News and Views Around Walt Disney World: Baby Its Cold Outside!
Well, the story today is all about the weather. Central Florida has not escaped the Polar Vortex the rest of the country to the north is experiencing. Ok, so it’s not a zillion degrees below zero, but it is windy and very cold for this section of Florida. Guests at Walt Disney World found themselves dealing with the unexpectedly cold weather in a variety of ways. Many purchased warmer clothing, hats, scarves, socks, shoes, gloves, and lots of hot coffee and hot chocolate to keep them warm. People here do get creative with affordable ways to stay warm purchasing blankets, beach towels, to wearing the Disney ponchos as one of their layers. Don’t laugh; remember how hot you get wearing those plastic ponchos in the Spring and Summer!
Typhoon Lagoon has been closed often during this week because of the low temperatures. Despite the low temps I did see a couple of brave swimmers in the pool at Wilderness Lodge. The Life Guards were dressed from head to toe and they all had their eyes trained on the guests in their pool. The pools at Walt Disney World are heated, but you still have to get out, wrap the towel and run back to your room in a very cold wind.
Those shoulder to shoulder fellow visitors who could have blocked the wind from us are no longer here. The crowd levels have dropped a great deal from the last two weeks. Is the cold stopping Magic Kingdom guests from buying their beloved Dole Whips? Check out the photo below of some guests who bundled up first, then went to purchase a Dole Whip. You have to do what you have to do, right?
Picking up a Times Guide for Magic Kingdom today you may wonder if there was an error. The only daytime parade is Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Parade that runs three times a day. The Electrical Light Parade is still running in the evenings. Magic Kingdom still has several opportunities for live entertainment: Frontierland Ho Down performs many times during the Park hours, although not found on the Times Guide. #IncrediblesSuperDanceParty takes place several times each day. Adventureland has Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Training experiences throughout the daytime. Main Street offers the Dapper Dans, Main Street Trolley Show, Main Street Philharmonic and Fantasyland has Storybook Circus Giggle Gang, Royal Majesty Makers and Wowzer. The Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage is the place to catch Dream Along With Mickey several times a day. Wishes is showing at 8PM except Saturdays at 9PM. We are all anxiously awaiting the new parade that is being built. The Festival of Fantasy Parade will debut in “Spring 2014.”
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As the crowds have diminished, so have the number of restaurants that are open. Check your Times Guide when you come to see which restaurants are open for you. Coming down toward the Cinderella Castle off to the right we can see that Cosmic Rays Starlight Café has blocked off their outside eating areas. They are the balconies over the water and have been a favorite of my family to eat late at night and watch the Electrical Light Parade from. Today would be pretty uncomfortable with this steady cold wind we are experiencing. In the summer months it has been too hot for most folks to enjoy during the daytime hours. Disney will be enclosing the outside eating area and changing this front side of the restaurant to be enclosed dining. Construction begins this week and this section will reopen by mid-February 2014. The restaurant, which is the Magic Kingdom’s largest restaurant, will remain open during this construction phase. Another restaurant closed this week, through February 15 is Casey’s Corner. January has historically been the time of many annual refurbishments.
Behind Cosmic Ray’s is Tomorrowland Speedway. It is closed for refurbishment January 6 through January 12. Agrabah Bazaar will also be closed for refurbishment January 6 through February 2. During this time the Jasmine and Aladdin meet and greets will take place on the Veranda in Adventureland, next to Pixie Hollow. Liberty Square Riverboat will be down January 21 through January 30, 2014. The Walt Disney World Monorail Resort and Express beams will be closed between the hours of 11AM to 7PM on weekdays. The Epcot Monorail will not be affected. The Enchanted Tiki Room has construction materials around the front of it, but the attraction is still open. Jingle Cruise has been packed away and the Jungle Cruise is back in action. Two gift shops have been closed and no information on what will reopen them has been given yet. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Shop is closed, near the attraction of the same basic name it is expected to reopen with merchandise related to the new ride, but under a new name. The other shop is Heritage House located near the exit of The Hall of Presidents that has housed merchandise related to U.S. Presidents, and Jack Skellington among other things.
An Attraction that we are anxiously watching is the 7 Dwarfs Mine Ride that bridges New Fantasyland with original Fantasyland. Let’s take that walk around the ride and see what we can this week. There are a few places where the construction wall has come down to reveal a large rock wall but doesn’t give us a better peek inside. We take a peek through the windows built into the construction wall for inquisitive Guests to look through and see that several trees have been placed and there is still surface painting ongoing, as well as that there is still much to be done at the base of the ride to make it show-ready. There are no workers seen on the outside today, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any inside the mountain. Work lights can be still be seen outside. Scaffolding is still in place and areas that need “grass” are still present. Construction on the buildings is ongoing. It is nice to be able to walk all the way around a Disney ride in progress. Many guests can be seen on tip-toe trying to get a better view, or looking through the small windows to see what is going on. The reactions are generally something like “I can’t wait to ride this! This is awesome!”
Nearby the 7 Dwarfs Mine Ride is the Friar Nook quick service location. It is one of those locations that is open seasonally but it is still open today. It used to carry only items like hot dogs. Today they have added some new items to the menu: Bacon Cheeseburger Macaroni and Cheese &8.99, and Blue Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar Macaroni and Cheese, $8.99 and Macaroni and Cheese topped with Panko Bread Crumbs $5.99. Items remaining are hot dogs with chips $6.99, Vegetable and Chips with Hummus $6.99, Carrot Cake $3.99., Apple and Caramel Dippers $3.49.
Splash Mountain is currently down for their annual refurbishment and has been drained of the water. There are guests still disappointed today, in spite of the cold, that they cannot ride this favorite water ride. Yes, you do get wet on Splash Mountain. But today no splashing, only hard work by the construction crew here to refurbish the Mountain. We can see workers constructing scaffolding in the big drop area, and working below the bridge where the heavy splashing occurs. There are Splash Mountain Cast Members posted around the outside of the ride to let people know what is going on with the ride and to trade pins. The bathrooms are still open at the back of the Splash Mountain attraction and so are the FastPass+ kiosks with Guest Service Cast Members waiting to help you. When Splash Mountain reopens in the spring, remember that they are not part of the Extra Magic Hours ride list. Splash Mountain is closed through March 21, 2014.
There are still Gingerbread Cookies at the Main Street Confectionary and after dinner a very long line. Cast Members are busy making Cotton Candy, Candy Apples, and Crispy Rice Mickey’s. The only line longer than the bakery line here on Main Street is the Starbuck’s who want a hot drink to warm their hands.
This week is the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2014. Disney’s Health & Fitness Expo is open at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex Wednesday through Saturday. The Disney Family Fun Run 5K is Thursday at Epcot, Walt Disney World 10K at Epcot, RunDisney Kids Dashes on Thursday-Sunday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Mickey Mile Thursday-Saturday at ESPN WWoSC, Walt Disney World Half Marathon at Epcot on Saturday, and Walt Disney World Marathon at Epcot on Sunday. Good luck to all the race participants! If you would like to view the Half Marathon and Marathon runners as a Guest you can enter the Magic Kingdom at 5:30AM, no ticket required, and see them near the Cinderella Castle which is mile 5.3 for the runners. If you wish to watch runners in the other theme parks you will need to purchase a ticket for that park and go in during regular park hours. The Finish Line for these races is in the Imagine section of the Epcot parking lot. This is also the location for viewing the start and finish lines of the 5K and 10K races. There will be some road closures to accommodate the race events. Fortunately for the runners that arctic blast will be gone and they will enjoy more typical Florida temperatures, partly cloudy skies on Friday, isolated thunderstorms on Saturday and a sunny Sunday.
Refurbishments in other Parks: Festival of the Lion King Jan. 5 to July 1, 2014; Studio Backlot Tour Jan.5 to March 1, 2014; Blizzard Beach continues to be closed for their annual refurbishment through March 16, 2014. There is a lot of building going on over at Animal Kingdom as the new Festival of the Lion King Theater is being constructed over in Africa, and Camp Minnie Mickey is being taken down and making way for a new Avatar themed land that is scheduled to open in 2017. Downtown Disney the work continues on the new Disney Springs area. Part of that project is two parking garages and one is being constructed while most of the parking in the front of the complex is taken up by the construction team. There will also be a new shopping area opening in the Marketplace area in the space previously housing Team Mickey. Captain Jack’s restaurant and Marina has been completely removed and leaves quite a nice view of the Marketplace area from as far away as the House of Blues boat dock. We are still awaiting the opening of Spice Road Table, and when it does we will be there to share the photos and review with you. Anna and Elsa from Frozen are extending their meet and greet dates in Norway through January 31, 2014.
Other major news has centered on the Magic Bands and FastPass+ program that Walt Disney World has been testing. They announced their intention of opening the program to all guests, not just resort guests, in 2014. Resort Guests will be going to MagicBands only by the end of January. My Disney Experience website and APP are being reworked and will launch the new version that should make faster operations with it. For now there are still paper FastPass available. Some even give you a Surprise Fast Pass for another attraction. Insert your plastic ticket into the FastPass machine and it will return your ticket, dispense the attraction ticket you want, and then may dispense another paper ticket for an additional FastPass experience. This Surprise FastPass does not count as one of your choices, it is just given in addition to it. It is random though. Where these Surprise FastPasses were given out yesterday may not be what is given the following day. Just keep an eye out for a second pass dispensed when you use the machine.