By McKenna Seegmiller
It has been over a year since Disneyland closed its gates and Main Street, USA became a ghost town in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. What started on March 14 and was meant to last for a month has extended to now, in which Disney has announced that the parks will finally officially reopen starting today, April 30, 2021.
While the theme parks are officially reopening on the 30th, that doesn’t mean that they have been empty. And no, I’m not referring to Mickey Mouse and the rest of the characters strolling through Fantasyland. Disney has slowly begun opening Downtown Disney to the public, implementing increased safety measures to keep guests as safe as possible.
A reporter from the Business Insider visited Downtown Disney and provided an update on how Disney has handled the new normal that the world faces within the pandemic. Guests ages 2 and up must wear face masks, and according to reporter Brittany Chang, Cast Members (AKA Disney employees) were extremely vigilant and acutely aware of guests to ensure that masks were kept on and guidelines were followed.
Downtown Disney also now includes outdoor public sinks and hand sanitizer stations, along with many signs reminding guests to follow social distancing guidelines and to keep their masks on at all times. Table-service restaurants are still available, and reservations can still be made. The measures followed within the restaurants are like any other restaurant: distanced tables, plexiglass separations, and masked workers.
Guests are required to take temperature scans when entering the park, and a temperature of 100.4℉ or higher means that you and your entire party will be refused entry.
Chang reported that the park seemed very empty. However, she visited on a Thursday, when the park was less busy than it might be on weekends. So far, there have been no reports of overcrowding within the park.
A Touch of Disney
Downtown Disney is not the only park that has slowly begun to reopen. March 18 marked the first day of Disney’s limited-time event, A Touch of Disney, that takes place within Disney’s California Adventure park.
The experience allowed guests to walk through the park and try food from the kiosks set up for the event. While no rides were in operation, people still had the opportunity to take pictures at various locations. Characters greeted attendees from afar, maintaining a safe distance from the population in accordance with the guidelines.
Tickets for this event cost $75, which included a food voucher worth $25 for the food kiosks set up throughout the park. The event has received mixed reviews, especially considering the cost. One blogger remarks, “Considering you’re paying $50 just for the privilege of walking around DCA I hoped there would be even more characters, or some form of live entertainment.”
Official Parks Reopening
Starting today, the gates to Disneyland and Disneyland’s California Adventure (DCA) will open once again, but only to California residents. Though DCA has been open for A Touch of Disney, both parks and their attractions will now be open.
In order to secure a trip to the Disney parks, Disney once again utilized their online reservation system. The ability to reserve tickets to the park’s official reopening began on April 12 at 8 am through the official Disneyland website, app, and other travel companies in affiliation with Disney. Many of those trying to get tickets on the first day were kept in a virtual queue for as long as seven to eight hours. Once out of the queue, users could purchase tickets and wait in another queue in order to make reservations for the theme parks.
Guests must meet certain requirements before entering the parks. Along with being California residents, groups can be no larger than three households. Of course, they will also need to meet the requirements regarding safety and health protocols of the pandemic. This includes the temperature checks and mask-wearing.
While many rides at the parks will be available for the enjoyment of the public (see the full list of open rides here), the parks will not be exactly as we remember them. According to the official Disneyland website, parades and nighttime spectaculars will not return right away, and character meet-and-greets will not be the same. We can expect that the characters will appear in some capacity, possibly greeting attendees from a distance like they’ve done for A Touch of Disney. Fastpass, MaxPass, Magic Morning, and Extra Magic Hour will no longer be available at the parks, either.
The parks will also be kept to 25% capacity under California’s orange tier. While the percentage might bring peace to the minds of many worried about overcrowding, it is important to put this into perspective. Twenty-five percent of Disneyland’s total capacity is still 21,520 people, and 25% of DCA’s total capacity is still 12,500 people.
While there are still many valid concerns about how soon Disneyland will reopen to the public, there are some positives that would result from the parks’ reopening, one being how it may affect Cast Members. If you recall, nearly 28,000 Cast Members were laid off around September due to the parks’ extended closure, and even more were laid off by November. This caused a lot of controversy as many of the top executives had still received bonuses as lower-class Cast Members were laid off amidst a global pandemic.
At the beginning of A Touch of Disney, around 1,000 Cast Members were recalled. Even more Cast Members will also be called back to table-service jobs, and more will continue to return as the parks open up more and more.
All the extra precautions taken by Disney are a step in the right direction, but it is unsure if it is too soon for crowds of this magnitude. Cast Members will be responsible for ensuring that guests follow the safety guidelines, but there will be thousands of guests roaming the streets and ultimately it is up to the guests to be responsible for themselves and respect those around them. For now, let’s celebrate the reopening of the Happiest Place on Earth!
Featured Image: Disneyland’s gates have been closed for over a year. (PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images)