The 11 BIG Updates From Walt Disney World (And Beyond) This Week (November 7-13, 2016)

Oriinally published in Theme Park Tourist..b

This week at Walt Disney World, Bob Iger confirms plans to expand the resort again, a new Christmas attraction debuts at Disney Springs, plus work begins on the newest president coming to the Hall of Presidents next year!

Outside Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort confirms plans to build yet another on-property hotel, plus Busch Gardens Tampa announces a fall Fun Card deal and SeaWorld introduces a new initiative that should help keep its upcoming attractions on the cutting edge!

1. Disney Springs Trail of Trees opens

Disney Springs Kicked off its massive Christmastime celebration this week, and as part of their robust 2016 offerings, the shopping district has opened a winding trail of Christmas trees that features lavishly decorated trees themed to classic Disney films like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, 101 Dalmatians and Frozen. Each tree has its own backdrop, and PhotoPass photographers are on hand to help capture guests’ special memories from this trail. Guests who wander through this trail will also be able to see “snow” falling from the sky periodically as well!

2. New drone-based show to open at Disney Springs soon

And speaking of Christmas at Disney Springs, just a few days after the FAA approved drone use at Walt Disney World, Disney posted a cryptic video that features quick shots of drones moving into place to form a giant, floating Christmas tree, teasing a new entertainment offering that should debut soon. Disney did not confirm a name or start date for this new drone-based show, but you can check it out the teaser video for yourself above.

3. DisneyQuest to remain open in 2017

Image: Disney

Last year Disney announced that its so-called indoor theme park, DisneyQuest, would officially be closing its doors forever sometime in 2016 to make way for a brand new NBA-themed dining and entertainment experience, coming in 2017. However, as we are now in the closing weeks of 2016, you might have noticed that DisneyQuest is in fact still open, and now Disney has confirmed to both Cast Members as well as the Orlando Sentinel that DisneyQuest is now going to remain open into 2017. Though we don’t know how long this virtual playground will stay open next year, it looks like, at least for now, DisneyQuest is safe.

4. Soarin’ Around the World pre-opening tour now available for Disney Vacation Club members

As part of DVC’s Member Magic, a new free tour will be offered most Wednesday mornings that gives members an up-close look at Soarin’ Around The World. This hourlong experience will be offered before Epcot opens and conclude with the tour group taking a ride on Soarin’ Around the World with no wait. DVC members who want to take advantage of this new offering can contact DVC Member Services beginning November 18, 2016 in order to register for tours beginning this month.

5. More hotels coming to Walt Disney World

During an earnings call discussing Disney’s recent financial report, Disney CEO Bob Iger hinted that more hotels could be on the way soon for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort, saying “We also have other kinds of expansion opportunities, like hotels, for instance.” Iger continued to say, “Not only do we have the property, but we’ve seen such high occupancy rates in Orlando and California, we believe it would be smart for us to build more hotels out … at both sites.” While nothing was explicitly confirmed, it looks like Disney is looking to expand again in Orlando sometime in the near future.

6. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster reopens from refurbishment

As expected, the refurbishment of the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster ended November 10, 2016, only two weeks after it kicked off. And though there was some concern that the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith would be getting a re-theme during this refurbishment, it looks Iike these rumors were unfounded, as this ride is back open with no noticeable changes.

7. Work has already begun on Donald Trump bust for Hall of Presidents

Image: Gage Skidmore, Flickr (license)

With Donald Trump now officially the President-elect of the United States of America, we know that the Hall of Presidents will be getting a new audio-animatronic of President Trump during a six month refurbishment next year. And during a recent earnings call, Bob Iger recently confirmed that Disney has already gotten a jump on preparing for this refurbishment, as work on a Donald Trump bust has already begun.

Besides the addition of the audio animatronic of the new president, it will be interesting to see if Disney makes additional changes to the Hall of Presidents during this closure as well. The show was overhauled in 2009 after Barack Obama was elected, with new film segments, narration by Morgan Freeman, and the addition of George Washington as the third speaking president. And while some of these show elements could remain, the addition of a new president provides Disney with an opportunity to make substantial changes to this attraction yet again and reinvent it for a whole new generation of guests.

8. Universal Orlando Resort announces Universal’s Adventura Hotel

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

In the summer of 2018, Universal’s Aventura Hotel will become the sixth on-property hotel at Universal Orlando Resort, and the second value priced option at the resort, after the Cabana Bay Beach Resort. This massive 16-story tower will be sandwiched in between the Loews Sapphire Falls resort and the Cabana Bay Beach Resort, and will offer easy access to both Universal’s two main theme parks as well as Volcano Bay (which will be only steps away).

Inside this hotel, guests will find an open, loft-inspired lobby with 18-foot windows and an amazing view of the resort’s pool.  Guest rooms will feature floor-to-ceiling windows and contemporary design. In addition to its modern look, this new tower-style hotel will also have a rooftop bar serving craft cocktails and small plates while providing guests with amazing views of the resort, including the ability to glance at the top of Krakatau, the 200-foot-tall centerpiece of Universal’s Volcano Bay.

Image: Universal Orlando Resort 

As is the case with other Universal Orlando Hotels, guests staying at Universal’s Aventura Hotel will receive Early Park Admission to Universal’s theme parks. However, as it will be a value resort, guests will not be able to enjoy the free Express Pass feature that guests at the resort’s Premiere and Preferred hotels enjoy.

9. Universal Orlando Resort Christmas festivities to begin December 3

Universal Orlando Resort announced this week that it will be bringing back its special holiday-themed entertainment on December 3, including Grinchmas and the Macy’s Holiday Parade (which will have two new floats in 2016!). This year will also see the return of Mannheim Steamroller to Universal Studios Florida who will perform on the Music Plaza Stage on December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18th.

10. Busch Gardens Tampa announces Fall for Free promotion

Image: Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay has announced a new promotion that will allow guests to experience the rest of 2016 for free with the purchase of a 2017 Fun Card. With the 2017 Fun Card (which is now available for purchase online and at the park), guests can pay the cost of a single day’s undiscounted admission and get all of 2017 free. And with this new deal, guests can pay this one low price and enjoy admission for 14 months!

11. SeaWorld announces the creation of the Deep Blue Creative Team

Image: SeaWorld Orlando

Despite apparently considering getting rid of theming due to budget cuts, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment has announced the formation of Deep Blue Creative, a new group that, like Disney’s Imagineers, will lead innovation and creativity within the company in six key areas:

Theme Park Development, U.S.A. encompasses two teams—Project Management and Guest Experiences—closely collaborating to inspire guests through innovative attractions, culinary experiences and retail environments.

Theme Park Development, Global leads the development of all theme park growth initiatives beyond the company’s existing parks, including international expansion, exploration of new business models, feasibility and site evaluation.

Resort Development is responsible for the business and creative development of resorts and hotels, unique hospitality experiences and land planning.

Events and Entertainment supports all park entertainment teams in staging live experiences for theatrical settings, as well as culinary and retail environments. This team will explore and develop new event concepts that inspire family traditions and encourage repeat visits from annual pass members and local residents.

Media Enterprises leads the company’s film, television, and music business, maximizing distribution opportunities for our brands. This team will collaborate with content creators and develop production partnerships.

Expedition X is a team focused on prototype development for innovative project concepts and new technology. This group will harness creative energy from within and outside the company and look for emerging trends and inventive ways to bring guests experiences that explore both real and amazing worlds on land and sea.



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