Back on March 15th, 2020, the Walt Disney World Theme Parks closed due to the COVID Pandemic. I was there on the last night before it closed and it was a very different experience that I don’t know if I’ll ever see again. Cast Members were hugging each other in tears, not knowing if or when they may see each other again. Guests were sitting all along Main Street after the park had officially closed but were just so reluctant to leave not knowing when they may be back in the park. Eventually, once we had emotionally prepared ourselves to leave we passed by the Main Street Train Station where Mickey and some of his friends were there waving goodbye as we left the park. I knew we would be back and hoped it would only be a month or so, but soon that closure time extended to two months, then three.
Finally, after about 117 days, Walt Disney World was ready to attempt a reopening with a lot of changes to not just crowd levels but also ride procedures and face coverings. A few days before the Magic Kingdom was going to reopen to the general public they offered a special preview for Annual Passholders and I made sure to snag one of those limited spots. Here is a review of my first trip back to the Magic Kingdom.
The park was scheduled to open that day at 9am, but I was wake by 6 in the morning and was just too anxious to get there. Obviously from the above picture, I was not the only one and there was quite a line at the parking plaza to get into the lots. To try and help keep everyone spaced out they were pulsing groups of cars through the plaza. This caused the line to move a bit as a few cars to pass through, then you would sit at a standstill for a while waiting for that previous group to make their way into the parking lot.
It didn’t take too long to get parked but it was a bit of a process. After we were guided into a spot the trams were not operating so we had to walk from the parking lot to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). Then it was time for our temperature screening. This was a simple process, you just keep your distance from other guests until it’s your turn and then an Advent Healthcare worker used a non-invasive thermometer to scan your forehead and give you the go-ahead to proceed inside. After that was the security screening and then on to the first choice of the day…Monorail or Ferry boat.
The line wasn’t too bad for the Monorail so I opted to check that out first. The number of guests in each car was limited and in my case, I had the entire car to myself. You can see in the above picture that they have installed a divider over that center bench to try and keep the two parts of the car separated a bit. But you can see there is a gap around the edge so this is not a full-proof solution.
My ride in the Monorail was pretty quick and before I knew it I was back in the Magic Kingdom with the Train Station looming over the Main Entrance. The fingerprint scanners have been covered over and not required at this time. You just touch your Magic Band to the touchpoint and walk on in.
I walked under the train station and onto Main Street feeling like I had never left. It was a wonderful feeling to be back inside the park, but you did have the sense that things were different. Up high on the Train Station platform was Mickey and a group of his Friends all welcoming us back which was wonderful.
Main Street USA was fairly empty especially compared to what I’ve been used to over the past few years but was a nice change and I wish it could be like this all the time.
My first stop was over to Adventureland and I was looking forward to getting on Pirates of the Caribbean. You can see in the above picture that the extended queue is set up with the social distancing markers. Due to the current low capacity the park is allowing, there was no wait and I walked right on the ride.
After I had completed my Caribbean tour with my favorite pirates I needed a Dole Whip. Not just because it had been months since my last taste, but also it was extremely hot and humid as we have all come to know Florida for. That first taste of Dole Whip was heavenly and I savored every moment before continuing on.
Now that I had cooled off a bit, I headed into Frontierland and did make it on Splash Mountain. I’m sure by now you have heard that Disney announced Splash Mountain will be rethemed to Princess and the Frog. No time frame has been released yet, but this was definitely the most popular ride in the park with many fans trying to make sure they got in one last ride just in case the ride closes sooner than later. Then I headed over towards the Country Bear Jamboree and found some of the bears on the second-floor balcony waiving and interactive with guests passing by below them.
With the Country Bears having fun outside I couldn’t pass up a visit to their Jamboree and also figured I would enjoy some Air Conditioning at the same time.
Inside the waiting area for the show previously there had been a 3 design pressed penny machine. But on this visit, I noticed that machine was gone and was replaced with a new 8-design machine.
The pressed penny designs included images of all the different Country Bears from the show including Big Al, Liver Lips, Brother Ted, Teddi Barra, and more. With the new pennies stored in my pocket, I headed into the show and enjoyed another great Jamboree performance.
Crowd levels were amazingly low. Once I left the Country Bears I wondered through Liberty Square, took a quick ride inside the Haunted Mansion, Peter Pan, and then over towards New Fantasyland. The above picture is of the Stroller Parking near the Carousel. For anyone that has experienced this area on a normal day, the above picture at least for me was shocking.
The pathway in front of the Little Mermaid attraction was completely deserted.
This continued over into Storybook Circus and Tomorrowland as shown above.
Space Mountain was another attraction that had a posted wait time of around 15 minutes for most of the day but was just a walk-on. I think the 15 minutes was just the length of time it took to walk through that long queue line.
In the Tomorrowland Terrace was one of the Relaxation Stations. This is a place just like Universal offered where they have tables separated from each other allowing you a place to remove your mask for a bit of a break.
This is a nice place to sit and relax since it’s open allowing for a nice amount of airflow, but you are also covered from the sun or rain.
By this time I had made almost a complete tour of the park, but wanted to head back down Main Street to visit the Emporium.
But once I got down in that area I was just taken back by how empty it was. I was almost speechless but wanted to enjoy it for as long as I could.
Not too long after as I was just sitting along Main Street one of the random Character Cavalcades was headed my way. One of the recent changes Disney made was doing away with the scheduled afternoon parade. Instead, they have these small Cavalcades which is usually just a single float with a few characters on it. These are released into the park sporadically to avoid people standing around in groups. It’s actually a great way to do it without the large crowds.
Getting into the Main Street Emporium is a little different. This store has a LOT of different doors, but only the set about halfway up Main Street is available to actually enter the store. All the other doors are marked as Exit Only and have Cast Members there to prevent you from entering the wrong way. This is to ensure they can manage the number of guests inside the store. As you enter, a Cast Member has a Tablet that they “Add” you as a guest in the store. It’s connected to the Cast Members near the exits that are “Removing” guests as they leave. If there are too many people inside the store they will set up a queue where you need to wait before being allowed inside.
I walked around not really looking to buy any merchandise (I’ve already got plenty and need to try and cut back). But as I entered the main section of the Emporium I noticed a new Pressed Penny machine. In this area previously were two machines, a 3-design Quarter Press and a 3-design Penny Press.
But after searching around I can confirm those machines have been removed and replaced with this new 8-design model.
More of a surprise was the addition of more 2020 dated designs. With 2020 about half over it seems kind of strange to release these now. Plus I’m curious to see what happens in 2021, will only the dated designs be replaced or will we get a whole new set of 8-designs. This set has designs of Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Princess Aurora, and a few other familiar characters.
After I finished using that new machine I kept walked around just seeing what was new, and towards one of the exits, I saw another new penny machine.
These 8-design machines are certainly becoming a popular choice at Walt Disney World. In this location, there used to be a 3-design penny press which has also been retired and replaced with this second new machine.
More 2020 designs are available in this set along with images of Tinker Bell, Snow White, Mickey, and more of his Friends.
This was a really great day. I was a little apprehensive about heading back into the parks especially since Florida has been having some high numbers of confirmed COVID cases lately. But with all the precautions Disney has taken, I did feel quite safe and was always trying to ensure I didn’t touch too many things and tried to keep myself distanced from others as much as possible. There is nothing like visiting a Disney Park to brighten your spirits, and finding three new pressed penny machines was just the icing on the cake.