“The Happiest Place on Earth” will turn the lights back on starting April 30, Disneyland officials announced Wednesday, more than a year after the Anaheim theme park closed its gates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move comes after California eased its statewide health guidelines this month, paving the way for theme parks and outdoor live events in some counties to reopen beginning April 1.
Under the guidelines, theme parks can reopen, but will not be allowed to serve food indoors and cannot operate indoor rides. Capacity will be capped at 15% and theme parks will only be open to California residents.
At Disneyland, park guests will need to use a new reservation system to purchase tickets and cannot stroll up to a ticket booth on the same day they plan to visit, the Anaheim-based theme park said.
The stringent rules come with a sense of relief more than a year after Disneyland closed in March 2020.
“The day all of us have long been waiting for is almost here,” said Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock in a statement. “We’re excited to have more than 10,000 cast members returning to work as we get ready to welcome our guests back to this happy place.”
During the pandemic, Disney laid off more than 28,000 workers at both its California and Florida theme parks. The parks and resorts division of the Disney family employs over 100,000 people.
At the end of 2020, Disney announced 8,700 employees belonging to Disneyland’s employee union would be laid off, totaling over 11,000 employees from the Southern California park laid off during the pandemic. Roughly 32,000 worked at Disneyland before the park went dark.
Roughly 2,200 furloughed park employees are expected to be called back to work according to the employee union Workers United Local 50.
“The situation is very fluid and numbers are likely to change. As we become aware of changes we will keep everyone informed. We do not know what locations will be reopening yet,” said union president Chris Duarte in a statement posted on Facebook.
When guests return to Disneyland, they will be expected to wear face mask and physically distance from other guests and park staff. There will also be new cleaning procedures and temperature screenings at the theme park.
In 2018, Disneyland Park saw 18.6 million park guests according to Theme Entertainment Association’s yearly report. The park does not release daily attendance totals.
Disneyland Park did not immediately respond to email and phone calls for questions about the April reopening.
The news of Disneyland’s reopening adds to a sense of normalcy that has begun to creep into daily life in Southern California as counties see a drop in new infections and hospitalizations. Restaurants, movie theaters and gyms recently reopened at limited capacity, though mask mandates remain in place throughout the southland.
— By Nathan Solis, CNS