How to use new (improved?) FastPass+
When it comes to avoiding long ride wait times, Disney would prefer you plan ahead. That's why its new FastPass+ service — recently expanded to everyone in the park, not just Disney hotel guests or passholders — is far easier to use if you select your desired rides weeks in advance of your trip. Gone are the kiosks in front of rides that would spit out FastPass tickets right away; now, guests must book FastPass+ reservations via the My Disney Experience smartphone app or at kiosks throughout the four parks. Here's how the free service works: Visitors can make three reservations — either in advance via the app or day-of at the park — for select rides, parades and even fireworks shows at the same park. After you use those up, you can make three more reservations (these can be at a different park from your first three). But be warned: You can't make the additional round of reservations via the app, you have to do it at a kiosk in the park. And FastPass+ availability for more popular attractions is severely limited toward the end of the day, so it can be hard to actually get multiple reservations for rides you want in the same day. So choose wisely on those first three passes. And good luck trying to get one for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train anytime soon.
Michelle Stark, Times staff writer
Dress up for Rock Your Disney Side Party
To mark the traditional start of the family vacation season, Walt Disney World Resort is holding a special 24-hour event in which everyone is invited to dress like their favorite Disney hero or villain. The celebration features a mass of special events including good versus evil character meet-and-greets through out the park, special entertainment, event specific merchandise and themed food and drinks. At previous 24-hour events, characters roamed the park in their pajamas. It runs from 6 a.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, all for the price of one day's admission. Re-entry is allowed, but please don't tell people you were there for 24 hours if you wimp out and leave for a nap. $99, $93 ages 3-9, 2 and younger free. Walt Disney World, 1515 N Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 934-7639. 6 a.m. Friday.
Kelly Stefani, Times staff writer
Star Wars Weekends
The Emperor has spoken and this year's Star Wars Weekends take a turn with a new nighttime entertainment experience and the "Symphony in the Stars" fireworks spectacular replacing the Hyperspace Hoopla stage show. Celebrity guests include:
This Friday-Sunday: Warwick Davis "Wicket W. Warrick" (Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi); Jeremy Bulloch "Boba Fett" (Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi); and Tiya Sircar "Sabine Wren" (Star Wars Rebels).
The big weekend is June 6-8: Mark Hamill "Luke Skywalker" (Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope; The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi); Ray Park "Darth Maul" (Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace); Billy Dee Williams "Lando Calrissian" (The Empire Strikes Back; Return of the Jedi); and Taylor Gray "Ezra Bridger" (Star Wars Rebels). The park may reach capacity during certain hours because of this list of celebrities.
Go to disney.com for full lineup. $94, $88 ages 3-9, 2 and younger free. Disney's Hollywood Studios, Hollywood Boulevard, Lake Buena Vista. (407) 939-6244. 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday-Sunday.
Kelly Stefani, Times staff writer
'Lion King' returns
The Broadway-quality Lion King show will return to Disney's Animal Kingdom in June, and the park is getting its first separately ticketed, after-hours summer series Harambe Nights. For Harambe Nights, celebrities like Oscar nominee Viola Davis (The Help) will be in the park to narrate a 20th anniversary tribute to the animated film The Lion King. The show returning to Animal Kingdom is called The Festival of the Lion King. It's a bite-sized version of the Broadway show based on the Disney film. Harambe Nights will be a special-ticketed event running Saturdays June 7 through Aug. 9 with African-inspired food, wine and beer. The highlight will be a theatrical show where actors such as Davis, David Alan Grier and Joe Morton, among others, tell the coming of age tale of Simba. Dancers, a choir and special effects will also be part of the show, called The Lion King - Concert in the Wild. After the show, there will be a Harambe Nights Street Party, featuring music, characters and live performers. An all-inclusive buffet of African cuisine and desserts will be laid out. Tickets to Harambe Nights are $119 for adults and $79 for children 3 to 9 years of age. Premium floor seating is $134 for adults and $94 for children. Find tickets at Disneyworld.com/HarambeNights or calling (407) 939-1319.