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News and Views around Walt Disney World, 3rd week of February, 2014

News and Views around Walt Disney World, 3rd week of February, 2014

While the rest of the United States is experiencing bitterly cold winds, snow storm after snow storm, ice where it doesn’t belong, central Florida has had some thunderstorms but for the most part looks like a great place for people to escape.  The parks are experiencing low to moderate crowds.  Many families may have to make the choice to take children out of school when it is time for their long-awaited Spring Break that has been eaten away by snow days, or reschedule for later in the summer when schools will finally break for summer vacation.  Is your family affected by this long winter eating away at your vacation plans?  We will do our best at Disney Dining to keep you up-to-date on all the news. You can at least feel like you are here for a little while.

Some changes that are going on at Downtown Disney this week include the boat transportation connecting Downtown Disney with Port Orleans, Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resorts.  From now until late this year boat service from Port Orleans Riverside and Port Orleans French Quarter will take you down the Sassagoula River and stop at the Pleasure Island boat dock.  Guests from Old Key West and Saratoga Springs Resorts will only be taken to the West Side boat dock, near House of Blues.  For the rest of us Downtown Disney guests we can get boat transportation between the West Side dock and the Pleasure Island docks only.  The reason for the change is the area needs to be kept clear for constructing the causeway that is part of the new Disney Springs construction project. The new Starbuck’s location at Downtown Disney West Side is being constructed and is scheduled to open Spring 2014. It looks like it is closer to being ready than some other construction projects here.  Based on the overwhelming number of people standing in line for Starbucks inside the Parks, this Starbuck’s, the first at Downtown Disney, will surely be crowded.

If you are a fan of the Kingdom Keeper’s series by Ridley Pearson, you may know that his final book of the series Kingdom Keepers VII The Insider is soon to be published.  You will be able to meet him at Once Upon a Toy at Downtown Disney on March 26 and then March 27 at Writer’s Stop at Hollywood Studios.  This is expected to draw quite a crowd so you will want to arrive early and get one of the wristbands that will be distributed at each location. Did you know that the famous character “Wayne” still works at the Magic Kingdom?

For guests driving themselves to WDW, getting to the Magic Kingdom these days means riding a bus from the Ticket & Transportation system, or the ferry boat as the Monorail is intermittently closed between the hours of 11 AM and 7PM.  However, today CM’s guided guests to ride the Monorail or the Bus to Magic Kingdom, the boat was not in service.  There is a second boat dock that will be opening at the Transportation and Ticket Center to make it easier for multiple Ferry Boats to dock there.  On my return the early evening there was a single boat operating so we hopped on the Monorail which was again open.  There is no bus service to return you to the T&TC currently.

Upon entering the park I see the Trolley Show taking place on Main Street and decide to cut through the Main Street Confectionary just to grab a bit of that sweet smell.  The front of the shop is undergoing some refurbishment but the inside is very busy.  I duck back out onto Main Street through the Art of Disney store.  At the corner I can see that some of the construction walls have come down near Casey’s Corner Restaurant that is currently closed for refurb.  Good news!  Casey’s Corner will be reopening on Thursday this week. There is a new sidewalk pattern and grassy areas without fencing that has been revealed since removing the construction walls we saw last week.  I know this spot pretty well because it is where I was stuck for some time on the Monster Night last summer. This looks like a more direct way out for large groups of people if the park needs to empty quickly.  Although, there is now a pretty fountain in the center, so not sure what is going on with this space.  The outside eating area for Casey’s is still behind construction walls. One of my new favorite places to watch the 7 Dwarfs Mine construction going on from is the balcony at Pinocchio Village Haus. PVH is closed for refurb through March 30, and they roped off the balcony.  People have still filled up the tables here with umbrellas to give them shade. It is warm today, perfect for enjoying a Pineapple Float at Aloha Isle!

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Splash Mountain has scaffolding all over the upper area of the ride, and men working under the bridge below.  There are quite a few workmen on this mountain each time I come, but with the design of the ride, it is harder to see the progress being made.  The days are getting warmer and it would be nice to ride this again.  It is supposed to reopen March 22. Keeping my fingers crossed for that one.

Magic Kingdom 7 Dwarfs Mine – Let’s take a look over there and see if the walls are down? Wow, grass is going down, with small flowers and small bushes as well.  There are large sections of scaffolding that have come down. The roofs of buildings are nicely done to look like timber beams as you would expect in a forest structure and a “hay” roof is going on one of the larger buildings within the walls. I can almost hear the little birds tweeting along with Snow White as she sings…cannot wait for this ride to open!  I predict it will be similar to a woman’s diamond engagement ring when it is done, in that she always catches herself looking at it and smiles when she sees it-guests will be able to catch a look at this gem from so much of the Magic Kingdom that will draw them to it and smile as they look at it from other ride lines or while they are eating a meal or sundae close by.  I love that this ride will be able to be enjoyed by so many ages in a family together.  I was concerned that it would be more like Barnstormer when I first heard that, but after seeing this, I am sure it will be an E-ticket ride.  It is drawing a lot of attention today!

I snagged an early dinner reservation at Be Our Guest today, something I have not been able to get since it opened.  I am so excited!! And I get to watch the activity at 7 Dwarfs at the same time as I wait for my name to be called.  During lunchtime the wait is usually spent on that long bridge leading to the Beast’s castle, but at dinner no one enters the gates to the castle until their name is called to go in. It adds to the anticipation I can tell you that. What have you most wanted to try here? The Gray Stuff? Let’s get some, but first I need real food.  It will be hard to decide because so many things sound delicious.  Read my complete review on Be Our Guest on DisneyDining.com in a few days. I can tell you the atmosphere is even better at night, our service was excellent, and we really enjoyed the experience.   If you have not been to Be Our Guest, please try to go at least once.

Plaza Restaurant is closed through March 15; Monorail system at Magic through March 31; Winter side of Winter Summerland Mini Golf through June 1;

Epcot- NEW at Les Halles in France are Beignets!!  But you will have to get them fast as they are only here for a limited time, through March 4, 2014.  What is it about dough, fat, and sugar that are so enticing? It just tastes so good. These delicious Beignet pillows are here as a Mardi Gras Special and the cost is $4.25.  These are rolled in the granulated sugar rather than the powdered sugar they use at Port Orleans French Quarter resort.   These are a bit heavier in the dough and there is a delicious citrusy taste in there.  Add to your list those Large Chocolate-dipped Palmiers for $3.50.  The Palmiers are large, partially dipped in chocolate and dusted with a hint of cinnamon. This is amazing. I have been a fan of the smaller versions of these that used to frequent Les Halles but disappeared when the bakery relocated to wear it is now. I am SO happy they are back, and even better.  These have a slight crispiness on the outside, delicate butter and cinnamon flavor sprinkled throughout, and matched with a bit of chocolate and it all practically melts in your mouth. You will be back for more of these to take to your room for a quick-start breakfast in the morning, but keep in mind the chocolate gets a little melty after being out of Les Halles and it may not make it to breakfast, um, ok. There is a lot of walking at Epcot and I think this will give me a boost down the Promenade. No kidding though, the chocolate does start to melt once you hit the warm air so plan on eating that one pretty soon after purchasing it.  Only the Beignets are listed as being here for Mardi gras, so I am hoping some form of this delicious Palmiers will make its way back on the menu.  And while we are at it chef, how about bringing back the rolled sticks with the chocolate chips in them? They haunt me. In a good way. But now that I live here I really want them back.

Epcot is getting ready for the International Flower and Garden Festival which will take place March 5 to May 18, 2014.  We already see topiaries being placed, specifically Cinderella and Aurora and their Prince’s dancing together near the bridge leading to France. Disney has decided to rename the Marketplaces “Outdoor Kitchens”.  They will be placed near Germany, Japan, Mexico, France, American Adventure, China, Canada, Italy, Morocco, United Kingdom and a café located right in the Festival Center.  New this year will be Urban Farm Eats, with things grown entirely in the soil in their food menu.  Are any of you Muppet fans, like me? Well we have heard that the Muppets will be among some of the topiaries for the first time. This will coincide with the release of their new movie “Muppets: Most Wanted” in theatres. HGTV and DIY network stars will be on hand during the festival for special events, including the designers from “Kitchen Crashers”, “Bath Crashers” and “Yard Crashers”. I don’t think they will be looking for someone to go home with and do a redo, but just in case, I will be there!

The dates for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival have been announced and the festival will begin a week earlier than last year, from September 19 through November 10, 2014.  Now that you have the dates you can make plans to visit.  For the best experiences, try to come during the week rather than the weekend when it can be quite crowded.   With an extra full week this year, perhaps you will have the chance to try more food and beverages.

Animal Kingdom– a crane is visible in the old Camp Minnie Mickey section of Animal Kingdom, where preparations are being made to build the new Avatar-land.  The construction on the Lion King Theatre behind Africa continues to move forward. It is scheduled to be reopening in the new location on July 1.

Annual Passholders are randomly being selected to participate in the “testing” phase of MyMagic+ and there is no way to volunteer for that. Register your Annual Pass and email address on MyDisneyExperience and you may be selected.  You will at least get some emails concerning the program and any special opportunities for Annual Passholders.  I found the lines at FastPass+ locations today to be extra busy.  In fact, Magic Kingdom is quite busy today with Big Thunder Mountain reaching wait times of 3 hours and the Small World line extending way into the traffic patter between Peter Pan and Small World.

Hollywood Studios-Studio Backlot Tour is closed for refurb until March 1; Blizzard Beach closed through March 16. Not having been here following Disney construction processes very long, I tend to think things are moving slowly.  There is just so much building going on here at Walt Disney World! Let’s hope all of these “Spring 2014” dates really hold.

By Cassie

About Cassie

Cassie L. I am a lifelong Disney fan. I attended Walt Disney World in 1971, and was there during the opening week of EPCOT, and have visited the Disney Parks for than 30 times. I have had the privilege of visiting Disneyland as a child, and then again with my children. My family recently moved from the northeastern United States to the Walt Disney World area. I now have cast members in my family and enjoy hearing the magical stories at the end of a shift. I love visiting all of the parks and getting to try more Disney food and being able to share it with you to help you plan your own magical day at Disney.