Insider's Update: Free dining, expensive parties, and a now-empty pipeline at Walt Disney World
Published: May 2, 2014 at 9:32 AM
It's time again for what's turned out to be Walt Disney World's annual offering of free Disney Dining plans with Walt Disney World on-site hotel vacations. This year's offer is available to Disney Visa cardholders now, and will open to the rest of the public on May 7. It's a free quick service dining plan for 3- to 14-day vacations at Value Resorts, and a free standard dining plan for vacations of the same length at the Moderate and Deluxe resorts, for the following arrival dates:
August 31 - October 3
October 26 - November 1
November 9 - November 20
December 12 - December 23
Port Orleans, All-Star Movies, Little Mermaid rooms at Art of Animation, Grand Floridian villas, and Fort Wilderness campsites are not included in the offer.
Disney announced today that the Festival of the Lion King show, which was kicked out of its theater at Disney's Animal Kingdom for Avatar - World of Pandora construction, will return to the park this June in a new theater in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. In addition, Disney will offer a special, after-hours version of the Lion King story, "The Lion King Concert in the Wild," with a live orchestra and celebrity narrator, as part of a "Harambe Nights" hard-ticket event on Saturday nights from June 7 through August 9. Tickets start at $119 for ages 10 and up and $79 ages 9 and under, and include a street party and dinner buffet after the show, with beer, wine and drinks included.
Disney also revealed that the upcoming nighttime show at Animal Kingdom will be called Rivers of Light. No opening date yet.
Finally, Walt Disney World is bringing a version of Disneyland's popular Trader Sam's cocktail lounge to the Polynesian Resort, which will revert to its old Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort name next year as part of a major refurbishment of the resort. The Polynesian version will be called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, though no specific opening date has been announced yet.
With the Mine Train opening this month, neither Walt Disney World nor Disneyland will have any major new theme park attractions planned until Avatar opens at Disney's Animal Kingdom in 2017, unless Rivers of Light opens before then. (We're not counting Festival of the Lion King as a new attraction — that's really more of a refurbishment.) The Disney Springs shopping and dining area that replaces Downtown Disney in Florida remains under construction for a 2016 completion, and renovation work continues at the Polynesian, but nothing's in the pipeline officially for the theme parks on either coast, save Avatar. We will see if Disney will continue to enjoy growing, record-breaking attendance at its theme parks by promoting itself as a lifestyle brand rather than offering new attractions for the next three years. If you forced me to guess, I'd bet that it will. What do you think?
Saturday update: I forgot to mention that Knott's Berry Farm has announced that it will reopen its refurbished Calico Mine Ride and Camp Snoopy kids' area on June 14, with a media preview on June 12.
Also, yesterday Universal Studios Hollywood raised its ticket prices to match Disneyland's one-day, one-park price of $92. Universal is offering a $5 discount when you buy online and continues to offer the "buy a day, get 2014 free" deal so locals effectively can get an annual pass for the $92 price. Prices for 12-month annual passes went up $10 each, though $20 discounts remain available online for the no-blockout day passes, which now cost $139 when bought online. (It's $179 for the Premium Star Pass, which includes free parking before 5pm and front-of-the-line access on the Studio Tour.) That's still quite a bit less than Disneyland's no-blockout Premium Annual Pass, which costs $669.