Disney World reopening: No character encounters, no parking lot trams

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All guests who are at least 2 years old will be required to wear face coverings.
All guests who are at least 2 years old will be required to wear face coverings.

This article was updated to correct information about park opening dates. 

The Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando will start its phased opening to the public this Saturday, July 11, when two parks -- Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom -- open to guests.

The resort’s other two theme parks, Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios, are slated to open Wednesday, July 15. There are no reopening plans for the Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon water parks.

“After being closed for nearly four months, Walt Disney World theme parks are reopening with a deliberate, responsible approach drawing on experience from Shanghai Disney Resort, Hong Kong Disneyland and Disney Springs,” Disney said. “Aspects of a Disney theme park day have been reexamined in light of the new global environment, with new policies following guidance from health experts and government agencies.”

PARK OPERATIONS

All parks will open with attendance limits to control guest density. Parking lot trams will not be available.

Guests must register online in advance to visit a park by using the Disney Park Pass System. After purchasing a ticket online at Disneyworld.com, guests get a calendar of available dates to choose from.

All Disney employees and guests who are at least 2 years old must wear a face covering at Disney’s parks and on modes of transportation. Face masks do not need to be worn while dining.

Capacity will be limited on guest transportation. According to Disney, buses and monorails will use physical distancing and barriers to separate parties. Physical distancing will be required on Disney watercraft. The Skyliner will load with one party per gondola when it reopens July 15. Guests driving to Disney parks will have cashless payment options for parking. 

All guests will undergo temperature screenings before entering a park. Those with a temperature of 100.4 or higher will be taken to a secondary location for rescreening; if they again have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, they and their party will not be admitted.

Inside the parks, Disney will limit the number of guests allowed in retail and dining locations. New ground markings, including in shops, restaurants and attraction queue lines, will encourage social distancing, and physical barriers will be used in some locations.

Cleaning schedules have been increased for high-traffic areas. Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer will be made readily available in parks.

Attraction boarding procedures have been modified to keep parties distanced.
Attraction boarding procedures have been modified to keep parties distanced.

Guests are encouraged to use cashless transactions when possible.

Disney said most attractions will be open when the parks reopen. New loading procedures will be used to separate parties.

A team of cast members will be on hand at each theme park to answer guest questions and help them observe the new guidelines.

DINING

Seating areas at restaurants will be cleaned between guest seatings. Waiting areas and other high-traffic common areas will be cleaned more often, Disney said. Self-service areas for beverages and other items have been eliminated.

Many restaurants are using reduced-contact menus, available on Disney’s My Disney Experience app or displayed on signage in the restaurant. At some table-service locations, guests can use mobile devices to scan a QR code to access a digital menu.

Disney is encouraging guests to use its mobile ordering feature on the My Disney Experience app.

The app also enables guests to check in for a dining reservation. They can also check in by scanning a QR code in the restaurant’s lobby. Guests can still check in at the restaurant’s podium, too.

ENTERTAINMENT

Though nighttime spectaculars and traditional parades that draw large crowds will be on hiatus when the parks open, some entertainment groups will return, like the Magic Kingdom’s Main Street Philharmonic, Epcot’s Mariachi Cobre and the JAMMitors, and Animal Kingdom’s Discovery Island Drummers.

Additionally, Disney has introduced a new version of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival. Starting July 15, the Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival will run through the fall. It will feature more than 20 global marketplaces -- like Hawaii, Hops & Barley and Islands of the Caribbean -- featuring special food and drinks for sale. 

Disney’s traditional character meet-and-greets have been put on hold, but a number of character experiences will be made available at each park when it reopens:

Magic Kingdom

• The Royal Princess Processional will make its way through the Magic Kingdom several times each day. Princess Merida and her horse, Angus, will lead the processional, followed by a float with Cinderella, Tiana, Belle, Jasmine, Snow White, Rapunzel and others.

• The Mickey and Friends Cavalcade will make its way through the park’s parade route during the day, featuring Mickey, Minnie and friends.

• Cinderella’s evil stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella, will make occasional appearances on a balcony of Cinderella Castle, from which they can interact with guests.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom

• A party boat will transport Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Launchpad McQuack from DinoLand U.S.A. to the Discovery River for Donald’s Dino Boat Bash.

• Guests will see Timon and Rafiki or Pocahontas with Meeko floating by on the Discovery River Character Cruise on the park’s waterways throughout the day.

• The Discovery Island Drummers will also cruise along Discovery River throughout the day.

Epcot

• The Mickey and Friends World Tour will feature Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy sightseeing throughout World Showcase, waving to guests.

Guests will ssee Disney characters throughout the parks, like during the Mickey and Friends Cavalcade.
Guests will ssee Disney characters throughout the parks, like during the Mickey and Friends Cavalcade.

• Queen Anna and her sister Elsa will journey around World Showcase as part of the Frozen Promenade, waving to guests as they go from pavilion to pavilion.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios

• In Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, guests will come across a number of Star Wars characters popping up in places like the platforms above the garage in Black Spire Station or in the spaceport where the Millennium Falcon sits. First Order stormtroopers and Kylo Ren will also be spotted near their spaceship, a TIE Echelon assault vehicle.

• The Pixar Pals Motorcade will feature a number of Pixar film favorites, like the Toy Story crew, who will wave to fans as they head down Hollywood Boulevard.

• The Disney Junior Stars Motorcade will make its way down Hollywood Boulevard during the day in colorful convertibles, featuring Disney Junior stars like Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins and Vampirina.

Some Disney parks have been open this week for employee and annual passholder previews.

The Disney parks are opening amid a spike in Covid-19 infections in Florida.

Correction: An earlier version of this report incorrectly said that Animal Kingdom would reopen July 15. The parks reopening on July 15 are Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.

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