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Disney parks reopen after over a year Covid closure

The Wotter family of Lake Elsinore, California, captures a special moment in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle as Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, reopens on Friday, April 30, 2021. Photo: (Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)

Long considered a beacon of happiness around the world, Anaheim’s Disneyland Park reopened to the public, along with Disney California Adventure Park, on Friday, April 30.

By: Carlos J. Casillas

After a 412-day closure forced by the global pandemic, Disneyland finally swung open the gates just after 8 a.m. Friday, so guests entered the theme parks filled with joy and excitement as they discovered the magic is once again, as enchanting and timeless as ever.

On this historic day, cast members welcomed guests back to the parks to explore favorite attractions, wave hello to beloved Disney characters, don a pair of Mickey Mouse ears and savor iconic Disney treats.

Just prior to the gates of Disneyland opening for the first time in more than a year, Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company Bob Chapek participated in the daily ceremony to raise the American flag and shared brief remarks of inspiration for the cast members who were preparing for the momentous day.

We’re not just another place. We’re not just another theme park,” Chapek said. “We’re something special.”

Bob Chapek, Walt Disney Company CEO, addresses Cast Members at a ceremony celebrating the reopening of Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Friday, April 30. Photo: (Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)

First arrivals

Early Friday morning the first faithful in line arrived at 2:00 a.m. Before 6:00 a.m., hundreds of fans were in line at the Harbor Boulevard entrance waiting for security to open and to get in line at the park entrances.

I don’t take no for an answer,” said Bellamy, 41, of Hemet. “I’m stressing out. I’m trying to pack it all into one day. I’ll take it. Just to be back in the park. It’s been 13 months.”

David Quintanilla was feeling a little overwhelmed as he waited for the parks to open. “This is a historic event,” said Quintanilla, 42, of Roseville. “Hopefully it won’t ever happen again. It’s one of those ‘I was there then’ moments.”

Once again, guests are stepping back into the realm of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, embarking on a swashbuckling voyage on Pirates of the Caribbean and launching into an adventure on the Incredicoaster. 

Photo: (Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)

They’re setting sail with children from around the globe on “it’s a small world,” taking photos alongside Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, and zipping along Route 66 on Radiator Springs Racers.

Guests will experience new magic on some classic attractions, as well. The newly reimagined Snow White’s Enchanted Wish opens to guests for the very first time; the Haunted Mansion has been enhanced with some eerie surprises, and King Arthur’s Carrousel has been fancifully refurbished.

The hotels of the Disneyland Resort are welcoming guests back with a phased reopening. Grand Californian Hotel reopened on April 29, with limited capacity. Vacation Club Villas reopened on May 2. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel will reopen at a later date.

Because theme park capacity will be significantly limited to comply with state requirements and promote physical distancing, the Resort is managing attendance through a new theme park reservation system that requires all guests to obtain a reservation for park entry in advance.

Guests take in the sights and sounds of Main Street U.S.A. as Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, reopens on Friday, April 30. Photo: (Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)

To enter a park, both a park reservation and valid admission for the same park on the same date are required for guests ages 3 and older. A Disney account is required to make theme park reservations.

Theme park reservations are limited and subject to availability. Until further clarification from the state, only California residents are allowed to visit the parks, in groups no larger than three households.

Eager fans who logged onto the Disneyland website on April 15 waited hours in a virtual queue for the privilege of purchasing tickets and making advance reservations.

With enhanced health and safety measures, operational changes are in place at the theme parks and hotel based on guidance from health authorities and learnings from Disney parks around the world to promote physical distancing, enhanced cleanliness and reduced contact.  

Photo: (Christian Thompson/Disneyland Resort)

These measures include appropriate face coverings required for all guests ages 2 and older, temperature screenings prior to park entry, capacity measures and cashless transactions. Cast members throughout the resort are dedicated to assist with questions, and guests may check for the current health and safety measures.

More than half the rides and attractions at Disneyland and DCA reopened with the others returning at a later date due to government restrictions and attendance capacity limitations.

Some rides and attractions — including the Disneyland Monorail, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln — were shuttered for coronavirus-related reasons and will reopen at a later date.

Disney has suspended parades, fireworks shows and nighttime spectaculars at Disneyland and DCA that draw large crowds

Photo: (Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort)

Characters are part of the magic

From surprise appearances along Main Street, U.S.A., and Pixar Pier to playful interactions, characters from dozens of favorite Disney stories entertain guests across both parks. Beloved characters will pop up in new ways and sometimes in unexpected places as they remain mindful of physical distancing.

At Disneyland, guests may see Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse waving from the train station, or Disney Princesses such as Mulan appear at the Royal Theatre to wave and pose at a distance for guests taking selfies.

At Disney California Adventure, Pixar pals may wave from the bandshell at Pixar Pier, and guests can share a laugh while taking photos with Mater and Lightning McQueen along Route 66 in Cars Land.

Certain experiences that draw large group gatherings – such as parades and nighttime spectaculars – will return at a later date.