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The Last Days at Disney: Going to Disney in a Pandemic

My boyfriend and I had been planning our three-year anniversary for months. We had decided that going to Disney for the first time together would be the perfect way to celebrate. I had always wanted a stereotypical couple picture in front of Cinderella’s castle, and he was itching to see Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood studios. A few weeks ago, we had purchased the tickets and made our fast passes for the weekend before our anniversary. We were excited and looking forward to spending a weekend together at one of the most iconic places in Florida. This was all before schools, businesses and Disney announced that it would be closing down due in an effort to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.

We had planned on going to Disney on March 14 and 15. The weekend before we were supposed to go, the University of Florida announced that it would be moving all of its classes online until March 30. After that announcement came out on Wednesday, my classes were canceled for the rest of the week. My boyfriend and I are both from a small town called Clermont in the suburbs of Orlando. We had planned to meet at home to celebrate our anniversary. When I got home on Thursday night, my dad had the news going in the living room. It was then announced that Disneyland in California would be closed until March 31. I was surprised about the closing of Disneyland, but I knew that California had several cases of COVID-19 across the state. Only a few hours later, Disney World announced that it would also be closing its parks from March 16 until the end of the month.

When I first saw the report on the news, I felt a surge of sadness and panic. I was upset that something I had been planning for months and looking forward to doing was being influenced by things that were outside of my control. The panic came from not knowing what to do. The park would still be opened when we had planned on going, but I wasn’t sure if I still wanted to go if I knew it was closing in an effort to slow the pandemic. After several conversations with my boyfriend, we decided that we were going to stick to our plans. Armed with hand sanitizer and a bag of Clorox wipes, we decided to hit the parks for the weekend.

When we got into the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, one of the first things that greeted us was a table of hand sanitizer dispensers that had been set out for all of the guests. Throughout the day, there were several handwashing stations set out around the park as well. It helped ease my mind to know that the park was taking steps to help its guests stay safe.

It was clear that COVID-19 had dampened park attendance. The highest wait times for rides were around the hour mark. I would have expected higher under normal circumstances during spring break. The day ended up being one of the most productive days I had ever experienced at Disney. With the help of our fast passes, we were able to ride every ride that we wanted to and more. I discovered rides and shows that I hadn’t known existed during my time as an annual pass holder. By the time 7 p.m. rolled around, we found ourselves finished with rides for the day. There wasn’t anything else we wanted to do. Instead, we got ice cream and found ourselves a place to settle in for the firework show before we headed home.

The next day, my boyfriend and I reloaded the car and headed to Hollywood Studios. I felt like the attendance at this park was more on par for normal. Maybe it’s because it was the home of the newest attractions: Galaxy’s Edge and Runaway Railway. Whatever the reasons, the lines were still long, and the streets were still crowded. Me and my boyfriend were still able to experience a lot of the rides and shows, but I felt like we did more waiting than we had at the Magic Kingdom. I was able to ride the Slinky Dog Dash, which I had been trying to get on for months. We were so exhausted from our first day at Disney that we didn’t stay at Hollywood Studios until close. Instead, we grabbed some dinner and went home for some homemade blueberry cobbler.

The atmosphere of Disney World remained the same. Little girls still dressed up in princess dresses, and kids slumped over their parent’s shoulders in exhaustion as the day waned on. There were only a few people who chose to wear masks throughout the park, but plenty of people doused themselves in hand sanitizer. My boyfriend and I also used hand sanitizer and ducked into the bathroom whenever we had a chance to do a thorough washing of our hands. The Disney cast members were still in high spirits throughout the day. At the end of the day, people still stood with their loved ones in awe of the fireworks. From the views inside Disney’s walls, COVID-19 hadn’t stolen the magic from the most magical place on earth.

Since coming back from our anniversary celebration at Disney, my boyfriend and I have remained home and out of the general public as much as possible. This way, we can help limit any further contamination of public spaces in the event that we contracted something over the weekend. While neither one of us have shown symptoms of the virus, it’s important to take precautions to keep ourselves and others safe. By practicing healthy habits, we can keep the magic alive, even while places like Disney have temporarily closed its doors.

Growing up I attended three elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. I moved a total of six times altogether: I have lived in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida (twice), Missouri and Indiana. Each move taught me to love the new experiences that the world has to offer. It was the constant moving that sparked my interest in travel. Ever since I was young, I enjoyed spending hours in new places, trying new foods and collecting new stories to tell. Besides my six moves, much of my time is spent traveling to other cities within the United States. So far, my favorites have been New York City and New Orleans. The beignets from Café Du Monde made me want to cry tears of joy. My ultimate travel goal is to one day visit France. I desperately want to see the Palace of Versailles and walk through the Hall of Mirrors. While experiencing the world thus far, my taste buds have developed an affinity for coffee. Since the age of five, I have been an avid drinker. My body calls for coffee first thing in the morning and sometimes at night. I am a firm believer that all coffee needs caffeine. I also have a wicked sweet tooth and am willing to try any number of milkshakes, ice cream and doughnuts. My great loves are traveling, coffee and sweets; I also love to write. I hope to one day use my degree in journalism to tell other people’s stories in an entertaining and informative manner. It is also a part of my plan to attend law school. I look forward to experiencing all the adventures (sweets and coffee included) that life has to offer!
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