Walt Disney World August 2020 vs. Spring 2021 – How has it changed?

Update:  Since we visited DisneyWorld this Spring, the mask policy has changed.  According to the DisneyWorld website, as of May 15, 2021 “Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them in all indoor locations, except when actively eating or drinking while stationary and maintaining appropriate physical distancing. Face coverings are optional in outdoor common areas at Walt Disney World Resort, but are still required upon entering and throughout all attractions, theaters and transportation.”   This means that you can walk around maskless outdoors, but any time that you are under a roof, or in a queue, you must still wear a mask.  Gators and bandanas are still prohibited.

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Our first visit back to Walt Disney World since the start of the pandemic was shortly after it re-opened in August of 2020.  And we just came back from the parks again this spring after Spring break.  So…how has it changed in the eight months between visits?

What has changed….and what hasn’t?

In August we visited both Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom.  And we also visited both Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom this spring.  Let me compare them separately.

Hollywood Studios

August 2020

First time that we visited Hollywood Studios in August it had just re-opened.  In August, crowds were the lowest I’ve seen in a lot of years.   The park was open for a shorter day, but it was very easy to ride everything.  People were doing well at social distancing and masks.  There were announcements about every fifteen minutes or so about washing your hands, wearing masks, etc.  It really got tiresome.

Back then you had to order food on the app, and only when your food was ready could you get a seat.  Every other table was being used.  Only limited restaurants were open. 

The big thing for us in August was Rise of the Resistance, the new Star Wars ride.  For that ride you have to actually try for a Boarding pass on the Disney parks app.  It’s a lottery and it seems like you have to be incredibly lucky to get a pass.  The first time we tried in August, we got a Boarding pass, and we got to ride the ride.  We never had to wait in the queue, we walked straight on when our boarding number came up. 

Spring 2021

I’d have to say that the biggest change in Hollywood Studios in the past eight months is the crowd level.  It’s gone way up.  At this writing, masks are still required, but people are not really social distancing like they were.  That doesn’t bother us, but it may bother some.  Queue lines are still marked, but not everyone is paying attention to the lines.  Line wait times are much longer.

More restaurants are open, but you still have to order on the app and then get your table.  Tables were easy to find.  It didn’t seem like they were using every other table anymore. 

Rise of the Resistance boarding passes were harder to get.  Right now you can try for a pass at 7 am from anywhere.  You don’t have to be in the park.  We tried from our hotel and didn’t get a pass.  You can try again from the park at 1 pm.  We were lucky enough to get a boarding pass at that point, but it was a late one.  We did get called just before the park closed.  Once we got into the interrogation part of the ride, the ride broke down so we sat there for about half an hour.  We did get to ride, but were one of the last groups to board.  Love that ride!  It’s one of my favorites and well worth the hype.  

  • rise of the resistance
  • rise of the resistance
  • rise of the resistance

Magic Kingdom

August 2020

Once again, the crowds at Magic Kingdom were wonderfully light.  It was like what Magic Kingdom used to be like when we first started going there.  It was easy to walk around, and a lot of rides were walk on.  The worst part of it was having to wear the masks.  And having to hear way too many announcements about wearing them. 

Not all of the restaurants were open in Magic Kingdom either, and we had to use the app to order, then get a seat.  There was a lot of social distancing going on.  There was no parade. 

We rode many rides multiple times even though it was a short day at the park.  We actually really enjoyed the day despite all the social distancing and masks.

Spring 2021

The park was open for a much longer day, but the crowds were way up.  Masks were being enforced except when eating or when taking pictures.  But there’s not a lot of social distancing.  People were ignoring the line markers, and wait times were much longer.  There were a lot more strollers to be seen. 

You still use the app to order, but there were more tables.  Still no parades, just cavalcades now and then.  It felt pretty much back to normal, and you don’t have to listen to the endless announcements about masks as much either.  So, some of it was better and some was worse.   But it’s still Disney so that’s okay.  See the pictures of the Castle below.  It’s added a lot of color and deco.  I’ve never seen it looking more beautiful. 

So…how did I feel about the changes?

I have to admit that I felt that the lower crowds in August were more pleasant than the crowds now.  It was much easier to get a Boarding pass to ROTR then, and most rides were walk on.   But even now the parks are good.  It’s a little bit of “almost normal” in this crazy world.  I have to admit that I wouldn’t mind if Walt Disney World keeps the reservation system and less capacity.  The parks were getting way too crowded over the past few years. It’s been nice to actually be able to move around without constantly running into people.  And now I’m ready to go back!

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