The 10 BIG Updates From Walt Disney World This Week (September 12-18, 2016)

-From Theme Park Tourist…

This week at Walt Disney World, a limited-time test comes to Tomorrowland, a popular event sells out, plus Disney confirms several closures happening this fall and Disney Springs unveils some new sweet treats debuting just in time for fall.

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. New Guest Relations test happening now in Tomorrowland

Though the staff at Walt Disney’s Guest Relations locations are always very friendly and helpful, long lines at can be a pain to deal with especially at the Main Street USA location at the Magic Kingdom. However, Disney is trying a limited-time test that will add a pop-up Guest Relations center at the Tomorrowland Power and Light company building. Inside, guests can get help from 10:00AM to 7:00PM with everything from dining reservations, to ticket purchases and upgrades, and can even inquire about last-minute special event tickets. Guests can also get help if they are encountering issues with a specific part of their Walt Disney World visit at this location.

2. Disney’s Hollywood Studios gets Strange preview

Image: Marvel

Continuing to test the limits of the Marvel licensing agreement with Universal Orlando Resort, Disney has announced that a 10 minute sneak-peek of Marvel’s newDoctor Strange film will begin on October 7 2016 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the One Man’s Dream attraction, ahead of the movie’s November 4 2016 opening in theaters.

3. Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party now sold out for Halloween

Image: Disney

Though it won’t take place for another six weeks, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at the Magic Kingdom is already sold out for Halloween night on October 31 2016. All other party dates remain available as of right now.

4. The Shark Reef attraction at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon closing this fall

Image: Disney

Though its demise has been rumored since 2014, Disney confirmed just a few days ago that the Shark Reef snorkeling attraction at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, which gives guests the opportunity to snorkel through a sunken ship in a temperature-controlled saltwater pool complete with sharks and tropical fish, will be permanently closed as of October 2, 2016. There are no immediate plans right now to replace this attraction, but we do know that the sharks and other fish will be relocated in the near future.

5. Three characters confirmed to be leaving the Magic Kingdom next month

Also effective October 2, 2016, Toy Story characters Woody and Jessie will no longer be meeting guests at the Magic Kingdom in Frontierland (next to Splash Mountain). And while Woody meets guests currently at Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ Pixar Place, the Magic Kingdom has historically been the only place where Jessie can be met, which means guests who want to see this character one last time will need to do so before the beginning of next month (Saturday, October 1, 2016 will be her final day)

Aside from the loss of these two characters, it looks like Rafiki (who has been meeting in Adventureland for the past few months next to the Skipper Canteen) will also be leaving the Magic Kingdom soon as well, although no firm date has been given for this character’s departure. However, like Woody, Rafiki can still be met at Walt Disney World, as this character appears daily in the Rafiki’s Planet Watch area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

6. Festival of Fantasy Dining Package announced for Tony’s Town Square

Beginning October 10th, the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package will be offered at Tony’s Town Square as a replacement experience for the outgoing Main Street Electrical Parade Dining Package. Similarly to the previous package, guests who book this dining experience will be able to partake in a prix fixe lunch (including appetizer, entrée, dessert and non-alcoholic beverage) at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant that will come with reserved viewing (near the flagpole on Main Street USA) for the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade instead of the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Pricing for the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package is exactly the same price as the previous Main Street Electrical Parade package, costing $45 for adults and $17 for ages 3-9. Reservations can be made now for this new(ish) experience.

7. Night of Joy returns to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in 2017

Image: Disney

Hot on the heels of 2016’s Night of Joy event, Walt Disney World has confirmed that its annual Christian-music festival will once again be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in 2017. The dates for next year’s Night of Joy will be September 8th and 9th, and though we have just under a year to go before this event kicks off Disney has confirmed that MercyMe (which also appeared this year) will be in the artist lineup next year. Tickets will go on sale sometime next spring.

8. Seasonal treats now available at Disney Springs

Image: Disney

Much like other eateries around Walt Disney World, Disney Springs is celebrating the fall season with a number of fun, limited time sweet treats that should delight guests looking for something a little different at the shopping district this fall. Here’s the lineup:

Amorette’s Patisserie:

Pumpkin Mickey (available from October 1 to 31): This fun-shaped cake features decadent layers of chocolate chiffon cake, milk chocolate mousse and orange blossom pate de fruit.

The Fall Time Petit Cake (available September 11 to November 10): Designed to look like a charming birch tree with a lovingly carved “A” for Amorette’s, this cake features delicious layers of baked apple, salted caramel, milk jam and spiced chiffon cake.

D-Luxe Burger:

Caramel Apple Shake (available from October 1 – November 10) This milkshake features a creamy vanilla gelato base which is perfectly complemented with tart green apple and sweet caramel flavors before being topped with whipped cream and a caramel drizzle.


Cinnamon Apple Crepe (available this fall): Sweet dulce de leche, cinnamon apples and chiffon crumbs in a warm crepe topped with powdered sugar.

Image: Disney

The Ganachery:

Seasonal ganache flavors (available this fall): This sweet location is now offering a number of truffles featuring fall-inspired flavors, including Pumpkin Spice Latte and Cinnamon Apple.

9. The 2016 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off

Image: Disney

Disney kicked off what will be the longest Epcot International Food and Wine Festival ever (62 days!) in grand style earlier this week. With 30 individual kiosks this year and over two dozen new menu items, there is a lot to check out in 2016, no matter whether you are a seasoned Food and Wine Festival veteran, or a first-timer. However, no matter what category you fall into, if you are planning a visit to this annual event during the next three months, there are some things you definitely should know before you go… 

10. Coca-Cola Polar Bear now meeting guests at Disney Springs

Image: Disney

Though characters haven’t traditionally been very present at Disney Springs, the newly-opened Coca-Cola Store located in the Town Center area of the shopping district has debuted its own meet and greet experience. Guests who visit this location are now able to meet the iconic Coca-Cola Polar Bear in his frozen hideaway tucked inside the store.

Though the polar bear won’t be walking around outside this shop, it is somewhat unusual that Disney is allowing a third-party character to meet guests on their property.  Perhaps even more interestingly, Disney will also be using its own PhotoPass service to support the new experience, which is definitely an unexpected development as well, and could pave the way for additional non-Disney characters to come to the shopping district in the future.

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Don Korta
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