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A Whole New World: What’s new at Disney

Post-pandemic travel is picking up and many families want a vacation with a major fun factor, which is why now may be the perfect time to head to the most magical place on earth: the Walt Disney Resort.  

Safely Re-Opening

When the Orlando Disney parks shuttered last spring for an unprecedented 117 days, many wondered if they could ever safely return to the house of mouse. The answer is yes. Since reopening in July 2020, Disney has established strict protocols that provide a safe and thoughtful way for families to visit their favorite parks. CDC recommendations are in place, including minimal touchpoints, contactless purchasing and sanitizing stations throughout the parks. Disney was already known for its stringent cleaning practices, but now park visitors can expect to see cleaning crews around every corner. Many rides have also installed plexiglass barriers on the attraction and within waiting areas. Families should know that Disney has eased its mask requirements outdoors, but still asks guests to wear them for park entry and for indoor venues and attractions.

Pre-Planning is required

Planning in advance for a family Disney trip has always been advisable, but now park rules make it absolutely essential. First and foremost, reservations are a requirement for all four theme parks: the Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Only ticketed reservations will gain entry, and families can only book entry to two parks per day. This ensures that each park doesn’t exceed capacity limits and allows for a more distanced experience within each park. Lower capacity also means shorter wait times, so all four parks have paused the FastPass ride reservation system for now. 

Attraction and character experiences may also feel a little different. Parades and fireworks shows have been paused in order to keep crowds at a minimum, and close-up character meet and greets have been replaced with character processions. Reservations at Disney restaurants open 60-days in advance rather than six months in advance, and quick service restaurants require guests to order and prepay in the Disney app. For the most recent communications on closures and re-openings, families should download the My Disney Experience app, which provides up-to-the-minute information for each park.  

Behind the Scenes

Despite the closures of the past year, behind-the-scenes magic was in full gear, as construction continued at most parks on upcoming attractions. A few new rides and attractions opened just before the pandemic, such as Star Wars Land and Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Featuring a number of restaurants, shops, and two rides, Millennium Falcon and Rise of the Resistance, Galaxy’s Edge is a huge draw for any Star Wars fans. Also at Hollywood Studios, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad debuted in March 2020.

Epcot has experienced a makeover at its entrances, and several rides and attractions are set to open in late 2021 and 2022. The much-anticipated Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride in the France pavilion is expected to open in October 2021, while Epcot’s new nighttime show, Harmonious, will also begin later this year. With five movable six-story platforms, 25-foot LED walls, and pyrotechnics and fireworks, Harmonious is set to be one of Disney’s largest nighttime shows ever. 2022 will bring the opening of the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, a water maze called Moana: Journey of Water, and the Space 220 restaurant, an interactive cosmic themed restaurant. 

At Magic Kingdom, the classic Jungle Cruise ride is undergoing a major rehaul that will incorporate more animals, diversity and humor, and is expected to open in Fall 2021. The biggest attraction set to open in 2022 at Magic Kingdom is the TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland. 

Time to Book your Trip

With its rigorous cleaning practices, reservation requirements and CDC protocols, a trip to Disney is possible in this post-pandemic world. Families can take advantage of Disney World’s special pricing that offers extra park days and hotel stays through the end of July 2021.  Beginning in October, Walt Disney Resort will kick off its fifty-year anniversary celebration. Every park will celebrate with new lights shows, dazzling decorations and special food dishes that commemorate fifty years of the most magical place on earth. Disney.com

By Katie Riley

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