A Day at Magic Kingdom in October 2020 during COVID Pandemic

October 2020

When the COVID pandemic hit and after canceling all upcoming trips, I wrote up Why Walt Disney World may be my first trip post quarantine. As a scheduled trip in July got closer and more details about the opening were released … along with the crazy COVID numbers, I followed up my original post with Why Walt Disney World will no longer be my first trip post quarantine.

Well, it is now October and after a series of events, including venturing out on domestic adventures to bring some travel back to 2020, we decided to revisit the idea of Disney. I had been following the situation in Walt Disney World very closely and overall, was very pleased with the reports I was hearing regarding cleaning, distancing, and mask policies. After many conversations, we decided to give it a go.

For an overview of the trip and high level COVID measures, read Walt Disney World in October 2020: COVID Pandemic Edition. Disclaimer that the information and observations in this post are from the first week in October – things are changing constantly so please check Disney’s website for the most up to date information if you are planning a trip.

Read about our first park day at EPCOT here!

Read about our second park day at Hollywood Studios!

Parks visits are different than they were before – there was no park hopping permitted (ie more than one park per day) and reservations had to be made in advance for the visit with the purchase of a theme park ticket. Picking the park you visit on a specific day is important.

Why we chose Magic Kingdom for our last park on Saturday:

  • Honestly, because the other parks EPCOT and Hollywood Studios took priority for the week days – we fully expected Saturday to be mobbed everywhere, especially at EPCOT and Hollywood Studios, so we were hopeful it would not be *as bad* at Magic Kingdom
  • We could have picked to visit Animal Kingdom this day instead of Magic Kingdom but we felt like we had to visit Magic Kingdom on this trip – we love Animal Kingdom and spent a ton of time with the animals on our last visit

Mask rules at Disney as of this post – must wear masks at all times and if eating or drinking, need to find a spot away from people and be stationary.

Ok, off the Magic Kingdom! Since we had such a successful day with our super earlier arrival at Hollywood Studios, we wanted to see if lighting could strike twice. Since the buses do not start until an hour before the park opens at 9AM, we knew that would not be an option. We called a ride share to take us to the Contemporary where we could walk to Magical Kingdom at a much less crowded access point for temperature screening and security.

We arrived at the Contemporary at 7:30AM and a short walk to the left towards Magic Kingdom brought us to social distance markers on the ground in from of the temperature screening tent – we were the first ones!

Only a few minutes passed before more people began to join us, though this entrance never got that crowded. Around 8AM, the temperature screenings opened and we made it through that then security. For some reason, security is different at Magic Kingdom than it was at the other parks and we had to remove items in our bags before going through the detector – Magic Kingdom you have to get the screening tools at the other parks – we were completely spoiled having to actually take stuff out and do a bag check!

By 8:10AM, the park opened and we were one of the first through the ticket stations making our way down Main Street USA – one of the best feelings on a Disney trip! There did not seem to be the same mad rush that we felt at Hollywood Studios the day before so we were able to snap some awesome photos.

Most people went straight through the castle where we turned left towards Adventureland and Liberty Square – our plan was to get Big Thunder and Splash Mountains done before the lines backed up. These areas were completed empty – did we miss something? Where did all the people go?

We were the first in line for Big Thunder Mountain and joined only by a few additional guests shortly after. I asked a Cast Member where all the people went and he indicated that Seven Dwarfs Mine Train still reigns supreme with the crowds. We did not mind that – it is a cute ride but not worth the wait. The line for Splash Mountain was blocked so it seemed some attractions where not open before park open. In fact, we had to wait until closer to 8:30AM for them to open Big Thunder Mountain fully. Such a fun coaster!

Splash Mountain was still not open so we went around to Pirates of the Caribbean, which was closed due to a ride issue. We circled back around the Haunted Mansion which was also not open but at least there was a queue formed. Though it was long, once they allowed people into the queue and on the ride we thought it would move fast so we hopped in line which at the time extended to the ferry boat. Shortly before 9AM, the line began to move and we walked onto the attraction not too long after that.

Upon exiting the ride, the crowd began to increase. We opted to turn right heading back to Splash Mountain (avoid Fantasyland at all costs… crowds here are always insane due to the layout of the land and the popularity of attractions). We figured this could be the last time with this version of Splash Mountain before the announced transformation to a Princess and the Frog themed attraction so we definitely wanted to get this ride in on this trip. The line was still contained in the regular outside queue which felt like a good sign for the 35 minute wait time. We waited about 15 minutes so this line moved very well and we basically had the entire log to ourselves – a couple in the first row and we were in the last row. The extra water features were turned off so that was not love lost for us – we were perfectly positioned to get slammed by additional water features at a few points in the ride.

We swung by Pirates and not only was the ride open but the line was bonkers! It snaked around so much outside, couple that with the already long queue inside the attraction, it was definitely an hour or more wait.

Onward to Tomorrowland! We were not feeling jazzed about Buzzlightyear Space spin nor Carousel of Progress due to the the high touch surfaces and length indoors, so we made our way over to Space Mountain. While the line was long, it moved quickly and ended up only being 20 minutes to board the ride.

Ready for a snack, I had been eyeing up the Cheshire Cat Tail leading up to this trip – a pastry with chocolate filing, folded in chocolate chips, and pink and purple frosting on top. This was our first time using mobile order and it worked so well! We headed to Cosmic Rays for our arrival time, checked in, and then was let into the building to pick up the order from an assigned bay. The crowd of people congregating for a mobile order place gets very high during peak eating hours so be mindful and try and be flexible to get food off schedule. This Cheshire Cat Tail was everything and more – I wish we got two! So so so good.

Knowing Fantasyland would be mobbed as always, we headed back to Main Street to enjoy the shops and the new castle colors. We were so disappointed to see some of our favorite spots like Casey’s Corner (we always get a late night hot dog on our way out of the park, has become a fun tradition!) and The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor (literally the ice cream spot we look forward most – we get an All American Sundae with all chocolate ice cream and we find a spot on the grass to enjoy it while watching the castle) closed still. I can understand why many of the sit down restaurants were not open but these baffled us – why were these popular quick service spots closed? Even the Confectionery looked off without someone carefully crafting candy apples.

We saw two cavalcades – one with the villans which was super fun and one of the Cadaver Dans which is always a treat to hear them perform!

Enough time had passed to make it back through Adventureland for our lunch reservation – our first time eating at Jungle Skipper’s Canteen. We had passed this many times but never thought to look at what they were serving and after hearing it is the best food in Magic Kingdom, this felt like a perfect opportunity to try it. I made the reservations for the first seating hoping it would be less crowded than peak lunch time and it was certainly the way to go.

Theme here is based of the pun jokes of the Jungle Cruise and the Cast Members lean into it hard. The room was massive and the tables were plenty distanced apart. QR code menu at the table as all sit down restaurants on Disney property had and we were ready to go! We both ordered a drink – sangria for me and beer for Kevin – fun surprise that they served alcohol. For food, Kevin ordered the Sustainable Fish “Not Piranha” and I ordered the Crispy-fried Chicken (minus the chili glaze). Both portions were large, the flavors were amazing, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal here – would definitely recommend and eat again!

We skipped dessert in hopes of taking advantage of the park since it was reaching peak lunch time but we left the comfort of indoors to a monsoon. I guess we had been lucky to avoid the Florida afternoon downpour thus far – but we are professionals and never leave without our rain jackets. We suited up and hoped the rain would deter people from the rides.

Boy were we wrong! We could not even get on Tiki room for reprieve from the rain. We basically walked all the way around the park – even at Carousel of Progress which I have never seen a long line. Oh and if you want to know what throws social distancing out the window it is rain – everyone was crowded together under overhangs or umbrellas to avoid getting wet.

We walked from Tomorrowland through Fantasyland back to Adventureland where we were still in disbelief over the line for Pirates. One line that was significantly shorter was the Jungle Cruise. For some reason in this particular queue, people could not understand the concept of the social distanced markers. Fortunately it was all people in front of us so we left a few extra distance markers in between… but still… this is not a new concept people!

I think we had enough of people and with the rain off and on, the crowd was just too much. Kevin grabbed a coffee at Starbucks before we said our goodbyes to the castle and left Magic Kingdom much earlier than planned.

It has never happened before but we were bored. We had dinner at 5PM at the Contemporary so even thought we had 3 hours to burn, it was not enough time to go back to the Boardwalk and back. Our normal go-to’s around the monorail resort loop such as all the bars (Trader Sam’s!) were closed. Going to Disney Springs felt like a walking advertisement for getting COVID, especially on a weekend, so that was out. So instead, we walked to the Contemporary and found ourselves an isolated outdoor place to sit – where the walkway to Bay Lake is, there is a large balcony and chairs. We sat and watched the bustle of Magic Kingdom and the monorails from afar.

The Contemporary is blessed with some great dining experiences. We ate at California Grill the night before and tonight was at The Wave, growing in popularity each time we visit – and for good reason! Dare I say, for the first time we actually preferred our meal at The Wave to California Grill… there I said it and I wonder if it would every happen again but dang, The Wave knocked it out of the park. Read about our dining experience here – coming soon!

Thankfully Magic Kingdom was open a bit later and the buses were still operational when we were done dinner so we walked back to the bus station by the entrance of the park and made our journey back to the Boardwalk. Our flight was early in the morning so we took one final lap around the Boardwalk, sucking every last bit of magic out that we could before we returned home.

For the first time on a Disney trip, I felt ready to go home. While we had some fantastic memories and experiences, the constant anxiety and stress of depending on other people to follow the rules was exhausting. I had to speak up a handful of times to politely remind people – “hey, that is your social distanced marker” or “the mask goes over your nose”. I know the Disney trip is a not a familiar one in many ways and we completely expected that, but I look forward to the days of park hopping, fine dining at our favorite places, late night ice cream and hot dogs, and not on constant COVID police duty.

Continue reading about our trip to Hollywood Studios here!

Continue reading about our trip to EPCOT here!

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