It may be hard to believe, but it has been a FULL year since the Disney World theme parks reopened following its four-month-long closure in 2020. It’s a unique anniversary many of us wouldn’t have predicted being faced with just a few years ago, but here we are!
Since then, a lot has changed — health and safety policies have been updated drastically to make face masks optional for most guests and Cast Members in many locations, and most social distancing measurements have also been lifted. For all of the things that HAVE returned to Disney World since the parks reopened, there are also a number of things that have STILL not come back.
Just one short year ago, it was a WHOLE different ballgame in Disney World. The parks and resorts looked and felt different than anyone had ever experienced. We faced record low crowds as guests began to slowly return. Temperature checks and face masks were the norm. A year later, the parks are slowly returning to what we’ve known for nearly 49 years now as “normal.” Let’s take a look at what still HASN’T.
Disney World Experiences
There are a few big locations across Disney World that have yet to reopen following the theme parks. Perhaps the biggest omission from Disney World’s current offerings is Typhoon Lagoon, which remains closed as of this writing with no reopening plans announced.
Blizzard Beach reopened in March of this year, so guests looking to fit in time at a water park can still do so on their next Disney World vacation. Another location that has not reopened is the NBA Experience in Disney Springs. However, in August 2021 the Orlando Sentinel reported that the NBA Experience will not reopen and is now permanently closed.
Hopefully we’ll be able to bring you updates on these locations soon!
Click here for a list of rides and hotels that will be closed when Disney World crosses its one year mark of reopening its theme parks.
Disney World Resort Hotels
While the vast majority of Disney World’s Resort hotels have reopened, there are a few remaining properties that have yet to welcome guests back. The good news is that by the end of 2021, all of the Disney World owned- and operated-hotels will have reopened! The bad news is that the remaining hotels will not reopen by mid-July when Disney World marks its one year anniversary of being reopened.
Here are the remaining hotels that are STILL closed (with updates, as needed, since this post was originally published):
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside (reopening on October 14th)
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort French Quarter (reopening on October 28th)
- Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort (reopening on December 9th)
Disney World has also been very strict on its resort hopping guidelines since the hotels first reopened back in June of 2020. Basically, it’s not allowed without a confirmed Advance Dining Reservation for any hotel you wish to visit for which you are not an overnight guest.
Disney World Services and Other Offerings
There are several key planning tools guests have relied on in years past when booking a trip to Disney World. Many of these are still suspended in some way or completely unavailable, like the Disney Dining Plan. Disney suspended the Dining Plan during the 2020 closures and have yet to bring it back. However, we did get recent news that the Dining Plan is due to return!
Another fan-favorite planning tool that has yet to return one year after the parks reopened is FastPass+. And in August 2021, Disney announced that FastPass will NOT return to Disney World. A new service called Disney Genie will launch in the fall of 2021, and the free service will launch alongside two additional, optional paid-for services that will ultimately replace FastPass+. You can find all the information about these new offerings HERE.
The sale of new Annual Passes was still on pause one year after the parks reopened. However, if you’re in the market to join the AP family, you can do so now, because Annual Passes became available for purchase again on September 8, 2021!
The Annual Pass Program has returned with FOUR all-new passes, so you’ll DEFINITELY want to be aware of all of the major changes.
In the parks, character meet and greets are still happening from a distance. Disney World has come up with a variety of new and clever ways for the characters to interact with guests, but as of this writing you still cannot run up to Mickey Mouse and give him a hug. The same goes for character dining experiences — characters will not approach individual tables for autographs or photos.
Speaking of dining, Tables in Wonderland is still suspended until further notice. New memberships are not being sold at this time, and we will keep an eye on any new updates.
Most transportation options have returned to Disney World, but the Minnie Van service is still on pause. We spotted a vehicle driving around Disney World last summer, but we have not seen any official announcement on whether this service will return or not.
Finally, we’re still waiting to hear when Disney World is planning on the return of offering package deliveries to their resort hotels. This service was very popular with many hotel guests not wanting to lug their purchases around the theme parks all day.
Finally, a big one for many guests, we’re awaiting the return of Disney’s long-running Halloween and Christmas parties. Last year, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party were canceled. This year, both of those parties have been canceled again and new events are set to take their place.
This year, a new Halloween-themed After Hours event has been announced for Magic Kingdom — BOO Bash — but it looks to be quite different from the Halloween parties of old. A new After Hours event has also been announced for the holiday season — Disney Very Merriest After Hours.
We’ll keep an eye on ALL of these updates from Disney World in the coming weeks and months and we will let you know when we hear of any new announcements regarding these guest offerings.
Disney World Dining
Just like Disney World Resort hotels, guests visiting Disney World one year after the parks reopened will be able to dine at most restaurants and dining spots. There may be a select few restaurants, however, that you are still unable to eat at right now.
Here’s a select list of dining locations that are still currently closed:
- Takumi-Tei – EPCOT
- Monsieur Paul – EPCOT
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall – EPCOT
- Restaurant Marrakesh – EPCOT (though you can step inside this area and sit down for a while)
- Jiko – The Cooking Place – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
- Flying Fish – Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- 1900 Park Fare – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Victoria & Albert’s – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
While Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort were previously closed, both reopened in July. Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa was also closed as of July 11th, but reopened on July 15th.
The vast majority of Counter Service dining locations have reopened! But among the few that remain closed are Pepe by Jose Andres and The Smokehouse at House of Blues in Disney Springs. (That said, Jaleo by Jose Andres and the full Table Service restaurant at House of Blues are open!)
Of the many restaurants that are reopen, you may still encounter limited menus to order from and somewhat limited seating. And if you’re looking to enjoy a drink at one of Disney World’s bars, bar seating has not returned to most locations as of this writing.
Click here for a FULL list of the dining locations around Disney World that are currently open and closed.
Disney World Entertainment
Finally, what is a trip to Disney World without some live entertainment? We finally saw the return of fireworks to Disney World with Happily Ever After and EPCOT Forever returning to Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, respectively. However, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is still without any of its nighttime spectaculars, including Fantasmic. But, the Wonderful World of Animation show returned to Hollywood Studios in August.
We’ve also seen the return of Festival of the Lion King (in a slightly modified format), but Finding Nemo The Musical remains closed in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. However, we did receive some great news that a “reimagined” version of this production will make its debut in 2022!
Stage shows in Hollywood Studios remain largely closed including the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, Voyage of the Little Mermaid, and more.
We’re glad to report, though, that the fan-favorite Beauty and the Beast — Live on Stage returned in August 2021!
We’ve loved having all of the different character cavalcades in all four theme parks for the last year, but many guests are wondering when we’ll see the return of full-length parades, like the Festival of Fantasy Parade.
We also haven’t heard any announcements yet on the return of any castle stage shows in Magic Kingdom or performers throughout EPCOT’s World Showcase. The lovely street performers in the parks, like the Citizens of Hollywood in Hollywood Studios and the Citizens of Main Street in Magic Kingdom, have also not returned.
We did, however, receive word in September 2021 that Yehaa Bob will be bringing his high-energy piano-and-song show back to the River Roost when Port Orleans Resort — Riverside reopens in October!
Finally, EPCOT’s festivals are still seeing missing elements. Popular concert series, like the Garden Rocks for the Flower and Garden Festival or the Eat to the Beat series for Food and Wine, are still on hold. Live seminars and events tied to the festivals are also not being offered at this time.
Don’t forget — we have NEW shows coming to Disney World on October 1st to kick off the 50th Anniversary Celebration, including Harmonious in EPCOT! Entertainment HAS been making its way back to Disney World over the past few months, so hopefully we’ll have some exciting updates to share soon! Fingers crossed we hear more news about the return of parades, more nighttime spectaculars, and more!
When you step back and look and what HAS returned to Disney World over the past year, it’s a far cry from the limited restaurants, resorts, and offerings that were available last summer. The parks and resorts have come a long way in being able to bring more Cast Members back, reopen some of our favorite locations, and bring back some of our favorite things! As Disney World continues its phased reopening, we’ll be sure to bring you the most up-to-date coverage on what’s available throughout the parks and hotels!