Disney Parks and Resorts Update for September 14th

Santa Mickey and Minnie in EPCOT at sunset

For the sake of transparency, The Walt Disney Company just announced most of its holiday plans for 2020. Presuming that you have a trip planned or were thinking about one, you should read this week’s DVC Parks and Resorts Update.

Holiday News Part One

I have to give Disney credit. The company wants potential customers to know what to expect this holiday season. Rather than stretch it out, Disney revealed what people should expect in November and December.

For starters, A Frozen Holiday Wish won’t happen this year, as cast members will not decorate Cinderella Castle with lights. Disney will try something different at Magic Kingdom instead.

In place of the Castle Dream Lights, digital projections will adorn the castle. These holiday decorations will mimic some of the stuff you’ve seen at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in recent years.

Presumably, these projections will be exclusive to the castle, making the holidays more desirable. This might be a one-time presentation, after all. Even if it’s not, you can say you were there the first time Disney tried it.

On the downside, Disney acknowledged the obvious. Magic Kingdom cannot host Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party in 2020. Similarly, EPCOT won’t host the annual Candlelight Processional, either. Yes, that’s a bummer, as it’s a family tradition for many, especially those who live in Florida.

Disney isn’t punting on the holidays, though. Park decorations will be visible by November 6, which is around the same time as usual. Special holiday snacks and merchandise will arrive on that day, too.

Disney has published a video to provide guests with a bit of excitement regarding the upcoming holiday season:

By the way, although the video doesn’t show it, the Cavalcades will have unique holiday themes, too.

Oh, the Christmas Tree Trails will return at Disney Springs as well! They’ll have some modifications, of course, but you won’t miss out this year.

Holiday News Part Two

At Disney Vacation Club resorts, management has made some understandable but disappointing decisions. The beloved gingerbread houses and other decorations simply aren’t possible during a pandemic. They would cause repeated violations of social distancing.

On the bright side, Disney will decorate the resorts this holiday season. I presume that means the Christmas tree at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge and other staples will make an appearance, but that’s just speculation. All Disney has said is that the hotels will have holiday theming.

Photo Courtesy of DisneyTouristBlog.com

The company must walk a fine line here. It must create visually engaging, artistic pieces…that won’t attract large crowds. Otherwise, the beauty of the decorations would endanger guests who stand too closely together to admire the imagery. This is the challenge Disney faces through the end of 2020.

Disney parks will do something to accommodate guests during the holiday season. Beginning on November 6, Magic Kingdom’s park hours will increase. Here are the new operating hours:

  • Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios – 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • EPCOT – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Magic Kingdom – 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

However, EPCOT will alter its hours later in the month. On November 27, the park will switch to a noon opening, followed by an 8 p.m. closing. This move ties directly into the next story…

The other thing we learned this week is that we’ll have a holiday festival. A modified version of the International Festival of the Holidays will start on November 27. The event will run through December 30. So, EPCOT has changed its park hours to give guests an extra evening hour to enjoy the festival.

Disneyland/Downtown Disney News

We’ll roll all the West Coast news into one section. First of all, Disneyland resorts have canceled hotel reservations through September 26. Some hope had remained about a September park reopening, and it technically still exists. The walls are closing in, though.

Realistically, we should expect Disneyland back in October. California’s governor recently stated that the park is “getting closer” to reopening. Specifically, he indicated that the state will issue theme park guidelines soon. At that point, Disneyland and other parks will rush back to business.

Cast members have done prep work already, starting back in June and as recently as this week. So, the Happiest Place on Earth should return as soon as the park receives the safety regulations. However, Downtown Disney has already updated its rules.

The entertainment complex may host guests indoors once again. Orange County falls into the state’s Red Tier, which means that it can bring up to 100 guests indoors, as long as that’s not more than 25 percent of capacity. The lower number of the two represents the current maximum occupancy.

Disneyland has also canceled its version of the Candlelight Processional. Obviously, this event requires plenty of planning. Since Disney officials still don’t know when the parks will reopen, they certainly couldn’t simultaneously plan both. It would drain resources too much during an already challenging time.

However, California has done much better with Coronavirus in recent weeks. On the last day of August, the Golden State reported 6,485 new infections. For the week of September 6 through September 12, daily infections have averaged (19,636+September 12 total), a vast improvement.

As long as California keeps its outbreaks under control, Disneyland should reopen soon. I’m more optimistic than I have been in several weeks.

Other Parks/DVC Resort Updates

At Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa, Disney has chosen to cancel all reservations through October 17. Given that we’re talking about a month from now, the company obviously doesn’t feel like Hawaii’s COVID-19 outbreak will improve quickly.

Hawaii ranks only 45th among American states in Coronavirus infections. Unfortunately, most of its infections have happened since August 1. On September 2, the islands confirmed 338 cases, the second-most thus far.

Since then, the numbers have improved modestly, but the state still has work to do. In fact, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor tested positive the other day…and he’s the head of the state’s Coronavirus response team.

The news is better at Hong Kong Disneyland. The park, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary, is expected to reopen soon. Variety believes that it will return on September 18. Yes, that’s Friday.

Hong Kong officials feel comfortable with the return of the park that already reopened and then closed once before. The reason why is that the entire city reported only 13 new cases on September 12.

Other Walt Disney World/Florida Updates

Back at Walt Disney World, there are a few other tidbits you need to know.

Annual passholders who visit Orlando over the next few weeks will get more for their money. Disney will offer another 30 percent discount for passholders from September 15 through October 29, 2020.

Speaking of which, Disney won’t forget you this Halloween. While Disney’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is a no-go, many elements of the ticketed event will be available at the parks for free.

Disney will decorate the parks for Halloween and host Cavalcades wherein cast members wear Boo to You-ish costumes. The Dapper Cadaver Dans will sing some spooky tunes at the parks, too. They’ll arrive on September 20. Everything else here starts on September 15 and runs through Halloween.

Obviously, this discussion has caused you to wonder about costumes. Well, I have some surprising news. For the first time ever, Disney will allow guests to wear costumes at the parks. Kids can put on any outfit they like, while adults can wear anything as long as it doesn’t cover their faces. Of course, all guests must wear face coverings, too.

So, Disney has taken steps to ensure that Halloween celebrations will bring plenty of magic this year. Best of all, you don’t have to pay $100 or more for a ticketed event. So, the price is right.

In dining news, I’d previously mentioned that Hollywood & Vine will return on September 25. We now know it’ll have a Halloween theme. Yes, Minnie and friends will participate in Minnie’s Halloween Dine. Hopefully, this means Donald Duck will wear his fabulous astronaut costume again.

For fans of Narcoossee’s, I have fabulous news. The restaurant will return on September 21, which is next week. That’s one more terrific option for guests at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and anyone staying at a monorail resort.

Over at Magic Kingdom, Cinderella’s Royal Table will return at a lower price. Park officials understand that guests paid more for the chance to meet several Disney Princesses.

Since they cannot participate in character meals right now, Disney has lowered the price of lunch and dinner here from $75 to $62 per adult. You’re still getting a delicious meal and the rare privilege of dining inside Cinderella Castle. That price strikes me as a bargain.

Finally, I have a couple of updates for DVC members contemplating Florida vacations next year. Two different parks confirmed plans for their upcoming roller coasters.

SeaWorld Orlando’s Ice Breaker and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Iron Gwazi will both debut in the spring of 2021. Both of these attractions will arrive a year late due to the pandemic, but you may safely plan a spring trip around their availability.

Okay, that’s the news for this week. Stay safe and smart, everyone!

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