Animal Kingdom's Park Preview Experience
Today we had the pleasure of being some of the first guests back inside the Animal Kingdom since its closure back in March due to Covid-19. Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom will both reopen their gates to all guests starting this Saturday, July 11th, but we were lucky enough to book reservations for the Annual Passholder Park Previews and experience the Disney magic again. Follow along with us as we document our full experience of the day!
Entering the Park
After the parking attendant scanned our Magic Bands for us to enter the parking lot, we were met by a long line of cars. This was because cast members were directing cars to park in every other row to allow space between each car. If you are planning on driving to the park, we would recommend factoring in additional time not only for parking, but also for walking up to the main entrance as trams are not currently running.
After arriving at the main entrance, cast members and signs will direct you to the temperature screening tent. A cast member will quickly scan your forehead to make sure that your temperature is under 100.4 degrees.
Security cast members will then direct you to walk straight through the metal detectors. There is no need to stop or open any of your bags as required in the past, this makes for a much quicker and safer process.
Once arriving at the turnstiles, a cast member will scan your park ticket or Magic Band. Guests are no longer required to use their fingerprint to enter the park to minimize contact. Paper maps are still available at the entrance, but it is recommended that you use your Disney Experience app.
All guests over the age of 2 are required to wear face coverings during their time in the parks. However, the parks do allow guests to remove their masks to eat or drink. To view Disney’s complete lists of rules regarding masks click here.
During the afternoon when the Florida heat is at its peak, it does get a little more uncomfortable to keep a mask on, so having the right mask is important. It is also worth noting that you may experience some serious fog while pairing your mask with the 3D glasses used on attractions like Flight of Passage and It’s Tough to be a Bug. The mask experience was a lot easier than we expected and everyone was wearing them.
We loved that Disney added mask-free “Relaxation Stations” throughout the park. These small, roped-off areas allow guests to remove their masks while taking a break in a shaded seating area. Cast members only allow a small number of guests in at a time to ensure that everyone is at a safe enough distance.
Animal Kingdom’s Relaxation Stations can be found at Upcountry Landing in Asia and Pizzafari in Discovery Island.
The biggest difference you will find throughout the attraction queues are the new floor markers that indicate where each group should stand in order to be 6 feet apart. Most rides have even added plexiglass shields as an additional barrier in areas where the line wraps or is close together.
We also noticed that some of the waiting rooms and pre-shows for the attractions have been modified to create extra space between each group. For Flight of Passage, Disney no longer has guests stop in the first room to do a body “scan” to match you to an avatar. However, they do still have guests watch the pre-show video in the second room, just with modified floor markings to be spaced further apart. Similar markings are located on the ground in the waiting room for It’s Tough to be a Bug.
Almost all of the cast members working the attractions were wearing plastic face shields in addition to their mask for added precaution. They were also regularly announcing any new procedures to ensure all guests were safe, such as standing 6 feet apart and keeping masks on.
All attractions either had plexiglass shields in between rows or reserved, empty seats to separate riders. Ride vehicles are deep cleaned and sanitized by cast members every two hours. Alternate vehicles are swapped out at this time so that wait times are not affected.
We were excited to see that most of the attractions are open and running as usual. Two exceptions include Festival of the Lion King and Finding Nemo – The Musical. You will also find that most of Dinoland U.S.A. has remained closed including Primevil Whirl, The Boneyard play area, and the carnival games. However, TriceraTop Spin and DINOSAUR are still up and running.
Discovery Island Boats
While character meet & greets are not currently available, there are still so many characters to see! Every 20-30 minutes, a boat floats around Discovery Island with different characters while playing fun music. There are plenty of great viewing locations around the island to spot them and take great photos.
Characters include, but are not limited to, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, Chip ‘n’ Dale, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, LaunchPad McQuack, Timon, Rafiki and Pocahontas.
While some snack locations have remained closed, many have reopened. There is at least one snack vendor open in each land of the park, from healthy options at Harambe Fruit Market in Africa, to our favorite- Mickey premium ice cream bars at Thirsty River Bar & Trek Snacks. Plexiglass shields separate guests from Cast Members, and cashless payment is encouraged.
Quick Service Restaurants/Mobile Ordering
While Mobile Ordering on the Disney Experience app is not a new concept, it is now required for all Quick Service Restaurants. This includes Flame Tree Barbecue, Restaurantosaurus, and Satu’li Canteen. The process is relatively quick and easy! After you select your restaurant and food, you will be asked what time you would like to pick it up. We selected “now” for our food at Flame Tree and it was ready as soon as we walked up to the restaurant. A cast member greeted us and directed us to the correct pick-up window.
Finding a table at Flame Tree after picking up our tray was fairly easy. They have a ton of outdoor seating options, even with some tables not being available and marked off with signage to follow social distancing guidelines.
Table Service Restaurants
All Disney table service restaurants, such as Tiffins, will require a reservation made in advance. Since Yak & Yeti and Rainforest Cafe are third party restaurants, they are not currently accepting reservations, and are only taking walk-ins instead. Tusker House, Animal Kingdom’s character dining experience, will remain closed for the time being.
All of the restaurants have spaced their tables out six feet apart and will be utilizing paper menus.
While some shops did remain closed, such as Island Mercantile, there were still plenty of stores open in each of the lands to satisfy all of your merchandise needs! The stores have a capacity limit, and utilize a virtual queue once capacity has been reached. We witnessed quite a long line outside of Discovery Trading Company for shoppers looking to purchase Disney themed face masks, but we were happy to see it moved pretty quickly.
Markings and signage are found throughout the stores to inform shoppers of health procedures as well as which direction to walk in. Dressing rooms were blocked off and will remain closed for now. Similar to the rest of the park, plexiglass shields are located at all of the check-out counters and contactless payment is encouraged.
Overall, it was a dream to be back in the parks experiencing the Disney magic we have been longing for! While there were many changes from our last visit, we still thoroughly enjoyed our day and felt so fortunate to be part of the lucky Annual Passholders that could experience the day. Due to all of the new safety procedures and the Cast Members implementing them, we felt super safe as we explored the park in the “new normal”.
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