Attractions Disney Parks Reopening

How Walt Disney World Attractions Have Changed

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Last Updated on November 4, 2020 by Allyson

Walt Disney World attractions might not be as you remember. Understandably, the resort as a whole has undergone many changes for health and safety reasons since reopening in July.

Before you get worried, the rides themselves aren’t different. They are just has magical and fun, but there are several differences you need to know about prior to visiting.

There’s a lot to keep in mind about attractions now more than ever. Hopefully the following will help you out in the long run, especially since visiting theme parks, like WDW, is a bit more overwhelming (hello, ongoing pandemic) than ever before.

Only Select Attractions Are Open

Most of the Walt Disney World attractions are open, but there are still some that haven’t reopened. Below is a list of what’s currently available as of publication.

Magic Kingdom

  • Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
  • Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
  • Country Bear Jamboree
  • Dumbo the Flying Elephant
  • Jungle Cruise
  • Liberty Square Riverboat (closed for refurbishment)
  • Mad Tea Party
  • Mickey’s PhilharMagic
  • Peter Pan’s Flight
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Prince Charming Regal Carrousel
  • Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
  • Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom
  • Space Mountain
  • Splash Mountain
  • Swiss Family Treehouse
  • The Barnstormer
  • The Hall of Presidents
  • The Haunted Mansion
  • The Magic Carpets of Aladdin
  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
  • Tom Sawyer Island (closed for refurbishment)
  • Tomorrowland Speedway
  • Tomorrowland Transit Authority Peoplemover (closed for refurbishment)
  • Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid
  • Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
  • Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

Animal Kingdom

  • Avatar Flight of Passage
  • DINOSAUR
  • Discovery Island Trails
  • Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain
  • Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail
  • It’s Tough to be a Bug!
  • Kali River Rapids
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris
  • Maharajah Trail
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • The Animation Experience at Conservation Station
  • The Oasis Exhibits
  • TriceraTop Spin
  • UP! A Great Bird Adventure (modified without characters and temporarily titled “Feathered Friends in Flight”)
  • Wilderness Explorers
  • Wildlife Express

Dino-Rama! in Animal Kingdom

Epcot

  • Awesome Planet
  • Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
  • Canada Far and Wide
  • Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
  • Friendship Lagoon Boats
  • Frozen Ever After (closed for a brief refurbishment from Nov. 2-6)
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
  • Impressions de France
  • Journey Into Imagination with Figment
  • Kidcot (modified)
  • Living with the Land
  • Mission: SPACE
  • Reflections of China
  • Soarin’ Around the World
  • Spaceship Earth
  • Test Track
  • The American Adventure
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends
  • Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience

Hollywood Studios

  • Alien Swirling Saucers
  • For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration
  • Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy
  • Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
  • Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
  • Muppet*Vision 3D
  • Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith
  • Slinky Dog Dash
  • Star Tours – The Adventures Continue
  • The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
  • Toy Story Mania!
  • Vacation Fun (at Mickey Shorts Theater)
  • Walt Disney Presents
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

FastPass+ Is Temporarily On Hold

At this time, FastPass+ isn’t available, meaning every line is a Standby Line. The reason for this is so Disney can utilize the additional queue space to manage capacity and help maintain physical distancing.

Since FastPass+ isn’t available, you definitely want to take into account when to visit more popular attractions, like Frozen Ever After, Splash Mountain, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Slinky Dog Dash, Flight of Passage, etc.

From my experience, you either want to hit them up first thing or wait until the end of the day. More often than not wait times die down toward park closing, so you don’t always need to be in a rush to squeeze in the most popular rides first thing.

Pirates of the Caribbean in Magic Kingdom

You also need to keep in mind how rides load. Certain ride vehicles that are known for accommodating more guests compared to others currently don’t load as many people for health and safety reasons.

This includes boat rides like “it’s a small world,” Pirates of the Caribbean, Jungle Cruise, Splash Mountain, and so on. Typically, boats only load one party in the front and a party in the back, leaving the rows in the middle empty.

There Are Health & Safety Guidelines

Standing in line is different than pre-pandemic. There are several health and safety measures put in place to try to keep guests as safe as possible.

First, there are “please wait here” markers to space out guests. To be clear, you stand on these, not in between.

Please Wait Here social distance markers in Walt Disney World

Tip: if you’re with a larger party, have a stroller, or someone is using a wheelchair, take up two markers to help keep the proper distance between guests in front of you and behind you. And if you’re standing behind a party who happens to take up the space between the markers, it’s OK to stand two markers back.

For those wondering, face coverings must stay on during all rides, including roller coasters and water rides.

In addition to physical-distancing markers, some of the attractions and their queues also have plexiglass or dividers to ensure the safety of guests. Some of the queues are tighter, so the plexiglass dividers are definitely a nice addition.

Plexiglass in Soarin' Around the World at Epcot

As for rides like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, recently, and to try to maximize the number of boarding groups while adhering to current health and safety guidelines, a clear barrier was added between the two rows of seats on each First Order Fleet Transport vehicles inside the attraction.

The same can be said for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway railway, which usually has one of the longest wait times. Plexiglass was added to the ride vehicles and presumably in hopes of boarding more groups (instead of one party per ride vehicle) and reducing the wait time.

Ride Vehicles Are Disinfected Frequently

Just like Cast Members work hard to make sure high-touch areas are constantly being sanitized, so are attractions. Rides are now disinfected every two hours.

This means, the ride will stop running for a bit in order for Cast Members to clean them. It usually only takes about 10 to 15 minutes to do so.

Keep in mind that if you get in line and the posted wait time is 15 minutes, but it’s time for the ride vehicles to be disinfected, your wait will most likely be a bit longer.

A Rise Of The Resistance Update

Ever since Rise of the Resistance first opened on Dec. 5, 2019, a virtual queue has been used in place of a Standby Line and FastPass+.

With the reopening of Hollywood Studios, there have been multiple changes to the virtual queue. As of Nov. 3, guests trying to get a boarding group don’t even have to be inside the park, but there is a catch.

Guests with a valid ticket or annual pass and a Disney Park Pass System reservation will be able to access the virtual queue system via the My Disney Experience app and check for an available boarding group starting at 7 a.m. on the day of their park reservation.

Rise of the Resistance in Hollywood Studios

That’s right, you no longer have to be inside the park to grab a boarding group. But, this only applies to those trying for the first boarding group opportunity.

The virtual queue will reopen daily at 2 p.m. for anyone who wasn’t already able to join a boarding group earlier in the day. You must be inside Hollywood Studios to request a 2 p.m. boarding group.

It’s important to note that you can only get one boarding group per day. Virtual queue boarding groups are limited and subject to availability.

What’s nice about this change is it should help reduce rope drop crowds, which have been busy due to the previous virtual queue system in which guests could try for a boarding group starting at 10 a.m., right at park opening. They also had to be inside the park.

Wait Times Are Affected By Several Factors

Based on my own experience, in addition to what I’ve read on other Disney websites and heard from guests, the posted wait times might not always be accurate.

During my October 2020 visit, I once got in line for Jungle Cruise when it had a 45-minute posted wait time, but only waited 25 minutes. I even got in line for Peter Pan’s Flight when it had a posted wait time of 40 minutes, but only waited 20 minutes. This isn’t always the case, but definitely keep in mind that you might not actually have to wait as long as the posted wait time reads. 

First of all, don’t get discouraged if you see a long line. Since guests must social distance, the actual length can be deceiving. There is a good chance it’s not as long as it looks due to the spacing out of guests.

There are also several factors that affect wait times, including:

— How rides load: As I previously mentioned, certain rides load differently than others and lines don’t move as fast. With attractions operating at low capacity compared to normal, wait times are definitely impacted.

— Popularity of attraction: Certain rides are just more popular, like Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, meaning wait times might be longer.

— Crowd levels: Theme parks are currently operating at a reduced capacity, but there are certain days of the week and times of year that are busier, including weekends and holidays. And with bigger crowds come longer wait times.

Magic Kingdom during fall 2020

— Disinfecting of rides: Between social distancing, no FastPass+, and stopping every two hours to clean rides, not only are fewer people riding each day, but wait times can be drastically impacted.

— The park: There are certain parks that handle the crowds better, which also affects wait times. For example, Hollywood Studios has a lower number of attractions compared to Magic Kingdom. This means, Hollywood Studios wait times are typically higher than Magic Kingdom.

— Shorter hours: Depending on the day, park hours are sometimes greatly reduced. There are only a minimum number of hours for people to visit the parks and wait times can be impacted greatly, especially since entertainment is greatly reduced and isn’t available to help filter guests.

Mickey & Minnie's Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios

NOTE: I highly encourage you to check park hours either online or in the My Disney Experience app, because they are constantly changing. Weekend hours have repeatedly been extended and holidays park hours have also seen a drastic increase.

All that said, wait times are still far less than pre-pandemic times (in most cases), but it can be hard to predict crowd levels and strategize when it comes to attractions.

My best advice is to be patient, ride more popular attractions toward the end of the day when lines usually thin out, visit during the weekdays, and hit up rides that load guests not as quickly first thing.

Plexiglass dividers in Flight of Passage queue at Animal Kingdom

I also want to encourage you to simply enjoy your time at the parks without worrying too much about wait times and getting on every ride.

Take in that Disney parks magic that Cast Members continue to keep alive. We’ve all been through a lot this year and, sadly, I don’t think a lot will change anytime soon.

Things aren’t the same and it doesn’t mean WDW will operate like this forever, but I know I’m grateful to just have the opportunity to visit my happy place during these strange and scary times.

For more on Walt Disney World’s reopening, be sure to check out my complete guide detailing everything from, dining, to hotels, to transportation, and much more.

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