We are toadally excited to hop back to Walt Disney World Resort! While the theme parks are reopening, with health and safety in mind and new procedures in place (which you can read more about below), a few special events have been canceled for summer and fall: H2O Glow Nights, Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. However, EPCOT Food & Wine Festival will run longer than ever this year, beginning July 15! To see the status of all of Disney World's hoppin' special events, hop over to our full post. If you're ready to hop back into the magic, you can now book Walt Disney World Resort hotels for 2020 and 2021! It's a great time to lock in savings for vacations if you're hopping back soon. More dates and hotels are being added, so if you don't see your dates, please check back! You can purchase Walt Disney World Resort theme park tickets for 2020 and 2021 too!
The big day has come and gone ... Walt Disney World Resort officially reopened its parks back in July! Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom reopened first July 11 in this phased reopening, followed by EPCOT and Disney's Hollywood Studios July 15. (The water parks, Disney's Blizzard Beach and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon, remain closed.) There are, of course, some changes Disney is making along with this reopening in order to maintain the health and safety of guests. While certain experiences are limited at the theme parks during this time, we still see pixie dust around every turn during our visits. Perhaps best of all, we've experienced minimal crowds and low wait times. Even though we had to say hello from afar, it felt soooo good to see Mickey, Minnie, the princesses and so many more Disney friends. The magic has returned!
Now, several months later, the crowds have gradually returned to Disney World. Lately, we've been seeing longer lines and higher wait times, especially over weekends. While rides may not be complete walk-ons anymore (as they often were upon reopening), the parks are still limiting capacity and continuing to enforce the health and safety measures such as mandatory masks, social distancing and temperature screenings.
Below, we'll hop into everything you need to know before you go, as well as tips to help you make the very most of your visit. Let's hop to it!
New Disney World Theme Park Reservation System, FastPass+ & Dining Reservations
As mentioned above, Disney is significantly limiting capacity in the earliest phases of reopening. To do this, it has implemented a new theme park reservation system that requires all guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance. Existing ticket holders and annual passholders are currently able to make reservation requests in phases ahead of those who don't have tickets. Find out more information about the Disney Park Pass System in our separate blog post.
As a result of accommodating physical distancing, restaurants and other experiences such as behind-the-scenes tours are limited in capacity. All existing dining reservations and experience bookings, including Disney dining plans included in packages, were initially canceled through the end of the year, but Disney has since reopened dining reservations. There has also been a shift from a 180-day booking window to a 60-day booking window moving forward.
The FastPass+ reservation service will be temporarily suspended to allow for extra space in queues to manage capacity and maintain physical distancing. Existing FastPass+ reservations have been automatically canceled, and future plans for FastPass+ will be shared later. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Hollywood Studios is the only ride to utilize a virtual queue. The ability to join a Boarding Group takes place at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. You may only make one pass per person each day. Extra Magic Hours have also been temporarily suspended.
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.
- Phased reopening: Disney Springs reopened May 20, while the Disney Resort hotels and Disney World theme parks reopened in stages.
- Physical distancing and capacity measures: Disney has implemented physical distancing and guest capacity guidelines based on guidance from health and government agencies. You'll see floor markings to maintain physical distancing in ride queues, restaurants and retail locations. Empty rows or seats separate parties on ride vehicles or shows.
- Cleanliness and sanitization: Disney has increased cleaning and disinfection measures. We saw cast members sanitizing the ride vehicles, tables and other high-touch surfaces frequently. Hand sanitizer dispensers and hand-washing stations are located throughout the park.
- Cast training: Disney is providing new training and reinforcement to emphasize a strong culture of health and safety among its cast members. At Disney Springs and inside the parks, there are dedicated cast members who walk around to help answer questions about new policies and gently remind guests to mind floor markers and guidelines in place.
- Face coverings: Face coverings must be worn by guests ages 2 and older, as well as cast members, at all times, except for dining, swimming and designated mask relaxation areas. (If actively eating or drinking, you should remain stationary.) All face coverings must be made with at least two layers of breathable materials, fully cover the nose and mouth and be secured by ear loops or head ties. Neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings. There are no exceptions or alternatives for people with medical reasons.
- Temperature screenings: Guests and cast members are required to undergo temperature screenings. Anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 Fahrenheit or above will be directed to an additional location for rescreening and assistance. If a second screening reads a 100.4 (or above) Fahrenheit temperature, the individual and their party will not be allowed entry.
- Additional barriers: Plexiglass in ride queues and vehicles, retail and dining locations protect guests and employees where physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Contactless payment: Payment through Magic Bands, Apple Pay and Google Pay are available at restaurants and retail shops. Mobile ordering at restaurants has been expanded and is highly encouraged or required.
- Crowd-inducing experiences: Parades, fireworks, 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.
Rides have modifications, such as ride vehicle barriers between parties, as seen above on the Jungle Cruise. Likewise, the "Stretching Room" in Haunted Mansion won't be available as a pre-show to promote social distancing (which means you'll need to recite the spiel in your best Ghost Host voice in the queue — "there's no turning back now!"). As you take a wild ride through the savanna, dividers between rows protect separate parties on the jeeps of Kilimanjaro Safaris. These are just a few examples! Each ride varies with its own safety measures.
Even though parades, fireworks 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 processions along the World Showcase promenade and motorcades along Hollywood Boulevard, each theme park has special opportunities to see your favorite Disney pals throughout the day. Even though we can't hug them, we love the new character experiences, such as Merida riding Angus and Cinderella's evil stepsisters jeering at guests from the balcony of Cinderella Castle.
If you want to check if your favorite ride will be open, here's a full list of available attractions and experiences that will be offered during the initial reopening phase. 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:
Mask Relaxation Areas
Wearing a mask to the grocery store is obviously not the same as wearing one at a theme park for an entire day. That's why there are mask relaxation areas! Each park has two to three specific locations where you can take off your face covering and rest for a bit. While the relaxation areas technically have a time limit of 30 minutes, cast members monitoring these areas said most people do not stay for that long. There is a mix of indoor locations and covered outdoor spots. Here's a list of these relaxation areas:
- Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland Terrace, Pete's Silly Sideshow (Storybook Circus) and Golden Oak Outpost (between Adventureland and Frontierland)
- Animal Kingdom: Pizzafari and Upcountry Landing (across from UP! A Great Bird Adventure theater)
- Hollywood Studios: Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge (near Rise of the Resistance) and Star Wars Launch Bay
- EPCOT: Yorkshire County Fish Shoppe (UK), Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway) and Future World (near Test Track and Mission: SPACE)
- To help with keeping cool, we've noticed multiple groups of fellow frogs wearing neck fans. One group recommended wearing them as they give some relief while simultaneously wearing face masks, and advised us that you can easily find them on Amazon.
- 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!
- It should go without saying, but wash or sanitize your hands frequently! The hand sanitizer dispensers and hand washing stations are available throughout each park. You can always bring your own bottle for extra backup.
- 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!
- Arrive and leave later for the lowest amount of crowds, as it seems like there are more frogs hopping around in the morning and early afternoon.
- 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 or get caught in the rain. There are face coverings available for purchase at the parks as well. Pack a small plastic baggie for each used mask, if it's reusable.
- If you forget or don't bring an approved face covering, there are vending machines available with disposable masks for $2 each.
- Take your time and drink lots of water! Without FastPass+, you'll find that you won't have to rush from one ride to the next, so it's OK to slow your roll. 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.
Reopening of Disney World Resort Hotels and Lodging
Disney Vacation Club resorts at Walt Disney World and Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground began to reopen June 22. Disney Vacation Club resorts at Vero Beach, Fla., and Hilton Head, S.C., reopened to members and guests June 15. Walt Disney World Resort hotels that opened June 22 included:
- 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 Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas
- 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 Villas & Bungalows
- Disney's Pop Century Resort
- Disney’s Riviera Resort
- Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort
- 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:
- Nov. 1: Disney's Art of Animation Resort
- Feb. 9. 2021: Disney's All-Star Movies Resort
- Summer 2021: Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
As the current health environment evolves, these dates are subject to change, and guests' reservations could still be modified to other Disney Resort hotels. Disney's Beach Club Resort and Disney's BoardWalk Inn previously shared reopening dates, but will remain closed until further notice at this time. Opening dates for the remaining Disney Resort hotels have not been scheduled yet at this time. 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!
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:
- You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing. Find a secluded spot off to the side instead of walking while eating or drinking.
- Seating areas, dining areas and pagers will be cleaned between guests.
- 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.
- Beverages and other items that were previously self-serve (such as condiments) will instead be served by cast members or come pre-packaged.
- 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 when the restaurant reopens (no physical menus will be available.)
- Character dining will not be offered during the initial reopening phase, with the exception of a modified Character Dining experience at Topolino's Terrace – Flavors of the Riviera and EPCOT's Garden Grill. Gradually, other character dining experiences have returned, including Chef Mickey's and Hollywood and Vine.
- Dinner shows will not be offered during the initial reopening.
- 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 will be 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 and the Disney Resort hotels or will be open upon the theme parks' reopening dates, check out our complete guide to dining at Disney World in 2020.
Disney Springs Now Open
While the rest of Walt Disney World Resort, including the theme parks and hotels, gears up for a magical reopening, Disney Springs has reopened to the public. Upon arrival, guests undergo temperature screenings, and all guests over the age of 2 are required to wear facial coverings. We've rounded up the details you need to know before you arrive, including a full list of all of the shops and restaurants that are currently available for you to enjoy.
As the parks reopen, 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 when the theme parks reopen. Be sure to check back later, as we will update this post as new information becomes available.