During the times we find ourselves in, perhaps the question I hear most is ... "Is it worth it to go to Disney right now?" As a travel planner I felt the need to find out first hand what the new normal of Disney was like. So off to Disney I went in the beginning of August 2020 to find out. My daughter and I packed the car up and set out on our first mother/daughter Disney adventure. Our goal was to see if Disney could overcome the obstacles that social distancing created. Would we feel distracted by what we missed or become immersed in the new ways Disney was serving up Pixie Dust?
It is true that there are many things that are different in and around the parks and what I found is that, for us, it wasn't less magical but rather a whole new type of magic. In fact, the new magic we experienced will be missed when life returns to the normal hustle and bustle that usually surrounds the parks.
So what makes up the New Disney Magic?
For us it is about four things ...
Pictures, Food, Sensory Experiences and Rides!
RIDES! - Every family has a Disney personality. For our family we are the die hard riders. The value we find in our trips is largely calculated by the amount of rides and how many times we get to ride in the course of the days we are there. We had 5 park days and visited 3 of the parks. Our days were spent at Magic Kingdom twice, Hollywood Studios twice and Animal Kingdom once. Our average wait time, even for red hot rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Flight of Passage and Slinky Dog Dash was only 10-20 minutes with a handful of times we waited around 30 minutes due to cleaning procedures. Often, we didn't even wait that long. A large portion of our wait times were simply the amount of time it took to walk through the queues. I have listed the rides we were able to go on and how many rides per day ... As you can see the value we got for our admission was awesome!
PICTURES! - Let's talk photo ops for a minute. We are THAT family that buys Memory Maker for every trip. We have hundreds of pictures from every trip. Family vacations get turned into albums and we look at them often when Disney drought sets in. If you don't know what Disney drought is ... it's that time frame where it's been too long since you've been to Disney and you're starting to need Disney like you would water if you were stranded in the Sahara Desert. The big question was, will we take pictures if we have to wear masks? The answer was, YES! We entered the park gates to Magic Kingdom and immediately I was taken with how wonderful it was to get photos without all the people cramming into the same space I was in! We took loads of pictures and it became one of my favorite things to do on this trip. If you love to take photos this is your time! No, it's not the typical ones you always get with characters hugging you but it is special photos you will rarely ever get the chance to take during normal Disney operational times.
FOOD! - I think we had an unspoken mission to try as many food locations as possible that we had not tried before at Disney. We went to Kona Cafe at the Polynesian, Olivia's Cafe at Old Key West, The Grand Floridian Cafe, Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom, Mama Melrose in Hollywood Studios, Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' , Raglan Road and The Polite Pig in Disney Springs and so many more. While the food was impeccable as always in Disney, what struck me is this ... Since rides are our first priority, taking the time to dine at some of the places that require additional transportation time gets put on the back burner. With Disney shortening park hours, I found that we began to really look forward to the fun of dining in new locations in the evening which was another reverse magic moment in Disney. Some of your favorite food options may not be open yet, but get out there and explore other options Disney offers! You won't regret it. More to come on Disney Dining moments in a future post coming soon!
SENSORY EXPERIENCES! - Another favorite on our Disney trips is the sensory experiences. The Disney sounds, smells, feels and comforts are what keep us coming back year after year. They are the things we bring up most when we talk of missing our favorite place on earth. The smell as you make your way past Main Street Confectionery, the sound of music playing in through the park or the blast of cold air as you walk into a ride, shop or restaurant from the scorching Florida sun all make up a huge part of what we adore about Disney.
But perhaps the greatest sensory experience is the overall joy of Disney. I expected at some point I would get emotional in this return to the magic. Honestly, I thought it would come when I entered Magic Kingdom but I was simply just so excited and happy to cry. Hollywood Studios brought so much anticipation as we entered with our game face on to get our loading group for Rise of the Resistance that it distracted me from any emotional display other than excitement when we got boarding group #7! However, Animal Kingdom got me. As we walked through the path to the Tree of Life, the cast members cheered us on and welcomed us back into the park. It hit me and tears rolled down my cheek. I was back and Disney hadn't lost its magic!
No it isn't what we are used to but that became a blessing as it forced us to experience Disney in a new way. New magic can be had until the old magic returns.
Written by Lori Willey