Over three months ago, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California closed its gates. What we all hoped would be a temporary closure of a few weeks was extended and ultimately turned into an indefinite shuttering. At long last a few weeks ago, Disneyland announced its planned reopening date of July 17, 2020 – the resort’s 65th anniversary and just 6 days after Walt Disney World is scheduled to reopen its first two parks in Orlando. But this date was not to be.
Earlier today, the Disneyland Resort updated the public, indicating that the government approval was not going to come in time to prepare for a July 17, 2020 parks reopening date. Similarly, the planned reopening of two of the three on-property hotels, Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel (originally scheduled for July 23, 2020) is also in doubt. No new date for either the parks or the hotels is available yet. Downtown Disney, however, will reopen as expected July 9, 2020.
While this reopening was always subject to pending government approval and never guaranteed, it’s unusual for dates at Disney parks to be derailed like this. The state of California has indicated it plans to release guidelines for theme park reopenings after the July 4th holiday, so hopefully additional news will be forthcoming soon.
If you are a guest with a vacation package or tickets booked for a July trip, I recommend sitting tight for now. Disney almost always makes things with guest rights and I’m fairly certain they will work to accommodate travelers. If you cancel too quickly, then you could miss out on a favorable offer.
Although the reopening has been delayed, there are a lot of details that had already been released about the plans in place to open Disneyland. The bottom line is that things are going to look a lot different at Disneyland when it reopens. Expect new safety protocols and seriously restricted capacity. Additionally, the parks simply won’t be able to offer everything that guests have come to expect in the past.
Everything is still a moving target, so I’ll plan to keep updating this post in the next few weeks as Disney reveals more specifics. But here’s what we know so far about how things will be different in the re-opened parks.
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Big Changes Coming to Disneyland When it Reopens
1. Park Entry Reservations Will Be Required.
Just like at Walt Disney World, Disneyland is going to reopen its parks on a reservations-only basis. Guests must have a valid theme park ticket in hand already to make a reservation (and ticket sales have currently been paused).
We know little else about how this reservations process will work at Disneyland, but can certainly take cues from what Walt Disney World has done. At Walt Disney World, on-property hotel guests were given the first window to make park reservations. With even fewer on-property hotels at Disneyland, it seems likely that Disney might do the same there. Since the Disneyland hotels were not originally slated to open at the same time as the parks, this remains in question.
Whether the demand for reservations will exceed supply is an open question too. Shanghai Disneyland required reservations when it reopened, and sold out almost instantaneously. In contrast, Universal Orlando reopened without requiring reservations and did not reach capacity. The capacity and demand at Disney World is still unknown, since the next two windows for annual passholders and then regular ticket guests have not opened up to reservations.
I suspect that with so many local annual passholders desperate to return to the parks (many of whom are young healthy millennials not in at-risk groups), Disneyland may be a park that sees a crush of demand. But we shall see!
2. Park Hopping Will be Allowed.
Although reservations are needed, Disneyland has told its ticket partners that it plans to allow park hopping. In contrast, park hopping will not be allowed at Walt Disney World right away (and Disney plans to find a way to compensate or address the issue for guests holding the more expensive park hopper tickets there). With the parks in such close proximity at Disneyland and no transportation needed to get guests between the parks, presumably the risks are simply much lower at Disneyland, allowing for this difference.
3. Parades, Shows, and Fireworks are Out.
Large gatherings within the theme parks come with increased risk and crowding. As such, Disneyland won’t be able to offer its usual parades, stage shows, or fireworks spectaculars at first. Since the new Magic Happens parade debuted earlier in the spring just weeks before the closure, that’s extra sad of course. But safety first, so we’ll just wait patiently for these larger gatherings to safely return.
4. No Character Meet & Greets.
The need for distancing makes traditional character meet and greets impossible for now at Disneyland. But don’t give up hope on seeing the Fab 5 or your favorite princess. Disneyland will surely find a way to integrate character appearances into the parks from afar, and Disney’s official press release hints as much.
Disneyland has been silent about character dining, but Walt Disney World has been able to do one character meal at Topolino’s Terrace in a new creative way. So perhaps there is hope for modified character meals at Disneyland too!
5. Masks and Temperature Checks Will Be Required.
As with most major theme parks re-opening around the world, face coverings will be required to visit Disneyland. This wasn’t mentioned in Disney’s initial announcement, but Disneyland later released information stating that all guests ages 2 and up are subject to this requirement. California has also put in place a statewide mask mandate, so masks will be required in a lot of other places for guests staying off Disney property.
Masks will undoubtedly be hot and uncomfortable during the warm SoCal summer and early fall. Many with young kids may find that they will need to visit the parks for shorter periods of time or even wait to go at all (see Mom Rewritten’s excellent piece about whether you should take kids to Disneyland when it reopens that addresses this topic). At the very least, Disneyland guests can take solace in the fact that the Orlando weather is most definitely more oppressive for Walt Disney World visitors under the same restrictions!
Disney will also likely be monitoring guests temperature with no-contact thermometers as they enter through security.
6. We Don’t Know Yet about Maxpass, Virtual Queues, Extra Magic Hour, Magic Morning, and More!
A huge part of planning a Disneyland vacation is figuring out a smart touring strategy to dodge crowds and lines and ride more attractions. And all of that is in flux in this reopening so far.
We know that Disneyland will be restricting overall guest capacity in the parks but we don’t yet know what that means for attraction lines and access. Disneyland normally offers same day free digital Fastpass or the paid Disney MaxPass option that allows guests to book Fastpass reservations on a smartphone. It has also used a virtual queue for the new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction. All of these options, along with old-fashioned standby lines only, could be on the table. At Disney World at least, we have learned that virtual queues and the resort’s Fastpass+ system will not be used, presumably leaving standby lines as the way guests will first ride.
Also in question is whether Extra Magic Hour or Magic Morning will still be offered. These early entry options give guests access to a even less crowded park for shorter lines. So stay tuned for more coming soon.
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Are you anxiously awaiting Disneyland’s reopening? Will you go when a new date is announced?