Walt Disney World Resort Update for February 2-8, 2021

 Writer’s Note, News & Views (Combined)

The MousePlanet contributors have decided to get together again this week for another MousePlanet LIVE! Fun at Home Show. Show #33 will celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the opening of Disney’s California Adventure, the little park built in Disneyland’s former parking lot that, over the decades, lost its “apostrophe s” and gained such things as Buena Vista Street, Wonderful World of Color, Carsland, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, and, at some point after the State of California has decided the conditions of the pandemic are such that theme parks can reopen (whenever that might be), the much-anticipated Avengers Campus. Join us tomorrow night, Wednesday, February 3, 2021, at 8:30 p.m. Eastern/5:30 p.m. Pacific on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter/Periscope: it’s more fun to be socially together virtually than physically distanced!

Back here in Central Florida, home of Walt Disney World Resort, things seem largely unchanged. Winter in the region continues its typical vacillation between some days in the 70s-80s and some days in the 50s (with occasional windchill warnings like we have as I finalize the Update on Monday night). The Resort’s phased reopening continues as it has, with health and safety protocols in place including: mandatory guest temperature checks, limited park capacity managed by requiring guests use of the Disney Park Pass System to reserve date-specific parks visit (plus have a valid ticket – and limited hours for park hopping for those with that benefit), heightened cleaning especially of high-touch areas, physical distancing, and enforced mandatory face coverings (except when eating and/or drinking while stationary and physically distanced from others not in your party). Be sure to check the My Disney Experience or DisneyWorld.com immediately before any planned visit for any last minute changes to phased reopening operations that may impact your visit.

“Taste of EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival Details Announced

The last full-featured Festival guests had the opportunity to experience at EPCOT was the 2020 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival which had just gotten underway before everything came to a temporary halt (closure) last March. Since Walt Disney World Resort’s phased reopening got underway back in July, park-goers have had the opportunity to experience the various “Taste of” versions of Festivals, with smaller footprints and especially no major crowd-gathering features like the various concert series.

The Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is scheduled to conclude on February 22. The fifth installment of ArtfulEpcot includes many parts of its previous installments, but no Disney on Broadway Concert Series. If you visit, be sure to check out the World Showplace pavilion for its live entertainment opportunities, including friend of MousePlanet (and mine), pianist Carol Stein on Sundays through Thursdays (and another fine EPCOT pianist on Carol’s days off).

Spirit Jersey brand Festival of the Arts face coverings featuring Figment and the same tie-dye look of some of the Festival apparel, are now available for sale at some of the Festival’s merchandise locations around the park, including inside World Showplace. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The Taste of EPCOT Intenational Flower & Garden Festival gets underway just over a week after the close of Festival of the Arts. It will run March 3 through July 5, and, as usual, will include topiaries of Disney characters. Sorcerer Mickey will be featured at the park’s reimagined main entrance.

The Festival will also feature 20 different garden areas. Disney Parks Blog describes these highlights:

  • Floating gardens on the waters of Future World
  • A bamboo garden in China
  • A tropical rainforest garden in Mexico
  • The English Tea Garden Presented by Twinings of London in the United Kingdom (this time with a self-guided Tea Tour)
  • The Goodness Garden Butterfly House Presented by GoGo squeeZ
  • Outdoor Escapes Presented by OFF! Repellents in Future World East

As has been true in the more recent installments of Flower & Garden Festival, the Taste of version this year will also include Outdoor Kitchens. There will be more than 20 food and beverage kiosks, with 17 of the Outdoor Kitchens currently generally described on this page of FreshEpcot.com (part of the official Walt Disney World website). More details will be release as the Festival approaches.

Like the other “Taste of” Festivals, while there will be no major concert series, there will be live entertainment. Voices of Liberty will present “an all-American a cappella showcase, celebrating the landscape, heart and human spirit of America.” Mariachi Cobre will perform Mexican folk music, and the “Jammin’ Gardeners” will perform “backyard percussion.” And, yes, the EPCOT Pianist will play inside World Showplace too.

Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration scavenger hunt will be available during the entire Festival. The Easter Egg-stravaganza Scavenger Hunt will also be available, but only March 19 to April 4. For those unfamiliar with the scavenger hunts, guests may purchase a map and follow clues to complete their maps and then redeem the map for a particular prize (or may just claim the prize after purchasing the map).

Views Around the World

This past week, I reserved a Disney Park Pass for Disney’s Hollywood Studios on one of our beautiful mid-60 degree winter days, Thursday, January 28. All of my views this week are from that afternoon.

Having failed to get a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance during the 7 a.m. distribution window, I headed over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios mid-day, and successfully got a Boarding Group assignment during the 1 p.m. virtual queue distribution. With a few hours before my Group would be called, I waited in the roughly 30 minute queue for my first ride on Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway since its first days of operation last March, and then I took a leisurely walk over to EPCOT for my first modified Park Hopper experience (having visited the park I had a Park Pass for and it being after 2 p.m.) and to see the portion of the expansion the France pavilion that opened the prior week. After my brief visit to EPCOT, I took the Disney Skyliner back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for another battle with the First Resistance.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Signs outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios advise guests arriving at the park the status of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Boarding Groups. Currently, the queue opens at 7 a.m. (which anyone with a Disney Park Pass reservation for the park for that date may attempt to enter from anywhere), and at 1 p.m. (all who wish to be assigned a boarding group must have used their ticket to enter the park and the person attempting to access the virtual queue must be geographically inside the park).

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway remains very popular as it approaches the one year anniversary of its debut in March.

For those that do not recall, Goofy is your locomotive engineer aboard the Runamuck Railroad, and Mickey & Minnie are enjoying their Perfect Picnic. Unfortunately, the pre-show short film that establishes the storyline is not being shown in order to maintain physical distancing between parties.


While each car can hold up to eight guests, to promote physical distancing, no more than one party is loaded per row, and clear plastic partitions have been added between rows in each ride vehicle. Brief pauses in ride opperations occur for cast members to clean the ride vehicles too.

Ray, Chewbacca and Vi appear on one of the catwalks in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and like Disney characters in Magic Kingdom, remain physically distanced from guests.

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance keeps parties separated and the ride vehicles have clear plastic panels separating rows with no more than one party to each row. Officers of the First Orders wear face shileds that seem very in-theme to the attraction (in addition to face masks).

Disney’s Hollywood Studios, to me, feels the most crowded of the four theme parks during the phased reopening. Though attendance is capped, from some vantage points, the park can look rather crowded. As observed back in November, however, maintaining physical distancing is not as much of a challenge as the photo may make it look.

Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine provides a physically distanced character dining experience at the park. Rather than buffet-style dining, however, the restaurant serves certain items family-style and guests select specific items from the menu per diner.

The sun sets behind Chinese Theatre, casting the late afternoon sunlight on Mickey atop the globe at the park’s gates.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.


As the “transformation” of EPCOT continues, Disney Skyliner provides some new views of the park, as here: the removal of the shade panels installed over the plaza south of Spaceship Earth (originally installed for the Millennium Celebration back in 1999) opened up this view quite a bit, for example. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

The walkway that eventually will lead to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at France pavilion opened a new area to guests in late January.

Additional detail has been added to France pavilion exteriors that previously were not within an area that could be viewed by guests.

A blank menu board is on a wall next to a service window for the to-go portion of the creperie that was announced as part of the expansion to the France pavilion. Opposite this window is a new (rather small) bathroom facility that is now open to guests.

Disney Skyliner flies over the newly opened area of the France pavilion.

The newly opened area also provides a new view of the EPCOT station of Disney Skyliner and the Friendship dock. Note the subtle rat shape in the railing.

From the International Gateway side of the waterway, the newly opened area of the France pavilion can be seen in perspective with the attraction’s future entrance in the distance.

Disney Skyliner also provides a view of the nearly complete exterior area of the rest of teh expanded France pavilion leading up to the door to the new attraction.

Back inside the park, since my previous visit in December, a second Harmonious barge has been installed in World Showcase Lagoon. Construction equipment here is apparently in the place where the third unit will be installed.

Disney Skyliner provides a glimpse backstage at EPCOT of the central “ring” unit for the new nighttime spectacular and daytime fountain.

Photos by Alan S. Dalinka.

Disney’s BoardWalk

As we reported back in the summer, Ample Hills Creamery is no longer operating at Disney’s BoardWalk Resort and it is no longer planning to open a location at Disney Springs. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.

Reminder: 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Tickets Now Available

As the year began, Disney launched its 2021 Florida Resident Discover Disney Ticket. The $199 plus tax ticket provides four days of park visits. The ticket can be used on consecutive or non-consecutive days through June 18, 2021 (but not at all on February 13-15, March 26-April 11, or May 28-31). The Park Hopper option can be added for $42.50/ticket plus tax.

There is also a 3-Day version (with same blockout dates) available for $179 plus tax (add $42.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

A 2-Day version is available to purchase and use only through March 11 (but not February 13-15) for $149/tax (add $37.50/ticket plus tax for Park Hopper).

Like other ticket types, guests must also separately make Disney Park Pass reservations for a specific park each date they wish to use a Discover Disney Ticket (and, for Park Hopper, must visit that reserved park and may only Hop when that day’s window opens subject to capacity).

This & That…

…With yesterday’s start of Black History Month, EPCOT debuted “The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure” in the exhibit space inside The American Adventure pavilion. As Disney Parks Blog describes it, the “new exhibit celebrates the distinctly American musical art form, originated by African Americans and fusing the influences of many different cultures.” The story is told in the exhibit by Joe Gardner, a character in the new Disney-Pixar film Soul that is now streaming on Disney+. The exhibit will continue beyond the end of the month, with no closing date yet announced.

The Soul of Jazz at The American Adventure
The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure opened yesterday in the exhibit space inside The American Adventure. Photo courtesy Disney Parks.

Jon Batiste, composer and arranger of jazz compositions in Disney-Pixar’s film “Soul” (and the pianist who provided the “hands” of the film’s Joe Gardner) talks about the new exhibit. Video courtesy Disney Parks.

…Disney Springs is honoring Black History Month with “Celebrate Soulfully” featuring music, food, art and more. Four new art displays inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Soul” are featured created by emerging Black artists Bee Harris, Bianca Pastel, Arrington Porter and Cory Van, as part of the HUE Unlimited collection of wearable art reflecting each artist’s interpretation of the film. Motown Mondays, Jazz Thursdays, and Smooth Sundays will feature musicians “playing tunes sure to stir your soul” according to Disney Parks Blog, and some of the Disney Springs dining venues will features special menu items (like Amorette’s Patisserie featuring treats inspired by Soul as well as The Princess and the Frog), and some retailers “will spotlight products from Black designers, artists and visionaries.”

…Orlando’s new flagship M&M Store is now open at Disney Springs. It is located on the West Side between Splitsville and NBA Experience.

…And, if you’re in the mood for some Girl Scout Thin-Mint Cookies but forgot to bring them with you at Disney Springs, you can walk a bit more on the West Side of Disney Springs over to the new Everglazed Donuts & Cold Brew to eat their new donut.

…Disney Vacation Club is celebrating its 30th Anniversary and has rolled out a new celebration logo along with merchandise and some digital Members-only experiences. Of particular note, DVC announced that the Members Lounge in EPCOT’s Imagination pavilion will remain open throughout 2021. Its operating hours are now 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. More details are described in Disney Parks Blog as well as by email to Members that includes a link to a special musical viewing opportunity.

…REMINDER: 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.

…REMINDER: Like the DVC ticket offer, as Disney Parks Blog announced, guests can receive two additional days park admission when they buy a non-discounted four-night/three-day room and ticket package at select Disney Resort hotels for arrivals most nights through September 25, 2021. Details are published on this page of DisneyWorld.com. (See more from our friends at Get Away Today below. Remember, that offer applies to non-discounted hotel stays; separately, Annual Passholders can save up to 40% on rooms at select Disney Resort hotels for stays most nights through April 17, 2021; and there are also some remaining 35% discount opportunities for the general public for the same time period.

…REMINDER (with an update to follow on our social media later this week and in next week’s Update): The new Portillo’s restaurant featuring Chicago-style Hot Dogs, Italian Beef sandwiches and more is opening in Lake Buena Vista on March 2. The restaurant is also hiring: visit Portillos.com/careers to apply. As previously noted, February will present some previews that this former Chicagoan has been invited to and is very much looking forward to attending! Stay tuned!

…Up Interstate 4 a bit toward downtown Orlando, Blue Man Group has announced that its show will not return to Universal Orlando Resort. The show closed last March as the pandemic forced temporary closure of mass-gathering sites throughout the United States. Blue Man shows are expected to return in Las Vegas, New York, Chicago, and Boston when health and government officials and the Group believe it safe to so.

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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.

Disney Resort Hotel reservations are available throughout 2021, and our travel partner Get Away Today is available to help you book rooms and packages. Get Away Today can also assist you with the new Walt Disney World Resort offer that became available January 5: two free theme park days when you purchase at least a 4-night Disney Hotel stay and 3-Day Walt Disney World Resort tickets (the new offer is valid for vacation packages for travel through September 25, 2021, and does not apply to ticket-only orders). For all theme park ticket holders (day guests, resort guests, and Annual Passholders), though, for the foreseeable future, all guests are required to use the Disney Parks Pass System to reserve dates for guest park visits in addition to having a valid admission.

Get Away Today can help you book Disney's latest promotional offers

Get Away Today can also help you book other discounted Disney hotel stays for travel in 2021, including the continuing 35% discount on Disney Hotels for travel through April 17, 2021, which may be the better option for some guests traveling this spring. With Get Away Today’s complimentary Price Monitoring, any time a special comes out, it will automatically price check it for each of its guests. If the new special is better, it will automatically apply the new savings and let the guest know. If it’s not a better deal, we will leave everything as is, and keep our eyes peeled for future promotions that could save guests more.

You can get a vacation quote from Get Away Today here. You can also call 855-GET-AWAY during regular business hours (Monday – Friday 9am-5pm MT) and tell them MousePlanet sent you!

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

Be sure to check out Get Away Today’s Universal Orlando Resort ticket offers too.


By Harriet