It’s been months since we’ve been back in Disney World. We have to say that it’s been pretty surreal to return to the resorts and parks after they’ve been closed for so long!
However, Disney World is definitely not the same place we’ve grown to know and love over the years. There are a lot of changes that honestly have us rethinking how we are going to need to plan upcoming Disney vacations in the near future. While there is limited capacity in the parks with an entirely new reservation system required to even enter, the changes don’t stop there.
As we’ve returned to Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios for the parks’ grand re-openings, Disney has shaken things up all around the parks in order to abide by increased health and safety guidelines.
While many of us have become accustomed to getting up early to head into the parks, one of the biggest things we’ve seen is that Disney is REALLY pushing for guests to arrive later in the day. Since the crowd levels we’ve seen so far in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom have been decently low (barring some spikes) and EPCOT and Hollywood Studios have mostly lower crowds than pre-closure times, it appears Disney’s efforts to reduce crowds has been relatively successful.
Part of the way they’re currently doing that is putting procedures in place to encourage guests not to arrive before the parks open for the day. Many diehard Disney World guests are fans of rope dropping, meaning arriving to the park well before scheduled opening for the day to get a jump on the crowds. For now, rope dropping (at least how we were used to it) is a thing of the past.
Instead, Disney has created a new park structure that doesn’t require guests to be there super early or stay there all the way through the end of the day (especially with those lower wait times in Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom).
Disney Transportation and Parking
When guests stay at a Disney Resort, they are usually able to take advantage of the Disney Bus system that leads straight to the parks. Prior to the closure, buses started running about 2 hours before the parks’ openings to allow guests ample time to get in line at the entrances. However, now buses are only running around 45 minutes before the parks open up for the morning.
For example, for the opening days Animal Kingdom opened at 8 AM and Magic Kingdom opened at 9 AM. However, a Cast Member informed us that some of those mornings, Disney transportation between the hotels and parks only started operating at 8:30 AM (which doesn’t really allow guests to get to the parks first thing). In general though, we’d expect the 45-minute prior guideline to be more reliable.
Plus, we also noticed that the walkways to the Ticket and Transportation Center were closed until 8:30AM according to a sign at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
While some guests choose to drive themselves to the parks, there was still less time to make it to the entrance right as they open. Although Animal Kingdom opened at 8AM, the cars leading into the parking lots were held outside the entrance until 7:40AM.
Then, they were able to park their cars and walk to gates (since the trams aren’t currently operating).
Rise of the Resistance
Many of us were shocked to hear that Disney World would only be operating with Stand-by lines during the initial park re-opening. Virtual Queues for attractions would not be used, including the Boarding Group process for Rise of the Resistance in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
However, Disney took a few steps back to announce that Boarding Groups actually WOULD be used, but in a new modified way. Although that’s already enough of a BIG surprise as it is, guests will be even more startled that Hollywood Studios has changed the Rise of the Resistance boarding pass game so people don’t have to arrive at the crack of dawn to get on the ride.
Although the previous Virtual Queue only gave guests physically inside the park at park opening each day the opportunity to snag a pass (so basically, you needed to scoot on out the door before the sun was even up in hopes of getting in), now people have two opportunities during the day to join the queue. Rise of the Resistance opens up Boarding Groups at 10AM and 2PM through the My Disney Experience app. [EDITOR’S UPDATE: Note that, upon the initial reopening phase, Boarding Groups were open at 3 different times; however, they are now only offered twice at the noted times.]
However, you’re only able to join the Virtual Queue ONCE per day to allow other guests the opportunity to ride the attraction. The app will show if there is no availability for a specific window, but guests may be able to join back-up boarding groups. Still, that means a spot in the Virtual Queue doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to ride Rise of the Resistance.
So what does this mean for your mornings? You’ll get to sleep in! Well…by Rise of the Resistance pre-park closure standards, at least! You’ll still need to have your finger ready to do some clicking on your phone at those specific times, but at least no more arriving at 5AM!
Since Disney World has switched things up for how guests are able to visit the parks, Rope Drop isn’t the same as we’ve seen it. Normally, it’s not been abnormal to see a whole crowd of people rushing to get to Slinky Dog Dash first thing in the morning.
However, distancing measures in the parks have changed how this works. In general, it seems like guests aren’t guaranteed to even make it to the gate by the time a park opens for the day. So, that might mean there is no NEED for a rope drop anyways.
For now, there’s no getting into the parks early for coffee or shopping. Since you won’t be able to actually GET to the parks until right at opening time each day, there’s not much of a need for rope drop in the traditional sense.
But, if Disney World does bring rope drop back as the opening progresses, guests and Cast Members will need to be kept six feet apart. With that being the case, there might just be long (distanced) lines instead of the normal rope drop procedures.
Although Disney may be changing its park procedures (and it can be a little confusing for guests who have been to Disney World before), the initial re-opening stage has different health and safety precautions to keep everyone safe. We don’t know if all these things will be permanent, but we will keep checking back as we’re back in the parks to see how they continue to change!
Have you been back to Disney World yet? Let us know in the comments below!