Let me help you decide.
Another “2020 first”: I am fresh off a whirlwind weekend to Disney World in the age of COVID-19, and I have had so many people reach out and ask for my feedback that I decided to whip up a little post to give you a recap of our experience!
First of all – we had an absolute blast. A weekend away for just my big girls (Avery, 9 and Harper, 7 – baby Blake stayed home with Daddy) and I was well overdue. It was nice to head out on an adventure, stay in a hotel (even with no room service or housekeeping), enjoy the magic of Disney (yes it is still magical) and just have some good old-fashioned fun for a few days. No homework, no bedtimes, and a looooot of mommy saying “yes”. Have I mentioned that I have managed to raise some shoppers?! Man, they are INTO IT!
That said, Disney has a decidedly “new normal” these days. To enter the parks not only do you need a valid theme park ticket but you also need a corresponding park reservation (to limit attendance – and you can check the availability calendar HERE). There are no Fast Passes (because they need the turnstile space for social distancing), so the posted wait times for lines were long, and the lines looked really long, but somehow we managed to avoid waiting in any long lines.
Many attractions are not available (parades, fireworks, shows) in order to eliminate large public gatherings. We wore face masks pretty much the entire visit, and it was hot and my sunglasses kept getting foggy, which was inconvenient. Disney policy is that masks can only be removed when eating or drinking while stationary and socially distanced. This really worked out okay because we took relatively frequent breaks…again, it was hot so taking a minute to regroup was crucial.
Any new introductions that I hope will stick around? Absolutely. Free standing hand washing stations! It is nice to not have to scope out and enter a restroom to wash your hands. Physical distancing (not being herded like cattle in lines etc) is nice. Improved crowd management – no getting elbowed out of the way at The Emporium for a pair of Mickey ears – I’m into that. And we LOVED the surprise cavalcades and character sightings around the park – we saw one float with literally every single princess. That was a highlight for sure!
That said, let’s dive in real quick to how our days panned out:
Day 1 / Saturday: We arrived at the Magic Kingdom around 8:40 a.m. (the park technically opened at 9, but they were letting people in early) and managed to hit several attractions – Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, It’s a Small World, The Barnstormer, AND Dumbo – all before 11. That’s impressive. After a popcorn / cotton candy break we casually strolled back down toward Main Street and shopped a virtually empty Emporium (extremely rare).
We had a fabulous lunch at Tony’s Town Square (where I enjoyed a pretty tasty chicken parmesan and a glass of Pinot Grigio) and it was so nice to just sit at a table, take off our masks for an extended period of time, cool down, and be served a nice meal. I highly, highly recommend making an advanced dining reservation to give yourself a solid break and enjoy a nice dining experience with some peace and quiet if you can swing it. You can check Dining Availability HERE – and do it quick because tables are limited.
After lunch the girls wanted to do more shopping (are you picking up on this theme here yet?!) so we shopped our way back up the other side of Main Street, and at the last minute decided to make a run at Space Mountain. We only waited 20 minutes (even though the posted wait time was 70 minutes) and then we were ready to head to the Monorail by 3 p.m. to relax and cool down at our hotel before dinner in Disney Springs.
Day 2 / Sunday: We arrived at Epcot around 10:45 a.m. (again, the park technically opened at 11, but they were letting people in early) and headed straight to Spaceship Earth, one of the girls’ favorite rides. No wait at all.
From there we headed toward “The Seas” area and hit the “Finding Nemo” ride (again, no wait at all) and then enjoyed the 5.7-million-gallon Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium (did you know that Epcot boasts one of the largest man-made ocean environments on the planet? True story). The girls always love exploring the aquarium and taking in the 4,000+ sea creatures so we spent a nice chunk of time there and it was very spacious, cool, and relaxing.
From there we headed over to “The Land”, where it was required to queue up in order to enter the building (this only took a few minutes, I think we possibly got in line at just the right time). Once we were inside, the listed wait time for Soarin’ was 70 minutes! Based on our experience with Space Mountain the previous day (listed wait was 70 minutes, it took us 20) I was open to waiting if the girls had their hearts set on it, but they didn’t care so I happily moved on and we queued up for “Living with the Land” instead, which had no wait at all.
Afterward we took a quick break at Sunshine Seasons for a small meal (the oak-grilled salmon is truly delicious and hit the spot – honestly worth a stop) and then we headed over to the Disney & Pixar Film Festival where we basically walked right in and enjoyed three short films – it felt so nice to relax and be back in a theatre! “Journey Into Imagination with Figment” is located right next door so we ventured over there afterward and we waited maybe 10 minutes to board that ride (and the posted time was 35 minutes).
I may have mentioned that I have some shoppers on my hands! Man, that was all they wanted to do (they absolutely lost their minds with all the tchotchkes in Japan, LOL)! So naturally we headed to World Showcase, where we kicked off our tour around the world with a stop at one of our favorites: France. To be precise, L’Artisan des Glaces, the amazing and charming artisan frozen treat shop tucked away in the back of the France Pavilion. Avery chose a chocolate cone, Harper chose vanilla, and Mommy had the La Vie en Rose Slushy which is made with Grey Goose Vodka Orange, St. Germain liquor, and white and red cranberry juices. I highly, highly recommend! Best “Mommy Juice” ever.
We capped off our “world tour” with an early dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Epcot, Via Napoli Ristorante & Pizzeria, located in the Italy Pavilion, with a pizza and a quartino of the Super Tuscan for Mamma Mia (me). The thin-crust pizzas are made with fresh mozzarella cheese, San Marzano tomatoes and real Caputo flour imported from Southern Italy. Water for the dough is even sourced from a spring similar to Italy’s Campania region. Pizzas are then cooked in wood-burning ovens named after the 3 active volcanoes – not only do I LOVE their pizza, I also love the open kitchen vibe and the general ambiance in this restaurant. Put it on your list!
In all, a Disney trip is just a different animal right now. There are both perks and drawbacks to the current guidelines and park rules, which is really how it always is – right?! My advice is to do your research (one of my favorite resources are the folks over at Disney Food Blog – they really cover it all), take a lot of patience, and modify everyone’s expectations before you walk through the gate. A lot of the time I see parents misbehaving more than their kids. ;). There is still a lot of magic to be had! It just looks different.
My girls didn’t miss a beat – they are already asking when we can go back and have thanked me repeatedly for taking them. That’s a win in my book!
So tell me, do you have a trip coming up anytime soon? Tell me everything!