Disney World is constantly changing!
We visit every day and we see changes ALL. THE. TIME. Well, with the weird year of 2020, The Most Magical Place on Earth looks pretty different than it has in years past. Here are all the ways Disney World has changed since you were last there!
1. The face mask policy looks VERY different.
Disney World has made some major face covering policy changes recently, so if you’ve seen what the health and safety procedures were like previously, then you’re in for a surprise. First, face masks are no longer required for guests in outdoor common areas.This applies regardless of your vaccination status.
Additionally, fully vaccinated guests are no longer required to wear face masks in most places around Disney World. Fully vaccinated guests are, however, required to wear masks on all transportation (including transportation entrances).
Guests who are not fully vaccinated are required to continue to wear 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 policy.
2. There have been some surprising price increases!
Some surprising price increases have popped up recently. Typically, price increases are common in the month of October, but because of the global health crisis, that didn’t happen in 2020. Now, surprising price hikes are happening in some random places.
We were especially surprised to see a whopping $2 price increase on one of our favorite snacks in Disney World — spring rolls in Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. Previously, spring rolls cost just $7.50 and now they cost $9.50. And lightsabers at Savi’s Workshop have seen a price increase as well.
3. Main Street Confectionery and other Main Street shops are temporarily closed.
Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is this year and as a result, we’ve seen a LOT of construction around the parks. Main Street, U.S.A. is getting some TLC that has resulted in some store closures — most notably at Main Street Confectionery. Don’t worry though, you can find prepackaged treats nearby at Main Street Cinema.
The Chapeau is also closed with hats and ears for sale in Box Office Gifts for now. Disney has not announced if/when The Chapeau will reopen and the Confectionery is listed as closed through at least July 17th.
4. Some restaurants aren’t all-you-can-eat anymore.
If you haven’t been to Disney World since prior to the park closures, then you might notice something different about some of your favorite restaurants. Some spots that you might remember as all-you-care-to-eat are not anymore, instead you might have individual portions or shared portions depending on the course.
Two prominent examples of this are Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom and Hollywood and Vine in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This sounds bad in theory, but in practice, we actually have liked this change. The quality has been noticeably better, the portions are solid, and you don’t have to hop up to the buffet all the time.
5. Some former buffets are now family-style.
Speaking of buffets, some spots ARE still all-you-care-to-eat but there aren’t any running buffets in Disney World. In some cases, food is served family-style, but you can still ask for as much as you want.
This is the case at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort! You’ll still chow down on as many Mickey Waffles as you like while you swing your napkin around with Disney pals. You just don’t have to fetch the food for yourself. And they just announced that they will be reopening for dinner.
6. There are some amazing snacks in new places!
This next one is a change that we’ve been HAPPY to see. There are some sneaky snacks that have cropped up in some surprising places! Two locations that are typically snack-less have introduced some amazing and hearty snack options.
Sunshine Tree Terrace in Magic Kingdom, known for Citrus Swirls and Dole Whip concoctions, is now offering Potstickers for $6.99. Our team loved them and they’re a good portion! Over in EPCOT, Joy of Tea now has Salt & Pepper Popcorn Chicken for $7.95 which we loved too.
7. MagicBands are no longer available for free.
If you’ve been to Disney World in the past decade or so, you’ve probably found yourself in possession of a MagicBand or two. These alternatives to ticket media used to be complimentary with a resort hotel stay. They serve as your room key, your park ticket, and they link up to all of your plans; it makes it easy to keep everything you need on your wrist!
Now though, you’ll need to pay if you want a basic color MagicBand that used to be complimentary. Free MagicBands are also being phased out for Disney World’s Annual Passholders. If you’re not looking to shell out the bucks, you can still receive a regular keycard at the front desk when you check in.
8. You can use your phone for everything now.
Speaking of getting around without a MagicBand, you can now use your phone for almost EVERYTHING in Disney World. Smartphone users can use their phones for Mobile Check-in and even unlock their door. This has been around for a while, but did you know your phone can get you into the park now too?
Magic Mobile is a new feature for Apple users (and it will soon be available for Android users too!). Now, you can tap into the parks using just your phone or Apple watch and your ride photos will automatically link to your account as long as you have Bluetooth turned on.
9. The monorail does not stop at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort right now (until mid-summer).
Most Disney fans are familiar with the cruise around Seven Seas Lagoon on the monorail. You can hop off at Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, and the Transportation and Ticket Center. Right now, though, you CAN’T hop off at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort like you usually would be able to.
The Polynesian is undergoing some pretty major renovations including a new entrance, Moana-themed guest rooms, and a brand new monorail station. The station was demolished but progress on the updated station is ongoing. Bookings are available for the resort on July 19th. It’s possible the monorail station will reopen around that time too.
10. EPCOT monorail is still not open.
Speaking of the monorail, the EPCOT monorail line is still not open. If you haven’t been to Disney World since before the closures, this might come as a surprise! Both Magic Kingdom lines, the Resort Hotel Line and the Express Line are running.
But no heading to EPCOT! Lots of park-to-park transportation options returned at the start of 2021, but the monorail has remained unavailable when it comes to the EPCOT line. Of course, we’re keeping a close eye out for news of its return!
11. There are some HUGE new barges in World Showcase Lagoon.
And speaking of EPCOT, you know this park is seeing some changes. We’ve focused a lot on the EPCOT Transformation construction in Future World, but our attention has been drawn to World Showcase Lagoon recently.
Why? Because of the HUGE (and kinda unsightly) barges that have been installed in preparation for the upcoming nighttime spectacular, Harmonious. During the day, they’ll function as massive fountains and at night they’ll support the show. Right now though? They’re more of an eyesore than anything else.
12. Magical Express will be discontinued in 2022.
For many a Disney guest, Disney’s Magical Express has been a convenient and helpful way to get to and from the Orlando International Airport at the start and end of your trip. Now, the service is being discontinued in 2022.
Mears, the transportation service that is contracted to run Magical Express, recently announced a replacement service called Mears Connect that the company says will operate very similarly to the current shuttle.
13. Only one water park is open right now.
A LOT is still closed in Disney World and that includes one water park — Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. But you CAN head to Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park. Blizzard Beach reopened in March after a full year of closure.
Typhoon Lagoon, on the other hand, still doesn’t have an opening date. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on any updates about this park’s reopening!
14. There are a lot of ride refurbishments in progress.
Again, that 50th Anniversary is coming up and a LOT of rides are getting some refurbishments in preparation. The Mad Tea Party and Swiss Family Treehouse recently reopened from brief refurbs, and the Hall of Presidents is still closed as a President Biden animatronic is added.
Disney World Railroad is also still closed as construction continues on TRON Lightcycle Run. Plus, Splash Mountain is getting a The Princess and the Frog retheme and Jungle Cruise is getting a new storyline.
15. Park hopping is back.
Now, a lot is still unavailable and closed, but some offerings have returned. For instance, park hopping is back and it looks a little bit different from the way it did prior to the closure. To park hop, you’ll need a Disney Park Pass Reservation for your first park of the day and then you can park hop after 2PM as long as your second (or third or fourth) park isn’t at capacity.
We recommend NOT spending extra on the Park Hopper ticket option until you know you need it. It costs the same whether you buy in advance or not and might end up being a waste if you decide not to park hop on your park day.
16. You still can’t buy Annual Passes.
If you were considering becoming a Disney World Annual Passholder soon, no such luck. Annual Passes are STILL not for sale. This is for new Annual Passholders, you might be able to renew if you had one when the parks closed.
If you did have an Annual Pass or if you canceled your Annual Pass during the park closures and regretted it, you can contact the Annual Passholder assistance team and they should be able to help you renew that pass.
17. The Tables in Wonderland program is still unavailable.
Another still-unavailable offering is Tables in Wonderland. This is a dining discount card that is typically available to Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, and Florida Residents.
Tables in Wonderland isn’t even up for renewals right now so once it’s out of date, that’s it for the time being. We’ll be keeping a close eye out for the return of this option.
18. Park hours are changing all the time.
We see Disney World park hours change ALL THE TIME. We keep up with this on DFB so keep an eye out when your trip is coming up because those hours could change at any time. Luckily, Disney isn’t shortening hours, but you might see an earlier opening or later close than you were expecting.
We’ve also seen Disney add extra ride time on certain days. We recommend keeping notifications on in the My Disney Experience app. This way, you may get a notification that some rides will be operating past park close!
19. Disney will be adding 50th Anniversary celebrations.
As we’ve mentioned, Disney World turns 50 this year and is celebrating with The Most Magical Celebration on Earth! Expect all the major park icons to get a makeover, to see Mickey and Minnie in some special duds, and MORE.
But, you won’t have to wait until celebrations kick off on the anniversary (October 1st). We’re already starting to see signs of decorations with new details on Cinderella Castle!
20. Disney is bringing back After Hours events.
Speaking of events, Disney is bringing back After Hours events for the 2021 holiday season! Recently, it was announced that Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party would be replaced by the Disney After Hours BOO Bash this year.
While this event will be shorter and won’t have all of the same features as the Halloween party usually does, it’s a good sign that some of Disney World’s pre-pandemic offerings are returning. We haven’t received any details yet on what Christmastime will be like, but we’ll make sure to keep you updated.
21. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be opening soon.
Even if those events don’t return, there are some exciting happenings otherwise. EPCOT’s latest attraction, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is set to open on October 1st as the 50th Anniversary celebrations commence in all four parks.
And Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure isn’t the only attraction that has an opening in the near future. Disney hasn’t announced specifics, but we can also expect the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind in EPCOT and TRON Lightcycle Run in Magic Kingdom.
22. Some new restaurants may be opening soon!
And it’s not just the rides we’re anticipating. There are some new restaurants we expect too! For instance, La Creperie de Paris, a table-service and counter-service hybrid, will be serving up a menu of sweet and savory crepes in EPCOT on October 1st.
Plus, we’re anxiously waiting on the official opening dates of Space 220, the space-themed restaurant in EPCOT (which is currently set to open this fall), and Roundup Rodeo BBQ, Toy Story Land’s first table-service restaurant.
23. There is still no Fastpass+ program.
The Fastpass+ program is still on hold for now. Prior to the closures, you could book Fastpasses to help you skip the line on popular attractions. Now, though, you’ll be waiting in the standby line for everything.
Plan accordingly and make sure you budget some extra time for ride cleanings or weather delays! We also recommend knowing what rides are your priorities in case you have to skip something you’d previously planned on riding.
24. There is still no Disney Dining Plan!
And another still-gone option is the Disney Dining Plan. If you’re used to having the Dining Plan for all of your Disney trips, you may be out of luck on your next vacation. Disney still hasn’t announced if or when the Dining Plan will make its return.
If you need help planning your Disney dining without the help of the Disney Dining Plan, you can check out ALL of our tips here on DFB or pick up a copy of the DFB Guide. Our e-book has over 700 pages of planning resources and worksheets to help decode ALL your dining worries.
25. Disney Park Passes are selling out regularly.
Disney Park Passes were implemented when the parks reopened last summer, and now it’s more important than ever to book those theme park reservations early — especially for really busy times. As soon as you buy your tickets, go ahead and book those Park Passes.
They can and DO sell out for major holidays and we’ve even seen weeks-long periods sell out in busier times like Spring Break. If you haven’t booked your passes for the 50th on October 1st, you’ll want to do so ASAP. For Annual Passholders, ALL parks are currently booked on October 1st. For Select Resort Hotel guests and Theme Park Tickets guests, Magic Kingdom is currently full. If you haven’t booked your park passes already, you might need to keep an eye out for new park pass releases.
26. You might see facial recognition used at the park entrance.
Here’s a surprising one. At the end of March, Disney started testing facial recognition for park entry at Magic Kingdom.
During the test, you could scan your ticket and then face a camera for Disney’s facial recognition test. The system captured data pertaining to your face so that your identity could be verified with your entry. Right now, the testing has ended but it could make a return. We’ll keep you in the loop!
27. Some hotels are using charter buses to transport guests to parks.
If you’re staying at certain Value Resort options, namely Disney’s All-Star Movies Resort, you might not recognize the buses you hop in to head to the parks. Due to bus capacity changes and health measures, Disney is using some charter buses to transport guests.
So, if you’re staying at a resort and spot a charter bus pulling into the Magic Kingdom lane, don’t be too surprised! Cast Members will be happy to confirm its destination so that you can get to the park — even if it’s not the bus you’re expecting.
28. More hotels are slowly reopening.
And a number of hotels are set to reopen soon. Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas — Jambo House, all now have reopening dates set for this summer.
Now, there are still a number of Disney World Resort hotels WITHOUT opening dates including Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter, Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort, and Disney’s All-Star Music Resort.
29. Some hotels are getting new rooms!
Some hotels are getting some new rooms too! As a part of the refurbishment, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is getting a Moana-themed update to its rooms. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort looks a little bit different too!
And, Disney’s Contemporary Resort is undergoing a multi-month refurbishment soon. Work has already started but Disney hasn’t released details on what exactly this refurb entails.
30. There are LOTS of noticeable construction projects.
Finally, there are LOTS of noticeable construction projects — even outside of the ones specifically mentioned in these changes. Don’t be surprised to see the occasional construction wall on your trip…especially in EPCOT!
31. Temperature checks are gone!
If you visited after the parks reopened, then you certainly experienced the temperature screening process at the entrances of the Disney World parks and Disney Springs. Guests were required to have their temperature taken and were denied entry if they were running a significant fever.
Recently, this requirement has been removed from Disney World. When you stop by these days, you’ll simply be heading through security and straight into the park — just like you did before the pandemic.
As you can see, a LOT has changed in Disney World over the past year…and things are going to continue to change. Follow along with DFB to make sure you don’t get caught off guard! We’ll make sure you stay in the loop on anything that might affect your trip.
Check out our video to see MORE Disney World changes and how to be prepared!
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
Are you headed to Disney World soon? Tell us in the comments!