Disney World is among the last places on earth you’d expect to see a disaster unfold, but on May 13, 2017, a partial collapse of the roof at the theme park’s Liberty Square section caused panic as Disney World employees rushed to rescue guests and evacuate the park. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, likely because Disney World has a track record of handling emergencies well.

After the passing of his father and the subsequent sale of his childhood home, Walt Disney World is in a strange place. The park reopened almost a year ago, and a lot of the charm of the park remains. But when you see the parks individual components, the grandeur is not quite what it used to be.

Shortly before noon on the 24th. In June 2020, I was alone in the lobby of Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, the grande dame of Walt Disney World hotels, coveted for its Victorian grandeur, proximity to the Magic Kingdom and, for adults who stayed there as children, its nostalgia.

The emptiness of the lobby was mirrored in Magic Kingdom Park two weeks later, when the park opened on the 11th. July reopened with such a small crowd that it was easier to be alone in Frontierland than distracted by the proximity of another guest.


Fast forward a year and a week to January 1. July 2021. I returned to the Grand Floridian Hotel and witnessed a very different scene as the pianist played Go the Distance, the inspirational hymn from Disney’s Hercules, and the lobby buzzed with energy and excitement as guests prepared to head to Magic Kingdom for another night of Happily Ever After fireworks. At the park, I joined the thousands of guests sitting under a sea of umbrellas in the Magic Kingdom Center, anxiously awaiting the start of the show. We have waited a long time for this moment – 472 days to be exact. And for the first time in what seemed like forever, life seemed almost normal again.

The wide availability of vaccines and rapidly changing CDC recommendations have shaken up the Disney world in recent months. There are still no parades or FastPasses, and you can’t hug Mickey Mouse, but the return of experiences like fireworks, live shows, and the smiles you can see make the new normal at Disney World a wonderful event. Here’s what to expect when you visit Disney World a year after its reopening.

Masks are optional for vaccinated persons

A recent change, welcomed by most guests, is that masks are now optional for fully vaccinated guests in most areas of Walt Disney World. Masks are still required for all guests age 2 and older on Disney World buses, Monorail and Skyliner. Visitors who have not been fully vaccinated must wear protective clothing in all enclosed areas, at entrances and on all attractions, and on all means of transport except ferries.

Fully vaccinated Disney employees are no longer required to wear masks in many indoor and outdoor areas. The positive effect on the customer experience of unmasked interaction and lots of big smiles should not be underestimated.

In April, Disney began allowing more freedom of expression to service members by allowing visible haircuts, jewelry, manicures, costume choices and tattoos based on gender.

Tattooed Disney member in Walt Disney World (Photo: Brooke Geiger McDonald)

The result is that you not only see the smiling faces of the actors, but also their personal expressions, and it was a pleasure to be there as a guest.

The fireworks are back.

Fireworks, always a feature of Walt Disney World vacations and sorely missed during the pandemic, are the boss’s kiss at the end of a perfect day at the park. The Magic Kingdom park brought back Happy Until the End of Days, and EPCOT brought back EPCOT Forever, so visitors could end their evening on a nice note.

From 1. In October, two new nightly shows – Disney Enchantment in Magic Kingdom and Harmonious in EPCOT – will debut as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Current trend

A shorter distance for a better experience

Disney’s FastPass+ service is still not available, but with increased attraction capacity and rows and seats no longer left empty for individual guests, wait times for attractions and entertainment remain acceptable. Best of all, when visitors fill the seats in line and at the attractions and shows, the streets and other outdoor areas are often less crowded.

When Disneyland reopened, Plexiglas was installed in many indoor queues where keeping a distance was not possible. In addition, Plexiglas and partitions were installed on many of the rides, which negatively affected the view of many popular attractions. All partitions have been removed or are being removed, and the carousel and queue are back to what they were before the pandemic.

Reopening of restaurants and resorts

More resorts are opening all the time, with constant news of new resorts and restaurants, new menus, room upgrades and much more. Recent restaurants include Sebastian’s Bistro at Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom and Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park. The 9th. In July, fan favorite restaurant ‘Ohana will reopen at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort on July 15. In July, Citricos at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa will reopen with an original makeover inspired by the new Disney film, Mary Poppins Returns.

One catering offering that has not returned is the buffet. Popular buffet restaurants such as Cape May Café at Disney’s Beach Club Resort, Tusker House and Trail’s End Restaurant, which is 17… Reopening in July at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort, now offers family-style dining that includes many of the most popular dishes from the pre-Pandemonium buffet, but served at your table.

As for resorts, all Walt Disney World resorts will be open again by the end of 2021. Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Disney’s Boardwalk Inn recently reopened, while Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort opened on the 19th. Opening in July and new rooms in Moana style. Reopening dates have been announced for all Disney World resorts that are still closed: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge will open on the 26th. August; Disney’s All-Star Music Resort opens on the 16th. September; Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside opens on the 14th. October; Disney’s Port Orleans – French Quarter opens on October 28; and Disney’s All-Star Sports Resort opens on October 9. December opened.

Disney’s Contemporary Resort is also undergoing renovation and redevelopment. The new room design is reportedly inspired by the Disney Pixar Incredibles movies, as well as the iconic monorail that runs through the resort.

Lion King Festival Celebration (Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

The beloved live show returns to the stage

The return of entertainment to the Disney World stages has been slow, and those top-notch shows and talented performers have been sorely missed. Fortunately, the Lion King party, a slightly modified version of the pre-pandemic Lion King party, returned on the 15th. Mai has triumphantly returned to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The return of the show was a milestone for the team members and guests, and raised hopes that more live shows would soon follow.

More than just the taste of food and wine

Arguably the most popular festival of the year in EPCOT, the EPCOT 2021 International Food and Wine Festival will be held this year on July 15.

This is the first festival to not use the word Taste of since it reopened (the new name drew attention to the changes in offerings that were needed during the pandemic). The return to the original name has visitors optimistic that this festival will be much closer to its beloved pre-pandemic image. Seven new world markets are making their debut this year – some at the start of the festival, others on the 1st. In October, during the 50th anniversary celebrations, there will always be something new to taste and savor at the festival.

Disney After Hours BOO BASH opens August 10 at Magic Kingdom Park. August in the Magic Kingdom (Photo: Walt Disney World)

A merrier Halloween

Last year Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Parties had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, but this year Disney has announced a new series of Halloween parties. The Disney After Hours Boo Bash will be held as a separate ticketed event on select evenings in Magic Kingdom after the park closes, starting at 10am. August to 31. The month of October will take place.

This year’s Halloween Party doesn’t include some signature elements like the Mickey Boo-to-You Halloween Parade and Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular, but the three-hour event does offer plenty of treats, exclusive Halloween attractions, drink specials and character performances, as well as shortened wait times at the attractions.

runDisney finish line (photo via Walt Disney World)

RunDisney races are back

After more than a year of virtual races, some World of Disney fans are getting ready to put on their running shoes, as runDisney has announced the return of in-person races at Walt Disney World. The 2021-2022 RunDisney season will include four race weekends: Disney wine and half marathon weekend, 4-7. November; Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, 5-9. Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, February 24-27, and the RunDisney Springtime Surprise Weekend, February 31. March to 3. April.

Guests waiting for Happily Ever After to return to the Magic Kingdom (Photo by Brooke Geiger McDonald)

Almost done.

Despite the great progress, some of the favorites are not back yet. Cavalcades of characters and impromptu appearances of characters for selfies from afar continue to replace grand parades and encounters with characters. Character meals will also be adjusted, with long-distance waves instead of table visits. For those who didn’t enjoy watching the parade or standing in line for an hour to meet Anna and Elsa, it was a welcome change, but some still mourn the loss of those fleeting moments when a hug from Winnie the Pooh or a fight with Darth Vader during Jedi training could mean the world to a child.

But after a year of visiting Walt Disney World during this unprecedented time, I felt nothing but hope, and heard the cheers and gasps of the guests around me as the first notes of Happily Ever After sounded on that first night in Magic Kingdom. Many of us had seen the show before, but this time it was much more important to hear the words: Every step we take brings new hope, a new day ….. As I stood among the children and excited adults again, and we all saw Cinderella’s castle and the first fireworks, I finally felt like we could begin a normal life – a new normal, no doubt, but one that promises many happy days.

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