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Disneyland Article
Disneyland Reopens To The Public After 13 Month Coronavirus Closure

Haunted Mansion
ID:
TMS-4737
Source:
Orange County Register
Author:
Brady Macdonald
Dateline:
April 30, 2021
Posted:
May 03, 2021
Status:
Current
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Disneyland has returned after a yearlong coronavirus closure with a rethemed Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, updated Haunted Mansion and refreshed King Arthur Carrousel to the delight of die-hard fans who waited hours to snag tickets for the reopening of the Anaheim theme park.

Fans anxious to ride the wildly popular Rise of the Resistance attraction and the soon-to-change Splash Mountain log flume had their wish granted when Disneyland finally swung open the gates just after 8 a.m. Friday, ending a 412-day closure forced by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020.

Tears were flowing as visitors walked down Main Street U.S.A. at 8 a.m. to the familiar announcement of “Hello and welcome to Disneyland.”

Disneyland cast members lined Main Street USA to wave, applaud and cheer as visitors returned to the park first time in more than a year.

The Mickey and Friends and Pixar Pals parking structures opened at 6 a.m. and visitors walked to the theme parks along the tram route instead of hopping aboard the parking lot trams due to COVID-19 health and safety measures. Disneyland visitors were greeted by a new arrival procedure. Temperature screenings took place inside the Pixar Pals parking structure prior to the security checkpoint. Inside the park, COVID-19 health and safety reminders were visible everywhere.

Around 6:45 a.m., Disneyland held a flag raising ceremony in Town Square as anxious fans waited outside for the park to reopen for the first time in a year. Disney CEO Bob Chapek thanked employees for their work in preparing the Anaheim theme parks to welcome back visitors. “We’re not just another place. We’re not just another theme park,” Chapek said. “We’re something special.”

EARLY ARRIVALS

By 5:45 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.

David Bellamy showed up at 10:30 p.m. Thursday to be the first in line for Disneyland at the Harbor Boulevard gate. Disneyland security asked his party to leave an hour later. He went back to his hotel to sleep for an hour and was back out across the street at IHOP with the other faithful at 2 a.m. Disney security waved the group over at 4 a.m. to get in line again.

“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.”

Austria Jovel was operating on 3 hours sleep. She planned to take a nap on It’s a Small World if necessary. “The die-hard fans are the ones here super early,” said Jovel, 29, of San Bernardino. “We all know each other. It’s like a community.”

Ryan Young was feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness as he waited for the park to open at the Harbor gates. “I want to be the first one in and the last one out,” said Young, 15, of Victorville. “I know I’m going to cry when I walk through the gates.”

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.” Returning to Disneyland after the 412-day closure has a sense of coming home for Quintanilla. “It’s poetic in a way,” Quintanilla said as the sun began to rise. “Disneyland was one of the first things to close and the last to reopen. It feels like we’re finally turning a corner.”

FIRST DAY CONDITIONS

Seeing outdoor queues flowing out of attractions makes you appreciate how many indoor queues there are at Disneyland and how much they absorb people from walkways.

Ground markers indicated where riders should wait in the queues — but they were occasionally much farther than six feet apart. Figuring out where to stand next gave riders something to do while waiting their turn.

By 10:15 a.m., the longest waits were for Haunted Mansion (50 minutes), Indiana Jones Adventure and Splash Mountain (45 minutes) and Snow White’s Enchanted Wish (35 minutes). Popular rides such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain and Peter Pan’s Flight all had waits of 20 minutes.

Much like in pre-pandemic times, Disneyland felt empty early in the morning and filled up throughout the day. At times, the park felt more crowded than it really was because there were no indoor lines. Without any annual passholders — who tend to visit in shorter spurts — there were fewer people who were leaving throughout the day.

Most rides and attractions have some type of new COVID-19 health and safety protocols that will make the experience slightly different.

The Haunted Mansion has numbers on the floor where individual parties will be asked to stand. Enchanted Tiki Room employees ask one group to enter at a time and sit in a socially distanced seating arrangement. Star Tours leaves every other row empty and has plexiglass between some seats so more than one party can sit in the rows in use.

Riders sit together with their parties on the Disneyland Railroad — no spreading out to different rows because you’re not getting along with your sister. Space Mountain loads one party per coaster car, leaving an empty row between groups. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run allows one group per cockpit — which means if you’re a solo rider you get the entire ride to yourself.

Rise of the Resistance “dwelling points” have been shortened in Rey’s briefing room, the Star Destroyer hangar bay & First Order prison cell to shorten the ride time from 18 to 15 minutes. Rise riders stand in separate areas of the I-TS transport shuttle to keep groups separated.

AROUND THE LANDS

Fantasyland was one of the busiest lands in the park with virtually every attraction open. Swarms of parked strollers surrounded Dumbo the Flying Elephant. The Dumbo spinning ride experience was largely unchanged. Visitors stood on numbered markers for the 16 flying elephant ride vehicles. Riders still got to pick the color elephant they wanted to ride in.

The Mad Tea Party worked much like before the pandemic with one party per teacup and a socially distanced line with markers that flowed into the walkway if necessary.

The reimagined and renamed Snow White’s Enchanted Wish and the always popular Peter Pan’s Flight had extraordinarily long lines that moved quickly. The snaking queues were deceptive because of the 6-foot gaps in the lines.The Peter Pan line ran through the tunnel to Tomorrowland and past Snow White’s wishing well. There were markers in place for the Pan queue to continue around the corner and head toward the Matterhorn if necessary.

The Snow White line went even farther — snaking through the unused Royal Hall queue and stretching to the Frontierland entrance. But even at that length, the Snow White queue was only a 35-minute wait.

Aurora, Ariel and other maskless princesses posed for photos in the Fantasy Faire Royal Theatre while maintaining 12 feet of distance from visitors. Visitors can’t hand their smartphones to cast members now for a photo of the whole family. You’ll just have to take that selfie yourself.

Toni Gilmore and her extended family in matching custom Disneyland t-shirts had tackled most of Fantasyland by 1 p.m. The kids saw Mickey, Minnie, Chip and Dale and rode King Arthur Carrousel, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Mad Tea Party and Peter Pan’s Flight before all getting ears in the Mad Hatter shop.

“It’s better this way than it was in the past because it was packed,” said Gilmore, 38, of Fontana. “The lines are way shorter.”

Over in New Orleans Square, the Pirates of the Caribbean queue switched back and forth along the “Fantasmic” viewing area.

The Haunted Mansion had a queue that wrapped around the nearby fountain and through the unused Fastpass area. Ride attendants were using two entrances — the traditional front door that took visitors down the Stretching Room elevator and a servants entrance that allowed visitors to skip the Stretching Room and head directly to the Portrait Gallery. Visitors were given a choice of routes.

The Indiana Jones Adventure line in Adventureland took over the upper level of the shuttered Jungle Cruise queue.

Tomorrowland felt empty most of the day with Space Mountain and Star Tours often registering 5-minute wait times.

Like most of the shops, the Star Trader in Tomorrowland had a separate entrance and exit to help control capacity and manage the flow of shoppers.

Additional seating was added throughout the park for outdoor dining. The seating around the Galactic Grill in Tomorrowland was spaced out with additional tables available in the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage queue. Benches near the shuttered Matterhorn Bobsleds had “designated dining area” signs where visitors could sit and munch on popcorn or a churro. Sipping, snacking and strolling was prohibited.

Rancho del Zocalo restaurant in Frontierland remained closed, but there was still plenty of outdoor seating that could be used by visitors looking for a place to eat.

GOING MOBILE

Disneyland is strongly encouraging every visitor to use mobile ordering for food purchases. Virtually every eatery now offers mobile ordering as the preferred way of placing a food order and paying for it.

That means you have to plan ahead when it comes to food and drink. There’s no more walking past the Tiki Juice Bar and deciding you want a Dole Whip. For starters, the Tiki Juice Bar is closed for the time being. Which means you’ll have to get that Dole Whip a few steps away at the Tropical Hideaway instead.

But you can’t just walk up to the Tropical Hideaway and get a Dole Whip with mobile ordering. You have to plan ahead for when you’re going to be hungry. No more following your stomach. You have to use your brain and your smartphone. And you may have to wait an hour or more for that Dole Whip — depending on how many other people have that idea at the same time.

Mobile ordering is a multi-step process that will take some getting used to for seasoned Disneyland visitors. First you’ll have to place your order in the Disneyland app and choose a pickup time. Then you’ll need to watch for your digital window to open via the app and press the “I’m Here” button on your phone when you’ve arrived at the eatery.

But you can’t eat or drink just yet. You have to wait until you get a push message that says your food is ready and then show that message to a cast member at the restaurant entrance. They will direct you to a numbered pickup window where you will finally get your Dole Whip. Hopefully you weren’t too thirsty.

The key message: You need to really plan ahead with mobile ordering. You can order that Dole Whip hours in advance — and then get notified when the time arrives. It can be fun to think about what you’re going to eat later while you’re chomping on a corn dog or a Monte Cristo sandwich. “You know what I’m going to want to drink in about 3 hours? A Mint Julep. I better order it now.” Welcome to the world of mobile ordering.

It’s important to remember Disneyland employees are learning this new system and its various eccentricities along with the visitors. Be kind and patient. You’ll eventually get your food. And boy, will you ever be hungry when you finally do.

THE OVERALL EXPERIENCE

Disneyland is essentially offering half the pre-pandemic theme park experience for the same pre-pandemic price. There are no parades, fireworks, nighttime spectaculars or shows. Just over half the attractions and eateries are open. More than 15,000 of the 32,000 cast members who worked at the parks before the pandemic have returned to work.

But Disneyland doesn’t feel like half a park in the pandemic era. That’s because almost nobody could do all of Disneyland in a day prior to the “new normal.” More than likely, you will do two or three times as much as you typically did at Disneyland before the pandemic because there are so few people in the park and lines are relatively short by Disneyland standards. At least for the next couple months.

There’s plenty to do without all the entertainment and closed rides and there’s enough time to do plenty even with the shortened daily schedules. Disneyland is making up for the missing entertainment by flooding the park with characters — including some you rarely see.

Think of May and June 2021 as a rare blip in time that will never be repeated again at Disneyland: an ‘80s Throwback Nite that lasts for two months and serves as a pandemic present to all those Disneyland fans who missed the park so much during the past year. You’re in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure If you have tickets and reservations for the phased reopening of the parks during the next couple of months.

RUN-UP TO REOPENING

Disneyland and DCA began soft opening previews for employees on Tuesday, April 27. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel returned on Thursday, April 29. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel will reopen at a later date. The Downtown Disney outdoor shopping mall reopened in July. DCA returned for A Touch of Disney food festival in March.

State officials recently allowed fully vaccinated out-of-state visitors at California theme parks, but Disneyland has decided to continue limiting admissions to California residents for now. Visitors had to make advance reservations due to limited capacity protocols instituted by state officials. 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.

California officials allowed theme parks to reopen beginning April 1. The tourist destinations lost billions and were forced to lay off tens of thousands of employees amid the pandemic. Disneyland and DCA are among the last theme parks to reopen in Southern California. Local competitors Six Flags Magic Mountain and Legoland California reopened on April 1. SeaWorld San Diego returned with rides and coasters on April 12. Universal Studios Hollywood reopened to passholders on April 15. Knott’s Berry Farm will be the last Southern California theme park to return to full operations on May 6 for passholders and May 21 for the general public. Disneyland and DCA will be required to limit theme park attendance and indoor attractions at 25% capacity under state reopening guidelines.

The updated Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, Haunted Mansion and King Arthur Carrousel are joined by returning favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.

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. The casts of “Frozen Live” and “Mickey and the Magical Map” have been laid off — leaving both theaters dark with the return of the parks. The new Avengers Campus themed land will open June 4 at Disney California Adventure.

Disneyland is following the now-familiar “new normal” of COVID-19 health and safety protocols with limited capacity, required masks, temperature screenings, social distancing, enhanced sanitization and contactless payments. Masks are required on rides, in queues and during character photo opportunities. Masks can be removed to eat and drink in designated outdoor dining areas.
 
Attractions Referenced

Disneyland Railroad

Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln

Dumbo The Flying Elephant

Enchanted Tiki Room

Fantasmic

Finding Nemo: Submarine Voyage

Haunted Mansion

Indiana Jones Adventure, Temple Of The Forbidden Eye

Jungle Cruise

King Arthur Carrousel

Mad Tea Party

Matterhorn Bobsleds

Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run

Peter Pan's Flight

Pinocchio's Daring Journey

Pirates Of The Caribbean

Royal Theatre

Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs Grotto

Snow White’s Enchanted Wish

Space Mountain

Splash Mountain

Star Tours: The Adventures Continue

Star Wars Rise Of The Resistance

 
Restaurants Referenced

Galactic Grill

Rancho del Zocalo

Tiki Juice Bar

Tropical Hideway

 
Shops Referenced

Mad Hatter Fantasyland

Star Trader

 
Lands Referenced

Adventureland

Frontierland

Main Street U.S.A.

New Orleans Square

Tomorrowland

 
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