One of Walt Disney World's iconic attractions is getting a makeover.
Disney said Wednesday that it will shut down Space Mountain this spring for what the company described as a months-long "refreshment" of the 34-year-old Magic Kingdom roller coaster.
The ride will close April 19, just after the Easter holiday. It is expected to reopen late in the year, Disney spokeswoman Andrea Finger said, though a specific reopening date has not been set.
The timetable means Space Mountain will be closed throughout the busy summer-travel season.
The construction work will include installing new track inside the enclosed coaster, which carries guests in the dark through a series of sudden drops and sharp turns. The layout of the track will remain the same, however.
Other upgrades will include a new enclosure for the ride's queuing area and a new ceiling inside its signature white dome, Finger said.
Finger said the renovations are the first substantial work on the ride since September 1999. The project follows a series of other makeovers Disney has made in recent years to some of its oldest attractions, including the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean in the Magic Kingdom and Spaceship Earth in Epcot.
Disney fans have been swapping rumors for more than a year that the company was planning a sweeping overhaul of Space Mountain. In 2005, the Walt Disney Co. completed an extensive, two-year makeover of the Space Mountain at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.
But the changes to Orlando's version of the ride -- it's the original Space Mountain, having opened Jan. 15, 1975 -- are likely to be more modest.
"We're retaining many of the classic elements that made Space Mountain a rite of passage at the Magic Kingdom that's been enjoyed by generations," Finger said.
Fewer visitors to China last year despite Olympics By ANITA CHANG, Associated Press Writer Anita Chang, Associated Press Writer Thu Jan 8, 2:23 pm ET
BEIJING The number of travelers to China dropped by 2 million in 2008 in what was supposed to be a banner year for tourism but became one dampened by Olympics-related security measures and the global economic crunch.
It was the first decline in visitor numbers since 2003, when a deadly outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, SARS, kept many people away.
The number of inbound travelers fell to 130 million last year, China's National Tourism Administration said on its Web site.
"All major inbound source markets, except for Hong Kong and Russia, slumped last year amid the economic downturn," the administration's director, Shao Qiwei, was quoted as saying by the official China Daily newspaper Thursday.
Neither statement mentioned other factors affecting travel to China, though industry experts also blamed tightened visa restrictions before the Beijing Olympics and a May earthquake in southwest China that left 90,000 dead or missing.
Authorities feared protests around the Olympics would mar the flawless image of China that the government wanted to promote and made visa procedures more strict in an effort to weed out potential troublemakers such as foreign activists. That also kept out many would-be visitors.
"The high cost of hotel and air tickets may also have had an effect, but taking into consideration the spending power of foreigners compared to Chinese, they wouldn't just drop their plans because of higher prices," said Li Lei, chief editor of Chinese travel industry Web site Tourismvane.com.