Only about half of the dining options will be available.

By Mike Pomranz
July 10, 2020
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Four months have passed since Disney World in Florida closed its gates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and though the theme park has tried to keep fans appeased by doling out its recipes during the downtime (including, speaking of doling, Dole Whip), what fans have really been looking forward to is the park’s reopening. And while Californians still have waiting left to do, for Floridians, the wait ends tomorrow.

Despite a recent spike in coronavirus cases in Florida and many states around the country, Walt Disney World theme parks are set to begin a phased reopening tomorrow, July 11, starting with the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. Meanwhile, Epcot and Hollywood Studios are set to join the fold next week on July 15.

Workers at Walt Disney World paint Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom on Thursday, March 12, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The iconic castle is getting a facelift in preparation for Disney World's 50th anniversary celebration in 2021.
Orlando Sentinel/Getty

Saturday’s reopening will mark the first for a Disney theme park in the United States; Disneyland and California Adventure had reportedly been targeting a July 17 reopening, but that has been delayed “pending state and local government approvals,” according to the Disney website. That said, for Californian in need of a Disney fix, the Downtown Disney District has begun reopening.

But back to Orlando: Guests are now required to use the Disney Park Pass reservation system, and CNN Travel reports that availability could be spotty. However, for the food and beverage crowd, the big question becomes, once you get in, what will the dining situation look like?

Disney World has put together an entire page dedicated to “Dining: Know Before You Go”—and beyond explaining how the experience will be different, two main changes are highlighted. First, as with the rest of the park, face coverings are required for everyone ages two and up and can only be removed while eating or drinking. Second, for those on a day pass, reservations are required to dine-in at table-service restaurants in Disney Resort hotels. The rules also appear to stipulate that you’ll need a reservation to dine at in-park, table-service restaurants, too.

Finding a place to eat will likely be more difficult than in the past, as well. Disney explains, “During the reopening period, many dining experiences may be modified or unavailable in order to promote cleanliness and physical distancing.” Specifically, of the 39 dining options listed for the Magic Kingdom, 24 are currently listed as “temporarily unavailable.” Dinner shows and most character dining experience are also off the table.

But once you are ready to eat, Disney appears to be doing all they can to make that experience as hygienic as possible. The My Disney Experience app offers mobile ordering and check-in for reservations. Menus can also be viewed on your mobile device through scannable codes. Cashless payments are being encouraged, and Disney has worked to reduce contact with menus and self-serve stations. Plus, of course, the park is promising enhanced cleaning, stating that “seating areas, dining areas and pagers will be cleaned between Guests.”

Overall, yes, Disney will be different than the times you visited as a kid. But as far as the “new normal” is concerned, Disney World is reopening with many of the guidelines you’ve probably become accustomed to. Just don’t expect to be able to hug your favorite mouse.