Has Disney World Finally Returned to “Normal?”

If you’re planning a 2022 Disney World vacation, you might be wondering how “normal” it will feel now that the parks have been reopened for nearly two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cinderella Castle

Face mask policies, physical distancing, capacity limits, changes in dining, and so much more made the Disney World experience very different from before it closed. And, While there are still quite a few changes that remain in place, your Disney trip will likely look more “normal” than ever before — here’s why.

What has returned to normal?

Health and Safety Policies

Since reopening, the health and safety policies that guests must follow when visiting Disney World have changed several times, but, for the most part, these are no longer in place. For example, temperature checks have been removed, physical distancing markers are gone, self-serve drink stations are back to normal, and more.

COVID-19 Sign at Disney World

Plus, even face masks aren’t required in most locations. Currently, masks are optional for fully vaccinated guests in both outdoor and indoor locations. Face masks are still required for ALL guests (regardless of vaccination status) at Disney World in enclosed transportationsuch as the Skyliner, monorail, and Disney buses.

Additionally, guests who are not fully vaccinated are asked to continue to wear masks in all indoor locations, including indoor attractions and theaters.

Disney World Face Mask

So, while health and safety measures do still exist in Disney World, they won’t make as big of an impact on your day-to-day activities.

entertainment

Just like you probably have a favorite ride at Disney World, most guests also have a favorite show — but, live entertainment has been slow to return to the parks. That being said, it’s getting close to “normal” once again!

Festival of the Lion King

the Festival of the Lion King has returned to Disney’s Animal Kingdom (in a partially modified way), several street performances have returned to EPCOT and Animal Kingdom, and the full Festival of Fantasy Parade is back in Magic Kingdom. Plus, even more entertainment is scheduled to come back to the parks in 2022.

Festival of Fantasy is BACK!

Of course, there are still some shows that we’re waiting on a return date for including:

Finding Nemo: The Musical is CHANGING

We’re always keeping an eye out for updates, so be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for the latest!

restaurants

For some, Disney dining is almost as much of an attraction as the rides themselves, but many restaurants have seen some long-term closures or menu changes since reopening. that being said the list of closed restaurants is dwindling other most fan-favorite spots have welcomed guests back, including character dining!

Boma – Flavors of Africa

For example, spots like Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom are reopened and allow guests to stand up from their table for photos with characters once again (though some restaurants still do not permit this). And, restaurants that traditionally serve food on buffets (like Boma in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge) have returned to normal.

Look how close we are to Goofy!!

Now the list of restaurants that remain closed is down to only 14 of the 200+ total that exist in Disney World including:

ESPN club

As you can see, the list of closures does still include some super popular spots, but Disney World could see these reopen soon — stay tuned!

Things that are back but different

Character Meet and Greets

Another thing that recently returned to Disney World is character meet and greets. Previously, Disney was only allowing guests to meet characters at a distance when they saw them outdoors in the parks, but now guests can get one-on-one time with Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and other characters to take photos and talk to them.

Minnie Mouse meet and greet at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

that being said you can’t hug the characters or ask for an autographas they’re still greeting at a distance.

Mickey Mouse Character Sighting at Town Square Theater

Traditional meet and greets are on their way back though! Disney’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Christine McCarthy, recently stated that Character meet-and-greets “should be coming back soon.” More details on the timeline haven’t been released.

Park Pass Reservations and Park Hopping

Perhaps the biggest change to Disney World operations and vacation planning since the COVID-19 pandemic began lies in the new Park Pass Reservation system and park hopping policy.

EPCOT Park Entrance

Since reopening, Guests have been required to make a reservation at the park that they plan to visit each day of their visit in advance. Originally, this was put in place to help Disney manage capacity limits, but it likely isn’t going anywhere (even though the parks still aren’t back at 100% capacity just yet).

Park Pass Reservation sign

Additionally, park hopping has returned, but there are limitations — Guests with the Park Hopper option added onto their ticket cannot hop to another park before 2PM. It’s also important to note that you can only enter the second (or third, or fourth) park until you’ve scanned into the original park that you made a park pass reservation for earlier that day.

Park hopping information

Both of these changes have been in place for well over a year, and may not go back to “normal” for quite some time still (or ever).

Holiday parties

And, in the same way that we’re slowly seeing the return of Disney World entertainment, we’ve also seen a modified return to holiday parties in the parks over the past year.

Mickey Pumpkins at Boo Bash!

In 2021, Disney announced that Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party would be replaced with Disney After Hours Boo Bash, and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party would be replaced with the Disney Very Merriest After Hours event.

Very Merriest parade

Each of these ticketed events enabled guests to get some exclusive time in Magic Kingdom to celebrate the holidays, but the former holiday parties offered more entertainment, specialty snacks, and quite a bit more time than their new replacements.

Disney has not yet announced if these after-hours events will return in 2022 or if the full parties will be brought back.

Things that haven’t returned

While most things are at least on their way back to “normal” at Disney World, there are still a few big perks and experiences that haven’t returned just yet.

Disney dining plan

First up is the Disney dining plan. When Disney first reopened the parks in 2020, they announced that they would be canceling all Disney Dining Plans that guests had booked and would not offer new packages through the end of 2020. And, though Disney has confirmed that the dining plan want return in the futureit is still not being offered to this day.

Guests still need to do their own budgeting when it comes to dining!

It has now been over 6 months since Disney shared an update on the Dining Plan and park-goers are still unable to add packages to their vacations. There have been a few signs that the Dining Plan could be returning soon, but Disney has not issued an official word just yet.

Tables in Wonderland

Another Disney dining program, Tables in Wonderland (which offers discounts to guests at Disney World restaurants) also has not come back to Disney World yet, and it’s still unclear when it could return.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

Disney’s website no longer notes that Tables in Wonderland is “currently unavailable,” however, it does state that “All existing Tables in Wonderland cards have expired as of September 1, 2021″ and there is no ability to make a new purchase.

Dining Reservation Window Still Modified

And, there are still more Disney dining changes in place! When the parks first reopened, Disney reduced the advanced dining reservation window from 180 in advance to 60 days in advance for all guests.

Be Our Guest Dining Room

This policy still remains in place today (making it a bit more difficult to secure those hard-to-get reservations) and there hasn’t been an update on whether the window will expand — this could just be our “new normal.”

Parking trams

Transportation also looks a little different in Disney World still. Since reopening, guests have been anxiously awaiting the return of the parking trams that take guests to the park entrance. And, while they are back at Magic Kingdom, we’re still waiting on their return at the other three parks.

Trams at Magic Kingdom’s parking lot

Disney announced last year that the service will return to EPCOT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios “throughout 2022,” but it’s still unclear exactly when that will be.

Other Experiences

Other things that remain unavailable in Disney World include the Harmony Barber Shop in Magic Kingdom, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (in Disney Springs, Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa), and select Disney World tours (though some have returned). Disney has not commented on when these might come back.

Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

So, what else is different in Disney World in 2022 and how can you plan for it all? We’re bringing you a FULL breakdown of all the new and returning rides, shops, restaurants, and more in our video below — check it out!

And, be sure to stay tuned to AllEars for all the latest reopening updates from Disney World!

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What are you hoping will return to Disney World soon? Let us know in the comments!

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