2020 has been a rocky roller coaster for Disney World to navigate. From the closure caused by the pandemic which only avalanched into projects being pushed back, park operations changing, and tens of thousands of Walt Disney Cast Members being laid off, many Guests are holding out hope that 2021 will be a little easier on the theme parks.
There are plenty of changes, upcoming attractions, and delays headed our way at the Walt Disney World Resort in 2021, and if you are visiting, it will be important to keep a note of everything that is going on at the parks. Here, we will discuss what you can expect when you are visiting Disney World in 2021, and what we know about the 50th anniversary, whether you’re a Florida local, a frequent visitor or Annual Passholder, or a tourist heading to Disney Parks for the first time.
Park Hopping was eliminated from the Disney World offerings in July when the theme parks reopened to Guests. Due to capacity restrictions (which are still in place) and the Disney Park Pass reservation system which controls exactly how many Guests can enter each park on a given day, Park Hopping was suspended for several months. However, that’s about to change in 2021.
Based on what we currently know, although capacity has yet to increase past 35%, Disney World is bringing back Park Hopping! As of January 1, 2021, Guests will be able to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and ride Rise of the Resistance, and then head over to EPCOT and enjoy the International Festival of the Arts, or take flight in Pandora – The World of Avatar on Flight of Passage, and then head to Magic Kingdom and blast off to space on Space Mountain.
Currently, Guests will be able to Park Hop after 2:00 PM daily, and they can only do so after they visit their first theme park of the day using their Disney Park pass reservation. Although all parks will not allow Guests in past the current lowered capacity limit, with the availability for Disney Park Pass reservations being heavily open in January, it seems that Guests may not yet have any reason to pose a concern of not getting into their second park of the day. Now, with Park Hopping, it seems this first-come-first-serve option will be in place for any theme park a Guest visits after 2 PM, which will allow for more Guests to visit the parks daily — as some leave, others will be allowed in, and so on.
Please note that Park Hopping is only available to Guests with an applicable Annual Pass, or ticketed Guests who purchased a Park Hopper option.
At the moment, Disney World Guests are unable to access and utilize FastPass+. Much like Park Hopping, this offering was suspended when the parks reopened in July.
As a result of the COVID-19 impact, the FastPass+ service will be suspended for the time being as we plan to use additional queue space to manage capacity at our attractions and maintain physical distancing. We will automatically cancel existing FastPass+ selections and share any future updates on the service at a later date.
There are pros and cons to bringing back FastPass+ to Disney theme parks, but with capacity having increased, Park Hopping returning, and attractions fully loading the ride vehicles, it seems that Disney is taking strides towards returning the parks to “normal,” pre-pandemic operations as much as they can. Therefore, it wouldn’t be shocking to hear that at some point in 2021, we can log back into our My Disney Experience app and snag a Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Fast Pass. However, as we noted, currently FastPass+ is not an option for anyone visiting the parks.
Capacity at Disney World is an ever-changing subject with an answer that may never fully be revealed — and we will explain why. Since Disney World has reopened, capacity has increased by nearly 50% in comparison to what the parks were operating at when they opened. If we are talking numbers, the most recent capacity update Disney has provided is that each park’s capacity is running at 35%. However, we were told that the increase jumped from 25% to 35% at an earlier date before when it was publicly announced. This means that Disney World has silently made capacity increases, and, therefore, they can continue to do so.
When the first silent increase that we know of occurred, before hearing the official news, Disney added many more Disney Park Pass reservation options for park dates that had previously been at capacity. They once again did this during the Christmas season, but have yet to comment on an increase.
In terms of capacity increases, it seems that we will never know anything official until Disney announces it, but even that information is often dated. That being said, it is clear that Disney’s trajectory is not to reduce capacity again, but rather continue to increase it in an effort to allow more Guests to safely enjoy the parks.
Disney Park Pass Reservation System
The Disney Park Pass reservation system was introduced when the parks reopened. It required Guests to make an advanced reservation in order to visit one of the four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom). This system helps control the set capacity Disney is adhering to at any given time and helps minimize Guest disappointment so that no one is showing up to a park that they cannot enter — something that can often happen at Universal Orlando Resort.
If there is one tell that hints at Disney World theme parks slowly returning to normal capacity and loosening these restrictions, as we previously discussed, it is the Disney Park Pass reservation system — because it will likely be available until reservations are no longer needed. At the moment, the Disney Park Pass reservation system extends through to January 2022, so many Guests should expect to continue booking their place in a Disney theme park throughout 2021, unless Disney shares any other news about that.
Of course, depending on the status of the pandemic and what new developments could occur, this end date could slide either forward or backward.
We will discuss the 50th anniversary of Disney World in another section. However, to commemorate the anniversary, Disney has planned several new attractions, experiences, and renovations within the theme parks. So, we will look at what we know is coming, and what may be delayed.
A Reimagined Epcot
We previously reported that during the 2019 D23 Expo several big announcements were made for EPCOT, including a complete overhaul of the entire park. At the time, Disney shared that EPCOT will be broken into four neighborhoods as well as include a newly designed experience for Spaceship Earth. Spaceship Earth was set to undergo refurbishment months ago, but that was officially put on pause. In that same announcement, we learned that the Mary Poppins attraction, as well as Cherry Tree Lane in EPCOT’s UK Pavillion, would also be postponed indefinitely.
That being said, World Showcase will be joined by World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery, and although we do not have an exact end date for all of EPCOT’s renovations, Disney has indicated that several projects are a priority and will be open for the 50th-anniversary celebrations.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is an indoor story-telling coaster that is set to open in 2021. We have had sneak peeks of the coaster, and it looks like it will be a perfect addition to EPCOT as a new Marvel-based thrill ride.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, an attraction we have previously seen in Disneyland Paris. It was originally set to open in 2020, but due to the pandemic, the date was pushed back. We do not yet have an exact opening day, but at the moment, the attraction is expected to open in 2021
TRON Lightcycle Power Run is the newest coaster being build at Magic Kingdom, with the original version standing at Shanghai Disneyland. We do not yet have an opening date for this attraction (and it is rumored to be delayed even further), however, many Guests are hoping it will be ready in time for the 50th anniversary, perhaps in late 2021. Currently, the construction is well underway with the light-up free-standing canopy covering the coaster tracks.
It might not be an attraction, but we get an entire water park back in 2021! Disney officially confirmed that Guests could return to the chilly water park on March 7, 2021.
More Disney World Resorts opening in 2021, which is very exciting for Guests who love to stay on Disney property.
So far, in terms of Disney Resorts that are currently closed, these 3 will be reopening in 2021:
- Disney’s All-Star Moves Resort reopens on March 22
- Disney’s Beach Club Resort reopens on May 30
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge reopens on June 6
The Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser hotel experience has been deemed a priority project as well by Disney, and many expect it to open in 2021 (or, at the very least, many hopeful Guests expect to be able to book reservations for the new experience sometime this year). The interactive hotel experience will be booked by Guests for a 2-night, 3-day experience, where you can live your own Star Wars adventure while making a pit stop on Batuu!
Reflections — A Disney Lakeside Lodge has also been put on pause like many of the EPCOT attractions. Currently, we are not sure what will be happening in terms of the progress of this resort, but it is not a priority project, and Guests should not expect to be able to stay there anytime soon.
Safety, Rules, & Regulations
Walt Disney World Resort has strict health and safety measures in place at the moment, and from what we know, these measures will still be in place for the foreseeable future. For example, Disney World currently requires all Guests to wear masks that cover their mouth and nose, and if Guests do not comply, they will be removed from the parks.
Face coverings are required for all Guests (ages 2 and up) and Cast Members. Please bring your own face coverings and wear them at all times, except when dining or swimming. You may remove your face covering while actively eating or drinking, but you should be stationary and maintain appropriate physical distancing.
All face coverings (whether disposable or reusable) must:
- Be made with at least two layers of breathable material
- Fully cover the nose and mouth and secure under the chin
- Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
- Be secured with ties or ear loops and allow the Guest to remain hands-free
At this time, based on guidance from health authorities, neck gaiters, open-chin triangle bandanas, and face coverings containing valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not acceptable face coverings.
Costume masks are also not considered appropriate and are prohibited from being worn, in alignment with our existing rules.
The use of face coverings is not a substitute for physical distancing.
Social distancing is also in place at the moment in ride queues as well as throughout the park as a whole, with Cast Members constantly reminding Guests to keep ample distance in between their party and other parties. If nothing changes, these rules will stay in place and Guests will be required to comply.
Disney World’s 50th anniversary is officially marked on Magic Kingdom’s birthday on October 1, 2021! However, we don’t yet know when the celebrations will start — it’s unclear if the celebrations and promotions for the 50th anniversary will begin in early 2021, on October 1, or on another date, as Disney hasn’t yet announced this.
We do not know too much about what specifically will be offered during the anniversary, however, more information is sure to come. Disney recently allowed Guests to begin booking reservations for October 1st, and Disney Park Passes have been quickly filling up.
We have seen Cinderella Castle, the opening Disney World entrance sign, as well as the Magic Kingdom Ticket Toll Plaza all be reimagined to a regal blue and pink aesthetic. Disney has recently filed a patent for Cinderella Castle which could hint that more will be done before the anniversary.
Knowing Disney, alongside the new attractions, we are sure to get new merchandise and limited-time food options during the event as well. Also, although parades and fireworks are currently on pause at all parks, after seeing the return of the Electrical Water Pageant and firework testing at Magic Kingdom as well as EPCOT, if the state of the world improves, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a new show or parade to reflect the celebration. Of course, that is very speculative, although new shows often have occurred during large celebrations.
Travel Deals and How to Plan
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What do you think about what Disney World is offering in 2021? Do you expect the 50th anniversary to be held on a large or small scale?