The 9 BIG Updates From Walt Disney World (and Beyond) This Week (January 16-22)

This week at Walt Disney World, Permits are filed for a major new project, some changes are announced for Disney Springs, plus Disney’s Animal Kingdom gets some adorable new additions!

Outside Walt Disney World, we have a trio of updates from Universal Orlando Resort, including testing for a new digital FastPass-style system, the announcement of a new guest for A Celebration of Harry Potter, plus the release of a unique video related to the upcoming Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon attraction.

1. Permits filed for expansion at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort

Last year, eagle-eyed guests spied height balloons at Disney’s Caribbean Beach resort, implying that Disney was planning a construction project for this resort sometime soon. And while it has not been formally announced, Disney has filed permits this week that will see the addition of 7 new buildings, including one large multi-level building that will occupy land where the Barbados village of the resort currently sites, which could indicate that this part of the resort will be demolished soon to make way for the expansion.

Work on this new expansion project is planned to begin in 2017, with completion tentatively set for 2019. A number of Disney Vacation Club villas will likely be a part of this new expansion, but we’ll have to wait for official confirmation from Disney before we know for sure.

2. The Characters in Flight balloon gets a redesign (and removes the characters)

Image: John Frost, Flickr (license)

After a brief refurbishment earlier this month, the Characters in Flight balloon at Disney Springs debuted a new look that is designed to fit more in line with the overall Disney Springs style. And interestingly, it looks like that style is one that is actually devoid of Disney characters!

Though Characters in Flight has gone through a number of different looks over the years, it has always featured larger than life characters. However, as you can see above, guests around Disney Springs will no longer be able to see these characters “flying” up ahead when this attraction ascends to the sky.

While some may lament the removal of Disney characters from this attraction, Disney Springs seems to be targeting a more general (and not specifically Disney) look with its newest projects, and this is likely an extension of that.

3. Baby otters debut on Discovery Island at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Image: Disney

On Wednesday, January 18, three Asian small-clawed otter pups entered their habitat near the Tree of Life for the very first time. The pups have been growing and bonding with their parents in backstage areas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park for a few months, and now they can be seen scurrying around on land and swimming under water. Be sure to keep in mind that the otters are being introduced to their new habitat slowly, so they may not always be visible to Guests visiting the park.

4. New breakfast options available now at the Magic Kingdom

Image: Disney

Now that the Magic Kingdom is open for guests early every morning before the park officially opens, Disney has added a few new breakfast items to popular eateries to give guests some additional options beyond the Main Street Bakery for the most important meal of the day:

Plaza Ice Cream Parlor: In addition to breakfast stalwarts like Mickey waffles, Kellogg’s cereal and donuts, This sweet stop now serves a truly indulgent donut sundae, which as you might imagine, is a donut topped with a scoop of Edy’s ice cream, hot fudge, whipped cream, apple, peanut butter and chocolate chips topped off with a cherry.

Casey’s Corner This quick service location will also be offering some breakfast standards for early risers looking for something to eat, including muffins, bagels and croissants. However, the new breakfast menu at Casey’s Corner will also feature a very interesting item unique to this restaurant specifically: a hash brown hot dog piled high with cheese and shredded, fried potatoes. This dining spot will also be offering corn dog nuggets for breakfast as well.

Image: Disney

Sleepy Hollow: Outside Main Street USA, it has also been announced that Liberty Square’s Sleepy Hollow dining location will also be getting a new breakfast item later this month. Though the chocolate hazelnut spread and fresh fruit waffle has been an early morning favorite for years, this dining establishment is adding a egg, ham and tomato waffle sandwich to its breakfast lineup in just a few days.

5. Operating hours cut at select Disney Springs dining locations

Image: Disney

Several of the quick-service dining kiosks around Disney Springs will be cutting hours around the shopping district in response to the lower crowd levels typical of the post-holiday season. Here’s the new schedule for some of Disney Springs’  eateries, effective immediately:
Amorette’s Patisserie
Monday – Thursday: 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Friday – Sunday: 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM
Monday-Thursday, 4:00 PM -10:00 PM
Friday, 4:00 PM – 11:00 PM
Saturday, 12:00 PM – 11: 00 PM
Sunday, 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM
B.B. Wolf’s Sausage Co.
Monday-Saturday, 12:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Sunday, 11:00 AM – 10:00 PM.
These new hours will likely remain in place until at least mid-spring, when the busier spring break holiday kicks off and Disney Springs can reevaluate demand for these food options.

6. Digital return time system tested at Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem

Earlier this week, Universal Orlando Resort’s app notified guests inside Universal Studios Florida that digital return times have been made available for Despicable Me Minion Mayhem. This is significant, as this attraction is one of the most popular at the park, and is notorious for having multi-hour waits, even when the park is not that crowded. This newest test was a little more complex than the original Shrek 4-D try-out, and offered guests inside the park one of several time windows in which they could return on the same day.

7. Tom Felton announced as final guest for A Celebration of Harry Potter

Image: Universal Orlando Resort

With less than a week to go until 2017’s A Celebration of Harry Potter event kicks off, Universal Orlando has announced that, for the first time in event history, Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy) will be attending the event as a celebrity guest. Felton joins previously announced talent Jason Isaacs (Lucius Malfoy), Warwick Davis (Professor Flitwick and Griphook) and Matthew Lewis (Neville Longbottom). A Celebration of Harry Potter is included with park admission, but guests who want to attend Q & A sessions with film talent must book a special vacation package prior to the event.

8. Universal releases safety video clip for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon

Finally this week Universal is continuing to hype the forthcoming Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon attraction and has released a short tease of the attraction’s safety video, starring The Roots, which you can check out above.

9. Entertainment acts announced for Seven Seas Food Festival

 Image: SeaWorld

Announced last year, SeaWorld’s Seven Seas Food Festival will be coming to SeaWorld Orlando on February 11 and lasting through through May 13th. All during the week during this festival, guests can sample food and drink from the park’s food kiosks, but every Saturday there will be live performances from top country, rock and Latin music artists at SeaWorld Orlando’s Bayside Stadium. Here’s the lineup thus far:

February 11: Lynyrd Skynyrd
February 18: Lee Brice
February 25: Bill Engvall
March 4: Styx
March 11: Justin Moore
March 18: ZZ Top
March 25: Phillip Phillips
April 1: TBA
April 8: Village People
April 15: Commodores
April 22: Oscar D’León
April 29: Olga Tanon
May 6: Grupo Mania
May 13: TBA

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