Facts and Myths about Disney Parks in 2021
When Walt Disney World reopened last July, you asked many questions, and I did my best to answer them.
We’re six months down the road, and we possess a better understanding of Disney theme parks now.
Still, many misconceptions remain. So, I’ll do my best to clear up these lingering sources of confusion.
Here are the facts and myths about Disney theme parks in 2021.
Disney Isn’t Open
This answer depends on what you mean when you say “Disney.”
The Walt Disney Company owns and operates several theme parks worldwide and licenses some others like Tokyo Disneyland Resort.
When most Americans refer to Disney in a general sense, they usually mean one of two places: Walt Disney World and Disneyland.
Anyone who has kept up with Disney over the past few months knows the deal here.
Walt Disney World has been up and running for more than six months.
Disneyland hasn’t reopened since its initial Coronavirus closure last March.
So, this answer is both yes and no, depending on which Disney theme park you’re most likely to visit.
The Disney Dining Plan Is Gone Forever
When Walt Disney World returned, only some of the restaurants reopened.
Disney limited capacity to 25 percent at the time. So, the company had no need to operate a full complement of restaurants.
Similarly, the Disney Dining Plan struck most as superfluous at the time.
Disney wanted to emphasize Mobile Ordering as the optimal way to eat during the pandemic.
The dining plans cater more to sit-down meals, which are still plentiful at Walt Disney World.
However, park officials understand that people feel more comfortable in outdoor settings at the moment.
So, the dining plan doesn’t make much sense. That doesn’t mean that it’s gone for good, though. It’s merely unavailable right now.
FastPasses Are Dead
This statement isn’t a myth, but it’s not necessarily a fact, either.
Using Princess Bride terminology, I would describe FastPasses as mostly dead.
In the weeks leading up to Walt Disney World’s return, all signs pointed to heavy use of virtual queuing on popular attractions.
Then, when the parks reopened, Disney went an entirely different way. Only one attraction currently employs virtual queuing.
So, unless you’re trying to claim a Boarding Group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, you’re not using them right now.
At a recent D-23 event, park officials revealed Disney Genie, an upcoming virtual assistant app.
This program may or may not replace FastPass as a way for park guests to spend less time waiting in line. We won’t know for sure until it debuts.
For now, Disney has indicated that FastPasses aren’t coming back. However, we don’t know precisely what they mean by that.
Something FastPass-like is sure to arrive once the pandemic ends. It may have a different name, though.
The Parks Are Too Safe/Aren’t Safe Enough
I don’t even know how to approach these questions. I think it’s quite telling that plenty of arguments exist on both sides.
Everyone has an opinion on this subject, and a few folks cannot wait to tell you where they stand.
All I care about are facts. I believe that the parks have implemented the perfect amount of safety precautions right now.
I feel that way for two reasons. The first is that Florida health officials haven’t tracked a single COVID-19 outbreak at Walt Disney World.
After six months, the parks have remained above the fray during the pandemic.
The second reason is that NBA players spent months finishing their season in the Disney Bubble.
During that entire mini-season, no player tested positive for COVID-19. Contrast that to now, when several teams have suffered recent outbreaks.
Walt Disney World’s probably safer than anywhere else in the United States at the moment. Disney deserves credit for that.
You Must Wear a Facemask Everywhere
Okay, this one’s admittedly a bit of a trick question.
Yes, you must wear a facemask at Walt Disney World in almost all locations.
However, Disney introduced Relaxation Stations in the parks to assist guests with any overheating/breathing issues.
You’ll find at least two Relaxation Stations at each Disney theme park. When you visit these places, you may safely remove your mask.
Disney expects you to honor social distancing practices while doing so. Think of these stations as your best bet when you need a break.
Other than that, the only place at Walt Disney World where you don’t have to wear a facemask is when you’re eating/drinking.
In fact, Disney tightened the rules on this policy. You cannot walk around while you eat/drink. You must stay stationary and safely away from others.
So, this question is mostly fact, albeit with a pair of caveats.
Nothing New Is Opening Anytime Soon
Walt Disney World hasn’t opened much new since the start of the pandemic.
The company took this approach as another precautionary measure, understanding that new places cause crowds.
Disney has loosened this policy lately, and several new openings are on the horizon.
The most important of them is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which will debut at EPCOT in 2021.
The new World Showcase presentation, Harmonious, will follow suit soon afterward.
Both these offerings are nearly ready to go. Disney’s merely waiting for more vaccinations before it opens them to the public.
You Need Special Passes to Visit Disney Parks
An admission ticket isn’t enough to get you into a Walt Disney World theme park in 2021.
For the time being, you also need a Park Pass in addition to valid park admission.
Thankfully, Park Passes remain plentiful enough that you’ll have little trouble scheduling the park you prefer on most days.
Disney Ended Magical Express
On January 11th, Disney announced on the official Parks Blog that it won’t offer Magical Express in 2022.
I want to stress that guests who visit Walt Disney World in 2021 still have access to this invaluable service.
Also, Disney still has 11 months to come to its senses about how much loyal vacationers love Magical Express.
Within hours of Disney’s announcement, my inbox was slammed with angry messages from friends asking the most effective ways to complain.
I presume that Disney’s customer service department has been inundated with similar messages.
My sincerest hope is that Disney will reconsider this surprising announcement.
Until/unless they do, the elimination of Magical Express is a fact.
Park Hopping Isn’t Allowed
Here’s an answer that recently changed.
When Walt Disney World made its triumphant return, Park Hopping wasn’t on the menu.
This change even applied to guests who owned Park Hopper amenities with their tickets/season passes.
Park officials needed to control the headcount to ensure the aforementioned capacity limits.
Over time, a trend developed. People accomplished so much in only a few hours that they often left the parks early.
So, the parks grew too empty as they approached closing time.
To offset these issues, Disney restored Park Hopping on January 1st. As of now, you can leave one park and enter another, starting at 2 p.m. daily.
So, this was once a fact that is now (thankfully) a myth!
The Parks Don’t Have Fireworks, Parades, or Character Greetings
Fact, arguably fact, and arguably myth. Allow me to explain.
Disney still hasn’t brought back fireworks or other nighttime presentations during the pandemic.
These events cause crowds, a huge no-no in the social distancing era.
Park officials are toying with ways to execute these nightly events. They’ve tested fireworks at least twice, but the risk remains too great for now.
Parades are off the menu for the same reason. However, Disney introduced Cavalcades as parade replacements, and I like them better.
Imagine one or two parade floats appearing out of nowhere, bringing some joy into your park day, and then leaving soon afterward.
I compare Cavalcades to the magic of catching a foul ball at a baseball game.
You don’t expect it, but you remember that it happened long after the fact.
So, technically, Disney doesn’t have parades, but it offers an acceptable substitute instead.
As for character interactions, they’re still available at the parks. In fact, you can eat at some character meals, too.
You’ll find park characters off the beaten path. For example, Winnie the Pooh lurks in the woods in a spot where you can’t walk.
Anna from Frozen stands behind a fence near Sommerhus. Some characters shout at you from Magic Kingdom’s train station or Cinderella Castle.
In other words, you can still find characters. You just cannot walk right up to them.
Costumed cast members honor social distancing for your safety. They still put on a terrific show, though!