The Reopening of Disneyland: What to Expect and What Is Changing

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Despite the lack of a vaccine, the world is starting to learn how to live with the coronavirus (COVID-19). That means, with certain precautions, we are starting to see some of our favorite things come back to normal — including Disney parks.

Disneyland Shanghai was the first Disney park to reopen, followed by the announced July 2020 reopening of Tokyo Disneyland and then Walt Disney World in Florida, and we thought that Disneyland Resort in California would be next — but that has reopening has been postponed.

When Disneyland does finally reopen, the Disney experience will be quite different with crowd controls and new safety protocols being implemented to help keep guests and Cast Members as safe as possible.

If you plan on visiting, be prepared for some changes (that will likely continue to change).

What Is Changing at Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Castle Security Guard with a Mask
Image Credit: Disneyland Twitter

Disneyland Resort began a phased reopening, starting with its Downtown Disney District on July 9, 2020.

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Park, and Disney California Adventure Park were all scheduled to open in July 2020 as well, but that date has been pushed back indefinitely (likely late 2021).

To open all of these safely, Disney has a big list of changes that are going to be made that will need to be approved by local and state governments.

Enhanced Health and Safety Measures

Disneyland is working with local government as well as unions to make sure that Cast Members and guests are protected. Guidelines are fluid and subject to change but are similar to what we are seeing at other theme parks around the world.

The enhanced health and safety measures will include:

Enhanced Protective Measures

Both guests and Cast Members will be required to wear face coverings. As we have seen with Walt Disney World’s reopening precautions, Disney will classify a face covering as something that:

  • Completely covers an individual’s mouth and nose while being hands-free
  • Fits comfortably and snugly along the side of the face
  • Should be secured with ear loops or ties
  • Can be reusable or disposable, but should be made out of a breathable material

Guests will have access to additional hand washing stations placed throughout the park and should expect to see “physical barriers” (i.e. plexiglass shields) where appropriate.

Hot Tip: Just remember, the rules for character masks and costumes have not changed. That means that adults will not be able to use a Storm Trooper helmet, for example, as a face covering. Check out our guide to what items are banned from bringing into Disney parks before your next trip.

Physical Distancing

Disneyland will operate at reduced capacity and hours when the park reopens, with additional signs to help guests navigate the park more responsibly.

If the Disneyland Resort in California is following the lead of Disneyland Shanghai, we can expect to see a capacity cap of around 30%.

Furthermore, select attractions and experiences that tend to attract large crowds (such as parades and nighttime spectaculars) will not be available upon reopening.

Although character meets will be temporarily unavailable, guests can still expect to see characters throughout the park.

Temperature Checks

All guests entering either the Downtown Disney District or the theme parks will be required to undergo a temperature check.

Additionally, Cast Members will be required to complete daily health screening and temperature checks.

From what we have seen at other theme parks, the maximum temperature allowed will be 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).

Limited Contact Enhancements

Disney is officially recommending cashless transactions to help reduce unnecessary guest and Cast Member contact.

Guests can expect to see more options for contactless payment including Apple Pay and mobile ordering via the Disneyland app.

Enhanced Cleaning and Sanitation

Although Disneyland is already known for being squeaky clean and picture-perfect, the parks will now build upon existing standards of cleaning with heightened protocols.

These protocols will be in place for both guests in the park as well as for Cast Members backstage.

Reopening Dates

Disneyland California Castle
Image Credit: Disney

Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park

Disney was hoping to get local and state government approvals for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park to reopen on July 17, 2020. That date was postponed indefinitely and based on the guidelines released from the state of California on October 20, 2020, it appears to be very difficult to be able to reopen any time soon.

However, starting in November 2020, visitors will be allowed into the Buena Vista District of the Disney California Adventure Park where they can enjoy some shopping and dining.

The current reopening date for the full park is TBD. 

Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel

Guests had been expecting to be able to check-in to Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel starting on July 23, 2020, though that date has also been delayed (although reservations can still be made online).

The current reopening date is TBD. 

Downtown Disney District

The Downtown Disney District began reopening on July 9, 2020, with limited parking and entrances, as well as a whole list of health and safety measures.

Starting in November 2020, visitors can extend their Downtown Disney trip into the Buena Vista District of the Disney California Adventure Park for additional shopping and dining options.

For complete details on what to expect, visit the Downtown Disney District website.

New Reservation System

When Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park reopen, they will do so with a new reservation system to help control park capacity and promote physical distancing measures.

Revised Park Reservations

All guests, including those with existing tickets as well as Annual Passholders, will need to secure a park reservation in addition to their admission ticket.

Previously, guests only needed to show up to the gate with an admission ticket (or purchase 1 at the gate) to get into the park.

While Disneyland has yet to announce exactly how this will work, we can assume it will be similar to the system that Walt Disney World is now using.

New Ticket Sales

At the moment, all new ticket sales are temporarily paused.

The Annual Passport program has been discontinued and Disneyland is in the process of developing a new membership to “deliver choice, flexibility, and value for our biggest fans.” Guests with existing passports will be refunded appropriately.

Disneyland Resort Hotel Reservations

Disneyland Resort Hotel room availability
Image Credit: Disney

Currently “the Hotels of the Disneyland Resort remain closed and will reopen at a later date.”

Guests trying to make a reservation will likely receive an error message when entering dates.

Hot Tip: Regardless of when the parks and hotels actually open, having a hotel reservation and a ticket will not guarantee a park reservation. 

Dining Reservations

Disneyland Dining at Goofys Kitchen
Image Credit: Disney

Under normal circumstances, guests can make a dining reservation up to 60 days in advance. Currently, there are no dining reservations available.

There is no official word from Disney regarding dining reservations and new procedures at Disneyland. But, we wouldn’t be surprised if it were similar to what Walt Disney World will be implementing.

Max Pass, FASTPASS, and Experiences

Unlike Walt Disney World, Disneyland does not use the advanced reservation system, FastPass+. Instead, guests can utilize the FASTPASS option that requires getting a physical ticket from the desired ride.

There is a paid version of this called Max Pass, but it does not allow for future reservations like at Walt Disney World. That means guests do not have to worry about their ride reservations that they made months before Disneyland was closed.

However, like Walt Disney World, certain rides and guest experiences will be delayed even after the parks reopen.

Guests can expect attractions that gather large groups, such as parades and nighttime spectaculars, will be temporarily suspended, along with character meet-and-greets.

Hot Tip: Skip the queue and go on an immersive virtual ride on the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run attraction at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in our guide to the best virtual tours and field trips for kids and students.


Disneyland Monorail
Image Credit: Disney

Compared to Walt Disney World, Disneyland has a much smaller footprint, so getting between parks and hotels is not quite as intense.

Disneyland is serviced by the Disneyland Monorail that connects Tomorrowland and the Downtown Disney District.

When the park reopens, you can expect that capacity will be limited on board the Monorail.

What to Expect at Disneyland Resort Hotels

Disney, as a company, has revealed updated safety standards for its hotels around the globe.

Guests will notice changes in 2 main areas: at the resort and in the guest room.

At the Resort

Changes start at check-in, with more options for online check-in and redesigned bell and luggage services.

Aside from the obvious increase in hand sanitizer available, Disneyland Resort hotels will be increasing cleaning in high-traffic areas such as in elevators, on handrails, public benches, lobby tables, restrooms, and more.

Upon reopening, guests should also expect to see limited capacity and services at resort restaurants, pools, and fitness centers.

Technology is always at the forefront with Disney, so the increased use of contactless payments will be aiding in these efforts.

In the Room

All guest rooms at Disneyland Resort will receive enhanced cleaning techniques that are being rolled out worldwide.

Currently, these techniques include updated practices for cleaning tools, as well as managing in-room amenities, linens, luggage, and more.

Guest rooms will receive the updated enhanced cleanings before arrival, followed up by a light cleaning service every other day during the stay.

Hot Tip: Thinking of building a beach day into your California trip? Huntington Beach and Newport Beach are just under 30 minutes from Anaheim! Check our guide to the best beaches in California for more details.

What Will Not Be Available at Disneyland

Disneyland Fireworks
Image Credit: Disney

With the delayed reopening of Disneyland, we are all waiting to hear exactly what will and what will not be available when the gates swing open.

We also know that initially the following will be temporarily suspended:

  • Parades
  • Nighttime spectaculars
  • Character meet-and-greets

What to Pack for Your Next Disney Vacation

Hand sanitizer
Image Credit: Kelly Sikkema via Unsplash

Although packing for Disneyland isn’t quite as daunting as packing for Walt Disney World, doing so during a pandemic can get tricky.

If you will be flying or staying in a hotel room, you will certainly want to sanitize your airplane seats and hotel rooms.

Regardless, your packing list will probably want to include the following:

Final Thoughts

Walk Disney and Mickey Mouse statue at Disneyland
Image Credit: Travis Gergen via Unsplash

With California seeing a second wave of coronavirus infections and Disneyland having to push back its reopening plans, a trip to seeing Mickey in Southern California is anything but a sure thing at the moment.

If you really need your Disney fix, you can get some of that magic by visiting the Downtown Disney District which has been open since July 2020.

After that, you will need to hope that you can be one of the few who get a reservation to get into the limited capacity park to enjoy a physically distant Disney day.

For a preview of how things will look in California, be sure to keep an eye on the reopening of Walt Disney World in Orlando!

Frequently asked questions

Will Disneyland California require face masks?

Yes, guests will be required to wear face coverings at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park, as well as at the Downtown Disney District.

Disney will classify a face covering as something that:

  • Completely covers an individual’s mouth and nose while being hands-free
  • Fits comfortably and snugly along the side of the face
  • Should be secured with ear loops or ties
  • Can be reusable or disposable, but should be made out of a breathable material

When will Disneyland California reopen?

Currently, there is no scheduled date for Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park to reopen.

The Downtown Disney District will begin reopening on July 9, 2020, with limited parking and entrances, as well as a whole list of health and safety measures.

Do I need a reservation and a ticket to visit Disneyland in California?

Yes, all guests, including those with existing tickets as well as Annual Passholders, will need to secure a park reservation in addition to their admission ticket. Once a reopening date has been set, there will be more information released about how to make reservations.

Can I still make dining reservations at Disneyland?

Disney has canceled all existing dining reservations and suspend new reservations until a reopening date has been set. Once a date has been set, a new reservation system will be rolled out to accommodate those who had reservations canceled.

Chris Hassan

About Chris Hassan

Chris is from Boston and is currently living in Rio de Janeiro with his wife, two kids, and their dog, Shelby. When Chris was in college, he spent a semester abroad studying hotel and business management in Switzerland. That is where he caught the travel bug and met his wife. Quite a successful trip!

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