I was at Disney World’s grand reopening day — here are 7 things that have changed

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It’s been 117 days since the Walt Disney World Resort closed on March 16 due to coronavirus. At that time, Florida had 166 diagnosed COVID-19 cases.

On Saturday, July 11, the most popular — and iconic — theme park destination in the world officially reopened to both cheers, anticipation and outrage. Florida now has over 250,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19. The county where Disney World largely sits, Orange County, had over 16,000 confirmed cases on the day of the grand reopening.

When Disney World announced its reopening on May 29, the state had just one-fifth of the number of confirmed cases that it did on reopening day. But unlike at Disneyland where the parks’ initially announced mid-July reopening date was ultimately delayed, Disney World went forward with its reopening as initially announced.

With a mix of my own fear and doubt surrounding being in public with coronavirus clearly more prevalent today than it was when the parks closed, my 10-year-old and I spent Disney World’s grand reopening day in the Magic Kingdom. We set off not just to ride a few rides and eat a pineapple Dole Whip, but to see what had changed, if it felt safe and whether with all the new precautions things still felt … magical. Armed with a variety of masks, ample hand sanitizer and plans to bail if we felt things were too crowded or unsafe, we again walked down Main Street U.S.A, a place that is very familiar — and altogether different.

Here are seven ways that Disney World has changed — and thoughts on whether these changes are enough.

1The crowds are gone

Disney World made it clear that capacity would be limited for the reopening, though it never publicly announced a new maximum occupancy number for the parks. And as previously reported, guests now must make an advance reservation to enter one of the parks.

We walked right onto many rides — and not just the bottom-tier attractions. Even Space Mountain was a virtual walk-on ride with no wait at times. Some rides, like Splash Mountain and Mine Train, did have longer waits that peaked in the 35 – 40-minute range, but wait times often moved quicker than was advertised; the lines just looked long due to distancing.

But it’s not just attraction wait time numbers that tell this story. Here’s a shot of Main Street U.S.A. around 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon of reopening day.