It’s been a long time coming. The opening of Disneyland Resort’s gates to guests. And even though it was only California Adventure Park, and there were no rides operating, the whole experience was magical, to say the least. While most guests focus on the attractions during their vacation, there’s always a part of your days at Disneyland that are just about the atmosphere; and that’s what we were able to experience at the Touch of Disney event.
It’s been over one year since Disneyland had to close their gates due to the global pandemic. A lot has changed for us as words like “social distancing” and “COVID” have become part of our everyday lives. We’ve also become accustomed to wearing masks everywhere we go. So when Disney announced that they would be offering guests the first opportunity to go into a park and spend the day there, we jumped on it.
To no surprise, the Touch of Disney tickets sold-out very quickly the day they were released. A lot of people, like us, wanted the chance to go back. We were lucky enough to get the first event day after waiting 3 hours to buy tickets. We knew it would be worth the wait. So we packed our bags and on March 18th, we got our opportunity to go into California Adventure Park.
The event started at 12pm but guests were allowed to start parking at 11:30am and walk over. We were on foot and entered the resort from the west side through the Katella entrance at 10am. There was already a line formed for the event near the east box offices so we jumped in line even though we had 2 hours to wait. After about 15 minutes Cast Members moved the line from the box offices to the park gate and lined us up at the turnstiles. We ended up getting a second spot at one of them.
In line were the biggest fans, influencers, and bloggers, all excited to be able to go into the park. There was a lot of laughing and cheerings going on as we all chatted about what had happened over the last year and how excited we were for the reopening of the parks on April 30th. Eventually, Disney let us into the event about 30 minutes early. As soon as guests tickets were scanned there was cheering from all over. Cast Members lined Buena Vista Street clapping and cheering on their first guests in over a year. It was pretty magical.
Because we were let in early and many guests hadn’t showed up yet, the park was empty, so we took advantage of this and took a lot of pictures and video of the park. It was interesting to be able to walk down somewhere with either just ourselves or maybe 1-2 other people. Eventually though, the park filled with guests and we went about tasting our way around California Adventure Park.
And that’s how the entire day went. We walked around to all the different areas, tried the food that was there, hung around taking photos and then moved on. It was very relaxing as there was no timetable to follow. Eat, drink, talk and enjoy the ambiance of the park. It sounds very simple, and it was, which made for a fantastic day. 8pm came very quickly and we were asked to head to the exit. We had such an amazing time and it’s got us pumped for the end of April.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT A TOUCH OF DISNEY
First off, you need a ticket and they are all sold out so if you don’t already have one, you’re out of luck. If you do have one, congrats! There are some things you’ll want to know about the event that can help you be more prepared for it and make your experience that much better.
We highly recommend following Disney’s instructions about linking your ticket to the Disneyland App. Speaking of the Disneyland App, you MUST download this and have an account. You’ll be using it all day during the event. Once you’ve linked your ticket, you’ll be able to pull it up at the gates so the Cast Members there can scan it.
Be sure to check the weather for the day you’re attending and bring the right outfits and gear. Our day was sunny and warm, enough so that sun screen was nice on the neck and ears. Like many other guests, we wore spirit jerseys and at the peak of the day it felt warm.
If you’re driving, which we would recommend avoiding if at all possible, Disney will not let you into the park structure until 11:30 am. Early arrivals will be sent to loop around until they open. If you can, walk or take an Uber or LYFT to the event.
Downtown Disney opens up at 10 am so guests for the event can take advantage of this and head into the resort at this time. You can use either the East or West resort entrances to get in. Once in, there may be a line somewhere near the east side box offices. As we mentioned above, eventually they will move you in front of the DCA gate. Plan to wait until 11:30 am or so before they start letting you in. Each day could be different so don’t bank on getting let in early but arrive early enough to take advantage of it if it happens.
On your way in, Cast Members will scan your event tickets, take your photo, and hand you a dining card for $25. It’s essentially a Disney Gift Card but it’s only good for food and beverage (no alcohol or merchandise). The dining card can be used in the app or in person. Be sure to grab a guide map to the event here as well. You are allowed to leave and re-enter the event if you want to do some Downtown Disney shopping.
Pretty much every food location at the event is mobile order, meaning, you can’t just walk up, pay, and get your food. You need to use the Disneyland App to select a return window, choose your food, place the order and then return to pick it up. It’s just like how mobile ordering worked before. Once your window has arrived you’ll need to tap the “I’m Here Prepare My Food” button. Once it’s ready the app will let you know and you can go get it.
There are always lots of guests who are confused and start forming weird lines that go nowhere or their food isn’t actually ready but they are in line. It can get messy but just make your way through it. We would recommend standing away from the marketplaces if your food isn’t ready to help easy congestion and confusion. There are Cast Members who are there to help with any questions. It really is a simple process though.
If you have troubles with the app or you just want to be able to pay without mobile ordering there are two locations in the park where you can do this. Both of them offer the full menu for you to look at and order from. How these register work is, you order from one of the marketplaces, pay and then get a receipt. You’ll repeat the process for each additional stand you order from. Once you have the receipts, you can then take them to the marketplaces at anytime during the day and pick up your food. The receipts are like cash so don’t lose them!
There can be an advantage to using this method over mobile ordering but it has to play our right. Either you’ll want to do this first thing and preorder all your food for the day or you’ll want to get in these lines when they are small and mobile order widows are far out. Otherwise we suggest using the mobile order method.
These registers can be found just past Carthay Circle Restaurant and across from Ariel’s Undersea Adventure.
If you’re looking to buy alcohol, photo ID is required (as usual) before picking up your order. Again, the dining card you’ll receive is not valid towards alcoholic drinks. You’ll find that the $25 dining card goes quickly at these stands as most items cost on average, $6-$7.
There are tons of tables to sit at throughout the park as Disney has set up additional locations and stands everywhere. Some are standing and some are sit down. For us, it wasn’t ever too hard to find a spot once we had our food. There are a few dining locations open for reservations including Carthay Circle and Lamplight Lounge. You’ll need to make reservations for these prior to your event date as they fill up quickly. We asked about walk-ups and both locations said they weren’t doing them.
There are several merchandise and pop-up stores throughout the event when you can purchase pretty much anything. We were bummed that they didn’t have have special merchandise for the event like t-shirts or ears but it was fine. They didn’t have a lot of time to prepare which is why, in general, the event is very comparable to the Food and Wine Festival that happened in early 2020.
There are characters that will be out but not about. They’re typically behind some kind of barrier but in a position where you can get a selfie with them. They are pretty sporadic so just keep you eyes open for them. The only ones that you can bank on are Mater and Lightning McQueen in Cars Land. Outside of characters, there are tons of photo ops throughout the park either with Photopass photographers or set-ups. D23 has several photo locations for club fans as well.
Disney has made a special playlist for the parks with great music and some funny announcements about shopping and using the mobile app. The only thing we didn’t like about it was that the playlist is short so we ended up hearing the same songs and announcements probably 8-10 times. Kind of annoying. Not the worst thing though.
There are guest relation Cast Members found throughout the park to help you with any questions you might have. Only a few spots in the park are closed off, specifically by Luigi’s and Guardians. You’ll see that several attractions like Ariel and Grizzly River Run are under construction for refurbs. Avengers Campus is still blocked off but you can see a little bit over the wall near Grizzly Falls.
That’s pretty much it. It’s a fantastic welcome back event and a perfect lead-in to Disneyland’s reopening at the end of April. Be sure to thank the Cast Members while you’re there. They’ve been through a lot since the parks closed a year ago and we’re so excited to have them back.
If you have additional questions about the event that you feel we didn’t answer please let us know!
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.