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Walt Disney World During a Pandemic? Let’s Boo This! Day 2, Part 2

After leaving Magic Kingdom, the plan was to head to Disney Springs. Because transportation to and from Disney Springs isn’t available from the parks, we knew we had to catch a bus at a resort. To save time, we planned on doing this at one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. It would have been fastest to take the Monorail to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort, but since we left Magic Kingdom earlier than planned and we love Disney’s Wilderness Lodge so much, we decided to go there instead. It felt like home, and we moseyed through the Mercantile before heading to catch a bus to Disney Springs.

I just love the Wilderness Lodge lobby!
We had to rub Humphrey’s nose as we entered the Mercantile.

We had a 7:45 dinner reservation at Wine Bar George. I made the reservation through Open Table a few weeks prior to the trip when I found none available in My Disney Experience. Because they aren’t owned or operated by Disney, I knew many of the restaurants at Disney Springs also offer reservations through Open Table. That’s your Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah tip for today!

Because we were early arriving at Disney Springs, we did a little browsing before heading to dinner. This was my first visit since the World of Disney remodel, and I loved what they’ve done with the place! It’s so open and much easier to navigate.

After killing a little time, we decided to see if Wine Bar George would seat us early, and, as luck would have it, they quickly found us a table. I was really looking forward to trying this place out, and it did not disappoint. I found Wine Bar George to be right up my alley! To say the wine list is extensive is a major understatement. They also specialize in the meats and the cheeses, and I do love the meats and the cheeses. Even though I love wine, I also love a good novelty cocktail so I decided to go with one of their frozen concoctions in one of their signature Corkcicle tumblers. I got the Friezling made with Dole Whip lime, Riesling and vodka. It was delicious!

The Friezling–it was tart and refreshing.

We decided to get the Big Board for dinner, which is pretty much all the meats, cheeses and accompaniments. I was in heaven! I also ordered a glass of pinot noir from Macedonia because in my book, meats and cheeses call for wine. I’d also never had a pinot from Macedonia so I was curious. It was a bit spicy but also delicious. We had thought we might get a few warm appetizers, too. The meatballs and mac and cheese bites looked incredible, but the Big Board was more than enough. In fact, we took leftovers with us.

The Big Board had all my favorite things.

Each time I visit Disney Springs, I have to stop by the Ganachery to pick up chocolates to take home, and this trip was no different. As I get older, I find that I want fewer “things” from my vacations, so lately I’ve been gravitating toward what I like to call consumable souvenirs. These are things like snacks or coffee beans, beer and wine, also called liquid souvenirs, to help extend the vacation a bit further after I’m home. I loaded up on consumable souvenirs at the Ganachery with a box of 16 chocolates and some chocolate skulls for Halloween.

These are made fresh daily in the store. Each design is a different flavor of chocolate covered ganache. I will be enjoying these at home for several days.

I also had my sights set on their homemade smores. They make every part of them, even the graham crackers, right there in the store. We were still pretty full from dinner so Dad and I split one. It was definitely enough to share, really gooey and messy, though.

Each component of their smores is made in house and assembled in front of you.
Gotta love anything garnished with a Mickey head!

By then, we were ready to call it a night. We caught the bus back to our resort and turned in so we’d be rested and primed for Epcot the next day.

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Walt Disney World During a Pandemic? Let’s Boo This! Day 2, Part 1

Day 2 began with an early (for me) wake up at 6 am for a day at Magic Kingdom. Because the parks’ hours are reduced right now, it seems like everyone is trying to arrive at opening. This means transportation first thing in the morning is chaotic, to say the least. I’m a researchaholic when it comes to trip planning, so I already knew this. My original plan was to be at the bus stop at 7:30 for the 9 am opening, but we didn’t quite make it. We arrived around 7:50, and the scene was already overwhelming.

The entire bus stop area was filled with Guests heading to Magic Kingdom just like us.

Cast Members had the line well under control, however, and we quickly were directed to the end of the line. At 8 am on the dot, busses started rolling in one right after the other, and we were on a bus by 8:35. As you can tell, 7:30 would have been the much better plan.

There were busses lined up as far as the eye could see ready to clear out the crowds.

We arrived at Magic Kingdom just before 9 and got our temperatures checked before leaving the bus stop. We then made our way through the much-improved security area where they scan you and your bags instead of searching everything manually. The whole process was super fast and efficient.

Health and safety protocols helped put us at ease so we could have a fun few days.

Upon stepping onto Main Street, USA we were greeted by characters in their Halloween costumes from the train station platform. Since there are no one-on-one character greets during the pandemic, Disney is doing the best they can to weave these impromptu character sightings in wherever they can, and they are adorable!

Super cute distanced character greeting in Magic Kingdom

We made our way toward Cinderella Castle for our first view of her all dressed up in her 50th anniversary finery. She’s a beaut in her bright blue and rose gold.

We decided to start in Liberty Square. Madame Leota sippers were back in stock at Sleepy Hollow after selling out quickly when they were debuted for Halloween, and my sister and mom wanted one. There was no line so we stopped there first.

We then headed over to Haunted Mansion where there was no wait at all. We found they were bypassing both the first holding area and the stretching room as part of the health and safety modifications.

We made our way over to Frontierland next to ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, one of my absolute faves. That line stretched all the way to Pecos Bill’s but only ended up being about 30 minutes long. All of the lines looked super intimidating because keeping parties spaced out 6 feet apart takes up more real estate than one might think.

Only one party per train car is being loaded on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is a big reason for the long lines, but I’m completely ok with this in order to keep everyone as safe as possible.

We really wanted to ride Splash Mountain since it’s soon going to be fitted with a new overlay. Truth be told, that’s one of the main motivators for my decision to take this trip. I wanted one last ride on the original. Unfortunately, it was down all morning. I kept monitoring the app to see when it would be open, but so far, there was no luck.

So we headed to Adventureland instead. Pirates of the Caribbean was next on the list, and this, too, had a very winding line. The entire time we were in line, winding back and forth, I smelled some amazing deliciousness coming from Pecos Bill’s. I was getting really hungry so after Pirates, that was our next stop for lunch.

Mobile ordering through the app was required, and like our resort restaurant, we weren’t allowed into the dining room until our order was ready. They also kept telling everyone to refrain from taking a table until you had your food. This system worked great. We had no trouble finding a table. Only about half the tables were available to be used, allowing for easy distancing. Signs clearly marked those that were out of service. Cast Members were doing a great job of cleaning and disinfecting tables as soon as people left. The food was delicious, some of the best nachos I’ve ever had in my life! The only thing they needed was a frozen margarita to wash them down. But alas, those are nowhere to be found in Magic Kingdom since it’s a dry park other than the full service “sit down” restaurants.

Delicious nachos at Pecos Bill’s. Prior to the pandemic, all the toppings would be self-serve on a toppings bar, which is currently unavailable. Instead, toppings are served with the entrĂ©es in individual containers.

After lunch, we stepped out to find a surprise character cavalcade coming by. Parades aren’t a thing right now, but in order to sprinkle in a little magic, unscheduled, short cavalcades can be found throughout the day. So fun!

Cute princess cavalcade

By then, Splash was open so we headed that way. That line was long, y’all, both in distance and in time.

One final visit with Brer Bear, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox

As we were in line, we noticed clouds and wind increasing and knew something was about to blow up. After about 90 minutes in line, we were almost to the front when a Cast Member announced that a storm was in the area and riders might get wet from rain. They also said it might be necessary to close again, but they would keep it running as long as they could. We unfortunately didn’t have time to put our ponchos on before it was our turn to load. Well, the bottom fell out just as we were meandering around one of the outdoor bends on the ride. We. Got. Soaked! Thankfully, it had cleared by the time the ride was over, and we were optimistic that we would dry out soon.

We headed to get a Dole Whip next at Aloha Isle. It started raining again as I placed our order, but we were able to find a seating area under cover. Score!

On the left is the Kakamora Float, which is coconut soft serve, pineapple juice and blue curacao syrup with a chocolate cake pop. Pineapple and raspberry swirl is on the right.

Up next was Jungle Cruise to pay homage to the backside of water and, you guessed it, more rain.

Here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the back side of water!

Then Peter Pan’s Flight and more rain. We had plans at Disney Springs later, and the rain was wearing us out so we decided to wrap up our day at Magic Kingdom. After meandering through the Emporium on our way out, we took a boat ride over to Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, our favorite resort, to catch a bus to Disney Springs.

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Walt Disney World During a Pandemic? Let’s Boo This! Day 1

Here’s a little background about how my pandemic experience has gone so far this year. I’ve been working from home since early March. I order my groceries and either have them delivered or I pick them up curbside. All of my shopping has been either online or curbside. I’ve been inside Costco a handful of times, and I’ve been to restaurants four times, two of those on patios. Up until now, I’ve had makeup on exactly five times, those four restaurant visits and a very socially distant wedding with an outside reception. When it was announced that Walt Disney World Resort would be reopening in July, I was all the nope about that. My stance was that no vacation was worth risking the lives of myself, my family or anyone else. I was prepped to dig my heels in and wait until this thing was all over, whatever that meant.

While I totally get that the luxury of working from home during a pandemic is a privilege, one that I feel so incredibly fortunate to have, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t taking its toll on me. I needed a break. I tried taking a few days off, but that didn’t cut it. I saw friend after friend going on vacation, and no one got sick from it. All over my newsfeeds, I kept seeing the rhetoric that theme parks and air travel were not making people sick. So I decided to roll the dice and take a super short, three day trip to my happy place.

Once my Dad caught wind of this, he couldn’t stand it and decided he wanted to go, too. At 76 years old, I was a little apprehensive, but hey! If it’s safe enough for me, I figured it’s safe enough for him, and he’s old enough to make up his own mind about what he wants to do. So, flights were booked, hotel was booked, tickets were bought, theme park reservations were made (’cause that’s a thing now), and we were ready.

We flew on Southwest, and let me tell ya, middle seats open are soooo nice! Before I left, I had heard that keeping the air vents wide open on the plane would help keep any viral particles away, and on all of our flights, they were either already open or the flight attendants made an announcement for everyone to open them. We felt really good about everything we experienced while traveling.

Dad and I were feelin’ the luv aboard Southwest Airlines.

We landed around 3:45 and headed straight for Disney’s Magical Express. We were told there would be a 45 minute wait for a bus, even though the area was completely empty.

A completely empty Disney’s Magical Express area

Luckily, we only waited about 20 minutes before we were loaded and on our way. We got a kick out of getting to ride in a Disney Cruise Line bus. Since the ships aren’t sailing right now, it’s not surprising to see more of them being used for other purposes.

I sure do miss Disney Cruise Line. It was so exciting to get to ride this bus.

We arrived at Disney’s Pop Century Resort a little before 5, and we received a text that our room was not ready. We didn’t have much luggage so we decided to keep it with us as we headed out to the pool bar for a beverage. I had the special Halloween cocktail, Pop Potion. It was fun with layers of colors and gummy worms, but was quite syrupy. I’m a sucker for specialty anything, especially cocktails, yet I always end up wishing I had stuck to something simple like wine or beer. This was no different.

By then, it was 6 o’clock, and still the room was not ready. I decided to head to the front desk to inquire. The Cast Member assisting me said the problem was that I had requested a room in the 50’s buildings, and special requests always slow them down. Ok, but I had also checked the box to prioritize a room being ready over my request. That doesn’t matter, they told me, but not to worry because they were going to find me a ready room, just not one in the 50’s. After a few pecks at the keyboard, we had our room assignment…in one of the 50’s buildings. Insert pretend hard eye roll here because I didn’t actually roll my eyes. I thanked him very much for his hard work in finding a room and honoring our request.

Off to our room we went to get settled in for the next few days and acclimate ourselves to the lay of the land. We were happy to have a view of the bowling pin pool beneath us and the Skyliner to our right.

Once we got settled in, we decided to head back down to the main building for dinner at Everything Pop. The modified experience for health and safety protocols meant that they were limiting the number of people in the gift shop and/or dining room at any given time, and mobile ordering food was required. In fact, we weren’t permitted to enter the dining room until our food was ready, and even then, there was sometimes a line to gain entrance. The menu was also very limited, but adequate for our needs.

Shopping to the left, dining to the right

We always get the refillable mugs because we like “popping” in for a beverage as we are heading to and fro. One thing that was different with the new protocols that I had not heard about was that they wouldn’t fill the mug. We just had to show it, and a Cast Member at the beverage station would give us a fresh beverage in a paper cup. We also learned that if you just want a drink, all you have to do is show your mug to bypass the line and gain entrance to the dining room. Talk about VIP! Ok, not really, but I’ll take any chance to bypass a line.

I ordered the chicken parmesan. It was not stellar but served its purpose.

After finishing our meals, we headed back to the room to call it a night since the next day involved an early wake up call to visit Magic Kingdom.

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