Last updated: 10:50 AM ET, Tue December 11 2012

Walt Disney World Unveils More Updates to Theme Parks, Resorts

Features & Advice | Claudette Covey | December 10, 2012

Walt Disney World Unveils More Updates to Theme Parks, Resorts

It’s been a busy year at Walt Disney World in Orlando, whose Fantasyland has nearly doubled in size. Beyond the big headliners that opened this year -- new Fantasyland, Test Track, Splitsville and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort -- Disney has announced an eclectic mix of other resort developments for travelers to experience.

Walt Disney World Resort has kicked off a new nighttime projection spectacular transforming Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom Park. ”Celebrate the Magic” combines music, spectacular imagery and special effects to pay tribute to the artistry and imagination of Disney stories, from classics to contemporary favorites.

Kilimanjaro Safaris, the attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, now features an all-new finale -- a herd of plains zebras. A reconstructed savannah space featuring a new watering hole is home to the zebras, which are native to eastern and southern Africa. The new zebra space opened to guests in October to be a new final chapter as guests in open-air vehicles crisscross the savannahs and other animal habitat areas of the park.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Legend of Captain Jack Sparrow is a new experience on view at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, giving Walt Disney World Resort guests a chance to become immersed in the action and adventure of the four Pirates of the Caribbean films. Aspiring pirates will journey deep into an eerie lost grotto, where a mysterious pirate skull puts them to the test to see if they have what it takes to set sail with Captain Jack’s crew.

Walt Disney World guests have the chance to portray secret agents in a new interactive game at Epcot. Disney Phineas & Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure is based on the secret-agent alter-ego of Perry the Platypus, pet to the title characters from Disney Channel’s animated series “Phineas & Ferb.”

The spa at the Disney Grand Floridian Resort has been remodeled and is now owned and operated by Disney. It is set to open Dec. 17. Fifteen treatment rooms offer pampering services such as water therapy, sugar exfoliation body treatment, rejuvenating citrus facial, a restorative hand and foot ritual with Chinese Jasmine oils, plus a Princess Pedicure or Magical Manicure for children 4 to 12. The new menu of services also includes a signature 80-minute Grand Floridian treatment featuring a special aromatherapy massage.

All of the spas, salons and fitness centers will be owned and operated by Disney beginning Jan.16. On that same day the spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort will temporarily close for renovation and reopen in the summer as Senses -- A Disney Spa at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort.

 Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom challenges guests to discover and defeat the Disney villains who are wreaking havoc behind the scenes at the Walt Disney World Resort. In this role-playing game, guests become apprentice sorcerers and embark on a challenge to stop these animated villains from stealing one of the four shattered pieces of Merlin’s powerful crystal ball. Armed with magic powers in the form of special cards, guests follow magic symbols that lead them to different villain hideouts in Adventureland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, and Main Street, U.S.A. Once there, apprentices use magic keys to access the villain’s lair, and “spell” cards to halt the evildoers in their tracks.

Starbucks will be opening locations at Disney theme parks at the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. The first two Walt Disney World locations will open in 2013. At Magic Kingdom, Main Street Bakery will close for refurbishment in January. When it reopens in early summer, Main Street Bakery will keep its name and theming and continue to serve Disney favorites like cookies, brownies and seasonal cupcakes, in addition to Starbucks signature beverages and other menu items.

At Epcot, Fountain View will temporarily close in March. When Fountain View reopens in midsummer, it will serve Starbucks products. Each Starbucks location inside a Disney Park will reflect the theme of its surroundings. At Magic Kingdom Park, for example, cast members will wear a costume consistent with the early 20th century look and feel of Main Street, U.S.A. At Future World in Epcot, the new Starbucks location and cast member costumes will be designed to match the park’s futuristic theme.

            On the dining front, guests can expect Mickey Check on the kids’ menu at Be Our Guest Restaurant, the first location to offer Kids’ Complete Meals” featuring the Mickey Check, part of Disney Magic of Healthy Living. Mickey Check will also be offered on all quick-service menus at Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. Mickey Check will be on all table-service menus by Jan. 5. The Mickey Check helps identify nutritious food choices.

California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort is getting a major makeover and will be closed from Jan. 6 until the summer. Chef Brian Piasecki also is tweaking the menu, but the focus remains on fresh, seasonal creations. Upstairs at the France pavilion, Bistro de Paris reopens in December with a new name and a completely refurbished dining room and new menu. The restaurant will still be haute French but a bit more casual, with a nod to famed Chef Paul Bocuse in the décor and the name -- Monsieur Paul. In the meantime, Boulangerie Patisserie bakery is a new building at the back of the pavilion, opening in January 2013.

            Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa now offers a private dining experience in The Chef’s Domain for up to 10 guests. Available Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the cost is $155 per person plus tax including gratuities for six courses.

            The next generation of food courts is open at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, where Landscape of Flavors features five mini shops serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, and diners can customize their choices. Tandoor ovens are adding an Indian-African flair. Guests also can find burgers, fruit smoothies, soups, pizzas and other favorites.

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