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Walt Disney World Phased Reopening | Complete Guide

“When will Disney World reopen?” We are finally able to say the good news that Walt Disney World is NOW OPEN, as it reopened July 11, 2020! Now that it’s opened back up though, Disney World has a lot of changes and it will be much different from the last time you visited.

Walt Disney World Reopening Date

We can’t even believe that after months of talking about it, the Disney World theme parks have now actually opened back up! Since the announcing its plans months ago, however, Disney has released a flood of new information and guidelines for guests leaving them more confused than ever!

Since there are so many changes to learn, we thought it would be a good idea to go more in-depth into the reopening of Disney World to find the answers to all your Disney World reopening questions.

Disney World is now officially OPEN! Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT and Hollywood Studios are now open to visitors.

(Updated 1/26/21) – Also, Disney has given new details for the Blizzard Beach water park reopening in March, including face masks required.

Read on for more info on all these stories in the News section below…

Disney reopening Animal Kingdom

In this post, we are going to talk about the Disney World reopening and answer any questions you might have about it. We’ll let you know about the new safety guidelines, park capacity limits and how to get tickets with the new reservation system.

While Disney World is now open and you are now able to go, it’s important to know that the new safety measures will greatly change the guest experience, and it won’t be what you are used to when visiting.

Not everything is opening at the exact same time, so we have the latest on just which attractions and experiences are opening up and a preview of the 4 Theme Parks, Water Parks, and the Disney World Resort hotels.

Any changes Disney makes to the guest experience, including the way guests interact with the attractions, shows, and restaurants will be updated here.

Disney World parks are reopening

Also, we do have to warn you, just because Disney World has opened back up, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will definitely stay that way. We’ll talk about how likely it is that Disney World will stay open without any further closures happening, plus estimated crowd levels and the best time to reschedule your trip.

Before we get started, here are some links to the most important articles around Disney World vacation planning during the reopening phase:

Also, read our guide to the Disney World closure if you are looking for information about how to get a refund, reschedule your vacation or find out the latest updates about that.

If you want to know general trip planning info, read our 2021 Disney World Vacation Planning Guide for everything you need to know.

Also, to be updated about the latest Disney World Reopening Info, including all the changes and a first-hand guide to the parks, sign up for our FREE Weekly E-Mail Newsletter here: Join our E-Mail Newsletter

(NEWS 1/26/21): Blizzard Beach Water Park Reopening Details

Blizzard Beach

All 4 Walt Disney World theme parks have been open now since July, but the 2 water parks have remained closed since March. That is changing on March 7, 2021 when Disney’s Blizzard Beach reopens for the first time in since last March.

Obviously, Disney wants to provide a safe experience for its guests and they are working on a plan for the water parks which will emphasize health and well-being. For that reason, many of the same safety guidelines required in the theme parks are also being enforced when Blizzard Beach reopens.

Some of the guest safety guidelines include:

  • Wearing a Face Covering at all times
  • Temperature Screenings
  • Reduced Capacity
  • Physical Distancing

1-Day Tickets to Blizzard Beach are now available for $69 + tax for adults and $63 + tax for children (ages 3-9). Tickets can be purchased online and are valid through December 31, 2021.

Blizzard Beach Sunset

Guests already holding passes will be affected by the water parks reopening in March 2021 including guests with the following ticket types:

  • Premier Passport
  • Platinum Plus Pass
  • Water Parks Annual Pass
  • Water Parks After 2 Annual Pass
  • Tickets that include the Park Hopper Plus Option or Water Park & Sports Option

Annual Passholders – Guests will be given a partial refund for the price of the water parks.

Water Park Annual Passes – Guests with this ticket type will be automatically extended for the period the water parks are closed. Guests can request a full refund for their pass by calling (407) 939-2732

Water Park Tickets – Unused, unexpired 1-Day Disney Water Park tickets will be extended through December 31, 2021. If you can’t visit by December 31, 2021, you can use the whole value of the purchased ticket toward the purchase of a new ticket for a future date. You can also choose to cancel your ticket and get a full refund by calling (407) 939-2732

Water Park Ticket Add-Ons – Tickets including the Water Parks add-on can be modified, canceled or use the ticket with the existing add-on options at other experiences during your visit. Call (407) 934-7639 or (407) 566-4985 to make these changes.

Typhoon Lagoon welcome sign at entrance

Now that we know when Blizzard Beach is reopening, we are still waiting to hear about Typhoon Lagoon. With overall attendance being low right now, it wouldn’t be surprising if Disney only runs one water park at a time for a while.

We’ll let you know as soon as more is announced abut Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon. See The Walt Disney World Website for more information.

(NEWS 1/3/21): Updated Disney World Hours through March 20

Since The Walt Disney World theme parks opened on July 11th and 15th, they have been operating under reduced park hours, however, those hours are constantly changing depending on the season and the crowds.

Sunset Blvd in Disney's Hollywood Studios

Now Disney has just announced the theme park hours through March 20. We’ll take a look at those, as well as the reduced park hours for the theme parks from January – March.

This means returning to “almost normal” levels in the Disney Parks during the holidays.

So far, there have been many changes to the standard operating park hours with times varying throughout January, February, and March. Here is the latest:

Park Hours Through March 20

  • Magic Kingdom –
    8:00 am – 8:00 pm (Now – Jan 9)
    9:00 am – 7:00 pm (Jan 10 – Jan 23)
    9:00 am – 6:00 pm (Jan 24 – Mar 20)
  • EPCOT
    11:00 am – 9:00 pm (Now – Jan 9)
    11:00 am – 8:00 pm (Jan 10 – Jan 23)
    11:00 am – 7:00 pm (Jan 24 – Mar 20)
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios
    9:00 am – 7:00 pm (Now – Jan 23)
    10:00 am – 7:00 pm (Jan 24 – Mar 20)
  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom
    8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Now – Jan 10)
    8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Jan 11 – Jan 15)
    8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Jan 16)
    8:00 am – 5:00 pm (Jan 17 – Jan 22)
    8:00 am – 6:00 pm (Jan 23)
    9:00 am – 5:00 pm (Jan 24 – Mar 20)
Dreamlights Cinderella Castle Magic Kingdom

Disney’s Magic Kingdom will be reducing park operating hours once again in January, February and March. The park is staying open a little later in the beginning of January and will be open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Starting the week of January 10, park hours get shortened by 2 hours and run from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. Disney obviously thinks there will be a drop-off in attendance once the rest of the holiday guests go home.

Later in January and for the rest of February and March, hours are reduced once again and go from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. This makes sense with fewer guests likely during this period.

It will be interesting however to see if hours are extended the closer we get to those dates once Disney has a better feel for exactly how many guests will be coming.

EPCOT on the other hand will be open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm in the beginning of January, but then hours are reduced starting January 10 from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm.

At the end of January and into February and March, hours are reduced again and are from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will be open from now through January 23 from 9:00 am to 7:00 pm.

At the end of January, they are reduced and run from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, the same as before the holidays. For now they stay like that through February and March.

Walking through an empty Animal Kingdom

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is running from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm on most days from now through January 9. After that hours are reduced to 8:00 am – 5:00 pm on most days, with occasional weekends running from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.

February and March continue the reduced hours and go from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Hours for all 4 theme parks are going to be much less during the first quarter of 2021 and we can see Disney is slowly adjusting its strategy as fewer people are expected in the parks.

At this point, we could still imagine more adjustments being made during the next few months as Disney tries to understand the crowds, and they will extend things if they feel the need is there.

As soon as we have more we’ll let you know.

(NEWS 10/21/20): New Disney World Discount Vacation Package Offers are Here

Gran Destino Tower front sign

Today Disney announced 3 new discounts for Walt Disney World Resort Vacations stays in 2021 from January through Mid-April. Some of these discounts have up to 40% off hotel rooms, which is a great deal! Let’s take a look at the offers:

35% Off Disney World Resort Hotels Deal –

Let’s start off with the offer that’s good for everyone. This discount gives all guests up to 35% off select Disney World Resort hotel rooms on most nights from January 3, 2021, to April 17, 2021.

  • Disney Value Resorts – Save up to 25% off
  • Disney Moderate Resorts – Save up to 30% off
  • Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas – Save up to 35% off

Rooms must be booked from now through March 15, 2021

Florida Resident Discount –

This is a great discount and it gives Florida Residents up to 35% off select Disney World Resort hotel rooms on most nights from January 3, 2021, to April 17, 2021.

  • Disney Value Resorts – Save up to 25% off
  • Disney Moderate Resorts – Save up to 30% off
  • Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas – Save up to 35% off

Rooms must be booked from now through March 15, 2021

Annual Passholder Discount –

This is our favorite of the new discounts and it gives Annual Passholders up to 40% off select Disney World Resort hotel rooms on most nights from January 3, 2021, to April 17, 2021.

  • Disney Value Resorts – Save up to 30% off
  • Disney Moderate Resorts – Save up to 35% off
  • Disney Deluxe Resorts and Deluxe Villas – Save up to 40% off

Rooms must be booked from now through March 15, 2021.

Need help planning your Disney Vacation? Contact René from Show You the World Travel for all your trip planning needs. All of the agents there are certified Disney Travel Agents and are super helpful with all your planning needs. I highly recommend them and the best part about it is they are FREE to use!

When Is Disney World Reopening?

Can you believe The Walt Disney World parks were closed for 4 months?? There is good news, however, as Walt Disney World started a phased reopening on July 11, 2020.

“When is Disney World reopening?” was probably the most searched for question in Google for Disney fans during those months, and it’s nice to finally have an answer to that.

Disney’s reopened the Disney World theme parks in phases. First Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom reopened on July 11, followed by EPCOT and Hollywood Studios on July 15.

Chefs de France Epcot

Soft Openings
A few days before the official July 11 opening, there were Cast Member previews, followed by other soft openings for Annual Passholders, DVC members, and Club 33 members.

What About the Hotels?
The Walt Disney World Resort Hotels began reopening on June 22 starting with Disney Vacation Club Resorts only and Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground.

Disney World Non-DVC resorts started a phased reopening on July 10 at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and Disney’s Pop Century Resort. Disney World Resort hotels will slowly reopen in the coming months depending on the demand.

What You Need to Know

Disney World Reopening

While more details are always coming out, we do have a lot of info about the reopening and how things are going so far in Disney World.

Disney Parks worldwide are using the same reopening and operating methods, some of which were taken from the way Shanghai Disneyland reopened in May 2020. These procedures have been replicated in Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.

Here is what you need to know…

Safety Guidelines

Guests visiting Walt Disney World will have to comply with the various new safety measures in place. This includes face masks, temperature screening, physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitization, and other safety measures. (More on these below.)

Limited Park Capacity

entering Rise of the Resistance queue

The Disney World parks are running at a lower capacity than what they can normally handle. This is to reduce guests, making it easier to adhere to distancing and other safety measures.

Disney recently said that the park capacity percentage is not higher than 35% of normal capacity and that it has not been raised since reopening.

Disney said the park capacity will always be a function of the 6-foot distance rule. Disney wants to slowly increase capacity as they go along, until finding the “new maximum” as long as restrictions are in place.

Park Reservations

The Walt Disney World Resort has introduced a new park reservation system that guests need to use to have entrance to the theme parks.

  • The reservation system is how Disney controls the crowds and keeps capacity down to an acceptable level. If reservations sell out for a specific day, no more guests will be given reservations.
  • Disney is holding 3 separate reservation inventories and splitting up available passes between Disney World Resort Hotel guests, Annual Passholders, and Park Ticket Holders.
  • Reservations are NOW AVAILABLE.

For a complete guide to how it works, read our post on the Disney Park Pass Reservation System.

Hotel Reservations & Ticket Sales

  • 2021 Disney World vacation packages and hotel rooms are now available for booking with dates from January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2021.

How many 2021 theme park tickets Disney sells will depend on what park capacity ends up being and based on the availability of park reservations.

Not Everything Open

Cheese Fondue La Hacienda Mexico

One thing that’s important is not every area of Walt Disney World is open at this time. Right now all 4 Disney World theme parks are open, but the water parks are not. Also, many of the restaurants, hotels and shops are still closed. Things will remain this way until more people start coming to Walt Disney World.

Attractions – Most of the Disney World attractions and rides are open, with a few still closed.

Water Parks Closed – Right now all 4 theme parks are open, but Disney World’s 2 water parks, Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon remain closed. Blizzard Beach is reopening March 7, 2021.

Entertainment and Shows – In order to comply with proper distancing guidelines, some shows, and other entertainment will not be opening during the reopening phase. For the moment, this includes fireworks shows, nighttime spectaculars, and closed theater entertainment.

Restaurants – Many restaurants in Disney World have not reopened yet. With lower attendance, it doesn’t make sense financially to keep all the restaurants open. Certain restaurant types like dinner shows, character meals, and buffets are also temporarily suspended.

All restaurants and dining locations need to abide by the new regulations including distancing tables and lower overall capacity.

Reduced Park Hours – Since there will not be any nighttime spectaculars when Disney World reopens, the theme parks have reduced park hours compared to what they normally have. This includes later openings and earlier closings.

Character Meets – There will not be any character meets in Disney World during the reopening phase since they don’t provide adequate distancing between the guests and characters.

Suspended Services & Perks

Many of the common services and perks you are used to on a Walt Disney World vacation are not going to be running during the reopening phase. Here are some of the biggest changes:

FastPass+ – All FastPasses have been canceled during this time. The entire FastPass+ system has been suspended. This is to allow more space in the attraction queues to be used for distancing between guests.

Right now, guests will only use stand-by queues to enter the attractions.

Extra Magic Hours – This is temporarily suspended, and “Early Theme Park Entry” is taking its place later in 2021. It lets Walt Dinsey World Resort hotel guests enter the parks 30 minutes before the general public.

Ribeye Steak Disney World Dining

Disney Dining Reservations – Since restaurants needed to rearrange the dining rooms to keep in mind distancing and the limited capacity, all existing Disney Dining Reservations made before May 28, 2020, were canceled through the rest of 2020. Disney guests are now able to make dining reservations with some changes:

  • Reservation windows have been decreased from 180 days to 60-Day windows allowing guests to make reservations closer to their arrival date.
  • New Disney Dining Reservations are now available for All Guests starting 60 days from your hotel arrival date or dining date.

Special Experience Bookings – All special events and experience bookings have been canceled at this time through the end of 2020. Disney will give more information about booking these special events at a future date.

Disney Dining Plan – All Disney Dining Plans have been canceled for now. Guests who purchased a Disney dining plan and tickets for dates between May 28, 2020, and September 26, 2021, will receive an automatic cancellation and refund of their Disney dining plan.

No date yet for when the Dining Plan is coming back, but it won’t be until 2021 at the earliest.

Free Dining – The Disney Free Dining Plan has been canceled from now through September 26, 2021. Guests who had already booked the Free Dining Package will receive an automatic cancelation and can book at a later date with a 35% room discount.

New Guidelines Overview

Many people thinking about taking a trip to Disney World when it finally reopens are wondering: “Is Disney World still safe?” Just what is Disney doing to protect its guests and Cast Members?

In order for Disney World to reopen, there are new guidelines in place for theme parks, hotels, restaurants and stores. Disney has shared more about these guidelines with an official list. These rules are enforced for guests and Cast Members alike.

Here is a list of all the guidelines you need to be aware of before going to Disney World:

  • Requiring Face Masks
  • Guest Temperature Screening
  • Increased Sanitization
  • Cast Member Safety Training
  • Safety Signs
  • Additional Hand-washing & Hand Sanitizer Stations 
  • Distancing Ground Markers in Queues
  • Limiting Attraction Availability and Capacity
  • Limiting Entertainment Options
  • Plastic Dividers at Checkout
  • Touchless Transactions at checkout

Disney Springs staff has been trained to employ physical distancing and the rest of the safety measures. They will continue to receive training to improve protocols and things change.

Disney’s health protocols are based on three principles: Education, Communication and Engagement.

Face Masks

The most widely contested new safety guideline in Disney World has been the face masks.

  • All Cast Members and Guests 2 years and older are required to wear face masks at all times. The only exceptions are while dining, swimming or in the “Relax areas.”

We understand that covering you face in the 90+ Florida heat is not ideal, but ultimately if you are interested in visiting Walt Disney World during the reopening phase, face coverings are required.

Disney Cast Members with face masks

What if you have a Medical Condition that prevents you from wearing a face covering?
We understand that some guests can’t wear a face mask due to a medical condition. In that case, Disney is encouraging you not to come to Disney World at this time.

The face-covering rule is not optional and is strictly enforced by Disney so it’s probably just best to wait until this safety measure is no longer in place to come.

When will the Face Mask requirement End?
Disney CEO Bob Chapek commented recently that they will likely be required through 2021, but not in 2022. That’s positive news, though no one currently knows for sure exactly when. Disney is going to follow the guidelines given by the local health authorities, so as long as they are recommending face coverings, Disney will err on the side of caution.

Read our Guide to Face Masks at Disney World for a more detailed look and the latest updates.

Relaxation Areas

One of the only places in Disney World that guests don’t have to wear face coverings are in the designated “Relaxation Stations” located throughout the parks. These are roped-off areas were guests can go mask-free.

Here are the main points to know about these mask-free zones in the parks.

  • There are 2-3 relaxation stations in each theme park.
  • Distancing is still required in these relaxation stations.
  • The max guests in each relaxation station changes from location to location.
  • Some are indoor, some outdoor.
  • Indoor relaxation stations provide a break in the air conditioning.

Temperature Screening

All guests and Cast Members must undergo temperature screening upon arrival at the entrance of the theme parks and Disney Springs.

Guests and Cast Members with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher will not be allowed entrance based on guidance from the health authorities.

Temperature Screenings are required on some transportation systems such as taking the monorail from the resorts and before getting on it at the Ticket and Transportation. Also, if you are taking a ferry from the Ticket and Transportation Center you will need to go through temperature screening.

Temperature screenings are not currently being enforced when arriving at the hotels. We’ll let you know if that changes as some other Orlando hotels are enforcing temperature screenings.

Increased Cleaning and Sanitization

One of the most important ways they are preventing germs from spreading around Walt Disney World is increased cleaning and sanitization throughout the parks, hotels, restaurants, rooms, and just about anywhere you can think of.

Disney is training cleaning staff and housekeeping in improved sanitization methods, as well as paying extra attention to all high-traffic areas including tables, doors, benches, handrails, escalators, restrooms, and more.

Physical Distancing/Queues

Do not stand here marker on ground

Guests are required to keep a distance of at least 6 feet (2m) between them and people not in their traveling party.

To help guests practice physical distancing, Disney has installed ground markers in all locations where people would usually form a line. This includes attractions, shops, etc. These markers tell guests where to stand to keep a safe distance from others.

There are also “Social Distance Squads” located all around Walt Disney World to help promote social distancing. For example, in the parks, Cast Members in yellow shirts tell guests to avoid grouping together. In Disney Springs, Stormtroopers tell guests when they need to keep more distance from each other.

Handwashing & Hand Sanitizer Stations

Disney World Hand Washing Station

There are also new handwashing stations and hand sanitizer dispensers that have been installed throughout Disney World that guests are encouraged to use. Washing your hands is one of the key ways to limit the spread of germs and guests can play their part by washing up as much as possible.

When visiting the theme parks and Disney Springs, hand sanitizer and handwashing stations are everywhere. There are also many signs instructing guests to keep sanitized throughout the stay.

As we talked about before, Disney did a great job by installing hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the Disney World parks and resorts before the closure. In one post, we even shared how to find hand sanitizer stations in Disney World using My Disney Experience.

Signs

Distances in the queues for attractions, restaurants and shops must be respected, but in order for the rules to be followed easily, guests need to understand them and see them visibly in the parks.

Numerous signs have been installed throughout the parks and resorts advising guests of the various safety reminders and guidelines to follow.

Protective Barriers

In order to limit physical contact between guests and Cast Members, physical barriers made of plexiglass have been added in certain locations. These include cash registers, Guest Relations, etc. They also have been added to attraction queues to separate guests while waiting in line to ride.

Cashless Transactions

Cash transactions are discouraged in Disney World during the reopening phase. Guests should use contactless payment options when possible such as credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, Apply Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, etc.

This is a brief look at the changes in policies and guidelines in Disney World. Read our guide to Disney World Changes and Safety Measures for even more info on what to expect.

Who Can Even Go to Disney World Right Now?