Coming soon: Free admission to Disney on your birthday
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts announced today that in 2009 it will offer free admission on your birthday to its theme parks in California or Florida.
"Birthdays are the one occasion that we all share every year. We thought a free birthday ticket would be the icing on the cake," said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney parks and Resorts at a press conference today.
The new policy follows up on 2008's popular "Year of a Million Dreams" promotion. Disney wants to focus on guests and the special occasions they're celebrating on their trips. ("Celebration vacation" is their term for these trips.)
Guests will need to provide a valid ID showing their date of birth. For more details, visit disneyparks.com.
Disney gives free tickets to our armed forces
What a great idea! Disney is offering free admission to Disneyland and Walt Disney World to active and retired members of the military—plus active and retired members of the U.S. Coast Guard and activated members of the National Guard or Reservists. Walt Disney World Resort Through December 23, 2009, receive one free 5-day Park Hopper pass with the Water Park Fun & More option, getting you admission to all four theme parks plus five visits to other select WDW attractions, including its two water parks (disneyworld.com/military). Select resorts are also offering discounts of up to 40 percent. Disneyland Resort Through June 12, receive a free 3-day Park Hopper pass, admitting you to Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. You can also purchase up to five 3-day adult or child companion tickets for the price of a 1-day ticket. For more information or to make reservations, you can call 714/956-6424. MORE DISNEY NEWS Space Mountain is closing at Walt Disney World in Florida on April 19 for refurbishment. Among other things, the popular roller coaster will have the entire length of its track replaced. It's unknown how long the repairs will take.
Disney World: Be idolized
Start honing those high notes. This Valentine's Day, at the new American Idol Experience attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios near Orlando, anyone can be the star of the show. Competitors audition before a panel of Disney casting directors for a chance to perform on a replica American Idol stage in one of seven daily shows. The top crooner from each round then heads for hair and makeup—and an evening finale judged by an audience of their theme-park peers. The victor's prize: a future tryout for the TV show's next season. 407/934-7639, disneyworld.com/idol, park day pass from $63. —Jennifer Wilson, from the upcoming print edition of BT PREVIOUSLY Disney: American Idol gets a Florida home
Disney: Wait times still high, despite the recession
After the New York Times published a story titled "With Attendance Off, Disney Is Dealing (Discounts)," a reader wrote a letter to the editor, making this important point:Having just come back from Disney World for the third time since November, I can tell you the decrease in attendance is a myth. On each of my trips, wait times reached 150 minutes on the popular rides with all the "fast passes" gone shortly after the park's opening. Given the large influx of South Americans I noted, me thinks the mouse is crying "wolf." — Stan Pruszynski We've been hearing the same thing anecdotally: Disney theme parks remain crowded. So don't go taking the family there and expect that the recession will mean shorter lines, especially for the most desirable rides. Discounts will draw visitors from both here and abroad. I suspect the same thing will be said about Cedar Point and other theme parks nationwide as they ramp up business later this year. EARLIER Disney: Free admission on your birthday
"Affordable" probably isn't the first word you'd use to describe dining at Disney World, but there are deals on dining to be had that don't fall into the "mega-splurge" category. Use our insider tips below for navigating the park's food scene without emptying your wallet, including how to choose the right restaurants, dine at the right times, and scoop up special offers that few park-goers know about. Make Your Character Meal a Morning Experience Every visitor, no matter the age, loves dining with their favorite Disney characters. Book your character experience for breakfast for an easy way to save. In fact, breakfast is the cheapest time of day to eat at Disney World Orlando. At destinations like Winnie the Pooh and Friends at Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom) and Donald Duck's Safari Breakfast (Animal Kingdom), you can have the same memory-making experience while saving 35 percent per person. Plus, the food at both of these buffets is considered top notch, so fill up! Bonus savings: You can eat light at lunchtime. Bring Your Own Snacks and Water The tasty Disney treats are going to tempt you (those Mickey-shaped ice cream bars in particular), but park munchies can add up quickly. Pack a few snacks like granola bars, fruit gummies, and crackers to keep you and the kids satisfied. Go ahead and splurge on a few Disney-themed snacks, such as the unique pineapple-flavored soft serve Dole Whip dessert (served only at Disney and the Dole processing plant in Hawaii), but buying multiple bites throughout your day gets pricey. Same goes for paying $3 per bottle of water. Bring a refillable water bottle instead. Collapsible bottles are easy to pack, saving you money and space. Reserve a Full-Service Restaurant for Lunch Full-service, sit-down restaurants are some of the best Disney World dining experiences, but they're not cheap. Instead of doing a Disney dinner, reserve your meal for lunch. Not only will you be able to save about 20 percent compared with the evening, the restaurant will be less crowded, too. Plus, it's easier to get a reservation for lunch, which allows for greater flexibility for your day at the park. Full-service favorites like Be Our Guest Restaurant, Storybook Character Dining at Askerhaus Royal Banquet Hall, and Cinderella's Royal Table are excellent lunch options. World Showcase restaurants at Epcot such as San Angel Inn Restaurante and Tutto Italia Ristorante also offer better deals at lunch. Eat at Downtown Disney Deal alert! Downtown Disney will grant you the biggest savings on food. Hop in your car or take one of the Disney World buses, and you'll arrive in less than 15 minutes. Earl of Sandwich and Wolfgang Puck Express are two top picks for delicious food at a reasonable prices. Relatively new to the scene are Downtown Disney food trucks, so keep them in mind too. Order Smart It's a little-known secret: Adults can order from the kids' menu at quick-service restaurants. Many times, the meals are virtually the same as regular options, so don't think you'll be stuck with chicken fingers and grilled cheese. Another favorite money-saving option is ordering a large platter to share. Tangierine Café (Epcot) and Flame Tree Barbecue (Animal Kingdom) are two cafés with shareable-sized meals. Most counter-service meals have side items included in the price. But if you don't want (or don't need) the extra cost and calories of those French fries, simply ask for the entrée-only price. At most places, they'll be able to accommodate your request.