There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow…
For months, I’ve been daydreaming about our return to a mostly-normal day at Walt Disney World (literally since putting together Our 2021 WDW Bucket List). Unlike most of our totally-spontaneous visits, this one was meticulously planned.
It would involve staying at Beach Club. We’d do breakfast at Cape May Cafe, rope drop Disney’s Hollywood Studios, do MuppetVision 3D and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, lunch at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant, then head back to the resort to float around the lazy river in Stormalong Bay for a couple hours, dinner at Yachtsman Steakhouse, see Impressions de France, and end the night with a post-show stroll around World Showcase.
This perfect-day plan obviously made a lot of assumptions, the main being that we wouldn’t be fully vaccinated until late May. Second, due to that timeline, Beach Club would be open and along with it, most restaurants between those two resorts. The best laid plans of the Mouse and humans often go awry…
In this case, things not going as planned was a change for the better. We were able to get fully vaccinated much earlier than anticipated, and scrambled to revise our plans as a result. Unfortunately, Beach Club management didn’t get the memo and that hotel did not move forward its scheduled May 30, 2021 reopening date.
Before we get started into the substance, I want to start with a couple of prefatory notes. First, this is a rambling one. The post changed dramatically from conceptualization (a fancy term for me finding a way to justify something fun I want to do/eat) to publication, and it probably shows.
Second, part of our intent with this post is sharing our personal return to normal-ish and rationale for that. This is a continuation of our post-reopening reports, in which we’ve offered thoughts on our risk tolerance and mitigation efforts, what we were or were not comfortable doing, and the bases for our decisions. Some of readers have found this useful, others not so much.
To be abundantly clear, we are not passing judgment on those who have taken or will take a different approach than us–and that goes in both directions. There’s more than enough shaming on the internet and in the real world, none of it is productive, and all of it ignores personal needs and unique individual circumstances.
For us, the vaccines are a complete game changer–miracles of modern medical research. Hesitancy was always going to exist, but the biggest disappointment in the last few months has been the exacerbation of that caused by baseless pessimism and unforced errors in public health messaging. But I digress.
At this point, we are comfortable doing anything we would’ve done in January of last year. We’ve read enough credible studies about real world efficacy, likelihood of infection and transmission (or rather, lack thereof), comparative risk analyses, and commentary from respected epidemiologists. It should go without saying, but we’ll still follow face mask and physical distancing rules or mandates where those exist. Life is otherwise largely back to normal for us as two fully vaccinated adults without kids.
We are excited to once again dine indoors, go to the movie theater and gym (“excited” is the wrong word for the latter one), and most importantly, travel. We’ll be doing that soon with post-vaccinated vacations (I’m not using the obnoxious buzzword that combines those two v-words) to see my parents for the first time in over a year, attend a wedding, and visit California.
This is the most excited I’ve ever been to do any of those things. Of course, none of these activities are no-risk, but literally nothing is in life.
To kick things off and make up for lost time, we decided to start by planning the “perfect” day at Walt Disney World. It was a comedy of errors. The initial plan was not going to work, so we called an audible. It wasn’t even a last minute change of plans–but it was inside 60 days.
It turns out that Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is impossible to book for a party of 2 (perhaps literally) inside the 60 day ADR window. Even being flexible on days, there were absolutely no options. In general, ADRs are really difficult to score right now. If you’re looking last minute, hope you like Spice Road Table or the least-popular restaurants at Disney Springs!
We thus changed approaches and opted to visit DHS a couple days, hoping for a walk-up waitlist opening. This was an exercise in futility. Similar scenarios played out with other restaurants, but I won’t bore you with the details of our misadventures with ADRs. Suffice to say, we are very ready for more restaurants to reopen and capacity constraints to be relaxed.
We also learned just how much we love MuppetVision, and it turns out the answer is “not enough to wait in line outside for 45 minutes on a hot day.” We will surrender our Muppet fan creds if you insist, but for what it’s worth, there’s almost nothing we’ll wait 45 minutes to do. A lot of the shows we love in part because they’re easy, no-wait midday breaks now have longer waits due to physical distancing–and because long lines are a self-fulfilling prophecy.
For our second attempt at the elusive perfect day, it appeared the stars were going to align, with the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover serendipitously reopening during a previously-planned day at Magic Kingdom. However, that did not happen. Sadly, the power of positive thinking was not enough. Perhaps next time we’ll try to harness the power of the Tomorrowland palm trees.
But enough with the negatives. Although we didn’t have a single perfect day, we did have several a couple great ones in this quest. We did several favorite attractions, enjoyed leisurely days and evenings in the park, did a long afternoon coffee break in the Imagination lounge, and had a great time with old friends.
It was great seeing all of our favorites again after over a year. Happy to confirm that Carousel of Progress, Country Bear Jamboree, American Adventure, and Impressions de France are all still fantastic.
This is very much an overdue and probably irrelevant report, but Walt Disney World also did a great job of physical distancing in the pre-show or holding areas, and the theaters themselves.
While we’re fine having erred on the side of caution, in hindsight, we probably would’ve been fine to do any of these shows previously given the protocol in place and their duration. There’s also presumably some sort of air filtration or refreshing going on in each so they don’t smell or feel stagnant.
In the case of Impressions de France, there was also the reality that hardly anyone else was in the theater. (This was actually mildly worrying when it comes to that show’s future. It’s a good thing that Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along is an abomination.)
Our first meal ended up being dinner at Topolino’s Terrace. This was actually the last restaurant at which we dined indoors, eating there on the resort’s reopening day last June before learning more about indoor v. outdoor transmission. It was nevertheless surreal to eat inside a full restaurant–last time, there was only one other party in the entire place.
Surreal, yet very comfortable. For many people, there’s an understandable fear or anxiety about reacclimating into society and certain activities. That is not the case for us at all. There’s a brief moment of awe that we’re able to do something again so soon, followed by a near-instant feeling of familiarity. In addition to being our first indoor meal, Topolino’s Terrace ended up being our first concert, with a symphony of flavors dancing on our taste buds in delightful harmony. But more on that very soon in our long-overdue Topolino’s Terrace dinner review.
Our next meal was at Via Napoli with our friends Jenny and Adam, the brains behind the smash sensation, Burke Head Toys. We have been dreaming of this pizza for months now, to the point that maybe we built it up in our heads a bit too much and were setting ourselves up for disappointment.
Nope, not the case at all. Via Napoli still exceeded the hype. After some initial hesitation, we ordered the Carciofi Pizza, which is our go-to at Via Napoli. It was as amazing as ever. This white pizza with artichoke, fontina, mozzarella, and truffle oil may not sound as exciting as the meat-centric pies, but I promise, it is glorious. If you only take one thing away from this post, it should be to take a chance on the Carciofi Pizza.
Now that we’ve imparted this post’s sole piece of wisdom, it’s probably a good place to wrap the rambling up. Hopefully, our quest for a perfect day illustrates and reiterates a couple of things.
First, chasing perfection at Walt Disney World is a fool’s errand that only leads to disappointment. You have to roll with the punches and adapt. Almost nothing in our “perfect” day went as originally planned, and yet we unwittingly had amazing experiences surpassing what we envisioned.
Second, there really is a great big beautiful tomorrow. I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true. Back when the parks reopened, I waxed poetic about how meaningful that was after a tough few months, and how we had a newfound appreciation for Walt Disney World. Additionally, how your next trip—whenever that might be—will similarly just feel different. More special. More cherished. And it won’t be about what Disney does or does not do—it’ll be about you.
That’s all still true. For us, this was a continuation of that; another big milestone in our personal return to normalcy, even if it’s something we could’ve done for months at Walt Disney World. This isn’t to say that you should plan a trip ASAP for summer and unquestioningly accept the compromises that visiting currently entails–going right now definitely is not for everyone. It’s more to point out that when it comes to visiting Walt Disney World, a lot of the meaning and happiness comes from within.
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 our quest for a “perfect” day at Walt Disney World? Are you eagerly awaiting your next vacation ‘escape’ to Walt Disney World or elsewhere, or still apprehensive about traveling? Looking forward to more normalcy in the parks and life in general? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or are you waiting until 2022 or beyond? 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!
You were fortunate that sci fi wasn’t in the cards for your visit. We were able to score a visit in December and promptly experienced wretched food poisoning on the last night of our trip- staying up sick for 24 hours and then having to get on an early flight from MCO. The food is really off there at the moment, I read a lot of reviews that said the same and we ignored them to our detriment! I love the atmosphere there though…. very much an example of “old Imagineering” and something that would never be “green-lit” under current management.