Walt Disney World Resort officially reopened its parks in July 2020, and it has been steadily hopping back to life ever since! While certain experiences may still be limited during this time, the theme parks are returning to normal operations. In addition to character pop-ups and cavalcades, some modified experiences are slowly beginning to return, including character dining, live entertainment and FIREWORKS! This year, we also have Disney World's 50th Anniversary, an 18-month celebration!
We are so hoppy to say that character meet-and-greets (though still distanced) are returning to Disney World! Starting in November, you'll be able to have an individual interaction and take a photo with your favorite character in their normal location. At Magic Kingdom, princesses will return to Princess Fairytale Hall and Mickey will return to Town Square Theater, now in his new EARidescent outfit! At Hollywood Studios, meet Minnie at Red Carpet Dreams and Disney Junior characters in Animation Courtyard. We can't wait to pose for a photo with the characters!
Other live entertainment performers are returning throughout the resort, such as the Tam Tam Drummers in Animal Kingdom and Sergio the juggler in EPCOT. For shows, the new nighttime spectaculars, Disney Enchantment and Harmonius, have debuted as of Oct. 1. "Disney Move Magic," the projection show at Hollywood Studios, returns Nov. 7, along with the popular Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular on Dec. 19. Entertainment is what really sets Disney World apart and we are so exciting for more entertainers to return!
Starting Oct. 19, Disney will be introducing the brand-new Disney Genie service to the My Disney Experience app. This free digital service will guide you through the theme parks (as your own personal genie), with tips that will help maximize your time and a personalized itinerary based on your interests. You can upgrade to the Disney Genie+ service, which will allow you to select priority access through new Lightning Lane entrances to save time in lines for attractions. We hop into more details below! And yes, this means the FastPass+ service will officially be retired.
Below, we'll hop into current Disney World procedures and safety measures, plus tips to help you make the very most of your visit. Let's hop to it!
New Disney World Reservation System | Disney Safety Measures | Disney World Theme Parks | Disney World Water Parks | Disney World Hotels | Disney World Dining | Disney Springs | Status of Major U.S. Theme Parks
Disney World Theme Park Reservation System, Park Hopping, Disney Genie Service & Dining Reservations
In order to better manage capacity, Disney World has implemented a new theme park reservation system that requires all guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance (the only exception right now is Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, which does not require a reservation to attend). Theme park tickets are required to make reservations, so make sure you buy your tickets right away! Find out more information about the Disney Park Pass reservation system in our separate blog post.
For Disney World's initial reopening phase, guests were only able to visit one park per day — no park hopping was allowed. But as of Jan. 1, 2021, the Park Hopper option has returned with some slight modifications. Guests with passes or tickets that include the Park Hopper option must make a Disney Park Pass reservation for the first park they plan to visit and enter that first park prior to visiting another. Additionally, there are specific Park Hopper hours — Park Hopper hours begin at 2 p.m. each day and end at the park’s scheduled close time, and entry is still subject to capacity limits (though to date, capacity limits have not interfered with guests' ability to hop). Be sure to check DisneyWorld.com/ParkHours and the My Disney Experience app for the most up-to-date Park Hopper hours, as they could start earlier at a later date, depending on the day and park. Since park hopping has returned, park availability has been open and accessible. For more details about park hopping policies, check out our separate guide.
Many restaurants and special experiences remain closed, but more steadily continue to reopen. There has also been a shift from a 180-day booking window to a 60-day booking window for reservations moving forward.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Disney's Hollywood Studios will pause the use of a virtual queue starting Sept. 23. The attraction will then utilize a traditional standby queue (as well as offer paid Lightning Lane access through Disney Genie once the service is available).
Move over, FastPass+ — Disney Genie will be at your service starting Oct. 19! Disney Genie is a free planning tool inside the My Disney Experience app. You'll have a personalized itinerary based on your interests that updates throughout the day, and it will display current AND forecasted wait times to help you predict quicker entry to rides.
You can upgrade to the Disney Genie+ service for $15 per ticket per day to choose available times to skip the line for a variety of rides and experiences using the Lightning Lane entrance. You can make one selection at a time throughout the day.
Select in-demand rides, such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, will offer individual Lightning Lane access that is not included with the Genie+ service. Pricing will vary by date, attraction and park, and you can only make two purchases each day. A free virtual queue will continue to be used at Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, and standby will still remain available at other attractions not utilizing a virtual queue.
Extra Magic Hours will not be returning, but in its place, Disney will be introducing the Early Theme Park Entry benefit later beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Instead of having early access for a full hour at one theme park, Disney Resort hotel guests and guests of other select hotels will have 30-minute early entry to any theme park, every day. Guests will need valid admission and a Disney Park Pass reservation.
Walt Disney World Resort Safety Measures
Disney World theme parks, hotels, restaurants, attractions, services and other experiences may be modified, limited in capacity and subject to limited availability or even closure. Disney has implemented the following safety measures based on the guidance of government officials and health advisers:
- Cleanliness and sanitization: Disney has increased cleaning and disinfection measures, and will continue to hold this standard. While regular cleaning has been reduced in frequency since first reopening in 2020, the hand sanitizers remain. Note that finger scanning at the touchpoints has returned.
- Cast training: Disney provided new training and reinforcement to emphasize a strong culture of health and safety among its cast members.
- Face coverings: The mask policy is ever-changing, based on current health guidelines. See our separate post for more details!
- Contactless payment: Payment through MagicBands, Apple Pay and Google Pay is available at restaurants and retail shops. Mobile ordering at restaurants has been expanded and is highly encouraged or required.
- Crowd-inducing experiences: Full-length parades, character meet-and-greets and other events that create crowds or high-touch experiences are temporarily suspended.
A New Experience at the Disney World Theme Parks
Most attractions are available at each theme park. At Magic Kingdom Park, popular rides including Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Space Mountain and Peter's Pan Flight are ready to take your frog family on fun adventures. Experience the magic of nature on Kilimanjaro Safaris, Expedition Everest - Legend of the Forbidden Mountain and Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney's Animal Kingdom. Travel to a galaxy far, far away on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, or become part of the cartoon world on Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Over at EPCOT, Spaceship Earth is available as its refurbishment plans are temporarily on hold, along with other favorites such as Test Track and Soarin' Around the World. Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is now open with a virtual queue.
The newest nighttime spectaculars have arrived with Disney Enchantment at Magic Kingdom and Harmonius at EPCOT. Wonderful World of Animation is available at Disney's Hollywood Studios, along with Disney Movie Magic starting Nov. 7. Animal Kingdom has a new daytime entertainment, Disney KiteTails.
Even though parades and individual character greetings aren't immediately available, there are still chances to see familiar faces!
From special cavalcades down the Magic Kingdom parade route and friends cruising down Discovery River, to motorcades along Hollywood Boulevard and characters popping up throughout World Showcase, each theme park has special opportunities to see your favorite Disney pals throughout the day. Even though we can't hug them just yet, we love the new character experiences, such as Merida riding Angus at Magic Kingdom and Chip 'n' Dale picnicking at Hollywood Studios.
Soon you'll be able to have a proper character meet-and-greet! (though still distanced). At Magic Kingdom, princesses will return to Princess Fairytale Hall and Mickey will return to Town Square Theater, now in his new EARidescent outfit! At Hollywood Studios, meet Minnie at Red Carpet Dreams and Disney Junior characters in Animation Courtyard. We can't wait to pose for a photo with the characters!
If you want to check if your favorite ride will be open, here's a full list of available attractions and experiences that are open. We also have detailed guides for each park, so you know exactly where to find the best spots for character viewing and adjustments to our park plans:
- As long as you have a Park Pass reservation and valid admission, you may leave and re-enter the park that you're visiting for the day. So if you want to head back to the hotel midday for a break, that's toadally fine!
- Have your own disinfectant wipes ready if you plan to go on any rides that have high-touch features, such as the pull-string cannons on Toy Story Mania! Hand sanitizers are available at the end of most rides.
- Bring multiple masks for each member of your frog squad. Trust us, a fresh mask during the middle of the day is a must-have. An extra face covering would also come in handy if you hoppen to lose a mask on a ride. Pack a small plastic baggie for each used mask, if it's reusable.
- If you froget or don't bring an approved face covering, there are vending machines available with disposable masks for $2 each outside of each park.
- Take your time and drink lots of water! From our experience, we tend to get extra thirsty while wearing our masks, so we make sure to stop for water frequently.
- Be flexible! Disney is adapting every day and the rules may change due to the fluidity of the current health situation. Be nice to the cast members who are trying their best to maintain a safe environment for everyone at the parks.
Disney World Water Park Updates
Nearly an entire year after being closed, Disney's Blizzard Beach reopened March 7, 2021! Disney's Typhoon Lagoon remains closed until further notice. For the most part, you'll find similar health and safety measures as you go across the resort. Mobile ordering is required at a few dining locations to keep contact to a minimum.
Reopening of Disney World Resort Hotels and Lodging
Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground reopened June 22, 2020. Disney Vacation Club resorts at Vero Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head, S.C., reopened to members and guests in June 2020.
Walt Disney World Resort hotels that are currently open include:
- Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
- Disney's All-Star Music Resort
- Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Disney's Animal Kingdom Villas — Jambo House and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney's Art of Animation Resort
- Disney's Beach Club Resort
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- Disney's BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s BoardWalk Villas
- Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort
- Disney's Contemporary Resort
- Disney's Coronado Springs Resort
- Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Old Key West Resort
- Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Disney's Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- Disney's Wilderness Lodge
- Disney's Yacht Club Resort
- The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
Disney has also announced that the following hotels will open on these specified dates and are currently accepting reservations:
- Oct. 14, 2021: Disney's Port Orleans Resort - Riverside
- Oct. 28, 2021: Disney's Port Orleans Resort - French Quarter
- TBD: Disney's All-Star Sports Resort
These dates are subject to change, and guests' reservations could still be modified to other Disney Resort hotels. If you booked your hotel stay with Undercover Tourist and your arrival dates are impacted by the resort's phased reopening, please contact us by phone at 1 (800) 846-1302 or by email at Info (at) UndercoverTourist.com — we're hoppy to help!
Starting Jan. 1, 2022, Disney's Magical Express service for airport transportation will no longer be offered. For the remainder of 2021, the service will operate for new and existing reservations made at Disney Resort hotels.
If you're staying at a Disney Resort hotel, you can find additional details about the health and safety measures in place, as well as changes to housekeeping, transportation, parking and hotel services, amenities and recreational activities, in our separate guide about Disney Resort hotels.
Disney Dining Updates
In addition to the booking window shifting to 60 days for Advance Dining Reservations, there are a few other updates guests can expect when it comes to Disney dining. Around the resort, dining experiences are undergoing some changes to ensure the health and safety of guests and cast members during this initial reopening phase. These updates include:
- Menus will be shared in ways to minimize contact. At quick-service restaurants, menus will be displayed on signage. And at table-service restaurants, you can scan a code with your mobile device to access the digital menu.
- At this time, it is recommended all guests use cashless payment options, including debit cards, credit cards and Disney Gift Cards. Guests can also opt for contactless payment options — such as mobile wallets — or use cash to purchase a Disney Gift Card at Guest Relations and select merchandise locations. Disney Resort hotel guests can also use MagicBands to charge their purchase to their Disney Resort hotel folio.
- Menu items may vary. For specific menu information, check the restaurant’s online menu, often found through My Disney Experience (physical menus may not be available).
- Character dining has gradually returned with modified experiences, including Topolino's Terrace - Flavors of the Riviera, Garden Grill, Tusker House, Chef Mickey's and Minnie's Seasonal Dine and Disney Junior Play 'n Dine at Hollywood & Vine.
- Dinner shows are currently unavailable.
- You can view Walk-Up availability for select table-service restaurants in My Disney Experience. Some table-service restaurants even use mobile ordering for pick-up orders.
- Dining locations will be limited in capacity. Some locations will remain temporarily closed.
- Private dining and in-room delivery will not be offered during the initial reopening window.
- Mobile order service will be offered at select quick-service dining locations throughout the Walt Disney World theme parks (when open), Disney Springs and select Disney Resort hotels.
- Mobile Check-In is available for table-service dining via My Disney Experience.
Find more information and a list of all dining locations that are currently available at Disney Springs, the Disney Resort hotels and theme parks, check out our complete guide to dining at Disney World.
Disney Springs Updates
Upon arrival at Disney Springs, guests undergo security screenings. We have a separate post with details you need to know about visiting Disney Springs now, including a full list of all of the shops and restaurants that are currently open for you to enjoy.
As the Walt Disney World Resort continues to increase capacity, rules and policies may change due to the fluid situation, but rest assured, your favorite frogs will keep you updated! We hope this guide helps you prepare for your visit to Disney World and gives you an idea of what to expect. Be sure to check back later, as we will update this post as new information becomes available.