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: On sale February 14, 2017 (Event January 3-7, 2018)
  • Star Wars Half Marathon – the Light Side: On sale March 14, 2017 (Event January 11 – 14, 2018)
  • Virtual Running Shorts: On sale April 11, 2017 (Summer 2017)
  • Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend: On sale May 2, 2017 (Event February 22-25, 2018)
  • Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side: On sale  May 23, 2017 (Event April 19 – 22, 2018)
  • Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend: On sale June 27, 2017 (Event May 10 – 13, 2018)
 Runners can register for a particular race online beginning at Noon EST on the dates above

12. New concept at released for reimagined Hidden Springs Pool

 Image: Disney

Disney’s Wilderness Lodge is in the middle of a huge refurbishment that will bring some exciting changes to the hotel, including a complete overhaul of the Hidden Springs Pool area. This week new concept art was released that shows the pool’s transformation into the Boulder Ridge Cove. This refurbished pool is scheduled to open next summer and will feature an expanded sun deck and zero-depth-entry area.

13. Elena of Avalor officially joins the Princess Fairytale Hall

Image: Disney

Though Elena of Avalor has been a “visiting” princess at the Princess Fairytale Hall for several weeks now, this princess has officially joined this attraction’s lineup as of November 24, 2016, and is now officially meeting guests with Cinderella. Guests who would like to make a FastPass+ reservation can now make one as well.

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Don Korta
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