YES, DISNEY PARKS ARE THE DISTRACTION WE NEED NOW
The stretch of I-95 from Pennsylvania to Florida is a long, unlovely drive. But as soon as I was fully vaccinated, it was the first road trip I wanted to take. Destination: Orlando. I’ve been a devoted Walt Disney World fan for the last decade. I’ve made the trek once a year. Many key moments in my life have unfolded in the vicinity of Cinderella’s Castle—I answered my phone to receive my first job offer while exiting the monorail; I watched friends get married at Epcot; I ran half marathons around all four parks. So, while I can understand why not everyone would race to the country’s most popular amusement park during a pandemic, I was tired of waiting. I needed a jolt of whimsy. At the end of March, my partner and I opted to drive three days rather than fly, eager to avoid crowded airports. But after making the first trip outside of our neighborhood in a year, I was in my happy place. I never once regretted it.
Let’s be clear: Disney World—which reopened in July, limiting capacity to 25% and later ticking up to 35%—is not an entirely carefree-zone. Visitors must wear an approved face mask and get a temperature check before passing through park gates. Ride vehicles are limited to one or two parties (if you’ve ever wanted an entire Pirates of the Caribbean boat to yourself, this is your chance). Hand-sanitizer stations are everywhere, as well as my new favorite, hand-washing stations. Most meals and snacks must be ordered via the My Disney Experience app, to ensure distance between visitors and food-services employees. As an added benefit, guests are eligible for free Covid-19 testing care of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, outside resort gates, with on-site registration and speedy results (sometimes within the hour).
If you’re expecting to breeze through the ride lines because of the reduced capacity, think again. Admittedly, we arrived smack in the middle of spring break so attendance was especially high. But with a number of corridors, restaurants and shows still closed, visitors simply have fewer options. We waited 70 minutes to board our little boat for It’s a Small World. It was in that line, with the calliope version of “Chim Chim Cher-ee” on loop in the background, that I witnessed my first (of many) toddler meltdowns that sweltering day. The kid standing next to me was sobbing through his tiny mask. I asked his mother if the mask rule was a dealbreaker. She said it was no different than having to wear one all day in preschool. Later, I met Laura Koscho, a travel agent from Virginia, and her 7-year-old daughter Scarlett. Did the lack of parades and limited interaction with characters disappoint Scarlett? Not really. Her favorite character, Daisy, had applauded her dress earlier, and that alone, said Ms. Koscho, was worth the trip. They’re planning to go back this fall. —Annemarie Dooling
NO, FAIRYTALES, COSTUMED CHARACTERS AND CROWDS ARE NOT ON MY POST-VACCINE WISH LIST
The virus will slowly burn itself out, as viruses do. In time I will emerge from my San Francisco home, dazed and blinking. I’ll ask myself: Well, girl, you survived a global pandemic. You’re vaccinated. What will you do next?