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What’s New in Walt Disney World Resort Dining: 16 for 2016

2015 was full of culinary news for Walt Disney World Resort, and 2016 promises to be equally exciting, especially at Disney Springs. From new restaurants to more fun with Disney characters, here’s a look ahead at 2016.

1. Sunday brunches are the hot weekend ticket. Narcoossee’s Waterfront Brunch at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa is a new one, and Brunch at the Top debuts February 7 at California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.


2. Get over to the new Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom Park and try a rice noodle bowl, sustainable local farm-raised shrimp in chili-garlic sauce, or the Kungaloosh!, an African-inspired chocolate cake with caramelized bananas with cashew-caramel ice cream. This is an all-new menu for the Disney chefs.

3. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival expands to 90 days, March 2 to May 30 (from 75 days last year). Fresh garden produce, savory bites and sweet treats will be abundant at the festival’s Outdoor Kitchens, returning for a fourth year with guest favorites and new food and beverage offerings.


4. Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom will celebrate the art of traveling, featuring foods from places that inspired the creation of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Open for both lunch and dinner. (“Tiffin” is an Indian English word for a midday meal or a type of container used to carry food while traveling).

5. Adjacent to Tiffins, Nomad Lounge will feature hand-crafted cocktails using the art of mixology with African, Asian and South American flavors, beers and wines from those regions, and a selection of specialty non-alcoholic beverages in addition to small bites.

6. Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s BoardWalk will temporarily close the end of January, then reopen in the fall with a whole new look – and while the kitchen is working on new menu items, Chef Tim Keating promises that potato-wrapped snapper and the popular New York strip steak will be back. Stay tuned for details.


7. Minnie’s Seasonal Dine at Hollywood & Vine at Disney’’s Hollywood Studios debuted in 2015, but guests can look forward to new themes coming in 2016, including Minnie’s Silver Screen Dine, Minnie’s Springtime Dine, Minnie’s Summertime Dine and Minnie’s Halloween Dine.


8. Let’s start 2016 with a taste of the chocolate at The Ganachery at Disney Springs – the proprietary blend of chocolate and cream made right in the shop is not to be missed. The lovely little space elevates sweets to an experience akin to a wine tasting.

9. Coming to Disney Springs in early 2016 is STK, a modern steakhouse mixed with the ambiance of a sleek lounge and emphasizing a social and fun environment. It will be one of the largest STK locations in the world, occupying 14,000 square feet in a two-story building, including a main level and a rooftop-dining area with incredible views of Disney Springs.

10. Sprinkles, the world’s first cupcake bakery, as named by Food Network and others, will serve up handcrafted cupcakes, slow churned ice cream and homemade cookies at Disney Springs in 2016. Their innovative Cupcake ATM will satisfy sweet-toothed epicureans 24/7.

11. Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza also comes to Disney Springs in 2016, a modern day “pizza joint” known for its custom-built artisanal pizzas, freshly made salads, blood orange lemonade and s’more pies. The fast-casual restaurant will feature an interactive assembly-line format that allows guests to customize their pizza, choosing from over 40 fresh toppings.


12. Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine will showcase the cuisine of Chef Art Smith at Disney Springs when it opens in Summer 2016. Smith, who was born and reared in the town of Jasper, Fla., on the Florida-Georgia border, will feature farm-to-fork cuisine that showcases the bounty of Florida, and design inspired by turn-of-the century Florida architecture of the late 1800s.


13. Also opening in Summer 2016 at Disney Springs, Frontera Fresco by Chef Rick Bayless will showcase the gourmet Mexican cuisine that has made Chef Bayless a culinary legend. The restaurant will feature authentic Mexican specialties such as hand-crafted tortas, tacos, salads, fresh-made guacamole and classic Mexican braised meat entrees, all prepared from time-honored recipes with natural, locally sourced ingredients. Frontera Fresco also will serve an extensive selection of margaritas, cocktails and craft beers and wine.

14. Look for a re-imagined Planet Hollywood at Disney Springs as the flagship venue is transformed into a star-themed Planet Hollywood Observatory to match the look and feel of Disney Springs. As part of the makeover, the venue will add a new outdoor terrace and bar space called Stargazers and feature live entertainment.

15. Also at Disney Springs, new Disney quick-service locations and kiosks will be blooming this spring. Perfect for a quick bite.

16. Two new Disney cookbooks for 2016: a new Delicious Disney: Sweet Treats book due out in the fall, and one celebrating both the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival and for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (dates still TBD for the food & wine fest when the book will debut).

Wilderness Lodge Rejoins AAA List of 4-Diamond Hotels

Walt Disney World‘s Wilderness Lodge has rejoined AAA’s prestigious four-diamond list, one of only seven Florida properties to be added to the list this year.

Walt Disney World Resort's Wilderness Lodge

The hotel, inspired by turn-of-the-century national park lodges, is known for its log-cabin theme and Pacific Northwest décor. It was first named a four-diamond hotel in 1996. AAA could not say Monday when the hotel fell off the list.

It joins 33 others in Central Florida that are already on the AAA four-diamond list, which includes properties ranging from the Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes to the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando.

Auto Club AAA, based in Heathrow, has been rating hotels with one to five diamonds since the 1960s. The four-diamond rating is the organization’s second highest, given to 5.3 percent of the more than 29,000 hotels approved by AAA.

Five diamonds — the upper echelon of AAA’s rating system — is even harder to come by, given to just 0.4 percent of hotels reviewed by AAA.

Walt Disney World Resort's Wilderness Lodge

“Four- and five-diamond hotels and restaurants provide guests with a luxurious experience that tailors to their every need,” said Mark Jenkins, a AAA spokesman. “These establishments consistently exceed the expectations of the most discriminating traveler — the AAA inspector.”

Disney said its Wilderness Lodge was refurbished in 2012. Guest rooms got new fabrics, paint and carpeting, and Disney added character accents in the rooms. The main areas and corridors also were renovated.

“As with our parks, our resort hotels are about exceeding guests’ expectations, and we’re very pleased with this designation,” said Rick Sylvain, a Disney spokesman.

For yet another year, the Orlando area left empty-handed when it came to five-diamond hotels, but that could change soon with the opening of the Four Seasons Hotel at Walt Disney World Resort. The hotel, which is scheduled to open Aug. 3, will likely be a candidate for the premier rating.

Walt Disney World Resort's Wilderness Lodge

Orlando residents can still get five-diamond service locally, but they’ll have to seek it at a restaurant. Victoria & Albert’s, a fine-dining restaurant in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, has been rated five diamonds for more than a decade.

4-Diamond Hotels

Central Florida’s four-diamond hotels (with year they got the designation):

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge-Jambo House (2011)

Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas Kidani Village (2011)

Disney’s Beach Club Resort (2003)

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn (2009)

Disney’s Contemporary Resort (2007)

Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (1989)

Disney’s Polynesian Resort (2007)

Spring Savings at Walt Disney World Resort

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