Hi there! Welcome to our weekly roundup of the most interesting theme park news around the Walt Disney World Resort, the Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and other theme parks.
Here are this week’s theme park highlights
- The long-awaited change to Disneyland's FASTPASS is just around the corner. Disney MaxPass will debut at Disneyland Resort on July 19. This optional paid program will allow guests to book Disney FASTPASS reservations through the Disneyland Resort app and allows unlimited Disney PhotoPass downloads for the day. The initial price for Disney MaxPass is $10 per person, per ticket, per day. Guests may purchase Disney MaxPass when they purchase their ticket, or as an add-on through the Disneyland App once they enter either theme park. Guests will still have the option to scan their park tickets at individual FASTPASS attractions with no additional charge. We're set to hop down and review how this program will affect a family's visit. In the meantime, check out our post on Disney MaxPass for some early thoughts.
- On your marks, get set ... EAT! Food-loving Disney fans rejoiced with the reveal of the 2017 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival menus. Some of the new offerings are Active Eats, The Almond Orchard Hosted by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze, Coastal Eats—Hello Baked Shrimp Scampi Dip with Sourdough Baguette!—and Earth Eats from The CHEW. This popular festival runs Aug. 31 through Nov. 13. Our Ultimate Guide to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival includes a list of all the food choices as well as tips to help you prepare.
- Disneyland has bid farewell to the hand stamp. The familiar stamp—used to make sure that used park tickets were not handed to other people—was replaced with a new procedure. All one-day ticket visitors will have their photo taken, and that photo will be associated with that ticket. This process already in place for guests with multi-day tickets.
- Care to swim with the sharks? SeaWorld's Discovery Cove has introduced a new experience that will get you up-and-close with our finned friends. The new Shark Swim Experience will let guests swim freely with several species of sharks. This experience is an add on to your Discovery Cove ticket.
- With Fantasmic! set to return July 17, Disneyland has unveiled new eats and sweets inspired by this popular show. Blackberry beignets, sour watermelon churros and Teddi Berra Lavender Sparkler are some of the delights, which will be found at various spots in Critter Country, New Orleans Square and Frontierland. "Some imagination huh?"
- Universal Studios Florida has rolled out a new cart that will get craft beer fans hopping. A new snack cart features four craft brews from Florida breweries. One of each, please.
- Merry Christmas! Get into the holiday spirit with Christmas in July at Disney Springs. "Summer Santa" will be on hand for photos, a DJ will be spinning Christmas tunes, and Starbucks will be offering their holiday drinks—PEPPERMINT MOCHA WHAAAT? These are just some of the jolly experiences, early gift shopping opportunities and holiday treats you will find at Disney Springs from July 15-30.
- Happy New Year! Keeping the holiday season planning rolling, there will be three special New Year's Events at Disney's Contemporary Resort Hotel. Guests will have the choice of "Disney Countdown to Midnight," "PIXAR Party: A New Year's Eve Celebration" or "Down in New Orleans: A Disney's New Year's Eve Experience," which is inspired by—THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG! Hours, prices and activities vary between the different parties. Guests may call 407-WDW-DINE to make reservations.
- It's-a-me, Mario! Construction of Super Nintendo World at Universal Studios Japan is under way. While the stateside version of this new land is still a few years away, that hasn't diminished Tad's enthusiasm for what will be an amazing new addition to the Universal parks.
- More delicious details are out a new Disney Springs dining spot. Italian-inspired cocktails and dishes will be dished out at Terralina Crafted Italian starting this fall. Overseen by James Beard Award-winning Chef Tony Mantuano, this new spot is a refurbishment and rename of Portobello Country Italian Trattoria.
- While it's hard to choose from the great Universal Orlando Resort Hotels, Lowes Portofino Bay Hotel is a frequent frog favorite. This Universal Parks Blog post profiles 5 hidden gems you'll find within this European-inspired resort.
- And finally, a special shout-out to our readers who are hitting D23 Expo 2017 this weekend. Summoning Disney fans from around the world, this celebration of all things Disney is a way for fans to see Disney legends, hear stories behind their favorite movies and attractions, as well as being "in the room" when big announcements are made? Will any of the rumors floating around the internet be confirmed? We'll be adding any new Orlando happenings to our What's Coming to Disney World in 2017 and Beyond post. Oh, that massive THUMP you heard was Tad passing out upon the reveal of the Star Wars-land model last night.
That’s it for the theme park news this week. Have a great weekend.