If we haven't met yet, I'm Ivy! I'm a wedding and senior photographer based in East Tennessee. I hope you'll relax, grab a cup of coffee (or a baja blast), and enjoy seeing my latest work, as well as getting an inside look at my life!

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May 18, 2021

Disney World in 2021 | My Experience

disney world in 2021

I’m writing this with an overwhelming sense of post-vacation blues (not kidding, it’s a real thing). The blues hit me after any vacation, but they are inexplicably stronger after any trip to Walt Disney World. As my sister once put it, “The first couple years after going to Disney are hard.” We’ve been a few times throughout my life, but visiting Disney World in 2021 was different, largely due to COVID-19’s effects and restrictions.

Good news: we still had fun! In my humble opinion, Disney World is still magical. I’ll always cherish the precious time we spent together as a family last week! I wanted to focus on enjoying the trip, so I didn’t bring my camera. Here’s to iPhone-only photos & a collection of downloads from the Disney PhotoPass!

I’m excited to share the highlights of our trip, and I hope you enjoy seeing them. If you’re on the fence about traveling to Disney World in 2021, I’ll try giving some insight to help you decide as well!

disney world in 2021

We took the boat over to Tom Sawyer’s island, and the view of the castle was stunning! I also decided to play with portrait mode on my phone a little bit as we walked through the park! The second photo is just some landscaping in EPCOT that caught my eye. And the only picture I remembered to take in EPCOT at all. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Magic Kingdom

disney world in 2021

The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is one of our favorites in Magic Kingdom! It has some sentimental value for me because I always loved Snow White. My Pappy used to call me his Snow White when I was a little girl (Sophie was his Cinderella). I loved being compared to a princess. I’m still a big fan of anything that features my girl, Snow! Plus it’s a coaster, and those are always my favorites.

Another childhood favorite of mine: Peter Pan. This Peter Pan float really hit the spot after a day of walking around Magic Kingdom. Up until the day we left, Disney was still requiring masks to be worn outside at all times. I’m all for protecting our health, but it was HOT! Treats like this made the heat more bearable.

Since the outdoor mandate has been lifted, I’m wondering if other restrictions at Disney Parks may change over the course of the year. They are planning a 50th anniversary celebration starting in October, so I’m curious to see how the restrictions will play into that.

Just throwing this in here because Koby looks so concerned 😂

One of my biggest concerns when we were planning this trip was how to dress in the heat! After much discussion, the girls in the family all decided that athletic wear, sundresses, and skirts would be most comfortable. We were right. I wanted to make sure I had at least a couple of cuter outfits for pictures, so the tank and skirt on the left was a great option!

The park always looks so magical with the lights at night. I think the brains behind Disney World know that makes it harder to leave! Traditionally, Magic Kingdom has not been my favorite park. I tend to think of it as the children’s area – but rides like Space Mountain make it hard to beat. But on this trip, it was one of the hardest parks to leave! Especially with COVID restrictions, the Magic Kingdom just felt like the place with the most to do.

Animal Kingdom

disney world in 2021

One of the downsides of COVID: no live shows. However, 3D attractions like “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” are still in business! They just have socially distanced seating – which, for a family of 7, means you might be separated. It was still just as entertaining, though! Plus, we coveted any opportunity to cool off indoors.

The sad side of Disney World in 2021: No “Festival of the Lion King” or “Finding Nemo: The Musical”. Although, Google says the Festival of the Lion King has now reopened, so we must have barely missed it! Kinda sad I found that out… It’s fine. I’m fine.

disney world in 2021

Sophie looks so cute in line for “It’s Tough to Be a Bug!”

Kilimanjaro Safaris is always one of our favorite attractions! Seeing the animals inside the Wildlife Reserve is such a unique experience. What they say is true – no two safaris are the same.

We also walked the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail after the safari. Animal Kingdom is so unique in that it’s a theme park and a wildlife reserve in one!

disney world in 2021

Honorable mention of the snacks in Animal Kingdom. The Raya-themed ice cream cone was delicious.

Like the hat says, Levi conquered Expedition Everest and LOVED it! Our first day in Animal Kingdom, the wait for Everest stayed around 25 minutes. We rode it a few times!

Hollywood Studios

If you can’t tell from the left, Koby and Si are no longer thrilled to take photos with me. Selfies with them cost me $5 each. Moving on… My favorite park: Hollywood Studios (formerly known as MGM).

disney world in 2021

This was our first trip to Disney World since Toy Story Land was completed. I loved the intentionality of the design – everything is larger than life, so you feel like an actual toy! Before this part of the park opened, Toy Story Mania was always a favorite for us. But this time, Levi LOVED Slinky Dog Dash! We think it’s his new favorite ride.

Levi has a serious case of the giggles! He loved this ride!

Levi and me waiting on Toy Story Mania to take off! He was ready to play!

Another note about food: I haven’t shared much about this, but I’ve been experimenting with a gluten-free diet this year. Most of the restaurants at Disney World have gluten-free options, and it was so nice not to have to worry about that!

Here’s a happy picture of Levi to brighten your day. And the entrance to my favorite ride: Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

disney world in 2021

It will never not be fun!

On the left, you’ll see a cutie-patootie. On the right, you’ll see another selfie that cost me $5.

disney world in 2021

Always love spending time with my sister/bestie girl!


My Tips for Traveling to Disney World in 2021

  • Keep track of the park’s guidelines and restrictions. The mask mandate was updated on the day we returned home! You always want to be prepared for anything that can change your plans. As government regulations change, park rules can change too!
  • If you’re traveling with a big party, know you might have to separate for some of the attractions. This is already the case on some rides, but with social-distanced seating, it is more prominent! Especially if live shows return, but currently for shows like MuppetVision 3D & PhilharMagic.
  • Planning to go this summer? Bring lots of water. Especially if you will be wearing a mask most of the time! Be prepared to hydrate, and you can also buy some cold treats like ice cream in the parks to help you cool down!
  • Love the fireworks shows? You may want to wait. I can’t find any word from Disney Parks on when the shows will return, but here’s some speculation if you’d like to check it out. I don’t know how reliable the source is, but I find it interesting to read!
  • We did see a few small, socially distanced parades. But nothing too grand! As live entertainment changes, I anticipate this may change as well.
  • There are no character meet and greets at the moment! For our family, we’ve all aged out of that attraction so it didn’t affect us. But if your littles want to meet their favorite characters, know they may not be able to. At least for now.
  • I mentioned this earlier, but there are no live shows right now… except Frozen Ever After and the 3D shows. I did read that Festival of the Lion King recently had a soft re-opening. Hopefully, there are more re-openings to come!
  • We had to be temperature-checked every time we entered the park.
  • No Disney Dining Plan right now. You also have to mobile order at the quick service restaurants. In many quick-service restaurants, you cannot be seated until your order is ready for pickup.
  • Each park currently has a limited capacity, and you have to reserve your day at each specific park in advance.
  • If the rides are your favorite part, you’re good to go. Wait times are somewhat shorter due to limited capacity, but you do have to wait the standby time! No FastPasses. You still may experience longer waits for more popular rides – for example, 70+ minutes for Slinky Dog Dash. The My Disney Experience App will help you plan your day by showing wait times!

Overall, we had a great trip, and I still consider Disney the most magical place on earth! Even though I have post-vacation blues, I feel blessed to have spent a week with my family. I’m so grateful for that! I hope you enjoyed my digital scrapbook – and if you’re planning a trip to Disney World in 2021, I hope my experience is helpful for you!

Now it’s back to the real world for me. I have lots of weddings and engagement sessions to look forward to. That’s the magic in my every day that keeps me going! ✨

Goodbye for now, from me and the happiest cruise that ever sailed – It’s a Small World!

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