Disney World is pulling out all the stops to launch the “coolest summer ever,” offering a slew of “Frozen”-themed special events, a pair of money-saving deals and a mindboggling array of value-added experiences and improvements across all four of its Orlando, Fla., theme parks.
We’ve also re-imagined Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, adding many new enhancements to one of our original resort hotels."
- George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort
Once again, Disney World will begin the season with a 24-hour dawn-to-dawn event on Memorial Day weekend. The Magic Kingdom will be open nonstop from 6 a.m. Friday, May 22, until 6 a.m. Saturday, with Disney character greetings, dance parties, specialty merchandise and surprises taking place through the wee hours.
Then a chill will settle over Disney’s movie-themed Hollywood Studios park, where “Frozen Summer Fun LIVE” runs from June 17 to Sept. 7. Highlights include a twice-daily procession featuring Anna and Elsa and their Arendelle friends, along with a flurry of skaters, skiers and ice cutters; a stage show featuring Olaf, the friendly snowman from the film; and the wildly popular “Frozen” sing-along show, now in a bigger venue. Nighttime festivities include a DJ-hosted dance party followed by an ice-themed fireworks spectacular choreographed to the music of the blockbuster film.
With the exception of the sing-along, these events have a limited shelf life. “In particular, be sure to stay for the fireworks at the end of the night, which are totally new special Frozen fireworks and will only be here for the summer,” said Holly Harrington, manager of marketing strategy at Walt Disney Parks.
Everywhere you turn at Disney World, you’ll find new additions and noteworthy improvements. Along with the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster, Magic Kingdom park also boasts new green spaces for better parade-watching and an interactive queue at Peter Pan’s Flight, with special effects that’ll leave you wondering how Disney’s Imagineers pulled them off. Visitors can enjoy live entertainment at Epcot and brand new dining and shopping venues at Animal Kingdom and the Boardwalk area.
“We’ve also re-imagined Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, adding many new enhancements to one of our original resort hotels,” said George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort. One of the most beloved and iconic of the Disney properties, the Polynesian recently unveiled 300 new deluxe studios and 20 extremely plush South Seas-inspired over-water bungalows, an atmospheric restaurant/bar called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, a renovated Lava Pool and a refreshed Lilo’s Playhouse kids’ club.
Big changes are also afoot at Downtown Disney, as the entertainment district continues its transformation into Disney Springs. “There’s a lot of work going on, as we double the amount of dining, retail and entertainment there,” said Kalogridis. “We’ve had a busy couple of months, opening eight new retail locations at The Landing, the first of our four Disney Springs neighborhoods.”
One of the most notable new Downtown Disney eateries is The Boathouse, an upscale steak-and-seafood restaurant garnering raves for its delectable food, eye-catching nautical decor and fleet of eight restored 1960s-era convertible amphicars that provide tours of the lake.
Got older kids? Fans of the upcoming Disney Channel movie “Teen Beach 2” can head on over to Typhoon Lagoon water park for a themed beach party featuring a DJ spinning retro tunes, beach games, hula hoop contests and more. It’s included in the regular water park ticket.
“Each day between May 22 and July 5, we’ll have four 30-minute interactive parties with DJs and party activators, and the music will continue all day long,” said Tim Maimone, the event’s producer.
Finally, Disney World has put two solid deals on the table this summer. Guests can save up to 30 percent on a multi-day hotel-and-tickets package when they book by June 12 for stays between June 16 and August 27. In addition, when guests buy a one-day water park ticket, they can park-hop between Disney World’s two water parks, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, on the same day when both parks are open.
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher is the family vacations expert at About.com.