On Thursday, Guests were able to walk the streets of Disney California Adventure…for the first time in over eight months. For the majority of 2020, the gates of the Disneyland Resort theme parks have been temporarily closed. But now, as an extension of the Downtown Disney District, Buena Vista Street in DCA has reopened.
Based on my personal experience at the reopening of Buena Vista Street, I believe that Disney California Adventure is worth the visit right now…even without any rides available. And after my own visit, I have renewed hope for a Disneyland reopening, too.
I would like to preface this review by stating that I believe visiting a theme park right now is still a risk. While I had a wonderful experience on Buena Vista Street, I also acknowledge that our world is experiencing an ongoing pandemic, and by visiting I assumed the risk of contracting the virus. I encourage everyone to be mindful when making the decision to visit any theme park or Disney property, abide by the current guidelines set by Disney as well as the state, and visit Disneyland’s website for more information.
And, of course, to all of the Disneyland Resort Cast Members — thank you for making the magic, for welcoming Guests back “home,” and for making Disney Parks the places where we always wish we could be. The reopening of Buena Vista Street would not be possible without your hard work and pixie dust!
As one of our West Coast reporters for Inside the Magic and a local to Southern California, I made plans to visit Buena Vista Street on reopening day, and I made an effort to do so as safely as possible.
Buena Vista Street inside DCA reopened on Thursday, November 19, to eager Disney fans who couldn’t wait to feel the holiday magic at Disneyland Resort. From my experience, I can confidently say that I was thoroughly impressed and highly comfortable with this reopening. The pandemic-conscious health and safety protocol was in place — just as it has been at Downtown Disney since the district opened on July 9. Capacity was strictly limited. Appropriate mask wearing appeared to be excellent. And, of course, the theme park still contained that Disney magic, even without attractions operating or characters making appearances.
Though lines to enter Downtown Disney began forming before 7 a.m. — over three hours before the daily opening time — and wait times to enter were consistently long throughout the day, the theme park never felt overly crowded. It was very clear that capacity was strictly capped at 25%. And this became even more evident by 3 p.m., when Disney stopped allowing Guests to join the virtual queue to enter Buena Vista Street. At that time, the estimated wait to enter was around five hours, and Downtown Disney District (including Buena Vista Street) currently closes at 8 p.m. on weeknights.
As far as my own personal experience on reopening day, by 12:45 p.m. I felt ready to leave. Was I ready to say goodbye to the magic after waiting eight months to experience it? Of course not! But as the park was bustling with life and excitement that afternoon, I thought I had spent enough time around others and it was time for me to head out.
It was by no means overly crowded, and capacity was clearly still capped. On a normal, pre-pandemic park day, it would not feel busy at all. But after spending two hours in Disney California Adventure and waiting three hours before entering at 10:30 a.m. that morning, I felt ready to head out and say “see ya real soon.” This was my first time back in any theme park since before Disneyland Resort began its temporary closure back in March. So I listened to my gut, and I always hope others will do the same.
Since Disneyland opened in 1955, it has been clear that Disney cares about Guests and Cast Members. Now, as the company has begun to reopen areas of Disneyland Resort in the middle of an ongoing pandemic, health and safety protocol have been amplified and strictly enforced. And as a health-conscious individual, I applaud Disney for this.
I visited Downtown Disney on reopening day in July of this year. Now having visited Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure, I felt the safest I ever have on Disney property.
The walkways of DCA are incredibly wide. When I first arrived on Thursday morning, there was so much room to roam the park. I never felt that I had no choice but to be close to others. It was easy to keep my distance from other Guests, to enforce my own personal bubble, and to avoid mixing with other parties as often as possible. I saw some Cast Members cleaning surfaces several times, and others continued to remind all Guests to keep their distance from each other, keep their masks on, and have a magical day. Although it is a risk to spend time in any public place right now, I felt as safe as ever while on Buena Vista Street, where Cast Members were ensuring that all Guests were following the guidelines in place.
The level of seriousness that Disney is taking this reopening can be summed up in an experience I had with a Guest Relations Cast Member on Thursday morning. As Guests waited to enter Disneyland Resort, the CM shared the importance of Guest compliance to the health and safety measures in place. The Cast Member placed specific emphasis on keeping face coverings on while taking photos.
“Even if you think you are only removing your mask for a moment, that moment will live on forever in a photo,” the Disneyland Resort employee said to the crowd.
It’s clear that Disney wants to prove that they can reopen Disneyland and Disney California Adventure safely, and so much of that proof can be shown through what Guests share online.
So, what does this mean for Disneyland?
Many believe that the reopening of Buena Vista Street — with the wide walkways in Disney California Adventure, the possibility for expansion or even a modified Food & Wine Festival, and the easy access from Downtown Disney — will lead to the reopening of Main Street, U.S.A. Prior to this week, this was all based on speculation. But now, having experienced Disney California Adventure amid the world’s current health crisis, I have a renewed sense of hopefulness for Disneyland.
As I shared earlier, I have not personally traveled to Walt Disney World Resort since the Florida Disney Parks reopened in mid-July. My experience at Buena Vista Street in DCA was my first time in any theme park — let alone any Disney Park — since March. I have not been on a plane or traveled since the pandemic began to spread throughout the U.S. However, after feeling comfortable inside Disney California Adventure, I feel that reopening Disneyland for shopping and dining is very possible.
Guests would certainly love meandering the timeless Main Street, taking in the scents from the Candy Palace, and finally getting a view of Sleeping Beauty Castle in Walt Disney’s very first theme park. Eating a churro with a view of Grizzly Peak brought tears to my eyes. Being a Disneyland girl, I can only imagine how emotional it will be “walkin’ right down the middle of Main Street, U.S.A.” again.
Experiencing the health and safety measures in action — notably in the middle of a pandemic — felt comfortable to me. From what I can tell, there are so many other Guests who felt equally happy and comfortable visiting DCA, too. It’s clear that Disney learned from the first stages of reopening Downtown Disney back in July and implemented that same protocol and more in Disney California Adventure. I personally believe in a phased reopening of Disneyland Resort, with strict limitations, and my experience as a Guest on Buena Vista Street this week felt like proof that this can be done, albeit slowly and thoughtfully.
I got my Disney fix on Buena Vista Street this week. And although I do not yet know if Disney will reopen Disneyland Park in a similar manner sometime soon, I am hopeful that when they do reopen, it will be magical and as safe as it can be.
For the latest information on Disneyland Resort operations, visit the official website here
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Inside the Magic overall.