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California Has Fully Reopened—What That Means for Travelers

By Michelle Baran

Jul 21, 2021

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The state has returned to some semblance of prepandemic life.

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The state has returned to some semblance of prepandemic life.

On June 15, the state did away with the majority of its COVID-19 restrictions. One month later, Los Angeles County has reinstated its indoor mask mandate as cases begin to rise.

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California has fully reopened–“that means no more physical distancing, no more capacity limits on businesses, no more county tiers, and relaxed mask guidance”—the state wrote in its June 15 reopening plans.

With 53 percent of California residents now fully vaccinated for COVID-19, the state has done away with its pandemic-era color-coded tier system for establishing which businesses can be open and under what conditions. 

“California is turning the page on this pandemic,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement about the reopening plan. California has reported 68,560 new COVID cases in the past month, down from its all-time high of more than 1 million cases in December 2020, but up from the 35,000 cases it reported one month prior, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The governor is hopeful that the reopening represents an opportunity for California to reignite its once thriving tourism economy.

“As we move forward to a postpandemic life, our tourism sector is expected to come roaring back,” Newsom stated during a June 14 press conference.

California lost nearly half of the 1.2 million jobs previously provided by its hospitality and tourism industries. The governor is proposing $95 million to help recover those jobs and rebuild the state’s travel industry.

Are masks required in California?

On June 15, California lifted its mask requirements for vaccinated residents in most settings with the exception of hospitals, long-term care facilities, homeless shelters, and on public transit, where masks are still required regardless of vaccination status.

But a little more than one month later, on July 17, Los Angeles County has reinstated its indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status, due to rapidly increasing daily new cases of COVID-19, according to an order issued by the L.A. County Department of Public Health

Additionally, as of July 14, the Northern California counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, and the City of Berkeley are also recommending that everyone mask up indoors as a precaution against a rise in COVID-19 cases.

What does the reopening plan mean for California businesses?

Restaurants, wineries, bars, live music venues, breweries, museums, zoos, shopping centers, aquariums, movie theaters, and all other businesses throughout the state can now be open as normal with no capacity limits or social distancing required. 

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The only exception is indoor events hosting 5,000 people or more, or what the state refers to as “mega events.” For these events, attendees must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of the event in order to enter. For outdoor events of 10,000 people or more, such as concerts, festivals, and sporting events, the state recommends that organizers ask attendees to provide proof of vaccination or of a negative COVID-19 test result.

Are hotels in California open?

Yes. All hotels and lodgings in California can welcome guests and are now operating as normal with no capacity limits or social-distancing requirements. Campgrounds, including those within state and national parks, are open as well.

Should Fully Vaccinated Guests Still Have to Wear Masks at Hotels?

Are state and national parks open?

All beaches and state and national parks throughout California are open.

Yosemite National Park is one of six national parks throughout the country that is requiring advance reservations this summer. If you want to drive into Yosemite any time between May 21 and September 30, you’re going to need an advance reservation, which can be booked via recreation.gov.

Yosemite also sets aside a limited number of reservations that can be booked exactly one week before the arrival date. So, for instance, if you want to go on Auguest 18, you can log onto the system on August 11 to try for a spot. Bookings open up at 8 a.m. Pacific Time on any given day.

It’s Not Too Late to Get Reservations at These Popular National Parks

Are Disneyland, Legoland, and other theme parks open?

After being closed since March 14, 2020, the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure theme parks finally reopened on April 30, 2021—but only to California residents visiting in groups of no more than three households and with a reduced capacity.

As of June 15, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks are welcoming travelers from out of state as well. 

Visitors to Disneyland are not required to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19, but the Disneyland Resort states that California still “strongly recommends” that all guests be fully vaccinated or obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering the parks. 

Effective June 15, fully vaccinated visitors are not required to wear face masks in most areas other than buses and monorails. Disney is not requiring proof of vaccination, Reuter reported. But Disney expects people who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks indoors, except when eating and drinking.

On June 15, the Disneyland Resort’s Paradise Pier Hotel reopened, which was followed by the reopening of the Disneyland Hotel on July 2. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa reopened on April 29.

The reopening developments coincided with a big addition to the Disneyland parks—the brand-new Avengers Campus, an entire super hero–themed land that was unveiled in the Disney California Adventure park on June 4.

Advance reservations are required for the Disneyland Resort—in order to obtain tickets to the Disneyland parks, visitors need to have both an entry ticket and a theme park reservation for the same day. Tickets can be booked up to 120 days in advance.

Universal Studios Hollywood reopened on April 16 to California residents and fully vaccinated out-of-state visitors. As of June 15, Universal Studios Hollywood is open to all visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Like Disneyland, Universal “strongly recommends” that all guests be fully vaccinated or obtain a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering the park. Guests who are not fully vaccinated are asked to wear a face mask during their visit, and Universal asks that all guests wear face masks indoors.

The Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad reopened on April 15 to California state residents and to out-of-state guests who provide proof they have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. As of June 15, Legoland is open to all visitors, regardless of vaccination status. Advance reservations are required and Legoland continues to encourage guests to wear masks.

Are there any restrictions on travel to and within California?

Earlier this year, the California Department of Public Health issued a travel advisory recommending that Californians avoid nonessential travel. That advisory has been lifted.

There are currently no restrictions on travel to California from within the United States, and all of the state’s major airports, including Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, remain open with flights operating.

As for international visitors, per U.S. government restrictions, most foreign nationals who have been in China, Iran, South Africa, the European Schengen area, Brazil, the United Kingdom, or Ireland in the previous 14 days will be denied entry into California. U.S. citizens and permanent residents are exempt.

As of January 26, all international passengers age two and older flying into the U.S. (including returning U.S. citizens and permanent residents) must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test procured within three days before boarding their flight to the United States.

This story was originally published on June 9, 2020, and was updated on July 20, 2021, to include current information.

>> Next: Hawai‘i Issues New Rules for Vaccinated Travelers—What You Need to Know

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