Disney World News: Construction Pauses & Resumes, Dining Debut, 40% Capacity
We’re back with our first Walt Disney World news round-up of 2021! This covers a range of stories, from another restaurant opening to a rumored park capacity increase from 35% to 40% of normal attendance limits. Most significantly, we have updates on construction at EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, and Wilderness Lodge–including projects pausing and resuming ahead of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary this year!
Let’s start with the construction progress report. Over the holidays, we stayed at Wilderness Lodge and intended upon doing a stay report that included a look at the resort renovations that have picked up steam and moved to the lower levels of the hotel. That report didn’t end up happening, and Christmas-centric content is now stale.
Nevertheless, construction is moving along at Wilderness Lodge. The top three floors are now finished, which is evident from the refreshed hallways and lack of garbage bags or tarps blocking them off from the lobby (see the floor above Whispering Canyon Cafe in the photo above). Meanwhile, we observed a flurry of activity on the lower two levels. If the present pace is any indication, everything should be finished well ahead of the June 6, 2021 reopening date of Wilderness Lodge. Here’s hoping that there’s sufficient guest demand for Disney to justify opening it back up!
In more consequential construction news, a new USA Today article has given credence to rumors of timeline delays on various Walt Disney World projects. Normally, we wouldn’t put much stock in something like this–but the story features an interview with Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences & Products and the story was shared by Disney on social media, suggesting it was written with the company’s involvement and the info is accurate.
That story indicates that TRON Lightcycle Run “isn’t expected to open during the park’s 50th birthday year.” This is not a huge surprise, as we’ve been reporting for months that after the gravity building is fully enclosed and canopy installed, TRON Lightcycle Run construction will pause until at least the next fiscal year starts in October 2021. Given this story and that the building has been sealed with walls around the roller coaster track opening, a pause on the project in the near future now seems highly likely.
That article also indicates that Moana’s Journey of Water will “probably open after 2021.” The big story here is not that the walk-through trail and interactive water feature is delayed until next year (it never even had an opening date/year/season before), but that it hasn’t been cancelled.
In recent weeks, we’ve observed demolition work resume on the Innoventions building that Moana’s Journey of Water will replace, after months of nothing happening with it.
In general, it appears that work has gained momentum on EPCOT’s Central Spine project.
We’ve noticed a lot more construction equipment between the Innoventions buildings, and crews have been actively working–even over the holidays.
New staging tents have popped up, and crews can be seen working on the old MouseGear and Electric Umbrella buildings.
In fact, construction teams have installed floor-to-ceiling windows on the exterior of MouseGear. The interior is still totally gutted (and you can see through the building if walking back by Test Track), but this would seem to bode well for MouseGear hitting its target reopening of late 2021. Having just a little less construction in Future World would certainly be nice.
As reported earlier this week in our 2021 Park Hopping Guide to Walt Disney World, we’ve had the chance to ride the Skyliner several times this year between EPCOT and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, being treated to views of a completed Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Streets of Paris area in the process.
While no opening date has been set for this expansion or attraction, as we discuss in our Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Opening & Info post, it could debut literally whenever. It’s all about what’s most advantageous for Walt Disney World at this point. Hopefully that means soft openings this spring, even if the grand opening doesn’t happen until summer.
It’s not exactly construction news, but the refurbishment of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover has been extended through the end of this month. While we don’t think that’s actually the end date for the ride closure, it’s been reassuring to see maintenance teams actively working on the track, and doing push tests on the ride vehicles. It’d be a tragedy for the PeopleMover to be abandoned in Florida, too.
In more positive news, after being closed for five days of unscheduled maintenance to start 2021, Rock ‘N’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith has once again been operational at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for the last two days.
Next, in addition to the Up to 35% Off Walt Disney World Hotels in Spring & Summer 2021 and Two New 2021 Walt Disney World Ticket Deals released this week, another discount has quietly dropped–albeit a less exciting one on Memory Maker One Day and Advance Purchase.
For a limited time, you can get two full days of PhotoPass photos and videos for the price of one when you activate Memory Maker One Day now through March 11, 2021.
Additionally, any activated Memory Maker purchase from now through May 19, 2021, will receive a free photo and video expiration extension through June 18, 2021. (As opposed to the standard 30-day window.) Other terms and conditions are on Disney’s Memory Maker purchase page.
On a related note, Sarah and I have been “collecting” PhotoPass shots since Walt Disney World reopened, as there initially were some questions about whether Memory Maker is still worth the money right now. Those inquiries have since fizzled out, but we’re nonetheless curious if there’s interest in such a post. Fair warning: many of the photos involve awkward poses, there’s a ton of us and Olaf for some reason (seriously, he’s everywhere), and a bunch of weird “mask to mask” photos.
Next, the newest bakery has opened at Disney Springs with the debut of Everglazed Donuts and Cold Brew.
This shop is located between Splitsville and the AMC Theater in the former home of Pop Gallery near the exit of Orange Garage on the West Side of Disney Springs.
Everglazed just released their official menu, and it’s shockingly extensive (perhaps “bakery” isn’t quite apt) and expensive, with an array of gourmet donuts, plus sandwiches, fries, flavored milks, cold brew, spiked coffee, and beers.
We’ll review Everglazed in the next week or so. I probably first should publish our draft Voodoo Doughnuts review that I’ve left unfinished for months so I have an excuse to keep ordering more there “for the sake of research.” I’m a sucker for doughnuts, and am really looking forward to giving Everglazed a try!
In a bit of a housekeeping note, we’ve been neglecting our “duty” the last couple of weeks, but Walt Disney World has posted more hours to the calendar on DisneyWorld.com through March 20, 2021. Added hours are the same for all dates:
- Magic Kingdom: 9 am to 6 pm
- EPCOT: 11 am to 7 pm
- Hollywood Studios: 10 am to 7 pm
- Animal Kingdom: 9 am to 5 pm
When it comes to these hours, note that Walt Disney World has returned to its normal, pre-closure practice of releasing boilerplate hours “far” in advance. Those hours are then later extended based on attendance and hotel occupancy projections closer to the dates.
In addition to this, Walt Disney World has extended hours for January 10-23, 2021. Now, Magic Kingdom and EPCOT are staying open an hour later, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom are opening an hour earlier each of those dates.
Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s nice to see extensions–especially since crowds most definitely justify the longer hours thus far in January 2021.
Finally, two insiders are reporting on wdwmagic that Walt Disney World has increased park attendance limits from 35% to 40% of full capacity. This reportedly changed on January 1, and was part of the Park Hopping rollout.
Additionally, all four parks now allow same-day reservations beginning in the afternoon at around 1:30 pm, regardless of what the Disney Park Pass calendar indicates in terms of availability. Even before this unpublished policy change, we’ve found this often to be the case with afternoon availability when the Disney Park Pass calendar showed a park as fully booked.
Anecdotally, we’ve noticed higher “feels like” crowds in the parks this week (even as several attractions have had efficiency improvements), so the capacity increase to 40% wouldn’t surprise us. To the contrary, it would be more surprising if capacity caps have not been increased at Walt Disney World.
Prior to the holiday season, CEO Bob Chapek announced that Walt Disney World increased capacity from 25% to 35%. Even before that, we stated that data from fully booked days over the course of the previous months indicated a capacity increase had already occurred prior to the official announcement. We suspect the same is true here. Disney will discuss fiscal first quarter 2021 financial results on February 11, so perhaps we’ll get official confirmation during that webcast…who knows, the parks might be up to 45% or 50% in another month!
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!
Thoughts on any of this Walt Disney World news? If you’ve been in the parks since Park Hopping returned, have you noticed heavier “feels like” crowd levels? Thoughts on the construction progress and pausing at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Wilderness Lodge? Excited to try Everglazed, or does it look overpriced/uninteresting to you? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and commentary? 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!
We are staying at the Beach Club in June. Do you know if Disney resorts are operating at full capacity? Or are they at 35% like the parks?
I know it’s late but I wanted to just post in response to the folks hating on Disney right now. My family of 5 recently returned from the world. We did a split stay: 4 nights at Riviera and 4 nights at Grand Floridian. Let me start my saying, yes – the parks were crowded, but NOTHING compared to usual Christmas/Newyears crowds. We got up early every day and were able to ride everything with minimal waits. Sure, the headliners had waits, but 50 minutes for Seven Dwarfs is nothing compared to what we’ve seen in past years’ trips. Another plus both hotels were practically empty. I have numerous photos of my kids being the ONLY ones in the pool. Also, with the Disney Credit Card discount we saved a ton on hotels. Lots of things missing, of course – no Hoop Dee Doo is the biggest loss for us… but we felt this “covid” trip allowed us to chill a bit at the world. Oh, and it was 50 degrees warmer than the weather back at home! So, there you go – the glass is half full.
This is “an announcement” of increased capacity above the previously announced 35% capacity. Truth is they’ve been at 40% and probably over that since the Holiday season started at Thanksgiving.
110% agree with this. They’ve been lying about it for over a month easy…
I truly appreciate the updates provided for Disney World. Had to cancel our family’s November trip being Canadians and unable to cross our border. Unfortunately, the pandemic numbers have reached extremely high levels. The future for our country and America will take months to show any sign of eradication. Even our November 2021 visit might be in jeopardy. Our family’s decision at this point is to perhaps postpone once again and reschedule to end of April 2022. Our Delta airline credit is good until September 2022. I will be 69 yrs old by then and still plan to do all the fun rides with my kids and grand children. Have never done Everest but plan to take the challenge. You’re never too old for Disney!
Forget the virus, if they don’t have FastPass+ or their signature Entertainment avoid it and save your money. Better yet go to Universal Orlando…
Just be sure to take something for motion sickness before riding Everest. I do fine until the backwards part and you can get very nauseous.
You aren’t missing anything right now except long lines, closed attractions, and very few food choices at most parks along with shortened hours and no Fast Passes. We just got back and wish we had just done a resort stay with a day or two in the parks.
The million dollar questions is WHEN WILL the Peoplemover reopen?!?!?!?!
It NEEDS to be within the next week! Eight days, suckas!
Just got pushed to April
Wow! After reading Mary Klein‘s report of her recent trip we are very nervous of our upcoming trip March 7-12th! Epcot has their
Taste of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival during our visit and we thought that would mean the park wouldn’t be a big construction zone with several countries closed?? Then all of the reports of average ride waits of 50 minutes is another disappointment and they raised capacity and and reduced hours and no fastpass + passes! Disney got us with the reduced room rates which were amazing especially if your not DVC and we’re coming from California. I guess the only good thing is Disney’s cancellation policy currently which allows to cancel right up until our visit. We’ll keep reading all your reports! Thank you!
I would recommend park hopping to Epcot after 2 pm for the festival, but not using a full park pass any day for it. I was there the last week of December before hoppers. Soarin’ posted waits of 70 minutes came out to actual of 40 min. I think Spaceship Earth at 35 min was actually walk on. Other rides are very inflated, but I agree a lot of the pavilions without entertainment fall flat and it is basically a sea of construction mazes outside of the World Showcase.
We just spent 7 weeks in Florida and went to the Disney Parks maybe a dozen times. Even with reduced capacity, with the six feet social distancing, it felt pretty crowded. There was a huge line snaking outside, just to get into the Land building at Epcot! All in all, with having to wear masks every second, it was an ok time, but I was very grateful to have gone to all the parks so many times when things were “normal”! The way they do everything (rides, dining, etc) is now all COVID compliant. Honestly, people thought we were crazy for going, but we felt very safe there. We have been home two weeks now and are still ok; we haven’t gotten sick. Disney is still Disney, though toned down a lot out of necessity!
Just back from touring all four parks 1/4-1/7.
Epcot was a wasteland and I wish we had skipped it. Canada and Morocco are basically closed. Italy is a shell without entertainment and except for Soarin, no reason to visit the front of the park at all.
Worst of all, we went to Biergarten for dinner and it was so average. Not worth the exorbitant cost.
We would have been better off spending the day at Disney Springs.
Mary the lines were horrendous, I really wish we didn’t go over Christmas it was a waste of 5k… Universal made our trip worthwhile…
That’s sad to hear. Yes, too much $ to be just average or less
I’m sorry you didn’t have a nice time. Me and my husband went to Epcot December 26 and had a great time.
Very low crowds. Enjoyed all the food , saw some entertainment, rode all the rides , did some shopping and had dinner at la hacienda and was delicious .
First of all, NEVER say any Christmas-centric content is stale! I bet tons of people were dying to book at Wilderness lodge like I was-I got right on the phone and got my November dates in. Tron is a huge disappointment but I will settle for some of the EPCOT mess to get cleaned up-we wonder why the crowds can’t spread out! And what will it look like when capacity is raised again, including letting international travelers return??? Chaos.
Doc, that’s disheartening to hear. It was very hot for masks in September. My brother and I are going next Saturday for MLKJ day week. 70% discount at Bay Lake Tower, annual passes, and flights for points on Southwest. Budget around a hundred bucks a day for food and beer and looking at about $1600 each for the week.
Mrnico, brother I hope the best for you and that the lines are not what they were at Christmas time. Going in August was hot no doubt but not waiting in lines and getting inside to air conditioning was a treat. I’d rather do that again than sit in 40-50-60 min lines for every ride we wanted to go on… At by rate I hope the best for you!
Doc, I’m hoping you just got to experience the massive Christmas week crowds but agree that no pyro does suck. Six days!
Mrnico, enjoy bro, I don’t mean to be a downer it was just my experience . If I could give you any advice go to Universal with express pass book a hotel room at Royal Pacific you’d have more fun! At any rate do let me know how it all goes when you get back. I assume the lines won’t be as long but who knows at this point!
Hi, thanks for the recap… really enjoy your website. When you go to Everglazed would you mind asking if they have any gluten free donuts? My daughter is a donut but but has celiac and can’t eat wheat or gluten. If they have gluten free options she will be ecstatic! Thanks.
There is a whole completely gluten free bakery at Disney Springs with all sorts of cakes and Donuts. It’s called Erin McKennas. Lots of yummy stuff so look it up next time you go. Doubtful that Everglaze will offer anything Gluten-free.
Indeed Tom, 3 adults 2 kids, $528 per night for 4 nights at the Riviera including ticket prices the total trip not including food was $5,336.18 vs 3 nights at the Royal Pacific at AP rate $204 a night with Preferred AP passes that we purchased in August for $420 each with an extra 3 months free. So not exactly Apples to Apples comparison but even if If I included purchasing the AP passes for the December trip the total cost of universal if we stay 4 days comes in at $2916! So Universal is still far a better value. That’s another thing I’m livid about is the inability to purchase an AP at Disney! Universal was pushing their APs when we arrived in August and well for a preferred AP at $420 with an extra three months for free how could I say no. Anyway Disney has really disappointed me. I honestly feel betrayed in a sense. But it is what it is. We’re going to retire to the Orlando area and approximately 5 years and one of our motivations for the area was to be close to Disney but I honestly think that’s changed after this trip and now we just want to be close to Universal. This may change in the future if Disney decides to stop taking advantage of its customers, especially their returning loyal ones…
PS: I did manage to score a phenomenal deal at RP for $204 a night for 5 people and I understand rates fluctuate but Universal really offers some great Annual Pass hotel rates especially for the Big 3 that get you that sought after Express Pass. There is also a website for AP holders to book their hotel stay…
Great update! I was quite taken aback by how little construction progress had happened in Epcot since March.
On the other hand, I was amazed at how much effort had been gone to in order to add physical distancing and separation to every queue line and attraction. I wonder if all that work cumulatively amounts to a new D-ticket attraction. Not only is it comprehensive, it also looks presentable. It certainly justifies construction freezes. Though I think they may be reaching the limits of capacity in terms of physical space without extending via virtual queues. My only hope is they somehow find a way to restore pre-shows for those who want to see them (though I admit I can’t think how). MNMRR in particular had a great one.
“Though I think they may be reaching the limits of capacity in terms of physical space without extending via virtual queues.”
Be careful. I thought the same thing back in September/October and they found more space and proved me very wrong! I feel that way again, but there’s always backstage…
The sandwiches at Everglazed look good. So do the donuts, but wow those are pricey.
I assume the pictures of you guys with Olaf are supposed to be you shivering and not a Wakanda salute? At least in the first one you guys aren’t in shorts. 🙂
For me Photopass was nice when my DD was young and into meeting princesses as the photopass photographers would often have a better angle than I would (or even just their camera pre-set for the interior lighting, which is often weird at M&G’s). I’ve never had a ton of interest in the magic shots, but I’m sure some people really enjoy them.
Yeah, those prices are stupid high, even for Disney.
tim – have to comment on a couple of pictues with you & your wife and Olaf.
I am guessing you are being asked to appear cold and not strke a wakanda pose. Not too sure with the first one @ EPCOT looks more like a wakanda pose
Hahaha yeah…that’s exactly what I thought after seeing the photo. Not my intent at the time, though.
In general, our post-reopening PhotoPass shots have been more awkward than normal. The photographers are trying (often unsuccessfully) to come up with fun poses, but it’s tough and often hard to hear/understand them.
I will not spend another solitary dime on Disney World until they return to normal, that means Fastpass + and all nighttime and daytime entertainment. We went in August and it was only worthwhile because the crowds were anemic and you could get on rides without difficulty. We just returned from Christmas and it was a horrible with lines averaging 50 to 60 minutes for every single ride. Until they start doing things correctly again we’ll be spending our money and time at Universal… UO knows what they are doing and Handling it much much better and more efficiently.
Universal is doing a great job…so long as you don’t visit on weekends or you’re a hotel guest with Express Pass. Other times, the crowds or parks hitting capacity early in the morning make it a less pleasant experience.
Yes Tom, you’re correct and to be fair we always stay at one of the 3 Lowes hotels to get Express pass otherwise you’re correct it would be like Disney. But that is my point, there is no reason Disney cannot figure out a way to bring back some sort of Fastpass system and solve this huge lines… Waiting 50 plus minutes for every A ride is just a horrible experience…
Yeah, that’s totally fair. It’s also fair to say guests paying Deluxe Resort prices at Walt Disney World deserve more–that part has been true long before this.
Does this mean the train and railroad will also be closed for another year ?( since it is closed for tron coaster construction? )
There’s ZERO excuse for the train to still be closed unless they found major issues with all of the locomotives and they need full boiler rebuilds… It’s just extremely poor planning.