As much as it sometimes feels like it, 2020 wasn’t all bad!
We’re not gonna lie, 2020 was a tough year for just about everyone. In fact, even Anna and Elsa seemed like they were over it at one point! But as difficult as this year has been, there were some really GREAT things that happened in Disney World in 2020. Let’s take a look!
Since reopening, traditional parades have been on hold in the parks in an attempt to reduce large crowds from forming. In their place, all four parks have their own unique character cavalcades that pop up at unscheduled times throughout the day.
As much as we sometimes miss the full, grand parades, we REALLY enjoy having these cavalcades in the parks! Even though they don’t occur at specific times, they seem to happen pretty frequently, so we have plenty of chances to see characters pop up in the parks without having to stake out a spot for hours.
Plus, we’ve had the chance to see some more rare characters in the cavalcades, like Jack and Sally during Halloween season in Magic Kingdom, and Pocahontas, John Smith, and Meeko in Animal Kingdom! These guys were incredibly rare to spot outside of special events prior to the cavalcades!
In addition to the cavalcades, we’ve also seen pop-up appearances by rare characters throughout the park. We’ve seen Jiminy Cricket in Magic Kingdom…
…and Joy in EPCOT, to name a few!
As much as we miss hugging Mickey Mouse and seeing Maleficent breath fire in the Festival of Fantasy parade, having the cavalcades and pop-up appearances have been great ways to spot some of our favorite characters without having to plan our day around long lines to meet them!
Access to Hand Sanitizer
Even in the best of times, Disney World can definitely be a germy place. Previously, it was often hard to find a place to snag some hand sanitizer when exiting a ride or sitting down to eat.
In recent months, a TON of new hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the parks. This makes it much more convenient to snag some after passing through a high-touch area!
There have even been some full no-contact hand-washing stations placed around Disney World if you prefer a deep clean.
Given the large number of guests that pass through Disney World, especially when it’s operating at full capacity, we hope these hand sanitizing stations stick around for the long haul.
Party-Exclusive Elements All-Day Long
Typically, Disney has entertainment and snacks that can only be enjoyed at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. But since both parties were canceled this year, guests were able to enjoy some party elements without having to buy an extra ticket!
During the Halloween season, Magic Kingdom guests could spot the Disney Villains cavalcade, as well as the previously mentioned Jack, Sally, and even Oogie Boogie. During the Christmas season, Santa has made appearances in cavalcades at all of the parks as well as the toy soldiers and reindeer typically only seen in the exclusive Christmas Party parade. Plus, some of the floats being used in Magic Kingdom are typically rolled out for the Christmas party!
During both the Halloween and Christmas seasons, Cast Members on Main Street, U.S.A. have been wearing their party costumes, which adds to the festive atmosphere!
And speaking of costumes, guests were allowed to wear their Halloween costumes all season long, which is typically only allowed at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween parties!
And since there were no parties this year, that also means that guests didn’t have to worry about snagging an extra ticket to enjoy any party-exclusive snacks or merch they just had to have!
We do enjoy the atmosphere at the parties. But even though they were canceled this year, it was nice to be able to experience some of the party elements without having to spring for a very pricey extra ticket!
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Okay, we’ll admit — we still get a little sad when we think about the late, great attraction that was The Great Movie Ride. But with that being said, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is a pretty awesome attraction! Can you believe it opened less than a year ago?! (Yes, this year has felt like it was going in slow motion!)
It’s packed full of hidden secrets and Easter eggs that give it a TON of re-rideability.
And can you believe this is the first ride-through attraction at a Disney park to be themed after Mickey Mouse? We’d say it’s about time the main mouse gets his own ride!
The attraction utilizes some seriously amazing effects as well as cool trackless-ride technology, which makes it that much more of a must-do experience for us.
Yes, a part of us will probably always miss The Great Movie Ride. But as far as replacements go, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway is pretty top-notch!
Updates to the Rise of the Resistance Boarding Group Process
Since there is no standby queue available for the attraction since its debut, guests must get a digital boarding group in the My Disney Experience app in order to ride.
Up until recently, that meant that guests needed to be inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios right when the park opened to snag a group when they became available. And we do mean RIGHT when the park opened, as boarding groups are typically snapped up in seconds. It feels like eons ago we were standing amongst the hoards of guests waiting in the dark HOURS before the park opened to get in and secure a group.
Since reopening, Disney added multiple times per day you could try to snag the boarding groups. Initially, guests had three times to attempt to score a group per day inside the park, then just two.
But recently, Disney changed the process so that guests no longer need to be inside the park to obtain a Rise of the Resistance boarding group! Each day, the boarding groups are released at 7AM, and as long as a guest has a Park Pass reservation for Disney’s Hollywood Studios that day, they’re able to get a boarding group from anywhere!
This makes for a much less hectic scene at park open, since guests don’t need to be inside the park to try for a boarding group. And since one person can try for a boarding group for everyone in the party (just make sure you’ve linked all of your family and friends in My Disney Experience ahead of time!), everyone else can sleep in a bit while your designated boarding group-getter tries to snag one.
Plus, if Rise of the Resistance was a guest’s one-and-only must-do in Hollywood Studios, this process gives them the flexibility to switch up their plans for the rest of the day if they don’t get a boarding group.
Whether that means getting to the park later in the day in time to try for a 1PM boarding group (you DO have to be in the park for this round of boarding groups!) or choosing to switch out your Park Pass for a different available park instead, you don’t need to commit to heading out to the park just to find out whether or not you can get a boarding group.
We’ll definitely take a slightly earlier wake-up call (but not, like, 4AM early like we had to do initially!) to go through the boarding group process from the comfort of our own hotel room!
Will you get on Rise of the Resistance in with a backup boarding group? Here’s what we’ve experienced.
Table Service To-Go
We’ve long been fans of Mobile Order, and recently, our options expanded to select Table Service restaurants around Disney World! In September 2020, Disney rolled out the Mobile Order Table Service To Go feature in My Disney Experience.
This allows guests to place a Mobile Order at select Table Service restaurants, which was then served to-go for guests to take back to their room (or wherever they choose!) to eat.
There are currently only a handful of restaurants that offer this service, all of which are located at Disney World hotels. But we LOVE the additional flexibility this allows for our dining plans, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Disney continues to expand this offering!
Another awesome new My Disney Experience functionality that debuted this year is Mobile Dine Walk-up Waitlist. This gives guests without an Advance Dining Reservation the ability to see which Table Service restaurants have seating for walk-up guests, without having to stop into each restaurant to speak with a Cast Member.
This is another new addition that adds a level of flexibility to our day in Disney World. This makes it much quicker and easier to check our current dining options and gives us another opportunity to check for last-minute availability at places we weren’t able to snag a reservation.
Of course, if you have a must-do restaurant on your list, try to snag one of those Advance Dining Reservations for a guaranteed spot. But if you’re not feeling too picky and want to see what your options are for a particular meal, the Walk-Up Waitlist is there for ya! We’re surprised this didn’t exist sooner! It’s very convenient for those with more open plans.
Disney Celebrated a 40-Year Partnership with Make-A-Wish
This year marked the 40-year anniversary of the founding of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. And in that time, Disney has worked with the non-profit to grant over 140,000 wishes. And in September, Disney helped Make-A-Wish grant their 500,000th wish.
Disney has celebrated the milestone in several ways. With the new Wishes Come True Blue Color Collection, Disney will donate 25% of the purchase price (up to $500,000 USD) to Make-A-Wish for any items purchased in the collection.
Plus, Disney is donating 100% of the purchase price of the Aladdin Wishables to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This marks the first time Disney has donated 100% of the purchase price on an item to a charitable organization!
As tough as this year has been, it warms our heart to see Disney’s continued partnership with such a wonderful organization!
There’s no doubt that 2020 has been a tough year for most of us. But amid all the challenges we’ve faced, there have been a few bright spots to celebrate! We hope these awesome 2020 Disney World additions helped bring some joy to your year!
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Which of these 2020 Disney World developments are you the happiest about? Let us know in the comments!