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2021’s Theme Park Festivus Celebration

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Ah, the winter holidays. A time of coming together, celebrating the year, and being with family. But what are traditions if not happy accidents we keep repeating time and time again? In the spirit of one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, TouringPlans is offering a theme park Festivus celebration.

So welcome to our home, please take off your shoes, and I’ll throw the coats into the bedroom. Make sure not to knock over the three dozen Christmas cards on the grand piano… alright everyone, let us gather around the aluminum pole and start the festivities!

Festivus Dinner

…celebratory dinner is shown on the evening of Festivus prior to the Feats of Strength and during the Airing of Grievances. – Wikipedia

Food is an important part of any theme park trip or Festivus holiday. 2021 gave us several new food options from new attractions, delayed restaurants, festivals, and major celebrations which I have carefully curated into a meal just for us. Now, head into the dining room as our first dishes are about to be served.

Isla Nublar IPA. (photo by Michael Carelli)

Oh, wait! Before you pass through our new open concept kitchen (Clayton requested it, he’s an amazing wiz at planning and got a promotion at Berkshire Hathaway) make sure to grab a glass of Isla Nublar IPA! This amazing IPA was developed for the opening of the Jurassic World VelociCoaster, which young Taggart just raves about! Isla Nublar is brewed by Carib Brewery out of Cape Canaveral, FL, and features notes of oranges and grapefruit.

Our first dish is the Galatic Lobster Globe from Space 220, which is served in this wonderful glass bowl. Wait… is the bowl smugged…. I WILL have a talk with Kleylah about proper planting. Now, where was I… oh yes. This is a take on a Maine lobster salad with avocado, quinoa, mango, lettuce, wontons, citrus dressing, and of course lobster! We found this one dish to stand out among the offerings from our first meal at Space 220.

The dining surprise of the year was the closure of The Wave and replacement with Steakhouse 71, a modern take on a vintage steakhouse of the 70s. The true winner of the new menu is the Steakhouse 71 Stack Burger which is arguably the best burger at Disney World. This smash burger comes with either fries or salad.

We did not forget you, Auden! Here is your vegetarian dish, the vegetable wellington! This take on a Christmas meat classic is made with mushrooms and roasted artichokes wrapped in puff pastry and served with brussel sprouts. Our review said this was one of the standout dishes and the best vegetarian option on Disney property.

A face only a mother baker could love. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Universal has quietly been upping their food game over the years with new dining in CityWalk, the theme parks, and new food festivals. This year’s return of Halloween Horror Nights featured several dozen new food offerings, including this incredibly themed cherry pie. Located at the Texas Chainsaw Massacre BBQ tent, this cherry pie recreates Leatherface’s iconic human skin mask as the pastry on the top of a cherry pie. A small bit of cherry juice splattered across complete the illusion.

Airing of Grievances

I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it! – Frank Costanza

Sinead! Tanner! Please come clear the dishes, us adults have some things to discuss.

(photo by The Universal Orlando Resort)

Christmas, both religious and secular, is well represented at the theme parks. Parks have Christmas trees, Santa appears everywhere, and EPCOT even has a retelling of the birth of Christ performed with celebrities and singers. But a lot of holidays and traditions still do not see any sort of representation in the parks. Hannaukka, Kawanza, pagan activities, hell even Festivus, would be welcome additions. Disney has made some in roads with EPCOT and Universal revealed their own holiday character, Earl the Squirrel, but we want them to go further. We are not asking for less Christmas but instead more of everything else. As the holiday festivities expand with more activities we would like to see more decorations, events, merchandise, and more celebrating the world around us.

Note: TouringPlans sells customized touring plans, crowd calendars, and projected wait times among many other tools. Some of our products are direct competition to Genie and Genie+.

That said, Genie has been a mess. From confusing options, a rushed deployment, nonsenical suggestions, to even complete outages of the service, Genie has left every Disney fan scratching their heads. The service is designed as a premium yet is priced low enough it become essential to buy for most. Plus the individual Lightning Lane purchases just feel dirty, with Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland costing more than the hourly pay of Disney Cast Members.

COVID-19 threw a wrench in all sorts of plans, from Universal’s Epic Universe to Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration. Several plans in development were scuttled, such as EPCOT’s Festival pavilion. Many other projects continued on with the hope that the parks would reopen soon enough.

But as 2020 progressed into 2021 we saw several major, finished projects just never open. Remey’s Ratatoullie Adventure was handed over to operations in spring 2021 only for the ride to sit empty till September. SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker and Busch Gardens Tampa’s Iron Gwazi, originally slated to open spring 2020, have yet to open and now have opening dates in 2022.

We understand that the pandemic changed many plans, but for parks running on reduced capacity where a new attraction could allow in more guests then why was it not opened? And as guests became skittish this fall for travel why not open your new coasters?

Universal kept the pedal to the metal and opened Jurassic World VelociCoaster this summer and was rewarded with lots of attention and praise.

Feats of Strength

The Feats of Strength are the final tradition observed in the celebration of Festivus, celebrated immediately following (or in the case of “The Strike”, during) the Festivus dinner. The head of the household selects one person at the Festivus celebration and challenges them to a wrestling match. Tradition states Festivus is not over until the head of the household is pinned. – Wikipedia

I will let you know that Declan is simply the top of his wrestling team, he made it to the state finals you know. This family knows true competition, is that not right Becky?

We are excited to have Halloween Horror Nights back for its 30th year so we all wanted to get the most out of each night. But HHN nights usually end at 1am or 2am, meaning guests are walking through queues and haunted houses for over 7 hours a night! Going from 6pm to 2am is a true feat of strength (and stamina).

Walt Disney World’s 50th on October 1st, 2021 can be boiled down to two events: 1) the Mobile Order system totally crashing and 2) people fighting for merchandise. Guests lined up for hours to enter the Main Street Emporium to purchase limited edition merchandise only to end up throwing fisticuffs over Starbucks mugs. Of course do not tell them that the exact same merchandise was available widely around the resort and online for weeks after.

Festivus Miracles

Tonight has been fun, hasn’t it? Thank you for coming out after you received your booster shot, I know it has been a long year for us all. While Schuyler fetches your coats lets sip some fine espresso and discuss the miracles of the past year.

Fantasmic! opened at Disney Hollywood Studios in 1998, back when it was still called Disney-MGM Studios. Fans and critics alike praised the shows combination of actors, animation, fountains, fireworks, and special effects to bring Mickey’s imagination to life. Then the show sat, for decades, unchanged. Disneyland’s version saw several major updates, including the addition of the incredible new dragon AA.

At this year’s D23, Disney let out that new segments and changes are FINALLY coming to the show. The awkward and long Pochahontas segment is out and in are new segments based on recent Disney animated films. We cannot wait for this show to return with these additions in 2022.

A grand and miraculous spaceship. (photo by Michael Carelli)

So far Walt Disney World’s 50th has been a mixed bag with some good and some ok. One thing that has received universal praise and awe are the Beacons of Light at Spaceship Earth. First dramatically revealed during the Harmonious live stream, these lights not just shine bright but turn the geodesic sphere into a huge art piece. Each point is independently controlled meaning the sphere can displays rainbows of color or intricate patterns. While we have been critical of Disney in this article (in good, constructive fun, we hope) we think this is a one of the best things the they have done this year.

Thank you for coming! It has been lovely, please drive safe and text us when you get home! I hope to see you in 2022, Kadin should be back from his study abroad in Monaco and just was so sad he had to miss it. Just do not forget to get back about your weekend plans, except for you Becky.


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Joseph Matt

Joe covers theme parks through the lens of his quality engineering day job. He has over five years of writing experience at Touring Plans and has gone on dozens of trips to Orlando over his life. When not at amusement parks you can find Joe at breweries, enjoying live theater, playing video games, and cooking.

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