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Magic Kingdom>> Main Street U.S.A.>> Crystal Palace:
In 1996 the menu was changed to a fixed-price buffet with character visits for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Magic Kingdom>> Frontierland>> Diamond Horseshoe Saloon:
Starting in 1996, the Saloon is open all evening on a non-reservation basis for light refreshments and entertainment. Shows, which are simpler than the Revue that is put on during the day, start about once an hour.

Magic Kingdom>> Frontierland to Adventureland Walkway:
There is a walkway, opened in 1996, that cuts-through from Frontierland to Adventureland just to the left of the Country Bear Jamboree.

Magic Kingdom>> Liberty Square>> Liberty Tree Tavern:
The Liberty Tree Tavern started serving a character dinner in 1996.

Magic Kingdom>> Fantasyland>> Ariel's Grotto:
Located at the extreme left of the former 20,000 Leagues site, this new attraction opened in 1996 includes King Triton's fountain with its cooling spray, as well as a place for Ariel to sign autographs.

Magic Kingdom>> Fantasyland>> King Stefan's Banquet Hall:
King Stefan's Banquet Hall in Cinderella's Castle started serving a character breakfast in 1996.

Magic Kingdom>> Fantasyland>> 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:
This attraction, which opened with the park in 1971, was permanently closed in 1996.

Magic Kingdom>> Mickey's Toontown Fair:
Mickey's Starland was redesigned and renamed Mickey's Toontown Fair in 1996. Mickey's House is still there (now called Mickey's Country House), but just about everything else has changed. Minnie's Country House has been added, just to the left of Mickey's House. Across from Mickey's House is Donald Duck's Boat. You can walk in, but beware--the entire floor is one of Disney's now famous interactive fountains. Next to the boat is Goofy's Barnstormer Roller Coaster, which is designed with the kiddies in mind and loops in and about the former site of the petting zoo.

Magic Kingdom>> Tomorrowland>> Take Flight:
All references to Delta were removed in 1996 due to the disassociation between Disney and Delta. The name of the attraction was changed from Dreamflight to Take Flight. It closed in early January 1998 for extensive refurbishment.

Magic Kingdom:
The first annual Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party takes place.

EPCOT>> Future World:
Entertainment has been beefed up in the Future World area. 1996 offerings include some truly out-of-this-world acrobatics/strength ballet performances at Innoventions Logo Plaza (located behind the big fountain along the walkway to World Showcase).

EPCOT>> Future World>> World of Motion:
The World of Motion Pavilion closed in 1996 to undergo a monumental conversion from one of the most innocuous rides at WDW to what may turn out to be the wildest mega-ride in Orlando: The GM Test Track.

EPCOT>> World Showcase:
Entertainment has been beefed up in the World Showcase area. 1996 offerings include the Junkanoo Bus for Island music, Cirikli (stilt birds--this one is truly unusual), Zip Code Man and Tzigantzi, a very good honest-to-goodness band of performing gypsies. Additionally, there are more country-specific performances at each country than ever before.

EPCOT>> Future World>> Universe of Energy:
Closed intermittently during 1996, this pavilion's makeover was completed late in 1996. The 15 year old, rather dated, and by all accounts boring film segments have been made over into the much more entertaining Ellen's Energy Adventure, starring Disney/ABC's Ellen Degeneres and Bill Nye, the Science Guy. The rotating pre-show screen has been replaced with a flat screen. The dinosaurs are still there, but their paint schemes have been made brighter and more colorful and there appear to be some differences in dinosaur population in general.

Studios:
Hosts the first annual ABC Super Soap Weekend.

Studios>> Mickey Avenue>> Backstage at 101 Dalmatians Backlot Tour:
The studio walking tour, missing for about a year, reopened in 1996. The "Bee Room", which demonstrated the blue screen technique via a ride on a bee from Honey I Shrunk the Kids, now uses action from 101 Dalmatians. The portion of the tour that formerly housed the sets from the short Bette Midler film has been replaced with some of the sets used to film 101 Dalmatians.

Studios>> Hollywood Boulevard>> Ellen's Buy the Book:
A recreation of the bookstore from the TV sitcom Ellen replaced the former Costume Shop next to the Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant in 1996.

Studios>> Sunset Boulevard>> Twilight Zone Tower of Terror:
The ride profile was altered in 1996. Immediately following your 13-story drop, you are whisked right back to the top and promptly dropped again! Our consensus is that the original one-drop ride profile had a fright factor on a par with Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, but the new profile bumps the Tower up to the Splash Mountain/Space Mountain category.

Studios>> New York Street>> Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame--A Musical Adventure is the 1996 presentation at the Backlot Theater (behind Muppet*Vision). This replaces last year's Pocahontas show.

Studios>> Mickey Avenue>> Backlot Tour:
The Backlot Tour was changed considerably in 1996. Formerly consisting of two parts--tram tour and studio walking tour--the two have now been combined, cutting out most of the walking tour. The entrance has been moved to the far end of Mickey Ave., next to the fountain used in the movie Splash at the location that has been occupied for the last few years by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle appearances (which have been dropped). The tram tour starts with what used to be the beginning of the walking tour--the special effects water tanks. The entire rest of the walking tour (including the Bee and the Bette Midler film) has been dropped. You proceed directly to a new loading area for the tram tour. This area is an inside, air-conditioned room designed to look like a movie prop warehouse (reminiscent of the waiting area for Earthquake at Universal Studios Florida). The room is sized to meter out to the trams the maximum quantity of people that can be held in the water tank area. The tram tour itself has not changed. At the end of the tram tour, you must walk through the American Film Institute Showcase to exit.

Studios>> Mickey Avenue>> American Film Institute Showcase:
The American Film Institute Showcase opened in 1996. It is housed in a building at the end of the studio tram tour and contains a collection of movie memorabilia that changes from time to time. It replaces Studio Showcase that used to be housed in the building just across from the entrance to Muppet*Vision 3D.

Studios>> New York Street>> Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stopped making personal appearances in 1996.

General>> Admission Media & Entry Procedures:
Starting in 1996, entry to all WDW parks requires use of new, credit-card size tickets that have a magnetic stripe on the back, on which is encoded the admission type. The new tickets are inserted by the visitor into slots on new computerized turnstiles that read the information on the magnetic stripe and automatically record the usage back onto it. This system eliminates the need for the gate attendants to have to look closely at each ticket for validity and then date stamp it. It appears that each attendant now covers two or three turnstiles, reducing the number of attendants required. It allows all turnstiles to be used for both initial entry as well as re-entry. Although hand-stamps are given upon exit for re-entry purposes, we found that the hand-stamps are often not checked now. Except for annual passes, there is no longer anything on the ticket personalizing it to a specific individua--no photo, no signature. Annual passes use a new two-finger biometric measurement system, the readers for which are mounted on top of some (but not all) turnstiles. Visitors using leftover days on any older-style pass must exchange it for a new-style magnetic stripe version at specially marked ticket windows. Your replacement admission media will provide exactly the same degree of admission as the old one you turn in.

General>> Major Park Guide Maps:
The guide maps that are handed out when you enter the park were redesigned in 1996. In the past, the 4-color glossy guide maps were undated and did not list the show schedules or special performers and guest stars for the week. That task was handled by a separate 1-color, plain paper show schedule. Now, the 4-color glossy is dated--over a one-week range--and combines all the information formerly contained in both of the separate pieces. Also included is a complete schedule of character appearance times and locations.

General>> Free Parking:
Starting in 1996, you no longer have to pay for parking at the Magic Kingdom parking lot if you are passing through on your way to eat at one of the restaurants at any Magic Kingdom resort. Simply stay to the right and tell the parking attendant at the booth what restaurant you are eating at and you will be waved on through. We were going to a character breakfast one morning but did not know about this. We had stayed to the right because we were not going to the main MK parking lot. We went to pay our $5, but the attendant first asked us where we were going. When we said we were going to a character breakfast, we were waved through free! We mentioned our dinner destination several times during the following week and it worked every time!

General>> Parking Tickets:
Starting in 1996, the colored parking tickets (which rotated among various colors each day to prevent reuse) have been replaced with computer-printed tickets which identify the issuing location and the date in large type.

General>> Pastel Portrait Artists:
An army of Disney artists who will draw your portrait in pastels were deployed all over Walt Disney World in 1996--in the parks, in the resorts, at the Village Marketplace.

General>> Entry Arches:
Entry arches were constructed at all the major entry points to WDW in 1996. They are similar in style to the ones that have been in place at the Village Marketplace since 1995Locations include the World Drive, EPCOT Drive, and Hotel Plaza Blvd entrances.

Recreation>> Typhoon Lagoon:
The practice of renting "inner tubes" (which could be used to bypass the lines waiting for free tubes on the slides or for Castaway Creek) was discontinued in 1996. An ample supply of free tubes is now available at all tube locations.

Recreation>> Typhoon Lagoon:
The wave schedule in the Surf Pool was changed a little in 1996 in favor of surf: 90 minutes of surf alternating with 30 minutes of bobbing waves, instead of 60/60. The exact schedule is posted on a blackboard that overlooks the pool at a point near the entrance to the park. Also, those waves sure seem bigger than ever!

Resorts>> Contemporary Resort>> The California Grill:
The California Grill on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort, replacing the former Top of the World Restaurant, represents Walt Disney World's recent attention to the quality of its restaurants. We have heard that the restaurant has developed a reputation as one of the better restaurants in Florida, and after our visit we would not disagree. One of the new breed of Walt Disney World restaurants that is managed by the executive chef, the menu varies from week to week to take advantage of the best in-season fresh foods. The show kitchen--the most "open" kitchen we have ever seen, occupies the center of the room. The wine list is very extensive, consisting exclusively of California varieties. Remarkably, most every wine is available by the glass. When we had trouble choosing--even though we were only having one glass-we were brought a taste. After three tries, we found the perfect wine for our meal. The menu characterizes the now familiar light and fresh California style of cooking. Our meals were excellent. Even though we had made no special request, we were seated at a window table with a magnificent view overlooking the Magic Kingdom and the setting sun in a perfectly clear sky.

Resorts>> Contemporary>> Chef Mickey's Restaurant:
Chef Mickey's Restaurant moved in 1996 to the Grand Canyon Concourse from the Village Marketplace (to make way for the Rain Forest Cafe), replacing the former Contemporary Cafe.

Resorts>> Polynesian Resort:
The Polynesian Resort's Great Ceremonial House was extensively refurbished in 1996.

Resorts>> Shades of Green:
The Shades of Green Resort was sold outright to the U.S. Military in 1996 for $43 Million, the resort had been leased for the previous two years. Disney still owns the land the resort is built on.

Resorts>> Disney Institute:
When opened earlier in 1996, programs were limited to adults and older children. Programs for children were added later in 1996 in what appears to be an attempt to broaden the Institute's appeal. We have recently come across reports that bookings have not been strong and that special deals have been offered to local residents in an effort to fill spaces.

Recreation>> Disney Golf>> Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf:
Fantasia Gardens Miniature Golf opened in 1996. Almost right across the street from the Swan Hotel, is Disney's first entry into golf of the miniature persuasion, Fantasia Mini-Golf. There are two separate and quite different courses. The traditional course with themed obstacles is based on Fantasia. Each group of several adjacent holes is based on one of the movie's musical themes, which softly plays in the background. Be forewarned: This is one of the toughest courses we have ever played! A cast member is pretty much always on the prowl with a ball retriever stick to recover the many balls that disappear into the water hazards. One confided to us that one of the holes, which is steeply inclined and which we found to be just about impossible, was erroneously built three feet too high at the tall end. She pointed out patches on the felt green where alterations had just been attempted. The second course is probably unique in that it looks exactly like a real golf course--grass, sand traps and no cute obstacles--but with one difference: It is miniature golf course size.

Recreation>> Disney Village Marketplace>> World of Disney:
The World of Disney opened in October 1996 in large block of that formerly housed the Christmas Chalet. It supplants the venerable Mickey's Character Shop. The new store has over three times the floor space of the previous Character Shop. It includes twelve Disney themed rooms and a mountain of Disney plush toys.

General>> Celebration-School:
The Celebration school opened in late August 1996, located in temporary trailers. Approximately 200 students are enrolled in the inaugural classes of this K-12 school.

Recreation> Disney Village Marketplace>> Rain Forest Cafe:
This 30,000 square-foot restaurant, which is the fourth in a Minneapolis chain, features an interior decor that literally puts you in the rainforest, including thunderous weather effects. Flora and fauna include flowered hillsides, animatronic monkeys and live tropical birds and fish--enough to require a full-time curator! On the outside, a 65-foot-tall volcano erupts regularly. You will also find a 5000 square-foot gift shop inside. The restaurant, which sits on the former site of Chef Mickey's Restaurant (which has relocated to the Grand Canyon Concourse of the Contemporary Resort), opened in early August 1996.

Resorts>> Boardwalk Resort:
Walt Disney World's Boardwalk Resort officially opened July 1, 1996. This is expected to be the final resort in the EPCOT area. The resort is located on a small lake on the EPCOT-Studio waterway, visible to and just across from the Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. It is designed to evoke the New Jersey beach resorts of the 40's and 50's, which it appears to quite well. A magnificent wooden boardwalk curves halfway around the small lake, adorned with a single, continuous pole-mounted string of clear light bulbs. The resort hotel, the largest building on the boardwalk, occupies the central position. Various buildings that house restaurants and lounges flank it. An old-fashioned style ballroom sits at one end of the boardwalk. You will also find a few carnival games by the dock, across from the hotel. The water shuttles to EPCOT and the Disney/MGM Studios provide dockside activity. If you really want to fade back to a bygone era, you can rent a four-passenger, pedal-powered surrey and leisurely cruise up and down the boardwalk. This resort is best appreciated from dusk on into the wee hours.

Resorts>> Old Key West Resort:
The Disney Vacation Club, the timeshare resort, was renamed the Old Key West Resort early in 1996.

Recreation>> Disney Village Marketplace: Fulton's Crab House:
This restaurant, where seafood reigns supreme, opened in March 1996 on the Empress Lilly, which had been dormant since 1995. A character breakfast with Mickey & Minnie can be found here every morning.

Resorts>> Disney Institute:
The Disney Institute opened in February 1996. The Disney Institute, located on Lake Buena Vista and incorporating most of the former Disney Village Resort area, offers a mix of learning and entertainment experiences to provide a different kind of vacation.

Recreation>> Walt Disney World Speedway:
The Walt Disney World hosts their own version of Indy-style auto racing at the new Walt Disney World Speedway with the inauguration of the Indy 200 race in 1996. The racing oval, opened January 27, 1996, is located at the back of the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

General>> Celebration>> Phase I:
The first residents started moving in at the beginning of July 1996. Work is proceeding at a furious pace towards construction of phase I.

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