Happy 2021! It felt so nice to ring in the new year, snuggled with my family in our room at Disney’s Coronado Springs resort. We had never visited Disney over New Year’s before, as that is typically the most crowded time of the year to be there. We’re talking deep lines to wait for every single thing and that’s just not our jam. However, the capacity limits on the parks made the decision to visit over New Year’s a pretty easy one for us. Hopping on a plane again, we flew south to get away for a few days and celebrate 2021, Disney style.
We’ve stayed at Coronado Springs several times in the past, but this was our first stay in the new Gran Destino Tower at that resort. Let me just say — swanky! Loved the deluxe feel of this moderate level resort. The lobby here is stunning and ultra-modern. I can’t wait to visit again!
Coronado is a fairly large moderate level resort, with four Disney bus stops providing bus transportation to the four theme parks and Disney Springs. Staying at Coronado in the past though, I knew that the buses were usually not that busy, so I had no worries on the transportation front. In fact, we had the bus to ourselves several times during this trip, coming or going from one place or another. All transportation is still socially distanced or divided, as I mentioned in my last trip report from November, and I am absolutely loving not having to worry about standing up on a bus when heading home after a long day in the parks!
Park hopping came back as of January 1st and I had the chance to hop between Hollywood Studios and Epcot one day during this visit. Hopping never was for everyone, and that remains true now more than ever. You must have a Park Pass reservation for the park that you will start the day in and you must actually enter that park before attempting to hop. After 2pm, you are allowed to hop to the second park of the day, based on that park’s availability. That seems to be where lots of questions lie. How do you know if the other park is at capacity? What about a dining reservation at the second park if you can’t get in? Why do I want to hop after 2pm if the park I’m trying to get to closes at 5pm (if you’re not asking yourself that, you should be)? Some of these are easy answers, like being mindful of the hours of the parks so you’re not wasting time and money to hop somewhere that will only give you two or three hours of park time. Others are harder, like knowing if the other park will be at capacity. Hopping gives you flexibility but it can also take it away. Since it isn’t free and can be a bit of a hassle with transportation at times, I’d probably leave it to those who really feel their trip won’t be complete without it.
Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom was shining in her new colors. I really like these and how much they remind me of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.
Have I mentioned capacity limits in the parks? So, to be clear, that in no way means that the parks are empty and that you’ll be walking on and riding everything you want without waiting. Never going to happen. However, it does mean that the crowd density is way down and the lines you see are much smaller than normal. Now, some of those lines are going to look like they are miles long. Thank social distancing for that. Many of the ride queues weren’t made for people needing to be in a six-foot bubble. The line for Frozen Ever After in Epcot was wrapped all around Norway and clear into China! But the wait was only like an hour. That’s less than you’d normally wait for Frozen on a pre-COVID day at the busiest time of the year (it would have been hours!) and the line was constantly moving. Anyone who says the lines are ‘so long’ right now don’t have much park experience, especially at busy times of the year. Peter Pan’s Flight in Magic Kingdom was like 25 minutes! I mean really folks. That line is always 75 minutes+ every day of the year.
Another cool thing? When the density is down, you can see things in the parks that you might normally squeeze on by. Since there are no fireworks and Castle stage shows, you can walk through the middle of Cinderella Castle all day! I don’t know when the last time that happened was. This gives you so much time to be able to stop to admire the incredible tile murals in the Castle and the detail that they contain. Highly recommend taking a peek at these! Another thing you’re likely to have missed in the past are these cute little bronze statues in Magic Kingdom near the hub area in front of Cinderella Castle. Bet you’ve never even realized they are there before!
Another thing that comes up a lot is the characters. Very few character meals are happening right now and the ones that are have no autographs because the characters can’t come directly to the tables, just walk by at a distance. There are no character meet and greets or scheduled parades in the parks either. What was Disney’s solution? Character cavalcades! These are great. Like unscheduled mini-parades, these pop-up all day long in all four parks. You never know who you might see going by on a float or a car. And the best thing? You don’t need to stake out a prime spot to watch the parade 30, 45, 60 minutes before it is scheduled to start! In fact, I was standing in line at a gift shop, heard the parade music start, hopped out of line and stood right at the parade going by. Literally nobody in front of me, around us, characters right there driving by. Took just a few minutes, got lots of pictures and waves, and back in the gift shop line I went. How.crazy.easy! In Magic Kingdom in particular, there were three sets of cavalcades happening. One had Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and the gang riding on a large float. Another had Pooh, Alice, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Mary Poppins, and Tigger The third was a huge float of princesses including all the main ladies plus Elena and the Fairy Godmother. We saw each one of these cavalcades at least three times one day! In Epcot, out of the blue appeared a horse-drawn carriage with Sleeping Beauty, Belle, and Snow White onboard. In fact, we had no idea the carriage was even coming, it was just there all of the sudden. Then, as it passed, we jumped right behind it and followed it all the way to the Mexico Pavilion, where it went backstage at the end of its route. It was like we were part of the parade too!
Of course, being huge Star Wars fans, we spent time one morning in Hollywood Studios, enjoying Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Going back to Batuu is always a trip highlight for us. This time, we were over the moon to have been able to finally be able to purchase a lightsaber set from Dok Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. The Ahsoka Tano Clone Wars lightsaber set came out in late October or early November and basically immediately sold out. We tried to find them at Thanksgiving, but no luck. Ebay has quite the collection of them for purchase at double, triple, quadruple, etc. their value, which just irks me to no end. However, we were able to score a set this time, after an apparent restock that had just happened that morning. Should’ve bought a lottery ticket to go with those lightsabers. For those that aren’t familiar with Ahsoka – you need to watch one of the Star Wars animated series called ‘The Clone Wars’. Besides being an incredible show, you get to meet Ahsoka, a great Star Wars heroine who has more recently appeared in the hit live action Star Wars show on Disney+, ‘The Mandalorian’. While in Hollywood Studios, we slide into a theater and watched the new ‘Vacation Fun’ show of Mickey shorts cartoons. These are on Disney+ too and so cute, the same Mickey cartoon style that is featured on the new Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway ride at Hollywood Studios. This show just started right before COVID hit and is a definitely stop you should make on your next visit to the park. Adorable!
During this trip, we also had another non-Disney mission. From November 13th through January 3rd, Give Kids the World in Kissimmee, about 15 minutes from Disney World, had a stunning display of holiday lights. For those of you that remember the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights show that used to be setup annually at Hollywood Studios, this will look familiar. Disney actually donated over three million of those lights to Give Kids the World for this event. We are huge Osborne Lights fans and I’ve always been curious about Give Kids the World, so I grabbed tickets for the event held on New Years Eve. What an incredible experience! Give Kids the World is a non-profit organization that sits on 89-acres, a ‘storybook’ village resort, where children with critical illnesses and their families are treated to a week-long vacation at no cost to them. Due to COVID, the organization hasn’t been able to grant the ‘wish’ of any families to visit the village for months and they are suffering financially from not being able to fundraise like they would in a typical year. The Night of a Million Lights even was born and sold out most every night of the event, which I am so happy to report. This village isn’t normally open to the public and being able to see it up-close and so beautifully decorated was something I’ll never forget. It has almost 300 villas, basically duplexes, where the families stay for a week during their visit. Like a subdivision, it was quite sprawling to walk through. A huge pool with waterplay area, a spa/salon, mini-golf, an arcade, mini-train set (so cool, you could activate certain features of the town the train runs through), a carousel, a small train for children to ride on, other amusement park attractions, restaurants, and so much more. I was in awe. If you want to support an organization that truly brings smiles to families when they are most desperately needed, this is it.
That’s all for now… happy 2021!