What It’s Like to Do Disney World in a Mask — The Answer Isn’t as Simple as You’d Think

This week was my first time stepping into a Walt Disney World theme park in four months.

I’m back.

It felt surreal. Like I’d been gone forever, but also like I never left. (Except the Castle looks completely different.)

I spent the day running around just like I always do — but this time…I had on a mask. When I posted a photo on Instagram and asked for your questions about the reopening of Disney World, “What’s it like to do Disney in a mask?” was the most asked. (Behind “did you cry?.” Answer: yes, duh.)

So here we go, here’s my answer to the BIG question (in addition to “did I feel safe” and “is it still magical?”). But before we get into it — keep in mind it’s not necessarily a simple answer. Buckle up.

This Is What It’s Like to Do Disney in a Mask

First things first: FLORIDA IS REALLY HOT. Like…really, really hot. Going outside feels like stepping into a sauna on the surface of the sun. And it’s a thick, swampy heat. 100 degrees in Arizona and 100 degrees in Florida are not the same thing. Anyone that’s been here in the summer knows I am not being dramatic. It’s shocking and abrasive if you’re not used to it.

Me For The Rest Of Summer GIF - PrincessAndTheFrog ...
The Princess and the Frog

So is wearing a mask in the Florida heat, hot? YES. Of course it is. But is the mask to blame for being hot? In my opinion — no. It certainly doesn’t help things, but I can’t say the mask is why I’m hot. Florida in July is why I’m hot. To me, the mask isn’t a huge deal — in all honesty, I usually forget it’s on my face after a few minutes.

But keep in mind, I am very used to trekking around theme parks in the Florida heat — and at this point I am very used to wearing a mask in said heat. Since May 20th, I’ve been at Disney Springs (and starting a few weeks later, Universal Orlando) quite frequently since they’ve reopened as it’s my job to report on theme parks. So by the time I did a day of Magic Kingdom in a mask, it wasn’t anything new to me.

Is it better without a mask? Obviously. But like it or not, those are the rules right now and if you want to go, you have to wear one.

Return to the Wizarding World (with a mask)

I say all of that to remind you why my personal experience is quite unique from most people. I have a job that requires me to visit the Most Magical Place on Earth and Wizarding World on a very regular basis (and yes, it’s the best job ever IMO). But not only that, I am an annual passholder that lives 20 minutes away from the theme parks. If I get too hot, my mask gets soaked, or the crowds become too much — I can leave. When I go to Disney World, it’s not (usually) to celebrate a milestone birthday, or an annual family vacation. I haven’t saved for years for a trip of a lifetime. I go almost every day so that we can make sure your special trips are perfect.

Magic Kingdom

I also don’t go with children. I’m not a parent so I don’t pretend to give good parenting advice or know much about them…but I do know, kids are particular. One of my teammates told me that her son, who normally is totally fine with a mask, had a full-on meltdown in Costco because a new one wasn’t tied on just right.

I think with anything, it’s going to vary from kid to kid, or moment to moment. You have to know your kids — but if your child doesn’t want to wear one to the grocery store without a battle, think about doing that all day long at Walt Disney World.  (Don’t forget, this is also the place where you’re off schedule and eating 99% sugar. Meltdowns are an often-not-talked-about but very real occurrence. Adults included.)

Beyond masks, kids love to touch everything. When I went prior to the closure with my nephews, not one railing was left untouched. In a time when it’s wise to keep your hands to yourself — how easy is that going to be with kids? I am not here or able to make your decision about visiting now, rather to highlight things you might not normally think about when booking a vacation.

Which brings me to my next point: did I feel safe?

Markers in the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Queue

First, let me explain the safety measures I saw in place. There was hand sanitizer at the beginning and end of each attraction, in every restaurant, and scattered throughout the park. Markers are placed in every queue and merchandise location to physically distance guests who are waiting at least 6 feet apart. Certain attractions have cut elements like pre-shows or interactive areas. There is mobile check in for restaurants, QR code menus and mobile order. Prior to even getting in there are temperature checks. And of course, masks are required — and enforced.

Disney has implemented every practical safety measure they can. And they have done a tremendous job.

BUT…

I am hesitant to answer the question. At this point, I have only been to two very low capacity previews.  It’s not Disney I am worried about when being safe…it’s the other people. 

I am worried that guests will not comply with the mask rules. I am nervous that when a Character Cavalcade comes by, guests will run and crowd the street because it’s second nature. I am worried that with more guests allowed in, it will be harder to distance in congested areas.

So while I felt VERY safe at the previews, my true answer to that question will have to wait until I’ve been in an officially reopened Magic Kingdom.

Mickey & Friends Character Cavalcade

And the last part of this equation: does it still feel magical?

In a word, yes. But it’s not the same.

I loved waving to Peter Pan and Buzz Lightyear during the cavalcades and socially distanced greetings, but it wasn’t the same memory as actually meeting them. I enjoyed seeing Mickey at Topolino’s Terrace, but he didn’t stop at my table.

To infinity and beyond.

It also felt very weird to leave at 7PM while it’s still light out — and without fireworks to cap the day.  I loved seeing the Philharmonic, but Main Street felt a little empty without the Dapper Dans. I already know I’ll leave my first Animal Kingdom day with a Festival of the Lion King sized hole in my heart. And I’ll miss ending a day at Hollywood Studios with Fantasmic!

I know they’ll be back, but for many people, this will significantly change their Disney experience.

I still don’t think I would recommend this Disney World for your first visit, your trip you’ve been saving for years to take, or your trip of a lifetime. There’s just too much missing and too much to worry about in the world.

All that said, of course there was still magical in the Magic Kingdom. The Cast Members were outstanding, the characters were adorable (I mean, ANGUS WAS THERE GUYS), and that Mickey Bar was the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I cried riding Peter Pan’s Flight and was the only person on my Dumbo.

Perfection.

I trusted that Disney would still spread joy in their parks right now, even if it doesn’t all look the same as before. And once I stepped off Main Street USA after being there from park open to close, I knew they hadn’t let me down. It wasn’t perfect without fireworks, the situation is far less than ideal, and it’s  overall a confusing time to be… anywhere.

Walt Disney World is always going to be a happy place for so many people, myself included. A piece of fabric in front of my face isn’t going to change that — even though what it represents is something that’s changed the whole world.

Molly is a lifelong Disney enthusiast, and former Walt Disney World Guest Relations Cast Member and tour guide. Her Walt Disney World favorites include Festival of the Lion King, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Fantasmic!, Mickey-shaped pretzels and rice krispie treats, and anything with Buzz Lightyear! She lives in Orlando with her husband (who she met in Guest Relations) and their two rescue dogs, Kronk and Cruella de Vil (Ella for short!)

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19 Replies to “What It’s Like to Do Disney World in a Mask — The Answer Isn’t as Simple as You’d Think”

  1. I loved all the things in this articles. Truths! I was supposed to celebrate a milestone birthday next month and decided it won’t be how I imagined it so I’m tabling those plans this time around. I live here in FL and was a pass holder for years when my kids were young. It’s been almost 3 yrs and I miss it terribly but I can wait a bit longer. Thank you for all the details!

  2. We did both passholder preview events at Universal and Disney. We have also been back to Universal again. My 5 year old does great in a mask. Says he wants to protect himself from the coronavirus. But we did things here and there so I could see how he responded in a mask first. Totally agree know your kid and it may not work for all. And be prepared to take breaks at a safe place and snack. All in all, heat is as manageable as it was before. If you were barely hanging on by a thread outside in florida in July I would not recommend heading here. Otherwise, it is hot like always in July. We definitely stop more frequently to just be and that is ok because the lines are less.

  3. Your viewpoints have been probably the most honest and down-to-earth that I have read about so far. I am very certain that Disney has done all it can do for their guests and cast members alike and now it’s just up to the average person walking through the gate to comply with the new guidelines. This is definitely a time to think not only about how you’re going to enjoy the experience, but help make others’ experiences just as magical by keeping the distance and wearing masks. Looking forward to heading down there in January for the marathon weekend.

  4. Thanks Molly! I will be visiting inn August with my adult daughter and her friend. We are choosing to still go because we are adults and have each been to Disney many times (2 of us are annual passholders). If we were traveling with young children I think we would not go but as adults we will enjoy our time breathing in the Magic even if its through cloth masks.

  5. Thank you for the honest review and the “here is my view, you know you and need to do you” opinions vs many others who keep saying to get over the mask it is just as fun. Florida is hot, my home in PA is hot Right now and for me, yes, the mask makes me feel hotter. All I can focus on is how hot my face is and how obscured my breathing is and wearing it for hours in relentless sun and high humidity would be unbearable for me. So Sorry as I am to miss those low crowds especially at Ak for FOP, I opted to cancel my trip for this July. I hope to go next year, but only if I am able to go mask free and this booking a park policy is gone. I like to hop. If I lived close by and could leave, I might feel differently, but it is 6 hours there counting travel time to the airport, security time and flight time, I would hate to spend that money and time to be miserable. We all need to make our own choices.

  6. Thank you Molly for the info. I have a son in a wheelchair that cant wear a mask. This has made my decision not to go this November and to move it. Its not about the rides for us. His thing about Disney is the character meet and greet, parades, and the fireworks. Since that all put on hold there really no reason for us to come there. 🙁 Maybe next year it will be better.

  7. Thank you for your honest review. Also it’s possible I cried just thinking about you crying of Peter Pan’s Flight so… there’s that. 😭😆

  8. Thank you for the frank and thoughtful report. I think I would feel fairly safe at WDW, but getting there from my home requires 3 airports and 2 airplanes just to get to Orlando. Then I have to get to the resort. With infections on the rise, right now I will have to support Disney by shopping online

  9. Molly, so well put. I live in Vegas and yes the difference is night and day when it comes to wearing a mask between dry heat and humidity. I also used to be a former Disney world employee and Tigger and I were BFF’s at Animal Kingdom which is the HOTTEST park on property. Ha ha. Also a stilt walker parade performer with 20lbs of costume and makeup on, I’d take a mask any day. It does take some getting used to so I can totally understand the concern. I also liked what you said about other ppl not compiling with the wearing of the mask as a cause for concern because there are those that don’t want to but it is enforced and we all should just do our part to enjoy the re-opening of the parks. It sounds like Disney is doing a great job to make sure that they did everything they could to make sure that social distancing is in place with the proper sanitation protocols. I’ll miss the fireworks, parades and the shows for now as well but the trip is what you make it out to be. Disney will still be magical 🙂 thank you so much for really putting everything into perspective. You make your points very clear and it allows us to see another point of view from someone that (IMO has the best job ever) goes to the parks often to keep us up to date and share good honest feedback and opinions. Thanks so much 🙂

  10. Thank you so much, Molly! I really appreciate your honest review & thoughts; it was something I had been looking for from a review, but hadn’t found. Thanks for leading the way so that your readers can make the best & informed decisions for themselves! <3

  11. Molly, love your reviews every time. You cried during Peter Pan’s ride, oh my. I would also. Last trip was in March this year just under the wire. Hope that the pandemic ends soon so we can get back to real Disney business.

  12. Thank you for sharing your experience. I can not wait to get there in August and I’m definitely going to cry! I know it will be different but we go 3-4 times a year and have had to reschedule 4 trips since December so I will be beyond excited to just be there and feel the magic again. Looking forward to your video on your first day back 💙

  13. Beautifully said, Molly! Thank you for your honest and heartfelt comments. Looking forward to hearing more about your experiences as the parks reopen. Your videos keep us going!

  14. This is a perfect explanation. I went to MK yesterday and while it was SO FUN to go back after the months of closure… I wouldn’t spend a bunch of money to do this. I have an annual pass and I live 5 seconds away, so yes. I’m gonna go! 🙂

  15. What an honest review. We have been to Disney World many times so the experience you described is fine with us (seniors without grandkids). Next trip is December so maybe some of the traditional Disney will be back by then.