What is Disney World like today? The new Disney experience


My family and I headed up to Disney World for their reopening weekend. While it was definitely a different experience without the crowds, the parades, the fireworks, and all of the typical Disney fanfare, it was still an incredible weekend!  I’m here to give you a glimpse of Disney after their closure so when you feel comfortable returning to the happiest place on earth, you can know what you’re in for.

We headed up Friday morning before the parks officially reopened. When we pulled into our hotel parking lot, we were amazed at how empty the usually packed parking lot was. I had a feeling it would get a little busier on Saturday, but overall the hotel stayed pretty empty. After playing in the pool for a few hours, we walked over to Disney Springs for dinner. The temperature screening was very simple and no contact. For anyone that did not have a mask, they had disposable masks available. Not all of the shops were open, but the ones that were had a dedicated entry and exit. At each location, a cast member was standing with an iPhone. The cast members at the entrance were logging how many people entered the store. The cast member at the exit was logging the number of guests that left. So the number of people inside the store was constantly being updated. If the shop had reached their max capacity, there were markings set up outside the entrance for guests to wait to be granted entry. Some busier shops had a virtual line set up as well. We saw this same system in the parks.

Disney face masks were also available for purchase. The line was very long and there was a quantity limit of 4. Many of the sizes and styles were sold out. We did not join the line or attempt to buy masks because we pre-ordered them through shopDisney.com.

On Saturday, we ventured to Animal Kingdom. The park opened at 8 am, but we did not arrive until closer to 10. The cast members at the parking lot entrance scanned the magic band to confirm our passholder status and to confirm that we had a park reservation for that day. Once again, we could not believe how empty the parking lot was! I have never seen so few cars in our 10 years of being annual passholders. It was incredible! And, leave it to Disney, the cars were socially distanced as well! With the current parking method, cars were parked in every other spot, leaving an empty space between each car. It appeared that once the lot was “full,” the cast members started over, allowing cars to park in the skipped spaces. This greatly reduced the number of people getting out of their cars in the same area at the same time.

Our entry to the park was flawless. They are not currently using the fingerprint system, so it was touch your band and go. Inside it was incredibly empty. We never saw Flight of Passage go over a 5 minute wait. The walk through the queue was longer than the actual wait. We did every open ride in AK multiple times in about 3.5 hours.

On Sunday, we visited Magic Kingdom. We normally upgrade and pay for preferred parking, which is typically in the Aladdin lot. This time we did not and guess where we were parked… The Aladdin lot. The parking was similar to Animal Kingdom. We did see them start parking cars on the villain side as we were walking up. (For a shorter walk to the health screening and security, jump on the sidewalk coming from the villain side.) Outside the health screening area, there was a vending machine with what looked like individual packaged masks, but I did not get close enough to confirm. The security set up at TTC is different than before. It looks like there is newly installed equipment and the whole process was very smooth.

They had tables set up for bag check, but they had us bring bags through the metal detectors rather than going through the bags as they did in the past. I assume this is to remain as touch free as possible.

The monorail is being loaded as a ride. There is a cast member standing at the top, asking how many people are in your party. The cast member then assigns your party a number to stand on. There is only one party per monorail car. Disney has installed a screen to divide the two open sides of the monorail cars. It was actually nice to not have to squish your way onto a monorail car. It was a much calmer and more relaxing experience.

Like AK the day before, Magic Kingdom was fairly empty. We did see Splash Mountain’s wait time get up to 45 minutes. But we stopped to use the bathroom and it was down to 25 by the time we were ready to join the line.

Seven Dwarf Mine Train hovered around 20-25 minutes all day. We rode Barnstormer repeatedly, without having to exit the ride. We walked right onto Space Mountain. All of this to say, the crowds were very minimal. Most wait times (even Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh) stayed around 5 minutes, maybe spiking to 15. MK was open until 7 on Sunday, but the crowds around 4:30 reminded me of the crowds I see after closing in pre-Covid times. I am still so amazed at how empty it was!

We ate lunch at Cosmic Ray’s. Once again, they had dedicated entrances and exits. There was a line on one side of the building to enter, but we went around to another entrance and did a mobile order. Once the order was marked as ready, a cast member standing at the door checked his iPad, verified it was ready, and told us which line to go to to pick up our food. Guests were not permitted to enter until their order was marked as ready. When doing a mobile order, you had to pick a window of time for your meal. So we picked “now-12:50” because wanted to eat lunch then.

A few notes on things we witnessed in both parks:

* We were in line for two different rides when the ride was temporarily stopped for cleaning. We were at the front of Haunted Mansion when it happened, so we chatted with the cast member a bit about the procedure. He stated that they stop to sanitize every 2 hours. From our vantage point, we could see cast members wiping down all of the railings and surfaces people touch while loading the ride. We could also see another cast member spray sanitizing every single doom buggy as it went by. (It looked like a big jug and sprayer that a pest control person would use). The cast member at Haunted Mansion told me it takes about 8 minutes to sanitize all of the cars.

* There were hand sanitizer stations at the entrance and exit of every ride. From what we saw, they were being used frequently. We were definitely not the only ones sanitizing before boarding the ride and exiting.

* Each queue has markers on the ground where you should wait to maintain social distance between you and the parties around you. In places where the line snakes back and forth, plexiglass dividers were set up to maintain social distancing. All of the interactive components on rides were turned off or roped off to limit touching. Queues were rerouted to avoid going by these areas as well.

* Ride cars were loaded with an empty car between each party. We had the entire room to ourselves at FoP.

* A cast member at AK told us they are accepting about 50% of the normal capacity at each park. I don’t have numbers on how close they were to hitting the 50% mark, but again, it was super empty.

* Several shops, food stands, etc were closed.

* Disney did not have the typical meet and greets, parades, fireworks, or shows, BUT we did see characters going by on boats, and a random, single parade float going down the street every once in a while. Each and every time, my youngest called out the characters’ names and yelled out how much he missed them. It brought tears to my eyes every single time.

One piece of advice I want to offer is to bring lots of water. If you’re anything like my family, you bring insulated water bottles to refill with ice water while in the parks. With them limiting the number of people in the quick service restaurants (as they should), it was not as convenient to just pop in and grab a couple of cups of ice water. Yes, it’s always hot during the summer months at Disney, but the masks can exacerbate that feeling. So drinking lots of water and using the cooling towels definitely helps.

We know how many Disney lovers are out there and how many people can’t wait to get back into the park!  We hope this helps you know what to expect!



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