Is WDW Still Magical During COVID?
Since arriving home, I have been asked numerous times, “was it still magical” and “did you feel like something was missing”? Each of us are going to have our own answers. My magic might not be the same as yours. For me, the magic is the feeling the castle gives me, the music I hear walking in the parks, and the look on my little boy’s face as he takes every moment in. For me the magic is still 100% there. I cried entering Magic Kingdom on our first day, I cried leaving as we walked out of Magic Kingdom on our last, and as a true Disney addict I’m emotional now reliving my trip.
I can tell you that I did miss character hugs, exploring some of the shops, and picking a pearl at the Japan pavilion, which is a tradition that started on my first trip with my husband. However, all of those things are extras to me and not something that defines a magical trip. With that said, I may have missed it more if it was my son’s first trip. Letting my one year old squeeze Mickey’s nose and snuggle Pluto were incredibly magical and I am so glad that we were extremely lucky enough to bring our son 4 times before COVID hit and to have those memories and pictures. Even though Walt Disney World still feels like the most magical place in the world to me, I do hope one day in the near future everything returns to the way it was before.
Even with all of the changes, some parts of our most recent trip (April) I would say were actually more magical than trips in the past. The popup parades (cavalcades) might be my favorite change to come out of Disney’s response to being open in a pandemic. I love that they happen “randomly” and throughout the day and feel more like a special surprise than the traditional parades. Spending an hour or two claiming a “spot” on main street is definitely something I don’t miss. The character interactions are pretty cool and almost seem more enjoyable for the cast members and the guests as well in some ways. While the physical hugs might be gone, Disney has still done a great job making these interactions feel special. Our son absolutely LOVED interacting with various characters on Batuu, but my favorite took place on our way out of the park on our last day as Gaston, Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, Moana, and Aladdin greeted guests from the top of the train station. Watching characters from different moves interact was most enjoyable and something not usually experienced! Gaston and Peter talked to my son about growing up, eating 5 dozen eggs, and even posed for socially distant photos. We even heard them talking to a little girl about marrying Gaston, Peter commented that he’s not old enough to attend weddings since they are for grownups. This is something I hope never ends.
I would suggest that if your planning your first trip to the park that you go in with an open mind and understand that it is different due to the steps they have put in place to protect guests during these unprecedented times. I also would not suggest splurging on a trip to Disney World now unless you know this is not the one and only time you will be able to visit. I feel that in that case it might be best until Mickey hugs and a sense of normalcy return. For those of us lucky enough to have gone multiple times in the past and plan on doing so in the future, don’t get upset that you have to wear a mask, or get nervous when you see an attraction line wrapping around a building (it’s just because you have to stand 6 feet apart). Don’t worry that you can’t book Fastpasses (the lines actually seem to move pretty quick – usually faster than provided wait time) or that every restaurant isn’t available. Go to enjoy the little things instead. Slow down and take your time to take in the details. This may be the only time you actually get to do that as the parks seem a little quieter (listen to the music more clearly), a little less crowded (enjoy strolling down Main St. rather than dodging strollers), and give you opportunities to experience something new that you may never have thought of before.
If you have been to the park in the past though and are in need of a “fix” like a true Disney addict, I highly suggest planning that vacation now. After going to Disney multiple times a year for the past decade and then not being able to go for nearly 2 years (we had to cancel 2 trips last year), I was really needing a trip to my happy place. And while it was different from past trips and some things were not available (I’m talking to you nighttime fireworks and CA Grill brunch) it was still Disney. I still loved every minute of it and feel blessed that we got the chance to go again (and will be returning once again in August). For me IT WAS STILL JUST AS MAGICAL! Do keep in mind that the things that make it magical for me might not be the same for you. I cannot tell you if your trip will be magical though, I can only wish that for you.
- Krystle (the OG Disney addict)