“When will Walt Disney World really reopen?” and “will the parks stay closed until [insert date/season]?” have become frequently asked questions. This is due to Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and the resort hotels all currently closed. (Updated June 1, 2020.)
With so much uncertainty in the air and people wanting to plan vacations or cancel trips, these questions are unsurprising. Accordingly, we’ve been doing an ongoing series that attempts to offer balance, nuance, and our best guesses with all things considered. To recap, here are questions what we’ve addressed:
Likewise, you can find regular updates in our Disney Closure & Reopening News & Rumors. In this post, we’ll share official reopening dates for Walt Disney World’s four theme parks, plus the future of the resort hotels, and what operations will look like when they resume. If you want further updates when Disney makes official announcements, sign up for our free email newsletter and we’ll send you notifications ASAP when important new info is released…
Next, SeaWorld Orlando will reopen on June 11, 2020, as will Busch Gardens Tampa. Legoland Florida has already reopened, as have the majority of smaller regional amusement parks and roadside attractions in the Orlando area and throughout Central Florida. That leaves Walt Disney World as the final park operator to reopen…
For its part, Walt Disney World has already begun to reopen its Disney Springs shopping and dining district.
We shared thoughts and photos from a recent visit there in “Our ‘Ghost Town’ Experience at Disney Springs.” As the title suggests, Disney Springs has not been particularly busy since reopening. To the contrary, it’s been dead most of the time.
When it comes to WDW’s theme parks, fans will have to wait a little longer. Walt Disney World will begin a slow, multi-phase reopening beginning on July 11, 2020.
On this date, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom will officially reopen to the general public.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot will officially open on July 15, 2020.
Prior to these dates, Walt Disney World will host a series of Cast Member previews and soft opening days for affinity groups (such as Annual Passholders, Disney Vacation Club Members, Florida Residents, Club 33, Golden Oak, etc). The details of these preview days will be announced at a later time.
It’s unclear when these soft openings will begin, but we believe it could happen as early as late June 2020. Walt Disney World could attempt to scale up park operations with the lower stakes, less-demanding local audience.
Disney has also announced that once the parks reopen, advance reservations will be required. It’s likely this will also hold true for the soft opening preview days–we’d expect email invitations with a registration link to go out to affinity group members within the next week or two.
Walt Disney World’s two-dozen resorts will likely open in phases.
Our expectation is that the first hotels to reopen will be those with DVC add-ons. The hotel side and Disney Vacation Club villas side share infrastructure, staffing, and other resources with one another. It doesn’t make a ton of sense to reopen only the Disney Vacation Club side of the property.
Following the hotels with Disney Vacation Club wings, we’d expect the next phase of resort openings to include those connected to the parks by non-bus transportation (Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation, Pop Century, and Yacht Club), followed by the remaining resorts.
There might even be some Walt Disney World hotels that don’t reopen this year at all if there’s a lack of demand or if they’re being utilized for events or other purposes, such as the NBA or MLS finishing their seasons (think Coronado Springs, the All Stars, both of the Port Orleans Resorts).
If that does happen, guests with existing bookings at those properties would be relocated elsewhere. This already happens now when resorts are overbooked, and frequently entails an upgrade.
It’s also worth noting that there is still an executive order requiring residents of Louisiana and the New York Tri-State Area (Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York) arriving in Florida to isolate or quarantine for a period of 14 days after arrival.
This does not expire until July 7, 2020–it’s unclear whether it will be extended (we doubt it). Plus, most international tourists still cannot enter the United States. This brings up the issue of demand, which will be an obstacle to Walt Disney World getting back to normal.
The complexity of Walt Disney World is another huge variable, and it’ll undoubtedly take the sprawling Florida resort much more time to ramp up operations than it did to wind them down. There are literally dozens of hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and myriad other components–in addition to the four theme parks. This machine will require a slow restart that’ll take more than a week to initiate.
It’s also problematic that Disney terminated its College Program, clearing out the housing, and sending those students home. The argument could be made that these are moves made to limit liability or cut surplus labor that won’t be necessary when the parks reopen. However, the reality is that they’ve cut or furloughed a lot of labor, and it’ll take some time to get that back.
Demand is another hurdle. Over 30 million Americans have now filed for unemployment in the last two months, and millions of employers have closed their businesses and slashed their workforces. It’s by far the worst string of layoffs on record, adding up to more than one in six American workers. Economists have forecast that the unemployment rate could go as high as 20% in the near-term, and possibly surpass the 25% rate reached during the Great Depression. Consumer confidence is likewise plummeting.
While some of this will bounce back when the economy reopens, some of the damage will be lasting. Americans have already expressed an overwhelming reticence to travel on airplanes and be in large venues right now. Between that and economic anxiety, a majority of Americans may be unable or unwilling to take a Walt Disney World trip right now. That too will likely impact Disney’s reopening plans.
All of this is a very long-winded way of saying (and explaining) that a lot still remains up in the air when it comes to Walt Disney World’s reopening. Even now that we have official reopening dates for Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom plus Epcot and Hollywood Studios, there are still many unknowns.
Ultimately, that’s a personal decision. If the lack of parades, fireworks, character meet & greets, playgrounds, nighttime spectaculars, and other entertainment are important to you, waiting is recommended. If the health safety protocol and requirements are too burdensome or sound like they’ll ruin the magic for you, waiting is also recommended. However, if you want to experience the parks with significantly limited attendance and other advantages, now might be a good time to visit. We cover all of the upsides in our new post, “The Dawn of a Temporary Disney Era.”
Do you plan on visiting Walt Disney World in July 2020 when the parks reopen? Hoping to visit earlier for soft openings? Or will you wait until modified operations and restrictions end, and the experience is closer to “normal” again? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and assessment? 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!