What it’s like to travel to Disney World right now

Disney has made headlines in the past two months in a high-profile standoff with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the so-called “Don’t Call Gay” law — but you’d never know it on a visit to Walt Disney World theme park resort in Orlando. This year, “The Most Magical Place on Earth” pulled out all stops to celebrate its 50th anniversary, dubbed “The World’s Most Magical Celebration”. From Walt Disney World tickets to the scoop on Genie Plus, here’s what you need to know if you’re headed to Disney World right now.

1. Attendance to the park is controlled. After Disney World temporarily closed in 2020 due to the pandemic, it reopened with a new Park Pass reservation system to help control capacity. Now, guests must have a park pass, in addition to a reservation. One pandemic-era change for the better: The park is operating at reduced capacity and a Disney executive recently emphasized that this isn’t likely to change anytime soon, if ever.

2. Face masks are now optional. In April, Disney made face coverings optional at home and abroad and on Disney transportation such as buses and monorails — although vaccinations are encouraged. Pandemic-era additions like temperature checks and plexiglass sections while riding are becoming a thing of the past.

3. There is a new genie in town. Walt Disney World has launched a new Genie program in the My Disney Experience app to help guests navigate the theme parks. The free digital service guides you through the theme parks with tips that can help you cut down on queuing time.

4. Or choose Genie +. Want to get through the parks faster? The new Disney Genie+ lets you bypass regular lines and enter Lightning Lane — formerly the FastPass line — on select rides for $15 per day, plus extra fees for high-demand rides. Disney Resort guests can enjoy the event and make their first Lightning Lane purchase starting at 7 a.m. on the day of their visit, while other guests have to wait for the park to open.

5. Personal encounters and welcomes back. Want to hug Mickey? As of April, the meet and greets of the characters began to return in stages.

6. The return of the night shows. In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Castle is the backdrop for the new “Disney Enchantment” fireworks display and lighting show. Another new show in honor of the big celebration: “Harmonious” at Epcot.

7. There are new rounds. Get ready for new rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, a reimagining of Paris inspired by the movie) and the TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster (expected to open in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland in the fall). The biggest news is The Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster, which just opened in Epcot and is one of the largest fully enclosed coasters in the world, with cars that rotate 360 ​​degrees.

8. The castle is impressive. In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle gets a 50-year update that includes gold bunting and other improvements inspired by the art of Disney legend Mary Blair.

9. There are also new and exciting restaurants. From La Crêperie de Paris in Epcot to Space 220, a space station-style restaurant in Epcot, you’ll eat well. Pro tip: If all the fine-dining restaurants in the parks are full, head to Steakhouse 71, a sophisticated steak spot in the Contemporary Resort, just a short train ride from the Magic Kingdom.

10. THERE IS A STAR WARS HOTEL. On the front of the hotel, the big news is star WarsGalactic Starcruiser, which welcomes guests to two nights of immersive, all-encompassing adventures that include secret missions, character bonding, and intergalactic cuisines. It feels like you are in a galaxy far, far away.

11. Extra hours. Disney has two new ways to make the most of your fun. Early Access to the theme park allows people staying at Disney Resort hotels and some other hotels to enter any theme park 30 minutes before opening. Then there are the extended evening theme park hours for guests at luxury resorts, luxury villas (Disney Vacation Club units) and other select hotels.

12. And that’s not all you guys. In addition to all the big news above, you’ll find special touches big and small, from 50 pods of Keurig brand coffee in hotel rooms to pop-up parades throughout the parks.

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