Since Disney just announced last week that Disneyland will reopen April 30th, I thought it would be worth digging into what this means for you, especially if y0u’re planning to visit in the near future.
This is the first of three posts dealing with the reopening. In these posts I’ll cover the following:
- Disney’s operational changes and how you will be affected by them when the parks reopen (the subject of today’s post)
- How touring strategies are likely to change based on the new Covid-related protocols
- How we’re adapting RideMax to fit with the changes, including the release of a new Disneyland RideMax app
The Changes Are Coming!
Today, let’s dive in and look at some of the operational changes we expect to see when Disneyland finally reopens, and how these might affect your plans.
No Annual Passes
One of the first things Disney is doing to help control the crowds in the post-Covid reopening is canceling its annual passholder program. Existing passholders have been issued refunds, and no new passes are being offered.
Although this may seem like a harsh measure if you were one of those passholders, it’s completely understandable why Disney had to make this move. With more than a million passholders anxiously looking forward to returning to the park, and the park reopening at a much-reduced capacity level, this move seems like the only option Disney really had. There is just no way they could have opened up the park to everyone with an annual pass and still met the state-mandated capacity guidelines.
The bottom line is that if you want to visit the park, you’ll need to buy a regular ticket, at least for now.
California Visitors Only
This one is a huge disappointment for Disneyland fans who live out of state, including yours truly. But for now, only California residents will be allowed to visit Disneyland.
Of course, my hope is that with vaccinations rolling out around the country at a fairly rapid pace, this restriction won’t last too long. Given that California seems extra cautious in this area, however, it wouldn’t surprise me to see this one remain in place for a few months, at least.
Limited Park Capacity
Initial reopening requirements imposed by the state require Disneyland to reduce the number of guests waiting for indoor attractions to fifteen percent of normal capacity, with the number allowed for outdoor attractions somewhat higher. This means you won’t be seeing crowds like those shown above — shortly after Galaxy’s Edge opened in 2019 — anytime soon.
Obviously, this is good news and bad news.
The good news is that you’ll likely find the park to be fairly uncrowded, especially during the early phases of the reopening. If you think about it, it makes sense that even from just a political perspective, Disney will want to make sure they aren’t moving more aggressively than the state is comfortable with — even if they have experience safely operating at a higher capacity at Walt Disney World. So we’d expect shorter than normal wait times overall initially.
The bad news is that it could be *very difficult* to score a park reservation during the first phases of reopening. So even if you live in California and are willing to pay the higher admission prices than you’re used to paying with an annual pass, you could still miss out on visiting, due to the capacity restrictions.
Of course, we do expect Disney to increase capacity as time goes on, so hopefully this will be of less concern in the future.
Park Reservations Required
Disney has already announced that you must have a reservation for a specific date before you’ll be allowed entrance to the park. Though specific details haven’t been released, we’d expect this to operate the same way in which the new reservation system works at Walt Disney World.
In other words, it won’t be enough to simply buy a ticket for park entry. In addition, you’ll need to set up a reservation for a specific date. Watch for this capability to be added to the Disneyland website and Disneyland app soon.
This is just my speculation, but I think it’s likely that Disney will NOT allow park hopping after the reopening, at least initially. So under this scenario, you’ll need to make a reservation for either Disneyland OR California Adventure, in addition to choosing the date of your visit. The reason I expect no park-hopping initially is that it allows Disney to maintain a strict cap on attendance, without having to worry that guests park-hopping over later in the day will put them out of compliance with state guidelines.
Note that this is something that could have a significant effect on optimum touring strategies — both with and without RideMax — so I’ll cover this more in future posts.
Face Masks Required
This one’s pretty obvious, but I thought it worth mentioning because if you haven’t yet been through a full day at a Disney park wearing a face mask, it’s something you might want to prepare yourself for. Make sure you choose a mask that’s comfortable enough to wear all day, and you may also want to have extra masks as backups, just in case your first mask becomes dirty or otherwise unusable.
Disney is *very* strict about face masks, so you should expect to wear it all day, except when you’re sitting down to eat.
No Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hours
Disney has already announced that there will be no Magic Morning or Extra Magic Hours once the park reopens. I don’t really see this as a problem (in fact, it’s something I prefer), as it puts everyone on equal footing when it comes to getting to that first attraction of the day.
I mention this here just so you can rest assured that “early entry” isn’t something you’ll need to worry about.
No Large Parades or Nighttime Shows
Expect Disneyland to eliminate any large-scale activities which encourage large-scale crowds. These include Fantasmic!, World of Color, and the Disneyland parade. If Disney follows the same pattern they’ve used at Walt Disney World, we may see some smaller-scale “cavalcade” sorts of mini-parades. These occur unannounced, in order to prevent large groups of spectators lining up in advance along the parade route.
No FastPass or MaxPass
This is probably one of the more controversial points, but Disney has said that they will NOT be offering FastPass when they reopen, at least initially. If you think about it, this makes sense from the standpoint of physical distancing, as they won’t have to offer parallel queues which complicate the distancing measures while guests are waiting in line.
This will of course also have a huge impact on touring strategy, as we’ve already seen at Walt Disney World. I’ll cover this in greater detail in future posts.
No Single Rider Queues
I’m not sure if Disney has officially announced this one or not, but for the same reason they won’t be offering FastPass due to physical distancing, I don’t think we’ll see a return of the Single Rider queues anytime soon either.
These extra queues not only make it harder to allow physical distancing while in line, but the intent of the Single Rider queue is to fill every available seat on the attraction itself, and it’s likely that Disney will be doing the opposite of this, at least after they first reopen.
If Walt Disney World gives us any clues as to how this will unfold, it’s quite likely that Disney will be leaving rows of ride vehicles completely unoccupied in order to allow for physical distancing while riding (think empty rows on Pirates of the Caribbean, for example).
I’d expect Covid-19 to be a long distance in the rear-view mirror before Single Rider returns to Disneyland.
Next Up: How Will Your Touring Strategy Change?
Hopefully this overview gives you a solid idea of what you can expect when Disneyland reopens April 30th.Next time, I’ll cover how these changes are likely to affect your optimum touring strategy (spoiler alert: the changes could be significant).