What is Disneyland Like After COVID?
My family and I just got back from a quick trip to Disneyland. It was our first trip back to the parks since COVID and we were so excited.
And a little nervous.
What would our beloved park be like now that COVID has changed everything? Would it still be fun? Magical? Safe?
Spoiler alert: it was! But it certainly wasn’t the same. And that’s okay.
Here are my honest thoughts about Disneyland after COVID, including tips on how to make your family’s next visit to the parks magical.
First, let’s address what’s top of mind for everyone planning a trip to Disneyland. The Park Reservation system is in place. That means the parks aren’t crowded, right?
It was July when we went, and it felt like normal summer crowds to me. Not so crowded that you couldn’t walk, but not dead either. In fact, it was way less crowded when we went in February before COVID hit.
Gone are the days of deserted parks and the ability to walk on any ride, any time.
You won’t be waiting around all day in endlessly long lines, but you will be waiting.
Tip: Attitude and mindset are everything! If you go with the expectation that it will be busy and you will be waiting in lines, you will have a much better time.
Despite the crowds, MaxPass has not returned. Did that make for a horrendous day of waiting in endless lines that take forever?
While I do love MaxPass and hope it makes a triumphant return, we didn’t necessarily miss it on our trip. Without it, the lines moved more continuously. We were never standing in one place for an extended period.
One of our favorite games to play while waiting in line is Heads Up. But you know what? It was hard to play it because we were never standing in one place long enough. (Do you know how hard it is to walk backward with a phone up against your forehead?)
Tip: The Play Disney app is a great way to pass the time in lines, and easy to play while walking.
Psst, and here is another tip. The wait times on the app are almost always exaggerated. Most of the time we only waited 2/3 or ½ of the time posted. But don’t tell anyone.
While we didn’t really miss MaxPass all that much, we really missed Magic Mornings. Especially in California Adventure Park.
Being able to get into California Adventure Park an hour earlier than everyone else is my favorite perk to staying at a Disneyland Resort hotel. Do you know how many times we’ve been able to ride Radiator Springs Racers back-to-back because of this perk?
Radiator Springs Racers is one of the very few attractions whose wait times were mostly accurate and always insanely long. We had to wait in the long line with everyone else this time and thus only rode the attraction once.
On the plus side, we saw so many more details in the line that we missed before. There are a lot of fun things to see!
But man, I cannot WAIT for that Disney resort perk to return.
Tip: It’s important to be at the parks at least 30 minutes before opening so you can be one of the first in the park. Pick the attraction you want to start your day with and head straight there when the rope drops.
Note: Disney has not announced when, or even if, Magic Mornings and MaxPass will return.
Characters are not doing their regular meet-n-greets. What they are doing instead is SO MUCH BETTER!
Just like at Disney World, the characters are popping up all around the parks for you to interact with from afar. While you can’t hug them, you can still talk to them, and they will interact with you right back.
The Disney princesses really spent a lot of time talking to my daughter, asking her questions, and listening to what she had to say. We never felt rushed or hurried along. It was like we had our own personal audience with royalty, and my daughter was thrilled.
And just like at Disney World, look for Character Cavalcades to pop up throughout the day. I love these little pop-up parades so much and hope they never leave.
Look for a blog dedicated to where to find your favorite characters when you are at Disneyland to post soon. For now, just know that you can expect to have a lot of magical interactions with your favorite Disney characters on your next trip to Disneyland.
There are tons of great table service dining options that have reopened. As of this posting, reopening dates for many of the character dining locations have been announced.
But it can still be a bit challenging to find dining reservations. Make sure you make your reservations as soon as your dining window opens.
The great news, there are a TON of great quick-service restaurants open now. And it’s easier than ever to get quick service food using mobile ordering.
Tip: I recommend picking a quick-service restaurant and placing your mobile order at least a couple of hours before you want to eat. That way you don’t risk the arrival window you want being full and having to wait longer than you’d like for your meal. There is nothing worse than cranky, hungry kids at Disney!
My only complaint was it was still hard to find someplace to sit to eat a lot of the time. I loved how Disney World prevented people from entering the quick-service restaurant’s seating area until their food order was ready.
They didn’t do that at most places at Disneyland. Once we had to sit on the steps around a trash can to eat our food because all the tables were taken up. And not all by people eating. People were sitting there, alone many times, on their phones with no food in sight.
Health and Safety
Finally, let’s talk about this big important topic: health and safety at the parks.
The park reservation system allows them to monitor crowd levels and ensure the parks never get overcrowded. That means that while it is most certainly busy if you wanted to find a place to escape for a bit and distance yourself from others you will be able to do it.
However, social distancing is pretty much out the window. Expect to be crowded into lines and attractions as you were before.
My husband and I are fully vaccinated, but my children are not old enough to be. We still chose to wear our masks indoors and even outdoors when we felt too close to others. (At the time we were there, this was not mandatory. As of July 30th, masks are now required to be worn indoors and on attractions by everyone, regardless of vaccination status.)
Tip: Buy mask lanyards so you can easily access your masks when transitioning between outdoor and indoor areas.
The good news is this means all your favorite pre-shows are up and running, including Rise of the Resistance, Haunted Mansion, and Web Slingers. And since they aren’t social distancing on rides, the lines move quickly, as I said above.
But if you still aren’t comfortable being around others, you may want to wait a bit before visiting the parks again.
Overall, we had a fantastic time and were happy to be there. If you go in with the right expectations and mindset about crowds and lines, you will too.
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