The parks and resorts at Walt Disney World have officially been open for 1 year now, after their historic 4 month closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. What were the parks like then, and what are they like now?
For most of 2020, crowds were noticeably lower in the parks. October really started to pick up, and the parks have been filled since then. While it was nice to have the parks so quiet to begin with, there was a lack of “energy” to the atmosphere. These parks are made to be filled with people!
Not all of the Disney resorts were opened by July 11, 2020 when Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opened. Currently we are still waiting for several – All Star Music, All Star Sports, Port Orleans Riverside and French Quarter, Polynesian Village Resort, and Animal Kingdom Lodge. All of these have returning dates set, and will be open by the end of 2021.
What else are we still waiting on? Bibbity Bobbity Boutique in the Magic Kingdom, Grand Floridian Resort, and Disney Springs, spas and salons at the deluxe resorts, and street performers at the parks, Disney Springs, and Disney’s Boardwalk Inn. We’re also still waiting for shows like the Indiana Jones Stunt Show, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast Live, and Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios. Finding Nemo the Musical at Animal Kingdom, and several of the performers in Epcot.
The most notable change at Walt Disney World were the restaurants, both full and quick service. We are still waiting on reopening dates for several full service restaurants, while buffets have mostly been turned into “family style” service. Family style means you’re served a variety of foods on a platter to be shared, rather than going up to a buffet to serve yourself. This seems to work pretty well at the character meals that have returned. Now you don’t run into the danger of missing a character while you’re at the buffet.
Speaking of those character meals, most have returned as well, but in a different form. Characters will now walk through the restaurant stopping not at each table but in specific spots so that you can take their picture, or try an angle for a selfie style picture. The downside is that you’re not able to get pictures with your family and the character up close, but the upside is that this is a much shorter process so you see the characters several times during your meal.
And speaking of characters, the character meet and greets in the parks still have not returned. Characters can be seen in various cavalcades traveling throughout the park, or up on stages or other platforms. We’re still waiting to get that Mickey hug!
Back to the quick service restaurants, this is the one area where Disney has done the worst job. Most locations will only accept mobile orders. There is a register open for anyone having issues, or those who just don’t have a smartphone but everyone else is expected to place a mobile order. Mobile order is a great tool, except when everyone has to use it! Then it doesn’t save any time waiting for your food and Disney isn’t allowing anyone inside the restaurant until their mobile order is ready. This causes large groups of people to stand in front of the restaurant that you now have to work your way through when your order is ready.
Quick service dining at the resorts is just as bad, and you’ll get your food boxed up in to-go form rather than served on plates. This is still true one year later and I for one cannot wait for this to go back to normal!
Rainy night while waiting for the Happily Ever After Fireworks show. Click here to see the video from that evening!
On the plus side, many experiences we’ve been waiting for have returned, such as the Happily Ever After fireworks in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Forever in Epcot. Face covering requirements have loosened just in time for summer travel. And I think we can all say that the Disney magic is still very much alive. There’s nothing like it anywhere in the world!
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