Visiting a reopened Disney World is a little different than it used to be now that new health and safety measures have been implemented in the parks. There’s also quite a few updates and new character experiences that we have been excited to see make their debut with the parks reopening, including the re-imagining of Cinderella Castle.
Now, thanks to our friends at Magic Bound Travel, we’ve got an inside look at the first two parks to reopen! Magic Bound Travel was on Walt Disney World property during opening week to cover the reopening of Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, and they very kindly shared their photos with us for this article. This time around, we are giving our readers an up close look at the new offerings and changes at Walt Disney World during its reopening phase!
As we’ve talked about in some of our previous posts, all guests can visit only one park per day (Park Hopping is unavailable at this time) and will need a park reservation along with their valid ticket admission. All guests will also have their temperatures checked before entering a park, and anyone over the age of two is currently required to wear a mask. These are just a few of the new elements that are now a part of everyone’s visit to The Most Magical Place On Earth which we cover in detail in our “Walt Disney World Changes” article.
Below we’ve got even more details you need to know for visiting a reopened Disney World!
Limited Attendance and Lower Crowds
During normal times, Walt Disney World regularly sees tens of thousands of guests in the parks each day. Now that the parks have reopened with new health and safety measures, park capacity has been greatly reduced in order to maintain physical distancing and promote a more sanitary environment. Because of this lowered capacity, Walt Disney World has implemented a new park reservation system called the Disney Park Pass System for guests to reserve a spot in advance for the park they wish to visit on a specific day (we’ve got more details, including a step-by-step guide for how to use the Park Pass System, in one of our previous articles).
At this time, you will not be able to enter the parks if you do not make a park reservation through this new system. It is important to know this if you plan to visit Walt Disney World for the foreseeable future (even into September 2021 according to Disney’s website).
Opening days for attractions and festivals typically see some of the highest crowds of the year, so we weren’t certain what we would see as far as crowd levels go for reopening week. Annual Passholder reservation slots also sold out quickly for opening day, so we were at least prepared to see more people in the parks than on any “ordinary” days that follow.
When opening day finally arrived, we were overall quite surprised by the lack of people in the parks! As these photos showcase, capacity has been so greatly reduced that even a “sold out” day for Passholders still allow for plenty of physical distancing between parties in most areas. Main Street USA is a fantastic example of this, since the pathway from the entrance to the Castle has almost always been packed with people (before the global health crisis)… even on less-crowded days. There have even been times when Main Street has been nearly shoulder-to-shoulder, especially during holiday seasons.
It is actually quite rare to be able to snap several photos of this area without crowds of people in the shot unless you visit during limited capacity times – and even these times can see a significant amount of guests (see our guide comparing Extra Magic Hours, Early Morning Magic, and After Hours for a closer look at some of Disney’s limited capacity offerings). Though the parks may not offer as much entertainment as usual and be a little more challenging to navigate right now, the current lack of crowding is certainly a silver lining in the midst of everything that’s happened this year.
Physical Distancing and Sanitizing Stations for All Queues and Rides
If you’ve ever been in a Disney ride queue, then you know that the lines can sometimes get a bit tight. There generally isn’t much space between parties waiting to board the ride, but physical distancing has greatly changed this. Now, marks on the floor indicate where each party should stand, with six-feet (or maybe even more) between each of these marks. Some rides also have newly installed see-through barriers between winding queue lines (see the Flight of Passage queue pictures below) or within the ride vehicle itself, such as on Kilimanjaro Safaris and Jungle Cruise.
Physical distancing is also implemented on the rides themselves, but each will look a little different depending on the ride style. For boat rides like “it’s a small world”, several rows are left empty between parties, and you won’t be sharing a bench with anyone you don’t know. You can also expect to find similar distancing measures on rides like DINOSAUR and Space Mountain, and depending on the size of the ride vehicle, you may even get the entire vehicle to yourself. For rides like Flight of Passage that have individual ride seats, you can expect to see at least one empty ride seat between you and the party nearest to you.
We aren’t certain how long these distancing measures will be present in the parks or if the distance between parties will change when capacity is raised, but for the time being you can expect to see plenty of social distancing when visiting a reopened Disney World now.
Another change that has come with the reopening of the parks is an abundance of hand-washing and sanitizing stations. These can be found everywhere, and guests can usually find hand sanitizer before entering an attraction line (or before boarding a ride vehicle) and after exiting. As you can see from the pictures of the Flight of Passage ride queue above, these sanitizing dispensers are often located quite close to each other, making them easy to find and access.
Disney has also greatly increased cleaning in all areas (we’ve even seen Cast Members sanitizing rock walls outside of restaurants). Ride vehicles are frequently sanitized from top to bottom, and high-touch areas are also cleaned on a regular basis. While it’s impossible to ensure that every surface will be 100% sanitary and germ-free at every moment, we have so far been extremely impressed by the frequency and thoroughness of Disney World’s cleaning efforts. Overall, the Cast Members appear to be doing a very commendable job and we are very grateful for all of their hard work!
Mobile Ordering and Restaurant Spacing
Just like the rest of the parks, all Walt Disney World restaurants have also made some changes to promote more physical distancing and enhanced cleaning. Mobile Order has already been an option at many park restaurants for a while now, but now that the parks are open again it has been expanded to all of the eating locations that are currently available.
It was once very common to see long lines and large crowds at any food and beverage locations within the parks. Now that everyone is trying to stay at least six feet away from others at this time for health and safety reasons, Mobile Ordering has become much more prevalent and highly encouraged. Guests can place their orders through the My Disney Experience app, and once their food is ready they can then pick it up at the restaurant counter.
Most dining locations that are currently open still allow for indoor seating, but many also offer outdoor seating as well. Whether you choose to sit inside or outside, you will find that certain areas and tables are now unavailable in order to maintain physical distancing. These distancing measures are especially helpful in these locations since guests must remove their masks to eat. In addition to this, Disney is making a very conscious and careful effort to clean any and all areas after a party leaves. This is true both in the restaurants and in the “Relaxation Stations” (these rest areas allow guests to remove their masks for a break even if they are not eating or drinking).
Surprise Character Appearances
Even though Disney World’s regular parades, shows, and character meet and greets have been temporarily paused, guests can still see characters all throughout the parks! New character cavalcades journey up and down the streets and waterways of the parks at various times accompanied by fun music.
At Magic Kingdom, these little mini parades include Mickey & Friends Cavalcade, A Goofy Cavalcade, Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade, Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure, and The Royal Princess Processional, and we’ve seen several characters make other surprise appearances in a few different areas and lands.
We’ve also seen the Country Bears standing on balconies in Frontierland, Cinderella’s Step Sisters on the Castle balcony, and Merida and Gaston riding horses down Main Street USA. Periodically we’ve also noticed multiple characters waving to guests from the Train Station balcony, including the Disney Princesses and Mickey and friends.
Over at Animal Kingdom, boats cruise up and down Discovery River with characters waving to guests from afar. These cavalcades include the Discovery River Character Cruise, Donald’s Dino Boat Bash!, and Mickey & Friends Flotilla. Also journeying throughout the park via a river float are the Discovery Island Drummers who entertain guests with lively, fun tunes.
Is Visiting a Reopened Disney World a Good Idea Right Now?
Things may be a little different now, but the parks are still full of Disney magic around every corner! Visiting a reopened Disney World during these uncertain times is not an easy decision and one that each person can only decide based on their own personal comfort level. As we mentioned above, it is not possible to guarantee 100% health and safety at any time – and especially right now with the pandemic – but it is so good to see that Disney is giving every effort to keep their parks as clean and safe as much as they possibly can. Ultimately, we can’t answer the question of whether or not you should visit Walt Disney World right now because that’s a decision only you should make for yourself, but we hope that this article has provided you with some helpful details about visiting a reopened Disney World so you can know what expect should you decide to visit at any point during the next year or so.
We are also glad to see that Disney has really tried to provide guests with a unique and enjoyable experience through new offerings since several of their regular experiences are not available right now. In many ways, the overall atmosphere in the parks seems a bit more relaxed and spontaneous than before, even in the midst of the many added health and safety precautions.
For anyone who does decide to visit at this time, we can say that the parks are not exactly what they used to be, but that isn’t necessarily a downside. While it is true that we miss the regular parades, shows, fireworks, and character meet and greets, the less-crowded environment and surprise character appearances all throughout the day can still offer a fantastic and memorable time in a way that only Disney can!
As always, we encourage you to visit Disney’s website for all official information and to make sure that none of this information has changed since this article was written. We update our website and articles as often as we can, but it is always a good idea to double check Disney’s official website before booking any resort stays or visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.
All photos in this article not owned by Travel Times Two are used with permission. Thank you to Magic Bound Travel for sharing their photos with us!Article Last Updated July 19, 2020