There are some extensive Walt Disney World changes headed to the parks, and now thanks to a week full of updates and news we finally know some more details about the phased reopening of the Florida parks beginning on July 11th! There have been many unknowns over the past several months while the parks have been closed, but now Disney has released a ton of new information to help guests know what to expect from their Disney vacations for the next many months (and quite possibly beyond).
For the foreseeable future, adjustments have had to be made to the current system for visiting the theme parks and resorts due to ongoing health and safety concerns with the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s a lot to unpack, so you’ll want to keep reading for all the must-know new details about the major Walt Disney World changes for 2020 and into 2021…
ALL-NEW Disney Park Pass System for Park Reservations
In our most recent articles about the reopening of Walt Disney World, we’ve mentioned that Disney is taking a very careful and thoughtful approach to physical distancing in their parks and being especially considerate of how to manage events and entertainment that normally draw large crowds. Walt Disney World sees tens of thousands of guests per park per day, and it understandable that Disney would have to make some major changes in order to reopen the parks in a way that will provide a safer environment for guests and employees during this time. Along with pausing new ticket sales and resort reservations for the time being, Walt Disney World has just unveiled a brand-new park reservation system called the Disney Park Pass System. (UPDATE: Ticket sales and resort reservations have since resumed.)
With this new system, guests with park tickets or an Annual Pass will need to reserve a spot in advance for the park they wish to visit on a specific day (Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom will reopen to the public on July 11, while EPCOT and Hollywood Studios will reopen on July 15). From what we know at this time, it appears that you will not be able to enter the parks if you do not make a reservation, so it is important to know this if you plan to visit Walt Disney World in the near future.
One Park Per Day (No Park Hopper Option)
UPDATE: Disney has announced that a modified Park Hopper option will be available beginning January 1, 2021 (see our article about this announcement for more info).
At this time, guests will only be able to choose one park per day and the number of reservation spots available per day are limited. This means that guests will no longer be able to Park Hop during this reopening period (for info on how to modify or cancel your existing Park Hopper tickets, visit Walt Disney World’s Reopening Theme Park Updates & Information page.)
There is no set date for when Park Hopper options will return (UPDATE: a modified Park Hopper option will return January 1, 2021), however the Walt Disney World website does state that guests “may use [their] current date-based ticket by September 26, 2021 with the existing add-on options, should the options return by that date.” Since this given date is about fifteen months from now, it is possible that Park Hopping will not be an option at all this year, but we will have to wait for more info to come in the future to know for certain.
For multi-day tickets (or in other words, several days worth of tickets), guests will have to make a reservation for whatever parks they choose for each day they have a ticket.
Requirements for Making Park Reservations
There are also certain requirements that guests must meet in order to secure a reservation, including:
- Guests will need to have a My Disney Experience account in order to make reservations and plans for each of the days they plan to spend in the parks. If you do not already have a My Disney Experience profile, you can create one on the Walt Disney World website and access it there and in the My Disney Experience app on your mobile device.
- Guests will need a valid theme park ticket or an Annual Pass in order to make Park Pass reservations. You will also want to make sure that your tickets or Annual Pass are linked to your My Disney Experience account. You can also link your tickets with your family or friends (who also have their own tickets) in order to reserve corresponding park days and times.
Park Pass Reservation Windows
Disney is also recommending that you link any current Disney Resort reservations with your My Disney Experience account as well since this will affect the time window for you to be able to make park reservations. According to the new info Disney has released on their website, the new Park Pass System reservation windows are:
- Beginning June 22, 2020 – Guests who have existing Disney Resort reservations and valid theme park tickets will be able to make reservations. It is also stated that “other select hotel Guests” will also be able to make reservations beginning on this date (more info to come on these other hotels soon).
- Beginning June 26, 2020 – Annual Passholders who are not staying at a Disney Resort will be able to make reservations.
- Beginning June 28, 2020 – Those who have existing tickets (non-Passholders) and are not staying in a Disney Resort (or at another “select hotel”) will be able to make reservations.
Also important to note on the Walt Disney World website is that these park reservations “will be available through September 26, 2021, based on your Resort stay and ticket eligibility or ticket eligibility window.”
How to Make Park Reservations
Disney’s website provides a step-by-step guide for securing park reservations using the new Park Pass System. This guide is comprised of four simple steps, which are:
- Linking your tickets to you My Disney Experience account online
- Creating your party (family or friends with valid tickets who will be visiting with you) – for more details on how to do this and the requirements, see the “How It Works” section of this page.
- Selecting a date and a park – Interestingly, selecting a “time that you can visit the park” is listed alongside selecting the day you want to visit, so there is a possibility that you may not be able to stay in the park of your choice for the entire day. We aren’t sure if this is what that means, but we will update this article when we find an answer. For more details on how to select the date, park, and time you’d like to visit, see the “How It Works” section of this page. (UPDATE: The “time” selection is just the park operating hours for the day, so guests are not limited to reserving specific time blocks at this time. Disney’s website currently states that guests can arrive at any time during the listed timeframe, which is park opening to park closing.)
- Confirming your plans – after confirming your plans for that specific date and park, you can then make reservations for additional tickets/days you may have by choosing “Make Another Reservation” and following the same steps
New Ticket Sales
UPDATE: Ticket sales for 2020 and 2021 have resumed. For more information, see our article about ticket sales.
According to Disney Parks Blog, we can expect to see an update on the possibility of purchasing new tickets in the near future. Disney states that they will “resume sales of 2020 tickets and Disney Resort hotel arrivals” later this summer. Any new ticket sales and hotel reservations will be “based on availability of park reservations”. By June 28, 2020, you will be able to purchase new tickets starting in 2021, according to the Walt Disney World website (see “Tickets and Passes”).
So to summarize – ticket sales for the remainder of 2020 are expected to resume later this summer (see above), but ticket sales for visits starting after the New Year (2021) will become available by next week (June 28).
For 2021 tickets, guests will also be able to make their park reservations (as well as purchase Disney Resort hotel packages). According to Disney’s website, you will be able to view park availability before purchasing your tickets, which should hopefully make the process easier and less stressful than it would be if you had to purchase your tickets before knowing this information (see “Tickets and Passes”).
Existing Ticket Extensions
Disney is also extending dates on existing tickets with specific purchase and usage dates. For more information on these specific Walt Disney World changes regarding tickets, see the “Modifications, Cancellations and Refunds” section of their Reopening Theme Parks Updates & Information page.
Not All Attractions and Entertainment Will Be Available
According to Disney Parks Blog, most attractions will be open when the parks reopen in July. While not may specifics are listed for each, it does appear that all of these attractions will reopen with physical distancing and enhanced cleaning measures in place. We also know that FastPass+ has been put on hold for the time being and Extra Magic Hours will not be available at this time.
The attractions that will be available on reopening day are:
- “it’s a small world”
- Astro Orbiter
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Jungle Cruise
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- Mad Tea Party
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- The Barnstormer
- The Haunted Mansion
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- The Hall of Presidents
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
- Kali River Rapids
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Na’vi River Journey
- TriceraTop Spin
- Wildlife Express
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- Affection Section
- Discovery Island Trails
- Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
- Maharajah Jungle Trek
- The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
- The Oasis Exhibits
- Wilderness Explorers
- Frozen Ever After
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment
- Living with the Land
- Mission: SPACE
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth (the previously scheduled refurbishment has been paused)
- Test Track
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Awesome Planet
- Canada Far and Wide
- Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
- Impressions de France
- Reflections of China
- The American Adventure
- Friendship Lagoon Boats
- Kidcot (modified)
- Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
- Toy Story Mania!
- Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Vacation Fun (at Mickey Shorts Theater)
- Walt Disney Presents
As previously announced, the parades, firework spectaculars, and character meet and greets that normally take place in the parks will not be available during this time. However, Disney has stated that characters will still “appear in new and different ways” that are “mindful of physical distancing.”
Character appearances include surprise pop up special appearances in all the parks – cavalcades on the parade route in Magic Kingdom, characters on boats on Animal Kingdom’s Discovery River, processions at EPCOT’s World Showcase promenade, and motorcades on Hollywood Boulevard at Hollywood Studios, as well as individual characters appearing randomly throughout the parks. Disney’s website lists the following new character entertainment as being available at the parks’ reopening:
Parade Route –
- The Royal Princess Processional
- Mickey & Friends Cavalcade
- Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade
- A Goofy Cavalcade
- Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure
Discovery River –
- Discovery River Character Cruise
- Donald’s Dino Boat Bash!
- Mickey & Friends Flotilla
World Showcase Promenade –
- Frozen Promenade
- Mickey & Friends World Tour
- Princess Promenade
Hollywood Boulevard –
- Disney Junior Stars Motorcade
- Mickey & Friends Motorcade
- Pixar Motorcade
Select musical entertainment is also listed as returning during this reopening phase, including the Main Street Philharmonic and the JAMMitors. Here’s the full list of reopening day entertainment for each park so far:
- Main Street Philharmonic
Discovery River –
- Discovery Island Drummers
America Gardens Theater –
- Mariachi Cobre
Other changes during this period include modifications for certain services such as PhotoPass, Shopping Locations and Merchandise, Pin Trading, and Package Delivery. Details for all of these services can be found on Disney’s Reopening Theme Parks Updates & Information page.
There’s always a possibility that some of these options and services may change in the future, so be sure to double check the Walt Disney World website for current information on all attractions, character appearances, entertainment, and services before you head to the parks. We will also continue to update this article if we become aware of any changes or new information.
For information about the new health and safety measures coming to the parks, including temperature screenings and mask requirements, see our Reopening Changes and Updates for Walt Disney World article.
You can also see Disney’s new “Know Before You Go” video below for more essential details about the new Walt Disney World changes for reopening:
Select Annual Events Cancelled
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Unfortunately, one of Walt Disney World’s biggest events of the year – Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party – has had to be cancelled due to a need to postpone all crowd-drawing activities and entertainment. Every year, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party features special entertainment, such as the Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, and the Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular firework and projection show, all of which draw in large crowds each night.
Since Disney has decided to pause their regular shows, parades, and firework spectaculars for the time being in order to maintain physical distancing and prevent over-crowding, they would not be able to present all of these special entertainment opportunities this time. Without them, Disney can not provide the full party experience, which could lower the value and appeal of the parties for many guests – especially since the tickets cost around $85 to $149 each (before tax) depending on what date you choose.
The yearly Halloween party at Walt Disney World typically begins near the end of August and continues on select nights all the way through to November 1st. Given its very early start, we can understand why Disney has chosen to cancel the event this year since the parks will only be open a little over a month prior to the first party date. Disney has stated that they will be refunding any previously purchased tickets for these events.
At this time, Disney Parks Blog indicates that no decision has been made yet for whether Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays will take place this year, but we will be watching closely for any future announcements.
H2O Glow Nights
H2O Glow Nights at Typhoon Lagoon have also been cancelled this year, and we are uncertain at this time if the Disney Water Parks will reopen any time soon. Disney will also be refunding any previously purchased tickets for these events as well according to Disney Parks Blog.
New Modified Food and Wine Festival
Also announced last week is the return of the fan-favorite EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival with a slightly modified experience. The new version of this yearly event features a new title – “A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival!” – and will include some elements from the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival, which had to be cut short this year due to the parks closing in mid-March.
“A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival!” will begin on July 15th (the same day that EPCOT will officially reopen to the public) and is expected to continue through fall. At this time, Disney has announced twenty marketplaces that will be placed throughout the park for guest to enjoy specialty food and drinks. The new Remy topiary that debuted at this year’s Flower and Garden Festival will also appear in the France pavilion alongside some Flower and Garden merchandise, and Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt will be available for guests to participate in once again. Sadly, the very popular Eat to the Beat Concert Series will not return this year due to crowd concerns, but Disney Parks Blog does say that select EPCOT musical entertainment will still be present in the park, such as the JAMMitors.
Complimentary Resort Stay MagicBands Will Be Discontinued
Moving forward into 2021, Disney is planning to “unveil an innovative new offering as part of the My Disney Experience app that will bring features of a MagicBand to your smart devices” and will no longer offer complimentary MagicBands with Disney Resort hotel stays. It seems that these free MagicBands will continue to be offered through the rest of the year (should new hotel reservations become available) as Disney Parks Blog states that “new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1, 2021” will not receive MagicBands.
While we always enjoyed receiving new MagicBands complimentary with each trip and getting to choose from a variety of colors, we are glad to see that Disney Resort guests will still be able to purchase select MagicBand styles at a discounted price. While it is not stated specifically in the Disney Parks Blog article, we imagine that guests will still be able to use the MagicBands they already own at both the resorts and the parks as always. For anyone who does not have a MagicBand or does not wish to purchase one, they will be able to use the My Disney Experience app on their mobile device or a “Key to the World Card” instead. We will continue to watch for more details on all of these Walt Disney World changes and new app offerings as they are announced!
There has been a ton of new information released over the past week regarding the extensive Walt Disney World changes for the next year or so, and we hope that this article has helped you get a better idea of what to expect with any visit to the parks for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021. Should more changes be announced, we will continue to update our website with any new information and details.
As always, thank you for reading and don’t forget to subscribe to our free email newsletter to have all of the latest articles sent right to your inbox as soon as they are posted!
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. Disney frequently makes changes and updates to their parks and offerings. Because of this, the information in this post was current at the time of publishing and is subject to change at any moment. 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 planning your trip or visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.
Last Updated November 21, 2020