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15 for ’15 – What a Year for Walt Disney World Resort Dining!

posted on December 29th, 2015 by Pam Brandon, Disney Parks Food Writer

New restaurants open, one closes (to reopen in 2016) – here are 15 top Walt Disney World Resort culinary stories for 2015. Up next: 16 for 2016.

Starting in March, the Outdoor Kitchens expanded at Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. It was the third year for the culinary addition at the festival, with the new Botanas Botánico Outdoor Kitchen between France and Morocco pavilions with treats like cachapas with farmer’s cheese, a sweet yellow corn pancake, and seafood ceviche with shrimp, scallops and grouper with mango and avocado.

Also in March, the new breakfast started at Be Our Guest Restaurant in Magic Kingdom Park. The quick-service breakfast menu has a decidedly French touch, with everything from assorted cured meat and cheese served with marmalade, fresh fruit and a toasted baguette to eggs Florentine served in a puff pastry shell with country ham and roasted plum tomatoes.

Late March saw the opening of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. It’s a popular spot, and guests ooh and ah over more than 1,200 pieces of memorabilia. The hand-crafted cocktails are delicious (order an Uh-Oa! and see what happens with the special effects).

Beginning April 1, new allergy-friendly menus debuted in 2015 at more than 100 quick-service and table-service locations at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, along with more ways to make the special-diet-request process easier.

In May, the much-anticipated Harambe Market opened at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, where food plays a starring role with African-inspired street food at four walk-up windows and plenty of shaded seating. Skewered chicken and kabob flatbreads, beef and pork sausage fried in a curried corn batter (like a corn dog), spice-rubbed karubi ribs and South African wines are a home run. Or try tikka masala chicken, the newest addition to the menu.

April saw the opening of The BOATHOUSE, the first all-new dining spot at Disney Springs – not a bad view in the house with all of the dining rooms with waterfront views or on the water. Seafood is the star (try the lobster roll). Then take a ride in the dream boats from the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s (or watch for free from the dock).

The new Ferrytale Wishes, A Fireworks Dessert Cruise, debuted in September, the perfect way to experience Magic Kingdom Park fireworks from a spot on Seven Seas Lagoon. The decks are laden with delectable sweets, plenty of ice cream and beverages (with and without alcohol) in souvenir glow glasses. Enjoy this sweet ending to your day, then settle to watch the spectacular Wishes nighttime spectacular overhead, the largest fireworks display ever at Walt Disney World Resort.

20th Epcot International Food & Wine Festival expands for first time into Future World (Sept. 25-Nov. 16) with four new food and beverage marketplaces. Starting along the Rose Walk between Future World and World Showcase, the new Artistry of Wine & Cheese festival area featured the Cheese Studio (offering a cheese sampler to pair with wines) and Wine Studio with premium wines on tap. The new Next Eats area included Sustainable Chew and Chew Lab marketplaces inspired by ABC’s Emmy-Award® winning lifestyle series “The Chew.”

Late September was the opening of the much-anticipated Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar along the waterfront at Disney Springs. With 150 seats inside and out, the bar cleverly features salvaged equipment, spare airplane parts and mementos from Jock’s travels.

For the first time ever, “The Chew,” ABC’s Emmy-Award® winning daytime show, broadcasted from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival October 7-9. Hosts Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly and Carla Hall filmed segments across Walt Disney World Resort in addition to taping before a live audience. Episodes aired October 12-16, 2015.

Minnie’s Seasonal Dine added to Hollywood & Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With five distinct dining experiences depending on the season, including Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine, Minnie’s Springtime Dine, Minnie’s Summertime Dine, Minnie’s Halloween Dine, and Minnie’s Holiday Dine. Festive new costumes and seasonally themed eats make this dinner fun for the whole family.


Morimoto Asia also opened in November, the newest to join the line-up at Disney Springs. It’s the newest venture for Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, and his first restaurant featuring Pan-Asian cuisine, including the signature Morimoto Peking Duck, carved and roasted in house.

New Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen opened in December in the Magic Kingdom. Diners can set off on a culinary adventure at a new eatery in Adventureland featuring “World Famous Jungle Cuisine.” Just steps from the legendary Jungle Cruise attraction you can enjoy the bold, flavorful tastes of Asia, South America and Africa at this new 222-seat table-service restaurant staffed by the wisecracking crew of the Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd.

The Ganachery opened in December at Disney Springs, a jewel box of a shop that’s showcases the beauty of chocolate. The star of the show is a custom-made ganache, Disney’s own recipe for a luxurious mixture of melted chocolate and cream. Stepping inside this shop is reminiscent of an apothecary of another era, a lovely little space elevates sweets to an experience akin to a wine tasting.

Victoria & Albert’s at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa ends the year on a high note by winning the coveted AAA Five-Diamond Award – that’s 16 years in a row, putting the restaurant in an exclusive tier of dining experiences. Each year AAA reviews nearly 30,000 restaurants, but just 0.4 percent make the AAA Five Diamond. The restaurant also was once again honored as one of the top restaurants in the United States in TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice awards (No. 6 of 25). And Time Magazine named Victoria & Albert’s to its Top 100 list of U.S. restaurants.

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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney Springs, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Downtown Disney, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Hear Chakranadi’s ‘Carol of the Bells’ from Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on December 24th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

The Anandapur area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom has come alive with the “Festival of All Seasons” for the holidays. And one group you can find providing live entertainment is Chakranadi, the land’s virtuoso sitar and tabla duo.

Listen as Chakranadi plays “Carol of the Bells.”

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Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks Now Open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on December 22nd, 2015 by Rachel Bshero, Food & Beverage Marketing Communications Coordinator

Nestled in the imposing shadow of Mt. Everest, Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks is the perfect place for tired and hungry travelers to stop in for a quick bite to eat or a refreshing beverage. For climbers who are returning from their ascent, a stop at the bar is considered tradition.

The Trek Snacks menu varies throughout the day, with delicious pastries in the morning and more substantial bites like sushi and sandwiches in the afternoon and evening. Pastries include assorted muffins and Danish, croissants and an indulgent chocolate twist.

Healthful snacks like fresh fruit, crudité and hummus, edamame and an Asian noodle salad are available. The Smoked Turkey Sandwich, Bahn Mi (roasted pork topped with pickled vegetables, cilantro and sriracha dressing), Som Tam (Thai shrimp, green papaya salad, crushed peanuts and chilis) and sushi are a perfect meal for the weary traveler. For dessert, cookies, brownies and ice cream treats (including the popular Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar) are on the menu.


At Thirsty River Bar, look for specialty cocktails such as the Khumbu Icefall (guava rum blended with coconut and raspberry puree), Himalayan Ghost (Snow Leopard vodka, guava, and Odwalla lemonade) and the Durbar Margarita. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available, like the Flying Yak (mango puree blended with coconut water and pineapple juice) and the Pink Lotus (strawberry puree, lychee and Odwalla lemonade).

The bar represents the kind of cultural collision that has become of hallmark of the villages that serve as base camps for Everest trekkers. Originally the home for a popular Sherpa family, mementos have been tacked on the walls by travelers, but the rest of the décor is sparse and functional aside from the stable tack.

Will you be visiting Thirsty River Bar and Trek Snacks during your next adventure at Disney’s Animal Kingdom?

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Moms Panel Monday: Making Magic for All In the Family at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 21st, 2015 by Leanne O'Regan, Director, Social Media, Disney Parks

Today’s Moms Panel Monday shares different Moms’ Views on planning a large family vacation. Lauren from England asked the Disney Parks Moms Panel about traveling with 12 family members of all ages to Walt Disney World Resort in May. She wants to make sure everyone in the family has a magical vacation. Our Moms Panelists to the rescue! A dozen Panelists stepped up with some really unique and fun ideas for the entire family.


Moms Panelist Brenda suggests experiencing the live entertainment offerings so the whole family can have fun together, like Turtle Talk with Crush at Epcot and Enchanted Tales with Belle at Magic Kingdom Park.

Susan suggests attractions that are top picks for her family including Festival of The Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Living with the Land at Epcot.

Panelist Andrea shares some “off the beaten path” ideas like exploring Tom Sawyer Island at Magic Kingdom Park or becoming a Wilderness Explorer at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

And Moms Panelist Whitney made me laugh with her advice based on her own large family gathering experience in the parks.

You can find this question with the all the panelist’s answers as well as other helpful questions and answers on the Moms’ Views section of the Disney Parks Moms Panel.

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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Wildlife Wednesday: Disney Conservation Director’s Pioneering Work with Cotton-Top Tamarins Honored

posted on December 16th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks

In this Wildlife Wednesday series, you have heard from our conservation director Anne Savage, Ph.D., about our commitment to conservation and the projects we lead globally to help save species from becoming extinct.

I am very proud to share with you that Anne just received an extremely prestigious award in the field of conservation. Anne has been named one of this year’s Lowell Thomas Awardees from The Explorers Club. This esteemed award “celebrates explorers who exhibit excellence and innovation in conservation, with emphasis on emerging techniques and technologies that meaningfully contribute to our knowledge of the world and how we protect it.”

Whether helping educate guests at Walt Disney World Resort or contributing to wildlife and habitat protection around the world, Anne has helped lead Disney’s bold environmental approach as conservation director for Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment.

Anne has been the recipient of past awards, but with this new honor, she joins a century’s old society of celebrated pioneers and legendary explorers, including President Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Lindbergh, Chuck Yeager and Sally Ride. Wow.

Anne is very deserving of this exceptional award. She has been integral in the protection of cotton-top tamarins, a critically endangered primate found only in the tropical forests of Colombia. She has worked with the Colombian conservation group Proyecto Tití (a Disney Conservation Fund grant recipient) to develop a comprehensive, long-term strategy to protect wild cotton-top tamarins – arguably one of the best and well-rounded conservation programs in the world.


As part of this more than 25-year program, Anne and her team have helped inspire a national movement to save this small monkey. She her team have developed education and sustainable income-generating programs for the rural communities surrounding the tamarins’ forest habitat. Her team has been instrumental in establishing Aug. 15 as a Colombian national holiday known as “Day of the Cotton-Top.” And she has successfully worked with the government to establish protected areas that will help this species.

Have you seen the cotton-top tamarins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom? They are about the size of a squirrel with a large poof of white hair on their heads. The next time you visit, be sure to visit them on Discovery Island and Rafiki’s Planet Watch. You can even have a Starbucks flat white beverage at Creature Comforts right next to their habitat on Discovery Island – for every purchase, a donation is made to the Disney Conservation Fund!

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Moms Panel Monday: Need Dinner Recommendations?

posted on December 14th, 2015 by Leanne O'Regan, Director, Social Media, Disney Parks

When it comes to planning a Disney vacation, very few people can offer better advice than the Disney Parks Moms Panel. Their knowledge and experience makes them the best source for planning tips. For Moms Panel Monday, we asked our panelists to share their favorite questions from the year.

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A guest from Alabama wanted to know what dining options were available before her family headed to the Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Moms Panelist Anne gave great recommendations on all the delicious and entertaining options available including feasting on a picnic to-go or enjoying a classic singing and dancing family dinner show.

Another guest from West Virginia asked for suggestions on how to surprise her daughter with the news they were going to a character breakfast. Moms Panelist Rachel offered a very special and creative idea that she used with her own children. This answer will melt your heart for sure!

And Moms Panelist Sue gives splendid advice about all the fun and unique things to do at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. The question came from a mom traveling with her six kids and the grandparents and wanted more information about this exquisite resort. Sue said this was just a fun question to answer.

Do you have a question about planning a Disney vacation? Be sure to ask the Disney Parks Moms Panel.

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Wildlife Wednesday: Painted Dogs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

posted on December 9th, 2015 by Jackie Ogden, Ph.D., Vice President, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks


We introduced painted dogs to the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna earlier this week at Disney’s Animal Kingdom! Everyone in Animals, Science and Environment is thrilled to have this unique species join the family.

The name “painted dog” originates from their scientific name Lycaon pictus, which means “painted wolf-like animal” in Greek and Latin. Painted dogs, also known as African wild dogs, are known for their large round ears (They look a lot like Mickey Mouse ears!) and multi-colored fur coats. Each individual dog has unique paint-like splotches on their coat that are similar in their distinctiveness to a human fingerprint. Most also have bushy white-tipped tails.


Painted dogs are among the most endangered species in Africa. By introducing painted dogs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we hope to raise awareness of the species and the threats they face, including human-habitat infringement and illegal hunting. The Disney Conservation Fund has been supporting painted dog conservation work in the wild since 1996 and has given more than half a million dollars to support painted dog conservation and research organizations.

Painted dogs are fascinating in their social behaviors. They operate as a family unit with all members of the pack caring for each other. They will even share food with ailing members of their pack or nursing mothers. The entire pack cares for pups after they are born. Both males and females will stay back with them as “babysitters” during hunting excursions.

When you’re on the Kilimanjaro Safaris savanna, I hope you can catch one of their elaborate greeting ceremonies. Each dog tries to interact with every other dog in the pack each time they wake up or return to the pack. Their yips and squeals are vocalizations that are unique to each dog and help others identify them.


The painted dogs and hyenas will share the same spot of the savanna, but at different times of the day and evening. As always, guests will experience a different safari every time they ride.
Learn more about some of the animals you can visit at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at

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16 Reasons 2016 Will Be An ‘Unforgettable’ Year at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 4th, 2015 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Editorial Content Manager

With innovative attractions and entertainment set to debut at Walt Disney World Resort in 2016, plus new dining locations and inaugural sporting events on the horizon, the year 2016 is shaping up to be truly Unforgettable for our guests.

If you’re considering planning a Disney vacation in 2016, be sure to check out our 16 reasons why the new year should be the year for your visit!


  1. Experience The Newest Offerings, Like Jungle Skipper Canteen & More – The new year is the perfect time to explore the latest and greatest guest offerings that will debut in late 2015, including the Jungle Skipper Canteen restaurant at Magic Kingdom Park; Club Disney at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; and the Ganachery candy shop at Disney Springs.


  1. Wonder at the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights Through January 3 – The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights will end its holiday run at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on January 3, 2016. Enjoy this holiday offering in its finale season while you can.

Star Wars Launch Bay at Disneyland Park

  1. Enjoy “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular” Fireworks – Disney’s Hollywood Studios will debut its latest Star Wars-inspired experience with the addition of “Symphony in the Stars: A Galactic Spectacular” fireworks, beginning December 18. (And don’t forget the newly launched Star Wars Launch Bay experiences, pictured above).


  1. runDisney Events – The 2016 runDisney racing season kicks off January 6-10 with the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This will be the first of four racing weekends held at the resort in 2016. Visit the official runDisney site for more information.


  1. Experience Club Villain at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Grown-up guests can party with the Disney Villains in a soiree led by Dr. Facilier at the new Club Villain at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The fun starts January 16.


  1. Experience The Magic of Nature With “Rivers of Light” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – Starting this spring, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will come alive at night with the new Rivers of Light show. This innovative show will feature entertainers, floating lanterns, water screens and swirling animal imagery in a performance that truly brings the animal kingdom to life at night.


  1. Explore The Kilimanjaro Safaris After Sunset – Kilimanjaro Safaris will expand operating hours at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, allowing guests to travel through the African savanna amid the orange glow of the setting sun. Look for it this spring at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.


  1. Dine at Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom – The park’s newest eatery will open its doors this spring to offer a menu inspired by the places the Imagineers traveled when developing the park.

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

  1. Enjoy Springtime Events at Walt Disney World Resort – Dates have already been released for fun springtime events, including the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (March 2-May 30); and Raglan Road’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival (March 17).


  1. Experience Frozen Ever After at Epcot – The new “Frozen”-inspired attraction will open its doors in Epcot’s World Showcase this spring. In it, guests will be transported to the Winter in Summer Celebration where Queen Elsa creates a special day for the kingdom. Guests will also travel to Elsa’s Ice Palace, the ice-blue world of the North Mountain, and the Bay of Arendelle.


  1. Stop By The New Frozen Character Greeting Location at Epcot – Meet the royal sisters Anna and Elsa at Epcot at a new dedicated character greeting location starting in spring.


  1. Celebrate The Invictus Games at ESPN Wide World of SportsThe Invictus Games will come to the United States for the first time ever in 2016. The games celebrate our wounded servicemen and women from around the world competing in a variety of sports events at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex May 8-12.

Walt Disney World Photo Gallery Disc

  1. Remember Magic Kingdom Park’s 45th Anniversary – Magic Kingdom Park, the first Disney park to open at Walt Disney World, will mark its 45th anniversary on October 1. Keep your eye on the Disney Parks Blog for more information.


  1. Share An Unforgettable Fall – A new year means the return of our favorite fall events, including The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties.

Disney characters dressed in their holiday finest parade down Main Street, U.S.A., at Magic Kingdom during "Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime Parade." The festive processional is one of the happy highlights of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party, a night of holiday splendor with lively stage shows, a unique holiday parade, Holiday Wishes: Celebrate the Spirit of the Season nighttime fireworks, and snow flurries on Main Street, U.S.A. The special-ticket event takes place on select nights in November and December in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Ryan Wendler, photographer)

  1. Celebrate The Holiday SeasonMickey’s Very Merry Christmas Parties, and more. Keep watching the Disney Parks Blog for news and dates on our returning special events.


  1. Try New Dining Offerings at Disney Springs – Disney Springs will continue to grow in 2016, with plans to add new eateries like STK Orlando, plus the opening of Town Center, which will feature Zara, Lilly Pulitzer, UGG, UNIQLO and many others. Watch the Disney Parks Blog for more information and opening dates.
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Filed: Disney Dining, Disney Springs, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Vacation Planning, Walt Disney World Resort

Behold the Beautiful Christmas Trees Across Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 1st, 2015 by Victoria Lim, Managing Editor, Walt Disney World Public Relations

If there were ever a contest for trimming trees, our Walt Disney World Resort holiday team would be tough to beat. They work almost year-round to design, maintain and decorate the themed Christmas trees you’ll find across the resort.

It’s not just the trees’ enormous size (the tree at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is 70-feet tall!), but the detail in the decorations such as handcrafted baskets and masks, sketches of Pixar favorites, and handstitched garland that make them such a sight.

Until you visit in person, here’s our top 11 Walt Disney World Resort Christmas trees that dazzle during the holidays.

Christmas Tree at Disney's Contemporary Resort

Which tree is your favorite? Have these inspired your tree decorations?

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Filed: Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Hotels & Resorts, Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World Resort

Neighbors Helping Neighbors – Unforgettable Reunion Captured by Good Morning America at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on November 28th, 2015 by Robert Hitchcock, Content Director

Neighbors helping neighbors – random acts of kindness going above and beyond to help someone. It’s something we have all experienced and are thankful when it happens. Sometimes those acts of kindness are small, and sometimes they are big. Air Force Lt. Colonel Jack Spencer from Georgia and his family experienced that unconditional kindness in a big way.

While deployed to Afghanistan, Spencer’s wife Mindi and his two daughters remained in Georgia going about their day-to-day lives. As difficult as it was, simple things were made easier with the help of their amazing neighbors, Jeff and Amy Campbell. From helping with lawn work, taking care of pets and taking the Spencer family to dinner, the support was significant. The most unforgettable impact came when one of the Spencer children was involved in a serious auto accident in Texas. The support the Campbells gave Mindi was the help and emotional bridge she needed until her husband could return home on emergency leave.

Jack and Mindi Spencer have searched for a way to thank Jeff and Amy Campbell, and with help from Walt Disney World Resort and ABC’s Good Morning America they finally had the opportunity by giving the Campbells a family trip to Walt Disney World. An unforgettable one-of-a-kind experience that played out on Good Morning America this morning.

With the cast of Festival of the Lion King at Disney’s Animal Kingdom performing the song Circle of Life as a backdrop, an emotional and tearful reunion played out. Together both families then enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast and a ride on Kilimanjaro Safari.

We salute the Spencer and Campbell families, all military personnel serving our country, and those everyday people who make a difference in our communities by lending a helping hand and being good neighbors.

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