Well, folks, all of the Disney World theme parks have been open for around a week now.
We’ve been in, out, and around the Disney parks bringing you updates and answers to your questions. Today, we want to address one of the biggest and hardest questions we’ve gotten: is Disney World still magical? With so many changes, there’s a LOT that goes into answering this question — and it ultimately depends on each individual — but we’ve got our answer for you today.
In many ways, Disney World IS still magical — sometimes even more so than before.
Our first inclination is to say yes. Disney World is inherently a magical place and we still felt that a good bit in the reopened parks. And sometimes it’s the NEW measures that bring the magic.
We LOVE the new character interactions.
For one, we adore the new character interactions. Characters are seemingly everywhere right now, which is way more magical in many ways than how we were accustomed to spotting characters. Before the closures, you could go all day without seeing a character — especially in parks without parades. If you didn’t book a character meal or FastPass+ reservation to see them you might not even know they were there!
Now, characters pop up everywhere on a frequent and unpredictable schedule. We love the Character Cavalcades, but we’re especially fond of the non-parade interactions like Cinderella’s Stepsisters on the balcony of Cinderella Castle, Alice and Mary Poppins in EPCOT’s United Kingdom Pavilion, Joy and Winnie the Pooh skipping around on the lawns of EPCOT (we’re still smitten by Pooh with a butterfly net!), the Country Bears waving down at the crowds in Frontierland, and more.
You’re even able to chat with some of these characters, which can be very fun. It feels like the original days at Disney World when characters wandered the park and you’d stumble upon them at random. There’s less of a strict regimen and it feels more spontaneous and — yes — magical when you do see them. We wouldn’t be surprised if these interactions stick around after meet and greets return — and we hope they do!
Characters are a big part of the magic for us. Sure we can’t get a hug or an autograph but honestly, just getting to spot so many characters has made our days this week in the parks.
Long lines are NOT magical…and now there aren’t any.
Right now, lines are, like…gone. They really weren’t joking when they said they were limiting capacity. Due to the implementation of the Disney Park Pass system, waits are LOW. Lines are short and easy pretty much everywhere. Flight of Passage or Seven Dwarfs Mine Train with a five-minute wait? Inconceivable! This almost feels MORE magical in a way — since you don’t have those crazy lines and stressing about FastPass times getting in your way.
You can ride everything you want to ride (with the occasional exception of Rise of the Resistance and sometimes Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway), easily in a day. Want to ride something twice? Do it. Three times? You bet. Over and over again? Knock yourself out. Your day can happen organically without all the frantic planning that’s often involved in a Disney World trip.
An empty Disney park can be very magical.
Speaking of low capacity, it’s pretty hard to deny an empty Disney park is pretty magical. We used to appreciate those early mornings or late evenings where it felt like we were the only ones in a park. Now it’s like that pretty much all the time!
A reopened Disney World has, well, almost NO crowds. You don’t have to worry about someone sitting too close to you in a restaurant, or standing too close to you in line. You don’t have to feel claustrophobic trying to walk through a shop. There’s…practically nobody there (well, by Disney World standards at least!). It’s a little bit spooky but mostly quite magical feeling — like it’s all there just for you! Who am I? Michael Jackson?! I kid — nobody comes close to the King of Pop — but you can start to feel a little like a celebrity when you’re walking through an empty park and can do whatever you want whenever you want.
One place we didn’t realize initially we’d feel this effect was in table service restaurants. With guests spaced further apart, it’s much easier to hear your dining companions speak. And we LOVE not being pressed up against another group in that banquette seating Disney so very much enjoys and employs.
Dining locations, in general, are much quieter. Before the closures, many Disney World restaurants were notorious for cramming in as many guests as possible. Now, we don’t feel like other tables are practically on top of us while we eat! (Listen, I love Jim and Nancy as much as anyone else, and I wish them another wonderful 10 years of marriage, but I don’t want to share my soup with them, ya know?)
Because of the lower capacity, your pics in the park are that much better since there aren’t a thousand people right behind you (and in front of you…and ramming into you from the sides…). We were SUPER happy with the surprise benefit of hearing all of the atmosphere music really well. There’s nothing quite as magical as the tunes on Main Street, U.S.A. and now we can really HEAR them!
Most of the stuff that made it magical before is STILL there now.
Even with these NEW magical developments, a lot of the same old magical things are still there. Cinderella Castle is still there (a little pinker than before, but totally still magical to see and experience), that 💯 nostalgic EPCOT music is still there, the animals are still all around Kilimanjaro Safari. Just about everything that made it magical for you before…is still there.
No, you can’t hug the characters and that can be a BIG bummer that could easily deter you from making the trek to Disney if it’s your first trip, or if you have a little one who only wants to run into Sulley’s furry arms and squeeze him (listen, we totally get it). And the iconic fireworks and shows are missing. But everything else is relatively just as it was prior.
One very magical factor in a reopened Disney World has been the Cast Members. These folks are still there and they have been absolutely wonderful. They’re the real magic-makers in Disney World! There’s still a lot of magic in interactions with Cast Members. With so few people in the park, they can give even more energy to one-on-one conversations and helping guests feel at ease in the new normal.
Seriously, think about your priorities at Disney World and odds are you can still do most, if not all, of them. Maybe you can’t hug Mickey, but you can see him (often!), and everything else feels pretty business as usual…except you can ride WAY more rides in a day than you could before.
But, the bottom line is, despite all the magic, there is still one overwhelming problem.
Still, as you can imagine, all that magic isn’t the only thing that we’re noticing. A lot has had to change. And with it, there are some decidedly NOT magical things we want to talk about too.
We’re still in the midst of a pandemic.
Disney World is open but that doesn’t change the fact that the global health crisis is still very much a reality. When we’ve been in the parks, all of the fun and magic has been accompanied by the very real concern of getting sick or getting someone else sick.
There’s not much that’s magical about that fear. You’re constantly masked and sanitizing and might be constantly and justifiably concerned for yourself and your family members.
You might be isolating dirty clothes in trash bags each day (totally speaking from personal experience here!), purposefully avoiding certain locations in Disney World due to pinch points and pile-ups of people, living with a mask laundry facility in your hotel bathroom, or lysol-ing all of your belongings when you return from the parks each day.
Signs reminding you to be safe are everywhere, and your days in the parks are to the soundtrack of regular overhead announcements reminding you to wear your mask at all times and practice distancing measures. Queues you’ve walked through dozens of times or more might now feel somewhat foreign due to plexiglass dividers and distancing markers. It gives off a very dystopian vibe. Like you’re an extra in an apocalyptic TV show. Except this isn’t a TV show. It’s 100% our reality right now, and not everything turns out all right in the end.
If these measures don’t bother you or they come easy for you, they might not put a damper on your vacation too much. But we’ve been spending a lot of time and energy in the parks making sure things are clean, everything is regularly sanitized, and that we are distanced at all times. There are still plenty of magical moments, but it can be hard to deny that the experience as a whole feels very different than it was before — and notably less care-free.
Travel days weren’t magical in normal times, and now they’re worse.
On top of that, travel to and from Disney is NOT fun right now. For one, there are significant travel restrictions in place around the country — some of which can get really in the way of a trip to Disney. For some folks, getting to the parks isn’t even a possibility right now.
If you CAN travel to Disney World, you might run into some new issues you haven’t faced before. Airports have not been immune to health issues and obstructive measures. If you don’t feel safe flying, you could be in for a possibly lengthy drive. Want to know something that’s decidedly NOT magical? Your 2.5 hour flight to the parks turning into a 16-hour drive…both ways (we know this from experience as well).
Disney might feel relatively safe, but growing case numbers outside of the park gates could impact how you feel on your visit.
The fact that Disney is open does not mean that the danger has passed. Through the past month there have been growing case numbers right outside the gates. We’re well aware that many of our readers and followers are asking whether Disney World should be open at all. And that’s something we’re weighing daily. The new normal is to be on “it’s a small world!” and get an alert on your phone to remind you of the severity of the crisis.
According to CNN, Florida and Orange County specifically have been deemed as “red zone” areas by a White House task force. There are consistently increasing case numbers and deaths in the county and the state as a whole, and some entities are recommending a roll-back on the state’s reopening.
The questions we find ourselves meditating on while walking around the park are often: should the parks even be open? Will they close again? What if I’m sick and I don’t know? Am I getting other people sick? Do we even know enough about the situation to know that these health measures are enough?
Maybe these questions won’t run through your head (you may not be thinking about readers who want to know if it’s safe to go to Disney World, which consumes our thoughts when we’re in the parks right now — we try to experience it for all of you and report back what we’d want to know if we were in your shoes), but you have your own concerns for your family and those around you. And that makes a huge difference when gauging the “magic.”
Plus, some big pieces of the magic might be gone for YOU.
There is a lot of Disney fun that’s still around, but some pieces of the “old way of doing things” ARE missing. If character meet and greets, fireworks, shows, and parades are a CORE PIECE of your magic when you’re on a Disney vacation — then your trip probably won’t be what you want it to be. Consider holding off if this is something you’re worried about.
Plus, certain areas do feel like they’re missing things from an atmosphere perspective. If you feel like the lack of street performers and the sea of distancing stickers and masks might get in the way of the magic for you, you’re not alone. We’re big fans of the Disney atmosphere and streetmosphere performers and it certainly feels like the parks are missing something right now.
And Disney World still costs as much as it did before.
IF you’re a fan of fireworks and shows, this is an important factor to consider. Disney World has not substantially discounted prices. Your hotel, food, merchandise, and park tickets will cost the same as they would if this was a typical year with no pandemic severely curtailing park experiences.
We’ve heard from many readers and followers who think that the current experience — no fireworks, no meet and greets, shortened hours for parks and restaurants, no parades — means you’re simply not getting your money’s worth any longer.
But on the flip side, some may think that it’s actually MORE worth the cost, since many guests pay big bucks for events like After Hours where you can ride your favorite attractions over and over again with no lines. In fact, we’ve had readers suggest to us that they’d love an option where they could pay more for a day in Disney World with fewer guests and shorter attraction lines. And that’s pretty much what you have going on right now. So depending on your perspective, this could be a huge boon or a super bust.
Overall, the “magic” level of Disney World right now is up to you.
It really depends on what you need to make that Disney vacation magical. On paper, Disney World is more magical than it was before (practically no wait for rides and no crowds would have sounded like a dream a year ago!). But when you take into account the reality of this pandemic, the safest and most responsible place to be is at home. And knowing that fact has a huge impact on enjoying the parks.
If the magic comes to you from riding a lot of rides, you can have a great time. If the fireworks at the end of the day are a must-do, or if that big hug from Mickey is critical for you, not so much. You also need to weigh your comfort level. If you think you can still have a great day without worrying about the state of the world as well as the state of your own health, then now might be an okay time for a trip.
But if you do choose to go, please remember that it is imperative for your safety and the safety of everyone else in the parks that you follow the protocol and the guidelines laid out by Disney World. Even if you don’t mind getting sick personally, remember that your choices can make a big difference for thousands of other people. Keep your mask on. Correctly. Be sure to socially distance. And wash your hands regularly.
So, yes, of course, there are still magical moments in Disney World. It’s just up to you whether it’s worth the literal and figurative costs. We’ll continue to report and share our thoughts with you as the weeks and months progress.
What do you think? Is Disney World still magical? Share your thoughts in the comments.