ORLANDO, Fla. – The day has finally arrived for Disney fans to once again step foot inside “The Most Magical Place on Earth.”
On Saturday, Walt Disney World opened up two of its four theme parks, Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.
Michelle Quenzel helps run the blog “Streaming The Magic,” which has spent the past few days inside the reopened parks.
“It’s definitely busier,” she said. “The cast member preview and the annual passholder preview were a lot emptier.”
The reopening comes as a huge surge of Floridians have tested positive for the new coronavirus in recent weeks. On Saturday, there were about 10,000 new cases reported by the Florida Department of Health.
“Definitely if you’re low risk and you’re local, that would be the best bet [to visit the park right now],” Quenzel said. “Annual passholders, it’s a really good time. If you’re in a state that has to quarantine for two weeks, now is not a good time to come for you.”
The park has made numerous changes to its procedures to help ensure safety to both the guest and its cast members.
Hand sanitizer stations have been placed around the park, and physical distancing cues and guidelines could be seen on the ground.
Alongside the sanitizing stations and social distance cues, Disney is also requiring all guests 2 years of age and older, along with cast members, to wear an appropriate face covering while visiting the parks.
“They have been very strict about it,” Quenzel said. “At other parks, you’re allowed to walk around with a drink in your hand and mask off. At Disney they will tell you to put your mask back on.”
For more information on appropriate face-coverings, click or tap here.
Since the park is at a lower capacity, wait times for some popular rides were drastically reduced, according to the Walt Disney World app.
Another change guests will notice is that they won’t be able to hug and greet their favorite Disney characters.
Guests can instead wave and take socially distant selfies as the characters parade around in “cavalcades,” or motorcades throughout the park.
Disney has been opening its parks back up around the globe for the past two months. In May, the company opened Disney Springs, a complex of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues in Lake Buena Vista.
Becca Bides serves as the vice president of communication at the tourism agency Visit Orlando and calls this weekend a potential turning point.
“You cannot overstate the importance of Disney on our local economy,” she said. “That’s our No. 1 employer, and the revenue they generate and the revenue that goes into helping the community and payroll. You can’t overestimate the value of Disney, and I think that’s going to really be a shot in the arm for our community.”
Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are scheduled to reopen on July 15.