Heading to Disneyland soon, but don’t know what to expect? We’ve got you covered.
Inside the Magic has compiled a complete guide to visiting Disneyland Resort in 2021 now that the theme parks have officially reopened after one full year. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about visiting the reopened Disneyland Resort.
Theme Park Tickets and Reservations
In order to enter Disneyland Park or Disney California Adventure Park, you need a valid theme park ticket and a reservation for the park you are visiting (even if you have a Park Hopper ticket!). Remember that at this time, only California residents are allowed to visit Disneyland Park and California Adventure.
We have a complete guide to making a Disneyland Resort theme park reservation, which you can read here.
We also have a complete guide to purchasing Disneyland theme park tickets in 2021. Read all about Disneyland Resort park tickets (and their prices) here!
Getting to Disneyland and Parking
When it comes to getting to Disneyland Resort and parking at Disneyland for the time being, here is what you need to know.
There are a few options for parking at Disneyland Resort right now.
The most popular place to park is the Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals parking structures. If you are a Guest who is just visiting the parks for one day and you want to park on property, this is where you will park, but there are some things to keep in mind.
- Cost: Parking is $25 per car or motorcycle and $40 for preferred parking.
- Opening: Parking is guaranteed to open 30 minutes prior to park opening. There have been some instances where it has opened earlier than that, but this is not guaranteed.
- Trams: At this time, trams are not running from the parking structures to the theme park gates. So, if you park at Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals, you can expect to walk. Wheelchairs and ECVs can be rented at the parking structure if needed.
Additionally, the Simba parking lot adjacent to Downtown Disney is open. However, it is recommended that only Guests visiting the Downtown Disney District should park here. Parking here is $10 for the first hour, but you can have an additional few hours validated if you shop or dine at Downtown Disney. Beyond validations, each additional hour costs $14, so if you are visiting the theme parks all day, you should not park at the Simba lot so you can avoid paying much more than you would at Mickey & Friends and Pixar Pals parking.
There are also a few offsite parking options, such as the Anaheim Hotel and Anaheim GardenWalk. Visit the official websites for each of these places for more information.
Tip: Stay at a Hotel If You Can
If you are a local to Disneyland and you are just driving for the day, you may not consider staying at a hotel. But whether you are going to Disneyland for just one day or multiple, it could be worthwhile to stay overnight in a hotel, if you are able to do so. Here’s why.
Currently, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa is open for Guests. Although this is the most expensive hotel on Disneyland property, and although many amenities are suspended during the phased reopening, it does offer some great perks during this time.
In our experience, staying overnight at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa the night before Disneyland reopened was a great choice. One of the biggest reasons is parking.
Parking at the Grand Californian is so much more convenient than parking at Mickey & Friends as it is a much shorter walk from the hotel parking lot to the front gates of Disneyland than from the parking structure. We were also allowed to keep our car parked at the Grand Californian for two days (Thursday and Friday) even though we were only staying Thursday night. This meant that when we were done with our day at Disneyland, we could stroll back to the Grand Californian and drive home without having to make the trek all the way to the huge parking structure.
Additionally, those staying at the Grand Californian will go through temperature check and security at the hotel before entering the Downtown Disney District, and there is hardly ever a line to do this. So, if you want to avoid some of the morning crowds at security at Mickey & Friends or the Harbor Boulevard entrance, staying on property is a great option.
Additionally, there are many offsite hotel options that have reopened. So, if you plan to stay the night at an offsite hotel approved by Disney (known as a Good Neighbor Hotel), you could leave your car parked at that hotel, for an additional fee, while you enjoy the theme parks.
Most Good Neighbor Hotels are located off Harbor Boulevard, so it is likely that if you stay offsite, you will be entering Disneyland Resort property from the Harbor Boulevard entrance. Keep in mind that, depending on your arrival time, you may have to wait in a long line to get through security and temperature check at the Harbor Boulevard entrance, but if you want to be able to stay the night before your Disneyland day and you want to be able to walk to property, this can be a great option.
Planning Your Day
Here are our top tips for your perfect Disneyland Resort theme park day if you are visiting during the phased reopening. Many things have changed, but we promise it is still magical!
What time should you arrive?
Your arrival time is based on personal preference. However, considering the price of tickets and the current lack of an Annual Passport program, we prefer to get the most out of every park visit right now by arriving early and staying until the parks are fully closed for the day.
If you are visiting on a weekend that is fully booked, then we recommend planning to arrive early. Disney will begin allowing Guests to go through security prior to park opening, although this can depend on crowd levels and demand. For example, on opening day on April 30, Guests were allowed to begin going through temperature check and security and queuing up in the tram route after 6 a.m. However, after opening weekend, parking did not open until 7:45 a.m., meaning Guests could not begin lining up in the tram route until around 8 a.m. or later.
If you are driving to Disneyland for just the day and planning to park onsite, we recommend arriving at Disney property a bit before the parking structures open to allow yourself enough time to get through security and walk the entire tram route before you queue up.
If you plan to enter on Harbor Boulevard, we recommend calling Disney or using the online chat feature on the Disneyland Resort official website to confirm what time the Harbor Boulevard entrance will open on the day of your visit. Typically, Disney will open the Harbor Boulevard entrance at the same time as the Mickey & Friends parking structure.
If you are staying overnight at the Grand Californian, a Cast Member will be able to tell you exactly when Guests will be allowed to begin going through security and entering the Downtown Disney District before they line up to enter the parks. In our experience on reopening day, we got to be the first Guests lined up to enter the theme parks because we stayed at the Grand Californian, However, this may not be the case every day.
On the other hand, if you want to avoid the morning rush, you could opt to head to the parks around 30 minutes after they are scheduled to open. That way, you may avoid waiting in a long security line as the initial rush of people has already been let through.
Mobile Order Early
As soon as you enter the parks, start using Mobile Order on the official Disneyland app to order all of your food ahead of time. It is best to order all of your food earlier in the day so you can have the best options of pickup times. You can order all of your snacks and meals at the beginning of the day and select pick-up times based on when you anticipate you will be ready to eat.
Because Disneyland Resort is encouraging Guests to Mobile Order their food through the app, Mobile Order is a highly popular feature, and return times can fill up rather quickly. If you wait until you are hungry or wait until later in the day to order your food, you could miss out completely on popular items like Mickey beignets from Mint Julep Bar or a corn dog from the Little Red Wagon. Order your food as early as possible, and then select “I’m here!” as soon as your arrival window opens and you are ready to pick up your food at the designated location.
Disneyland Resort does not currently have character cavalcades (mini parades) like Walt Disney World Resort introduced then the Florida Disney Parks reopened in July 2020. However, there is no shortage of characters at Disneyland! There are so many characters you can see all throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, and you may not see them all on your park day if you aren’t on the lookout!
Since characters are greeting Guests from a distance, we highly recommend keeping your eyes peeled during your visit. At Disneyland, you may see the Disney Princesses and Frozen characters in Fantasyland, Jack Sparrow and Tiana in New Orleans Square, Miguel in Frontierland, Mickey & Friends at the Main Street Train Station, Rey and Chewbacca in Batuu, and many more. In Disney California Adventure, you will see characters on Buena Vista Street, the Avengers in Hollywood Land, Lightning McQueen and Mater in Cars Land, and more.
While many are sad that characters can’t sign autograph books or hug Guests right now, we are happy to report that character interactions are still full of magic. The characters will spend time greeting Guests and making them feel like they are right at home. Disney Princesses will spend a lot of time chatting with Guests of all ages to make sure each Guest feels like they got the time they wanted with the character, and Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse will pose for that perfect socially distanced selfie.
Although many attraction queues look quite long right now, they actually move very quickly. On reopening day, we did not experience any wait times longer than 45 minutes, and most attractions were a walk-on. Currently, lines look a lot longer than they actually are due to social distancing in place and queues having to be outdoors, per state guidelines amid the pandemic.
For example, Snow White’s Enchanted Wish had a posted wait time of 45 minutes with a queue that stretched past Sleeping Beauty Castle. However, we found that we only waited 30 minutes. Meanwhile, attractions like Peter Pan’s Flight and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride were complete walk-ons. Most attractions throughout the park have queues that move relatively quickly. And even if you have to wait to ride, you will likely not be waiting much longer than half an hour due to the theme parks operating under such a limited capacity. There are far fewer Guests allowed to visit Disneyland right now than there ever were before the pandemic!
Not Everything Has Reopened Yet
Keep in mind that when you visit Disneyland and Disney California Adventure during this phased reopening process, not everything has reopened. Neither the Disneyland Hotel nor Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel — the two other on-property hotels at Disneyland Resort — have not reopened yet, making Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa the only onsite hotel open to Guests (at a limited capacity) at this time.
There are also several theme park amenities — like FASTPASS, MaxPass, Extra Magic Hour, etc. — that are not currently available.
Additionally, there are several dining locations as well as attractions that are not currently open. Click on the links below to read more!
There are a variety of enhanced health and safety measures currently in place at the Disneyland Resort for the wellbeing of all Guests and Cast Members. From required face masks for all Guests age two and up to temperature checks to limited capacity, the pandemic-era protocol is in place throughout the Southern California Disney Parks.
Don’t be surprised if you see several hand washing and hand sanitizing stations — as well as health and safety signage — throughout the theme parks during your visit. We aren’t sure when these pandemic-era measures will go away, but for the time being, while you are at Disneyland, California Adventure, the Downtown Disney District, and any Disney hotel, you can expect the following (and more!):
- Face masks required for all Guests two years old and older
- Temperature checks for all Guests prior to entering Disneyland Resort property
- Social distancing measures in place
- Limited capacity in retail and dining locations
- An emphasis on cashless transactions and mobile ordering
- Limited capacity on all attractions
- Enhanced cleaning measures throughout the resort
Have you visited Disneyland or any Disney Park since the theme parks reopened? Are you planning to? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comments?