One of the things I was most excited about when moving to Tampa was being within driving distance to Disney World. To me, Disney is one of the happiest places and being there always fills me with joy! Of course, while living in a pandemic we wanted to wait until we felt safe and comfortable visiting the parks. What finally roped us in was Phil being vaccinated, seeing a decrease in cases and the discounted Florida tickets Disney was offering. For Florida residents you could purchase 3 parks tickets to be used any time before June for $60 a ticket per person totaling $180. Comparatively, a regular park ticket costs $109 a ticket per person which would cost $327 for a 3-day park pass. The deal was just too good to pass up so I jumped on it and booked our first visit to Hollywood Studios for last weekend.
It only makes sense to start by discussing what it was like being in the parks during COVID times. We knew that Disney was going to take every necessary precaution to operate the park safely and they did not disappoint. There were signs posted throughout the park enforcing that all park attendees must properly wear a mask otherwise they will ask you to leave the park. 99% of the people we saw were properly masked and when someone wasn’t a cast member quickly called-out to them asking them to properly mask. There was no eating/drinking while waiting in lines for rides as you were only able to do so while socially distanced and not moving. Meaning, no walking while eating/drinking either.
Another precaution in place is the socially distanced lines. There were markers on the ground for every single line spaced 6 feet apart. The lines for rides wrapped around the park! You’d loop up and down, up and down the same road several times but were always socially distanced from other groups. I actually kind of prefer the socially distanced lines too! It made the wait time feel shorter since any time the line would advance it felt like a significant move.
Once getting closer to the front of the line for the rides there would be plexiglass separating spaces that would otherwise not have been socially distant. Some of the rides themselves had plexiglass separating the front of the cart and the back of the cart for those rides that multiple families ride together. I’m not exaggerating when I say I hardly came within 4-6 feet of people all day!
Rise of The Resistance
One of the most highly anticipated rides in Disney World is the new Rise of The Resistance. Before I share my thoughts on the ride, I’ll detail out the queue experience. Since the rides opening in late 2020 Disney has set-up a queue system meaning there are no fast passes and there is no waiting on line – you either get into the queue the day of your park visit to receive a slot time to ride or you don’t get to ride at all. I had heard that getting a queue position was extremely competitive and that the slots for the day fill up in seconds. I love nothing more than a challenge so I was ready!
The queue opens up every morning at 7am on the dot. Through the Disney World app (and only the app) at 7am a blue button appears allowing you to enter the queue. I’ll admit, I was nervous about getting a queue spot! At about 6:55am I started refreshing the app and had Phil’s phone next to me with the World Clock app on it. As soon as the clock turned to 7am (and I mean as soon), I refreshed the app and clicked the button to join the queue. It prompted me to select my party (so make sure whoever you’re going to the park with has a profile and is linked to your account) and within 10 seconds I had been assigned queue 73. I can’t fathom how anyone could have navigated the page faster than me but alas I was in one of the last queue groups for the morning!
Rather than getting a window of time the queue estimated that as of 7am I would be able to enter the ride in 350 minutes. We did some quick math to figure out it would be between 12-1pm and throughout the morning we kept an eye on it to see our queue wait time. It would jump around a bit so I recommend keeping an eye on it once you’re in so you don’t miss it. Once we were finally ready to ride I got a notification telling me to enter the ride! Turns out we were given an hour slot to show-up for our ride but naturally we were in line the minute we were able to.
The queue opens back up again at 1pm but this time it’s only open to those physically in the park at the time of the queue opening. We tested our luck to see if we could get back in to ride again but got a notification saying only one ride per day. So now you ask, was all this queue business worth it? I answer with a resounding YES.
Calling this a ride does it a disservice – this was an experience. I had not looked up any videos or spoilers prior to riding so we had no idea what to expect but I genuinely felt like I was transported to the Star Wars universe. You don’t simply get into a ride and plot along but instead you first enter a ship. There is an entire storyline that you get swept up in and soon enough you walk into an Imperial ship run by Kylo Ren and wow – it was magnificent. The scale of the experience is hard to explain as you entered the room filled with hundreds of storm troopers.
You’re then ushered into another part of the ship and then finally, you board “an escape pod” run by a droid. My heart was racing as we zipped through various sequences on the ship. The most remarkable was when we entered into an enormous room with gigantic AT-ATs. As you hear in the movies there was gunfire along with blinding lights. We were ushered around so quickly and the set was so incredible I didn’t even know where to look.
When the ride finished we couldn’t stop saying “wow” over and over again. Even exiting the ride as you’ll see below you still felt like you were on some planet within Star Wars. I’ve truly never experienced such an immersive experience before! This ride experience is so elite it’s hard to even compare it to any other ride. If you get a chance to visit Disney World, this ride is an absolute must.
Eating In The Park
Because of COVID we knew that the eating experience would be different. Not all restaurants have re-opened and as we learned, there are very few quick service restaurant stops. Luckily we had lunch reservations at Mama Melrose’s and had a great meal. It was of course very COVID friendly with plexiglass and very socially distanced tables with the restaurant at half capacity as well. It was also a great opportunity to get out of the sun, off our feet, and away from the noise for a bit!
Dinner is when we ran into some issues! We planned on getting turkey sandwiches at Andy’s Lunchbox but were surprised to learn that they were taking reservations only. Then we checked ABC Commissary and were disappointed to see it closed at 4:30pm. After scrolling through the app we realized there wasn’t a single dinner reservation available in the entire park. The only restaurants available for walk-ups was Rosies Cafe and Docking Bay 7 which didn’t have menu’s we loved. Since the park closed at 7pm we held off on dinner and grabbed a bite after we left the park but wanted to share for anyone that is visiting the parks soon! Book those dining reservations as soon as you can. We have an upcoming visit to Magic Kingdom in April and there are only a handful of lunch and dinner reservations remaining. We go to Epcot in May and I plan on booking reservations exactly 60 days prior to our visit since I suspect everyone else is doing the same thing.
We got to ride the other new ride in Hollywood Studios, Mickey’s and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, rode Rockin’ Rollercoaster twice, did Tower or Terror, Toy Story Mania, Slinky Dog Dash, Alien Saucers, and Rise of The Resistance. The wait times were really reasonable since the park was operating at limited capacity so we got to experience everything we wanted. Overall, we had such an amazing time! It felt great doing something that felt safe but normal(ish) and I can’t wait to go back again soon.