It was a day that Walt Disney World fans have waited for: the chance to once again step inside the Magic Kingdom. On Thursday, Craig and I had the chance to do just that during the first day of annual passholder previews. Let me take you on a bit of a virtual tour into the experience during Thursday's preview, and I'll answer a few questions that were asked that day by viewers. Ready to leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy? Good! Here we go!
Number one: it was a hot day. We'll just get that out of the way now. It's July in Florida, and it's just going to be hot. I wore one of the Disney cloth face masks for 12 hours on Thursday, and it was a-okay. Honestly. I was fine. Was it the same as rolling around the park without one? No. But it was more than doable. You can find the Disney face masks in the resort shops, next to Marketplace Co-Op in Disney Springs, on shopDisney.com and in the theme park merchandise locations. They sell for $6 each (or 4 for $20), and I recommend that adults get a large. I was told by a cast member that the medium-sized masks are recommended for 6 year olds. I've also heard that Disney is now selling an extra large size online.
Speaking of face masks, you absolutely must wear them at all times in the theme parks. Everyone during Thursday's preview was on their best behavior. During one of Thursday's Facebook live videos, a viewer asked if PhotoPass photographers are currently available in the park. I'm happy to report that they are. Please note that they can no longer take photos with your camera or smartphone, and you must wear your face mask in the pictures.
Markers enforcing physical distancing are located throughout the parks, including in areas where guests might wait for a PhotoPass picture. Guests are asked to remain distant from the party ahead of them throughout attraction queues. Don't freak out if the line for your favorite attraction looks long; each queue incorporates physical distancing, so a line snaking out of a show building could, in actuality, only be a 15 minute wait. Plexiglass and metal barriers have been constructed in queue lines where physical distancing isn't possible. Picture the loading chute for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. That chute now has a tall barrier down the middle of it to discourage the spread of germs. We saw similar barriers in the queue for Splash Mountain and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.
The castle. So, yes. This one's divisive. The castle's makeover is now complete, and, because of the previews and today's reopening, we're getting the chance to see the results with our own eyes. It was really interesting to observe the castle's new colors throughout the day.
Depending on the time of day, the weather, and the sun's position in the sky, the castle's new colors change. The turrets shifted from a vivid blue in the morning light to purple in early afternoon to an iridescent mix of the two in the evening. The pink tone used on the upper portion of the castle went from a muted light pink in the morning to a dusty mauve later in the day. Personally, the castle could be hot pink with oversized candy and fake icing all over it and I would still feel like I could never take enough pictures of it. I miss the grey, but in the grand scheme of things, the color of Cinderella Castle isn't something I'll be losing sleep over.
If you need a break from your face mask during your park day, there are three Relaxation Stations in the Magic Kingdom. Craig and I checked out the station located in Pete's Silly Sideshow in Storybook Circus. If you want air conditioning and lots of it, this is the place for you. The tables and standing areas are spread out, and guests are allowed to remove their masks while in the area. It was so dark, quiet and cool in there that I could have put my head on the table and taken a nap like the teacher made me do in preschool.
The other two Relaxation Stations can be found at Tomorrowland Terrace and near Golden Oak Outpost in Frontierland.
Disney is currently limiting park capacity. I'm assuming that capacity was even lower during the preview days than it will be during a "new normal" day, but I'll have to wait to confirm that the next time I'm in a park. That being said, throughout our preview day, there were large open spaces and walkways.
The low crowd level was akin to what I've experienced during the Disney After Hours events at Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Wait times were incredibly low, and most attractions were walk-ons. Hopefully, guests visiting the parks during the initial phase of reopening will be able to ride all of the attractions on their must-do lists. Craig and I were able to knock out attraction after attraction during the afternoon.
There are reminders throughout the park encouraging guests to adhere to the new safety measures. Trash cans lids have also been pulled back and held open so that guests can toss in trash without having to touch the lid.
You'll also find hand washing stations similar to those that were seen in the parks just before the temporary closure. At the stations, guests pump the water using a foot pedal, and soap and paper towels are provided. I washed my hands in the middle of Liberty Square, which made me giggle just a bit. But, to be honest, it felt great to stop and wash my hands, and I'll definitely use the hand washing stations when I'm in the parks in the days ahead.
Character interactions during the initial phase of reopening look just a bit different than they used to, and that's not an altogether negative thing. Gone are the scheduled parades and up close and personal character meet and greet opportunities. Instead, character cavalcades pop up randomly throughout the day, and characters pose for distanced selfies.
My favorite character experience during Thursday's preview was the Princess Cavalcade led by Merida on horseback. Whoever thought of having her ride through the Magic Kingdom on one of the majestic horses from the Tri-Circle-D Ranch deserves a socially-distanced high five and a raise. It was just the coolest thing to see.
Another question that I received from a viewer was how to order food at counter service locations if you don't have a smartphone. Disney is requesting that guests use the mobile order feature in the My Disney Experience app or scan the posted QR code just outside of the restaurant to order food during their day in the park or in the Disney resorts. Guests without smartphones can simply touch base with the cast member at the restaurant's entrance, and the guest will be directed toward a cashier to order and pay in person. I was told that every counter service location will have one cashier available to help guests who do not have the ability to mobile order.
All in all, it was a great day in the Magic Kingdom. The cast members were happy and gracious, the safety measures put into place were excellent, and the overall experience was absolutely incredible.
If you didn't catch them on Thursday, click here to jump over to The DIS' Facebook page to watch the handful of livestreams that I did from the park. I highlight the character cavalcades, one of the relaxation stations, the castle's makeover, and I answer questions along the way.
If you'd like to watch the vlog of the adventures that Craig and I had during our annual passholder preview, click below: