Disney parks in California open post-COVID closure

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Disney’s California theme parks had been silent for 412 days, with the exception of imagineers and crew who were working on new attractions and reworking some of the classics.

But on Friday, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park reopened at 8 a.m. local time. The first guests cheered, clapped and waved as they came through the gates. Anaheim parks are currently only open to California residents with limited capacity.

Kate Fail from Los Angeles couldn’t hold back the tears, she was so happy to be back in Disneyland.

“Spending time with friends and just riding again” was what she looked forward to most when she walked into the park. First stop for Fail: Space Mountain.

Kevin Pryor of Fountain Valley, California and Brittany Roth of Santa Ana met in Disneyland just before the pandemic and have been together ever since. They stopped in the town square to kiss and reenacted the famous photo of a kiss between a sailor and a nurse at the end of World War II. The kiss was a symbol of the park reopening as a victory over COVID-19, much like the victory at the end of World War II, Pryor told USA TODAY Network.

The performers monitored the lines and enforced the rules of distancing. Concrete benches in front of the King Arthur Carousel have signs to keep people at a distance so that only one person can sit. Waiting times for journeys varied between 5 and 45 minutes, but times change quickly as people move.

Characters in Toontown came out randomly, stood on the doors or porches of their homes and waved. Guests are currently unable to go into the homes of Mickey, Minnie and other characters, but instead stood by the roadside in front of the houses, waving and taking photos from a distance. Mickey came out of his house at 10:30 am and waved to the guests, who quickly gathered. One performer verbally reminded everyone to “stay 6 feet apart.” These are the character meetings in the pandemic era as per the current COVID-19 security guidelines.

Despite some differences, the excitement remained high and the guests were thrilled to be back.

Henry and Angela Hong of El Dorado Hills in Northern California drove their 9-year-old son Maxwell to Anaheim to reopen.

They had a trip planned when the parks closed last year.

“I look forward to having fun,” said Maxwell.

This is the first trip they have taken since the pandemic and they felt safe at Disneyland despite all safety precautions being taken.

“It was beautiful the way all the cast waved,” said Henry Hong when the guests walked in.

“It was kind of emotional,” he said.

Get ready to reopen Disneyland

The morning began at 6:50 am with the American and Californian flags being raised by the Disneyland color watch in Town Square on Main Street.

A select number of masked and aloof performers were in attendance and were greeted by Bob Chapek, Disney CEO.

“Impressive. What a day,” said Chapek. “We’ve waited so long for this.”

The excitement and energy can be felt everywhere, he said, thanking the cast for everything they do.

“We’re not just another place. We’re not just another theme park. We are special because of you, ”said Chapek. “Now let’s make the magical memories that will last a lifetime.”

In the final hours before the opening, the crews watered plants and set up kiosks. The Disneyland train began circling the park at around 7:15 a.m. The performers lined Main Street USA, preparing to greet the guests as they walk through the gates.

Safety is key as the hand sanitizer stations occupy every few feet and lines on the sidewalk in shops and queues, reminding everyone to keep guests at a distance.

Additional security features include plexiglass in the checkout areas of kiosks. Since there is no indoor food, there are more tables and chairs outside in the park for people to sit and eat at. Also a reminder that guests have to be stationary while eating – no more snacking while walking around or waiting in line for rides.

The path to Disneyland reopening

Disneyland is the company’s only theme park built by Walt Disney, though he began buying land and making plans for Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida before his death in 1966.

“Welcome to everyone who comes to this happy place,” he said at the opening on July 17, 1955, which was attended by more than 28,000 people – almost twice as many as invited.

Until the coronavirus pandemic, Disneyland had only been closed three times – on National Day of Mourning in 1963, after President John Kennedy was assassinated; 1994 after the Northridge earthquake; and on September 11, 2001 after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Each of these closings was for a day.

When Disney closed its California parks on March 14, 2020, executives expected them to reopen by the end of the month. But the coronavirus continued to spread. Disney tentatively set a reopening date for mid-July 2020, which had to be postponed again pending government approval.

However, downtown Disney shops and restaurants reopened in July under California’s COVID-19 guidelines. A few months later, Disney opened a few retail stores in California Adventure and hosted the “A Touch of Disney” ticket tasting experience at the park in March that brought back about 1,000 performers.

Rides and attractions remained closed.

In March, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that all California theme parks could reopen on April 1, and shortly after Chapek announced that Disney was beginning to recall employees on leave who have since received training in the new COVID safety standards.

To date, more than 15,000 performers have been brought back to both parks. At its peak, the Disneyland Resort employs around 32,000 people, and Ken Potrock, President of the Disneyland Resort, hopes that more can be called back soon.

Disney California Adventure Park and Disneyland will reopen with COVID changes

Temperature tests: Guests Before entering the parks, temperature tests must be carried out with non-contact thermometers. No one with a temperature of 100.4 F or higher is allowed in, nor is anyone in their group based on state health guidelines.

Masks: Face covering can only be removed if you are actively eating or drinking. In doing so, however, you must be stationary and physically distant from others. Eating and drinking are only permitted in the designated dining areas and are not permitted while queuing or while driving. Masks must completely cover the mouth and nose. No neck gaiters or headscarves with an open kin triangle. Check the Disneyland website or app for acceptable face coverings.

Cashless payment: Guests are encouraged to use debit, credit, or gift cards for purchases instead of cash.

For tickets and reservations, parking times, lists of rides, attractions, and restaurants that are open, visit Disneyland.com or download the Disneyland app.