As we’re sure you know by now, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA has been closed for over a year now and during this time only Downtown Disney has been open to the public for about half of it. In March Disney opened up a new event for guests called A Touch of Disney. Now, Disneyland has fully reopened and has even brought back their annual pass program called Magic Key. Currently Park Reservations are still required for entry but most shows and attractions are open.
While our planning guides typically cover topics like hotels, dining, savings, and crowds, this guide is going to be a bit different. We’re not sure how long it will be relevant as nothing is known during COVID but we’re hoping that, like Walt Disney World, Disneyland will be mostly normal by Oct. of 2021. While this is an obvious goal for Disney World who is celebrating their 50th anniversary then, Disneyland doesn’t have a timeline like this (Updated Sept. 14th, 2021).
What you’ll get from this guide is a chance to plan and prepare for a Disneyland vacation while COVID restrictions are still in place. The parks change quite a bit as we’ve learned from Disney World, so it’s always good to know what you’re jumping into. Being prepared will help you plan a better vacation for yourself and your party.
WHEN DOES DISNEYLAND REOPEN?
Disneyland reopened on April 30th, 2021 after being closed since March of 2020. When the parks first reopened there were a lot of safety measures in place including social distancing, mask mandates and limited capacity. As of Sept. 2021, they have mostly disappeared.
At one point it was all gone but due to the rising of the Delta variant, masks are required to be worn in all indoor locations including attractions, hotels and dining.
Originally on CA residents were allowed to visit the parks per state mandate but that only lasted about 1-2 months. Eventually the resort reopened to everyone and then finally the mask mandate was taken away (then brought back as mentioned above).
During their original closure, Disneyland got rid of their annual pass program and, for a time, only had legacy passholder. While this program gave discounts to the holders, no theme park entry was included. Finally is August of 2021, Disney announced a brand new Passholder program called Magic Key.
Now this program included 4 different level of passes, new block-out dates and other perks like merchandise and dining discounts. They also opened a Magic Key lounge over in Tomorrowland.
As of right now, all Disney property hotels are open and taking reservations. These include Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel, Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier. No early entry is currently available.
COVID-19 SAFETY MEASURES
There are very little COVID measures in place at this time. Only that masks need to be worn while inside attractions and shows and shops. It quite an annoying process to put them on and then take them off and then put them on…but for health and safety we will do it.
It is nice to be able to walk around the park without a mask. It’s also nice to not have to be socially distance at attractions and shows. Even dining is back to normal with tables being filled. Of course these could change at any moment based on different variants and local government officials. Best practice is to bring a mask for everyone ages 2 and up.
So far no vaccination cards are required for entry.
DISNEYLAND CAPACITY RESTRICTIONS & PARK PASS SYSTEM
Disneyland did open to limited capacity intially and they may still be. Because they don’t share their numbers, the best way for us to find out is to look at open park reservations. Some days will be sold out and then all of a sudden they’re are more. This is usually a sign that Disney is opening up more and more.
As a guest, you wouldn’t notice and capacity restrictions. The parks look and feel like normal at this point. Wait times are average, hotel bookings fill up, and special events are selling out.
Disneyland’s Park Pass System is still in place however, meaning, they are still trying to control how many people are coming into the parks. Reservations are required for entry and can be made online AFTER you’ve purchased tickets. It’s always a good idea to check park availability before buying to make sure your dates are available.
The biggest change for the parks right now is no FASTPASS. Whereas guests use to be able to access FASTPASS for free at the parks as well as via the paid MaxPass service. These are no longer being offered. Instead, Disney announced a new service coming to Disneyland called Genie.
Genie will feature two options and will be very similar to MaxPass. First is a free version that will help guests plan out their day and make suggestions based on the things they like. FASTPASS (or what will now be called Lightening Lane) will not be available on the free version.
The paid version of Genie will include Lightening Lane access as well as a few other perks. Be sure to read more about the Genie and Genie+ programs in out in-depth guide.
Park Hopping is still allowed at the parks starting at 1 pm local time. Park Hopping before this time is not allowed. Guests have to choose a “starting” park, either Disneyland or California Adventure Park for the day. Once 1 pm comes around guests will be able to switch parks assuming they have a hopper ticket.
So far Disney has not hinted at removing these new Park Hopping rules and we see them hanging around for quite a while.
Attractions were initially running at limited capacity and with lots of social distancing. At this point they are all functioning normal and and many that were closed are now reopen. Keep in mind that if the attraction is indoors, you will need to wear a mask.
Attractions including Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and WEB-SLINGERS are still running on a virtual queue. You can read about how to use and increase your chances of getting into the virtual queue by reading our proven articles: Rise of the Resistance and WEB-SLINGERS.
Keep in mind that these are truly lotteries and there is no guarantee that you will get in. You have two chances each day to try though. We highly recommend reading those two articles above to help you understand how they work so you can be prepared.
Other attractions at the parks are all running normally at this time. They all only offer one line type which is standby (a few do have single rider). But no FASTPASS.
With Avengers Campus having just opened, this seems to be the hot-spot of the parks. Be sure to read our complete guide on this new land to get a better understanding of it and how to experience it.
Soon Splash Mountain will be turning into a Tiana, Princess and the Frog theme though no official date has been set.
The Mark Twain and Sailing Ship Columbia and both operating. Tom Sawyer Island is open. The only things that are down are the entertainment like World of Color and Fantasmic! The fireworks and parades are up and running at this point.
HOTELS AT DISNEYLAND
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa opened April 29th so guests are able to make reservations. The Disneyland Hotel and Paradise Pier opened several weeks later but both are open to all guests.
Masks are required once inside the hotels, specifically the lobbies and fitness centers. Some dining locations are open and subject to availability. Prices seem to be running at an all time high right now so just be aware of that. We’ve seen teh Grand Californian up into the $800’s for a standard room.
Disney has recently moved to a online check-in system to help you avoid the front desk. They’ve also mad your phone your room key; another reason to skip the front desk. Once check-in online you can simply head to your room once you receive a message that it’s ready.
We recommend booking your hotel online to help you save some money.
DINING AT DISNEYLAND
If you haven’t already you should download the Disneyland Resort app to your phone. This is going to play a very important role in how you eat at Disneyland during your vacation. During the Touch of Disney event the mobile app was almost the only way you could order food. Every marketplace and quick service location asked that you mobile order. The exception was two cash registers where you could use cash or card after choosing what you wanted.
Disneyland has been pushing mobile ordering like never before during COVID (and probably after). It’s convenient and keeps guests from crowding at the registers and food lines. Essentially guests are required to show that they have mobile ordered and that their food is ready for pick-up before entering the quick service location. Once inside you’re assigned a line to pick your food up.
Guests who cannot mobile order for whatever reason will be assigned to a cashier who will help them. We’ve seen these lines before and they can get long so we highly recommend you get your mobile ordering skills up to par.
Tables at quick service locations require reservations for the most part. Plan ahead and book 60 days in advance.
If you’re looking to do sit down dining you’ll want to make sure you grab reservations in advance. We anticipate these to operate at capacity on most days with walk-ups being turned away. Popular restaurant ‘s such as Carthay Circle and Blue Bayou are open and taking reservations. You need to book these early otherwise you’ll miss out. Walk-ups are very rare right now.
SHOPPING AT DISNEYLAND
Currently at Downtown Disney guests can shop at most stores located there including World of Disney. There are really no restrictions as far as these go. Same goes for inside the parks. All the big shops are open and are bringing in new merchandise all the time.
Lockers are now available for guests to store items that they’ve purchased but don’t want to carry around. As always, we recommend doing your shopping last so you don’t have to worry about this.
Masks are required indoor at all shopping locations so be prepared.
PARKING AT DISNEYLAND
Parking is fully operational and can be found at Mickey and Friends parking structure as well as the Toy Story Lot. Interestingly, because of COVID, many hotels across the street from the parks started offering day parking to Disneyland guests and it’s typically cheaper and closer than any of Disney’s lots. Take a look at The Anaheim Hotel and ones close to that one.
It’s a great way to save some money and park closer than any lot. Work of advise: get there early as it’s limited.
BUYING TICKETS AND ANNUAL PASSHOLDERS
Disneyland resumed ticket sales on April 15th. Guests can purchase anything from one day to 5 days, 1 park per day or park hopper. There has been no price increase on 2021 tickets at this time. There is a special promotion ticket for CA residents and military members. Tickets from previous years that fall into those categories have been extended through 2021. We highly recommend you buy your tickets from vendors like Undercover Tourist who can always discount them.
Tickets are available for sale online, through the mobile app and at some point, the box offices. We say some point because if you just show up to the parks to buy tickets, there’s a 100% chance you don’t have a park reservation yet and a 90% chance they don’t have anymore. Box offices will probably be available on a limited basis for answering ticket questions.
Annual Passes can be purchased online directly from Disney through the app or online. We often get asked if there are ways to save on Annual Passes and the answer is yes. The best way to do this is to purchase a discounted ticket from a wholesaler like Undercover Tourist. After entering the park on this ticket (and having linked it to your Disneyland App), you see an option to apply the value of the ticket towards an annual pass.
You should see that the value of the ticket is full and not the discounted price you paid. This is exactly what you want. For the most part, you’ll save about $30 if you buy the 5 Day Park Hopper ticket and upgrade it.
There are 4 types of annual passes. The lowest tier is for So Cal Residents only. The three above this is for anyone. The biggest change has to do with how many days you can make park reservations for. You can see a trend here. Park reservations are most likely here to stay.
Disneyland is functioning very “normally” now. Attractions are open, shows are going, dining is up and running and there are plenty of park reservations available.
Tickets can be purchased with no wait time. Annual passes are back. Celebrations are happening year-round and the new Genie system is coming soon.
If you’ve been on the rocks about heading to Disney because of COVID, we say go for it. It’s really not restricting much anymore. The biggest thing is the mask wearing inside and honestly, it’s not that bad.
Planning a trip to Disneyland soon? Be sure to see our “normal” planning guide as well as our top-rated post on how to save money on your Disneyland tickets. We also have reviews of the Disneyland Hotels and Good Neighbor Hotels that you may want to check-out. Lastly, be sure to see our What to Park for Disney guide that helps you know what you should and shouldn’t bring with you!
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.