Disney World News: Monorail Attraction, Plummeting Numbers, Dining Changes
It’s time for another Walt Disney World news & rumor round-up! We have tidbits from EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and some good news for Annual Passholders. First, a look at some plummeting stats–both good and bad–which speak to Florida’s slow summer season and beyond.
Visit Florida has released the state’s second quarter tourism numbers, showing a 60.5% drop in visitors, with travel from Canada down 99.1% and overseas travel down 91% (the last number should be higher). As reopening efforts began in May and June, 12.8 million people–almost entirely from other states–visited Florida during the second quarter. That’s a drop of roughly 20 million visitors year over year.
The outlook remains bleak for Florida in the third quarter, as cases spiked towards the end of June and through early August. Florida’s status as a hotspot tainted visitor perceptions and led to a sea of cancellations, while also causing trepidation and apprehension in booking future trips. The lasting damage will undoubtedly stretch into the fall and winter. In an attempt to remedy this, Visit Florida has budgeted $13 million to market the state’s tourism rebound…
On the plus side, it’s now been over one month since all four theme parks at Walt Disney World reopened, and predictions of the parks fanning the flames on Florida’s growing case numbers have not come to fruition. In fact, the opposite has proven true, with Florida’s Department of Health reported 2,678 new cases Monday–the lowest number since June.
Even more promising is data released by Orange County showing that only 5.6% of tests were positive; the lowest figure since June 14, before cases surged post-Memorial Day. That percentage is also well below the Florida average despite Orlando being more population-dense and the county being home to numerous theme parks and tourist attractions.
Dr. Raul Pino, the state’s health official in Orange County, told the Orlando Sentinel he’s happy to reach a lower level of infections but cautioned that Orange County “will see increases after schools start because that’s the experience in other markets.” However, Pino does not expect any school-induced spread to “go wild” at this point since positivity rates are so slow.
Given the above numbers, it should be unsurprising that there’s yet another Disney Park Pass availability update. Only a few days after the last inventory reallocation for August and September 2020, Walt Disney World has once again redistributed reservations from the theme park ticket holders and resort guest “buckets” to Annual Passholders.
Consequently, there’s currently availability for Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT beginning today (August 18) and Disney’s Hollywood Studios beginning August 24, 2020. Weekends are still harder to come by, with nothing for DHS until Halloween.
If you’re a tourist worried that this redistribution means a spike in crowds–don’t be. We’ve noticed weekday decreases even after the last inventory reallocation, and that’s likely to continue as more schools in Florida and the South go back into session. Weekends are a different story, so plan accordingly. (We’ll have a Magic Kingdom Weekend Photo Report very soon.)
While we are staunch ‘low crowd enthusiasts,’ the total lack of guests on some of our visits has been eerie–and downright concerning. It’s one thing to enjoy a serene stroll around World Showcase post-closing, it’s another entirely to see only a handful of other guests at 2 pm. Ditto walking onto Avatar Flight of Passage in late afternoon. Or being able to do snow angels in Fantasyland’s “Irvine Alley” as we could’ve yesterday (see below).
Judging by reader comments, we all want longer park hours and more to return as soon as possible. That won’t happen until crowds pick up to some degree; filling in some of the vast expanses of empty space with APs will help towards that. The rest of this month through October are likely to be really slow tourism-wise, and giving Annual Passholders more access to the parks will aid in offsetting that.
There are absolutely ways for Walt Disney World to improve its ‘temporary abnormal’ operations, but the threshold issue is getting more people through the turnstiles. Fans can’t demand ghost town crowds and late hours–that does not compute. There needs to be a happy medium. With Annual Passholders more likely to show up after work and do dinner, hopefully this is a first step in getting longer hours in November and December as well as more dining options. That’s a win-win scenario.
Speaking of both dining and Walt Disney World operating tweaks, Disney has confirmed that select restaurants in Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios will seat guests for an hour after park closing in September and October, despite the reduced hours.
Thus far, this policy only impacts Be Our Guest Restaurant, Liberty Tree Tavern, 50’s Prime Time Cafe, and Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It’s reflected on the official site of each, and you’ll also find post-closing Advance Dining Reservations (subject to availability…which is pretty limited for Be Our Guest and Sci-Fi Dine-In).
Interestingly, we could not find any EPCOT restaurants that will officially seat guests post-closing. This is despite first learning about this policy change from readers who were told that their post-closing reservations at various EPCOT restaurants would be honored. (We don’t have impacted reservations at any EPCOT restaurants…if you do, is this still true?)
It’s also odd since World Showcase is typically the go-to spot for dining, and it seems like the third party operators would push for the same longer hours. With Annual Passholders now able to book visits easier next month, it seems like the perfect opportunity to fill more tables at EPCOT’s restaurants.
Next, a “sneak peek” at a new attraction or interactive exhibit via the forthcoming book, The Disney Monorail: Imagineering a Highway in the Sky by Jeff Kurtti, Vanessa Hunt and Paul Wolski. Per our friends at Mousesteps, the book’s final page has poster art that says “Next Stop…Play!” with artwork of several monorails, and it says “Calling all Pilots! A new way to play arrives at the PLAY! Pavilion at EPCOT in 2021.”
There’s actually a WEDWAY monorail station facade in the Play Pavilion concept art, which you can see here to the right of the “Let’s Play” tower and to the left of the Hotel marquee:
We’d caution against too much enthusiasm about this monorail experience, as the scope and scale of the Play Pavilion’s offerings is unknown. Our expectation is that it’ll essentially be a new version of Innoventions, with interactive exhibits of varying degrees of quality and ambition. (Think of the difference between Sum of All Thrills and Colortopia.)
Nevertheless, I’m really intrigued by this and it has my mind racing.
My favorite museum that I’ve ever visited anywhere, period is the SCMaglev & Railway Park Museum in Nagoya, Japan devoted to the Shinkansen, Superconducting Maglev, and other high-speed trains. (We’ve visited a lot of train/transportation museums in Japan, and most are awesome but this is the best.)
There were several times in the museum that I exclaimed, “this belongs in Epcot!” There are a ton of interactive exhibits, quasi-attractions, and even cabin simulators that allow visitors to pilot a Shinkansen or train as a crew member on a train. The simulators are solid attractions, but they’re also pretty low-capacity and seem unsuitable for a popular theme park.
A better option for EPCOT is the theater-style ride that puts guests inside a Shinkansen and Superconducting Magnetically Levitated Vehicle to showcase the differences in speed and ride smoothness. It’s just like being inside a train, except every window is a video screen. The simulation is incredibly convincing, and impressed both of us.
This is also a lot like EPCOT Center’s unbuilt “Bullet Train” Circle-Vision simulator that was once planned for the Japan pavilion. It would be cool to see something like this finally come to fruition in the Play Pavilion. If a museum can do it, Disney certainly can. (Imagineering should just send a team to that museum; there’s so much potential inspiration for an entire transportation pavilion.)
Finally, neither news nor rumor, but we had our first sighting of the new-look Cinderella Castle illuminated during yet another spectacular sunset last night. (We’ll be sending this and other photos out in wallpaper size in tonight’s free email newsletter.)
We sat up here for a good hour, watching the kaleidoscope of colors as Florida put on a natural light show while the monorails glided by and the park began to light up at dusk. It was peaceful and relaxing–a perfect reminder of what we love so much about Walt Disney World. Everyone has nostalgia, special must-do experiences, and sentimental reasons they’re continually pulled back to Walt Disney World. For us, one big thing is simply being there while the parks come alive at night. This was a satisfying and nice taste of that…but also one that really made us yearn to experience Magic Kingdom at night. Hopefully in November!
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 of this Walt Disney World news? Speculation about the Play Pavilion’s monorail attraction/interactive exhibit? Thoughts on the Disney Park Pass availability changes? Hopeful that evening hours return at Walt Disney World in November and December? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? 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!
I understand why Disney needs to make adjustments to their routines during the pandemic, but it makes it difficult to attract guests when they don’t seem to know what they’re doing. I haven’t rescheduled our canceled trip because I have no idea what restaurants will still be closed next year & the ones already opened have a scaled down menu which isn’t alluring.
A Disney vacation is expensive, that’s a given, but it’s a cost we’ve paid for what we get in return for the cost. But now there’s no longer fireworks, parades, character meet-n-greets, character meals, and many rides, attractions & restaurants are closed. Problem with that is, you’re still expected to pay the same amount of money as a usual trip. It’s like still being required to pay $30,000 for a car that’s missing it’s wheels, radiator, seats & doors.
Where did the name Irvine Alley come from? The only other website that I can find that mentions this name is RetroWDW.
I’m typically a big fan of the various areas of the Magic Kingdom, but Irvine Alley has always been one of my least favorite parts of the park because it’s a crowded, narrow, congested concrete jungle that needs to be widened and landscaped and perhaps have some benches installed.
I’d also like to see the faux circus tent facades removed. Peter Pan would look great with a facade that invokes a London streetscape. It’s a Small World’s facade could be upgraded with a Mary Blair inspired mural similar to the one in the Grand Canyon Concourse in the Contemporary Resort or a facade that matches the architecture of the nearby Tangled Restrooms.
Imagineer and Disney Legend Rolly Crumpy (https://d23.com/walt-disney-legend/rolly-crump/) dubbed it that as a pejorative for Dick Irvine who, apparently, is responsible for all of the qualities you described.
We are in the middle of our 11 night stay (leave ALKDVC rental for 6 nights at contemporary resort. We are loving this time! The masks aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be. We can tolerate them. We are from Nj since I am Furloughed from my job and my s/o works from home the quarantine issue is not a problem at this time.
I f you can still go I recommend it! This time our vacation is relaxing. No one in our family is immune compromised.
The only reason we will have to cancel our trip is our state does not allow travel to other states other than the New England states, NY & NJ. We also cannot afford to quarantine 14 days after our vacation. This is the only reason why we must reschedule at a later date. Not our choice.
We are annual pass holders and have been back twice since the reopening; once to Epcot and once to the Magic Kingdom. Even with the masks and heat we had a great time and have already scheduled more trips. There are hand sanitizer stations everywhere. I would love to see them stay open later. Maybe open later would help. We live 45 minutes away and it is definitely hard to get there after work. Last year we would go after work without plans. Maybe they could also open to AP holders that day.
Florida tourism can budget all they want towards bringing back the tourists but the fact remains that as long as our own country’s local government requires us to quarantine for 14 days after returning from the USA, most of us will not be visiting any time soon. The US in general has got to satisfy our own country’s government in order to get them to lift this quarantine ban before any of us will visit. Believe me, I’d love to visit, but I can’t afford an additional 14 days off of work on top of my vacation days. That’s our reality!
I get masks for stores and rides but for walking around …NOT
And if that isn’t bad enough they dicate the type of mask.
We would go 2 or 3xs a month since we live here for lunch and/or dinner, meet up with friends and family but It is their property and I respect that so we will not be coming back til the mask dictatorship end.
that could be a couple of years at least. To protect the cast members and their families the mask rule will continue for some time.
The strict mask rule is why we cancelled along with a too limited experience! We will be back once they relax just a tad. I am fully for masks on buses and in stores, but outside in open air when not near anyone is not necessary. The main reason we cancelled though is because they have to offer a little more if the prices are going to stay the same. Longer hours and fireworks would make me go tomorrow!
Woah! Those railway museums look so cool! Thanks for another great post.
We will be in Epcot the last week of Sept / first week of Oct with a dining reservation at Via Napoli. Originally we had a 6:50 pm ADR and didn’t get any email or notice that we would need to change it with the new closing time of 7 pm. I changed it to 6:30 pm just as a precaution, but still no word if they would let us hang out in the restaurant past closing time.
My prediction? The numbers at WDW will not increase until masks are at least optional, and at best, removed.
Our family (AP and DVC) not at all interested in visiting until then, and I believe that there are a great # of others holding out until then.
We cancelled our AP (non dvc out of state) – masks aren’t the issue though. Although uncomfortable in heat we can tolerate them. It’s the reduced hours, offerings, need for park reservations, no hopping etc. especially as we don’t usually stay on property – here for a week in our timeshare villa (MVC is superior to 90% of on property Disney villas in every way AND less expensive) and I can only get 3 days of reservations?! No thanks. Keeping our Universal AP though as they are making a real effort to value their pass holders.
We are only going because masks are required. Low volumes, less risk, no spoiled entitled people. If it was optional we’d never go and we are a tour group so, no that isn’t the problem. Most people are just not willing to take the risk or expense on right now and they certainly wouldn’t be willing to take the risk on with people there who are too special to try to be careful of others health.
I think there is another side of that coin if masks are no longer required. If Disney removes the requirement I think there would be a group of people who would feel less safe and would cancel.
I would think Disney’s concern would be ensuring that their parks aren’t identified as hot spots and are taking the most conservative approach. Personally, if they said masks were optional I doubt my family would go on our planned trip in November.
My family won’t come after the mask restrictions are removed. So it’s either your family or mine. I’ll vote 4 mine
I believe the ruling about babies over two years old having to wear a mask all day could be keeping families away. Would make what should be a memorable trip into a nightmare! How do you explain to a two year old they need to wear an uncomfortable mask all day. I think it would terrorize them. Why can’t the age be changed to at least six years old. Is there any documentation proving a baby can contract or infect anyone? This is nonsense.
Yes, young children CAN pass COVID on to others and, no, this is NOT “nonsense!” You are in denial.
My 4 year old had no issue wearing a mask all day at Universal, Islands of Adventure and Sea World in early July. My girls (10 and 4) also have no issues wearing them here at home at daycare or day camp. I think the adults think it is a bigger deal than the children.
I had post closing reservations at Momma Melrose, Rainforest Cafe and Sci fi Dine in Theatre. DW canceled them all with no notification:(. Very disappointing after booking 60 days ahead and after original 6 month ahead bookings had been canceled.
Does anyone know if you can currently buy annual passes? May seem weird but we Will be in Florida three times this year and was considering the expense! Thanks!
Not right now. We’re new Florida residents and we can’t get annual passes. So we don’t go to the parks. I’m not sure why Disney thinks not selling tickets is a good strategy but right now my money is going to Universal and Seaworld. It’s sad because Disney is one of the reasons we moved here. But we’re not going to pay $100 per day to go in the park for a few hours.
It’s not dinner, but Oga’s is also open for an hour after park closing. I have an October trip planned, and made a 7:40pm Oga’s reservation. It’s going to be a good way for us to hang out in Oga’s for a while at the end of the day without cutting in on attraction time. Trying to make the most out of these reduced hours.
This post is a bit off subject but I’ve posted the question a few times in the past with no response and I would think other folks would have the same question. So here it goes again, does anyone know what the current or future process will be for those of us who have club level reservations?
My current and usual reservation is in December at the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Was curious how that would work, given the traditional feeding frenzy at the Kilimanjaro Club. Anyone with recent experience or insight, I would love to hear from you.
Thanks in advance
I currently have a club level reservation booked at Gran Destino. Disney’s DRC told me the re-opening date hasn’t been identified for any club level yet. Disney has yet to release any guidance about what club level services will resume once club level reopens. Since I want to stay club level, Disney recommended I call back a couple weeks before my travel dates to modify my reservation if club level hasn’t reopened yet. YMMV.
Great question, again Russell and thanks for the reply Tina.
Our December Club Level rsvp at the Grand Floridian will not be so grand without the club level amenities. Not to mention not worth the prices that we pay.
The situation at hand can change week to week, month to month to get an accurate answer…. uggggg.
Just curious – in the picture of “Irvine Alley”, what is the significance of the circle of rocks in the pavement? Love all those fun little finds. Thanks for all the great photos of the parks – wish I could see it so empty!
It’s a manhole cover
Your photo of Cinderella Castle is beautiful!!
Speaking of monorail, any updates on the Epcot line or the rumors of a new fleet?
A family-friendly simulator would be fun, but would Disney really do that with the real thing right outside Epcot? I wouldn’t mind a user-controlled diorama that guests could pilot.