At first glance it can seem like visiting Walt Disney World means missing out on a quite a few things that many believe are what make Disney a magical place. But after months of our team, and myself, visiting Walt Disney World during this unique time, we’ve got good news. Visiting Walt Disney World is still magical. Yes, it is different. Yes, it is modified. But, there is still magic.
To help you decide if visiting Walt Disney World still offers any value for you, we thought it would be good to talk about what’s missing right now.
- Live shows
- Full character appearances
- Nighttime spectaculars
- Some restaurants
- Extra magic hours
- Park hopping
- Spa services and certain resort recreational activities
So, there certainly is a lot missing at Walt Disney World. But let’s talk about what this all really means. Some things are missing, but there are revised experiences offered in place of some of the traditional experiences. There are practically no live shows right now, but the Frozen Sing Along at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is running, one of the most popular live shows at Walt Disney World. There are also live performances of Mariachi Cobre and the JAMMiators at EPCOT’s American Gardens Theater.
Although there are no traditional parades, there are character cavalcades. And there are no individual meet and greets. Let me tell you, practically everyone on our team and others that I have spoken with say they prefer the character cavalcades. They are very short, but they appear every hour, other than the first of the morning, around lunch time, and continue until around 5:00 p.m. The schedule is not published to avoid crowds gathering beforehand. I prefer these cavalcades because there are multiple ones so you get to see a variety of characters with different music for each one. And they are so frequent it is much easier to see a few here and there than to wait for one long parade that impedes that walkability of nearly half the park. With reduced crowds in the park the characters are able to give a quick wave or gesture to practically every guest as they go by.
And yes, there are no nighttime spectaculars right now. But you know what this means? No more crowded streets as people pull up to a spot an hour before showtime. No more tired and cranky kids whose routine is totally disrupted and it’s past their bedtime and everyone is exhausted (spoken like a true tired toddler mom). No more mad rush immediately following the end of the show as everyone books it to the exit to get to their car or bus. Yes, the nighttime spectaculars can be breathtaking and truly a magical way to end a day, but there are some up sides.
Not all Walt Disney World restaurants, whether table service and quick service, are open right now. But, there are already over 200 restaurants at Walt Disney World to begin with. And, in recent weeks more locations have reopened. Additionally, all quick service locations that are owned and operated by Disney have moved to mobile ordering exclusively. You can make things very convenient on yourself by ordering your food while waiting in line for an attraction. Then when you’re done you can check in for your order and it will be ready for you shortly. There’s also a select number of table service restaurants at Disney resorts that offer takeout food via mobile ordering. Each theme park is missing one to three dining locations right now, and each resort that is open may have just one dining location unavailable right now.
The loss of Extra Magic Hours as a benefit for staying at select Walt Disney World Resort Hotels is a notable loss. However, in recent months prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Extra Magic Hours were reduced, both in length and frequency. Other offerings at the resorts have changed a little too. Sunrise Yoga offered at many Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts is temporarily suspended, but bicycle rental and similar recreation is still available. Movies Under the Stars are still happening, just at a reduced schedule – essentially one night on, one night off. Arcades are still open at most resorts, but at a reduced schedule.
Now, let’s talk about the loss of FastPass+. It was nice to wake up in the morning and head out to the park knowing you’ve got at least three attractions that are essentially guaranteed because you reserved FastPass+ for them in advance. Now that is not an option. However, average wait times for many of the attractions at the parks are around 30 minutes these days. And, if you’re a TouringPlans Subscriber you’ve got two really awesome tools at your disposal.
You can create your own Touring Plan or use one of our own. A Touring Plan will give you a step-by-step guide on how to go about your day in the parks including which rides to do when and in what order. As you go about your day you can optimize your plan in our Lines app in case there are any changes to your day. If you’d rather just wing it, you can use our Lines app to see Expected Wait Times compared to Disney’s Posted Wait Times. Our Expected Wait Times are calculated using real-time data. You can also see if it’s a good time to ride something now or wait until later. So, even with the loss of FastPass+ you can still accomplish a lot, and perhaps even more, with the right tools.
Everyone has to decide for themselves what constitutes a valuable vacation to Walt Disney World. For some, traveling to the Most Magical Place on Earth has been a welcome respite from a very trying time. Many guests have reported feeling more safe at Walt Disney World than they do in their own local supermarket thanks to Disney’s stringent COVID-19 safety precautions. Our team periodically observes guest mask compliance, and so far we’ve seen an average of 96% compliance among observed guests (500 guests observed at one time).
There are fewer guests in the parks now to allow for physical distancing. Wait times overall are lower than they were a year ago. But ultimately, deciding to visit Walt Disney World right now is an individual choice.
Are any of these missing experiences an absolute deal breaker for you? What questions do you have about visiting Walt Disney World right now?