This week at Walt Disney World, more details are revealed about the opening of Disney's Animal Kingdom's latest restaurant, two new characters debut at Epcot's expanded Character Spot, plus a Streets of America mainstay gets to stay open just a little longer with a brand new purpose. 

Outside Walt Disney World,  Universal Studios Florida gets a brand new character meet and greet, Busch Gardens announces special activities to help celebrate Earth Day plus a previously off-limits area of SeaWorld Orlando becomes available to the public for the first time. 

1. Tiffins to open this summer

Image: Disney

While we still have some questions about what is going on with the Rivers of Light nighttime spectacular opening later this month, Disney has confirmed that new table service eatery Tiffins will not be opening alongside this new nighttime spectacular as originally hoped. Instead, Disney has announced a “summer 2016” opening date for this restaurant and confirmed that this new eatery will seat 252 diners at a time. 

2. Sense of Africa tour announced for Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge has announced that it will soon be offering a new premium tour that will provide guests with an intimate close-up experience with the animals of the Kilimanjaro Safaris. Named Sense of Africa, this new 3.5 hour experience will kick off with a breakfast buffet at Boma, and then take guests on an intimate safari where they can go backstage for some close-up encounters with animals including giraffe, ostrich and okapi. Tour groups will be limited to 12 persons each, and cost is $249.99 per person (ages 10 and up). You can learn more about this new experience here.

3. Inside Out character meet and greet opens today

Image: Disney

Starting today, guests will be able to hop on over to Epcot’s expanded Character Spot to visit Joy and Sadness from Inside Out inside Headquarters, right next to the existing Baymax meet and greet. This is expected to be a permanent addition to the Epcot character lineup.   

4. Writer’s Stop spared (for a little bit) from mass closure at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Yesterday was the last day of operation almost the entirety of the Streets of America at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and saw the closure of Lights Motots Action, the Studio Catering Company, the Monsters Inc Meet and Greet and more. However, it looks like one Streets of America leftover is going to survive this mass closing just a little bit longer. 

Beginning today, the Writer's Stop will begin opening at 11:30am, and will serve as a lounge of sorts for the nearby Sci-Fi Dine-In restaurant. This location will continue offering the usual coffee and pastries for guests, but will also add more substantial snacks to the lineup, including pretzels, charcuterie, and in a first for this location, alcoholic beverages.

5. Sounds like Summer concert series performance schedule announced 

Image: Disney

Epcot has announced that its tribute band Sounds Like Summer concert series will be returning this year, kicking off on on June 5th. Here’s a look at the lineup:

June 5-11: Don’t Look Back – A Tribute to Boston

June 12-18: Hotel California – A Salute to the Eagles

June 19-24: Rumours – A Fleetwood Mac Tribute Band

June 25-July 1: Simply Tina – A Tribute to Tina Turner

July 2-9: Stayin’ Alive – A Tribute to the Bee Gees

July 10-16: Bruce in the USA – A Tribute to Bruce Springsteen

July 17-23: DSB – A Tribute to Journey

6 Preferred parking test expands

The preferred parking test that kicked off at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot last month has now been expanded to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, with guests now able to pay $35 ($15 for annual passholders) to park in the lot directly across from the gate. It is unknown if this is simply an extension of the test going on at the other parks, or if this expansion is a sign that preferred parking is here to stay.   

7. Resorts begin issuing parking passes to diners

And speaking of parking, earlier this week, guests who made dining reservations at select hotels (Including the Polynesian Village Resort) reported that they received parking passes good for 3 hours on the specific date of their dining reservation. Though the time isn’t printed on these cards (making it easy for guests to continue to park their car as long as they want), the presence of these new cards could be a signal that Disney is considering tightening up parking restrictions at resorts again for guests who are not staying at that specific hotel.   


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