Friday, March 18, 2022, was a “core memory” kind of visit to the Walt Disney World Resort for me. For the first time in almost two years, I did not have a face mask anywhere on my person. And it felt amazing!
Living in the Free State of Florida, I have not needed to wear a face mask for almost anything for several months, but I still needed to dust one off whenever I wanted to visit The Most Magical Place On Earth. On my last visit, I crossed the iconic blue and gold threshold–after driving almost two hours from Tampa Bay–and suddenly realized: “I forgot a mask!” I hate to say it, but call it a force of habit after 18 months of mask mandates of some level.
Then I remembered what I had previously shared on this site: Disney World ended its mask requirement for all indoor and outdoor areas, and I would only need a mask if I wanted to use enclosed Disney transportation like bus transportation or the monorail. are no longer required on the . As I queued up to the parking booth, I took inventory of my day and acknowledged that I was not planning on using either mask-requiring transportation option. That meant, for the first time since 2020, I did not need a face mask for any part of my Disney Park day.
My day began at Animal Kingdom–having some brunch at Nomad Lounge, visiting Pandora, and taking a Safari–and then I Park Hopped to EPCOT to try some amazing gelato and other scrumptious sweets at Gelateria Toscana at the Italy Pavilion. I did not get a chance to visit or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The continued lack of park-to-park bus transportation and Animal Kingdom’s 8:30 pm closing time meant that it made more sense for me to drive myself to my next Park.
A little review of my latest experience at each Theme Park:
- Nomad Lounge continues to be the best walk-up spot in any Disney Park. Its relaxing elegance, spirit of adventure, and its spectacular menu of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks truly make you feel like you’re at an exclusive lodge on an expedition led by Abercrombie and Kent or some other guiding company. It also has the best churros on property.
- Crowds at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and EPCOT were large. But, from my perspective, Disney is clearly still at limited capacity. Crowds tended to bunch in certain areas at certain times. But, even still, my 75-minute posted wait for Kilimanjaro Safaris with a backed-up Lightning Lane actually took less than an hour, and World Showcase crowds were bunched around popular pavilions. I was still able to enjoy my favorite rides and eating spots without reservations or paying for Lightning Lane.
- If you are a Guest visiting Pandora: The World of Avatar for the first time: Flight of Passage is the only ride in all of Walt Disney World–and in my opinion–that is WORTH a 2-hour wait for the first time around. The standby queue is the only way you can experience the entire land, from Navi’i cave paintings to taking a walking tour of the science labs from the movie. Also, the attraction is that impressive.
- Gelateria Toscana makes top-quality gelato and other tasty treats. 10/10 recommend for your next walk around the world.
Now going back to the mask situation:
I cannot lie; it felt weird. But, a good weird. Two years of mask-wearing pressures from government officials, schools, big businesses like The Walt Disney Company, and even movie and media celebrities still sparked in me a feeling of rebellion even though I live in Florida and even though a majority of people were walking around maskless as well.
I have been going maskless wherever I could at Disney World as soon as they announced the restriction’s pullback without hesitation. But I still had to keep acceptable face coverings with me even if I wasn’t planning on using the enclosed Disney transportation. There was this “Big Brother’s Watching You” kind of fear that kept me on edge, ready to mask up when confronted by a Cast Member or other Disney officials.
On my last visit, I slowly let go of that fear and smiled like a fool knowing that more of the magic was returning to the Parks. Even some of the Cast Members are starting to not wear masks, and I was once again able to share smiles with the magic makers.
If you are planning to visit The Walt Disney World Resort, I would recommend you do not worry about keeping a mask handy unless you are planning on riding the Walt Disney World Monorail System or Disney World Bus Transportation. And there are reports of Cast Members distributing masks to Guests in need of one at Monorail stations.
There were, of course, people still choosing to wear masks when I was at the Parks, and if a mask makes you feel more comfortable, then, by all means, continue to wear it. You are free to do so.
I also have to admit that I still felt a sense of tension in the air amongst the other Guests. People are still left less approachable, even in line. Two years of social distancing and being coerced or forced to close ourselves off to people have clearly left a lasting impact. But, I still found myself talking to people and making friends on some level, and I have hope that we will all continue to lower our defenses as the year continues.
At the end of the day, I didn’t care about the crowds. I didn’t care about the lines. This was the most normal Park visit I have experienced since my last visit before the closure. So, as Professor Hulk said, “I see this as an absolute win!”
I will be keeping my and Walt for historical keepsakes, and I can’t wait to see what the Disney Park experience looks like in the next couple of months.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.