AAA Journeys....


There's always something new at Walt Disney World and today's iconic theme park is better than ever. From the original Magic Kingdom and Epcot to Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and the transformation of Downtown Disney to Disney Springs, Walt Disney World's innovations continue to wow the world.

The multi-year transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs continued last year with the addition of several new dining and shopping locations, including: The Boathouse (nautically-themed waterfront dining, live music, and water rides); Dockside Margaritas; Erin McKenna Bakery NTC; Vivioli Gelateria; Tea Trader's Cafe by Joffreys; Apex by Sunglass Hut; The Art of Shaving; Chapel Hats; Erwin Pearl; Hawaianas; Sanuk; and Sound Lion.

Officially renamed Disney Springs last September, the new Walt Disney World destination is welcoming 2016 and beyond with even more shopping, dining, and entertainment in open-air promenades, meandering springs, and water-focused destinations and planned neighborhoods inspired by the Sunshine State's waterfront towns. New dining locations already open or opening in 2016 include: aviation- and Indiana Jones-themed Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar (open); Morimoto Asia (open); a modern steakhouse called STK (open); The Edison (June, 2016); Sprinkles (2016); and Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza (2016). New retail shops already open or coming soon include: Edwin Beiner; Lilly Pulitzer; L'Occitane en Provence; PANDORA; Tommy Bahama; UGG; UNIQLO; and Zara.

Back at Magic Kingdom, the Central Plaza expansion in front of beloved Cinderella Castle is complete. Lush new gardens and wide walkways await veteran and new visitors, including new flower displays and additional fireworks viewing areas for FastPass+ ticket holders viewing the popular Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. Fans of "Peter Pan's Flight" will also love the new interactive line while they wait for their journey to Neverland, including a tour of the Darling family home accompanied by Tinker Bell and entertaining first scenes with the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, and Winnie the Pooh.

Over at Epcot, there are several new international entertainment acts, like The Canadian Lumberjacks, a choreographed flag-throwing team in Italy, the Paul McKenna Band in the United Kingdom, and a multi-generational Berber music and dance troupe from Marrakesh, Morocco. There's also a new a capella group called American Music Machine performing pop hits with custom arrangements by Tim Davis, well-known for his work on "Glee." In 2016, Epcot will add "Soarin' Around the World," with a flight above Epcot's unique natural landscapes and manmade wonders.

Next, fans of Disney's Hollywood Studios are eagerly awaiting more news about a Star Wars-themed land sometime in the future. Highlights revealed thus far include two signature attractions, including the ability to take the controls of one of the most recognizable ships in the galaxy (the Millennium Falcon) on a secret mission and an epic Star Wars adventure that puts Star Wars fans in the middle of a big battle scene. Other planned experiences include a new Star Tours--The Adventure Continues experience, a reimagined Jedi Training Academy, a new seasonal event called Season of the Force, and Star Wars Launch Bay, an interactive experience that explores the upcoming film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Along with the addition of Doc McStuffins from Disney Junior and Hiro and Baymax from "Big Hero Six," Hollywood Studios also features a variety of new "Frozen" events, including an interactive stage show, a dance party, character interaction, and a "Frozen" fireworks display (there's also a new "Frozen" journey to Arendelle coming to the Norway pavilion at Epcot in 2016). And, as part of the ongoing overall reimagining of Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Land will bring Andy's backyard adventures to guests through a family-friendly roller coaster on the back of Slinky Dog, an aliens saucer attractions, and a third track to the popular Toy Story Mania! Attraction.

Last year, Disney's Animal Kingdom started offering a new character dining experience called Donald's Safari Dinner at Tusker House Restaurant. The spring of 2016 will bring new nighttime adventures Kilimanjaro Safaris to Animal Kingdom (including the addition of African wild dogs and hyenas), as well as the addition of Rivers of Light on Discovery River, including live performances, floating lanterns, water screens, and swirling animal imagery. For 2017, planned Animal Kingdom additions include Pandora--The World of AVATAR, with floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests, and soaring Banshees, and AVATAR Flight of Passage, a flying experience that will provide a birds-eye view of the world of Pandora. Harambe Market opened last year and features the flavors of Africa through meals, snacks and beverages.

Walt Disney World completed a sweeping renovation of Disney's Polynesian Village Resort last year with refurbished guestrooms, the addition of an all-new childcare (ages 3-12) area called Lilo's Playhouse, the all-new Polynesian Pool Bar & Grill, a completely renovated Nanea Volcano pool area, a new children's water play area, the new Trader Sam's Grog Grotto, with handcrafted tiki cocktails and Polynesian-themed small plates, and more.

Adventures by Disney

Since its launch in 2005, Adventures by Disney has grown from two domestic itineraries to more than 30 adventures around the world in more than 20 countries across six continents. Travelling with Disney provides families the opportunity to see the world, reconnect, and recharge.

The Disney difference for these varied trips include dedicated Disney Adventure Guides, VIP experiences like a private screening at LucasFilm Headquarters or a private after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel, tasty culinary experiences, special separate times for adults and kids, multi-generational offerings, and more. Adventures by Disney range from domestic long weekends in New York City, Nashville, San Francisco, Napa, Yellowstone National Park, and beyond to a Disney Cruise Line add-on Adventure and six to 12-day international trips.

For 2016, Adventures by Disney has paired with AmaWaterways to offer trips on the popular river cruise line's newest Danube River vessel, the "AmaViola." Families on Adventures by Disney trips will enjoy extra Disney additions, including larger staterooms to fit the entire family, new onboard amenities, and exclusive programs and activities for Adventures by Disney guests. The new river cruise itineraries dive into Central Europe's rich culture in Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, and Austria including special itineraries during the holidays.

Did You Know?

*Beginning Fridays to Sundays next summer, encounter "Star Wars" celebrities and characters for special shows, presentations and autographs in Hollywood Studios.

*When completed, the new Disney Springs will include four interconnected neighborhoods: The Landing, Marketplace, West Side and Town Center and the numbe rof shopping, dining and entertainment venues will increase from the current 75 to more than 150.

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival Kicks Off in March

Each spring, Walt Disney World becomes more colorful than ever, thanks to the annual 90-day Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (March 2-May 30 in 2016). During the popular festival, which has been held for more than 20 years, Disney character topiaries animate the landscape, when Epcot transforms to a vibrant wonderland of sweeping garden beds, exhibits, events, and more.

Starting at the main entrance, expertly crafted show stopping topiaries are definitely a highlight of the festival (and very popular for selfies), including Snow White, Donald Duck, Mater and Ana and Elsa from "Frozen" melting hearts, as always. In addition, Outdoor Kitchens like Smokehouse BBQ let guests taste garden- and spring-inspired tapas-sized food and beverages, while Disney gardeners lead weekend how-to Gardening Seminars at the Festival Center, where shopping is a popular option for green thumbs.

With iconic Spaceship Earth, the Monorail, and 11 "countries" serving as backdrops, abundant flower, vegetable, and herb beds provide imaginative options for home gardeners. It's a spring rite of passage that many Walt Disney World veterans have made a colorful annual tradition.

Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival

Come fall, Walt Disney World becomes tastier than ever, thanks to the long-time Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. For more than 20 years, from late-September to mid-November, the festival is considered to be the largest food and wine event of its kind in the world.

The festival gives Epcot guests a chance to taste global and specialty cuisine, sip unique beverages, and eat to the beat of varied live entertainment. At least 30 global marketplaces provide a variety of taste treats, while more than 50 wineries and almost as many breweries provide libations.

Typically numbering more than 250, Walt Disney World chefs and visiting culinary stars participate in culinary demonstrations and more. There are also many beverage and mixology seminars, wine and cheese tastings, lots of dessert options, book signings, and more than 150 "Eat to the Beat" live concerts.

Many of the tasty events are included in Epcot admission, while certain special events require reservations and separate ticketing.