By Erik Johnson
It had been three days. Three whole days and we had not yet been to the Magic Kingdom itself. What were we thinking? It’s the crown jewel of the Disney World property. The cornerstone of the Vacation Kingdom of the World. And here we are, visiting so many other places first. It was high time we try it out and see how the most-visited theme park in the world keeps its guests safe.
We have learned that the quick service breakfast at Primo Piatto downstairs at the Riviera Resort is an even better value than we first thought. I now want to purchase giant portions of all my breakfasts so I can reheat them the next day. If only I had a microwave at home. Guess that dream is over.
The Magic Kingdom was a surprise to us. I have heard so many conflicting stories about the flagship park, from interesting to frightening. I think two days at the other parks helped to settle us into a groove. By the time we arrived, we were ready. It was just a quick hour after opening, but once again we found the entrance gates empty. Temperature and Security checks went quickly.
Let’s pause and look at those for a moment. Each park and even Disney Springs have stations set up where health professionals from Orlando-local Allied Health stand ready with forehead, no-touch thermometers. They are looking for anybody with a temp over 100.4 degrees. It’s quick and easy and the mapped-out six-foot markers get you trained up for a day of standing in decompressed lines.
The security check process has changed somewhat. I do not know what is different about these scanners, but they are helping people get through quicker without forcing security personnel to dig through risky personal items. If you carry nothing, hold your wallet and your phone in your outstretched arms as you pass through. No need to dump everything in a bucket and scoop it back out. They key is, they can see where the metal is and if the metal is a money clip in your hands, you’re set.
Bags are a bit more complicated. We have learned they want you to pull out not just metal items, but larger water bottles. My wife got dinged yesterday because of a small pill case. She was told if she held the metal items outside the bag while passing through, they would have let it pass without digging. Sorry, but I have yet to cross through near anybody with a stroller to see how that goes. Maybe this morning at Epcot!
We slightly regretted not wearing costumes as we passed a woman in a full-out Belle dress. We have Captain Marvel and Doctor Strange costumes we brought with, intending to wear them to the Magic Kingdom. Since there are no Halloween parties this year, guests of all ages can wear costumes all day at the Magic Kingdom. This is a big change from the usual rule that only lets children wear costumes unless there is a Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party afoot. We opted to leave the costumes as it was supposed to be hot and rainy all day. It was neither. Not many people wore costumes, but we felt left out anyway.
Once inside, we were treated to the end of a set of the Dapper Dans in their Halloween guise of the Cadaver Dans. I love hearing them when I come into the park. More so than almost anything else on Main Street, in fact, the Dans are a major part of what makes me feel at home there.
Proceeding down Main Street, a fanfare of “This is Halloween” began. We found green dots on the curb and anchored ourselves to one. A large float with Jack Skellington and Sally rounded the corner and rolled past with the music blaring. It was our first cavalcade of the day and we had been in the park for maybe five minutes!
Passing the shops and lamenting that we could not get a Coke float at the Coke Corner or a hot dog at Casey’s, we paused for some PhotoPass shots at the hub. The photographer demonstrated how Cast Members can remind about masks in a polite and fun manner. He paused a couple of times during our shoot to step away and remind people to keep their masks on in front of the castle. A friendly word and a quick wiggle of his own mask was all it took. I wonder how many times a day he has to do that.
We started toward Tomorrowland to get our Space Mountain fix, and heard the Boo to You Parade fanfare kick up. We quickly found another dot on the sidewalk and marveled at a float with Donald, Daisy, Pluto, and Mickey in costume, waving to their fans. On either side of the float, dancers spun in the costumes from the full parade. Zombies, ghouls, pirates, and candy dancers brought in the fun of the usual Halloween parade. It was over in just a few minutes, but we got to stand several feet away from the action in a way I rarely ever have.
Two quick parades within fifteen minutes. It was an unexpected and fun start to the day!
We got our Space Mountain ride in, taking only about 30 minutes. Worth it! Anybody who has been to Disney World’s iteration, the first version of the venerable coaster, is familiar with the two separate tracks. You might even have your favorite. In this case, two tracks allows even more efficient cleaning. The line keeps flowing even as they stopped all riders on one side. Masked and face-shielded Cast Members wiped down every car on that side of the ride. They wiped down railings. They wiped down the entrance gates by each car. They even wiped down the operator console. It was impressive and took less than ten minutes, after which the other side ran out the line and started cleaning.
Some attractions no doubt have more trouble with this aspect. There was almost no line at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, but I imagine cleaning time shuts down the entire operation. I believe the final wait at Flight of Passage the day before was largely due to cleaning that high-touch space. Some of these spaces will have unavoidable delays, but it is good to know they are being cleaned.
The Haunted Mansion was a bit of a shock. Of course the line bypasses the newer, interactive queue elements in the cemetery. As a result, the line also winds down into the loading area for the river boat which is not running at this time. A lone sign confirmed that we were, in fact, on the right course. Inside, the stretching room is disabled. It doesn’t go anywhere (unlike Disneyland’s which is an actual elevator), so you proceed through and hear some foreboding words from your Ghost Host.
With no time for our eyes to adjust to the dark, it was very difficult to stagger into a Doom Buggy. It did not lessen the experience much, but I cannot wait to experience the original ride again someday.
The queue safety experience was in full effect in the Magic Kingdom. In areas where it would be impractical to put up those plexiglass barriers, Disney simply staggers the floor markers. This can confuse some people in line who don’t realize that standing six feet behind a party places them squarely next to guests to their left or right. There were some awkward points in the line for Big Thunder Mountain were we found ourselves peering around corners, uncertain if it was safe to leave our spot on the floor. Some spots on the trip through Space Mountain or Haunted Mansion were so dark that we had trouble seeing the markers.
It’s fine to make some mistakes. We sometimes wandered too close to parties while walking around or exiting a ride. Free of structured lines, it is harder to stay apart, especially in stores. It is at these times that you see the value in restricting guest capacity. Even in the tight spaces like the Fantasyland corridor by it’s a small world, you feel nowhere near as cramped as before.
Theater shows like the Enchanted Tiki Room and Country Bear Jamboree are still open. I love these spots and we visited them back-to-back. Both moved guests into pre-show areas with acceptable distancing. The Tiki Room lined people up in two rows instead of four with the standard line markers on the ground. The Country Bears featured green dots like the sidewalks outside. Within the theaters, seating was the same as before, but with wide areas marked off-limits. Most of the areas were large enough to accommodate a full family.
Outside, we encountered another cavalcade! Goofy, Max, and some of their friends starred on the Goofy Cavalcade float. Dancers and singers flanked both sides of the float as well. With no warning, the music started and everyone took up residence on the curbs of Fantasyland to watch. Another fun and unexpected moment!
We rounded out our day with a late lunch at the Skipper Canteen followed by some light browsing at the stores of Main Street. The Emporium has one entrance and it is closely guarded to limit the amount of people inside. The shopping occasionally got a bit cramped, but nothing like the old days in that line of shops.
One more day in the books! The Magic Kingdom surpassed any expectation I had going in. We got to see and do most of what we wanted, even with the earlier closing time. We experienced a lot of fun moments that made me immediately miss the park having left. But that’s what Disney wants, right? If their goal is to make instant nostalgia and longing, they are still doing it right. I not only felt safe on this visit, but I had fun. Lots of it!
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This post is part of a series! Click on the links below for more of our journey: