16 Important Details You Need to Know About the Disney World Phased Reopening

It’s hard to believe that Walt Disney World theme parks have been reopened for over a year and are still operating in a phased reopening. Many restaurants and resorts have yet to reopen, and Disney continues to alter its operations and requirements for guests as we live in this new COVID era. Even with the changes we’ve seen, the fundamentals of a Disney theme park experience remain the same. The magic is there, and it still can be a very enjoyable experience. Here is everything you need to know about visiting Walt Disney World during the phased reopening.


1 – Resort Openings & Policies

It’s important to know that some of the resorts still have not reopened. However, all Walt Disney World resorts will have reopened by the end of the year. Here are the resorts with upcoming scheduled reopenings:

August 26, 2021 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

August 26, 2021 – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House

September 16, 2021 – Disney’s All-Star Music Resort

October 14, 2021 – Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside

October 28, 2021 – Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter

December 9, 2021 – Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort

For the latest information on resort openings, click here.

2 – Disney Park Pass Reservation System

Capacity is limited at Walt Disney World theme parks. While capacity limits have been steadily rising in mid-2021, Disney is still controlling capacity with the use of the Disney Park Pass reservation system. During the phased reopening, guests with a ticket or Annual Pass must use the Disney Park Pass system to make a reservation in advance for each park entry.

Once guests log in to their My Disney Experience accounts on Disneyworld.com and link their tickets, they have access to a calendar of available reservation dates for each theme park; multi-day tickets require a park reservation for each day of their tickets. Families and friends can link their tickets together and look to arrange theme park entries at the same time. Park reservations are limited in number and subject to availability.

Click here for our guide to making park reservations – how to use your MyDisney Account during the phased reopening of Disney World.

3 – Health and Safety Procedures

As guests and Disney cast members work together to promote the health and safety of everyone, the theme parks will feature new protocols during this phased reopening.

“Our deliberate and phased approach at Walt Disney World Resort emphasizes multiple layers of health and safety measures,” said Dr. Pamela Hymel, chief medical officer, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products. “We’re taking a multi-pronged approach to our reopening, after considering the guidance of various governmental authorities and health agencies, and recommendations from our team of health and safety experts. We’re also actively working with industry groups and research universities to discuss best practices.”

Cast members have gone through extensive new training to prepare for the theme parks’ reopening in this new environment. Cast members in the Incredi-Crew will wear brightly colored, easily identifiable attire and walk through the parks to explain the new procedures and answer any guest questions while encouraging everyone to follow these new health and safety measures.

4 – Face Coverings

The face-cover policy has changed a few times during the phased reopening. See below for the latest full policy as stated on the Walt Disney World website.

Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) while indoors and in Disney buses, monorail and Disney Skyliner, regardless of vaccination status. This includes upon entering and throughout all attractions. Face coverings remain optional for all Guests in outdoor common areas.

All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) should:

      • Be made with at least 2 layers of breathable material
      • Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
      • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
      • Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free

At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin, triangle bandanas and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.

Costume masks are not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with our existing rules.

Face coverings may have an integrated transparent plastic panel to aid in viewing the wearer’s mouth. These face coverings should:

      • Be a fabric face covering featuring a solid plastic panel containing no openings that is attached to the fabric on all sides using tight knit stitching
      • Meet all face covering requirements listed above

Face Coverings for All Guests (Ages 2 and Up)

Face Coverings Required Face Coverings Optional
Upon entering and throughout all attractions
All indoor theaters, including theater entrances
All transportation except ferry boats, including transportation entrances
All indoor locations, including restaurants, except when actively eating or drinking while stationary
Outdoor common areas
Pool decks

Please note, face coverings are not permitted while experiencing water slides or in the water.


5 – Transportation

Physical distancing measures have now been removed on Disney transportation. However, face coverings are still required on all Disney transportation. For those arriving in their own vehicles, auto plazas offer cashless payment. Finally, parking lot trams are also still not available at this time.

6 – Physical Distancing and Capacity Measures

A limited number of guests are able to visit each theme park each day, though capacity limits have been on the rise. Physical distancing safety measures have been removed throughout the parks and resorts. Guests will notice the parks are a lot busier than they were when they opened in summer 2020. However, the crowd levels are still not “normal.”

7 – Cashless Transactions

Guests are encouraged to use cashless options whenever possible, including MagicBands, debit cards, credit cards, Disney gift cards and mobile payment methods.

8 – Dining

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. All Guests may now make dining reservations up to 60 days in advance.

Do note that Mobile Order is basically required now to order at a quick-service restaurant. You’ll need the most up-to-date My Disney Experience app to order. Click here to learn more about Mobile Order.


9 – There are Still Reduced Park Hours

The park operating hours have been reduced from normal operating hours. Each park has different operating hours. Disney has adjusted park hours and added more hours when the resort at busier times. We’ve also seen Disney extend hours much more in summer 2021 as the crowd levels grow. Always check the My Disney Experience app or the Walt Disney World calendar on the website for up-to-date hours.

10 – Fireworks Are Back!

Everyone has missed the fireworks. Thankfully, ‘Happily Ever After’ at Magic Kingdom and ‘EPCOT Forever’ have returned and are showing nightly through the end of September. Over at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, guests can again see “Wonderful World of Animation.” There is no word on when “Fantasmic” or “Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular” will return.

Two new nighttime spectaculars are will help kick off the 50th-anniversary festivities. A new nighttime spectacular, “Disney Enchantment,” debuts October 1 at Magic Kingdom Park, and “Harmonious,” also debuts October 1 at EPCOT.

11 – No FastPass+ & No Extra Magic Hours

As a result of the COVID-19 impact, the FastPass+ service is suspended for the time being. This is largely the biggest complaint we hear from guests visiting Walt Disney World right now. People really miss FastPass+! Rumors are swirling that FastPass+ may not return, but at this point, those are just rumors. Disney has not made any announcement regarding FastPass+.

Also, please note, Extra Magic Hours have been suspended and Disney recently announced Extra Magic Hours will not return. Beginning in October 2021, Disney resort guests will have the benefit of early entry into parks. Resort guests will be allowed to enter 30 minutes early. This option will be available every day and at every park.

Click here to learn more about the Resort benefits that will be available to guests during the 50th Anniversary celebration, beginning October 1, 2021.

12 – Park Hopping Has Returned

Park hopping has returned to Walt Disney World. Guests who purchase a ticket or annual pass with Park Hopper benefits will be able to visit more than one park per day (with some new modifications). Learn more about modified park hopping at the link below.

Click here for more information on the modified Park Hopping process.

13 – Attractions, Entertainment, and Characters in the Park

Most attractions are open and you’ll find the characters at all of the parks (see the link below). Most live entertainment is still temporarily suspended. ‘A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King’ returned mid-May 2021, while it was recently announced that Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage, Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor, and Turtle Talk with Crush will return in August 2021.  We are hopeful that more live shows will return in the fall of 2021.

Click here for details on the character interactions you’ll find in the parks.


14 – Enchanting Extras–Events, Tours, Recreation, and Other Experiences Update

There are a lot of extra activities such as special events, tours, recreation, and more, like spa services, that will be impacted during the phased reopening.  Click here to learn what is available and what is not. 

15 – Annual Passholders

If you are a Disney annual passholder, you’ll want to be aware that visiting Walt Disney World will not be as easy as it used to be. Keep in mind in mind, park capacity is still limited—and may continue to be for a period of time, based on guidance from health experts to promote physical distancing. During this time, an annual pass will not guarantee park entry and annual passholders will be required to make an advance reservation to enter a park via the new Disney Park Pass system. If you have any questions, please contact V.I.PASSHOLDER Support at (407) 939-7277.

At this time new annual passes are not available for purchase.

16 – You’ll Need the My Disney Experience App

We always encourage guests to have the latest version of the My Disney Experience app for the Walt Disney World vacations. This app will be even more important during the phased reopening. You’ll want the app for online check-in at Disney Resorts so you can skip the Front Desk, for Mobile Order Service for dining, and for scannable codes at select restaurants to access the digital menu. If you do not have a credit card linked to your Magic Band, you will also want to consider Apple Pay or Google Pay for contactless payments. You’ll want to have that set up before your visit.

For a no obligation, FREE Quote on a Disney vacation package, please contact our travel partner Magical Vacation Planner at 407-442-0227 (407-442-0215 for Spanish). You can also request a FREE quote online by Clicking HERE.


Chad & Cindy Nykamp

After years of multiple Walt Disney World vacations, Cindy and Chad's dream of living in Orlando came true in 2010. After friends and family made them their go-to-people for Walt Disney World advice, Cindy and Chad launched DisneyLists.com in August 2015 to share their knowledge and love of Disney. Chad and Cindy have been Disney World Annual Passholders for years, DVC members, together have raced more than 70 runDisney races, and particularly love cruising on the Disney Cruise Line. Chad and Cindy also regularly represent DisneyLists.com at Walt Disney World media events. While attending these events, they get an insiders view of all the new things that have come to Walt Disney World. These experiences have helped them gain knowledge and expertise they happily pass on to their followers. They still can't believe how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity and will continue to share Disney with anyone who will listen!
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