Walt Disney World has released a resort reopening timeline for 2021, with new dates for hotels that were simply TBD, plus a delay. In this post, we’ll take a look at the schedule, how refurbishments and construction are impacting opening dates, and offer commentary.
As a quick recap, all Disney Vacation Club resorts welcomed guests back during the summer, before the parks even reopened. This included the DVC units in hotels that were–and still are–otherwise closed. The most extreme example of this is at Animal Kingdom Lodge, which is operating at about ~10% occupancy because the hotel rooms are not in use.
In the months since the parks reopened, Walt Disney World has resumed operations at numerous hotels, starting with those on the Skyliner gondola and monorail routes, and also opening some other properties that are only connected to the parks via bus transportation. At this point, most hotels either are operating or have reopening dates in Spring or Summer 2021…
Let’s start with a look at the resorts that are currently operating at Walt Disney World, followed by the hotel reopening timeline for 2021…
Walt Disney World Resorts – Now Open
Here are the Disney Vacation Club & Deluxe Villa resorts that are currently open at Walt Disney World as of December 2020:
- Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
- Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village
- Bay Lake Tower at Contemporary Resort
- Beach Club Villas
- BoardWalk Villas
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Wilderness Lodge
- Copper Creek Villas & Cabins at Wilderness Lodge
- Old Key West Resort
- Polynesian Villas & Bungalows
- Riviera Resort
- Saratoga Springs Resort
- Villas at Grand Floridian Resort
Here are the hotels open at Walt Disney World as of December 2020:
- Art of Animation Resort
- Caribbean Beach Resort
- Contemporary Resort
- Coronado Springs Resort & Gran Destino Tower
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Pop Century Resort
- Yacht Club Resort
Note that it might appear some hotels are listed on the ‘currently open’ list above and the ‘reopening timeline’ below. However, that’s because some resorts have both standard hotel room wings and Disney Vacation Club villa wings. In many cases, only the DVC wings of the properties are open, with the hotel side yet to open.
2021 Walt Disney World Resort Reopening Timeline
Here’s the new timeline for 2021 Walt Disney World resort reopenings:
- March 22, 2021 – Disney’s All Star Movies Resort
- May 30, 2021 – Disney’s Beach Club Resort
- June 6, 2021 – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
- Summer 2021 – Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Additionally, the following hotels do not have 2021 reopening dates yet:
- Disney’s All Star Music Resort
- Disney’s All Star Sports Resort
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House (hotel rooms)
- Disney’s BoardWalk Inn
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
- Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
Starting with the hotels that do not have reopening dates, our expectation is that BoardWalk Inn and Jambo House are the next in line, likely before Fall 2021. Both are already operating in some capacity due to their DVC wings, so it makes sense to bring the hotel side back. Each also are higher demand properties thanks to their unique characteristics and/or location.
The Port Orleans Resorts are another story entirely, as they don’t have DVC wings, are not connected to the parks via non-bus transportation, and the two have a ton of room inventory that likely won’t be needed anytime soon. Additionally, Disney might intend upon some light cosmetic and signage changes before reopening one of them.
All Star Sports is also a wild card. It’s unlikely to be “needed” until events resume at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, or if occupancy rates at the other two All Stars somehow spike by next fall. It’s entirely possible that the two Port Orleans resorts and All Star Sports won’t reopen until 2022.
As for what is returning, the reopening of All Star Movies was previously announced for February 9, 2021 but is now being delayed until March 22, 2021. This is not the first (or second) time a resort reopening date has been pushed back. It’s not a huge surprise here as the timeline moves from the winter off-season to the start of Spring Break.
Guests who already booked All Star Movies for the window between February 9 and March 21 will likely be relocated to Disney’s Pop Century Resort since the rooms there are almost identical to the All Stars. That’s a decent upgrade–moving to a Skyliner resort.
As we noted at the time, Movies is the logical first choice of the All Stars because it’s the only one of the trio to complete the room redesign project prior to the closure of Walt Disney World.
We stayed in one of these new rooms at All Star Movies, which you can read about in our Photos & Video: Newly Reimagined Rooms at the All Star Resorts post. This is a huge upgrade from the previous design, which was more minor leagues than all-star caliber. Suffice to say, we’re fans.
As of this past spring, the room overhaul was in progress at All Star Music was in progress and had not yet started at All Star Sports. On that basis, it makes sense that All Star Music would be the next to reopen. Our expectation for it would be Summer 2021, assuming occupancy increases at the other Value Resorts and it’s needed.
However, we don’t have the slightest idea where things presently stand because the All Star Resort complex is closed off to the public. It would make sense for Disney to finish this construction while the hotel is closed–and hotel projects have resumed elsewhere–but we don’t know if that’s the case. Disney has passed on other opportunities to do work without guests present during this whole saga, so nothing would surprise us.
Next up is Beach Club Resort. This is a logical one because Yacht Club, its sister resort, reopened several months ago. The two share facilities and a lot of amenities, and a lack of demand is the only thing that has kept Beach Club from reopening before now. (Or, stated differently, the NBA using Yacht Club is the only thing that allowed it to open so early–occupancy has been pretty low prior to the holiday season.)
On the plus side, the delayed reopening has allowed Walt Disney World to make some improvements around the resort. One big, under-the-radar update came to Beach Club Marketplace. This was once arguably the worst counter service restaurant in all of Walt Disney World. Since reopening, it has a range of more ambitious entrees, plus an array of seasonal desserts.
Finally, Wilderness Lodge (we’ve already covered Polynesian’s delayed reopening and reimagining separately). This was going to be the year for Wilderness Lodge’s big room refurbishment, with the Club Level closing and briefly reopening prior to the closure of the parks way back in March. The hotel side of Wilderness Lodge has not reopened since.
After delay, work was finally seen resuming on the lower levels of the hotel side in early fall. A lot is changing in these redesigned rooms–new feature wall art, walk-in showers, elevated beds, and removal of bunkbeds. Our expectation is that Walt Disney World is projecting that this work will finish by the start of summer, hence the June 6, 2021 reopening date.
Ultimately, this protracted timeline is not a huge surprise given what we’ve observed at the Disney Vacation Club resorts and hotels thus far. While park crowds have steadily increased over every month since reopening, this is attributable mostly to increased Disney Park Pass availability for Annual Passholders and Cast Members. It should go without saying, but most locals are not booking hotel rooms for their park visits.
Occupancy at the resorts has started to increase, but it was very low over the summer and early fall when only weekends were even moderately busy. Moreover, the increased occupancy right now is mostly attributable to what’s normally the peak Christmas season, and bookings are not even remotely on par with what they’d be in a normal year. Once Florida’s off-season hits in January 2021, we’d expect those numbers to fall further.
With all of that said, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccine is expected to be widely available for the general public by March or April 2021–right around the time that Spring Break and Easter crowds would normally start hitting Walt Disney World. From then on, we expect hotel bookings to increase, allowing for the reopening of more resorts as Walt Disney World continues its slow and steady process of returning to normalcy.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
What do you think about these reopening dates for Walt Disney World hotels? Any surprises on this list for you? Disappointed that All Star Movies is pushed back? Excited that Beach Club and Wilderness Lodge now have dates? Concerned that it might be a while before the Port Orleans Resorts return? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World in 2021, or are you waiting until 2022? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!