Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa at the Disneyland Resort is about to go through a hotel-wide refurbishment to bring new magic in 2017. The refurb will include completely redesigned guest rooms, a new lobby, pool areas, as well as the Craftsman Club on the concierge level. [Read more…]
The smallest, least modern member of the Disney Cruise Line fleet will finally catch up with its bigger siblings once a dry dock refurbishment this fall introduces new experiences and enhancements to the Disney Wonder. [Read more…]
The most iconic roller coaster on Islands of Adventure’s skyline is about to roar back to life, and today Universal Orlando released new Incredible Hulk Coaster details, giving a sneak peak at what to expect when the rebuilt ride reopens this summer. [Read more…]
Seafood lovers visiting Disney Springs will have to find someplace new to get shellfish over the summer, because Fulton’s Crab House is now closed until late Fall 2016 for a major refurbishment, after which it will sport the new name Paddlefish. [Read more…]
One of Orlando’s biggest and best coasters is about to get even more “incredible.” [Read more…]
By Gavin Hatch
This week we head to SeaWorld to check out lots of recent additions such as the Manta Soft Serve location, Journey to Atlantis, and even some demolition. [Read more…]
Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid recently reopened from refurbishment in New Fantasyland with several enhancements added to the ride. [Read more…]
By Nick Russo
Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is currently undergoing a resort-wide refurbishment. In this episode of Photo Finds, we check in on the progress of those refurbishments, and then take a complete tour of the neighboring Grand Floridian Resort! [Read more…]
Hosts Banks Lee and JeniLynn Knopp bring you this week’s theme park and attraction news. On this week’s episode: [Read more…]
By Mikey and Lauren Monheit
This week’s highlights include Flower and Garden prep at Epcot, Splash Mountain refurb, Mine Train walls down, #PotterWatch and more!
Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld Orlando will be closing in early January for routine pool maintenance and will be down until April. But guests will still be able to see the killer whales in a new experience. [Read more…]
The Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress resort, located just around the corner from Walt Disney World, recently completed a multiple-year $65 million dollar renovation. Everything from the lobby, to the pool and the rooms has been made fresh with new amenities. [Read more…]
Disney’s Country Bears have some new duds, spruced up fur and a little bit less to talk and sing about. [Read more…]
Epcot’s Test Track attraction is now closed for refurbishment until this fall 2012. To help fill the void of the popular attraction, Disney has added an A cappella group that is performing multiple times daily outside the construction walls. [Read more…]
Say your last goodbye to Little Red. Today the Disney Parks Blog announced some changes are coming to the Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Starting this spring, Disney Imagineers will begin the removal of some of the end show elements, including the Audio-Animatronic elephant known as Little Red, to make room for more live animals. [Read more…]
Disney and General Motors have renewed a multi-year agreement and will be reimagining the Test Track attraction at Epcot. After a refurbishment, this fall guests will design custom Chevrolet vehicles and test out their design on the test track.
As part of the redesign, the focus of the attraction will be on Chevy and on the design portion of auto manufacturing. The testing theme will be changed to the “Chevrolet Design Center at Epcot.” The queue area is expected to include music, media, dramatic lighting and Chevrolet concept cars and model vehicles.
The attraction is expected to become more interactive with guests designing their custom concept vehicle at interactive stations, then they’ll board their six-person “SimCar” vehicle as the ride begins, going onto the Test Track course. In the post ride area, guests will be able to see how well their design scored on the test track. The latest Chevrolet cars will still be on display as well.
The current Test Track attraction will close in April and will reopen sometime this fall with the new changes.
The Sheraton Safari Hotel and Suites near Downtown Disney has been sold and the new owners are planning a $25 million redevelopment project that should be completed by spring 2012. [Read more…]
Upon hearing of Space Mountain soft opening to guests yesterday after a seven-month refurbishment, I rushed over to the Magic Kingdom only to be denied a ride as the roller coaster was shut down for further maintenance and testing.
I returned to the Magic Kingdom today at around 1 p.m. to find Space Mountain once again open for testing with guests. Around twenty minutes later, I finally had a chance to board a vehicle and blast off into space once again. The verdict on the update? The same classic ride experience, but better.
Before I elaborate, let me share a full POV (point-of-view) ride video from the back seat. I’ll warn you now that the majority of this video is nearly pitch black, as the star field projections along the ceiling are too dark for my camera to pick up while zooming by. However, you do catch a great view of the updated launch and reentry tunnels as well as the on-ride photo preview and purchase areas after the ride. Plus the ride portion of the video features binaural audio, so put on your headphones to enjoy it the most.
Other than the overhauled queue, load area, and post-show scenes that I posted video and photos of yesterday, the ride itself is largely the same as it has been for many years. The single-row seating configuration remains the same in the ride vehicles and the seats feel the same as I remember them. The paint scheme on the vehicles is updated with a shiny metallic blue color for the main body and grey replacing the former glow-in-the-dark stripes along the sides.
The launch tunnel features the same blue flashing lights but with all-new sound effects. At the end of the launch tunnel is one of the only major differences during the ride. Just before the sudden U-turn toward the lift hill, a multi-colored star field of sorts appears straight head (it’s slightly visible if you watch closely in the video above). Just as the car takes the hard turn, the on-ride ride photo is taken. It’s an odd place for a photo as the ride hasn’t really started yet at that point, so the resulting photo is less “I’m having fun on a roller coaster” and more “What was that bright flash?”.
Photo preview area just after getting off the ride
The area surrounding the lift hill, like everything else, is improved but basically the same. Everything looks better, with more colored lights along the walls and up and down the spaceship in the center and the upside-down astronauts are new and look modern, not decades old.
Once you reach the top of the hill and begin the ride, it’s the same Space Mountain you remember, but darker. Projections along the ceiling and walls are crisp and brighter but are mainly the same swirling cosmos and shooting stars – nothing new. Throughout the ride, the track is practically invisible due to the lowered light level, presumably as a result of enclosing the load areas. I didn’t notice any difference in the track itself. The layout was the same as I remembered and it was no more or less shaky than before the refurbishment. Some have reported that the ride is a little smoother now. I didn’t think so, but I have a high tolerance for rocky rides. The near-total darkness did enhance the thrill level a bit.
On this second day of guest testing, the Space Mountain arcade and gift shop has now reopened as well. In the center is the photo purchase area with Disney’s usual prices of $18+ for each print. I noticed one retro-style Space Mountain shirt but no any other new merchandise related to the ride.
In the end, Space Mountain is still the same classic attraction you’ve ridden your whole life, but now it has been brought into the 21st century. The average guest will likely notice the changes to the queue and load area (especially the new inability to see the actual ride above) but not on the ride itself. However, most visitors will be happy to be able to once again experience world’s first Space Mountain just as they remember it.
Space Mountain officially reopens on Nov. 22. It is likely to open for guest testing in daily soft openings between now and then, though it may only remain open each day for an hour or two. For a look at the newly-updated queue and post-show scenes, read my post from yesterday’s first soft opening. We also have new photos from today’s trip through Space Mountain added to our photo gallery.
At around 4 p.m. today, Space Mountain at the Magic Kingdom reopened for the first time to guests since closing for refurbishment in nearly seven months.
Still in testing, the classic roller coaster remained open for roughly two hours before being shut down once again due to technical difficulties. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to ride before it closed, but I did get to check out the updated queue, including the newly-added video games.
Before I give you my impressions, here’s a video that walks you through the enhanced queue, through the load area (which was being emptied at the time due to the sudden shut down), and past the updated post-show displays:
For anyone concerned that the addition of interactive games to Space Mountain’s queue would ruin the calm atmosphere, you need not worry. The first third of the queue still features the same fan-favorite “Star Tunnel” music as you walk by the warped star field “windows” on the right side. In fact, other than improved lighting throughout the queue, the right hand side of the area has largely remained untouched.
Just past the first third of the queue, you’ll find a series of large screens on the left walls. Along the left side railings are sets of buttons that control short interactive games that appear periodically on the screens. The game is rather simple. Guests simply pound colored buttons on the railing to blast astroids on the screen. Each game lasts around a minute after it begins after which a message exclaiming “Well Done!” appears on all screens simultaneously, prompting guests to move forward in the queue.
The official Disney Parks Blog has release a new image from within Space Mountain’s newly-updated queue along with new information surrounding the ongoing refurbishment of the classic attraction.
Most importantly, Disney has now announced that Space Mountain will officially be reopening on Nov. 22. Soft openings have reportedly already begun with cast members and guest previews are likely to come any day now, though Disney generally does not announce preview dates.
The above photo was taken from the same angle as the previously-released image, though it depicts the area with a bit more color and light. Also in the photo is Walt Disney Imagineer Alex Wright who is acting as Senior Show Designer for the update.
The blog also revealed that Space Mountain is indeed receiving the long-rumored addition of on-ride photos. Guests’ pictures will be snapped while on the ride and will have the chance to share or purchase them via Disney’s PhotoPass system.
As expected, Space Mountain’s track will remain the same as it has for many years. According to the blog, Disney has “integrated new technology into the track” but no further clarification is given.
Additional refurbishment details include new color schemes for the ride vehicles and throughout the interior. In addition, new “darkening” effects should allow the ride to be darker overall.
Visit the Disney Parks Blog for all the details.