• Catch up with news from around the parks in this week's Theme Park Thursday

    By: Shelley Caran


    Orlando, Fla. - In this week's Theme Park Thursday we are taking a break from talking about special events, don't worry we will circle back to them next week, and taking a look at all the latest news from the theme parks of Central Florida.

    Let's dive in to take a closer look at all the announcements coming from the parks of new restaurants, events, land purchases, holiday celebrations, and a few surprises!

    Walt Disney World Resort

    Star Wars Galactic Nights 

    Star Wars fans are counting down the days, minutes, and hours until Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens on December 15th, and what better way to celebrate the opening of the movie than by attending Star Wars Galactic Nights at Disney's Hollywood Studios on December 16th. 

    Guests at Star Wars Galactic Nights will be treated to a Hollywood-style red carpet arrival, iconic attractions with little to no wait time, amazing fireworks & projections, and experts sharing details about the Star Wars expansion coming to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Highlights of the night include meeting rare Star War characters, the chance to step into immersive and iconic scenes from their favorite Star Wars films in a series of incredibly detailed photo locations including a new backdrop inspired by Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars-themed food & beverage, and it wouldn't be an event at Walt Disney World without exclusive merchandise.

    Park access and activities will be exclusive to Star Wars: Galactic Nights ticket holders. Event hours on December 16 are 7 p.m.-midnight. Tickets are priced at $129 adults, $124 ages 3-9 with special discounts available for Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club Members. 

    Disney Springs 

    The Patina Restaurant Group confirmed that three new modern Italian restaurant and bar concepts will be opening at Disney Springs this winter. The restaurants, all new concepts created by Patina Restaurant Group, each with unique menus, will form an expansive dining complex showcasing authentic Italian food and entertainment. They will be adjacent to The Edison, the lavish “Industrial Gothic”-style destination also being developed by Patina Restaurant Group.

    The new concepts tie into the Disney Springs storyline of a restored Florida waterfront town and according to the CEO of Patina Restaurant Group Nick Valenti, “Our inspiration is to bring unforgettable food and wine from Italy to Florida, with the stunning scenery you only find at Disney,” 

    Maria & Enzo’s – an Italian trattoria set in the town’s storied abandoned airline terminal from the 1930s, now transformed into a restaurant. The dining room is open and airy, featuring 50- foot ceilings with views of Lake Buena Vista. The restaurant interiors showcase artifacts that reference air travel of the time, with maps and historic flight paths. The menu is inspired by Sicily, with a range of family-friendly dishes – Arancini di Carne (rice balls stuffed with meat), Melanzane Parmigiana (eggplant Parmesan) – and handmade pastas – Busiate con Granchio (spiral pasta with crab), ‘Ncasciata al Forno (Sicilian baked pasta) – served tableside. Other highlights include fresh fish, richly flavored steaks and chops.

    Enzo’s Hideaway – a speakeasy inspired by Roman aperitivo bars, located in the storied rum-runner tunnels that adjoin Maria & Enzo’s. Inspired by Florida’s true history of rum running, Enzo’s Hideaway will pour Prohibition-era cocktails at its Tunnel Bar and serve a casual menu of hearty Roman dishes, such as the city’s legendary Bucatini alla Carbonara (hollow spaghettiwith creamy egg and pancetta sauce) and Tonnarelli Cacio e  Pepe (square-cut spaghetti with pecorino and black pepper).

    Pizza Ponte - a fast-casual concept and the perfect place for a quick bite serving pastries, pizza, Italian sandwiches, and espresso. Pastry specialties include Bomboloni (Italian doughnuts) Sfoglia di Riso (pastry with rice cream) and Tiramisu. Savory items include signature Triangolo (stuffed pizza bread) sandwiches, Porchetta (roast pork) and Pizza al Taglio, Sicilian-style pizza by the slice.

    Happy Birthday Mickey

    Mickey Mouse celebrates his birthday on November 18th, the day of the release of his first theatrical film Steamboat Willie at the Colony Theatre in New York City in 1928, and this year he will be celebrated across the world on many platforms.

    On Mickey’s birthday at Walt Disney World Resort you can get a complimentary commemorative “Happy Birthday, Mickey!” button, watch as characters and performers dance in a special birthday-themed song during Move It! Shake It! Dance & Play It! parade, the chance to purchase commemorative merchandise & treats, and to take advantage of photo locations throughout the resorts. 

    Disney Channel and Disney Junior will be airing special marathons of Mickey and the Roadster Racers and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse will air throughout the weekend of November 17 on Disney Channel and Disney Junior, and a new Mickey Mouse-themed Disney Junior Music Nursery Rhymes short entitled “Happy Birthday” debuts November 17 on Disney Junior YouTube. On November 18, Disney Channel will air Mickey Mouse shorts every half hour throughout the day, starting with the premiere of “The Birthday Song,” a new short in which Minnie Mouse loses the notes to Mickey’s birthday song and needs to recover them to save the festivities.

    On November 18, all Disney Stores in the United States will host celebrations throughout the day with entertainment and activities. If you can't make it in person, Disney’s e-commerce site shopDisney.com will feature special Mickey birthday merchandise from November 16–23, 2017.

    Fans are encouraged to join the fun on social media using #HappyBirthdayMickey. 

    In addition, D23: The Official Disney Fan Club, Oh My Disney, Babble, and other Disney sites will be posting Mickey-related videos, galleries, stories, crafts, recipes and shareables leading up to and on his birthday. 

    And finally a selection of Disney games and apps will feature special Mickey-themed content and giveaways, including Disney Magic Kingdoms, Kingdom Hearts Union Cross, Disney Tsum Tsum, Disney Magical Dice, Disney Story Central, Disney Jigsaw Puzzles!, and Color by Disney.

    Mickey will also bring a few more surprises when he visits the Good Morning America studios in New York City on November 15th  so make sure you tune in here on WFTV. 

    Toy Story Land announcement

    Over on icFlorida.com we shared details of Woody’s Lunch Box, a new quick-service window serving tasty meals and old-fashioned soda floats within Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios when it opens in summer 2018. Walt Disney World Resort will collaborate with Mini Babybel to bring this quick-service window to life. Toy Story Land will invite guests to step into the whimsical world of Pixar Animation Studios’ blockbuster films where guests will feel like they’ve shrunk to the size of a toy as they play in Andy’s backyard with their favorite Toy Story pals. 

    The SpectacuLAB

    This November Epcot, at the Walt Disney World Resort, will welcome an all-new interactive show called The SpectacuLAB inside of Innoventions in Future World.

    During this new show guests will be invited to join a group of real scientists and their tech-savvy intern to participate in a series of experiments and demonstrations to put scientific principles like ultrasonic pressure, barometric pressure, acceleration and force to the test to see how they have inspired the amazing technologies we enjoy today.

    You can find more information about what you'll experience and about the show's sponsor on icFlorida.com.

    NBA Experience Construction 

    Construction is well under way for the new NBA Experience coming to Disney Springs in 2019 at the former Disney Question location inDisney Springs West Side.

    Inspired by the modern architecture of new NBA arenas around the country, the building designs create an unmistakable and entertaining connection to the NBA in a state-of-the-art space will include interactive games and competitions, immersive experiences, a retail store, and an adjacent restaurant putting guests of all ages right in the middle of NBA game action. 

    There will even be an immersive NBA video productions and numerous interactive experiences and an exciting retail store that will offer something for all NBA fans worldwide.

    The NBA Experience at Walt Disney World Resort at Disney Springs opens in summer 2019, and as more details are announced we will share them.

    Universal Orlando Resort

    Big Land Purchase Could Mean Big News Soon

    I had the chance to chat with WFTV's Karen Parks about the 101 acre plot of land along Sand Lake Road that Universal Orlando purchased on October 26, 2017. 

    The land is adjacent to the 475 acres the resort purchased in December 2015 could more than double the existing size of the entire Universal Orlando Resort.

    Will this mean a larger Nintendo Land? More thrilling attractions? More resort hotels? You know that we will be bringing you the latest announcements about what this land will be used for as soon as we can!

    Take a first look inside the Aventura guest rooms

    Universal' Aventura Resort will open at the Universal Orlando Resort in August 2018, and the official Universal Orlando Blog shared a first look at the guest rooms.

    The Resort's 6th on-site hotel will be a value priced option when choosing from the wide range of hotels at our destination and will bring affordable-chic to life on-site with a 16-story all-glass design tower with an interior that is loft-inspired with 18-foot windows and featuring natural colors. 

    There will be a welcoming lobby bar, crystal clear pool with a hot tub & splash pad for younger guests,  casual dining options, and a rooftop bar, a first at Universal Orlando, serving craft cocktails and small plates.

    Guests staying at Universal’s Aventura Hotel will receive Early Park Admission to Universal’s theme parks as well as complimentary on-site transportation.

    Special Thanksgiving dining options

    A festive lineup of Thanksgiving celebrations is coming to Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Hard Rock Hotel, Cabana Bay Beach Resort and Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando. 

    From sumptuous holiday buffets with live entertainment to the magnificent tree-lighting at Holiday Harbor Nights, the resorts will glisten with holiday decorations and the spirit of the season.
    The on-site hotels will also host a community-wide volunteer event onSaturday, November 25 to assemble 375,000 meals for Feeding Children Everywhere, a local charity that empowers and mobilizes people to assemble healthy meals for hungry children. Of that total, 175,000 will benefit children right here in Central Florida, 100,000 will be sent to Puerto Rico and 100,000 will be sent to the Houston, TX area.
    This Thanksgiving Day, you can find buffets at the following locations:

    * Trattoria del Porto at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel - Savor the tastes of Italy at our Thanksgiving Day Buffet from 11 am – 6 pm.Entertainment includes appearances by Universal Orlando characters, kids' holiday crafts and activities table, face painter, balloonist and live music. Adults $65, Children (ages 3 – 9) $20, under 3 free. Reserve online at OpenTable or call 407.503.DINE (3463).

    * The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando - Join us for a rockin’ Thanksgiving Buffet from 11 am – 4 pm and 5 pm – 10 pm. Entertainment includes appearances by Universal Orlando characters and Magic Man. Adults $62, Children $22, under 3 free. Reserve online at OpenTable or call 407.503.DINE (3463).

    * Islands Dining Room at Loews Royal Pacific Resort - Enjoy our Thanksgiving Holiday Buffet among the sights and sounds of the South Pacific from 11 am – 9 pm. Entertainment includes a face painter, balloonist and appearances by Universal Orlando characters. Adults $58, Children (ages 3 – 9) $26, under 3 free. Reserve online at OpenTable or call 407.503.DINE (3463).

    * Amatista Cookhouse at Loews Sapphire Falls Resort - Join us for a Caribbean-style Thanksgiving Day Buffet from 11 am – 9 pm.Entertainment includes a face painter, balloonist and appearances byUniversal Orlando characters. Adults $58, Children (ages 3 – 9) $26, under 3 free. Reserve online at OpenTable or call 407.503.DINE (3463).

    After Thanksgiving, you can also take part in two special events.

    * Holiday Harbor Nights at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel - Kick off the holiday season at our popular food and wine event on Friday, November 24 from 6:30 pm – 9 pm. Enjoy select wines and sparkling wines, expertly prepared gourmet foods and live music, plus the grand illumination of Portofino’s Christmas tree and more on the picturesque Harbor Piazza. General admission $55, VIP $90 (plus tax and ticketing fee). Purchase tickets online at LoewsHotels.tix.com.

    * Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando & Feeding Children Everywhere - It’s the season of giving back! Help us accomplish our goal of assembling 375,000 meals for Feeding Children Everywhere. Volunteer for a one-hour shift at Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Loews Royal Pacific Resort, Cabana Bay Beach Resort or Loews Sapphire Falls Resort between9 am and 1 pm. Click here to sign up to volunteer. 

    SeaWorld Orlando

    2018 Calendar of Events

    SeaWorld Orlando announced next year’s lineup of special events fro 2018 that include the following exciting, inspiring and family-friendly events, which are all included in park admission every month of the year!

    * NEW Three Kings Day (Daily, January 1-6): During the all-new Three Kings Day celebration, families are invited to help commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men. The new event brings SeaWorld’s holiday season to an incredible close with festive cuisine and celebratory experiences that honor the cherished traditions of Latin cultures.

    * Praise Wave: Saturdays (Jan 20 - Feb 10): With the return of Praise Wave, guests can celebrate Christian fellowship and fun at SeaWorld Orlando. Uplifting, live concerts from the hottest names in Christian music will light up the stage at Nautilus Theater.

    * Seven Seas Food Festival (Weekends, Feb 17 - April 15): After a delicious debut last year, the Seven Seas Food Festival is returning to SeaWorld this spring for a second course. As guests sip and sample their way through the park, they will discover globally-inspired flavors while enjoying local craft beers and culinary marketplaces. The fun goes beyond the food with live performances from top country, rock and Latin music artists each weekend.

    * NEW Just For Kids (Weekends, April 21 – May 13): Families will enjoy dancing to the beat and learning together along with everybody’s favorite furry, finned and flippered friends during these special weekends crafted with young guests in mind.

    * Electric Ocean (Select nights May 26 - September 3): As the sun goes down, the park comes alive with the glow of Electric Ocean at SeaWorld, returning next year for another summer of fun. With exciting nighttime shows and electrifying music, guests are immersed in a sea of wonder that ends in “Ignite”, a spectacular fireworks finale.

    * SeaWorld’s Halloween Spooktacular (September 29 – October 28): During Orlando’s premier daytime Halloween event, guests of all ages can join everyone’s favorite furry friends from Sesame Street as The Count, Elmo, Abby and others take the stage in “Sesame Street’s Countdown to Halloween.” Families will also enjoy a Halloween Dance Party, trick-or-treating around the park, and the opportunity to meet whimsical characters inspired by the sea.

    * SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration (Select Dates November 23 – December 31): At SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration, guests experience the joys of the holiday season complete with Rudolph’s ChristmasTown and returning favorites sure to inspire traditions for years to come. During SeaWorld’s Christmas Celebration guests of all ages can delight over scrumptious food, stunning live shows, joyful entertainment inspired by the natural world and much more.

    LEGOLAND Florida

    Special Offer Honors U.S. Veterans

    From now until November 19, 2017, LEGOLAND Florida Resort will once again honor U.S. veterans with free theme park admission plus 50 percent off tickets for up to six guests.

    To receive free admission, U.S. veterans must present valid military ID or proof of veteran status at the theme park ticket windows on the day of their visit. This offer is not available online or by phone.

    On Veterans Day (Saturday, November 11th) only, LEGOLAND Florida Resort will further honor veterans with these exclusive offers:

    * A 10 percent discount on retail purchases and food and beverage items

    * Photo partner Picsolve will offer its DigiPass for just $9.99 (plus tax) and single printed pictures for $5 (plus tax)

    * At the skill games managed by HB Leisure, guests who purchase four games will get a fifth game free (not including “prize every time” games)

    To receive the November 11th discounts, veterans with valid ID can request a wristband and flyer at the ticket windows. The discount only will be honored for those wearing the wristband.

    For the purposes of this promotion, U.S. veterans are defined as retired or non-active duty members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines and U.S. Coast Guard in possession of valid military ID or other proof of veteran status. The discounts described above are exclusive and cannot be combined with any other offers, including annual pass discounts.

    Meanwhile, active duty U.S. service members receive complimentary admission to LEGOLAND Florida Theme Park and LEGOLANDWater Park all year long! This offer is available only at the theme park ticket windows with valid military ID, and is not available online or by phone.

    To find out additional details about discounts available to U.S. military personnel at LEGOLAND Florida, please visit the LEGOLAND Florida website.

    This week there has also been announcements from every theme park about their holiday celebrations, but don't worry! We will absolutely be covering them here on Theme Park Thursday along with tips for how to make the most of your time at these special events.

    That's it for this week's Theme Park Thursday, and now you are all caught up with the latest from around the theme parks!

    Make sure you tune in next week and follow @icFloridaEvents on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram.


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