We’d already visited Universal Orlando three times since they’ve reopened. Once when only CityWalk was open, another for a passholder only event and finally for a random park day. We were impressed with the safety precautions put in place and how things improved each time we visited.
Disney delayed opening longer than Universal. Some would say because opening Walt Disney World (WDW) was more complicated than Universal, while others said it was so they could see the problems with running a theme park during a pandemic and try to fix them before inviting guests.
Sharon and I tried to get invitations to the Annual Passholder previews for the WDW theme parks but we weren’t successful. That meant we needed to wait until the blackout dates for our annual passes were over. Usually, this coincides with the kids in Florida going back to school but nothing is normal in 2020.
We could have gone over the weekend but decided that would be a bad idea. Everyone wanting to visit the parks would go on the opening weekend. We picked the first Thursday after Florida started to open school (even if some were only open virtually.) I was able to get a reservation a few weeks ago, but I’ve read that annual passholders haven’t been as lucky looking for last-minute openings.
I picked Hollywood Studios because I figured if there was ever a chance I could get to see Rise of the Resistance, it would be now. Even if we couldn’t get a reservation, there’s still plenty of other rides we like, such as Slinky Dog Dash, Runaway Railway (which we’d also never seen), Smugglers Run, Toy Story Mania, Tower of Terror and Rock and Roller Coaster.
While we wanted to visit Disney World, we also wanted to feel safe. That meant trying to avoid crowds as much as possible. Coming up to our reservation date, I saw loads of posts on the Disney blogosphere about how Hollywood Boulevard would be packed just as park opening as guests tried to get a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. The only way to be eligible is to be in the park, so guests arrive early and cram along the main plaza. Not for us. No thanks.
So we made alternate plans, even if it meant we were cutting our odds of getting on the ride in half. We decided to arrive at noon. I made reservations for lunch as the Brown Derby for just after 2PM, the second time that slots for RotR are released.
Our plan looked to be working as designed. The front of the park was mainly deserted when we entered.
Looking at the line times on the Disney app, we headed to Slinky Dog Dash. The wait was showing at 45 minutes, which is much shorter than it would usually be at this time of the year.
The one thing we noticed was that due to social distancing, the lines looked much longer than usual. Disney had to put a Cast Member out with a sign to indicate the end of the line, which made us remember our times at Tokyo Disneyland. The line moved quickly, which also reminded us of how lines were supposed to work if not for FastPass+.
We had plenty of time before 2PM, so we got on the line for the Alien Swirling Saucers ride. One half of the ride was down but we still only had to wait 30 minutes.
We left and headed towards the Brown Derby Restaurant and found a bench just before 2PM. Opening up the Disney Parks app on our phone, we tried to get a boarding group.
I lucked out and managed to get a backup group. It wasn’t guaranteed but we might get on the ride today. OK, time for lunch.
We checked into our lunch reservation at Brown Derby. Wanting to feel comfortable, I asked if we could eat outside. The greeter told us that there was no outdoor seating. Crap.
I asked if we could cancel our booking and she said it was fine. We then looked for somewhere we could eat lunch outside. This was tougher than we thought if we wanted to have anything other than hamburgers. Eventually, we decided on eating at Ronto Roasters at Galaxy’s Edge. We ordered on the app and the process was straightforward. We walked up to the restaurant, where the tables were reserved for those who were dining. I showed my phone, was directed to the food pick up where our sausage wraps were ready. At both spots, I was greeted by name and after picking up the food we were shown an empty table that had been sanitized.
After lunch, we headed to Smugglers Run. The wait was only 20 minutes.
The experience was different from the past and in fact, I enjoyed it much more than any other time I’ve been on it. Sharon and I rode by ourselves. We were asked if we’d been on it before and when we said yes, we were asked which position we wanted to sit. I took the right pilot and Sharon was a gunner. Even with a limited crew, we managed to get two containers of Coaxium, much to the delight of Hondo.
From there, we got into line for Runaway Railway for our first ride.
While we have our disagreements about whether or not it’s a suitable replacement for Great Movie Ride, my attention was drawn away by an alert. Our boarding group was called.
I thought all day we wouldn’t get on the ride. That way, I wouldn’t be disappointed. But here we were, walking to the ride with a Golden Ticket.
I didn’t take any pictures after the queue. I hadn’t watched any videos of the ride or read any posts about it. I wanted to experience it for the first time just as the event it was.
I’m still trying to describe it. It was amazing. I needed to decompress, so we headed to the Baseline TapHouse for a beverage, which was set up for outdoor social distanced seating.
We decided to head back to Slinky Dog Dash for a second ride, which I now think might be my favorite Disney World coaster.
Once we were done with the park, we headed to Disney Springs for dinner. We wanted to find somewhere we could eat outdoors. We decided on a seat on the outdoor deck of Wine Bar George. We were impressed because the restaurant provided us small paper bags to store our face masks during our dinner.
If you didn’t know, “George” is George Miliotes. He was part of the original opening team of the California Grill restaurant at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. From there, he went to work for Darden Restaurants and formulated the wine lists for Seasons 52 and Capital Grille.
George even appeared during our dinner and described a wine flight to the table next to ours. At what other restaurants on Disney property does the namesake visit guests to describe the wine list?
So what did we think of our visit to Disney World?
Since we live in Florida, going to visit a place where mask use is more consistent than usual and social distancing is the norm is pleasant. Our time at the park was better than the time we spend at the supermarket or if we go to get take out food. All of the Cast Members wore masks and even had them on correctly.
If you’re from an area where coronavirus is under control, I wouldn’t recommend a visit to Florida because we’re not doing things right. But if you’re from Florida, a visit to Disney World might be safer than going to the supermarket.
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary