As every other Disney theme park around the world reopened, Disneyland Resort, the original property that started it all, sat shuttered amid the pandemic. The two Anaheim theme parks, Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, have remained officially closed for an entire year—365 days and counting. For the first time in forever, Disneyland is reopening. And it’s happening April 30. Here’s everything we know about visiting the parks, from new ticketing systems to health and safety policies to the brand-new, highly-anticipated Marvel-themed land.
Red Means Go
In a major change of policy on March 5, California’s governor office issued a change to restrictions on sports stadiums and amusement parks allowing venues to reopen with a reduced capacity as early as April 1. And today Disneyland announced more than 10,000 Cast Members (Disney employees) have been called back to work and both parks will reopen with limited capacity on April 30. But there’s a big “if” baked into the edict. Theme parks, such as Disneyland, can only reopen in April if the county it’s located in reaches a specific color on California’s risk and case report. The tracker sorts counties into four different colors: purple, red, orange, and yellow. Like a flame, the darker the color indicates how hot a county is for positive covid cases and hospitalizations. Disneyland is in Orange County which is currently at the bottom in purple. However, health officials say Orange County and neighboring LA County will be red by the end of March–and red means go. Once Orange County reaches red, Disneyland can reopen at 15 percent capacity. At orange, capacity increases to 25 percent. At yellow, 35 percent. There’s also a trump card that could automatically lift these restrictions: vaccine equity. Once the state of California reaches a minimum of two million doses to “the hardest-hit quarter of the state,” all counties will accelerate through the color tiers and capacity restrictions will ease faster.
Like other theme parks in SoCal, Disneyland is eyeing April with optimism. In a shareholders meeting for The Walt Disney Company on March 9, CEO Bob Chapek said, “We’re encouraged by the positive trends we’re seeing and we’re hopeful they’ll continue to improve and we’ll be able to reopen our parks to guests with limited capacity by late April.” He added that it will take some time to get the OG mouse house back up and running for guests. “This includes recalling more than 10,000 furloughed cast and retraining them to be able to operate according to the state of California’s new requirements,” he said. Another update from the call: Avengers Campus will not be included in the initial reopening. However, Disneyland did confirm the new Marvel-themed land at Disney California Adventure will open later this year.
Pandemic Park Policies
While new guidelines are still being ironed out between the governor’s office and California’s major theme parks, we do know that the reopening will look very different from Walt Disney World’s reopening last summer. Unlike Disney World, indoor dining, indoor rides, and indoor shows might not be allowed for Disneyland’s reopening. Shops and indoor quick-service restaurants will be open, but there won’t be designated eating or drinking spots inside. It’s unclear how the indoor restrictions will affect roller coasters and other outdoor attractions with an indoor queue. Today, Disneyland announced indoor rides such as Peter Pan’s Flight, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Toy Story Midway Mania! will “begin to reopen,” but in a press release also noted that “many factors will determine the timing of when offerings may be available and the status of indoor and outdoor experiences.” And for now, “certain experiences that draw large group gatherings – such as parades and nighttime spectaculars” are a no-go even outside. However, characters will appear “in new ways and sometimes in unexpected places as they remain mindful of physical distancing” along both Main Street U.S.A. in Disneyland and Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure.
Social distancing for guests and mask rules will be the same as Disneyland’s current policy for Downtown Disney, the resort’s outdoor shopping center. Masks must be worn by guests ages two and older and can only be removed if actively eating or drinking. Disney World recently changed its mask policy to align with Disneyland, but previously allowed guests to remove masks at a restaurant table even when not eating or drinking.
Tickets and Reservations
Disneyland confirmed the parks will manage ticket sales and park capacity like Disney World with a new park pass reservation system. For reopening, Disneyland will require a park pass reservation (made online through the Disneyland website) in addition to a park ticket. For Disney World’s reopening, park-hopping was not initially allowed. And that matters more at Disneyland, as the two theme parks are separated by a mere esplanade. It’s much easier and more common to park hop at Disneyland, but that feature may not be available in the first months of reopening.
Another feature we won’t see anytime soon: FastPasses. The free sign-up system allowed park-goers to breeze past lines for certain attractions and cut down ride wait times. But as we’re still very much in a pandemic, ride queues have been redesigned with plexiglass barricades and social distancing stickers and markers. And that design doesn’t include the FastPass line. In some ways, it will be a refreshing, utilitarian change for attractions with hard-to-nab FastPasses such as Radiator Springs Racers or the Incredicoaster. But it also drastically changes the mindset of a park visit. Typically, reservations are scheduled, FastPasses are made, and a day at Disney is very structured. A pandemic park with no line cuts, no printed showtimes, and limited outdoor dining reservations will likely feel a lot less planned.
And, unlike Disney World, Disneyland just eliminated its annual passholder program like a Thanos snap. With the exception of Club 33 (an elite, private club within the park with annual dues in the tens of thousands of dollars) park-goers are all starting from scratch on bookings and park pass reservations. And unlike Disney World where annual passholders can currently reserve more days than regular ticket holders, a Disneyland online system won’t have any large groups to prioritize.
The California Caveat
Before you don those Mickey ears and book your trip for April, there’s one more detail in California’s guidelines to note: Admission will be restricted to California residents. And Disneyland reiterated this in today’s announcement stating that “until further notice, only California residents may visit the parks in line with current state guidelines.” It’s unclear how this will be managed as that restriction is not currently in place for visiting Downtown Disney or Buena Vista Street. Disneyland’s modified food event, “A Touch of Disney,” premieres this week and allows guests a full run of Disney California Adventure sans rides or entertainment. And the first of Disneyland’s three resort hotels, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, plans to reopen on April 29, with limited capacity. Additionally, Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa plan to reopen May 2. If lodging, shopping, and dining offerings continue to welcome out-of-state guests when the parks reopen, the bubble won’t be as airtight as the governor’s office is likely hoping because these destinations share the exact same entrance.
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