Disney World Parks Reopening has happened, and I can say with all honesty that cast members have never been more happy to see guests. For many cast members, their roles at Disney are a passion, not just a paycheck, so don’t think for a minute they are being made to work just for the sake of opening. Now let’s talk about what you can expect if you visit the parks this year, or into next year for that matter.
2020 has been a strange ride so far and in normal fashion, Disney World has rolled with the punches.They have reopened their parks with many new protocols and safety enhancements in place. Let me also say this, I was not paid by Disney World to go, to cover the parks, or to speak about my trip. While I do have a good working relationship with them, this was all on my own, and all thoughts are just that, mine!
Disney World Parks Reopening
I had a business trip in Orlando during the time that Disney Parks were reopening. I was staying at a Disney Springs resort hotel, and had no plans to visit the parks. One, because I don’t have an AP, and two, because I didn’t know how comfortable I would be. Let’s face it, Disney guests aren’t always the best at listening to instructions (hey, that line on the ground is so you stay IN it during parades, not walk across the street) so I wasn’t sure I wanted to be around anything crazy and unorganized.
I wrestled with the idea of going to Animal Kingdom, and finally I decided on Tuesday morning we were going, that day. I literally bought tickets right before we drove over, and I NEVER do that. Usually my Magic Band is loaded and I am ready to go, that’s how skeptical I was. I wasn’t skeptical that Disney would get it wrong, it was that the guests would. My friend Janice, from An Open Suitcase, also eased my fears after reading her opening day experience at Magic Kingdom.
We’re Going to Animal Kingdom
I hadn’t been “home” since September 2019, that may be the longest I have gone without a visit to a Disney Park in years. I was ready to go back. I had no clue what would be waiting for me, other than what I had read online, I felt like I needed to see for myself what it was like, and I knew if I felt unsafe I could leave. I didn’t tell the kids we were going until I knew 100%, and to say they were excited was an understatement.
I arrived at the park 90 minutes after rope drop, and it was a ghost town. There were not droves of people lined up to get into the park, this eerie site made me realize how BIG of an impact this has made.
Safety begins in the parking lot, as cars are parked every other spot to ensure you are not on top of one another getting out of the car.
There are no trams currently running from the parking lots to the entrance, so you do have to walk. With park attendance so low, it’s really not that far at all from where you park. We were at the temperature check point in 5 minutes.
Before you enter the park you will have your temperature checked with no-touch screening and if you are below 100.4 degrees you can enter. You will also see very clear signage that masks are required to enter.
Once you are cleared for temperature screening you can move forward to the new security check-in area. They will no longer screen your bags manually, you pass through a scanner with your belongings in tact. This process gets a thumbs WAY UP from me, where has it been all these years!
The entire process from temp checks to security took all of five minutes at most. After these very flawless check points, we were home in Animal Kingdom!
Inside The Park
As you enter the park you will notice signs everywhere to stay 6 feet apart, wash your hands, and wear your mask. By the way friends, just because you are through security does not mean you can take the mask off. If you are anywhere in the park and not in a relaxation area or dining, you MUST wear your mask.
I felt very safe in the park, there are hand washing stations, hand sanitizer stations at all attractions entrances and exits, and markers in the queue for distancing. AND the guests were following the guidelines. I felt as if we were all of the same mindset, the parks were opened, so we can follow the rules for them!
While there are no official meet and greets with characters there is a fun parade of characters that comes down the Discovery River, dancing and waving. We were greeted by Donald and Pals as we crossed over the river towards the Tree of Life, a proper welcome home for sure.
The kids wanted to go straight to Flight of Passage, and with a posted 5 minute wait, who could argue. I noticed as we were walking that it’s not just queues that are marked, but spots where Photo pass is, snack carts and more.
I have to say, it’s not often if ever, that you see an empty park, we have done After Hours and it still was not this void of guests. I found myself seeing many things for the first time, so I guess you could say that’s an upside to all of this. Also, with no fast pass you can really enjoy the theme as you go through each queue because you aren’t bypassing half of it.
We did notice that attractions with a close queue area as you approach the loading zone, now have plexi -glass between them. You must leave your mask on for all attractions, ALL attractions. Disney is taking this enforcement so serious that they will not load any photos from attractions without a mask onto your Magic Bands. For the Kali River Rapids the big blasters are turned off, so you don’t get as wet and can keep your mask on. There is not a single reason to take your mask off, at all, on any attraction in Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom is ALWAYS a hot park, I swear it’s heated for ambiance or something, add in July humidity and it was a scorcher. However, the masks were tolerable. We took water breaks when needed, sat by the Discovery River and had lunch at Flame Tree and overall survived the 6 hours we visited.
If you do need a break from your mask, and a place to cool off you can head to a Relaxation Stations in the park. These are indoor/outdoor spaces where you can cool down a bit, have a snack and just rest from your mask. You will find one at Pizzafari, and another at Upcountry Landing in Asia. The tables are spread out and there is ample distancing both indoors and outside of each station.
There is ample dining available at Animal Kingdom, from table service at Tiffin’s or Yak and Yeti indoors, to quick service meals outside Flame Tree BBQ or Satulli Canteen. I also noticed a lot of beverage and snack carts selling drinks, and novelty ice creams. If you are ordering quick service you must do so via the Mobile Ordering on My Disney Experience. The whole process took me less than 10 minutes, and I walked over and had my order in hand within five minutes.
The tables are marked every other one for social distancing from other families, the condiments are in one location or given when requested. Disney has even gone as far as lifting ALL of the trash can lids so you don’t have to touch them when disposing of your trash. If there is a high touch surface, they have made a way to limit touching it.
Most importantly for my daughter, the Dole Whip stand was open in Harambe and she got her favorite snack! Also, please take notice, we are in Harambe at noon, in July, and there is nobody else with us! It was a strange sight.
Would I visit again?
Absolutely! Traveling may not be for everyone right now, and I understand that. I felt safe in the park, they have taken all necessary precautions and are enforcing them. The bottom line is that we need to try to get back to normal somehow, and for me going to Disney World is normal. I think Disney has really gone above and beyond in making a safe, and fun experience for their guests. For any negative review you may see, remember there are 10 positive. Here is a good Know Before You Go guide.
Disney World Parks Reopening is a good thing, it is forward progress from the Spring where we were unsure of so much. If you aren’t comfortable traveling, that’s ok. But if you are I can assure you that Walt Disney World Reopening has been done right!