Hello from another week in Disney World! 👋
Some things around Disney are starting to look more like how we remember them from before the parks closed. It’s not the first time we’ve seen changes made to some of Disney’s policies since the reopening. Little by little, things have started to go back to “normal.” Some restaurants and resorts have reopened, Park Hopping has returned, and some character dining has even come back. And recently, we spotted some BIG changes in Disney World that show even more things are returning to some semblance of pre-pandemic “normalcy.”
1. Masks No Longer Required Outdoors and Not Required in Many Other Spaces for Fully Vaccinated Guests
This is probably one of the biggest updates that has been made recently. Previously, everyone ages 2 and up was required to wear an approved face covering at all times, unless they were in a situation where they were specifically allowed to remove their mask. Exceptions previously included actively eating or drinking while socially distanced and stationary from others, when swimming, and when at a mask-free relaxation station.
But as of May 15th, 2021, face masks are no longer required for guests outdoors. This rule is NOT limited to those who have been fully vaccinated, meaning all guests, including children, are able to remove their masks outdoors.
As of June 15th, 2021, that policy has been further updated. Now, fully vaccinated guests are no longer required to wear masks in most places in Disney World. Fully vaccinated guests are, however, still required to wear masks on all transportation, including transportation entrances.
Guests who are not fully vaccinated continue to be required to wear face masks upon entering and throughout all attractions, in all indoor theaters (including theater entrances), in all transportation (including transportation entrances), and in all indoor locations (including restaurants, except when actively eating or drinking while stationary).
Disney World will not be requiring proof of vaccination, but guests who are not fully vaccinated are expected to follow the updated requirements.
2. Hand-washing Stations Have Been Disappearing
Last year, prior to the park closures, Disney installed a number of hand-washing stations throughout Disney World. Those then continued to be available for guests to use, in addition to hand sanitizing stations, as part of Disney’s overall set of health and safety measures.
But, recently, we’ve noticed a change when it comes to these hand-washing stations. Throughout the parks, the hand-washing stations have started to disappear!
Spots where these hand-washing stations used to be are generally now empty. In many cases, you can actually see the spots in the ground where these stations used to be.
When we first noticed this change, we asked a Cast Member in Disney’s Animal Kingdom about it. Specifically, we asked if the removal was permanent, but unfortunately, the Cast Members didn’t seem to know if the hand-washing stations would return or not. We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates on that.
The next time you’re in the park, just keep in mind that you might find that the hand-washing station you used before is now gone! You’ll still find hand sanitizer around the park though and, of course, you can pop into the restrooms to wash your hands there.
3. Some Self-Serve Drink Stations Are Changing
Since the parks and hotels in Disney World reopened, self-serve drink stations (whether you’re dealing with a refillable mug or just a regular drink) in Disney World have been operating differently. Generally, Cast Members have been stationed behind some tables or barriers. They will get your drink and hand it to you. In order words, you generally haven’t been able to just walk up to the self-serve drink areas and serve yourself a soda, coffee, or other drink.
We first noticed a change to this policy when Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park reopened! There, Cast Members were NOT filling the park’s refillable mugs for you. Instead, you were able to fill them all by yourself at Refill Stations.
Recently, at a few spots around Disney World, we started noticing that some self-serve beverage areas have also fully accessible by guests once again. In other words, at select locations in Disney World, guests can now fill their own drinks.
So far, we’ve noticed this at a few Disney World hotel restaurants and even some restaurants in the parks.
Signs in the area generally specify that only one party is allowed to be at the drink station at a time. We’ve also noticed that some of the self-service drink areas now have social distancing markers, directional arrows, and other things all aimed at helping guests maneuver through the space while safely keeping their distance from others. So, just be sure to look out for those.
While we haven’t seen this become available in all restaurants, the fact that even a few spots have it in place is a big change from what the existing policy has been. We’re keeping an eye out for any more developments on this.
4. Temperature Checks Are No Longer Required
Previously, temperature checks were required to enter Disney World’s theme parks, table-service restaurants at Disney World’s hotels, and other places on property. This is one of the policies that was put in place when Disney World reopened last year. But, temperature checks have now been phased out around Disney World for both guests and Cast Members.
5. An After Hours Event Is Returning
When Disney World reopened after the park closures last year some special offerings were suspended, including Extra Magic Hours and After Hours Events. Neither of these have been available over the past several months. But that is all about to change, at least when it comes to After Hours Events.
The event will feature candy spots, access to rides, party music, themed food and beverage options, Halloween-themed cavalcades, and more! Tickets go on sale next month, so we’ll be on the lookout for more updates on that. After MONTHS without any ticketed After Hours events, we have a feeling these may be very popular and they are a big sign that things are getting back to “normal” in Disney World.
6. Valet Parking Has Returned
While it is a bit smaller in terms of news when compared to BOO BASH, another offering that hasn’t been available for a while in Disney World has returned at select hotels — we’re talking about Valet Parking. Valet Parking has been available to guests with disabilities during Disney World’s reopening, but it is now an option for anyone visiting those resorts where it has returned.
So far, we’ve seen Valet Parking return to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Riviera Resort. According to Disney’s website “Valet service will be reintroduced to hotels over the coming months.” We’ll be keeping an eye out for more updates.
7. Trash Can Changes
Due to COVID-19, some changes were made to the trash cans all around Disney World. Specifically, the lids to the trash cans have generally been propped open to allow guests to throw away their trash without having to touch the trash cans. Some trash cans are still being held open in Disney World.
But, recently we noticed that some of the trash cans were actually entirely closed. We spotted this in various spots throughout Magic Kingdom including near Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe…
…near Cheshire Cafe…
…and near the Castle.
Others were still open, however, like the one over at the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
We were in the parks on May 11th when we noticed this change and spoke to the Cast Member about it. When we spoke with one of the Cast Members that is part of the janitorial staff, they said they had just started making this change.
Disney could be closing the trash cans to keep birds and squirrels from getting into them and eating the food that is thrown away.
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates on this.
8. Fireworks Are Coming Back
Fireworks were suspended when Disney World reopened last year due to COVID-19 related concerns surrounding large crowds. But, soon fireworks will be coming back! Disney has recently announced that fireworks will be available for guests to enjoy in both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT starting July 1st, 2021.
If you haven’t already booked your Park Passes for July 1st, be sure to do so quickly as they’re starting to fill up. Also, click here to get a look at the fireworks show times.
9. Attractions Are Changing or Reopening
We’ve also noticed a number of changes made to rides in Disney World recently, largely due to the fact that Disney World is reducing its physical distancing guidelines.
We’ve also seen distancing markers removed from a number of ride queues.
More rides are now also seating guests in every row, as they did prior to the pandemic. You may also find that guests are now allowed to sit in spaces on rides that were previously blocked off.
Some experiences have also reopened, such as the modified version of the Festival of the Lion King.
We expect many of these things will continue to change and develop in the upcoming weeks and months.
While some of these changes may seem relatively small, they are actually quite significant compared to Disney’s previous policies. They’re all also changes that seem to point to things getting closer to the pre-pandemic “normal,” or whatever the “new normal” will be.
And more changes are on the way. A modified form of the Festival of the Lion King is set to return next month, more Disney World hotels now have reopening dates, and more Disney World restaurants are also set to reopen soon. What changes could be next? It’s not clear yet, but you know we’ll be looking out for them and bringing all the latest updates to you.
If you’re heading to Disney soon, be sure to check out our ULTIMATE guide to planning a Disney World vacation!
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When are you planning to visit Disney World next? Let us know in the comments!