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SATURDAY SIX Looks Back at an eventful week at WDW and Universal Orlando (New Year’s Celebrations, End of Paper Maps, Figment and more!

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Like many reading this, those of us at SAT SIX headquarters had a whirlwind end to 2023. Ours included a drive up to New Hampshire, including multiple stops at various Buc-ee’s along the way. We arrived back in Florida shortly before New Year’s Eve, and it just so happened to be one of the more memorable weeks in recent history, starting with…

# 6 – Cabana Bay gets MORE NEW REFILLABLE MUGS

We have made the case multiple times in this fine blog series that Universal’s Cabana Bay Beach Resort is the greatest Value Resort of All-Time. We love the retro style of the resort, it is loaded with amenities, and just so happens to be located within walking distance to our favorite park in Florida, Volcano Bay (in fact, VB has a dedicated entrance just for Cabana Bay guests!) All that said, one of my personal favorite parts of Cabana Bay over the years is how consistent it has been on delivering new refillable mug designs. Most resorts go YEARS without changing the design of the refillable mug they use and others ::cough Disney cough:: have multiple resorts using the exact same refillable mug design.

Not Cabana Bay. Nay Nay. But not only has Cabana Bay regularly changed out their refillable mug design, they are the leaders in the clubhouse when it comes to releasing SEASONAL refillable mug designs. Years ago, Cabana Bay presented their first Christmas-themed refillable mug. For pretty much every other theme park resort in America, that would have been good enough to coast on for decades. Every year, just bring out that seasonal mug. Instead, Cabana Bay released a new Christmas design featuring Santa and his reindeer enjoying Cabana Bay.

This year, Cabana bay released ANOTHER new design!

New Christmas themed refillable mug. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

But it gets even crazier. At the end of the month, Universal also released a NEW YEAR’S REFILLABLE MUG DESIGN! I don’t want anyone at Universal to read this, but that is straight up bonkers. Multiple Christmas and Halloween-themed cups make sense because those holidays are essentially celebrated for months by theme park fans. A Happy New Year refillable mug brings us ever so close to my ultimate dream, a Groundhog’s Day refillable mug design. While that idea may be locked in my dream journal, at this point I don’t think we can count out St. Patrick’s Day or Independence Day designs down the road.

Possibly the first-of-its-kind New Year Refillable Mug. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

BREAKING: Right after this article went live, Cabana Bay released yet another new cup, this one featuring a photographer and one of the classic cars outside the resort.

There were a whole bunch of added amenities that Cabana Bay brought out during the week between Christmas and New Years, including Universal characters, caricature artists, face painters, and balloon artists.


Cabana Bay also had a ton of balloons across the resort ready to drop for New Years.

Bayliner Diner.

Before we leave Cabana Bay, let’s check out what’s happening at one of our favorite amenities in the resort, Galaxy Bowl.

Galaxy Bowl during New Years weekend. (photo by Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders)

Over on DisTwitter this past week, I mentioned that one of the biggest differences between New Hampshire and Florida is that – for the most part – Candlepin bowling doesn’t exist outside of New England. Candlepin uses much smaller bowling balls (think Skee-Ball size) and I think makes for a much more family-friendly experience. For many people, no matter how light a traditional bowling ball you use, it’s still awkward to throw down the lane. This is especially true for young kids. Galaxy Bowl has fun dragon-themed gimmicks that young kids can place their bowling balls on to roll down the lanes.

Galaxy Bowl. (photo by Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders)

But the big news is that – for the first time since the Covid shutdown – Galaxy Bowl allows dining at the lanes again! That’s right, our long national nightmare is finally over! Galaxy Bowl also completely changed their menu and went to one that features items with names similar to what you find at Disney’s popular 50’s Prime Time Cafe (including Dad’s BBQ Ribs & Mom’s Mac-and-Loaf Sandwich) along with popular bowling staples such as pizza, chicken wings, and loaded fries. Don’t worry, there is oven roasted broccoli and several salad options for you weirdoes perfectly sane people who enjoy eating healthy in a bowling alley on vacation.

Galaxy Bowl kid’s menu. (photo by Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders)

# 5  – New Years at the Universal Orlando Resort

The week between Christmas and New Years is one of the busiest of the year, and that brings with it more capacity at the parks. This included several restaurants at Universal adding additional hours, such as our beloved Toothsome Chocolate Emporium offering breakfast starting at 9AM. Personally I think you’d be crazy to go out for a sit down breakfast during early morning hours that you can get inside the parks, but I also understand many people just can’t operate well without a big breakfast, and breakfast is one meal Universal restaurants drop the ball on (compared to Walt Disney World.)

It certainly makes sense that Toothsome would be offering a daily breakfast option, because since it opened the restaurant has had a full day brunch menu available.

Toothsome breakfast signage. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

More surprising was a Midnight Brunch being offered at BigFire Grill.

Midnight brunch signage. (photo by Hedgehogs Corner)

New Year’s Eve had a lot of activity in CityWalk, with DJs playing music along with stilt walkers making the rounds.

CityWalk New Year’s entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

There was also live music being performed down by the water. Believe it or not, the music from the various stages in CityWalk didn’t overlap much. CityWalk was also a prime spot to see the fireworks at both Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

CityWalk New Year’s entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Hold on, did someone say FIREWORKS AT ISLANDS OF ADVENTURE?!

That’s right, for the first time in over 20 years, Universal had New Year’s fireworks in IOA.

Signage advising that attractions will close early due to New Year’s Eve fireworks in the Islands of Adventure lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Before we get to the fireworks, lets check out the park for a bit.

Port of Entry bridge makes a gateway to the Islands of Adventure New Year’s Eve party. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Islands of Adventure was crowded at the Port of Entry stage. However, crowd flow around the center was good, with tall signage and the belted fence separation.

A pop up bar meant crowding on the Confisco Grille side, which is the right hand side of this photo above. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Port of Entry dancers on stilts mingling with guests were fantastic!

IOA New Year’s Celebration. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

During the day we saw a pop-up video wall in Port of Entry that would be used later that night.

Pop-up video wall. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Dancers silhouetted by the Islands of Adventure video wall at the Islands of Adventure New Year’s Eve party. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Hard to describe just how rare this sight is to a long time Universal parks fan. Fireworks staged in the IOA lagoon. Pinch me, I’m dreaming!

Fireworks staged in the IOA lagoon. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New Year’s Eve fireworks and pyro barges staging in the Islands of Adventure lagoon. 8 second long exposure to capture velocitrails on VelociCoaster. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here is the start of the IOA fireworks display, as seen from Seuss Landing.

Start of 2024 New Year’s fireworks in Islands of Adventure. VelociCoaster in background. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
IOA New Year’s Celebration. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
2024 New Year’s fireworks in Islands of Adventure. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Plenty of in-park signage helped the flow of traffic during the night.

IOA New Year’s signage. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Over at Universal Studios Florida, the Music Plaza was well-managed and at capacity at night. Here are some shots taken during the daytime.

Music Plaza staging for New Year’s Eve dance party. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Music Plaza staging for  New Year’s Eve dance party. String lights overhead. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Music Plaza staging for New Year’s Eve dance party. Plaza divided in 3 sections, with access routes between sections. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

The Music Plaza featured a DJ, and at night this place was rocking! Music at the plaza was heard throughout the park, with many guests dancing as they walked.

Earlier in the night characters were at the party. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New Year’s Eve dance party in Music Plaza is filled to capacity in Universal Studios Florida. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Universal Studios Florida music plaza. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Universal Studios Florida also had fireworks, and here those are seen from inside Islands of Adventure.

New Year’s fireworks seen from Seuss Landing. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

One of the fun things we liked to do at Disney’s Magic Kingdom was ride Splash Mountain during the nighttime spectaculars. There were times you could get an amazing view of fireworks when right at the top of the big drop. I’ve never had a chance to ride Rip Ride Rockit during a fireworks show, but that’s probably pretty cool too.

Guests riding Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit during midnight New Years 2024 fireworks. (photo by @biorecosntruct)

# 4 – New Years at Walt Disney World

DJ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This year was at the raised Center Stage oval. The on demand pyro was very cool!

DHS New Years Celebration. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Over at Disney’s Magic Kingdom, they celebrated New Years in a big way. They had huge parties on both December 30th AND the 31st!

Magic Kingdom celebrates New Years. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Snow in the Magic Kingdom as part of the Dec 30 New Year’s Eve celebration. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Snow Accumulation on a blogger’s table. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Magic Kingdom celebrates New Years. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Magic Kingdom celebrates New Years. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Dec 30 New Year’s Eve celebration at Magic Kingdom. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Mickey and Minnie and the Christmas party show were part of the New Year’s Eve celebration at Magic Kingdom. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Seen here is the Dec 30 dance party in Frontierland. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Inside Space Mountain with rapidly changing Christmas lighting, and Christmas music. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Mirror glass reflection of fireworks and Cinderella Castle in The Rivers of America. Photo Taken on December 31, 2023 (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 3 – EPCOT

The king of New Years celebrations is EPCOT, hands-down. There is so much going on that its impossible to do it all.

EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again… how AWESOME is the new lighting package for Spaceship Earth?!!

EPCOT New Year’s Entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
New Year’s Eve greetings on what was a sleigh photo op with Santa in EPCOT. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

EPCOT is always jam-packed with New Year’s entertainment, and all of the various dance parties were crowd-pleasers. United Kingdom hosted what seemed to be the largest yet of the Silent DJ Party, where guests wear headphones. An additional soundtrack heard throughout the park.

Silent DJ Party in the EPCOT United Kingdom pavilion for New Year’s Eve. Guests use headphones and tune to a color-designated channel for their choice of either of the DJs. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Bubbles, lasers, and spotlights at the EPCOT Italy New Year’s Eve dance party.

EPCOT New Years entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Italy was also home to some pretty cool looking stilt walkers.

EPCOT New Year’s Entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Dancers on stilts, with changing lights, at New Year’s Eve party in EPCOT Italy pavilion. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

A look at the New Year’s Eve party in the Japan pavilion.

EPCOT New Years entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
A look at the EPCOT China pavilion New Year’s Eve dance party. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
EPCOT New Year’s Entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Spotlights from Luminous started at first as the crisscrossing beacons at the World Showcase pavilions, then including a flurry from the barges.

EPCOT New Year’s Entertainment. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Crisscrossing spotlights over Showcase Lagoon during the EPCOT New Year’s Eve celebration. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Forget more cowbell, what this party clearly needed was more spotlights…

Monorail Red with the crisscrossing spotlights of EPCOT New Year’s Eve. (photo by @bioreconstruct)


International Gateway with crisscrossing spotlights in and over Showcase Lagoon on New Year’s Eve. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

We’ll close this section with one of my favorite types of photos from @bioreconstruct. Earlier in this article we saw Universal Studios Florida fireworks as seen in Islands of Adventure. That is child’s play compared to what Bio got in EPCOT. Below we have photos of Fantasy in the Sky fireworks from Disney’s Magic Kingdom shot from EPCOT’s World Showcase lagoon during Luminous! Now that’s magic…

Fountains of Luminous and a burst of red fireworks at right from Magic Kingdom. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Bursts of pyro in EPCOT and in center are fireworks in Magic Kingdom. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Luminous in EPCOT and in background Fantasy in the Sky in Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve. (photo by @bioreconstruct)
Luminous in EPCOT and in background multiple fireworks displays of Fantasy in the Sky on New Year’s Eve. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

# 2- Universal Goes PAPERLESS with Park Maps

Growing up, one of my favorite parts about going on a Walt Disney World or Universal vacation was getting a park map for all the places we went to. Not only did it allow me to formulate a “game plan” when it came to our park touring strategy, but I just liked looking at my favorite places immortalized on the map (especially when we got home.) Over the years it has become almost a tradition to go through my desk drawer of Ye Olde Park Maps and look back at the attractions and places that used to exist, but have since been replaced. I don’t want to say I collected park maps per se, but over the years I’ve certainly accumulated a lot of them.

Paper Park Maps at Islands of Adventure. (photo taken in 2023 by @bioreconstruct)

On January 1st, 2024, Universal ended the use of paper maps. They instead encourage guests to download the official Universal Orlando Resort app which has all the information the park maps used to have (along with a whole lot more.)

Park Maps at IOA replaced by QR Codes. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

My review?

Listen, I get it. I truly do. The vast majority of people are probably already using the app, and technology allows you to make instantaneous updates compared to reprinting an entire paper map. I am just sick and tired of looking at my phone all day, and I certainly don’t want QR codes replacing things I enjoyed holding up and looking at (restaurant menus, park maps etc).

As a person who collects many things (including comic books, Disney Parks related Little Golden Books, and more) I truly feel for the theme park park map collectors out there. This is a crushing blow, and while it’s not exactly apples to oranges, we’ve seen what can happen when companies go from producing physical media to just streaming (movies/shows can be changed on a whim, or just outright disappear forever.)

There were some Rumors & Innuendo in December that Universal was going to be getting rid of park maps in the new year, but I think many assumed that Guest Relations would still have something physical available for guests who don’t want to use the app or can’t use the app. Whether that be a very small print run of normal style park maps or some MS Word document printed out, but as of this writing there was nothing available at Guest Relations.

Welcome to the future.

Park Maps at Universal Studios Florida replaced by QR Codes. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

Here’s an interesting tidbit from @bioreconstruct that you can see on the former Studio Guides map holder (now QR stand) in Universal Studios Florida. The date on the clapper is 06.01.20, which can translate to June 1st, 2020. After the 2 1/2 month Covid-19 shutdown, Universal reopened on June 5th, 2020. That June 1st date on the clapper may be referencing when the rack was built.

Europeans may say that date is actually January 6th, 2020, and since this edition of the SAT SIX is being posted on January 6th, we can go with that too.

#1 – Figment’s Best Week Ever

Disney has been on a roll with new Little Golden Books over the past few years, and this week they released possibly the best one yet: Figment. I pre-ordered this book months ago when it was first announced and completely forgot it was coming out this week, so it was definitely a nice surprise when it arrived in the mail.

You know this is going to be a great book when it features EPCOT’s Imagination Pavilion on the cover.

Figment immediately became SAT SIX junior correspondent Amelia’s favorite book.

The Figment book starts off hot, featuring none other than the Dreamfinder on his Dream Catcher, taken straight out Journey Into Imagination attraction back when it was beloved.

Dreamfinder’s fantabulous flying machine, as seen in the Imagination Pavilion. (photo by Tom Bricker)

The book features all the important things you need to know about Figment and the Imagination Pavilion, including one of the most iconic songs written for any Disney attraction: One Little Spark.


Like the best Little Golden Books, Figment is loaded with Easter Eggs for the Disney theme park fans.

Disney’s Little Golden Books are pretty  much the only books we read at this point, and you can look forward to a full review of the Figment book in the near future. Until then, feel free to check out this article on Disney Parks Related Little Golden Books (including Space Mountain, Jungle Cruise, and its a small world.)

Along with our follow-up look at Little Golden Books that focused on DISNEYLAND!

If the week wasn’t good enough, out of nowhere Disney dropped a bomb on the theme park community. It announced that for the Festival of the Arts there would be a new popcorn bucket themed to Figment and THE IMAGINATION PAVILION. Granted, I’m prone to hyperbole, but I’m pretty sure this is the greatest theme park popcorn bucket ever made.

You may remember a couple years ago when another Figment related popcorn bucket made the news. That’s right, everyone went crazy for their favorite purple dragon and you can read about that next level bonkers week by CLICKING HERE.

Figment Popcorn Bucket. (photo by @JodiCab22)

Honorable Mention: Ghosts of New Year’s PAST

Thanks to @bioreconstruct, we are going to close this article with a look back at New Year’s Eve from the past decade and both Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort. Things were a little different back then, like THIS being the lighting package we had for Spaceship Earth back in 2014.

December 31st, 2014.
Italy Pavilion. December 31st, 2014.
Fountain of Nations dance party. December 31st, 2015.
UK Pavilion. December 31st, 2015.

In 2016 we saw a countdown clock added to SSE.

December 31st, 2016.
The Japan Pavilion in World Showcase. December 31st, 2016.

We showed earlier in the article how popular the Silent DJ dance parties are. Here is a photo below from the Japan Pavilion in 2016 which may have been the first Silent DJ dance party at EPCOT.

Silent DJ in Japan Pavilion. December 31st, 2016.
Later that night in the Japan Pavilion. December 31st, 2016.
Plastic hats given away on December 31st, 2016.
Noise makers, the one thing most guests are probably glad Disney stopped giving away. December 31st, 2016.
First fireworks are always just after sunset. Illuminations in Twilight December 31, 2016.
December 31st, 2016.
December 31st, 2016.
Used to be there were backstage routes on Dec 31 between World Showcase and Future World. 2016 here

Lets take a brief look over at the Universal Orlando Resort and see what was going on over there…

Cabanas in CityWalk for a separate ticket event, on NYE Dec 31, 2016.
Dec 31, 2016 is when Wet ‘n Wild closed. Seen here after midnight is the Universal Orlando sign being placed. This is now Surfside Inn & Suites. Wet ‘n Wild parking lot now Dockside Inn & Suites.

Ok, back to Walt Disney World…

New Years Hats on December 31st, 2018.

Gonna need a lot of hats because EPCOT can get pretty busy on New Years Eve…

December 31st, 2018.
At EPCOT, there used to be a DJ starting 3pm in America Gardens. Dec 31, 2018.

In 2018 there was a live band performing in the UK Pavilion. If you remember, this year EPCOT had the Silent DJ dance party in the UK.

December 31st, 2018.
December 31st, 1018.
December 31st, 2018.
Ticking clock on Illuminations globe and Spaceship Earth Dec 31, 2018.

We’ll close out our history lesson by checking in on one of our favorite design elements in EPCOT…

Dragon in EPCOT. December 31st, 2012.
Dragon in EPCOT. December 31st, 2016.
Dragon in EPCOT. December 31st, 2018.

The details on this dragon were pretty cool…

…and then Bob Chapek became CEO of Disney in 2020.

Dragon releases smoke down to the New Years Eve dance party in EPCOT China. December 31st, 2022.

So there you have it: The SATURDAY SIX Looks Back at an Eventful Week at WDW and Universal Orlando! See you next weekend for the latest installment of the SATURDAY SIX, where we’ll look at something fun from the world of Disney and Universal. If you enjoyed yourself, be sure to check out the THEME PARK ENJOYMENT INDEX, giving a monthly recap of all the theme park news you need to know (and a lot more you don’t need to know, but we’re gonna tell you anyway). You can also follow Your Humble Author on Twitter (@derekburgan).

If you enjoyed this article, you will surely like the following: 

The SATURDAY SIX Celebrates Ten Years with TouringPlans

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Merchandise Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Signage Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX Presents: The Disney Food Hall of Shame

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Josh easyWDW

SATURDAY SIX: Tribute to Ian Barritt

Special Thanks to The Elite Brandon Glover, Digital Maestro Scott Walker, the bio-est of all reconstructs @bioreconstruct, Captain Cruiseline Scott Sanders of the world famous Disney Cruise Line Blog, my personal protege Hunter “Elvey” Underwood, artist @SonderQuest, the mighty maven of merchandise Hedgehog’s Corner, the SAT SIX Fun Squad of Parkscope Joe and “the Dadalorian” Nick, hot shot Michael Carelli, charter member of the Universal Four @Nitro230, the permit princess Alicia Stella, master cartographer Tommy Hawkins, and Hermione Granger’s tutor Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. Absolutely no help was added by SeaWorld Influencer @SuperWeenieHtJr. The SAT SIX is inspired each week by goofballs Aengus Mackenzie and LitemAndHyde and you Potterheads will  enjoy Meg’s other blog work over at the Central Florida Slug Club.

Fun Spot Orlando fireworks show was over 20 minutes. Longer than any of the area destination theme park shows! It had very big, nice shells. Seen here from a distance near Royal Pacific resort. (photo by @bioreconstruct)

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