Now, what do people look forward to the most when they come to Disney? (Well, besides the food.) The rides, of course! What’s Disney World without Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, and Pirates of the Caribbean? It’s a huge, empty land filled only with Mickey Pretzels and churros. Actually, that doesn’t sound too bad. 😉 Nevertheless, we checked out a few of the most popular attractions at all four parks and are reporting back on ALL the updates.
Disney has implemented enhanced health and safety guidelines with increased cleaning procedures and encouraged physical distancing between guests. While procedures may vary, the attractions are following the same guidelines.
Each queue has social distancing markers to separate travel groups. Don’t be scared when you see a huge line! The spacing usually makes short lines seem MUCH longer.
FastPass is currently unavailable and the only attraction using virtual queues is currently Rise of the Resistance. Despite this, wait times on most rides have been considerably lower than normal. (This excludes some of the more popular rides in Disney’s Hollywood Studios where we’re often still seeing substantial waits throughout the day! More on that later!) This may change as things ramp up so we’ll continue to keep an eye on crowd levels.
The rides will occasionally stop so Cast Members can clean the vehicles and surfaces (in our experience it’s been about every two hours). This may add a few minutes to your wait time, but it usually doesn’t take too long! Hand sanitizers are placed at the entrance and exit of attractions for guest use too. Now, let’s dig into the specifics with some of the more popular rides!
Flight of Passage
The lines for Flight of Passage are abnormally low. We’ve seen waits be as low as 5 minutes in the past few weeks! Also, the attraction is no longer presenting its full pre-show. The rooms are fairly small so physical distancing would be difficult to achieve.
If you’re familiar with the ride, there are 2 different pre-show rooms.
The first one features the lovely gentleman above teaching you how to “uhh…fly!” and pairing you with an avatar, while the other shows you safety and ride procedures before entering to ride. Right now BOTH of these rooms are left open to one another, and a shorter version of the first preshow is shown to guests spaced between both rooms before entering to ride.
We were also ushered quickly through the lab portion of the queue to prevent lingering. Plexiglass barriers were installed in some areas to create a barrier between passing guests too.
We were curious about how we were going to…uh..fly! 😉 The ride vehicles (AKA Banshees) are nestled fairly close to one and other and, in a world where we now are told to reduce contact everywhere, you basically straddle your whole body around the ride vehicles here. The Cast Member ended up loading the vehicles with two seats between each travel group.
We HAVE had a few rides where Cast Members were leaving just one seat between guests, but that has been much less common. If that happens to you and you’re uncomfortable, speak up to the Cast Member and they’ll move you to a further seat. Yep, you’ll still get up close and personal with those ride vehicles just like before (and we weren’t noticing any cleaning happening between each rider — bring your wipes), but otherwise, the ride experience was still very much the same. Yes, we still smelled scents and felt mist on our faces as well!
Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
Never fear! Disco Yeti is here! Expedition Everest hasn’t seen too many changes since re-opening. For example, Rider Switch and Disability Access Service are functioning as normal. Guests can head to the FastPass line to inquire with a Cast Member about the use of either service.
We did notice some standard health and safety practices like plexiglass barriers placed between boarding numbers. Cast Members will occasionally stop the ride to give the coaster a quick cleaning too.
For seating, guests are arranged every other row IF they’re in separate parties to promote physical distancing. Other than that, our experience was very similar to what we’ve known in the past! The line moved very quickly and the coaster remains the same as it’s always been.
Jambo, everyone! As always, Kilimanjaro Safaris is still a pleasant drive through the savanna. Much like Expedition Everest, plexiglass was placed between boarding numbers at the front of the line.
The vehicle is fairly small so flexible plastic “windows” created a barrier between each row. Note that there is some space between the barrier and the seat, but since you’re outdoors this is not as much of an issue as it is on the monorail. The cars are loaded one party per row and rows are not skipped between parties.
The side of the vehicle remained open so we still got a good look at the animals! From what we could see, all the animals are still present on the safari. Plenty of hippos, lions, elephants, jaguars, and giraffes were grazing in the savanna. This ride was actually kind of cool getting our very own row. It makes it easy to spot the animals!
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train tends to have the longest wait at Magic Kingdom, at least pre-closure. It was relatively hard to get a FastPass for Mine Train and many guests ran to the ride immediately after the park opened. Wait times have been crazy low these days. On average, My Disney Experience has been reporting the attraction to have 20-30 minute wait times throughout the day, sometimes even shorter.
The lines for this coaster are relatively close together for most of the queue. In addition to the distance markers, plexiglass barriers were put in place for some of the switchbacks to create a barricade between guests.
Water fountains in the queue are still functioning, but some high-touch areas were roped off. The interactive elements towards the end of the queue were unavailable. This seemed to keep guests from coming into close contact and also kept the line moving.
The spinning gem barrels towards the front of the queue are still available. The barrels weren’t roped off and you can still touch and spin them. In our experience, most guests are not stopping to play with the barrels right now!
Seating arrangements are the same as Expedition Everest with different parties seated every other row. Note — it can be confusing, but they’ll seat YOUR group in seats next to each other, but they’ll skip a row between you and the next group. The line was still pretty short even though the coaster is a lot smaller than Everest and the train was at half capacity.
Getting in line for Mine Train is usually what motivates people to arrive at the park so early. With low wait times and fewer entertainment options, there’s less of a need to rush into Magic Kingdom as soon as it opens. Transportation is still a bit hectic first thing in the morning so it might benefit you to relax and take your time knowing a 2+ hour wait for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is NOT in your future!
The Haunted Mansion
There are quite a few interactive elements in the Haunted Mansion queue too, particularly in the interactive graveyard outside. To reduce shared guest contact, the graveyard is bypassed entirely. You can still take a peek at the horseless carriage and pun-filled tombstones on your way inside (say hi to Leota, too!).
Which brings us into the beloved pre-show. Usually, guests are ushered into a small room (with no windows and no doors!) where the room begins to “stretch” and reveal the iconic stretching room portraits. Both doors were wide open and guests were asked to keep moving through the room. This prevented everyone from mingling too close to each other. You can still see the portraits in their fully stretched reveals, but the stretching element and pre-show has been cut.
What’s a Haunted Mansion without a functioning stretching room? The speech given by our Ghost Host was cut in half too. He usually tells everyone to, “Kindly step all the way in please, and make room for everyone.” The speech is paired down quite a bit since the stretching room element is cut. You basically get a “Welcome, foolish mortals” as you hurry along!
We experienced about a 10-minute wait while they cleaned some of the buggies, but this is another ride with an incredibly short, almost walk-on wait. Your Haunted Mansion experience should still be similar to what was prior to closing, as long as you don’t mind missing the pre-show, of course! All 999 ghosts were present and we waved hello to the bride in the attic!
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Rise of the Resistance
Rise of the Resistance continues to be the most popular attraction at Disney World. When it first opened in 2019, Disney introduced a special virtual queue to compensate for the wild lines they were expecting. The virtual queue has been modified since the re-opening in July. Guests now have two windows to try to book boarding passes at 10AM or 2PM.
Previously, you could try to nab a boarding group once the park officially opened…and the entire virtual queue would be booked up within seconds. The queues are still filling up extremely fast, but now you have two chances to hope for success. See, even with so much change in Disney World, some things never change — like how hard it is to get Rise of the Resistance boarding groups. 😉
The queue is mostly intact and the only difference we noted was the plexiglass windows installed between the line switchbacks. The full pre-show is still being shown. Guests are asked to stand on physical distance markers to watch the shows.
There were markers placed on the ground in the Hangar Bay too, so you’ll still have a chance to snap a pic of those Stormtroopers! Early on in the preshow experience, parties will be assigned a number on the ground and will follow this same number in each room of the preshows for the length of the queue.
As expected, only one party was allowed per vehicle. This made the ride a tad bit scarier than we’ve experienced! Battling the First Order alone is no joke! With these minor changes, we still had a great experience on the ride. The technology and ride elements are just as incredible as before.
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run is also very similar, but there are a few things you need to know about. The pre-show featuring Hondo Ohnaka is not happening the same way as before. Hondo himself is still operational, but he’s just pressing buttons and saying “Hello, my friends!” — not doing the actual pre-show. You can stand and watch him for a while, or you can sail right on through to your smuggling mission. It’s up to you.
When we got to the “Chess Room” we were asked to stay on our markers. The Cast Member mentioned that we could leave our marker to take a quick picture at the chess table. We weren’t allowed to mingle around the room as normal.
The ride vehicle is small so only one travel group was allowed per Falcon cockpit. If you’re flying solo, you get the entire ship to yourself. A word to Solo Flyers: always choose to Pilot the ship! Unless you REALLY want to be the Engineer in the back just pushing buttons, Pilot is the way to go. But YOU DO YOU! 😉
It just so happens that most of the brand-new rides around Disney World are at Hollywood Studios. Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway continue to have fairly long waits (often in the hour+ range) and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is still the most popular land at Disney World. We suggest heading to the other parks if you want to avoid big crowds and lines but, as we’ve experienced firsthand, crowd levels can drastically rise and fall depending on where and when you are in Hollywood Studios. Patience is key here.
Have you heard the saga of Spaceship Earth? Let’s recap. Spaceship Earth was meant to undergo a huge overhaul to match the re-imagining of EPCOT. Construction was meant to start on May 26th but, given the closure, the renovation was put on hold and the attraction ended up opening with the rest of EPCOT. Flash forward to now when Spaceship Earth fans were told that the renovation is postponed and the ride will remain untouched for the time being.
We headed to our favorite oversized golf ball to check if the attraction was still the way we left it. The biggest changes here were the spaced line queues and we were seated one party per vehicle in our time machines.
The interactive touch screens were still fully operational. You have the option to sit back and watch the pre-programmed video or touch the screen to create your own adventure. Yep, it still takes your picture at the beginning of the ride for the video too!
Once the ride was finished, we were emptied into Project Tomorrow as normal. The interactive games and elements were unavailable, but our photo was still posted on the globe! Our experience at Spaceship Earth was about the same as it was prior to closing. We still got a whiff of the library in Alexandria and Dame Judy Dench still narrated our journey on the “grand and miraculous spaceship.”
Given the circumstances, the parks — especially the rides — can still be enjoyable. It might take a little bit to get used to the new physical distancing and cleaning procedures. Aside from that, the attractions are similar to what you might have experienced prior to closing. The major differences are seen in the queues and especially if there are interactive elements. Our big tip here is to head into the parks later than you normally would. Fireworks, parades, and shows are not currently happening and attendance is quite limited, so there’s less of a need to rush to park opening and get everything done quickly.
We will continue to check out all the attractions in Disney World and let you know if we see any changes. Queues, wait times, and experiences are likely to change as Disney adjusts to the new health and safety protocols. Be sure to follow along with us as we learn more!
Was your favorite ride on this list? Let us know in the comments!