When Will Disney World Reopen? We Have an Answer

May 27, 2020, 10:02 AM · Orange County Economy Recovery Task Force this morning approved without objection a proposal by the Walt Disney World Resort to open in phases starting in July.

The Magic Kingdom and Disney's Animal Kingdom would reopen on Saturday, July 11, while Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios would reopen on Wednesday July 15, with soft opening events for select audiences before then, according to the presentation by Senior VP for Operations Jim McPhee. Advance reservations will be required to visit and park, attraction and transportation capacities will be reduced. Disney will be releasing more details about its advance reservation at a later date.

In a press release sent out after McPhee's presentation, Walt Disney World said that it is temporarily pausing new ticket sales and hotel reservations in order to focus on rebooking guests with existing tickets and reservations. Disney Vacation Club members can make new reservations, however.

"Existing ticket holders and Annual Passholders will be able to make reservation requests in phases before new tickets are sold; we’ll be reaching out to these guests soon to provide additional details. We will resume new ticket sales and hotel reservations after that period of time," Disney said.

McPhee did not mention the hotels in his presentation, but Disney's press release said that Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground and the DVC resorts at Walt Disney World will begin to reopen to members and guests on June 22. DVC resorts in Vero Beach and Hilton Head will reopen starting on June 15.

Inside the parks, parades, fireworks, meet and greets and touch-based interactions in queues will be suspended when Disney reopens, as it looks to maintain social distancing and enhanced sanitation standards. Temperature checks and masks will be required of all guests.

"We are deploying increased numerous hand washing and sanitation stations, and cast members on stage and backstage with visual reminders emphasizing [their] frequency and importance. We're also increasing our use of Plexiglas barriers at points of sales and retail and food and beverage areas where appropriate distancing cannot be maintained," he said.

Disney also will encourage and expand the use of mobile ordering and cashless payments via its app.

"We've rethought many aspects of our operation to help enhance safety and provide a great guest experience," McPhee said. "Right now we are implementing this work and proceeding with training and development so our cast are ready for the road ahead, and soon we will be welcoming our guests back. We believe this thoughtful methodical and phased ramp up strategy for our property is the right path. Together we hope everyone will do their part to bring the magic of Walt Disney World back into this new environment."

Disney's proposal must be approved by Orange County Major Jerry Demings and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in order to proceed. Update: Demings approved the plan early this afternoon.

Replies (42)

May 27, 2020 at 10:26 AM

I know this is hot of the presses, but when will reservations be open and how? Another question would be to who?

May 27, 2020 at 10:37 AM

On the surface this would seem rather surprising given that Universal and Seaworld will be opening in June. However, I’m willing to bet a few Disney Dollars that the next big headline for Disney will be, “NBA to Finish Season at Disneyworld”, and that’s the real reason behind the later opening.

May 27, 2020 at 10:41 AM

...and whether existing ticket media will be accepted or if guests will need to buy new date-specific admissions. We were just at WDW back at the end of January, so we're probably not going back any time soon, but we do have a couple of 10-day non-expiring park hoppers that might not be valid admission media during this limited capacity re-opening.

I think Disney is being smart here to take their time, because taking a trip to WDW can be a very complicated and arduous experience, and making sure people have enough time to plan and for Disney to clearly articulate all of the changes and new policies/procedures will be important to foster success. I think that's the only reason WDW is taking additional time compared to UO and SW, because visits to those parks are far less stressful experiences compared to a WDW vacation. Opening in July has NOTHING to do with the potential for the NBA or MLS to compete at WWoS.

May 27, 2020 at 10:53 AM

Russell brings up a great point. I'm glad Disney didn't go with the "Fun Spot" model of announcing they would be reopening, and then opening their gates ten minutes later (to be fair, I've heard good things about their operation since then). But Walt Disney World is a HUGE operation, and there's lots of training to be done, so it makes sense for them to take their time. I actually expected more of a staggered opening than two parks one day, the other parks four days later.

Given what I've seen on twitter about Disney Springs today, though, I think cast members will have their work cut out for them. I know cast members want to get back to work and making magic instead of dealing with Florida's unemployment system, but they are going to be dealing with a lot and I wish them all well.

May 27, 2020 at 11:04 AM

I fear for Disney. It's crazy how popular Shanghai has been since reopening as well as Disney Springs reaching capacity today. It just makes me worried that there's going to be a big glut of guests and crazy high wait times due to staggered ride/show capacities for the foreseeable future.

May 27, 2020 at 11:10 AM

It's the size of WDW that means it opens later. Universal is just two parks which really aren't that huge. WDW had four of the biggest parks on the planet with scores of complexities and issues to handle so taking an extra month to prepare makes sense.

That and they want to see how Universal does with handling the crowds to better figure out their own logistics and make it work right. So yes, waiting to make it better rather than rushing it is a much smarter move for Disney.

May 27, 2020 at 11:30 AM

From a pass holder perspective, the reservation system to get into the park will keep a lot of us away until it's back to walk up. I can see it working for people visiting for the day, but for those of us who go for a few hours, it's a non-starter.

I'd say 90% of my Disney visits are typically that way. Sit at home/work, see what FP+'s are available, then if I get one, drive over, wander round, use the FP+ and get out of there.

I hasten to add, I think it's absolutely the right way to go. Although I still think it's too early to open up, even at a reduced capacity.

May 27, 2020 at 11:39 AM

As great as it will be to see Disney return, I definitely won’t be going anytime soon. I understand that everyone will have to wear a mask...I get that. But who really wants to wear a mask in 90+ degree weather, with oppressive humidity. During summers at Disney, I sweat profusely, with just a hat on. Add a face covering on top of that. Don’t get me wrong, it will be great to have Disney open back up. Especially for the employees. However, it doesn’t sound like a a lot of fun to me, with all the restrictions. I know it has to be done that way. I totally understand that. But I’d rather wait until either the virus is gone, or we have some sort of vaccine, or medication to combat the virus. Until then, I’d much rather wait, in order to enjoy the full Disney experience once again.

May 27, 2020 at 11:50 AM

I was wrong. I thought we would not see the parks re-open until early/mid October. I am still VERY nervous about the parks (any of the nation's theme parks) being identified as the source of a cluster of fatalities related to COVID-19 -- especially after the scenes from last weekend in places like the Ozarks.

Prayers for success.

May 27, 2020 at 12:45 PM

The vast, overwhelming majority of the population understands how serious our present situation is and is responsible enough to follow guidance. Situations like the Ozarks pool and Ocean City, MD blew up online because they are sensational and compelling, but they are the exception, not the rule. Nor do I think there will be some massive pent-up demand for theme parks; 99.9999% of the population is not on this website constantly refreshing to see when they can go back. In fact, maintaining social distancing is currently more popular in the United States than electoral democracy, apple pie, and kittens - https://m.xkcd.com/2305/

It sounds like Disney will be strictly limiting capacity, to the point where they will not initially sell new tickets. Going to an amusement park with these regulations in place, especially avoiding indoor attractions (my current plan), appears to be far safer than going to a restaurant, gym, salon, or even office at the moment. I'm looking forward to getting back to the parks, and as a local, I'm excited to take advantage of short wait times and low crowds.

Now if we could just get an Iron Gwazi opening date...

May 27, 2020 at 12:53 PM

"Nor do I think there will be some massive pent-up demand for theme parks"
I definitely disagree with that, hence why they have a mandatory reservation system (and I still think Universal is going to find this out the hard way by not having one).

May 27, 2020 at 12:56 PM

The numbers just aren't there. Disney Springs had been a ghost town until this morning, when all the eBay people showed up to grab World of Disney merch, and it will be again later today. The grand majority of people are way too spooked to even go out (and understandably so!), much less plan an elaborate vacation. Combine that with what looks like a brutal economic depression that will sap a lot of working- and middle-class America's disposable income, and it's hard to see the parks hitting even close to 2019 demand for years.

The reservation system exists, I suspect, because WDW is going to harshly limit capacity at first, and as a precaution in case there is an initial flood of guests before things settle down. I don't think it will be particularly necessary or in high demand.

May 27, 2020 at 1:15 PM

@evanweston: The "reopen now!" crowd seem to be under the impression that they represent the vast majority of Americans. The truth is numerous polls show most Americans are wary of dangers and while wanting to get back on track, aren't going to return to early March behavior in shopping and such.

Although keep in mind, where you live can make a difference. Orlando is a huge city, after all so folks there are fully aware of dangers. Someone in a smaller Florida town may not feel the same way. It's like how if you're in, say NYC, L.A, Chicago or even Detroit or St Louis, you get a sense of major issues. You live in some small town in Wyoming or Nebraska, the pandemic might as well still be in China.

I do think folks wary at first but some are bristling to go out. Thankfully, most people are sensible enough to know the dangers and take them into consideration. It's too bad many refuse to believe it's that bad and run the risk of spiking things for others.

May 27, 2020 at 1:26 PM

@TH: Keep an eye on the new infections in Missouri the next two weeks. If they don’t show an increase in daily new infections, you will have to admit you are wrong there, too. That pool may have become both a literal and figurative petri dish, and you can bet the media will pounce upon it if Missouri does show any increase.

May 27, 2020 at 1:33 PM

I'm not surprised by a July opening, but what surprises me is that Disney feels there's enough demand to reopen everything all at once. Almost every reopening plan I've heard discussed concurred that it would take about two months to go from open to fully operational, so I'm curious what convinced Disney to change course. It will be interesting to see how this summer plays out in the theme park world.

As for me, I'm still tentatively planning to visit Orlando in October, and hopefully by then things will have become a bit more normal at the parks. I'm fine visiting under restrictions like this at somewhere like my local parks, but I'm not sure I'd want to deal with them at a park I'm traveling across the country for.

May 27, 2020 at 2:19 PM

@AJ Hummel: I do suspect Disney pushed more by Universal reopening all at once and wanting to get back on track lest Universal get more advantage in early reopening. I know, it's crazy but that's the business side of this epic feud getting in the way of things once more.

May 27, 2020 at 2:22 PM

Disney World will also not be selling any new tickets for some time. They will be allowing people with prior reservations and tickets to nab the reservation slots for their parks.

May 27, 2020 at 2:28 PM

I think Disney feels pressure to get all of their employees back to work around the same time as McConnell has said that there should be more of a financial incentive for people who are working then those who are collecting unemployment, meaning half of Disney's union labor force would be getting paid more than the other half which is a bad situation to be in and cause strife with the union (especially with so many of the older cast members purposely working at places with shorter hours so they don't get scheduled late at night). In a situation like that you would have lower seniority making more money then higher seniority and the union would be all over the papers saying not fair etc.

Chapek even passively referenced this when the reported asked him why the timetable is different then Universal's and he said "Our business is more complex and our labor situation is different."

May 27, 2020 at 2:26 PM

Twobits: "Keep an eye on the new infections in Missouri the next two weeks. If they don’t show an increase in daily new infections, you will have to admit you are wrong there, too."

I Respond: Wrong about what? I said scenes like the on in the Ozarks make me nervous. Please try and keep up.

May 27, 2020 at 2:27 PM

Evanweston writes: "The numbers just aren't there. Disney Springs had been a ghost town until this morning ..."

And I add: And Disney Springs is a theme park, right everyone?

(Chuckle)

May 27, 2020 at 2:43 PM

Shanghai Disneyland has been packed. If you download the app with wait times, which I did y'know for research purposes, you will notice their waits are pretty lengthy. Check at night since their time zone difference is significant. We are talking about 120 minutes for Soarin, 70 minutes for Seven Dwarfs, and 40 minutes for Dumbo. All very comparable to normal long waits at the American parks. There will be people. Rides with reduced capacities will accumulate long wait times. Do not underestimate the draw of theme parks especially Disney World. Whatever capacity is for the parks that Disney will allow I am pretty sure it will be met.

May 27, 2020 at 3:11 PM

@Manny Barron: Key thing being China was the first nation affected by Covid and so the first to see some recovery (and even now danger of a new outbreak hanging over their heads) so makes more sense folks out and about there. Plus, the Chinese culture much different in many regards about these things so can't look at them as working equally for Americans.

May 27, 2020 at 3:17 PM

Manny - we have to keep in mind that those wait times are for rides that have had their capacity significantly reduced. I am not saying the park is not busy, but is not as busy as the wait times suggest.

May 27, 2020 at 3:30 PM

My wife and had been planning for over a year for a ‘big trip’ this October - Universal for 3 nights, Disney for 14 nights, Disney cruise for 3 nights and 1 final night at Disney. It’s a lot of money but we’ve done this before and had literally a ‘magical’ time. But we are now in the process of trying to postpone or cancel and reschedule for 2022 since we really don’t want to be there if we have to wear masks or socially distance. It won't be ‘magical’ at all and certainly not worth £10,000. 2022 gives us an opportunity to see how things resolve over the next year and hopefully settle back down to normality.
I appreciate Disney, Universal and everyone else needs to open up and earn some money but until that magic is back I don’t want to invest significant sums of money in a Disney holiday.

May 27, 2020 at 3:31 PM

The Big Question: How are they going to enforce the wearing of masks?

Obviously, there will be some guests who will remove their masks once in the parks, either because of discomfort or political ideology (or both). Will Disney try to force them to wear their masks? Are we going to see videos on YouTube of guests arguing with CM's over the mask requirement? Or will Disney eventually be forced to say masks are suggested but not required?

May 27, 2020 at 3:57 PM

I know mentioned already but my mom is still hoping to get going later in August as a big trip for her grandson's college graduation (would be her, him, his brother/sister and their mom). It was supposed to be this week so cancellation was a while ago. Yet as a nurse in her 70s, she's still intent on going so there will be people willing to take risks (she was in Colorado in March when they were ramping up in cases and checked out okay).

May 27, 2020 at 4:00 PM

Beacher and everyone else. If you look at video's on youtube on china. People have the masks down while in the long line outdoors, even in totalitarian China! They also appear to be about 3 ft between parties who came together not 6. I haven't seem video's of it, but I am assuming people there are being more compliant about the masks once they get to the indoor part of the line.

I don't think the delay has anything to do with the MLS and NBA. They would use what 3000 rooms together? You could open up one part a day in june and need not more than 100 rooms for theme park guests. 1 building of 1 all star. Most guests the first month will not require a hotel room. whether that first month in june or july.

we will see how much extra staffing universal and sea world has? I suspect, increased staffing costs, and the weird fact that Congress passed a massively expensive bill that pays workers who make less than 23 dollars an hour more to stay home (once the application is finally processed) than to WORK! very bad incentives for the gov't to give. That is the worst thing trump has allowed to happen, but it was totally 50 50 bi partisan.

Universal going first, perhaps they soaked up most of the workers who have morality to go back to work for the love of theme parks and self respect. It will be really interesting if sea world can get enough workers (when the gov't is paying them more to stay home). There were about 5 republican senators who were start enough to forsee this nonsense. no democrats. shame to the 95 other senators who did not change the unemployment pay structure after june 1. Or at least give the leeway to evaluate it and make a decision right about now.

May 27, 2020 at 4:13 PM

You can't collect unemployment if your employer calls you back to work, that is a felony numbnuts (and it wouldn't happen anyway because the employer would report that they have offered you suitable work that meets CDC guidelines).

May 27, 2020 at 4:18 PM

the_man-- In april I thought that too. But tons and tons and tons of employers are telling orlando, LA, and all over the country tv and news media that they cannot get workers to come back and they tell them flat out "I'm making more money on unemployment. Please find someone else and I expect to come back once the federal Trump cares act money expires". So evidently, there are zero criminal penalties attached and workers seem to think their job will be waiting for them in Aug. They may be wrong, but that it what they seem to believe. And. I'm talking about young workers not workers over 60. Hopefully, the democrats will be cooperative in allowing employers to keep their new loyal workers and not have to fire them and hire back their unloyal workers in Aug. or 2022 if demo's get their way with the current political argument. Demo's act so strangely and in opposition to everything that is common sense about the economics of human behavoir (though) I will not hold my breath.

May 27, 2020 at 4:20 PM

DaveD also neglects to note that the $600 runs out at the end of July.

May 27, 2020 at 4:23 PM

@TwoBits - if the NBA were to resume its season at Disney World, they would be closer to starting in July, than finishing.

There would be a training camps for a few weeks, before they just throw the guys out there to start playing games.

May 27, 2020 at 4:34 PM

TH. I did not. why do you think i cited aug 1, as the date people expect their jobs to be waiting for them. the union most likely (behind the scenes) told Disney if you open before mid july we (and our selected employees on social media) will complain about how unsafe it is blah blah blah. Its more cautious to not have everything open all at once so it is not that bad. I am just glad I sold my disney stock late april and bought someone else, because it is extremely unfair to their shareholders, when the other theme parks are not targeted in the same way by the unions. and there are a ton of middle class disney shareholders.

May 27, 2020 at 4:35 PM

DaveD: "...the union most likely (behind the scenes) told Disney if you open before mid july we (and our selected employees on social media) will complain..."

I respond: Do you have ANY evidence of that?

May 27, 2020 at 4:44 PM

Well I can't speak for any other industry, but I can guarantee no company in the theme park industry is going to break the law and risk lying to the government to protect some shmuck that refuses to go to work. Employers have to report who is offered work its part of the furlough process and has major tax and insurance impacts.

May 27, 2020 at 4:53 PM

I guess you all expect there to be a lot of prosecutions of people who are refusing to go back to work and staying on unemployment then. I highly doubt it will and theme park workers know it! the unemployment dept is so overloaded. It takes a long time to get the application approved but then people eventually get a huge windfall of large back payments in a week or two once approved. It will likely be the same for people who refuse to go back to work. Employers can report it on a gov't website. But the gov't will be so overloaded that I have doubts they will risk the bad press from CNN/CSNBC, Wa PO and NY times to ask people to pay money back from when they refused to go back to work.

TH-you know damn well they are not going to flat out say it publicly. There may be some internal memo's that surface yrs from now saying it. Another future article for Robert down the line long term.

Union all over the world (however) have publicly dragged their feet on saying they don't want to return to work due to "safety". sometimes for decent reason sometimes not. For theme park workers under 55 yrs of age, not good reason absent conditions specific to the person.

All the while still insisting on being paid for months and months. If the demo's were to succeed in causing the excessively generous pay to last past 7/31, I guarantee you the union would start coming up with new "safety" excuses that they are not currently making.

it's rather common sense that a lot of people will stay home and watch netflix or disney plus, unless they make at least 25 percent more by working. It is also the reason why socialists govt's always have worse economies and generate less of a middle class than capitalist economies. are you disputing basic human behavior that we have all witnessed first hand with people in general?

May 27, 2020 at 4:56 PM

I am saying non compliance for that is not going to be a problem at the Orlando theme parks I can guarantee that.

May 27, 2020 at 5:39 PM

@davedisney: What I know "damn well" is that you have no evidence at all that the unions made any demands about the opening dates.

NEXT!

May 27, 2020 at 5:42 PM

This is great news! Finally something to look forward to. Hopefully Disneyland will open sooner rather than later as well (as long as the infections continue to trend down of course). I think I will wait until the fireworks and shows come back before starting my Disney Vacation planning.

May 27, 2020 at 5:54 PM

@ TH Creative,

Let's talk re-opening plans.. Is it likely (@ AK) for the Guest and Animal safety, we are going to see the forrest trails closed and does this impact Kilimanjaro's safari? Assuming a live "streetmosphere" not possible. It will just be moving attractions?

Your thoughts...?

May 27, 2020 at 6:34 PM

I'm at a loss to predict/assume anything. The openings are five weeks away. Who knows what will happen?

May 27, 2020 at 6:21 PM

@davedisney - “ They also appear to be about 3 ft between parties who came together not 6.”

Social distancing rules in China are 1 meter, or about 3 feet. So yup, that’s about half what the guidelines are here and elsewhere.

Haven’t seen the video you reference about people taking masks off. By and large, obviously the vast majority of people in China are wearing their masks. It’s no problem is Asian counties and was already part of the culture pre-Covid.

I guess it remains unclear if Disney would kick out non-compliant people at WDW — but at Shanghai, of course they would.

May 28, 2020 at 12:44 AM

@TH: I was referring to your direct quote just above my previous post: “I was wrong. I thought we would not see the parks re-open until early/mid October.” You need to keep up with your own writings before you attempt to criticize others.

@Chopper: Good point. With about 20 games per team left in the season, that seems to be a stretch. A reduced or some sort of playoff tournament may work with the current timeframe could work. Just have to wait and see.

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