Still the Happiest Place on Earth

Ayanna Desai

Despite COVID, I didn’t have to think so much about things happening “in the real world” while I was there.

Recently, my family and I traveled to the famous Disney World, known as the happiest place on Earth. Of course, “happiest” is a bit harder to achieve these days, although perhaps when you compare Disney to everywhere else, it still deserves the title.  

Most of us have spent at least a little bit of time in the famous theme park, Disney World. I went to visit Disney this past Spring Break, and I really enjoyed my stay. Whether you go with family, friends, or just mutual acquaintances, it is well known that, pandemic or not, you will have a good time in the resort located in Orlando, Florida, just an hour and a half away (by plane).

Adrienne Jordan, a USA today journalist, says that Disney World was the world’s most-visited theme park with 20.8 million visitors in 2018. But this popularity isn't exclusive to the official World of Disney; last year, 157 million people visited a Disney theme park somewhere in the world. Also, the top 5 theme parks in the U.S. are all Disney parks. 

But the Corona pandemic has drastically affected theme park attendance in the past year. According to the Washington Post, the pandemic cost Disney 2.6 billion dollars. This is due to the initial closure and then the need to only have about 25% percent occupancy, according to Spectrum News 13. 

With the lower occupancy rate, the lines of the rides should go down, right? Gabrielle Russon, a writer for Orlando Sentinel, disagrees, saying that the lines are super long and drawn out, so the rides are not usually walk-on rides. Since the lines are so socially distanced, it makes the parks seem more crowded than they actually are. 

Also, Russon said that since a lot of shows are shut down, it makes more people gravitate towards the rides. For example, the Indiana Jones show can draw in about 3,000 people at a time, but since that has shut down, it leads people to stand in lines for rides because there isn’t as much else to do. With the new procedures, the wait times for the rides are also not very accurate. 

I personally had a little bit of a different experience. When we went, the lines weren’t bad. Yes, there were markers when you were waiting in line for where you had to stand, which made for a slow and awkward line, but they also moved a lot faster than normal. Also, on the rides themselves, they socially distanced people between seats, so that also caused more drawn-out wait times. In all, I thought that the lines definitely went by quicker than they had in the past because of the lower occupancy, but there wasn’t a huge difference.

Another change that came with the pandemic was the fact that there are no longer any FastPasses. Kelly Scott, writing for the Disney Food Blog, says that they are using the additional queue space to maintain social distancing. Right now, the FastPass queue has primarily been used for the Disability Access Service and Club 33 members, but the lines are pretty empty for the most part. 

There are mixed opinions as to whether people want FastPass to open as the park gets to a higher capacity, and there are some who don’t want FastPasses to come back because it is too stressful and unfair. Some logic behind FastPass is that if people have a FastPass for a ride later in the day, they won't rush to go ride it in the morning with all of the other people, so it could potentially help with the social distancing aspect of it by spreading the guests throughout the park. 

Kelly writes that one issue could be that if Disney brought back FastPass, they would have to manage two sides of a line with social distancing, which would make it a bit more difficult. 

With all these changes, it is still a wonderful experience to go to Disney World. According to many writers, Disney is regarded as a very safe place to visit. 

Fulton County’s Spring Break is the week of April 4th, and Disney is already almost full. It seems as though many people want to visit Disney World this year. 

Disney World is such a magical place. Despite COVID, I didn’t have to think so much about things happening “in the real world” while I was there; my only task was to merely enjoy myself. Also, in my opinion, the food at Disney is super good. Some of my personal favorites are the Mickey Waffles, Mickey Pretzels, and the freshly made churros. So, if the magic of Disney isn’t enough for you, think about all the delicious treats Disney has to offer.

All in all, whether you are riding a thrilling ride like Splash Mountain, a classic ride like It’s a Small World, or sitting and enjoying a Mickey pretzel as you watch Disney Characters parade around the park while enjoying the beautiful scenery, there is always something fun and magical happening at Disney, even while you are wearing a mask.
The Lovett School is an independent, coeducational day school where children from Kindergarten through Grade 12 find the courage to explore and the drive to discover.

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