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When Will Disneyland and Other California Theme Parks Reopen?

By Nicole Antonio

Oct 22, 2020

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When Disneyland does reopen, events such as parades and fireworks will be absent to avoid large group gatherings and encourage social distancing.

Photo by Joshua Sudock/Courtesy of Disneyland Resort

When Disneyland does reopen, events such as parades and fireworks will be absent to avoid large group gatherings and encourage social distancing.

It might not be before summer 2021.

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The California Department of Public Health this week issued protocols for the state’s theme parks to be able to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic, and in order for larger parks like Disneyland, Legoland, and Universal to be able to open their gates, the risk level in the county where they operate has to be “minimal”— and that could take awhile.

California has a county-by-county tier system for determining how and which businesses can operate. The purple tier indicates the risk of community transmission is widespread, the red tier indicates the risk is substantial, the orange tier indicates the risk is moderate, and the yellow tier indicates the risk is minimal.

Orange County, where the Disneyland Resort and its theme parks (as well as the lesser-known but locally cherished theme park Knott’s Berry Farm) are located, is currently in the red tier (substantial)—and it has a long way to go before getting to the required yellow tier for theme park operations to be able to resume.

“Personally, I think that we can look forward to a yellow tier by next summer, hopefully. Hopefully,” stated Dr. Clayton Chau, director of regional healthcare provider Orange County Health Care Agency. “I think it’s going to be very hard to achieve the yellow tier.”

Los Angeles County, where Universal Studios Hollywood is located, is currently in the purple tier, and San Diego County, home to Legoland, is currently in the red tier.

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The yellow tier is defined as less than one daily new case per population of 100,000 and a test positivity rate of less than 2 percent.

Dr. Chau noted that Orange County being able to get to that yellow tier will likely require the availability and widespread use of a coronavirus vaccine.

In a October 20 statement following California’s release of its new guidelines for theme park operations, Ken Potrock, president of the Disneyland Resort, said the protocols “will keep us shuttered for the foreseeable future.”

Potrock believes that the parks can “responsibly reopen, with science-based health and safety protocols strictly enforced.”

What will Disneyland and other theme park operations look like when they reopen?

If and when each county gets to the yellow tier, there will still be numerous restrictions on the way these larger theme parks can operate. Total park capacity will be limited to 25 percent (facilitated by a reservation system), all indoor dining and drinking venues will be limited to 25 percent capacity as well, and there will be temperature screenings for workers and enhanced ventilation in indoor areas.

Guests can also expect touchless bag checks prior to entering the theme parks, face coverings required for all staff and guests over two years of age, virtual queuing options, and enhanced staffing to ensure that all guests adhere to proper sanitization and social-distancing protocols. Parades and fireworks will be off the table to minimize large group gatherings where it would be difficult to enforce six feet of separation between parties. Character meet and greets will also be unavailable.

Are any theme park experiences in California open?

Yes, you can get your theme park fix with some venues and experiences that are available.

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The shops and restaurants in the Downtown Disney District began reopening on July 9 as originally planned. (The Disney Resort hotels, including Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, and the Disneyland Hotel all remain temporarily closed.)

Universal CityWalk at Universal Studios Hollywood is open from 12 to 8 p.m. daily.

The Legoland Hotel, Sea Life Aquarium, and Legoland California’s Miniland U.S.A. section (which features an extensive collection of replicas of buildings and landscape made out of Legos) are all open at the theme park’s Carlsbad location. You can also stock up on bricks and minifigs at the Big Shop.

The Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel is open and the Knott’s Berry Farm theme park is hosting outdoor dining and retail events, including its latest, Knott’s Taste of Fall-O-Ween, which runs through November 1. Guests can wear costumes to the reservations-required tasting event ($20 for kids 3–11, $35 for those ages 12 and older) that includes a “Camp Snoopy Trick-or-Treat Trail,” all conducted with social-distancing protocols in place.

This article originally appeared online on June 10, 2020; it was updated on October 22, 2020, to include current information.

>>Next: Reservations, Temperature Checks, and Extended Passes: The Future of U.S. Theme Parks

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