Greetings friends! It’s been quite a hiatus from sharing all the happenings at Walt Disney World. While COVID took its massive toll on all aspects of “normal”, things at Disney are finally returning to a “new normal”, just in time for a summer season celebrating 50 years of the theme park’s existence. I’m back to share all the current happenings and what you may expect for an upcoming vacation at Walt Disney World, and assist you with planning one!
Several changes were set in place during the pandemic, and remain active at present. Though always evolving, currently these are the important things to keep in mind. During the reservation process, you will now be made to check box acknowledging the inherent risk of COVID-19 exposure anywhere people are gathered, and thus by attending Walt Disney World, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure of this coronavirus. Masks are presently optional for all guests in all locations, including on transportation, though masks are recommended for unvaccinated guests.
Resort guests will arrive to thoroughly cleaned rooms with extra attention to high touch areas, and can expect a light cleaning every other day of your stay. This includes removal of trash and replacements of towels but does not include making of beds or room tidying.
Another COVID related change seems to be here to stay. In order to control park attendance levels, Disney implemented a park reservation system, requiring guests to select which park they will visit on each day of their vacation. Parks do reach capacity in this system. At present, many days in June are unavailable. So before finalizing your vacation plan, verifying that the parks you wish to visit have availability on your days of travel is a must! The theme park reservation calendar can be found here.
And for more information in general, check out Disney’s Know Before You Go page here.
After a staggered period of time, all Disney Resorts are now reopened and accepting reservations. Additionally, nearly all ride-based attractions are up and running (outside of scheduled refurbishments). Some firework shows, once suspended due to crowded viewing amidst the height of COVID have returned! New Fireworks Spectaculars at both EPCOT and Magic Kingdom are lighting up the night skies. A new nighttime projection show at Hollywood Studios showcasing the Wonderful World of Animation, and at Animal Kingdom a new daytime show, Kite Tales, both add delight to your visits. The fan favorite A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King stage show has returned in a modified format at Animal Kingdom. My personal favorite over at Hollywood Studios, A Frozen-Sing-a-long, is as funny and entertaining as ever with updated dialog. Many character interactions have also reopened at all parks to long awaited fanfare! Dessert Parties have once again returned before or after Magic Kingdom fireworks.
Specialty event Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party is back this fall with dates from August 12 through October 31, tickets on sale now. The Boo To You Parade is returning for this event, as well as Trick or Treating throughout the park for guests of all ages.
Many popular extras such as Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique and Harmony Barbershop are still unavailable, but are on the cusp of opening, first with Harmony on July 31 (reservations open on June 28). Bibbidi Bobiddi Boutique is slated to open later in the year. Also reopening on June 23rd is the popular dinner show Hoop Dee Doo Review at Fort Wilderness.
While there are still many character interactions that have yet to return, as well as character dining experiences still being limited, more are opening back up all the time now. For a complete list of what is and what is not opened, check here. This link will give you updates on the status of Disney’s “extras”.
The Park Hopper ticket option has also returned, with contingency upon park availability. You are only permitted to hop to another park after 2pm provided it has not reached capacity according to the park reservation system. This caveat adds a bit of “unknown” to your vacation, especially when dinner reservations are involved. We at UNIGLOBE Ohio Valley Travel will explain the impacts and will advise you according to your priorities and desires of park exploration.
As mentioned above, new shows and formats to existing attractions can be found through the parks. But there are also some BRAND NEW attraction openings in the last couple of years.
This month, EPCOT received its FIRST roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. This fully indoor coaster featuring a reverse launch and individually rotating cars, is the most recent opening in all of Walt Disney World. Also in EPCOT, over at the France Pavilion, you can find Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, another fresh attraction where you are the size of a mouse in trackless ride vehicles which scurry throughout a busy restaurant kitchen.
In Hollywood Studios, the most recent additions, Rise of the Resistance and Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run, both opened in the Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge section of the park in 2019. And just the year before the park gained Slinky Dog Dash and Alien Swirling Saucers with incredible theming over in Andy’s backyard of Toy Story Land. Also relatively new is Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, a unique ride through a cartoon universe with plenty of surprises! These attractions have made Hollywood Studios incredibly popular and often maxes out in the Park Reservation system.
Over at Disney Springs, a first ever collaboration between Walt Disney Animation Studios and Walt Disney Imagineering and Cirque de Soleil has opened a freshly created show, Drawn to Life, featuring acrobatic mastery combined with an animator’s desk as drawings come to life. Showing since November of 2021 with very high reviews, Drawn to Life is a captivating experience worth considering. Tickets are on sale now, with shows running Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Some things have changed, not for the better, in my humble opinion. The free Magical Express bus service to and from the airport is no longer in operation. Guests now must arrange their own roundtrip transportation. No worries though! When you book with UNIGLOBE Ohio Valley Travel, we assist with all aspects of your vacation, including transportation.
Also gone is the Free Fast Pass system which allowed for a minimal wait for prearranged attractions at scheduled times. Instead, they have created Genie+, a paid platform allowing access to the “Lightning Lane” on a next available time system. Its nuances aren’t easily explained in a concise manner (it will get its own dedicated blog post soon), but rest assured the UNIGLOBE team helps our clients decide if this is something beneficial to their individual party, or if isn’t worth the extra fees. Ultimately the decision is up to you the guest, but we will give you all our insider knowledge to help you make an informed decision.
Salons and spas have no yet reopened, and many of the entertaining street performer have not returned to date. Among others, these include the Citizens of Main Street, many character meetings, Jedi Training, and several of the acts in EPCOTS World Showcase.
Fantasmic, a nighttime show at Hollywood Studios has still not reopened, however Disney has said it is slated to return “later in 2022” without any additional information.
Looking ahead to 2023
Reservations for 2023 vacation packages will open on June 8th! Why is this important? If you are thinking of going to Walt Disney World next year, it’s best to book early. Like the proverbial early bird getting the worm, deciding early is the best opportunity to get the resort of your choice and room type that you want. The sooner you make reservations (for only a deposit of $200), the more time you have to plan (or if you prefer, have me plan for you!)
In fact, if you know your anticipated travel dates, we can gather your information and provide you with price quotes as soon as the reservation window opens. For your free quote, call the UNIGLOBE office at 304-232-5171, or send a message here with your travel dates, the composition of your traveling party (ages/relations), room requirements (category level/number of guests in the same room), and number of days you wish to visit the parks. We look forward to serving all your vacation needs!