By Sharon Kennedy Wynne
The Tampa Bay Times
TAMPA, Fla. — Before Walt Disney World reopens in July in Orlando, it has announced some big changes in store: There will be no park hopping, no FastPass+ reservations and two of its most popular annual events have been altered.
Disney has canceled the 2020 edition of Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and has tweaked the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival with an early July start date — but canceled the Eat to the Beat concert series of pop and rock acts completely.
Both measures are aimed at reducing clusters of crowds in the theme parks.
On its official parks blog, Disney unveiled details about the reservation system that will be used when the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Animal Kingdom open on July 11, followed by Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 15.
All have been closed since mid-March because of coronavirus concerns.
One of the biggest changes is visitors will longer be able to “park hop” between Disney’s four theme parks. They will also be required to wear face masks and get their temperature checked when visiting.
“Visiting more than one park per day will be temporarily unavailable upon the reopening of the theme parks due to attendance limitations,” a post on the official Disney Parks Blog said. “We hope to bring back the ability to visit more than one park per day soon.”
To visit a park, guests will have to first register with the Disney Park Pass System, which is not yet available, at disneyworld.com.
Those that have a park ticket or annual pass will also need a My Disney Experience account to secure reservations.
Once registered, visitors will find a calendar with available dates for each Disney World theme park.
Tickets between family members and friends can be tied together. Those with multi-day tickets must make reservations for each day of the visit.
Among the other major changes tied to the coronavirus pandemic is the cancellation of “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party,” an after-hours, extra-ticket event in Magic Kingdom.
During the popular event, one-time adults and kids can show up in costume (and the get-ups can be outlandish) — it sold out on its opening night last August.
Visitors roam the park for free candy at more than a dozen trick-or-treat stations and there are special Halloween-themed parades and fireworks.
“We determined that many of its hallmarks — stage shows, parades and fireworks — are unable to take place in this new, unprecedented environment,” a post on the parks blog said.
Epcot’s popular food and wine event, which typically begins in September, will start in July when Epcot reopens, as “A Taste of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.”
It will have “over 20 signature global marketplaces like Hawaii, Hops & Barley, and Islands of the Caribbean, spaced out around the park,” the blog post said.
But the festival’s “Eat to the Beat” concert series, which had previously announced Sugar Ray, Boyz II Men, Billy Ocean, Smash Mouth and Plain White T’s in the lineup, will not happen in 2020, Disney said.
“There will be plenty of music to enjoy at America Gardens Theatre with local Epcot entertainment such as Mariachi Cobre, the JAMMitors and more,” the blog post said.
Other changes coming to Walt Disney World include:
n Disney suspended its FastPass+ reservation system and canceled all of its dining reservations for the rest of the year. New dining reservations — in smaller numbers — can be booked 60 days in advance when the reservation system opens. With the FastPass+ reservations for rides, shows and other experiences suspended, Disney will use that queue space to manage capacity at its attractions and keep the recommended physical distancing between parties.
nDisney H2O Glow Nights, a special event at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon water park, will not take place for the rest of 2020.
nNew hotel packages and park tickets for 2021 will be available starting June 28. Visitors will be able to see park reservation availability on DisneyWorld.com before buying tickets.
n Changes are coming to its MagicBands, the wrist devices that serve as park tickets, hotel keys, a credit card and hold photo albums.
“In 2021, we plan to unveil an innovative new offering as part of the My Disney Experience app that will bring features of a MagicBand to your smart devices, building on the app’s existing digital key feature,” a blog post said.
As a result, the company will no longer distribute complimentary MagicBands to Disney Resort hotel guests for new reservations with arrivals beginning Jan. 1. Visitors without MagicBands will use the My Disney Experience app or a Key to the World card during their visits, and existing MagicBands will continue to work throughout Walt Disney World.