Getting Back to the Magic in WDW

Character Cavalcade in front of the freshly painted castle in Magic Kingdom

I had the pleasure of attending the official reopening day of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, and I suspect as many other guests, I was experiencing both excitement and trepidation about what a day in the parks might look like now and how safe I would feel. While I will not pretend to be qualified to tell anyone whether or not the time is right for them to venture in, I’m going to walk you through our day and our personal experiences and hope that it helps you to decide for yourself.

Living locally, we are accustomed to the current state of the pandemic in central Florida, which we take very seriously. We, as a family, would only make the choice to be out for essential reasons, or to visit places we deem to be taking the highest levels of safety precautions. Having visited Disney Springs on opening day and the weeks following, I was already aware of many steps Disney has taken to keep guests safe in shops and dining locations – such as temperature screenings, propping open trash cans, and increasing cleaning practices in high touch areas -, and felt good about those. Of course, heading into the parks adds a whole other challenge with rides and entertainment, and just an overall much larger space, so we packed our sanitizer, masked up, and optimistically boarded the monorail for the first time in over 4 months.

Temperature and security screening areas

The monorail was technically the first ride of the day, and while the boarding process is definitely different from pre-covid times, I wouldn’t mind at all if they stayed like this foreeever! A cast member directs you to a numbered pad in front of the gates, where you stand and wait to board in that section. The first thing you notice upon stepping inside is that they have hanging dividers separating the two sections, but it gets better than that, don’t worry. They limit each monorail cabin now to no more than two parties, which means you are not only guaranteed a seat, but also don’t have anyone bumping into you with a stroller while you’re standing, nor do you have someone’s armpit in your face, and as a claustrophobic, I need this to be permanent thing.

The entrance process to get into the parks now is surprisingly quick. Bag check involves little to no touch now, since new scanners have been installed that can scan your bag as you walk through. A few exceptions can occur which may require security to need to take a hands-on look, but almost everyone I witnessed going through the scanners had no problems, including myself. Additionally, finger scanners are not currently being used at the ticket gate which keeps things flowing right along.

Entrance to Disney’s Magic Kingdom

I did catch wind that some guests experienced some anxiety due to crowding in some areas on the first day or two, but we didn’t witness this ourselves. While we did encounter a line at guest services, everyone at that time was observing the social distancing markers on the ground and it wasn’t a stressful experience for us. One tip I might toss out there to avoid crowds, is to head into the parks a little later, and extend your visit in turn until close. As a natural night owl, I was never a rope dropper anyway (I have been there for plenty a goodnight kiss though!), but now I have an excuse to sleep in – I’m just doing my part to keep lines low and put safety first.

Let me pause on the on the more clinical side of the day for a moment. If there is any concern about feeling the “magic”, all you really need to do is step on Main Street and look out to the castle. The music still plays. The sweet scent still wafts out from the bakery. And performers and characters can still be spotted in various cavalcades coming down the street. It is still magical. The biggest difference is that in those moments you are wearing a face mask and not struggling to see over rows of other people’s heads. Again, this is something I could get used to.

Character Cavalcade and Royal Princess Processional

If you can pry your eyes away from the newly painted castle, you will probably notice that sanitizing stations are available around every corner, in particular at the beginning and end of every ride, and in some areas you might spot one of the portable hand washing stations.

Pretty much anywhere a line might form for any reason, there are distance markers on the ground. Social distancing is in place on all rides, and in some cases, you might even have a ride all to yourself.

Haunted Mansion Queue with Social Distancing Markers

I was one of only a few parties on Dumbo, and when the ride stopped, the CM announced that if we wanted to ride again to just stay sitting… when does that ever happen??

Nearly Alone on Dumbo

For rides where you might be in somewhat close proximity to other parties, you will notice plastic partitions on both the rides , and in the queue. This was the case, for instance, on the Jungle Cruise, where parties were separated by distance, as well as partitions. I’m not saying that sitting knee to knee with strangers on a 20 minute boat ride isn’t my idea of fun, but I’m just saying that not sitting knee to knee with a stranger is. So again, covid or no covid, I’m on board (I just made sort of a Jungle Cruisey pun!).

Jungle Cruise Seating Signs and Dividers

There are a couple of drawbacks to visiting now, versus, say any other time than the black hole that is 2020. To avoid crowding, fireworks and parades are suspended for the time being, and character meet and greets are, as well. As shown above, the characters do pop up in cavalcades, but also show up in other really fun ways around the parks. You might just spot (or be yelled at by) Anastasia and Drizella from the castle balcony!

Anastasia and Drizella Interact with Guests from Above

Now, when hunger takes over, this is when things get a little hairy, mostly because there just aren’t really that many restaurants open yet. Yes, there are plenty for the amount of people who are in the park, but you may find that you aren’t super close to one of them when you start feeling hangry. Also, if you’re anything like me, you might have more specific tastes, and find that your preferred fare isn’t available. As a 98% pescatarian, I had my heart set on Harbor House, but my inner Eeyore was released for a brief moment when I discovered it wasn’t open. I ended up having to “settle” (a term I use loosely, since I’d probably happily eat kale if it was served on Disney property, after not being there for 4 months) and make that 2% exception and dine on chicken nuggets at Cosmic Ray’s. It was still a tasty meal, but just know to plan ahead a little for dining options when you visit, so you aren’t surprised if your favorite isn’t open.

Lunch at Cosmic Ray’s

Speaking of ordering, Disney is managing quick service dining crowds by requiring everyone to mobile order now. CM’s are available to help you through the process, if you’re unfamiliar . You can still customize your meal, and it is a simple process. Once your meal is ready, you get a notification, which you then show at the restaurant entrance, and they will allow you in. You go the window number you were given to pick up your food, and then you can freely choose from the carefully spaced out tables to sit and eat. Different, but again, not difficult.

A Cast Member in front of Pinocchio’s Village

There is a lot to be considered when deciding when the time is right for you to visit WDW again. Certainly, at a minimum you need to be willing to follow all rules in place, such as wearing a mask and being cognizant of social distancing, and beyond that you need to seriously consider your own health needs. Overall, we honestly felt safe the entire day. While no one can fully eliminate the risk entirely, if there is any place where I feel that there is very little left that could be done to make it safer, Disney World is that place. We have three park reservations coming up in August, and having seen the safety measures firsthand now, I, personally, have no concerns about keeping those reservations. I will keep my fingers crossed that the low crowds and wait times persevere, because let’s not pretend like that isn’t another huge perk.

What are your thoughts on visiting the Disney parks? Leave me a comment and let me know, and of course, don’t forget to share and Pin this post!

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