The time has come so that you can lastly ponder a trip to the Mouse House, and admittedly, there’s by no means been a greater time to plan. Disney World has all the time supplied a grand escape from actuality, with its cartoon character-shaped ice cream bars, towering pretend mountains, and eating places with ’50s kitchenettes the place waiters berate you for placing elbows on the desk. However the Florida theme park resort supplies one thing new after a yr of nothingness (and never simply the flexibility to chow down on wildly good Neapolitan pizza that didn’t come from a cardboard supply field).
The Most Magical Place on Earth amended almost all its operations to securely accommodate friends in its 4 theme parks — the Magic Kingdom Park, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, collectively often known as the Walt Disney World Resort — when it reopened in July 2020 after an unprecedented 117-day closure. Since then, it’s hit its stride, providing households a technique to expertise these Star Wars characters and Disney classics in actual life after a yr spent glassy-eyed, watching them on screens.
New security protocols are in place all through the resort that streamline the everyday lineup of CDC suggestions: contactless purchases, an enormous cover of hand-sanitizing stations, and minimal touchpoints. Count on to see plexiglass obstacles on trip autos and inside queues and an growth of Disney’s already rigorous cleansing strategies within the parks, at eating places, and all through the resort. (Janitorial employees had been recognized for all-white uniforms with nary a speck of dust earlier than the pandemic, so yeah, cleanliness is a giant deal round right here.)
What you gained’t see, nevertheless, are selfies with princesses, masked-up hugs with Pixar characters, or sparklers popping out of Mickey Mouse’s mitts. Disney has briefly suspended up-close character experiences and nighttime exhibits like Fortunately Ever After and Fantasmic! These will undoubtedly return, nevertheless it’s unclear when. Even FastPass+, the complimentary system that enables friends to “reserve” spots in line in an effort to breezily board rides like Splash Mountain, remains to be paused, with queues working first-come, first-served for the primary time because the late Nineties — permitting for a stage of park spontaneity we haven’t seen in years.
A go to to Walt Disney World used to require regimented planning — restaurant reservations booked half a yr upfront, to-the-minute itineraries — however now all the things is in flux, permitting a uncommon window for a barely extra spur-of-the-moment go to, as if you’re really on trip. This additionally means guidelines are consistently being up to date, so be completely certain to offer Disney’s web site a once-over and obtain the My Disney Experience app earlier than you go. (Severely. You’ll want it, and higher to do it now than whereas standing within the solar as your youngsters are begging you to cellular order a Dole Whip.)
Some resorts, eating places, sights, and experiences stay closed, but when it’s magic you’re after, Walt Disney World Resort continues to supply it. Cinderella nonetheless waves at younger followers, Area Mountain blasts you off into the celebs, and Mickey-shaped waffles are served heat and smiling. Staff, often known as forged members — the undisputed spine of this new operation — work tirelessly to proceed spreading that quintessential fairy mud, even from behind face masks and shields. The center of Disney’s theme park outfit remains to be there, even when it appears barely totally different.
Capability is restricted on transportation, sights, and inside the parks themselves, however you’ll nonetheless encounter different friends, typically lower than six toes away, whereas shifting in regards to the resort, notably at Disney’s souped-up mall often known as Disney Springs. Nonetheless, distance markers seem in each queue, and diligent employees enforcement makes masks compliance excessive.
Visiting the Parks
Count on to endure temperature screenings upon arrival to Disney World’s 4 theme parks; face coverings must meet requirements (no valves or gaiters) and be worn by friends ages 2 and up always, besides when consuming, ingesting, or taking outside images.
Because of COVID-era capability restraints, you’ll want each admission and a theme park reservation to enter Walt Disney World theme parks. Each are required for everybody ages 3 and up and may be booked upfront on-line. Park reservation availability is limited to every particular person park and structured in three tiers — ticket holders, Disney Lodge friends, and annual move holders — so you’ll want to guide the second you buy tickets. (FYI: The reservations are free.)
If you wish to go from Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom in the identical day — a observe often known as “park hopping” — you possibly can, beginning at 2 p.m. each day. Park Hopper admission is required (it’s a surcharge), and capability limitations nonetheless apply, so name (407) 560-5000 to check availability.
With FastPass+ indefinitely paused, all rides as a substitute provide standby traces just like the amusement parks of yore, making it considerably simpler to point out up with no plan, a transfer that beforehand might have ruined a Disney trip earlier than it started. The one exception is Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This in-demand attraction requires a separate “boarding move,” launched each day at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. within the My Disney Expertise app. (They go rapidly, so examine up on how to snag them; admission and park reservations for Disney’s Hollywood Studios are additionally required. It’s a ache, nevertheless it’s completely price it.)
Disney’s Blizzard Seaside Water Park has separate ticketed admission and doesn’t require a park reservation. Masks will not be required whereas within the water or on waterslides, whereas strolling to or ready in line for waterslides, or whereas seated in distanced lounge chairs, a coverage which, very like its the park’s quizzical snowed-in theme, someway appears to work.
Staying on Property
There are many resorts all through the Orlando space. Disney-operated resorts, along with select others, provide a set of coveted perks, which have been slimmed down throughout the pandemic however nonetheless embrace further entry to the parks, notably with theme park reservations.
Walt Disney World’s Further Magic Hour program, which provides resort friends further time within the parks, was suspended when the parks reopened. Its alternative, Early Theme Park Entry, will present 30-minute early entry to any of Disney’s theme parks, seven days per week, when it debuts later this yr. (Park reservations are additionally required.) Complimentary Disney’s Magical Specific airport bus service can also be accessible and nice for households trying to simplify the schlep, however it’ll stop operations on January 1, 2022; Mears, an area transportation firm, will provide its personal for buy beginning then.
Nonetheless, Disney’s personal resorts are sometimes most well-liked by followers for thematic immersion by means of larger-than-life statues, princess-themed rooms, and even a friggin’ monorail working by means of its middle, one of many many modes of dependable transportation provided all through Walt Disney World Resort along with buses, boats, and gondolas.
What to See and Do
The vast majority of Walt Disney World theme park rides are open and working with distance markers, partitions, and cleanings all through the day. Capability is managed, however events could also be combined on sure sights, like Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, so preserve that in thoughts.
Most of the indoor stage exhibits will not be presently working, however Competition of the Lion King will probably be carried out in an amended style when it returns in summer season 2021. (At press time, all nighttime leisure and fireworks choices nonetheless remain on hiatus.)
You gained’t be capable to hug Mickey Mouse on a present journey, however you’ll positively see him in all four parks. Princesses, Pixar characters, and the mouse himself may be noticed all through the day in cavalcades by means of Epcot’s World Showcase, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, and from alongside the riverfront in Animal Kingdom, the place Pocahontas, Minnie Mouse, and others wave to friends from boats. In lieu of particular person meet-and-greets, cuddly characters like Winnie the Pooh and Chip ’n’ Dale now seem at a distance, however don’t fret — their theater-in-the-round style antics, carried out past fences or partitions, are a pleasure to look at. Disney PhotoPass photographers are readily available to take professional-style household images, and when you’re now capable of take away masks for outside pics, they need to keep on for all different experiences, together with on-ride images. (Take away your masks on Expedition Everest and Disney gained’t offer you that screaming snapshot.)
Cellular ordering is inspired all through the property and has been expanded since Disney World’s reopening. The professional transfer is to order upfront, notably for meals later within the day, since resorts are recognized to be busy round dinnertime, which may imply prolonged waits. Make sure to bask in that Mickey bar craving from the aspect of the walkway, too, as parkgoers are required to get pleasure from snacks whereas stationary and away from different friends.
Desk service eating reservations may be made up to 60 days in advance and should be booked ASAP. Walt Disney World Resort is presently seating indoor and outdoor dining, so arrive early to specify outdoor if most well-liked. Character dining is accessible at choose parks and resort resorts, and in lieu of tableside greetings, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and others work together from a distance with friends who stay seated.
Eater favorites include ’50s Prime Time Café, Jungle Cruise Skipper Canteen, and Tiffins, whereas at Disney Springs, the open-to-the-public “downtown” district, Wine Bar George and Morimoto Asia rank among the many finest. For grab-and-go meals, cheeseburger pods and protein bowls at Animal Kingdom’s Satu’li Canteen, and Portuguese sausage Ronto Wraps or something on the menu at Docking Bay 7 within the new Star Wars-themed Galaxy’s Edge land at Disney Hollywood Studios, are musts. Should you’re heading out for bratwurst and beers in Epcot’s model of Germany, take be aware that some eating places historically run by worldwide workers by means of Disney’s Cultural Exchange Program are being briefly operated by common Epcot workers till this system is reinstated.
Particular Disney Occasions in 2021
Taste of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, a pandemic-era model of the seasonal occasion, brings outside meals kiosks, stay leisure, and ornamental topiaries to Epcot’s World Showcase by means of July 5, 2021. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will run July 15 to November 20, whereas the park’s seasonal Festival of the Holidays and Festival of the Arts will announce dates later this yr. (Disney has not but confirmed if seasonal ticketed occasions, like Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Celebration and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Celebration, will probably be held in 2021.)
The largest occasion of the yr will undoubtedly be Walt Disney World’s fiftieth anniversary, which kicks off its 18-month celebration on October 1, 2021. Remy’s Ratatouille Journey, the family-friendly trip providing a vermin’s-eye view of the restaurant in Pixar’s Ratatouille, will debut as a part of the celebration. Extra sights, together with an modern TRON curler coaster and indoor Guardians of the Galaxy-themed coaster, will open at a yet-to-be decided time sooner or later, whereas Epcot’s forthcoming nighttime present, Harmonious, is ready to debut in late 2021 as properly.
E-book all the things as early as doable, particularly park and eating reservations. For assistance on deciding the place to eat, we advocate our listing of essential eats at Walt Disney World.
Put on a great masks. Not only one that meets Disney standards, however one that may survive hours within the brutal Florida solar. (Talking of, pack extras to swap out noon.)
Keep attuned to Disney information. It could be simpler than ever to roll as much as the Mouse Home with out stable plans, however issues are altering weekly. Make sure to verify Walt Disney World’s website for present procedures and availability and the Disney Food Blog for pertinent updates, and observe me @CarlyeWisel on Twitter and Instagram for need-to-know information (and scorching takes!) on all the things occurring at these parks.
Obtain the My Disney Expertise app. Walt Disney World has all eyes on cellular ordering nowadays, so that you’ll need it arrange upfront so you possibly can order meals as simply as doable on the bottom.