You’re no doubt aware that Disney World, along with Disney properties around the world, closed the gates to their Magic Kingdoms in March, in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Now we want to know, when is Disney World Reopening, and how will it be different? Disney officials are eager to welcome guests back to the parks, but want to be sure it’s done safely. Let’s find out how! (Note: There is a lot to unpack here. Consider using the Contents to skip to your area of interest.)
- 11 July 2020: Walt Disney World is open again! USA Today / Orlando Weekly columnist Seth Kubersky Tweeted his way through the day in the Magic Kingdom, embedded below.
- 08 July 2020: Updated guidance on face coverings under How Visiting Disney World is Changing.
- 24 June 2020: Disneyland delayed, Tokyo Disneyland & DisneySea moved up.
- 23 June 2020: Disneyland Paris reopening moves up; additional dining information; additional Disney World hotel reopenings announced; and Disney’s Hollywood Studios reaches capacity on Day One.
- 22 June 2020: Disney World Park Reservation system opens; additional details on temperature checks, Park Hopper options, and Rides, Attractions & Events.
- 20 June 2020 with additional details on dining reservations, Disneyland Hong Kong opens, and the NBA in WDW.
M-I-C… See ya real soon! (As in, July!)
K-E-Y… Why? Because we miss you!
The Plan for Disney World Reopening
In late May, Disney World submitted their plans to begin a measured re-opening of the Happiest Place on Earth, following the successful reopening of Shanghai Disney Resort, and Disney Springs in Orlando:
“Pending Orange County and state approval, our Walt Disney World Resort proposal plans for Magic Kingdom Park and Disney’s Animal Kingdom to begin a phased reopening to the general public on July 11, followed by EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15.” – Disney Parks Blog
Let’s repeat those dates:
- Magic Kingdom Park: 11 July
- Animal Kingdom Park: 11 July
- Epcot: 15 Jully
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 15 July
It will not be a return to normal, though. Among the proposed safety measures are limiting park capacity and a new reservations system for park entry. According to Disney CEO Bob Chapek, the parks will “continue to follow enhanced safety protocols based upon applicable guidance from health authorities and government agencies…”
You will notice there are no dates given for the waterparks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. Water parks pose very different problems, which have yet to be worked out. In addition to COVID-19 concerns, Typhoon Lagoon is also undergoing enhancements. There is no schedule posted for when we can expect either park to reopen.
Updated: How Visiting Disney World Is Changing
Here are the details we have learned so far:
- Cast members and all guests over age 2 will be required to wear face coverings, both in the parks and in common areas of resort hotels. (More details below.)
- Guests and Cast will be screened for temperature before entering a theme park. Any guest with a fever of 100.4 or higher will not be admitted to the park, and neither will their party. This is important to note; if anyone in your group is sick, it may prevent everyone from getting in.
- Cashless transactions are recommended.
- Cleaning and disinfection procedures will be increased in high-traffic areas.
- Rides, restaurants, and transportation (Monorail, buses, ferries) will limit seating for social distancing.
- Stores in the parks and in Disney Springs may lower capacity to enable social distancing.
- “High-touch” events, such as character Meet & Greets, Bippity Boppity Boutique makeovers, and playgrounds, are on hold.
- “Large gathering” attractions and events – like parades and nighttime spectaculars – will not return immediately.
- The popular Park Hopper option will not be an option when the parks reopen.
New: Around the country, the topic of face masks is widely debated. That debate is moot inside the gates of the Magic Kingdom. Disney has released this guidance for face coverings:
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least two 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
Further, neck gaiters and open-chin triangle bandanas are not acceptable face coverings in Disney World, following guidance from health authorities. Disney has hinted that, unlike at other theme parks, these rules will be enforced. They also note that face coverings are not an alternative to social distancing. Speaking of which…
Though not specifically mentioned, we expect social distancing guidance (such as floor markers) in queues for rides and attractions, as was seen in Shanghai.
Perhaps hardest of all, interactions with Disney characters will be socially distanced. Which makes us wonder: How you tell a toddler (or a teenager, or an adult!) that they can’t hug Mickey Mouse??? We may see Disney World reopening, but we will probably see a few tears along the way.
4:45 p.m: @skubersky bids farewell to Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Seth has had more than a full magical day of fun at the park.
— USA TODAY Travel (@usatodaytravel) July 11, 2020
Updated: Ticketing and Reservations
Anyone with tickets for Walt Disney World before the world went on lockdown, or with a resort reservation, as well as Annual Passholders, were able to reserve park entry times before any new tickets were sold. If you still have resort reservations in 2021, but now park reservations, you can call to make reservations now, as detailed below. Provided you still want to visit Walt Disney World this year (or next), new ticket sales are open again. See below for more details.
NEW: Disney Park Reservation System Opens
On 22 June, the new Park Reservation System opened for Walt Disney World. Initially, it is only available for guests with confirmed Disney hotel reservations and theme park tickets. Ticket and Passholders will be able to make reservations soon. According to Disney:
- Beginning 22 June 2020, Disney Resort and other select hotel Guests with valid theme park admission can make park reservations.
- Beginning 26 June 2020, Annual Passholders without a Resort stay can make park reservations.
- Beginning 28 June 2020, existing ticket holders can make park reservations.
- If you have a hotel reservation for 2021, but no theme park admission, you will need to call the Disney Reservation Center starting on 24 June 2020 to upgrade to a package that includes tickets, and then make your theme park reservations.
- By 28 June 2020, all Guests will be able to purchase new Disney Resort hotel packages and theme park tickets, and make their park reservations for arrivals starting in 2021.
- Later this summer, sales of 2020 tickets and Disney Resort hotel arrivals will resume, based on availability of park reservations.
When making a new reservation, or adding park admission to an existing hotel reservation, Guests will be able to see park reservation availability. This way, you won’t make a reservation only to find there are no admission times for that day. However, as of 22 June, when the system opened, it showed no available at any park through 26 September 2021. That should change within a few days.
Hollywood Studios Sells Out
If you were hoping to score reservations to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios (no doubt to live out your inner Rebel Force fantasies), you’re probably out of luck. On Day One, reservations for Hollywood Studios reached capacity, at least for the first few days after the parks open.
With the incredibly popular Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, and newly-opened Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, Hollywood Studios is the hot ticket at Disney World. It’s also the smallest of the parks, which means lower capacity for social distancing. If your Disney dates are still down the road, you may have better luck getting in, but be sure to make your reservations as early as possible to improve your ods.
No information yet on when reservations will open for Disneyland.
Updated: Rides, Attractions, and Events at Disney World
As we get closer to Disney World reopening, we’re learning more about what will and will not be happening in the parks.
Very few details about how the parks will operate have surfaced. Chief among them, though, is that the revolutionary FastPass+ system will be suspended in order to allow for queuing. This seems counter-intuitive; it seems to us that only offering FastPass would eliminate the lines altogether. As guests return to the parks, and Disney refines policies and procedures, ride queues are likely to be a focus point.
Extra Magic Hours & Social Distancing
Also on hold are the beloved Extra Magic Hours. One of the best perks of staying on site (at a premium versus nearby hotels) is the ability to get into the parks early, or stay late. No word on when that benefit might return.
While rides and restaurants will be open, there will be social distancing measures in place: Restaurant seating will be reduced by half, and rides will have empty seats to separate guests. One assumes families will be allowed to sit together, perhaps with empty rows between groups.
Attendance levels are a question yet to be answered, too. We know that entry into the parks will require reservations when they re-open, but there’s no word on how many reservations will be available each day. The larger Disney World parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom) can handle 80,000 daily visitors. The expectation is that, at least at first, attendance will be capped at less than half of that. (Shanghai Disneyland was limited by the government to one-third of capacity.)
NEW: Rides & Attractions
It appears that most of the major rides in the parks will be available when guests are welcomed back. From Avatar Flight of Passage in the Animal Kingdom, to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run in Hollywood Studios, to the Magic Kingdom’s Pirates of the Caribbean, classic rides new and old will be running. A complete list is available at the Walt Disney World website.
While parades and nighttime spectaculars are on hold, the Character Cavalcades (or Character Cruises in Animal Kingdom) will take place throughout the day at various times in each park. Some live entertainment will return also: the Main Street Philharmonic in the Magic Kingdom, and in Epcot, performances at the American Gardens Theatre.
Some of the most popular times to visit Walt Disney World are during annual events and festivals. Some will be back, some will not. What we know so far:
- Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will take place when Epcot opens in July.
- Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween at the Magic Kingdom has been cancelled for 2020. As that generally leads right into Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, we are watching for news on that event.
Updated: Dining Rooms & Dining Plans
When the parks were shut down in March, all existing dining plans and reservations for the entire year were cancelled. That raises the obvious question: Where are we going to eat?
We can relax, at least a little: Many of the dining venues in the parks and resorts will be open, and your Disney Dining Plan will still keep you well fed. The reservation system will be relaunched closer to reopening, but if you had reservations, you will need to rebook those times, if you can. When the system opens again, we can make reservations with a 60-day window before your visit, instead of the 180-day window we used to enjoy. We’ve already learned that guests arriving for the July 11 reopening at Walt Disney World can now make reservations by phone. As you might expect, hold times are reportedly very long.
New: As for changes to the dining rooms themselves, it’s expected that there will be some changes. The restaurant at the Grand Floridian, for example, now allows you to reserve your table in advance and bypass the hostess stand. Floor markers indicate one-way traffic in and out of the dining room. Additionally, paper menus are replaced by digital versions you can read on your smartphone.
Inside the Magic Kingdom, the popular restaurant Be Our Guest has dropped quick service meals, and is now table service only. That means sit down service will be available for lunch and dinner, but the restaurant will no longer serve breakfast.
Updated: Reopening Disneyland
This was the plan:
Exactly sixty-five years after the historic opening of Disneyland, the park gates will reopen on July 17, 2020! Plans still need state and local government approvals, but the tentative plan is for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks to reopen on 17 July, with Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel reopening on 23 July. Ahead of those dates, the Downtown Disney shopping and dining district will begin reopening on 9 July.
That changed when the State of California delayed issuing reopening protocols until after the 4th of July weekend. In a statement on Twitter, Disney Parks broke the news that the Disneyland Resort will not be opening in July as planned. Even worse, they don’t know yet when they will be able to reopen, because they don’t know when the State will release protocols, or what additional steps the company will have to take.
The Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, which represents a dozen Disneyland Resort unions, and Unite Here, another union representing hotel and hospitality workers, had asked California Governor Gavin Newsom to delay the reopening. The groups said they were not convinced that “it is safe to reopen the parks on Disney’s rapid timetable.” Disney has reported “positive discussions” and some signed agreements with the unions, according to USA Today.
The Downtown Disney District will still reopen as planned on 9 July. The shopping, dining, and entertainment complex was approved earlier under California’s reopening guidelines for restaurants and retail.
— Disney Parks News (@DisneyParksNews) June 25, 2020
When Disneyland reopens, it will have many of the same restrictions and changes as we expect to see at Disney World. Park capacity will be significantly limited using the same park reservation system. Similar to Disney World, ticket sales and Annual Passport sales are on pause, and reservations have been cancelled. Guests will need a new reservation in advance of entry.
Just like Disney World, all of the “large group” gatherings, such as parades and nighttime spectaculars, remain on hold. Those beloved but “high touch” character meet and greets will be paused, too. Rides will be limited, and guests will be reminded of social distancing guidelines, both by signage and trained cast members. Plus, masks will be required for most guests.
Updated: Disney Accommodations
When visiting Walt Disney World, we love the fun and convenience of staying “on property.” The fact that the reservation system has been paused, and there’s been very little information regarding which hotels will be open when, makes planning your Disney World or Disneyland getaway even harder.
Disney has announced that Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World will be available for Members and Guests starting 22 June. At that time, Disney also announced opening dates for select other Disney resorts and hotels, some of which do have Vacation Club sections. We noticed that Disney uses the phrase, “will begin opening,” which we take to mean that availability may be limited. Those opening dates are:
- Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel plan to reopen on 23 July.
- Disney World
- 22 June: Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World, and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- 29 July: Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort
- 12 August: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort
- 24 August: Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts
- 21 September: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- 1 October: Disney’s Boardwalk Resort
- 14 October:Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort
Disney Vacation Club properties at Walt Disney World include the Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Boulder Ridge and Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, the Animal Kingdom Villas (Jambo House and Kidani Village), Disney’s Beach Club and Boardwalk Villas, Disney’s Old Key West and Seratoga Springs Resorts, Disney’s Polynesian Villas and Bungalows, the Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, and the beautiful new Disney Riviera Resort.
You might notice many hotels not on that list. According to Disney:
“Given the current situation, there are some Disney Resort Hotels and other areas that are not, as of this time, being scheduled for reopening yet. We will continue to evaluate the situation and reopen more locations when the environment is right to do so.”
Given that parks will open with reduced capacity, it makes sense that not all of the on-property hotel rooms would be needed. Since most reservations were cancelled when Disney World closed in March, we expect the number of cancelled reservations also plays into the opening of additional properties.
Earlier, we tried to start a new reservation at the Port Orleans resort (for August 2020), and received a warning that hotel reservations are “currently unavailable.” Since then, Disney has announced that guests can begin making new hotel and park reservations starting 28 June.
The NBA at WDW
Making hotel reservations even harder to come by, the NBA has announced the 2020 season will resume with all games played at Disney World. Players and staff will all be housed on property, staying the Grand Floridian, Disney’s Yacht Club Resort, and the new Destino Tower at Coronado Springs.
We think this is kind of exciting, really. As basketball fans, this could present a great opportunity to run into some of our favorite players! We are (not so) secretly hoping that hosting NBA games – and other pro sports – at Disney World becomes a regular thing.
Games are scheduled to begin in “the bubble” at the end of July, but teams will begin arriving on 7 July. If you just happen to be in the area, this article lists which teams are staying where, with more information and schedules about the NBA in Walt Disney World. (We can’t help but notice our hometown boys – the Dallas Mavericks – are staying at the Grand Floridian, one of our favorite Disney resorts! So…we may see you there!)
Updated: Disney Around the World
You may be wandering about Disney’s other parks and properties, especially after Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May. While specifics are few and far between, it’s safe to assume we will see similar restrictions and measures at all parks. Here is the tentative schedule we’ve been able to assemble from various reports:
- Hong Kong Disneyland reopened on 18 June 2020
- Tokyo Disney Resort (Tokyo Disneyland & Tokyo DisneySea):
Second half of 20201 July 2020
- Disneyland Paris*:
September 202015 July 2020
*When Disneyland Paris begins its phased reopening, Disneyland Park and Walt Disney Studios Park will be open. Accommodations reopening at the Paris resort will include Disney Village, and Disney’s Newport Bay Club hotel.
Disney operates several resort properties, which have also been shuttered during the Coronavirus pandemic. While the company has not posted a comprehensive list, we do know…
- Disney Vacation Club properties in Vero Beach, Florida opened 15 June
- Disney Vacation Club properties in Hilton Head, South Carolina opened 15 June
- Disney’s Aulani Resort & Spa in Hawai’i remains closed; no reopening date has been determined.
Disney World Reopening: See You Real Soon!
Visiting Disney is a dream for most, from child to senior citizen. It’s hard, sometimes, to put off a dream trip, but we can at least start planning our visits to the Magic Kingdoms once again. We will keep an eye on developments, and update this post as warranted.
If you manage to visit any of the Disney parks, especially in the early days following reopenings, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.
Thanks for reading along.