Florida county that’s home to Disney World declares ‘state of emergency’ over surge in the Delta variant

disney world pandemic

The central Florida county that is home to Disney World and 1.3 million people is now in a state of emergency after experiencing the largest single-day number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.

Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings signed an executive order on Wednesday declaring the emergency, which could be the first step toward issuing a new mask mandate. For now, though, face coverings are only being encouraged as part of an effort to avoid another shutdown.

“I urge our residents and visitors – vaccinated and unvaccinated – to wear a mask while indoors,” Demings said in a statement.

According to the executive order, the 14-day positive test rate in Orange County is now more than 15%, up from less than 4.3% at the end of June.

Approximately 1,371 people tested positive on July 27, a record high. Wastewater monitoring indicates there has been a “substantial increase” in COVID-19 amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

Just over half of Orange County’s population, or 52.6%, has been fully vaccinated, according to data collected by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. The national vaccination rate is 49.4%.

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9 of the most exclusive spots in Disney parks

We all know Disney parks aren’t really affordable to begin with, but if you’re looking to sprinkle a little extra Disney elegance into your visit, there are plenty of ways to experience the magic like a true king or queen. A nice queen, don’t worry.

Here’s our list of the most exclusive spots in America’s Disney parks.

1. Cinderella Castle Suite

First up, the Cinderella Castle Suite. At the top of the iconic Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom, there’s a private suite hidden inside. With towering princess beds, an ornate bathroom, and “Cinderella” props throughout, the suite is definitely fit for a royal. A night’s stay here is so exclusive, you can’t actually book it. The suite is by invite only. But it’s rumored Disney turned down an offer of $40,000 for a one-night stay. Some lucky fans have scored a stay by winning various contests. Special guests at the Cinderella Suite have included Tom Cruise and Mariah Carey.

2. Imagineer Dinner

You’ve probably heard of the Disney Imagineers – or the masterminds behind the rides, the shows, the music, pretty much everything that’s cool at Disney parks – and if you’ve ever wanted to meet one, we’ll do you one better. How about a dinner with an Imagineer? Once a month, you can learn from one of these Disney legends over a four-course meal at Cítricos in the Grand Floridian Resort. The only thing is, you won’t know who you’re eating with until you get there. The experience will set you back $89 and is limited to guests 14 and older.

3. Victoria and Albert’s

Located in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Victoria and Albert’s is probably the ritziest restaurant at Disney World. With only 18 tables, reservations are required, and a fancy dress code is strictly enforced. But getting all glammed up is definitely worth it for their chef’s tasting menu. The 11-course meal comes in at $250. But if you’re wanting something even more exclusive, you can book a table for up to eight people in a completely separate and private space, in the Queen Victoria Room.

4. Morimoto Asia

Morimoto Asia isn’t as high-end as Victoria and Albert’s, but it does have a little something special up its sleeve. “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto opened the glitzy restaurant in 2015. Located in Disney Springs, it specializes in Pan-Asian cuisine. Their most exclusive dish is the Japanese A5 Wagyu beef. The beef has the highest rating for Wagyu and is imported from Japan. Each ounce costs $25, but there’s an order minimum of 3 ounces, so be prepared to pay about $75 at least. They also have a Toku-Jyo Sashimi Platter that runs for $100.

5. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique

Looking to spoil your little ones? Hop over to Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. Here, one of the Fairy Godmother’s apprentices will transform your kiddo into a knight or one of their favorite princesses. The all-in package for knights costs $80, but for Disney princesses, a full transformation starts at $450. It includes a hair styling, makeover, manicure, gown, and tiara. You can get princess shoes but for an extra cost. These magic makeovers require a reservation and are only available for kids 3 to 12.

6. Golden Oak Residences

Four miles away from Magic Kingdom is the super-exclusive gated community called Golden Oak. Three-hundred homes, each with a little Disney flair, make up eight neighborhoods. But living so close to all the Disney magic doesn’t come cheap. Each one runs for about $2.3 million. All Golden Oak residents get access to a luxurious clubhouse complete with a pool, gym, and spa. Another perk: Markham’s Restaurant. You have to be a resident here to experience all their Disney-themed meals.

7. Club 33

A luxury Disney experience doesn’t stop in Florida. Over at Disneyland in California, Club 33 has been serving an exclusive group of fans since 1967. Located in New Orleans Square, the club’s existence was once secret, but now it’s pretty well known although few get to experience it. Reportedly, the initiation fee runs between $25,000 and $100,000. Members pay an additional annual fee from $12,500 to $30,000 depending on how exclusive their membership is. And for those willing to foot that bill, membership does come with a couple perks, like the swanky restaurant Le Grand Salon and the lounge attached to it, which is the only place that serves alcohol in Disneyland.

8. Lilly Belle Train

Anybody can ride the steam-powered train of Disneyland’s railroad, but you might not know that there’s a separate train that runs only occasionally. The Lilly Belle car is named after Walt Disney’s wife, Lillian, and apparently it’s the last remaining car from the opening day of the park back in 1955. It doesn’t run every day, but when it does, you can ride it for free, but you have to be one of the first 14 people in line, so get there bright and early. But for the rest of us late risers, the $85 Grand Circle Tour will get you a peek of the train as well.

9. Walt Disney’s Apartment

Back in 1954, as Disneyland was under construction, Walt Disney wanted a place where he could watch over his project. So he had this private 500-square-foot apartment built. The once secret space is located on the second floor of the Fire House on Main Street. It’s decorated by Disney’s original set designer and looks exactly like how Walt Disney left it. You can’t actually stay here, but for $109 per person, the Walk in Walt’s Disneyland Footsteps tour will get you a little closer to the man himself.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in April 2019.

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Disneyland and other California theme parks just returned to full capacity – here’s what is changing

disneyland
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 19: Pedestrians walk near the entrance to Disneyland Resort on February 19, 2009 in Anaheim, California. With the worsening economy, declining attendance and reduced operating income, the Walt Disney Company announced that it plans to restructure its domestic theme-park operations, which will result in the layoff an unspecified number of employees in the coming weeks. Disneyland in Anaheim, California and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida will reportedly be consolidated into a single unit headed by Worldwide Operations President Al Weiss. Attendance at Disney theme parks in the US dropped 5 percent in the last quarter of 2008 compared to the previous year and in January, Disney offered buyout packages to 600 US executives.

  • California theme parks, sporting events, and concerts returned to 100% capacity on Tuesday.
  • The state health department added some regulations on vaccinations records and masking for theme parks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California theme parks, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, returned to full capacity on Tuesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom first announced the parks could return to full capacity in May as a part of his Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The previous 15% to 35% capacity limits lifted at the same time that the entire state fully reopened.

The parks will also no longer be required to maintain physical-distancing requirements on the sites.

The California Health Department added special regulations for venues such as theme parks, concerts, and sports arenas that could be classified as “mega-events” – indoor events with more than 5,000 people, and outdoor ones with over 10,000. The venues are required to provide masks for all customers, though attendees will not be required to wear them if they have been fully vaccinated.

Customers planning on attending indoor venues must either be able to verify that they are fully vaccinated or take a COVID-19 test with a negative result 72 hours prior to entering the venue. They are expected to bring their test results or send them prior to arriving at the event.

For outdoor events, the agency recommends that the venues require a vaccination record or COVID-19 test, but will not enforce it. If an individual at an outdoor event cannot verify that they have been vaccinated, it is recommended that the venue asks the individual to wear a mask.

The California Health Department said the new mandates will run through October 1, but will be reassessed on September 1.

Disneyland reopened for the first time since the pandemic started on April 30 at 25% capacity. Since then, fans have flocked to the theme park.

Fully reopening the park will allow Disney to begin recouping from the impact of the pandemic on one of its biggest revenue streams. Last year, the media giant lost nearly $5 billion due to park closures.

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Disney theme parks are notoriously pricey, but these proven tips and tricks can help you save hundreds

how to save tips on disney vacations

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Disneyland and Walt Disney World have reopened to all visitors.
  • The parks are notoriously expensive, but you can save hundreds with some creative planning.
  • Here are our top 14 expert tips for saving money on your next Disney Parks vacation.
  • Head to Insider Reviews for more travel recommendations

There are no two ways about it: Planning a family vacation to the Walt Disney World or Disneyland resorts can be an expensive proposition.

The cost for tickets, food, and souvenirs alone can rapidly add up; it skyrockets when you factor in airfare, hotel, car rental, parking, and other incidentals. For a family of four, for a five-night stay, the average price of the trip is approximately $4,500 and can quickly increase by the hundreds, if not thousands.

While there are few discounts on admission, there are proven ways to save significant money elsewhere that won’t hinder the enjoyment or limit the experiences. After all, not having to stress about money makes for a far more enjoyable time – the key is to plan ahead and know what to expect.

As a travel writer who has covered Disney vacations extensively for over a decade, I have figured out the best ways to maximize the fun while keeping costs down. These top tips, based on what I’ve learned over the years, can help ease the damage a Disney vacation could have on your bank account.

In addition to money-saving tips for both Walt Disney World and Disneyland, I’ve also included a few that are unique to each property. Here are the best tips for saving money on a Disney parks vacation.

disney carousel

Top tips to save money on Disney vacations

Pick the right time to go

As with any popular destination, prices for resort stays tend to rise during peak season, especially during school breaks in the summer, Thanksgiving week, and the days around Christmas and New Year. Weekends are always more expensive as well. Traveling during non-peak dates may be a challenge, but you can save an average of $400 a night.

Forgo the Park Hopper

Disneyland and Disney World are comprised of multiple parks, each with its own entrance fees. As the name suggests, Park Hopper is an option that lets you visit multiple parks per day, but you will pay significantly more for this privilege. The difference between a single park ticket and one with Park Hopper can be up to about $85 per day; for a family of four, that’s a savings of $300 to $350.

Another reason to skip the Park Hopper concerns logistics. There’s plenty to do at each of Disney’s parks, so I recommend dedicating an entire day to one park, instead of stressing to rush to another. You can take it slow and enjoy all the amenities of a single park. This is especially true for Walt Disney World, where the parks are located far apart and you would waste time shuttling from one to another.

Explore your ticket discount options

While Disney doesn’t generally offer discounts on park tickets, there are a few money-saving options to explore before paying full price. First, nail down how many days you plan to be in the parks; there is a price break depending on how many days you visit. For example, if you go to Disney World for just one day, it would be about $109 per day. If you opt to go for five, the price drops to $88 a day. Keep in mind that the standard tickets don’t include water parks, golf courses, and other non-theme park areas.

Know a friend or relative in Florida? State residents can save 40% off a four-day ticket in addition to other discounts. The catch is that the resident must be present and show verification at the time of entry, so they will need to be included in your group. If it’s a close family friend or grandparent, that may not be an issue. From time to time, Southern California residents may also receive a similar offer.

Make wise restaurant choices

There is a large selection of dining options at either resort and prices range from budget to premium. For example, a New York Strip at the upscale Steakhouse 55 in the Disneyland Hotel costs $58 (that is just for the steak, sides not included). But at the casual Bengal Barbeque eatery inside Disneyland, you can enjoy a delicious Bengal Beef Skewer for $5.49.

The key is to research the various food outlets available at the park you will be visiting, basing it on your budget and family’s eating habits. If you don’t care about sit-down meals and can run on hot dogs and churros from a street cart, you can cut down on food expenses.

Note that some restaurants, such as the aforementioned Steakhouse 55, are still temporarily closed.

Get food delivered

Another option for cutting down on food costs is to have groceries delivered to a hotel, as many rooms have mini-fridges and microwaves – great for stocking up on water, sodas, snacks, and even quick-heat and pre-made meals and alcohol. If your room has a full-sized kitchen, consider cooking some meals “at home” or for bringing inside the park (see our tip above). Amazon Prime delivers to hotels, while Garden Grocer specializes in Disney World deliveries.

Bring a refillable water bottle

With all the walking you will do, it’s important to stay hydrated, especially during the hotter months in Florida and California. Skip the bottled water the park sells (a bottle of Dasani costs around $4) and opt for a money-saving and environmentally friendly refillable water bottle instead.

You can fill water bottles at restaurants or one of the refill stations. But keep in mind, refill stations are few and far between, and due to COVID-19 cleanliness protocols, it is harder to fill your own water bottle.

Insider Reviews recommends the Vapur Element and Hydaway Collapsible Water Bottle because they are lightweight when empty and easy to pack.

Collapsible Water Bottle (small)Collapsible Water Bottle (small)

Stick to a souvenir budget

Disney is skilled at dividing guests from their money, especially when it comes to keepsakes. In most areas of the parks, you won’t be able to go more than 20 feet without being lured by the siren song of souvenirs. It can be very tempting to walk away with a droid from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge ($99) or a replica of the Enchanted Tiki Room Sign ($150), but try to keep those temptations at bay.

Instead, spend your money on less expensive, classic park items that will hold their value (in sentimental ways), such as a pair of Mickey Mouse ears with a name embroidered on them (about $23) or, my favorite, a hand-cut silhouette from one of the artists on Main Street ($10).

Walt Disney World

Tips to save money at Walt Disney World

Stay at a value resort

While Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa are lovely, they are also expensive – the Grand Floridian starts at around $400 per night. If a hotel is purely a place to sleep, Disney’s Art of Animation or Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort are two of the more inexpensive options inside the Disney bubble, starting at around $179 a night.

Check out all our choices for the best Disney World hotels here. If you’re willing to stay at a non-Disney resort, there are also many excellent hotels in Orlando and Kissimmee from as low as $66 per night, depending on the season.

If you want to go deluxe, consider renting DVC points

Disney Vacation Club (DVC) is Disney’s popular timeshare program that lets you rent studios, villas, and suites at one of the deluxe resorts. Membership is a big investment, but my friends who joined have been pleased with the program. Here’s a secret: You can take advantage of the program without being a member, by renting DVC points.

When you rent DVC points, you are essentially booking through a DVC member, not Disney. For a negotiated fee, you get access to their points and preferred rates (a member has a set number of deductible points that must be applied in order to get those rates), which can make those deluxe resorts drop down drastically in price.

For example, the price for a deluxe studio at Disney’s Riviera – depending on the date – is $559 a night, but you can rent points and pay about $275 for the same night. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, a studio is $616 a night, but with DVC points you pay $380. You are basically getting the same room for almost half the price. And, it’s not just for Florida: DVC also includes California properties.

Companies such as David’s Vacation Club Rental and the DVC Rental Store can facilitate the points rental from DVC members, and the booking process is similar to a regular hotel reservation. There are plenty of caveats with this system, so make sure to go over all the restrictions and conditions from the broker or DVC member.

Schedule a non-park day

Save on park tickets by scheduling a non-park day. There are many ways to get a Disney resort experience, including spending hours by the pool, checking out the lobbies and restaurants at hotels, and heading to the Disney Springs shopping and entertainment center. Keep reading for our suggestions on free stuff to do at Disney World.

disneyland reopening

Tips to save money at Disneyland

Stay at a Good Neighbor hotel

There are only three Disney-owned hotels within Disneyland – the Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel, and Paradise Pier. While the hotels are fantastic and convenient, they are also expensive. For example, rates at the Grand Californian start at $586 a night. Thankfully, there are lots of affordable options surrounding the park. Read our roundup of nearby hotels ranging from the budget-friendly Hampton Inn & Suites to the new JW Marriott, which, even though it is a four-star property, is about half the price of the Grand Californian or the Disneyland Hotel.

Splurge on the MaxPass (when it’s back)

While the MaxPass program is currently on hiatus due to COVID-19 restrictions, the MaxPass is well worth the extra $20 per ticket and will enhance the experience by saving you time. The MaxPass allows you to make FastPass selections from your phone and eliminates the need to trek over to the attraction to manually pick up a FastPass from a kiosk. A FastPass, for those unfamiliar, allows you to join a much shorter line for a ride (the feature is also paused).

Get the Disney experience for free

Admission to Disney’s parks is expensive, but there are several fun attractions you can check out that don’t cost a penny. They add to the overall Disney vacation experience while keeping the cost down. (Some of these places and activities may be temporarily closed or unavailable.)

Walt Disney World

Disneyland

Consider waiting until next year

While Disneyland and Walt Disney World are open for business, to get the most bang for your buck, it might be best to wait. There’s a case for going now: reservations are required and capacity is controlled to promote distancing, so it’s less crowded than normal. But parades, fireworks, most live entertainment, the ease of the FastPass system, and close-up character encounters have yet to return. Dining options are also limited, and some hotels haven’t reopened.

Instead, take this time to plan and save up for the trip. When all of the parks’ amenities return, you and your family will have a more memorable experience.

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Disneyland and other California theme parks will return to full capacity in June – here’s what is changing

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  • On Friday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced California would fully reopen on June 15.
  • Theme parks, sporting events, and concerts will be able to return to 100% capacity.
  • The state health department added some regulations on vaccinations records and masking for theme parks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California theme parks, including Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood, will return to full capacity on June 15.

The announcement was made on Friday as a part of Governor Gavin Newsom’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy. The current 15% to 35% capacity limits will lift at the same time that the entire state fully reopens.

The parks will also no longer be required to maintain physical-distancing requirements on the sites.

The California Health Department added special regulations for venues such as theme parks, concerts, and sports arenas that could be classified as “mega-events” – indoor events with more than 5,000 people, and outdoor ones with over 10,000. The venues are required to provide masks for all customers, though attendees will not be required to wear them if they have been fully vaccinated.

Customers planning on attending indoor venues must either be able to verify that they are fully vaccinated or take a COVID-19 test with a negative result 72 hours prior to entering the venue. They are expected to bring their test results or send them prior to arriving at the event.

For outdoor events, the agency recommends that the venues require a vaccination record or COVID-19 test, but will not enforce it. If an individual at an outdoor event cannot verify that they have been vaccinated, it is recommended that the venue asks the individual to wear a mask.

The California Health Department said the new mandates will run through October 1, but will be reassessed on September 1.

Disneyland reopened for the first time since the pandemic started on April 30 at 25% capacity. Since then, fans have flocked to the theme park.

Fully reopening the park will allow Disney to begin recouping from the impact of the pandemic on one of its biggest revenue streams. Last year, the media giant lost nearly $5 billion due to park closures.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Disney World is phasing out temperature checks for guests on entry, but will keep them for areas of its Florida resort

Disney World
The Cinderella Castle at Walt Disney World, Florida.

  • Disney World will slowly drop temperature checks for guests on entry, but will keep them in some areas.
  • Florida Orange County Department of Health said temperature checks are unnecessary and wasteful, WFTV reported.
  • Disney Land in California opened at 25% capacity last week.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Disney World said it will start to phase out temperature checks for guests from this weekend.

“Following the advice of the CDC and our local health officials, we will phase out onsite temperature screenings at Walt Disney World Resort for Cast Members beginning May 8 and Guests on May 16,” Disney World said in a statement on its website.

Guests will still be asked to wear face masks, except when eating, drinking, or taking photos outside at the Orlando-based resort.

Social distancing rules will also be reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet, after reopening in July last year.

Dr. Raul Pino, health officer for the Orange County Department of Health, said last week that checking temperatures “makes no difference” and could be a waste of resources, WFTV reported.

Temperature screenings will still be required for entry to some locations, including at the resort’s hotel restaurants.

Guests with a temperature 100.4 F or above will not be allowed entry, along with the rest of their party, the statement said.

California-based Disney Land reopened last week at 25% capacity. The park is open to California residents only.

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Disneyland will reopen on April 30, more than a year after closing down

Disney Land reopening
The theme park will reopen with reduced capacity at first, and only for California residents.

  • Disneyland will reopen on April 30 after being closed for more than a year, Disney said Wednesday.
  • The park will open at first to California residents at limited capacity.
  • Customers will need to book a reservation in advance to visit the park.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After shutting its gates a year ago as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the US, Disneyland is reopening for business.

The Anaheim, California-based theme park – which includes both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure – will reopen to the public on April 30, Disney announced Wednesday.

To comply with California’s public-health requirements, capacity will be limited and customers will need to reserve a spot in advance. For the time being, tickets and reservations are only available to California residents. Disney said the first visitors invited back will be members of the local community.

In early March, California announced revised COVID-19 guidelines that allows amusement parks and stadiums to reopen April 1, provided they aren’t located in one of the state’s highest-risk zones. Those rules permit theme parks to reopen at 15% to 35% capacity with mandatory mask-wearing and other precautions in place.

Read more: Yeti is aiming to take on Samsonite and Away as air travel hits the highest level since the pandemic and luggage makers gear up to meet pent-up vacation demand

Disney CEO Bob Chapek previously said during a conference call that it would take some time for the company to get its California parks back up and running after the long shutdown. Reopening the parks will mean bringing back more than 10,000 furloughed employees, Chapek said.

Disney has a clear incentive to reopen its parks as soon as public-health guidelines allow. In the fourth quarter of 2020, the company lost $2.4 billion in income due to park closures.

The company’s Disney World park in Florida has been open since July, given that COVID-19 restrictions have been less stringent in the state.

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Disney World is building a train station that will connect the parks with Orlando’s Airport, Miami, and more

walt disney world monorail reopening day
Disney’s monorail might soon have a new coworker.

  • Disney World will connect to Orlando and Miami by rail as soon as 2022. 
  • The company in late November announced a deal with Brightline to build a station at Disney Springs as the train operator expands to Miami. 
  • Brightline also has plans to break ground on a Los Angeles-to-Las Vegas route this year. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Next stop: Disney World, hopefully at a time when the pandemic will be in the rearview mirror.

Brightline, which currently operates trains between Miami and West Palm Beach, announced on in late November a deal with Disney World to build a station there as it extends service north to Orlando.

Brightline planned florida extension map
Brightline’s map of planned stations.

The Disney World station is planned for the Disney Springs complex, the company said. Brightline’s extension to the Orlando International Airport is set to open in 2022, but the company did not provide a timeline for the Disney station.

Brightline, which has been hit hard by the pandemic and hasn’t run any trains since March, hasn’t slowed down its aggressive expansion in both Florida and California. A route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas is set to break ground this year.

In a 2019 interview, Brightline’s main investor, Fortress Investments founder Wes Edens, said there are up to a dozen so-called city pairs ripe for rail service. Those include Atlanta to Charlotte, Chicago to St. Louis, and Houston to Dallas, where a competing private rail operator is also working on a project.

Read more: Brightline is on the cusp of connecting Disney World to Miami by train. Its owner explains what’s next in the railroad’s quest to beat Amtrak at its own game.

With tens of millions of people visiting Disney World every year, many of whom arrive at Orlando’s airport, it’s a chance for Brightline to convince even more people to opt for greener transportation.

For a market where train travel is kind of foreign, we have to think of creative ways to get people in through the top of the funnel,” president Patrick Goddard told Business Insider in January.

Disney World might just be the thing to do it.

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