After being closed for nearly four months, Walt Disney World theme parks have reopened. We were able to attend the annual passholder preview at Magic Kingdom on July 9. It was strange in some ways to be back in the parks, but we wanted to be able to give you a first-hand account of what to expect if you choose to visit during this time. While a day in Magic Kingdom is different that I’ve known in the past, it was still a day full of attractions, characters, and Disney magic. A visit to the theme parks may not be for everyone right now, but for some, it can be a great time to experience Walt Disney World. In this article, I’ll be focusing on visiting Magic Kingdom and what you can expect. Learn more below.
1 – Arriving & Health Screening Prior to Entry
All guests are required to undergo temperature screenings prior to entering a theme park. Based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be directed to an additional location for rescreening and assistance. Those who again measure 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will not be allowed entry, nor will those in their party.
For Magic Kingdom, the screening will take place at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) if you arrive by your own vehicle or at Magic Kingdom if you arrive by bus. Note that if you park at the TTC, tram service is not available. You’ll need to walk to the front.
2 – Getting to Magic Kingdom from the Transportation and Ticket Center
When traveling to Magic Kingdom from the TTC, you usually have two options available: the monorail and the ferryboat. We rode the monorail to get a sense of how long it would take. Right now each monorail car is limited to 4 groups in each car, two on each side, separated with a screen. All guests must sit. No standing is allowed. You can imagine that the monorail will take longer because so many fewer guests can fit in at one time. The ferryboat also has physical distancing measures in place, but because of its size, the boats can hold more people. On the morning we visted, Cast Members were letting us know that we could take a bus from the TTC to Magic Kingdom. This may also be an option for you.
3 – Health & Safety Measures
One of the biggest differences you’ll notice when visiting the theme parks since the COVID-19 global pandemic hit is Disney’s commitment and approach to health and safety. Health and safety reminder signs are everywhere. You’ll find hand-sanitizers and hand-washing stations all over the park. On the ground, you’ll see markers telling you where to stand to ensure physical distancing. Ride vehicles are filled to half-capacity where groups are separated by rows. Cast Members also leave empty ride vehicles in between ones that are filled with guests. Some attraction queues have plastic screens in some areas where physical distancing is not practical (we saw this at Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain). High-traffic areas receive increased cleaning. At the Haunted Mansion, you’ll walk through the stretching room, instead of crowding in with a large group of people. We saw several Cast Members throughout the day cleaning benches, tables, and other areas frequented by guests. Bottom line, Disney is doing what they can to provide a safe environment for their guests. While Disney cannot eliminate all risk of coronavirus, they have stepped up. Visiting during this time is a personal decision that only you can make for your family.
4 – Remember You Need a Park Reservation
To promote physical distancing, capacity is limited as guests return to Walt Disney World theme parks. Guests with a ticket or Annual Pass must use the new Disney Park Pass system to make a reservation in advance for each park entry. Same-day or even same week reservations are unlikely, especially if you are an annual passholder. You’ll need to plan ahead and get your park reservation as early as possible.
5 – Reduced Hours, No FastPass+, and No Extra Magic Hours
When considering visiting during the phased reopening you need to be aware that a visit like you may be used to is not available at this time. The park will operate with reduced hours. If you check the park hours for July you’ll notice Magic Kingdom has the hours of 9:00 am -7:00 pm. Usually, in the height of summer, the park opens early and stays open late until 11:00 pm or even midnight. You won’t be able to enjoy late summer nights this year. Also, there is no Extra Magic Hours for Disney resort guests. Finally, there FastPass+ is temporarily suspended. We’re happy to report that with the reduced capacity of the park, FastPass+ isn’t needed and we didn’t miss it at all.
Also take note that before the closure, Magic Kingdom would open Main Street USA about an hour early for shopping and dining. That is not the case during the phased reopening. A Cast Member told us that officially the park opens at 9:00 am. They are really discouraging guests from arriving early. However, she did say that they will open early to avoid a large crowd from gathering.
6 – Face Coverings and Relaxation Stations
All guests 2 years of age and older, along with cast members, are required to wear an appropriate face covering while visiting the theme parks. They must be worn over the nose and mouth at all times, except when eating or drinking.
At Magic Kingdom there are three “Relaxation Stations” where guests can sit without their masks on. The tables are spaced well beyond normal social distancing proximity, and a Cast Member monitors the area to ensure that it is not overcrowded. We saw many people taking advantage of taking a break from their masks. Visiting Walt Disney World in July is seriously hot, and it was nice to have a space where you could take off your mask for a little bit.
Here are the locations in Magic Kingdom:
- Tomorrowland Terrace
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow (air-conditioned!)
- Golden Oak Outpost
During our preview, guests were wearing their masks and following the rules. If I saw someone without it, it was because they were eating or drinking on in a relaxation station. This was true for young kids as well. Kudos to the parents who worked hard ensuring their children kept their masks on!
7 – Characters
Seeing beloved Disney characters is one of the most magical moments of any Disney theme park experience. With traditional character greetings and parades on hiatus during this phased reopening, Disney characters appear in new and different ways throughout all four theme parks.
Here are the different characters that we saw throughout the day at Magic Kingdom:
- “The Royal Princess Processional” – Several times daily, favorite Disney princesses travel through the streets of Magic Kingdom. Princess Merida leads the way on her steed Angus, followed closely by a gazebo float and crystal castle carrying Cinderella, Tiana, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Rapunzel and others.
- “Mickey and Friends Cavalcade” – Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and their pals pop up throughout the day, inviting everyone to “Get Their Ears On” as they wave to guests along the park’s parade route.
- “Goofy Cavalcade” – With Goofy, Clarabelle Cow, Max, Panchito Pistoles, and Jose Cariocas.
- “Fantasyland Friends Cavalcade” – With Gaston, Pooh Bear, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, and Aladdin.
- “Friends of Pooh Bear” – With Rabbit, Piglet, and Eeyore.
- Tinker Bell & The Lost Treasure
- Cinderella’s Evil Stepsisters – From time to time, guests in Fantasyland may spot the dastardly Anastasia and Drizella and can interact with them from afar while they’re perched on a balcony of Cinderella Castle.
- You might also catch Jack Sparrow in Adventureland from time to time.
- Stitch was also spotted in Tomorrowland.
While I love hugging Mickey and getting a photo and certainly missed being able to do that, it was great to see the characters in this new way. There was a very steady flow of characters throughout the day. The cavalcades depart on a somewhat regular schedule of about every fifteen to twenty minutes or so. The cavalcades use the typical parade route by starting in Frontierland and ending in the front of the park I Main Street USA. You would need to avoid this area to miss seeing a character. The characters themselves were great and were interacted with the guests. While certainly not the same experience, Disney has done a good job of adapting and keeping up the character presence in the park.
8 – Open Attractions
Most attractions will be available at each park when they reopen. Magic Kingdom offers favorites, such as The Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain. Splash Mountain is also open allowing guests to experience the attraction in its original form before it closes down for refurbishment and is rethemed.
Here is the full list of available attractions:
- “it’s a small world”
- Astro Orbiter
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Country Bear Jamboree
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- Jungle Cruise
- Liberty Square Riverboat
- Mad Tea Party
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
- Space Mountain
- Splash Mountain
- Swiss Family Treehouse
- The Barnstormer
- The Hall of Presidents
- The Haunted Mansion
- The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Tom Sawyer Island
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover
- Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
- Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
- Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
9 – Attractions Experience
I’ve already mentioned the safety measures you’ll find in place in the attraction queues and the loading of the ride vehicles. You may be wondering about wait times because of this. Even with the reduced capacity of the ride vehicles, the wait times we experienced were very low. For most of them, we simply walked on. The app was reporting wait times anywhere from 5 min to 25 minutes. When you compare this with a typical summer day, the low wait times are amazing. On a typical July day at Magic Kingdom, it’s not unusual for the most popular attractions to have wait times over two hours and even up to three hours. While this was a preview, we expect similar wait times when the parks reopens to guests. Even if the capacity is a bit more, wait times of under 45 minutes is a fantastic benefit of visiting during the phased reopening. If you love the attractions and it is the main reason you visit, then you might want to consider a visit. You’ll be able to get so much done—so much more than “normal” summer day.
10 – Dining
New measures promoting health and well-being are being implemented at Walt Disney World theme park restaurants during their phased reopening. These include enhanced cleaning procedures in seating, dining, and common areas, as well as changes to self-serve options. In addition, mobile technology via the My Disney Experience app is being used in convenient ways to minimize contact, such as Mobile Order at select quick-service theme park locations and Mobile Dine Check-in at select theme park table-service locations, as well as reduced- contact menus at select theme park restaurants. Most quick-service locations were encouraging (basically requiring) guests to use the Mobile Order service. However, if you couldn’t use that service, they did have a cashier that was able to help you. I’ve been a big fan of the service and use it almost every time I am in the parks. With more people using it, I’m happy to report that the service was fast and easy. Also, even with the seating limitations in place to promote physical distancing, I didn’t have a problem getting a table when I was eating. The lower crowds have made it easier to dine as well.
Here is the list of open dining locations at Magic Kingdom:
- Aloha Isle
- Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies
- Be Our Guest Restaurant
- Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe
- Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
- Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen
- Liberty Square Market
- Liberty Tree Tavern
- Main Street Bakery
- Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn and Cafe
- Pinocchio Village Haus
- The Plaza Restaurant
- Sleepy Hollow
- Storybook Treats
- Sunshine Tree Terrace
- Tony’s Town Square Restaurant
11 – Different but Still Magical
Walt Disney World has always been a place where we can somewhat escape reality and enjoy a break from the real world. While the real-world pandemic has changed the way Walt Disney World operates, the magic of Disney is still there. Yes, things are different. As I shared, I missed hugging the characters that make me feel young at heart. I really, really missed Happily Ever After. I missed seeing Cinderella Castle all lit up because the park closed early at 7:00 pm. But there is enough of that typical Magic Kingdom experience that brought joy and a smile to my face. I got chills walking down Main Street USA and seeing the beautiful Cinderella Castle with her new paint job. I felt like a kid waving to Mickey and Pooh Bear. I loved the thrill of Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain. I was welcomed home by countless Cast Members who were working hard for guests to have a great time. I enjoyed many treats that I had been missing like a Dole Whip and a Mickey Sandwich. Visiting Magic Kingdom, even with all the limitations and changes, was still a very magical day. Different yes, but still magical.
I recognize that a visit right now may not be for everyone. We feel that if you’ve visited many times, especially if you are mostly there to enjoy the attractions, that this is a fantastic time to visit. Low wait times because of low crowds is a huge draw. However, if you’re planning your first visit, or that once in a lifetime visit, we recommend waiting until more things come back like character greetings and especially the fireworks.
12 – Summer Tips
We don’t know how long the phased reopening restrictions will be in place. If you are visiting in the next few hot summer months here are some tips for a more enjoyable experience.
- Bring extra face masks for your entire party. You’ll likely get sweaty or you may get caught in a rainstorm. Either way, it’s no fun wearing a damp mask all day long. Have extra ones on hand.
- Water fountains are still operating throughout the park. You’ll want to stay hydrated, so bring your own container to fill throughout the day.
- Many, but not all, quick-service locations will still give out free water. You simply need to ask a Cast Member where to go to get it.
13 – Holiday Events this Fall & Winter
Be aware that if you are planning a visit to Magic Kingdom this fall, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party has been canceled. Read Disney’s statement on the cancellation below:
While assessing another fall special event, Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party, we determined that many of its hallmarks – stage shows, parades and fireworks – are unable to take place in this new, unprecedented environment. With that in mind, we have made the difficult decision to cancel this year’s Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Additionally, Disney H2O Glow Nights, the nighttime special ticket event at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, will not take place for the remainder of 2020. Guests who have already bought tickets to these events will be assisted with refunds over the coming weeks.
No decision has been made about Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. Disney has stated they will continue to monitor the situation and make a decision in the future.
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