It’s time for another Walt Disney World news roundup! This one covers the latest changes to park hours, more sold out ticket dates, the overdue return of parking lot trams, more zombies for Christmas (finally), an official Orlando holiday celebrating WDW, and more.
As usual, we’ll start with the latest release of new and modified operating schedules. All four theme parks have had hours for another week added to DisneyWorld.com’s park hours. The current calendar now runs through February 12, 2022. Here are the hours for most dates that are newly-added through the end of this year and into Winter 2022:
- Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 8 pm
- Epcot: 10 am to 9 pm
- Hollywood Studios: 9 am to 9 pm
- Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 7 pm
- Disney Springs: 10 am to 11 pm (11:30 pm on Fridays & Saturdays)
The only noteworthy thing to report with the new hours is that Magic Kingdom has added a second 4:30 pm closing to the calendar on February 8, 2022. As you may recall, the park is also closing at that time on January 25, 2022. Both dates are to honor Cast Member service milestones, with the second night added due to a ‘backlog’ of recognition to be bestowed since an evening was missed during the phased reopening. This is the best possible reason for an early closure of Magic Kingdom and Cast Members deserve it after the last year-plus. (Even if you have an entirely selfish outlook, this is great for morale, which benefits guests.)
There are also some extensions to park hours. Magic Kingdom will now close at 1 am on December 30 and 31, with both Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios still closing at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Additionally, Epcot’s opening time has moved forward from 11 am to 10 am December 4-6, 10-12, 18-31, and January 1, 2022. Animal Kingdom now has longer hours several dates in December, with a bunch of new 8 am openings and 8 pm closing times. (We highly recommend evenings in Animal Kingdom during the Christmas season!)
Let’s start the substantive news with a brand new holiday: Happy Walt Disney World Day to those who celebrate!!!
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer will be joined by city commissioners, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings and other elected officials to present an official proclamation to Walt Disney World, honoring the 50th Anniversary and declaring December 3, 2021 as Walt Disney World Day. Dyer will also participate in a service project alongside Disney VoluntEARS to support Second Harvest’s mission to help feed those in need in the community.
“For 50 years, Walt Disney World Resort has served as a beacon of hope and happiness in the Central Florida area, bringing the beloved magic found across the resort to children and families in our neighboring communities,” a press release states.
“After kicking off the 50th Anniversary celebration with $3 million in grants, Walt Disney World Resort is continuing the celebration with the community and is being recognized by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings with a special proclamation as December 3, 2021, will now be known as Walt Disney World Day.”
In other important news, “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” is returning for a second year with ZOMBIES stars Milo Manheim, Kylee Russell, Meg Donnelly and Trevor Tordjman competing in a high-stakes holiday adventure featuring new epic challenges. The quest will take place inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World after dark, as part of The World’s Most Magical Celebration that honors the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
Actress and comedian Yvette Nicole Brown will host as the stars navigate a series of new challenges and obstacles through a variety of Walt Disney World attractions. “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” airs Friday, Dember 3, 2021 at 7:00 p.m. EST/PST on Disney Channel and will be available to stream on Disney+ starting December 10, 2021.
In this year’s “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” Maleficent has stolen the holiday star from atop the Holiday Tree (Disney’s term, not mine), and its pieces have been hidden throughout Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The ZOMBIES stars are tasked with finding the missing pieces and reassembling the star to restore the magic to the theme park. They’ll complete missions in Toy Story Land, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, at the Tower of Terror, and more.
Above is a trailer for “Disney’s Holiday Magic Quest” so you can determine whether it’ll be your cup of tea. As an avid fan of “Resident Evil” and “Walking Dead” (until that show got tedious), I’ve long felt Christmas could use more zombies. So I’ll definitely be tuning in to check out the carnage.
Since last year, Walt Disney World has been testing a new mobile checkout option at select merchandise shops throughout the parks & resorts, available through the My Disney Experience mobile app. Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the company is expanding this feature to a few more locations.
Mobile checkout is currently available or coming soon to the following gift shops at Walt Disney World:
- World of Disney at Disney Springs
- Creations Shop at Epcot
- Emporium at Magic Kingdom – New
- Mickey’s of Hollywood at Disney’s Hollywood Studios – Coming soon
- Island Mercantile at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park – Coming soon
Given that we are quick to criticize Disney IT, we want to pause here briefly to applaud the technological enhancements made during the last year-plus at Walt Disney World. Merchandise Mobile Checkout, Table Service To-Go, and Walk-up Waitlist are all solid improvements to the guest experience and they work well. (In fairness, we’ve used mobile checkout like once or twice since we don’t buy many souvenirs–but it saved us a long wait for 50th Anniversary stuff!)
I have concerns about the societal ills of over-automation and how it’ll lead to more impersonal and isolating experiences, those are more generalized. Walt Disney World is less worrying in that regard since you have so many interactions with Cast Members throughout the day. That hasn’t changed even with features like this added to My Disney Experience, and hopefully the company will exercise restraint and not take automation too far to the point that it dehumanizes the parks.