I Went to Walt Disney World on Reopening Day – Here's What It Was Like
Walt Disney World began their phased reopening of their four theme parks on July 11 with Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park opening their doors, after being closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a theme park journalist and major Disney fan, I had been preparing myself for weeks to go to the reopening of Magic Kingdom on reopening day. After reading, planning, and figuring out a personal safety plan, I was ready to visit the park, even if I was apprehensive about the changes in policy and if everyone would be following the new rules. Luckily for me and every other guest at Magic Kingdom on reopening day, Disney thought out most situations that could occur and how to avoid anything problematic. Keep reading for 13 things I experienced on reopening day at Magic Kingdom.
Everyone Was Wearing a Mask
Part of Disney’s new health and safety protocols is that guests and cast members must wear a mask at all times. While walking around Magic Kingdom on reopening day, I saw almost 100 percent compliance with this. If a guest was not wearing a mask or not wearing it correctly, Disney cast members were quick to walk up to them and remind them of the new policy.
Social-Distancing Markers Were Everywhere
The “please wait here” social-distancing markers were in queues for attractions, quick service dining locations, restrooms, and at entrances to merchandise locations. Once the party in front of you moved to the next line, you were able to move. This was helpful in maintaining a proper social distance from other people in tight areas.
Hand Washing and Sanitizing Stations Are Everywhere
Throughout Magic Kingdom and the other three Disney theme parks guests are going to encounter hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations. Hand-washing stations are usually in areas where a restroom is not close by. All stations are equipped with a foot press to turn on water, a soap dispenser, and paper towels.
The hand-sanitizer stations are mostly found near rides or stores. Each attraction has sanitizer dispensers at the entrance, before getting on the ride vehicle, and at the exit of each ride.
Each of these were convenient to use and made keeping your hands clean throughout the day even easier.
Most Lands Were Virtually Empty
Because of Magic Kingdom‘s limited capacity, the park felt empty in a lot of spaces. Main Street U.S.A. was by far the busiest section of the park I encountered, but even then maintaining social distance was not hard. Walking through Tomorrowland at lunchtime would normally be challenging due to crowds, but on reopening day, it was a virtual ghost town.
Some Major Stores Are Implementing a Virtual Queue
Major merchandise locations like The Emporium at Magic Kingdom are implementing a virtual queue system. Once the store reaches their maximum capacity, they will place a sign outside showing the way to enter the virtual queue. You will get a text message when it’s your turn to enter and shop.
Once inside, you can travel throughout the entire store for as long as you wish. Note that there are designated entrances and exits for each store at the theme parks to maintain social distance.
Table-Service Dining Has Changed
Table-service dining has changed slightly. The biggest change is the use of contactless menus in the form of QR codes that open the restaurant menu directly on your smart phone. All Disney restaurants are using this new system, including quick-service locations, where you’ll find the QR code on a sandwich board outside of the restaurant.
Disney Is Relying on Mobile Order Even More
If you choose to grab a snack, know that Disney is relying mainly on mobile order, which can be done through the My Disney Experience app. Even if you want to wait in line, cast members outside of the traditional queue are telling you mobile order is the best option right now. Mobile ordering allows you to not have to wait in a line to order your food, and it will be ready when you get to the restaurant. To use mobile order, you will need to have a credit card or Disney gift card attached to your Disney account.
Wait Times For Rides Were Low
Throughout Magic Kingdom on reopening day, wait times were well below what is normal for summer. The longest wait the entire day was for Splash Mountain topping out at 45 minutes, but only for a short time. The higher time was attributed to the time Disney is taking to sanitize each ride vehicle every two hours.
Popular rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, Space Mountain, and Pirates of the Caribbean were listed at a five-minute wait for most of the day. That five minutes was really just the walk from the entrance of the queue to getting to the load point of the attraction.
Disney Transportation Is Maintaining Social Distance
Each form of Disney transportation has their own social-distance requirements. I took three modes on opening day – a Disney bus, the monorail, and the Magic Kingdom ferry.
The Disney busses are only allowed to have six groups of people on each bus. The bus driver will assign each group a numbered section on the bus, with dividers separating each section and group.
The monorail from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom will only carry one group per section, and each monorail car is divided into two sections. A cast member at the loading area assigns you a number to stand on while you wait for the monorail to arrive.
The Magic Kingdom ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Center to Magic Kingdom has social-distance markers throughout. Each group of people had to stand on one of the markers for the entire ride to and from Magic Kingdom until the ferry was docked.
Character Cavalcades Made Their Way Through the Park
At random times throughout the day, character cavalcades made their way through Magic Kingdom along the standard parade route. Because these are untimed, people did not gather in large groups, so maintaining a social distance was pretty easy. You always knew when a group was coming because the music in the park changed to match the cavalcade. Some that I saw at Magic Kingdom included Mickey and pals, Fantasyland friends like Mary Poppins and Aladdin, Tinkerbell, Goofy and friends, and the Disney princesses.
Socially Distant Selfies Are Acceptable
While at Magic Kingdom on reopening day, I found Piglet from Winnie the Pooh out on the patio of the Crystal Palace restaurant waving and interacting at a distance with guests. After confirming with a cast member that it was acceptable, I snagged a socially distant selfie. These types of character interactions can be found at random times and random places around the park, so be sure to have your phone or camera ready.
There Are Spaces Where You Can Take Your Mask Off
Around Magic Kingdom, I found three “relaxation stations” where you can take your mask off and cool down for a few minutes. Each relaxation station has tables and chairs that you can sit at but only one is air-conditioned. You can only take your mask off if you are at a table. Once you get up, you must put it back on before moving.
The locations at Magic Kingdom are:
- Tomorrowland Terrace, outside in Tomorrowland
- Golden Oak Outpost, outside in Frontierland
- Pete’s Silly Sideshow, inside in Storybook Circus
Health and Security Screenings Are Simple
Before entering Magic Kingdom, or any Disney park, you’ll have your temperature checked. This process is contactless and simple. If your temperature reads over 100.4, you’ll be taken to a secondary location to have a new temperature screening done to be sure you’re safe to enter the park.
Disney’s new security screening allows guests to walk through a metal detector without taking things out of their bags, or without having a security guard put their hands inside your bags. The only things I was told to take out of my backpack were metal water bottles and umbrellas, which made the process efficient and quick.