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Disney World Opens Its Gates, With Virus Numbers Rising

  • July 11, 2020

With that, Ms. Little, 45, who flew to Orlando from Birmingham, Ala., with her friends Tammy Richardson and Kristi Peek, adjusted her face mask and set forth for Fantasyland.

Throughout the morning, the scene near Space Mountain in Tomorrowland was relaxed as most visitors took care to socially distance and Disney employees, each wearing a mask and a face shield, kept a close eye. Disney would not say how many people it let inside, but the grounds did not feel crowded. At midday, the park — usually the busiest in the world, with about 21 million visitors last year — was a surreal sight: sparsely populated plazas, families sauntering between attractions rather than racing, rides with five-minute wait times. There was barely a stroller to be seen near Disney’s singsong It’s a Small World boat ride, much less the usual gridlock.

“It was almost more enjoyable than usual because we got to ride everything with no wait times,” said Samantha Harris, who drove to Orlando from Myrtle Beach, S.C., with her family, including her 5-year-old niece, Addilyn. Ms. Harris said she was so eager to score tickets that she logged onto Disney’s booking website at 5 a.m. on the day it opened. To limit capacity, Disney no longer allows visitors to walk up and buy tickets, instead making blocks of “reservations” available online. Some blocks for July were gone in minutes when Disney opened the site on June 24.

After months of home quarantining, the chance to have some wholesome fun and perhaps touch a childhood memory seemed to outweigh the risk of catching the virus for visitors. “A Welcome Respite” read a headline in The Orlando Sentinel about Disney’s reopening.

“We will take any amount of normalcy and any amount of joy that we can get,” Jose Villanueva said as he rested in the shade in Tomorrowland with his wife, Kacie. “I know that some people are upset about having to wear a mask or there being no fireworks. For us, we feel lucky to be here. This was the first thing that made us feel like we could leave our house and still feel safe.”

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