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Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2017
Below are the latest updates we have for the 2017 book:
If you pre-ordered
Please read this article about the first printed copies of the Unofficial Guide. Any questions should go to the publisher of the Unofficial Guides through their contact page. TouringPlans has no additional information about the new copies.
Part 1 - Planning Before You Leave Home
P. 49 In the "When to Go to Walt Disney World" calendar, in June, remove the reference to Star Wars Weekends. The Star Wars Weekends event has been discontinued.
P 49. Add information to the February entry.
New in 2017 is the addition of the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, taking place over six weeks in January and February. The Festival features art seminars, special merchandise, performances of Disney-related showtunes by Disney on Broadway veterans, as well as the now ubiquitous food booths scattered along the World Showcase walkway.
P. 51 Add information to the December entry.
In 2016, Disney introduced Seasonal Tastes (taking place from November 25-December 30), as part of the Epcot Holidays Around the World celebration. Seasonal tastes will feature food and beverage sales booths scattered around the World Showcase area, offering festive holiday-themed tasting portions of food and drink.
P. 52 Add information to the December entry.
Holidays at Disney Springs. In an effort to funnel some of the holiday guest traffic out of the theme parks, Disney is introducing a new nighttime holiday show at Disney Springs. "Starbright Holidays - An Intel Collaboration" features drones flying in formation to form light sculptures depicting trees, stars, and other holiday symbols. This is in addition to more low-key holiday themeing such as a traditional Santa greeting station, musicians playing carols, and a “Christmas Tree Trail” of photo ops and merriment.
Part 2 - Making the Most of Your Time and Money
P. 65 Add a paragraph in the ticket section.
4-Park Magic Tickets Disney has begun to tinker with its standard ticket offerings, introducing a new ticket type called 4-Park Magic Ticket. This ticket allows guests four days of park admittance, one day to each of the four primary theme parks, with no park hopping allowed. In other words, with the 4-Park Magic Ticket, guest can visit Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Magic Kingdom for one day each. Tickets are priced at $279 plus tax for guests age 10 and up, and $259 for children ages 3-9, compared to $325 for adults and $305 for traditional tickets of the same duration. The ticket comes with a number of caveats, including a use-by date and holiday season black-out dates, which makes them unsuitable for many guests. However, if the available dates and part visit structure work for you, this new ticket can provide considerable savings.
P. 66 In the Tickets, Biometrics, Wristbands and RFID section, add the following information:
Beginning in the summer of 2016, Disney began asking for biometric finger scans for children ages 3-9, as well as for adults and children ages 10+. Younger kids may have a parent or other adult provide their scans, or Disney may ask to photograph the child for admission verification purposes.
P 70. Add information to the MagicBand section. In late 2016, Disney introduced the first style update to the MagicBand. New bands allow users to detach the reader chip from the bracelet band, so that it can be positioned elsewhere or attached to a lanyard. This may make MagicBand usage easier for some guests.
P. 71 Add new subsection: Disney and the Upcharge:
During the past year, Disney has experimented with adding a number of products and events that involve a fee or service charge above and beyond the normal cost of a Disney theme park visit. Some of the upcharges are similar to previous park offerings. For example, the new Star Wars Guided tour (p XREF) at $121 per person, is a pretty standard variation on the many backstage tours offered at the parks, and the Epcot Illuminations Dessert party at $49 per adult, is a variation on the Wishes dessert party long offered at the Magic Kingdom.
On the other end of the spectrum are experimental add-ons that some have found shocking. During the fall 2016/winter 2017 season, the Magic Kingdom offered $650 private cabanas located in Tomorrowland, $20 private water taxi rides to/from points around Bay Lake, evening after hours Magic Kingdom park access (initially tried at $150 per person, now listing at $120 per person), $15 per day Express bus transportation between the theme parks for guests with Park Hopper tickets, an “Ice Cream Social" on board the Liberty Belle River Boat ($49 per adult), and many more.
Some of these experiments have already been discontinued (bye bye for now, cabanas) and others are likely to have short lifespans, but some will certainly stick around. We haven’t yet found one new upcharge item that we’d say is a 100% must-do or absolute game changer. You can certainly avoid spending money on these extras and still have a stellar vacation. However, we are concerned about whether these add-ons will begin to have a significant negative impact on regular guests. The Tomorrowland cabanas, as executed in their test run, were unsightly white tents assembled near Space Mountain; their shanty-like appearance was out of place for the environment and were just plain ugly. The Ice Cream Social onboard the Liberty Belle takes that attraction off line for regular guests for about three hours every afternoon. That’s a real loss for some.
If you’re looking for ways to add convenience or excitement to your vacation, and you’re willing to pay for it, Disney now has you covered in spades. But we’ll continue to monitor whether Disney’s formerly passive class stratification for guests is on its way to becoming an active nuisance.
P. 109 - Cheetah Hunt is not the longest roller coaster in Florida; it has been surpassed by Mako at SeaWorld.
Part 3 - Accomodations
P. 113 The tax rate for Osceola County is now 13.5%.
P. 200 ADD an Unofficial Tip: The Animal Kingdom Lodge is home to three of our Reader Survey’s top five restaurants in all of Walt Disney World. Foodies looking for convenient eats may want to consider this when choosing a hotel.
P. 302 Frontera Cocina, Chef Art Smith's Homecoming [formerly known as Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Shine Bar], and D-Luxe Burger are all now open.
Part 4 - Dining in and Around Walt Disney World
P. 337 Restaurantosaurus may serve breakfast during peak seasons.
P. 338 PizzeRizzo is now open.
P. 341 The Disney Springs restaurants Frontera Cocina and Chef Art Smith's Homecoming (a name change since the previously announced Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine) are both now open. Replace the current entries with the following:
Chef Art Smith’s Homecoming
Reservations: Recommended. When to Go: Lunch or dinner. Cost range: $16-$41 (child $9-$12). Service: Too new to rate.Friendliness: Too new to rate. Parking: Disney Springs garage. Bar: Full service. Wine selection: modest. Dress: Casual. Disabled access: Yes. Customers: Disney guests; locals. Lunch and dinner: Sun-Thurs 11:00 a.m – midnight, Fri-Sat 11:00 a.m.-1:00 a.m. Location: Disney Springs. Phone: 407-560-0100.
Setting and atmosphere: Florida farm-style décor with a reclaimed wood and mason jar vibe. Dining rooms chairs are covered in faux burlap sacks. Florida born and raised, Art Smith is Oprah Winfrey’s former private chef and is well known for his appearances on Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef America.
House specialties: The 200-seat Homecoming focuses on Smith’s takes on traditional Southern cooking, highlighting Florida’s produce and seafood bounty with dishes he’s known for: pimento cheese, deviled eggs, Lowcountry shrimp and grits, biscuits and sawmill gravy, and chicken and dumplings. Sweets from his bakery will be shipped in daily. Cocktails feature artisanal moonshine.
Other recommendations: Our kryptonite is the “Fried Chicken and Doughnuts” (yes, you read that right), a platter of fried chicken served with house-made sugar doughnuts and KC Greens.
Summary and comments: There’s some menu overlap with the nearby House of Blues restaurant. We’d eat here for the calmer atmosphere and fresher food.
Reservations: Recommended. When to Go: Lunch or dinner. Cost range: $14-34 (children $9). Service: Too new to rate. Friendliness: Too new to rate. Parking: Disney Springs garage. Bar: Full service. Wine selection: modest. Dress: Casual. Disabled access: Yes. Customers: Disney guests; locals. Lunch and dinner: Sun-Wed 11:00 a.m –10:00 p.m., Thurs-Sat t 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. Location: Disney Springs. Phone: 407-560-9197.
Setting and atmosphere: Though the exterior presents with muted beige walls and white accents in meant to evoke classic Florida waterfront architecture, bright pops of color from the centerpiece chandelier and bar accents highlight the sleek and modern eatery’s interior, made casual by exposed duct work and cozy dark wood furnishings. The open show kitchen and "Wall of Fame" shelves packed with specialty liquors and wines are bathed in natural sunlight from the large windows on nearly every wall, showcasing the springs and outdoor patio from the back dining room of the restaurant.
House specialties: Traditional Yucatecan sikil pak pumpkin seed dip, familiar build-your-own Carne Asada tacos, Cocina ancho-marinated half chicken served with highly-lauded queso añejo mashed potatoes, Frontera margarita and specialty agave flights, as well as the pecan pie bar (a family recipe from Chef Rick Bayless’ grandmother).
Other recommendations: House-made-to-order guacamole, Shrimp and bay scallop Coctel verde, mushroom torta with chipotle-garlic mojo, carnitas, red chile chicken enchiladas, Mexican “Cola” (Avión blanco tequila, tamarind, Ancho Reyes chili liqueur, with a black ant salt rim), and coconut lime quatro leches cake. The dessert menu is small; kids may be happier with a dessert from the nearby Sprinkles cupcake shop.
Summary and comments: If you want Frontera Cocina food on the go, there’s a take-away window offering chips and guac, two kinds of tacos, soft drinks, beer, and margaritas.
P 350 Bongos. Reader-Survey Responses: 67%+, 33%-.
P. 353 Cinderella's Royal Table now serves a limited selection of champagne and sparkling wines.
P. 357 Flying Fish has been re-opened. Revise the restaurant's entry.
Reservations: Recommended. When to Go: Dinner. Cost range: $37-64 (child $13-17). Service: Too new to rate. Friendliness: Too new to rate. Bar: Full service. Wine selection: Extensive. Parking: Valet ($25) or Boardwalk hotel lot. Dress: Dressy casual. Disabled access: yes. Customers: Hotel guests, locals. Dinner: 5:30 -10:00 pm Sun-Thurs, 5:30-10:30 pm Fri-Sat.
Setting and atmosphere: A palette of blues and golds, along with many bubble- and fish-shaped lighting fixtures, provides a tasteful under-the-sea atmosphere.
House specialties: Appetizers include corn-encrusted wild Gulf shrimp and “A Tour of the Coast,” featuring rock shrimp, Florida Coast Grouper Cheek, blue mussels, and local middleneck clams. Entrees include a daily special fish, wild Alaska coho salmon, and lobster pasta. If you’re not in the mood for seafood, try the Wagyu filet mignon or bison strip loin.
Other recommendations: Flying Fish offers a five-course Chef’s Table meal that is popular with guests celebrating special occasions. The dessert menu is light and imaginative, get one to share.
Summary and comments: Flying Fish reopened in August 2016, following a lengthy refurbishment. Both the interior design and the menu saw extensive overhauls. The most important change was a change in the lead chef, now Tim Majoras. The emphasis on seasonal seafood remains, with a modern flair. A new companion bar, AbracadaBar, offers specialty cocktails served with a side of magic, literally. The premise is that this was a watering hole for magicians and their lovely assistants, until they all mysteriously vanished one evening long ago. Waitstaff perform illusions and the décor includes vintage magicians’ props. Signature drink names evoke a magical past including: The Conjurita, The Parlor Trick, Elixir, and our favorite, Pepper’s Ghost, named for the illusion used in the Haunted Mansion attractions dining room scene.
P. 363 Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen now serves a limited selection of beer and wine.
P. 364 Liberty Tree Tavern now serves a limited selection of beer, wine, and hard cider.
P. 371 The Plaza now only accepts reservations from 11:00 a.m. until noon. The rest of the day, the restaurant will serve walk-up guests only.
P. 371 Portobello. Reader-survey Response: 69%+, 31%-. Summary and Comments: Reader response surveys to Portobello indicate that it's in a continued state of decline. With the expansion of Disney Springs, there are now many other restaurants in the area which provide a better dining experience.
P. 374 Sanaa now serves breakfast from 7:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Breakfast is quick service, not the full table service available at lunch and dinner. Offerings include hot food such as eggs, waffles, and bacon, as well as a small section of grab-and-go cold foods.
P 377 STK Orlando. ADD Reader Response info: 60%+ 40%-. ADD information to the Summary and Comments section: For our first Reader Response survey that included STK, the restaurant garnered only 60% positive response, putting it in 899th place among all 909 ranked restaurants at WDW. This is among the lowest we’ve ever seen for a new upscale dining venue at WDW and may be a predictor of future changes at the venue.
P. 378 Tiffins. ADD Reader Response info: 93%+, 7%-. Add information to the summary and comments section: Tiffins is a fairly new addition to Walt Disney World, but it is fast becoming a favorite. With both Tiffins and its companion bar, Nomad Lounge, garnering 93% positive reader response, our advice is to book a reservation soon, because once the Animal Kingdom’s Pandora section starts to bring more foot traffic to the area, it will become a challenge to dine here.
P. 380 Tony's Town Square now serves a limited selection of beer and wine.
Part 7 - Arriving and Getting Around
P. 474 In the Transportation Time chart, the current “#” footnote should be deleted. Replace with: Prior to 4:00 p.m. all transportation between the theme parks and Disney Springs requires a transfer at a nearby resort. After 4:00 p.m., buses run directly from the theme parks to Disney Springs. There are no buses from Disney Springs directly to the theme parks.
P 463 ADD information to Bullet2 - Paying to Park: The daily parking rate for motorcycles and standard cars is $20. There is also now a preferred parking option, with spots closer to the park entrances, available for $35 per day. Resort guests and annual pass holders continue to receive free regular parking, but will incur an upcharge for preferred parking.
P. 472 Add information about new express bus service.
In December 2016, Disney introduced its first fee-based inter-park transportation service. Express Transportation is an add-on that can purchased by Guests who have purchased park hopper tickets. For single-day service, Express Transportation can be added for $15 per person. For multi-day service, it is $24 per person which is valid for up to seven consecutive days from the day of sale. Annual Passholders can chose to add on the single-day option, but not the multi-day version. The express bus will shuttle guests from inside one theme park straight into a different theme park, traveling between backstage locations. This means that guests will not have to go through security screening at the second park, a possibly substantial time savings during busy times of year. Pick up locations will be found near the exit of Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in Tomorrowland at the Magic Kingdom, east of Spaceship Earth at Epcot, near Rock n’ Roller Coaster at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and near Kilimanjaro Safaris entrance at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Express Transportation is available from 10:00 a.m. until park close. Pick up will occur every 30 minutes.
P. 476 In the second reader quote on this page, there is a typo. It should read "we had to wait a half-hour...," not "half-mile."
P. 478 In our chart of boat routes, Magic Kingdom is misspelled on the Grand Floridian-Polynesian-Magic Kingdom route.
Part 9 - The Magic Kingdom
P. 508 The Hall of Presidents attraction will be shut down for the first half of 2017 to make room for the animatronic Donald Trump. No word yet on whether Disney will be making additional alterations to the script or other aspects of the presentation. The inspirational, patriotic tone is a constant. For that reason, foreign visitors rate the show lower than Americans.
P. 518 Princess Fairytale Hall. There have been some shake-ups in the princess contingent in residence at Fairytale Hall. In November 2016, Princess Elena of Avalor (a new Disney Channel character) has supplanted Sleeping Beauty in the greeting rotation. This follows the summer 2016 relocation of Frozen’s Anna and Elsa to the new Royal Sommerhus meet and greet at Epcot’s Norway pavilion. The lines are now shorter than they were a year ago, but they can still be substantial. If your kids love princesses, even B-list ones, get Fairytale Hall out of the way first thing, or use FastPass+.
P. 524 Stitch's Great Escape is now open seasonally. Expect it to be operational only during holidays and high crowd times.
P 527 DELETE the Celebrate the Magic section. This show was discontinued on 11/4/16.
P 527 In the Castle Forecourt live entertainment section. ADD a new show.
Let the Magic Begin” 2 stars. This five-minute-long show takes place just prior to the official park opening time. A town crier, Mickey Mouse, the Fairy Godmother, officially open the Magic Kingdom for the day. Most of the characters that greet guests in the park appear on stage for about two minutes, but they only wave. There is no song, dance, or other show element. It’s a cute diversion if you happen to be there, but it’s entirely skipable if you don’t sacrifice your position near the front of the pack to enter the main lands of the park.
P 527 In the Castle Forecourt live entertainment section. ADD a new show.
The Royal Welcome of Princess Elena of Avalor. *** [three stars]. This quick six-minute show is performed several times per day on the Castle Forecourt stage. Cinderella and Prince Charming introduce Crown Princess Elena of Avalor to the Magic Kingdom. Elena, the star of the Disney Channel series “Elena of Avalor,” is Disney’s first Latina princess. During this performance, Elena chats with Cindy and Charming, using both English and Spanish, and sings her signature song, “My Time.” If your kids are fans of the Elena TV show, then it may be worth stopping to watch, otherwise it’s an easy thing to skip. Check the daily Times Guide for show times.
P. 527 Live Entertainment in the Magic Kingdom. DELETE the Celebrate the Magic section. This show was discontinued on 11/4/16.
P. 527 Live Entertainment in the Magic Kingdom. ADD a new offering, The Muppets Present ... Great Moments in American History.
THE MUPPETS PRESENT … GREAT MOMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY This oddball take on American History is hosted by James "J.J." Jefferson--the town crier of Liberty Square--and Sam the Eagle, the most patriotic of Muppets. Joined by Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo, the show is performed several times daily. There are multiple versions of the show, some include singing, some storytelling, but all contain the Muppets' famous humor. The Muppets Present...Great Moments in American History is performed outside, near The Hall of Presidents.
P. 527 In the Live Entertainment in the Magic Kingdom. ADD a new show, Once Upon a Time.
Like its predecessor, Celebrate the Magic, Once Upon a Time uses projection mapping technology to cover every nook and cranny of Cinderella Castle in vibrant images that appear almost three-dimensional. The heartwarming show features Beauty and the Beast's Mrs. Potts sharing bedtime stories with Chip. Here, Guests go on a magical adventure through favorite Disney movies, including flying over London to Never Land with Peter Pan, watching Winnie the Pooh fly towards the top of the Castle with a colorful balloon, enjoying a whimsical tea party with the Mad Hatter, and more. The show culminates with classic scenes from Beauty and the Beast, including Belle waltzing with Beast, Beast’s duel with Gaston, and Gaston's turning back into a Prince. The conclusion includes a grand finale of additional appearances by beloved Disney characters.
P. 530 Disney discontinued its popular regular evening parade, the Main Street Electrical Parade, in October 2016. No word yet on a replacement. There are still evening parades during special events and parties such as Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party.
Part 10 - Epcot
P. 552-553 The only currently functioning attraction in Innoventions is Colortopia by the paint company, Glidden. Colortopia has interactive kiosks where you can see how the rooms in your house look with different color schemes. A preview is available at mycolortopia.com.
P. 553 Remove the entire Sum of All Thrills section. This attraction has been discontinued.
P. 567 Strike the word "First" in the 2nd paragraph of the Frozen Ever After Description. It should read:
(The former unloading area is now also used to load, and the old post-show area became a beautifully detailed village queue, complete with Wandering Oaken's shop to walk through.) There's a short, mild section where you're propelled backwards for a few seconds as Elsa entreats you to "Let It Go," followed by a short downhill and small splash that most kids should take in stride.
P. 573 The flag corps is no longer performing in the Italy pavilion.
P. 575 DELETE the last 2 sentences of the first full paragraph.
Part 11 - Disney's Animal Kingdom
P. 603 The Jungle Book show, mentioned in the Rivers of Light entry, has been discontinued.
Part 12 - Disney's Hollywood Studios
P 633 Create new section "Live Entertainment in Disney's Hollywood Studios
In addition to the many stage show attractions (Beauty and the Beast, Disney Jr. Live, For the First Time in Forever, Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, Voyage of the Little Mermaid), there are a number of other live entertainment opportunities at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Currently, the focus is on Star Wars related experiences. The March of the First Order is a minor parade/stage show hybrid. Captain Phasma and a legion of Stormtroopers walk in formation from the park entrance area to the Great Movie Ride, and make a few proclamations from the stage. The “show” is quite minimal; it’s mostly about the Empire marching around. The Stormtroopers’ blasters and full body uniforms are a thrill for Star Wars geeks, but could be quite intimidating for a skittish child.
Also focused on Star Wars is Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away, in which newer characters such as Kylo Ren and BB-8 join Darth Maul and Chewbacca in reenactments of scenes from the film franchise.
The Hollywood Studios evening show is Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. This laser and fireworks presentation projects images and video from the Star Wars films onto a backdrop of the Chinese Theater. The real thrill is listening to John Williams’ soaring score while fireworks blast above you.
If you’re in a more down to earth mood, keep an eye out for the Citizens of Hollywood. These “Streetmosphere” players wander the park and engage guests in interactive performances related to the glamour days of Hollywood.
Part 13 - The Water Parks
PP. 713-716 The Shark Reef attraction at Typhoon Lagoon is now permanently closed.
Part 18 - Behind-the-Scenes and VIP Tours at Walt Disney World
P 730. Add a new tour to the chart. Star Wars Guided Tour. Length = 7 hours. Cost = $121, all ages. Minimum age = TBD. Focus = All things Star Wars. Days available = Mondays and Saturdays.
P 732 Add new section. Behind the Scenes at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
A new Star Wars Guided Tour is now being offered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This is a seven-hour experience that will include A Star Wars “all-in-the-know” tour guide, priority boarding for Star Tours – The Adventures Continue; an opportunity to participate in Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (for guests age 4-12); an in-depth guided exploration of Star Wars Launch Bay, a screening of “Star Wars: Path of the Jedi”, dinner at the Backlot Express (with Star Wars themed food!); the Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party; fireworks viewing and more. Priced at $121 per person, tours are Mondays and Saturdays throughout 2017.
Part 19 - Disney Springs, Universal Citywalk, Etc.
P. 741 The World of Coke store is now open.
P. 741 The Landing and Town Center. Add Blaze Fast Fired Pizza to the list of notable specialty food and beverage.
Clip Out Touring Plans
PP. 812-819 Remove Touring Plan steps referencing an evening parade. There is no longer an evening parade during regular Magic Kingdom operations (Even parades during special events such as Mickey's No So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party still exist.)
PP. 813 and 820-824 Remove Touring Plan steps referencing The Sum of All Thrills. The Sum of All Thrills is now permanently closed.
Last updated on January 16, 2017