What a day! We’ve been travelling like crazy the past several days for previews and reopenings on both coasts for the Disney theme parks. Today was the first official reopening day for the Walt Disney World Resort and for both U.S. based theme parks.
Our first preview day was at Magic Kingdom which gave us a good taste of what to expect as far as new safety measures and capacity limits went. Now, after having returned to Orlando, we had our first day inside Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park. And it was amazing!
To walk in through the gates and take it all in again was awesome to say the least. We have missed the parks greatly!
Our recent journal series has had us walking you through what a typical day is like at the parks and prepping to get there, so we’ll continue in that direction.
Yesterday we wrote we were going to get up and leave for Animal Kingdom just before 7am. That changed just a bit after talking with some Cast Members at our resort hotel. They thought leaving that early would have us just sitting in our car waiting for parking to open (and they were right).
So we got up at about 6:45am, packed our stuff and moved from Bay Lake Tower to the Contemporary Main Tower. Around 7:25am we grabbed an Uber and headed for the park. We took an Uber because we knew the bus system was running at limited capacity and wasn’t sure how long that would take. More on that in a minute.
Our driver got us to the entrance of the park around 7:25am. They didn’t start letting cars in until 7:30. Once in, we actually had to wait just a bit more, probably until 7:35am before they let him drop us off and other cars to park.
We walked straight to the health check which consists of reading signs and a temperature check. There was no line so it took us about 20 seconds or less.
Next we went through security which had us walk through metal detectors. No bag check for some reason. Last, we headed to the park entrance where Cast Members were applauding and welcoming us. You could tell it was very genuine. They were happy to have us back!
After entering the parks at 7:45am, we headed straight to Pandora for Flight of Passage. There was basically nobody in the park which we thought was strange for opening day but cool because there shouldn’t be any lines. And we were right.
Flight of Passage was a walk on, straight to the chambers (skipping the main story and just listening to the instructions) then loading into our link chairs. There were 3 of us in the room when it started.
While in line, there are lines for social distancing, plexiglass to keep a barrier between guests and lots of hand sanitizer. Most people pay attention to this, some people don’t but you can tell they are just excited and not thinking at the moment.
We wore our masks from the time we left our hotel till we ate or drank. This is going to be common practice, really a requirement while you’re here. We thought it would be awful in the heat but you get use to it and forget it’s on a lot of the time.
After riding Flight of Passage, we headed over to Africa where at first glance we thought Kilimanjaro Safaris was closed, but no, it was just empty.
We walked right on to the attraction, having only 2 other groups with us. Each row is divided by plexiglass and of course you won’t be seated next to another group.
There were actually a lot of animals out and about. We had to stop several times because they were in the middle of the road and wouldn’t move. At one point a warden had to come out and lure zebras away with some lettuce because they wouldn’t leave the road. It was really fun!
After exiting the safari we headed over to Expedition Everest where we again, walked onto the ride. Spacing and grouping was the same here through the line and on the cars. Most guests kept their masks on during the ride, some took them off for fear of losing them.
After this we headed over to Dinosaur for a looksy and realized that there was also no line here! What was happening?! There were two of us on the attraction when it took off. They are having guests skip the pre-show and moving right to the loading area. This is going to be common for all attractions like this.
It was very strange to ride like this but also a lot of fun. After exiting Dinosaur, we walked back over to Flight of Passage assuming the wait time had gone up significantly. When we exited the first time, the wait time had gone up to 20 minutes. When we came back, it was only 5 minutes! What?!?!
So we of course rode it again and had a blast. Everyone in line kept talking about how slow things were and how they have never seen anything like this before. We completely agreed.
We did grab some lunch in Pandora. The Satu’li restaurant was asking everyone to mobile order before entering. When your food was ready you would show a Cast Member your screen and then they would let you in. Ours wasn’t working for some reason so a lead escorted us to a register where a few other guests who couldn’t do mobile order were.
They had our food ready in just a few minutes and we followed green arrows to where drinks were being done. Cast Members will be serving your drinks to you so just let them know what you want. Then go find an open table! We sat inside and it was very nice to take off our masks for a bit.
The entire time, Cast Members were wiping everything down and keeping it all clean. Super nice and comforting.
We basically spent the rest of the afternoon and day riding attractions, looking through shops and taking photos. I think one of the biggest things that stood out to us was how happy and welcoming every Cast Member was. They made you feel like you were home again and so happy to have you back. Cheers to them and all their hard work!
Overall it was a very confusing and fun day at the park ?. It was just very strange to see a park so empty. We can’t complain because the wait times were non-existent and we could get on anything we wanted.
We spoke to several Cast Members and they all kept saying, “you’ll never see this again,” referring to how empty it was. We agree. It may take Disney a couple weeks to ramp up but they will get there.
We did end up taking the bus back from the park and there wasn’t anyone in line (though we left a bit early). The bus is broken down into sections, 4 people per section. There are small barriers between each group.
If you’re thinking about taking a trip, even last minute, we highly recommend it. We realise that everyone has their own opinion about COVID and suggest doing what you feel comfortable with.
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If you find these journal entries well, please consider sharing them with others. We appreciate your readership and will be posting our next entry tomorrow as we revisit the Magic Kingdom theme park,
Until then, cheers!
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.