Disney has been making headlines in the past couple of months in a high-profile clash with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law—but you’d never know it on a visit to Walt Disney World Resort theme park in Florida. This year, the Most Magical Place On Earth has been pulling out all the stops for its 50th anniversary, dubbed “The World’s Most Magical Celebration.” From Walt Disney World tickets to the scoop on Genie+, here’s what you need to know if you’re heading to Disney World right now.
1. Park attendance is being controlled. After Disney World closed temporarily in 2020 due to the pandemic, it reopened with a new Park Pass reservation system to help control capacity. Now, guests must have park admission, as well as a reservation. One pandemic-era change for the better: Disney World is operating at reduced capacity and according to an exec, this isn’t likely to change any time soon, if ever.
2. Face masks are now optional. In April, Disney made face coverings optional indoors, outdoors and on park transportation like buses and monorails (though vaccinations are encouraged). Pandemic-era additions like temperature checks and plexiglass partitions on rides are now a thing of the past.
3. There’s 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 reduce time in lines.
4. Or opt for Genie+. Want to get through the parks even faster? The new Disney Genie+ lets you bypass regular lines and enter the Lightning Lane—which was previously known as the FastPass line—at select rides by paying $15 a day, plus an additional fee for high-demand rides. Or get a jump on the action by staying at a Disney Resort Hotel. Guests can make their first Lightning Lane purchase starting at 7 a.m. on the day of their visit versus guests staying off property, who have to wait until the parks open.
5. Character meet-and-greets are back. Want to give Mickey a hug? As of April, character meet-and-greets have started to return in phases.
6. Nighttime spectaculars are back, too. In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle is the backdrop for a dazzling new 50th anniversary “Disney Enchantment” fireworks and lighting projection show. Another new show in honor of the big celebration: Epcot’s “Harmonious,” which includes a spectacular light projection on Spaceship Earth, the geodesic sphere that is the centerpiece of the park.
7. New rides. Get ready for thrill rides like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (a reimagining of Paris inspired by the film) and TRON Lightcycle Run Roller Coaster (projected to open in the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland in the fall). The biggest news is the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster, which just opened at Epcot and is one of the largest fully-enclosed coasters in the world, with cars that spin 360 degrees.
8. Exciting new restaurants. From La Crêperie de Paris in Epcot to Space 220, a Space Station-themed restaurant at Epcot, you’re going to eat very well. Pro-tip: If all the fine-dining restaurants in the parks are full, head to the new Steakhouse 71, a sophisticated steak spot at the Contemporary Resort, just a short Monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom.
9. Cinderella Castle—more magical than ever. In the Magic Kingdom, Cinderella Castle has had a 50th anniversary refresh that includes gold bunting and other enhancements inspired by the art of Disney legend Mary Blair.
10. Star Wars—the hotel. On the hotel front, the big news is the Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, which welcomes guests for immersive, all-inclusive two-night adventures that include secret missions, character bonding and intergalactic cuisine. It’s not cheap, but it’s like being in a galaxy far, far away.
11. Extra hours. Disney has two new ways to max out your fun. Early Theme Park Entry allows people staying at Disney Resort Hotels and some select other hotels to enter any park 30 minutes before opening. And then there are Extended Evening Theme Park Hours for guests at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas (Disney Vacation Club units) and other select hotels.
12. And that’s not all, folks. Beyond all the big news above, you’ll find special touches big and small, from 50th anniversary branded Keurig coffee pods in hotel rooms to pop-up parades throughout the parks.
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