Disneytravel

Disneyland Is Open Again- What It Is Really Like To Visit Now

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Now that Disneyland has reopened after more than a year of being closed, is now the time to plan a visit? We are sharing everything you need to know before deciding. Special thanks to Disneyland for the invitation and for sponsoring our visit.

Visiting Disneyland on Reopening Day 2021
Visiting Disneyland on Reopening Day 2021

Reopening day at Disneyland Resort.

Disneyland has always been a special place for us, so it made perfect sense for us to go there as our first big adventure out of our home in over 14 months.

But before deciding this was the right decision for us, we took into account a few things.

    • All 4 of us that are able to get the vaccine, are fully vaccinated. Emmy is only 11 so there isn’t a vaccine available for her yet or this would have been an even easier decision.
    • Disneyland has very detailed health and safety plans in place. This includes everyone having to wear a mask all of the time (except in designated dining areas throughout the park). There is also physical distancing and maximizing the use of outdoor space.
    • We are all good about wearing masks, hand hygiene and understand that we are the ones ultimately responsible for making the best decisions when around others. We decided that we would look at each element and go from there, including any situations we just didn’t feel right about. (spoiler alert- there were no such situations)

Fast forward to opening morning, and I don’t think any of us were prepared for just how exciting it really was to walk through those gates again and into another world!

We came with tickets in hand (actually in the app) and QR codes for our reservations. Two must-have items to be able to enter the parks. We also are California residents, which also is a must for now.

The other thing we made sure to do was to have the Disneyland App installed on our phones. We have used this before to order food and get wait times, but now it is absolutely necessary for a few reasons. First, the food carts throughout the parks do allow you to just walk up and order food and pay, but for the restaurant-type places, you will need to order ahead, pick a time and complete the whole process in the app. When we first got to Disneyland, we were a little worried to see that there wasn’t much available anytime soon, but then we realized that a lot of places were not open yet. Noon seemed to be the time where there were many more options. You can see all the menus in the app too so it actually is a time saver not having to go to different places to make sure everyone in your party has something they want to eat.

The other thing we did to prepare was to buy some high-quality masks, especially for Emmy. We were not sure what 25% capacity (what they are currently admitting into the parks) would look like and we wanted to be as safe as possible if it felt at all crowded. You can see from these pictures that this was not an issue. In fact, she ended up wearing a Disney-themed cloth mask when outside, and anytime she would be closer to people or even quickly walking through indoor areas, she put the other type of mask back on.

Opening day at Disneyland ended up being VERY warm. I also wondered if having the mask would make it difficult to stay hydrated since we would have to find a special place to take it off and drink, and it did not. The designated drinking areas are everywhere.

Socially distanced character photos at Disneyland Resort
Physically distanced character photos at Disneyland Resort

Parking and Disneyland Park entry.

Once we got to the Disneyland parking garage, we were reminded that there was no tram service available. Walking to the park was no big deal. At the end of the day, however, I for sure missed being able to jump on the tram to get taken back to my car. I am sure that once capacity is back up it will make sense to have this running again.

For the health screening, as soon as you exit the parking garage (right before where the tram would normally pick you up) were tables with what I believe to be Hoag affiliates doing the temperature screening. Hoag is our go-to hospital system when we are in Orange County and we love them so it was nice seeing friendly and familiar faces. Just be prepared for some mixed instructions and follow them the best you can. We were told to go in a straight line at times and then immediately told we needed to have been side by side in 2 different formations. This includes all the other, regular safety screenings they do during normal times too.  The best advice is to just go with the flow. We had decided to go about an hour after the opening to avoid any eager crowds, so when we got there the whole process took 3 minutes or so and we were good to go. I really appreciate all of the safety and health checks and precautions because they help us all get back to normal as soon as possible.

Hand hygiene stations throughout Disneyland Resort.
Hand hygiene stations throughout Disneyland Resort.

Inside Disneyland Park, it felt like a normal fun Disney day- just with some extra noticeable things.

But I want to really note that I was expecting it to feel different and I wondered if it would be something even worth doing if there were these extra things to think about. It was for sure worth it and it really felt like a good ol’ day at Disneyland that we have missed so much!

For starters, there are hand sanitizer stations everywhere you look. There are also some handwashing stations too. We and most other guests took advantage of those anytime we walked by one- and especially after touching anything or going on an attraction.

Main Street USA Disneyland at 25% capacity.
Main Street USA Disneyland at 25% capacity.

This is what 25% capacity pretty much looked like throughout the day.

Plenty of space for groups to physical distance. Speaking of which, you can be with 2 other households, so 3 households together tops is allowed.

Celebrating a special occasion at Disneyland.
Celebrating a special occasion at Disneyland.

If you are celebrating a special occasion, City Hall in Disneyland is not open for visitors, but they have some of those famous buttons (still free) at some registers at the shops. Maddie had planned on doing a day at Disneyland for her 21st birthday 2 weeks ago but obviously, that couldn’t happen and so we just celebrated on opening day. I think this made it even more special!

Physical distancing at Disneyland
Physical distancing at Disneyland

You will see these reminders throughout the parks too!

Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Resort

Sleeping Beauty Castle looked even more gorgeous than I remember it.

I can’t wait until we can see it lit up at night again.  For now, the parks have reduced hours. On opening day, these were the hours. Be sure to check before you plan to go too.

Disneyland Park Hours: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Disney California Adventure Park Hours: 9:00 AM – 7:00 PM
Downtown Disney District Hours: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

One other thing of note- we had park hopper tickets and with that, we only had access to Disneyland until 1 pm. After that, we were able to hop over to Disney California Adventure Park too!

Disneyland Resort Reopening Day
Disneyland Resort Reopening Day

I asked for help on my Instagram account with deciding what we should do first, and sure enough, it involved eating. Ha! So we got out the app and planned our first meal and then went and bought some snacks and water.

Ordering food on the Disneyland app.
Ordering food on the Disneyland App.

We also noticed that we were all doing something totally different than we did on our past Disneyland visits- we took in all the little things and didn’t feel a rush to do ALL the things.

We stopped and watched the Mark Twain Riverboat go by and saw our favorite springtime event, the baby ducklings playing in the water.

Mark Twain Riverboat
Mark Twain Riverboat

We snacked on the world-famous ice-cold pineapple spears. I have no idea if they really are that famous, but we love them and they are famous in our family.

Food options at Disneyland Resort
Food options at Disneyland Resort

And we strolled through the park just taking it all in.

Heath and safety precautions at Disneyland Resort
Heath and safety precautions at Disneyland Resort

We also saw characters everywhere!

Even they are physically distancing, but you can still take pictures with them because of the way they have them situated. You just stand in front of them for a great shot. I think I actually like it more this way because they can be more animated and it is quite entertaining.

Physically distant character photos at Disneyland
Physically distant character photos at Disneyland

And we stopped by the King Arthur Carousel to see the regal transformation!

The pictures don’t do it justice. With deep purple and gold accents, it really is stunning. See, this is what I mean about seeing Disneyland in a whole new light. I have marveled at updates before, but this time I really appreciated every little change I saw.

Updated King Arthur Carousel
Updated King Arthur Carousel

Ordering food on the Disneyland App.

We were feeling the heat of the day, so we found one of the designated dining areas and went and picked up our food.

On the app, before you order, it gives you a choice of times to collect your food. Then, once you get to the dining venue during that chosen time frame, you click that you are there on the app and they prepare your food. Then you get another notice that it is ready and where to pick it up. Very simple and not only saves time but limits interactions with others.

Designated dining area inside Disneyland
Designated dining area inside Disneyland
Spaced out dining tables at Disneyland
Spaced out dining tables at Disneyland

The food options are not to the level of what they were before, but like other aspects, they will be increasing as capacity does. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t add some new options!

We had the new Enchanted Cauli-Flower Sandwich at Red Rose Tavern inside Fantasyland at Disneyland Park with fries. We all agreed it was really good.

Enchanted Cauli-Flower Sandwich at Red Rose Tavern
Plant-based Enchanted Cauli-Flower Sandwich at Red Rose Tavern

After eating the girls put their new cloth masks back on and Emmy sent off a couple of selfies to her grandma!

Disney-themed cloth masks.
Disney-themed cloth masks.
Disneyland face coverings.
Disneyland face coverings.

After that, we thought we would see what the wait times looked like for some attractions in the app. Pirates of the Caribbean said a 20-minute wait, but it ended up being shorter at about 15 minutes once we got there.

When you are ready to join the queue, look for the cast members with tall signs that say “line starts here”. They will direct you to a spot like this on the ground. From there it feels a bit like musical chairs but without the music and the stress of finding a spot. As the people in front of you move, you stand at the next marker until it is time to get onto the boats. Once you reach the inside part, you are shown into the building right as it is time to board and there is also plexiglass between the two lines for the brief moments everyone is boarding.

Nothing is without any risk, but it all felt very well planned out and as safe as possible.

Disneyland line markers.
Disneyland line markers.

Guests are boarded by party and limited to 2 on each boat, but even then you are spaced out. Since there were 5 of us, we took up one complete boat and had the middle rows for an added buffer.

Pirates of the Caribbean looked and felt super polished and extra vibrant!

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean

Our next stop was the Haunted Mansion.

It had some fun updates both inside and out so be sure to keep a lookout for things you haven’t seen before!

The queue is outside as usual and wrapped all through the yard to allow for physical distancing. This also gave us an opportunity to see the fresh elements that were added! Inside the first room, there are only 4 groups and you are put in each corner to maximize space between. This also makes getting in your buggy quick and easy.

Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion

How to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Keeping up with the fun, we saw that it was almost our time for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.

Earlier in the day (at noon) we entered the attraction’s virtual queue via the Disneyland Mobile App, and were given an estimated time when we would be able to experience it. And then from there we just checked in on the app to see how our “queue number” was progressing. As it started getting close, we headed over. By then it was our boarding time and we got into the outdoor line. The attraction is a bit modified, but the main part is still the same and physical distancing is followed every step of the way.

Something to remember is that the reservations are released at 7 am and 12 pm in the app. and you have to be in Disneyland park, to make them.

This was actually the girls first time on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and they absolutely LOVED it!

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

As we exited we pulled the app right back out and order up some blue milk and walked right over to pick it up. I am still so happy that this is plant-based so we can all enjoy it!

Using the Disneyland App
Using the Disneyland App
Refreshing blue milk break.
Refreshing blue milk break.
Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

And we just had to stop for this photo opp!

Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Stormtrooper Photo Opp
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Stormtrooper Photo Opp

Reopening day at Disney California Adventure.

It was well past 1 pm at this point and time to head over to Disney California Adventure!

We really wanted to see the new magic added to Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, but it had the longest wait times of all attractions so we decided to add that to the list for next time.

Disney California Adventure
Disney California Adventure

We stopped to do a bit of shopping and I debated if we needed some new shirts to celebrate the opening (we did!) to go with our new ears.

The Magic Is Back merchandise
The Magic Is Back merchandise

We passed more character photo opps just like in Disneyland.

FROZEN Photo Opp
FROZEN Photo Opp

And the balloons we all love are still here!

Disneyland Resort balloons
Disneyland Resort balloons

Then we made a quick left into Cars Land.

We are planning a month-long road trip this summer on stretches of Route 66 so this totally got us excited for that. Disney has inspired a lot of our travels over the years, most clearly with our Adventures By Disney vacations, but even this area got us talking about doing a big road trip years ago.

Cars Land
Cars Land
Route 66 Cars Land
Route 66 Cars Land
Disneyland Resort Reopening Cars Land
Disneyland Resort Reopening Cars Land

Suddenly Emmy was unable to move past this area without a rootbeer float, so we did what any parents who have been staying safe at home for over a year with an energetic 11-year-old would do- we urgently got her that treat. It was a mess and she loved every second of eating it. It felt like at that moment we all started to breathe again in a way we hadn’t in a long time. Life started to feel normal-ish. Like the light at the end of the dark tunnel we had lived through, was close at hand. Disneyland is magical like that. It is a place where you leave the cares of the world behind for a little bit and just have fun with family and friends.

Disneyland California Adventure Food
Disneyland California Adventure Food
Disneyland California Adventure Reopening
Disneyland California Adventure Reopening

Don’t forget to look high and low to see unexpected friends saying hello!

Disneyland California Adventure Character Appearances
Disneyland California Adventure Character Appearances

I might have done more shopping at this point. I’m not saying either way- except to say, SO MANY CUTE EARS!

New Disney Park Ears
New Disney Park Ears

Even though Emmy was filled up on soda and ice cream, she said she couldn’t leave the parks without having some Disney mac n’ cheese. She LOVES it and I think it is great that it is consistently offered at the parks on both coasts and on the cruise ships.

Not wanting to be left out of the eating fun, the rest of us tried another new menu item, Petite Impossible™ Burger with Guac and Pepper Jack available at the Smokejumpers Grill inside Disney California Adventure Park, Grizzly Peak area. It is the fast-service restaurant next to Soarin’.

We sat at a designated dining area after we picked up our food that was ordered on the app!

The burger was definitely petite so order 2 for a meal if you are very hungry! It was very flavorful and I can’t wait to have it again.

Disney California Adventure designated dining area
Disney California Adventure designated dining area
Petite Impossible™ Burger with Guac and Pepper Jack
Petite Impossible™ Burger with Guac and Pepper Jack

We also couldn’t leave without popcorn so Maddie stopped over at a cart and brought us back a couple to eat at the table.

Disneyland Popcorn
Disneyland Popcorn
A day at the newly reopened Disneyland Resort
A day at the newly reopened Disneyland Resort
Shopping at Disney California Adventure
Shopping at Disney California Adventure

By then it was close to 6 pm and only an hour left until the parks closed. 

We thought about doing another lap around to see the rest of the park, but instead decided to split up and each go on our favorite attractions. Pete and I headed over to Soarin’ and the girls went on the Incredicoaster in Pixar Pier (twice). Physical distancing and outdoor spaces were utilized on these as well and we can’t think of a better way to end our first day back at Disneyland after it reopened.

I often thought about if it would be worth going to the parks with the added precautions and changes being observed. I wondered if it would somehow change the feel or make it a less than ideal time to visit? After our time there, I can say for sure it didn’t. 

It really felt like a super fun day- just like it usually is. I do think had they not been doing so many health precautions I would have decided not to go. Even though 4 of us are completely vaccinated and none of us are considered high-risk, it wouldn’t have felt like the right thing to do. With all the precautions being taken, I felt comfortable having myself and my family there and we felt free to enjoy ourselves. 

Before you plan your own day (or more) at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure be sure to follow along on the current phased reopening updates.

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Heather Reese
the authorHeather Reese
Heather Delaney Reese is the storyteller and photographer behind the lifestyle and family travel blog It's a Lovely Life®! In addition to traveling 150+ days a year, she also helps new bloggers build successful blogging businesses.

8 Comments

  • Obsessed with it all! Can’t wait to visit in a few weeks, once I’m fully vaccinated. Countdown is on!

  • We also went opening week. We are fully vaccinated but my 11 yr old of course is not. My family went for 4 days. We felt safe and had an Amazing time. Being able to go on every ride in less than 6 hrs was incredible. I know it won’t be for very long but the 25% capacity is perfect.

    • So glad you enjoyed it too and that is funny that both our kiddos are 11! We were thinking the same thing, enjoy this low capacity while we can!

  • We were wondering if the reduced hours and masks would still make for a fun experience. Plus, like you, we were worried about crowds. We have 3 kids (10, 7, and 3) who obviously don’t have the vaccine but my husband and I do. We got tickets and reservations because this family of introverts just couldn’t wait to experience the parks at such a reduced capacity! Thanks for all the plant-based options! We’re planning on checking out that cauliflower sandwich too! 🙂

  • This is a lovely article. Just wish they would let out of state guests visit. It’s actually a bit painful to read about cal residents having such a nice time. Glad for them we just wish we could go too.

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