The 10 BIG Updates From Walt Disney World (and Beyond) This Week (January 2-8)

This week at Walt Disney World, a truly outrageous upcharge experience gets a price cut, a new discount is announced for annual passholders, plus new experiences are confirmed to be coming to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Outside Walt Disney World, the demolition of Wet ‘n Wild rolls full steam ahead, plus some exciting new deals are announced for Busch Gardens Tampa!

1. The Darkroom and Cover Story closing for refurbishment

Image: Disney

The two gift stores on the right side of Disney’s Hollywood Studios as you enter the park (right before Starbucks) will be closing for refurbishment tomorrow, January 9th. These stores will then be closed for almost three months, and are expected to reopen on March 24th. It is unknown what is changing during this refurbishment, but we’d imagine some interior remodeling will be going on during this time, and these stores may return this spring with a new theme (in the same way Villains in Vogue turned into Reel Vogue last year after a quickie refurbishment).

2. Tomorrowland Cabanas get a price cut

Image: Disney

Late last year, Disney debuted Kingdom Cabanas, a new amenity that allowed guests to enjoy a private tent inside Tomorrowland that came with a number of amenities including device charging stations, snacks, and even a small refrigerator. However, the rental fee for this new option was truly outrageous at $691 per guest. However, it looks like that is changing.

Like the recent price drop for the Magic Kingdom After Hours event, Disney is reducing the fee to rent these tents down to discounted to $499 per day between January 17th and February 17th, 2017. It is unknown if the price will go up again after this date, or whether this option will simply go away. You can read more about these cabanas here.

3. New animal experiences now testing at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Over the next several weeks Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be testing a variety of new animal experiences around the park. While many of these tests will take place prior to park open, some concepts may be available during regular operating hours in DinoLand, Africa, and Discovery Island. During these unspecified tests, guests may see birds and possibly other small mammals or reptiles outside of their typical locations.

4. Disney introduces the new Disney Dine-on-the-Go plan at the Magic Kingdom

Image: Disney

Earlier this week news broke that Disney was testing out a brand new tier of Disney Dining plan that would involve only quick service meals. Named Disney Dine-on-the-Go, this new dining offering will debut at the Magic Kingdom on January 12th. Guests who purchase this plan are able to redeem a number of dining certificates at certain times of the day for quick service meals. Each Disney Dine-on-the-Go meal plan costs $29 per guest ($12 for kids 3-9) plus tax and includes the following:

  • One lunch quick-service meal that includes one (1) entrée and one (1) non-alcoholic single-serving beverage
  • One dinner quick-service meal that includes one (1) entrée and one (1) non-alcoholic single-serving beverage
You can read more about this new dining plan (and learn more about where and when it can be used) here.

5. New and improved Florida Resident Discover Disney ticket returns for 2017 with a lower price

Though it isn’t offered every year, periodically Disney will allow Florida residents to purchase special “Discover Disney” tickets that offer deep discounts on regular theme park admission during a specific period. And though we assumed this deal would come back in 2017, it has now been confirmed that Florida residents with valid state identification (such as a driver’s license) can purchase the following multi-day tickets at some very lucrative prices:

  • 3-day ticket: $139.00 ($166.50 with the Park Hopper add-on) for all guests 3 and older
  • 4-day ticket: $159.00 ($193.50 with the Park Hopper add-on) for all guests 3 and older

Not only is does this new ticket deal offer a huge savings over the traditional Magic Your Way tickets (which normally cost $345.00 for three days with park hopper for regular guests and $394.00 for four days with park hopper) but it is also a substantial markdown from last year’s Discover Disney tickets, which did not offer the park hopper option, and costed $201.00 for a 3-day ticket and $220.00 for a 4-day ticket.

6. Pandora – The World of Avatar rumored to be opening around Memorial Day weekend

Image: Disney

Interestingly, eagle-eyed guests have noticed that the Discover Disney ticket mentioned above is able to be used at any Walt Disney World park through the first half of the year, on any day with one notable exception. Disney’s Animal Kingdom is blocked out beginning at the end of may May through the first weeks of June. And while we don’t know for sure, these dates line up with the vague “Summer 2016” opening for Pandora- The World of Avatar. While dates are always subject to change, these blackout dates seem to hint strongly that we’ll be seeing an opening for this new land sometime around the Memorial Day weekend this spring. Then again, as we’ve seen with Rivers of Light, plans can change, so don’t take this blackout window as gospel quite yet.

7. New annual passholder discount now available for Joffrey’s coffee kiosks

Image: Disney 

Joffrey’s coffee kiosks are now offering Annual Passholders a pretty sweet 20% discount on both food and beverages (excluding alcohol), effective immediately. It is unknown how long this discount will last, but this most recent announcement coincides with the in-park locations introducing a number of new and returning menu items for Valentine’s Day, which you can learn more about here.

8. Choza Tequila watering hole officially announced for the Mexico Pavilion

Image: Disney

Earlier this week Disney confirmed that a new dining establishment was coming to the Mexico pavilion: Choza Tequilla. This new grab and go spot is being billed as “an authentic outdoor tequileria” which will serve refreshing hand-crafted margaritas as well as classic Mexican cuisine like tacos, empanadas, chips and fresh guacamole.

No official opening date for Choza Tequila has been confirmed yet, but Disney has said that they are targeting an “early 2017” launch, which likely means we will be seeing this new location welcome its first guests in just a few weeks.

9. Demolition ramps up at the former Wet ‘n Wild

Image: Wet ‘n Wild

Though it has only been just over a week since Wet ‘n Wild closed its gates forever, the demolition process has already been in full swing over the past few weeks. Shortly after the last visitors exited the water park on New Year’s Eve, Wet ‘n Wild’s sign was torn down, and before the sun rose on New Year’s Day, large fences with Universal Orlando Resort signage were erected around the park.

While there’s no way to know what is going on inside this former park day to day, you can see in this video footage (taken earlier this week) that all of the water has been drained from the park, with the wave pool, lazy river, and even the park’s numerous flume rides all sitting vacant and strangely dry as the trees are being pulled up and removed. And though Universal hasn’t said whether they are demolishing, selling, or repurposing the slides that were used in this park, it looks like equipment is already on-site to begin the dismantling process.

Though we have no official timeline in regards to the full demolition of this park, Universal seems to be working really quickly, and we wouldn’t be surprised if what is left of Wet ‘N Wild is completely gone before March.

10. Busch Gardens Tampa announces new and returning deals for 2017

Image © SeaWorld

Image: SeaWorld

Busch Gardens Tampa is kicking off the new year with two great ways to save this year. Frist up, guests can receive an Adventure Island Fun Card free with the purchase of a Busch Gardens Fun Card which includes park admission through December 31, 2017.

In addition, Busch Gardens has confirmed that they are bringing back the Preschool Card, which allows Kids 5 and younger can enjoy all the excitement of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay (as well as SeaWorld Orlando) for free through December 31, 2017. Guests who want to take advantage of this offer must register their child here.

  • Originally published in Theme PArk Insider 


Don Korta
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