As a “Disney millennial,” the park closure last March had more of an impact on my life than most. I went from having a luggage packed and ready to go for my monthly trips, to wondering if there would ever be a “safe” way for Disneyland to reopen. As the pandemic evolved into our new normal, as did my theories on what the post-pandemic parks would be like. And now that I’ve been back Home, my experience was not what I expected.
Disneyland Reopening Changes
If you’ve been keeping up with park-goers online, then you’re probably aware of the variety of changes that took place along with the Disneyland reopening. Some of those changes include:
- New Disneyland hours: currently 9AM-9PM, which are extended from an initial 7PM closing time.
- Attraction closures: rides closed at Disneyland currently include AstroBlasters, Jungle Cruise, the Disneyland Monorail, among a few others at Disneyland and California Adventure.
- Designated dining: some Disneyland dining options are unavailable, but most are open and accepting reservations; some are mobile order only.
- Reduced capacity: Disneyland reopened starting at 25%, and this has now been increased to 28% due to county tier limits.
- Legacy Passholder perks: including parking, dining, and merchandise discounts typically consistent with previous annual pass benefits.
- Amended experiences: temporary discontinuation of parades, fireworks, and character interactions to observe social distancing.
Disneyland Reopening Changes Continued
There were some minor differences about the Disneyland reopening that struck me, like the much smaller sprinkles of magic. Pre-COVID, Disneyland seemed to be bursting with electricity. There was music, characters, and magical, fanciful interactions on every corner. While this change might only be noticeable to someone that has frequented Disney in the past, if I’m being honest, just a touch of the magic I was missing is absent now.
Another major difference – surprisingly – was capacity. And let me preface this by saying that I’m used to taking weekday trips, mostly in the off-season, where every ride is a walk-on and crowds are only seen during performances. When I heard the limit of 25%, truly I didn’t know what to expect. When applied to a massive property like Disneyland, I imagined a big number of maybe 10,000 people, spread so far out that I’d hardly notice them. How wrong I was.
When I looked into it a bit more, 25% capacity is more than 20,000 people, and it felt like it too. I’ll get into ride lines a bit more below, but with the temporary discontinuation of fastpasses, I really noticed how physically full Disneyland was.
Let’s talk about attraction queues. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland, you know that ride lines are typically well equipped to accommodate hours-worth of riders. Well buckle up because ride lines are even longer. Some rides, such as Indiana Jones for example, have adopted the attraction queue from a neighboring ride (in this case, Jungle Cruise) to accommodate increased visitors and social distancing measures. Combined with the absence of fastpasses, I waited 5-15 minutes longer than usual, however this is mostly because the ride queues are all stretched outdoors. Once the line enters “indoor” territory, it is essentially a walk-on experience. Average wait time for me was ~30 minutes.
I’m going to be honest here and mention that yes, I am here (Disneyland) for the snacks. From classic favorites like Jolly Holiday’s Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup combo, to newer options like the lemon dole whip, I love it all. And mobile dining is not new to me. But with the temporary closure of some Disneyland dining options coupled with the increased use of mobile ordering, I found us in 25-55 minute waits to eat. We took breaks to check food options which ultimately delayed us in getting food and ate up time we could have used for other attractions. What I’ll say about this is to plan ahead. Order something nearby while in line for a ride and pick it up on your way to the next attraction.
My Disneyland Experience
If you’re following me on Instagram, you know that my first trip back to the park was with my mom, and the first time we’ve been together in my adult life! I was super excited to go with her, especially as she’s typically afraid of rides, but I was hopeful she’d enjoy at least a few attractions.
When we arrived at Disneyland, we were taken aback by just how long the entry line was. The line typically meant for the security check was stretched back all the way to the rideshare drop-off, something I’ve never experienced. It took us ~40 minutes from the time we got dropped off to the time we entered the park, so you may need to allocate additional time to get into the parks if you’re visiting soon.
As I mentioned before, ride queues are distanced outdoors, so most lines will appear longer than they are, and this goes for restaurants too. After stopping for a castle photo for #memories, we had a brief encounter with Ariel before hitting up Jolly Holiday for a quick bite. Of course, we always start our Disneyland days on the left, so we hit up Indiana (which had already broken down an hour into the day) before pivoting to Pirates of the Caribbean. We were able to get on Indiana once it was back up and Haunted Mansion before lunch time, as well as greet Tiana on the terrace and stop for some milk on Galaxy’s Edge.
We stopped at Pioneer Mercantile and shook things up on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (my mom’s scariest ride of the day) before time traveling to Tomorrowland for lunch at the Galactic Grill and stopping through to Star Tours. I picked up that purple/blue tie dye spirit jersey at the Star Trader.
We had Rise of the Resistance reservations to meet, which was only my 2nd time on the ride. (!) Quick spoiler here (!) I was so surprised to see a Finn animatronic [END SPOILER], which I hadn’t encountered on my first go because each ride gets a slightly different experience. This was our last ride of the day because our little feet are not used to walking almost 20k steps in one day again. After leaving Batuu, we did a little shopping at the Emporium and World of Disney before calling it a night.
When I look at all that’s changed, what surprised me the most was how different it wasn’t. Approaching the turnstiles watching my ticket get scanned, I felt the same excited anticipation I always did. As I emerged through the tunnel onto Main Street, the sense of the familiar overtook me as the horse-drawn carriage trudged by, and visitors milled around the various shops. And as we ended our day watching Donald, Goofy, and Mickey put on a show at the front staircase, I realized that no matter how much Disneyland changes – and no matter how much it continues to change – it will always be the happiest place on Earth.