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:
- Disney World knows there's no place like home for the holidays ... and is gifting holiday travelers with some additional perks this year! From Dec. 19 through Jan. 3, the Early Theme Park Entry benefit for Disney World Hotel guests will be extended from 30 minutes to one full hour. Woohoo! Plus, four additional attractions will be included in Genie+ during that time: Space Mountain, Frozen Ever After, Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway and Expedition Everest. (That means those rides will no longer be an additional cost via Individual Lightning Lane selections, though you will need to upgrade to Genie+ to skip the lines.)
- Get your green thumbs ready! The EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival will bloom from March 2 to July 4, 2022. The Disney horticulture team is already prepping the topiaries, which will include Goofy and a brand-new, 50th-themed birthday cake at the park's main entrance. The Garden Rocks Concert Series will return to the America Gardens Theatre (lineup will be announced at a later time), along with 18 outdoor kitchens.
- Have you ever wanted to party with Mickey Mouse? Now is your chance! For a limited time from Jan. 19 through March 6, 2022, Mickey's House in Toontown at Disneyland will be available to rent out for 90-minute private parties. For up to 10 people, the $350 party includes photos with Mickey, cupcake decorating, games and crafts, as well as priority entry to Gadget Go Coaster. (The party does not include park admission.) The Celebrate in Mickey's Toontown parties will end before Toontown closes for its long-term renovation.
- You can now meet the holiday legend, Earl the Squirrel, himself at Universal Studios Florida! Years ago, the Universal Orlando entertainment team discovered that an actual squirrel chewed through some of the wires and created a nest in the big Christmas tree. Since then, the team has hidden a small stuffed squirrel in the tree each year. Over the years, Earl grew a large fan following and even had his own merch and sweets themed after him. Earl will stick around for meet-and-greets through the holidays until Jan. 2.
- Are your tadpoles singing "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" on repeat? Well, now they can spend some quality holiday time with hippos or other wild animals. SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment announced that all of its SeaWorld and Busch Gardens parks in Orlando and Tampa, San Diego, San Antonio and Williamsburg will host seasonal daytime camps for kids. While each park has its own specific details, the camps include holiday crafts, games and activities, as well as close-up animal encounters.
- Catch an oinktastic preview of Daddy Pig's Roller Coaster at the Peppa Pig Theme Park, which is set to open Feb. 24, 2022. In the sneak peek video, you can get a glimpse of what the ride experience will be like, as well as Peppa's yellow house. Ahem, is it too late to add another ride ... Mommy Frog's Water Ride? It would be my favorite ;)
- Attention, runners! It's time to cross the finish line for 2021 and speed right into 2022 (and maybe even sprint ahead into 2023?). runDisney released the 2022-2023 season schedule for its lineup of events: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend (Nov. 3-6, 2022), Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend (Jan. 4-8, 2023), Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend (Feb. 23-26, 2023) and runDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend (April 13-16, 2023). Virtual races will also return for those who cannot travel to Disney World. So, lace up your shoes and start training!
- Soon, you'll be able to add some extra magic to your Disney World vacation. Special tours from the Enchanting Extras Collection are coming back in 2022. Gain secret backstage access to Magic Kingdom (Disney's Keys to the Kingdom), have a close encounter with white rhinos (Up Close with Rhinos) and more. The behind-the-scenes tours will return beginning Feb. 6, 2022.
- New shops and experiences have recently arrived at Downtown Disney. Soccer fans can now find a wide assortment of gear and official jerseys from around the world at Pelé. Post 21 is a new kiosk featuring merchandise — mugs, home decor, graphic tees and more — from Black-owned businesses. And for a limited time, sit on Boba Fett's throne outside of Star Wars Trading Post. In the near future, Lovepop will open and provide unique 3-D pop-up cards, stationery and gifts.
That’s it for the theme park news this week! Have a great weekend.