By Annemarie Dooling and Lauren Lipton
For the recurring series, That's Debatable, we take on a
contentious issue of the day and present two spirited arguments --
one in favor and other emphatically opposed. Previous installments
from the series are here.
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
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?
I'm not going to Disneyland. The Anaheim, Calif., park and its
satellite, Disney California Adventure, are scheduled to reopen
April 30, at limited capacity and only to state residents. Tickets
went on sale at 8 a.m. Pacific Time on April 15 and were snapped up
quickly. A toe-in-the-water program in March and April called "A
Touch of Disney" -- basically the chance to stroll around the
California Adventure property, with no rides open, for $75 a person
-- actually sold out. Clearly, my fellow Americans crave
I get it. We've all been to hell and, if we were lucky, back.
Fun is important, and everyone could use some. But after nearly 13
months in strict, unrelenting lockdown, I'm looking forward to some
pretty simple pleasures. Pedicures. Shopping. Hot yoga. Inviting my
neighbors over for a drink. Visiting my dad. Hugging my
away-at-college son for the first time since December 2019. Thrill
rides, costumed characters, mouse ears and -- ugh -- crowds? None
of these things make my post-pandemic wish list.
If you're a Disneyphile, I salute your optimism and receptivity.
I'm actually a bit jealous. I adored Disneyland as a kid. I have
memories of going there with my eighth-grade class, running around
with my friends, getting sunburned and laughing as hard as I've
ever laughed in my life. I remember spending a birthday there in my
early 20s and, later, introducing my son to the joys of Pirates of
the Caribbean and Space Mountain.
But at some point in my adulthood, the place started to seem
small and shabby; its twinkly fairytales-are-real message grating
and naive. In the best of times, Disney fans' inclination to cope
with real America by escaping into fake America strikes me as
weird. Now it feels indecent.
I can't imagine being able to ignore the past year and embrace
the fantasy -- even for a few hours -- that everything is magical
I would like to be a person who could float past glittering
tableaux of singing animatronic children and not think that when a
microbe can roar to life in Wuhan, China, and in a matter of days
find its way to Snohomish County, Wash., 6,000 miles away, it is
indeed a small, small world.
I have no idea what it would take to get me into "Happiest Place
on Earth" mode, whether such a state of mind exists for me anymore,
or that it even should. I'd like to be carefree, but Disney isn't
going to get me there. -- Lauren Lipton
The New Rules of Amusement
A few tips from a Magic Kingdom connoisseur on navigating the
Disney parks during Covid times -- and avoiding meltdowns
Buy a Park Hopper pass, your best chance to see all four parks
now that each visit requires a park reservation as well as a
ticket. Individual reservations to both Hollywood Studios and Magic
Kingdom are booked many days through the spring, but the Park
Hopper pass lets you visit a second park after 2 p.m., whether you
have a reservation to that park or not. It's definitely a good
Download and get comfortable with the My Disney Experience app
ahead of time. You'll be doing everything via this app, from
checking your itinerary and making reservations, to ordering food.
Because mobile ordering is mandatory at most quick service
restaurants, to avoid waiting in a crowd outside the eatery door,
use the My Disney Experience app meal scheduler. You can order
meals to go and snacks to pick up at a specific time, when you know
you'll be at a nearby attraction.
Try a mask chain, and a second mask. On hot days when you're
removing your mask to eat and drink, or take photos, you're bound
to drop one on the floor.
In Florida, book one of the Epcot resort hotels, such as the
Yacht and Beach Clubs, or the Swan or Dolphin hotels. Each offers
several ways to reach the parks -- like the Friendship boats and
the Skyliner. And you're a short walk away to two resorts.
Otherwise, you'll have to rely on the shuttle bus, or drive your
own car to the parking lot.
Head to the parks later to miss the crowds and hottest hours.
With fireworks shows on hold, visitors with young children tend to
head out early.
Scope out the festivals. While shows and parades aren't
happening right now, the parks are hosting a number of festivals,
including Earth Month at the Animal Kingdom (until April 24), the
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival (through July 5)
and the Epcot Food & Wine Festival (starting July 15).
Snap a photo of your parking spot before walking to the gates.
Trams have been discontinued during the pandemic, and you'll be
walking from the lot to park gates, with no tram driver to announce
your pickup location. -- A.D.
The Wall Street Journal is not compensated by retailers listed
in its articles as outlets for products. Listed retailers
frequently are not the sole retail outlets.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 16, 2021 13:27 ET (17:27 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.