Walt Disney World Resort Update for December 22-28, 2020

Writer’s Note & News (Combined)

To those who celebrate, have a Merry Christmas!

Unlike the increasingly dire situation with the pandemic in California that Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix covered in yesterday’s Disneyland Resort Update, that has lead to increasingly tighter movement and business restrictions around the State of California, as of publication, the State of Florida has not tightened restrictions. Walt Disney World Resort continues to operate under its phased reopening plan, and, while the COVID-19 positive test numbers and those whose deaths are attributed to the virus are both up over recent months, including at a higher rate in Central Florida, statewide, they have not reached the statistical highs reported this past summer. (News reports are that a White House task force has designated Florida as in a “red zone” for cases.)

The scaled-down holidays celebrations continue around Walt Disney World with Disney’s health and safety protocols in place. Remember, if you decide to visit, be sure to check the latest news about travel restrictions, and, if you are planning to visit the parks, be sure to make your Disney Park Pass date-specific reservations in addition to having your tickets before you arrive. You will be required to wear a face covering in just about all public areas (except when stationary while dining) or you will be asked to leave.

Disney Parks Blog has published its latest Foodie guide to Magic Kingdom holiday menu highlights, which now includes a Disneyland classic corn dog. And, here is a reminder: Passholders visiting the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays in the evenings (from 7 p.m. until close) can get 10% off food and non-alcoholic beverages when using cashless payment at select EPCOT Holiday Kitchens through December 31, 2020. The list of participating locations is available on the Passholder Special Offers page of DisneyWorld.com, but remember, it never hurts to ask!

With crowds swelling around the region’s attractions for the Holiday Season, with the limited capacity limits reportedly being hit, only time will tell what happens here next. It is not likely the State of Florida will take the sorts of actions California has taken, but I believe Disney will continue to be guided by health and safety experts that seem to follow stricter rules than Florida requires. In any event, I have remained physically distanced from the larger crowds, simply by staying away. Unfortunately, that means that this will be the first Christmas in quite a few years that I will not make the quick trip over to EPCOT for an afternoon stroll.

If our Walt Disney World Resort news situation remains relatively unchanged next week, this will also be our final Walt Disney World Resort Update for 2020 (but, unlike Adrienne’s Disneyland Update, I was not quite ready to headline this Update as such). Coincidentally, I had decided back in January (before we had even an inkling of a coming pandemic), that I was NOT going to make a New Year’s reservation for one of the DVC Resorts for the first time in quite a few years (and only the second time since 2002) and was probably not going to visit any parks December 30-31 to ring in 2021. As it turns out, I will not even have the option of being in the parks for New Year’s Eve celebrations this year, even if I had a Disney Park Pass Reservation. At least as of our publication of this Update, on December 31, Magic Kingdom closes at 11 p.m., EPCOT at 10 p.m., Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 9 p.m., and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (which experimented with its first New Year’s Tree of Life celebration last December 31) at 8 p.m. Of course, notwithstanding this week’s return of the Electrical Water Pageant to the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, and another round of Magic Kingdom fireworks testing visible (and audible) in my neighborhood the other night, the crowd-gathering nighttime spectaculars remain on hiatus.

And, in fact, The Electrical Water Pageant did resume performances Sunday night, following Disney’s tweet earlier in the day. Performances had been suspended since the Resort’s temporary closure back in March.

So, whether or not we publish next week, let me say it now: Have a happy, and healthy New Year. May our 2021 see a safe return of many of the aspects of our lives, like a Walt Disney World Resort visit, that we may have taken for granted in 2019 and before. May the many who have lost jobs, and, indeed, even the possibility of alternative employment in their chosen fields, be able to safely return.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue Update Reminder

If you read our Update last week before Noon Eastern, you may have missed the news that early last Tuesday, Disney shared that, starting December 20, the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue’s afternoon opening is now at 1 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. Remember that your entire party must be in the park when attempting to get a boarding group assigned by the afternoon distribution. The 7 a.m. virtual queue opening remains unchanged, and you can attempt to get a boarding group from anywhere you have Internet access to use the My Disney Experience app.

Note that whenever you attempt to join the virtual queue, you must have a Disney Park Pass reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the date in question; when the modified version of Park Hopping begins on January 1, only those guests with Disney Park Pass reservations for Studios for that date will be eligible to join the virtual queue. In other words, Park Hoppers that started the day with a visit to a different park using the Disney Park Pass reservation system will NOT be able to join the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Disney Vacation Club Member News Update (Plus A Theme Parks Ticket Offer for Select Resorts Guest Stays)

Last week, I noted my disappointment that, as a Disney Vacation Club Member for more than two decades, DVC published nothing more than a boilerplate “highlights” statement from its annual members and board meetings held at Disney’s Contemporary Resort Convention Center on December 10, 2020. DVC had solicited online member questions ahead of the meeting, and, it has not published responses to my questions, nor any others regarding the substantial increases to dues shown in the 2021 budgets circulated ahead of the meetings.

On December 17, the 2021 dues statements were posted to member accounts, and, to my pleasant surprise, mine showed an operations credit which reduced the total bill to a level lower than my review of the budgets suggested. I believe the operations credit relates to the fact that, for more than two months, there were no operating Disney Vacation Club properties, but, there has still been no publication to members explaining such details. I will reach out for comment in coming days and will report in a future Update any response or official publication I receive.

Starting January 5, 2021, Disney Vacation Club members that book 4-night or more room reservations for arrivals through September 25, 2021, that also buy a non-discounted 4-day Walt Disney World theme park ticket will receive 2 extra days added to your ticket. The offer is valid for number of guests on Member’s eligible room reservation and the park tickets must be purchased in advance through Member Services. Like many DVC offers, this one requires that the Member be eligible for Membership Extras (own at least a specified number of points purchased directly from DVC as of a certain date). The park tickets will be valid for admission beginning on date selected as start date and must be used within a limited number of days, depending on ticket length and type. And, of course, until further notice, Disney Park Pass reservations are still required for the dates Members and their guests plan to use their tickets, and those reservations remain limited and subject to availability.

Note For Everyone: Disney Parks Blog announced a similar two additional days park admission offer for any guests that buy a non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket package at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights January 8 through September 25, 2021. Details are published on this page of DisneyWorld.com and booking opens on January 5, 2021.

That offer applies to non-discounted hotel stays, but, as we noted last week, Passholders can save up to 40% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights January 3 through April 17, 2021.

Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts Update

Last week, we reported recently released details about the scaled-down “Taste of” EPCOT International Festival of the Arts running January 8 through February 22, 2021. We have since been able to confirm that long-time Disney performer (and friend of mine and MousePlanet reader) Carol Stein, who has been performing on the grand piano in World Showplace on weekdays in sets that alternate with Joyful! performances during the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays will be continuing to perform sets in World Showplace on weekdays, presumably alternating with the live artist performances and Art Defying Gravity performances inside that venue.

Carol Stein plays the grand piano on a physically distanced stage inside World Showplace during Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, and will return to the stage during Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival Announced

This week, Walt Disney World Resort announced that the scaled-down “Taste of” EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival will run March 3 through July 5, 2021. Like the other scaled-down to promote health and safety festivals, some aspects of the full Flower & Garden Festival will be back, and some will be missing. Character topiaries are coming back—from Mickey, Donald and friends, to Remy, Anna & Elsa, Lady & the Tramp, Figment and more— and there will be a “kaleidoscope of bright blooms and floating gardens scattered throughout EPCOT.” More than 20 Outdoor Kitchens and other food and beverage locations are slated as well. Festival merchandise and Spike’s Pollen Nation Exploration, the springtime scavenger hunt, will also return.

The Remy topiary debuted just before EPCOT’s temporary closure back in March during the Flower & Garden Festival. It remained on display at France pavilion during the park’s phased re-opening. File Photo from November 2, 2020 by Alan S. Dalinka.

Like the other “Taste of” Festivals, the announcement is silent about the Garden Rocks Concert Series, and, at least, as of right now it is probably fair to say that there are no plans to reinstate any potentially large crowd-gathering events in the parks in the spring. That likely means that the various workshops and other up-charge programs that are typically a part of Flower & Garden Festival are not scheduled to return either. On the other hand, the smaller visiting artists that display Flower & Garden merchandise could very well be returning, as they are scheduled to do during the Taste of Festival of the Arts this winter. Stay tuned.

This & That…

…Tomorrow, Wednesday, December 23, beginning at 11:30 a.m. Eastern, Disney Parks Blog presents its next #DisneyMagicMoments LIVE stream: The Dapper Dans Sing Songs of the Season at Magic Kingdom. The iconic Dapper Dans Barbershop Quartet will be singing some favorite merry melodies live from the park. The announcement does not say whether this performance will be available for replay, so be sure to tune in if you want to be sure to catch it. Some of the prior #DisneyMagicMoments streams have been one-time-only streaming shows (of material regularly performed in the parks), including EPCOT’s Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty live performances.

…Kilimanjaro Safaris recently welcomed Nigerian Dwarf Goats to a new habitat guests pass during their rides.

…REMINDER: Disney Parks Blog has published a 2020 Holiday Gift Guide which highlights Disney merchandise, including many parts of its family of businesses, from Marvel, to PIXAR, and Star Wars (including The Mandalorian) and beyond.

…Beginning next Monday, December 28, there will be an all-new assortment of apparel, accessories and more merchandise available for pet owners and pets in a first-ever collection from Disney Parks for pet owners and pets: Reigning Cats and Dogs Collection. It will be available at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and online.

…The United States Army Training and Doctrine Command announced that it will host the annual Department of Defense Warrior Games in Central Florida in September 2021. ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort will welcome hundreds of heroes from across the United States Armed Forces and ally nations to demonstrate their fighting spirit through adaptive sporting events including wheelchair basketball, cycling, indoor rowing, wheelchair rugby and more.

…REMINDER: Wine Bar George at Disney Springs is once again offering a $10 bonus gift card for each $100 gift card purchased at the restaurant through December 31.

…REMINDER: Patina Restaurant Group, which operates Morimoto Asia Orlando, The Edison, Maria & Enzo’s Ristorante, Enzo’s hideaway Tunnelbar, and Pizza Ponte at Disney Springs, is offering a $30 digital bonus card with the purchase of every $100 e-gift card purchased through December 31, 2020. Terms and Conditions, plus a full list of participating locations (which include Downtown Disney District locations but NOT EPCOT restaurants), is available on this page of its website, where you can also purchase the e-gift cards.

…And, REMINDER: as a gift idea foodies or looking ahead to early 2021, the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort is now offering tickets its three food and beverage events coming up January 16, February 7 and February 27, 2021. On January 16 and February 27, the Food & Wine Classic: A Taste of Swan and Dolphin will be offered from 5:30-8:00 p.m., including 10 food stations from the hotel’s award-winning restaurants and more than 50 beverage offerings (unlimited food and beverage tastings, including dessert selections from the hotel’s world champion pastry chef, Laurent Branlard), and live entertainment. On Sunday, February 7, the resort will debut its “Big Game Tailgate Watch Party,” at 6:00 p.m.: starting 30 minutes prior to kickoff and through the end of the game, attendees can watch all the action, enjoy seven food stations and unlimited craft beer and wine. Event-only tickets can be purchased online at SwanDolphinFoodAndWineClassic.com for $110 per person. Room packages start at $359 and include event access for two adults. To book, call 1-888-828-8850 between 8:30 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. weekdays; 5:00 p.m. on weekends. Events are limited to those 21 years and older. Health and safety protocols for the events include: temperature checks at the entrance; plexiglass walls for all food service areas; all cast members wearing PPE; socially distanced event space; seating available to accommodate each party at their own table; touchless menus and clearly marked social distancing signage.

…Last week we noted that several additional pieces of the development at the Disney-owned Flamingo Crossings Town Center were reported by Orlando Sentinel. After publication last week, we learned that Yedla Management Company announced the December 17 opening of Home2Suites by Hilton—the first of its four Walt Disney World Gateway Holtels in development at Flamingo Crossings Town Center. The new extended-stay concept hotel with 272 individual and conjoining rooms features on-site restaurants, pool bars, outdoor grills and other amenities. Yedla Management Company, in partnership with Doradus Partners, will open three more hotels at Flamingo Crossings Town Center in 2021: Homewood Suites by Hilton will open in early in the year, and Residence Inn and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott are set to open in the spring. Once finalized, the four hotels are expected to employ 150 people. Reservations for the new Home2Suites can be made at Hilton.com or by calling 407-993-3999.

…Walt Disney World Senior Vice President of Operations, Jim MacPhee, a 42 year Disney Cast Member, announced that he will retire from the Company on April 1, 2021. We wish him well.

Enjoy a Replay of “Fun at Home” Show #31

MousePlanet Contributors and our special guest Shelley from OnTheGoInMCO.com joined together for Wednesday, December 16th’s “Fun at Home” MousePlanet LIVE stream to discuss some of the Walt Disney Company’s newly announced content in development in its various businesses, including a whole lot of Star Wars, Marvel, and more. We also played some more Jibe Time. Have a watch. Share some thoughts with us in the comments about what you would like to see on a future edition.

Watch a replay of MousePlanet LIVE! Fun at Home Show #31.

Give Kids The World Village To Begin Reopening January 17, 2021

In a glimmer of good news over the past week, Give Kids The World Village announced that nearly 10 months from the day that it said goodbye to its last wish family of guests in March, it will be getting back to our mission of spreading joy and creating the happiness that inspires hope for critically ill children and their families by reopening the Village beginning on January 17, 2021!

Give Kids The World Village to Reopen January 17, 2021

Give Kids the World Village to Reopen starting January 17, 2021. Image courtesy GKTW.

The Give Kids The World Village announcement says:

With safety as our number one priority, we will be opening very slowly – beginning with a limited number of families, seasonal staff and volunteers, and gradually growing our capacity over time.

The decision to reopen has been made with the full support of our Board and theme park partners, Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, and after careful consultation with the infectious disease experts at Nemours Children’s Hospital – who also worked closely with us to develop our comprehensive COVID-19 safety plan. To view Give Kids The World’s reemergence video, [MousePlanet has embedded it below].

Give Kids The World Village to begin its reopening On January 17, 2021. Video courtesy GKTW.

We are thrilled to welcome families back to enjoy magical weeklong stays in our whimsical storybook Village, and would like to extend our heartfelt appreciation to everyone who has helped to make it possible for us to continue our 34-year legacy of transforming lives one precious moment at a time!

In the meantime, remember that Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular continues nightly through January 3, 2021. The Village, located near Walt Disney World Resort in Kissimmee, Florida, (roughly half an hour drive from Magic Kingdom and less time from the Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort area), received a donation of over 3 million lights from Walt Disney World Resort. The immersive, walk-through holiday light event has been created to raise funds for its mission while brining the spirit of the season to visitors. I had an opportunity to see the media preview back in November, and it is quite impressive, bringing to mind the former Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights that used to be one of Disney’s Hollywood Studios’ seasonal offerings.

Walt Disney World Resort donated over 3 million lights to Give Kids the World Village. As now decorated, the Village now brings to mind the former Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but on an even larger scale (though without the programmed, synchronized “dancing”). File Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Local businesses, including several of the other Central Florida attractions, decorated 33 individual villas around the Resort. The display opened to the public on Friday, November 13. There may still be a limited number of date-specific, timed entry tickets available on the Give Kids The World website at GKTW.org/lights. Most of the Village’s wheelchair-accessible attractions are also available at no cost, including The Enchanted Carousel, Marc’s Dino Putt, Kelly’s Sunny Swing, and Lori’s Magical Flight – all elaborately decorated for the holidays. Complimentary hot cocoa and ice cream are served throughout each evening. In addition, guests can visit the Village’s most iconic venue, the Castle of Miracles – featuring a mysterious forest, a wishing well that burps, a magic tree that makes pillows, and more. The Castle is highlighted by thousands of stars that fill the ceiling and the adjoining Star Tower, each placed in honor of a wish child who has visited the Village.

Proceeds from the event support Give Kids The World’s mission to provide wish vacations for critically ill children and their families. When wish-granting organizations receive a request from a critically ill child who wants to visit any of the world-class theme parks Central Florida has to offer, Give Kids The World fulfills the wish – providing each child and his/her family with a magical week-long stay at absolutely no cost. Each family receives transportation, accommodations in one of the Village’s 166 storybook villas, all meals and snacks, nightly entertainment, tickets to Orlando’s world-class theme parks and attractions, and priceless experiences at the Village. Since 1986, Give Kids The World has welcomed more than 176,000 families from 50 states and more than 76 countries.

Of course, even if you cannot visit, donation opportunities are available on its website. Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix asked me to share the team “Pancake Sunday” fundraising page for Give Kids the World Challenge for Hope Walk, Run, Roll and Stroll, for example, where those that donate $25 or more even receive a custom virtual pancake! Visit its team page: here.

Town Hall, the Village’s central building, is elaborately decorated with lights for the holidays.

Stilt-walking entertainers are also decorated in light.

Sea World participated in decorated one of the Resort’s Villas.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not included some oddities in its holiday decorations.

Crayola Crayons decorate and help decorate one of the villas.

LEGOLAND Florida Resort has some brick sculptures decorating a villa (including that wreath which we saw last year at a media-invited event at LEGOLAND).

Amberville, home to some of the Village’s attractions, is covered in holiday lights.

Keep an eye out for Stormtroopers bearing gifts.

Disney decorated two villas, including this one with a Beauty & The Beast theme.

File Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Give Kids the World Village Night of a Million Lights Holiday Spectacular is underway. During the Media Preview night, we steamed live from Give Kids the World Village. Video by Alan S. Dalinka.

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Resorts Availability, Ticket Advice & Special Offers

Note: MousePlanet does not edit past Updates to reflect price increases; for up-to-date prices, check the most recent Walt Disney World Resort Update.

With Disney now accepting Resort Hotel reservations for 2020 and 2021, our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Disney has resumed new park ticket sales, but, at present and for the foreseeable future, requires guests to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

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Get Away Today can help you book the newly released 35% discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in early 2021! One of the HUGE benefits of booking with Get Away Today is its price monitoring that comes automatically when anyone books their Walt Disney World Resort vacation with Get Away today. Once this new rates became available, for example, they automatically applied it to all of its guests with qualifying packages. Some guests saved over $2,000 – just like that!

Here is an idea of what to expect for pricing:

Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort (moderate)

November 15-20, 2020

Tickets: 2 Adults and 3 Child (ages 3-9) 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets

Total cost: $3,581.97 with ‘Magic is Here’ Offer (regular price $3,933.53 – $351.56 savings)

Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (moderate)

Dates: January 25 – 31, 2021

Tickets: 4 adult 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets

Total cost: $3,029.60 with Special Savings Offer (regular price $3,303.76 – $274.16 savings)

Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort (value)

Dates: February 10-16, 2021

Tickets: 2 adult 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets

Total cost: $2,018.58 with Special Savings Offer (regular price $2,217.86 – $199.28 savings)

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort (deluxe)

Dates: February 10-16, 2021

Tickets: 2 adult 4-Day Base Walt Disney World Tickets

Total cost: $4,019.42 with Special Savings Offer (regular price $5,407.60 – $1,388.18 savings)

You can see more examples on its website.

When you know what price range you are thinking about, call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

As always, we remind our readers that Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets are rarely offered at deep discounts unless you are a resident of Florida or eligible for U.S. Military Personnel benefits. Historically, non-Florida residents tend to benefit the most by purchasing tickets in advance (and, of course, being mindful of the rules relevant to those tickets). As prices go up, it becomes even more important to pay heed: Don’t get scammed! Never buy tickets from an unofficial or secondary outlet, such as through eBay or Craigslist. Never rent or purchase tickets from people approaching you outside Disney property stating they have remaining days or leftover tickets. This practice is against the terms of use for Walt Disney World Theme Park admissions, and may result in denial of entry. There is no way to determine if these tickets are valid until you try to use them to enter the parks.

Save on WDW Tickets with Get Away Today

Only purchase Disney theme park tickets directly from Disney, an authorized seller, or a travel agency like MousePlanet travel partner Get Away Today!

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here.

Checkout Get Away Today’s Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.

Get Away Today Universal Orland Resort Ticket Offer

Get Away Today has created a new combo package for those looking to visit both Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando Resort. Visit this link for more information about the possible savings.


By Harriet