Every week new changes and offerings are announced from Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Here’s a round-up of the news this week from Disney Destinations, including new festivals, Limited Time Magic, Christmas Parade taping, and new policies for pools and guests needing special assistance.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival opens: Running now through November 11, 2013, tasting the world at Epcot’s World Showcase becomes the star attraction of Walt Disney World Resort, with kiosks offering small bites and paired beverages from everywhere to Argentina to New Zealand. In addition, nightly concerts from four decades of recording artists are offered free with theme park admission: it kicks off with Starship starring Mickey Thomas. You’ll also hear from the Go-Go’s, Sister Hazel, Boyz II Men, Hanson, and more. Check the Disney Parks Blog for a full line-up.
Christmas parade taping announced: If you want to be in the audience for the Disney Parks Christmas Parade, which is aired every year on Christmas Day, the Walt Disney World taping dates will be December 6th and 7th, 2013. Taping takes place from the Hub in front of Cinderella Castle, all the way up Main Street U.S.A to Town Square. Arrive early and snag a spot along the marked parade route, and be aware: the parade doesn’t just march on by: different segments, including singing performances, are filmed throughout the morning. You’ll also want to be dressed seasonally if you want to be in the front row, and keep in mind that this is “White Christmas” seasonal, not Florida seasonal. If you want to avoid the parade’s crowds, you’ll be directed around Main Street through the backstage short-cuts.
Changes to pool hours: Swimming at your own risk is about to become a thing of the past, at least at Walt Disney World Resort feature pools. The main pools at each resort are continuing their 7 AM-11 PM operating hours, but once the lifeguards clock out, the pools will be closed for the night. After-hours swimming will still be available in the quiet pools, which do not have lifeguard service, but the feature pools will not be available overnight. This is an ongoing roll-out through November, as some pools do not have fences and gates yet.
New polices to assist guests with disabilities: To deal with fraudulent use of the Guest Assistance Card (GAC) Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort have announced they will be switching to a system called Disability Access Service (DAS) as of October 9, 2013. Although this is only ten days away, official word from Disney Parks on just how DAS will work has not been announced. Many websites have announced information regarding DAS and their details are similar: a photo-card based system in which the cardholder approaches a Cast Member for assistance at each attraction. But it’s worth noting that the information on the Internet has changed frequently over the past few weeks, and until Disney makes an official press release, there is no real confirmed information in place regarding GAC/DAS policies.
DVC at the Poly: The Disney Vacation Club’s (DVC) next outpost will be at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, completing the circle of Monorail Resorts which offer studio and multi-room villas for Disney Vacation Club members and large families and groups. This will also usher in a long-awaited renovation of public areas around the Polynesian, although no official details are available yet. Disney’s Polynesian Resort is one of the most popular resorts at WDW, boasting an impressive loyalty rate from previous guests, and enhancements to room inventory, plus the addition of villas with everything from kitchenettes to full vacation homes with equipped kitchens, laundry, and multiple bed and bathrooms, will mean that the Polynesian’s tropical atmosphere and Magic Kingdom views will be available to many more guests. Construction is slated to run from present until 2015.
Limited Time Magic: The Downtown Disney Chalk Art Festival is the latest “Limited Time Magic” offering. Running from October 2-6, Downtown Disney’s sidewalks will feature three-dimensional chalk artists creating displays for guests to view. The same event will be going on over on the left coast, with sidewalk chalk art adorning Disneyland Resort’s Downtown Disney October 4-6.
Disney Cruise Line rates: Select sailings on the newly reimagined Disney Magic from Miami are being offered for as little as $99 per person, per night (excluding taxes and fees). The Disney Magic is just returning to service after a renovation which includes new dining (Carioca's, a Brazilian-inspired restaurant), new waterplay areas (including a new slide), new children's experiences (including the addition of Marvel characters), and more. The special rates are good on several Bahamian and Caribbean sailings in October and November. Check with Disney Cruise Line or your travel agent for all the details.
Published this week: In my Examiner columns this week you'll find details on the magical miniature golf experiences available at Walt Disney World, and a tour in photos of the Japan pavilion at Epcot.
For more news and travel tips for Disney Destinations around the world, follow me on Twitter and Facebook, and visit my Disney blog, Ink & Paint, for stories, history, and opinion on the Walt Disney Company.