A Disneyland visitor reacts

A Disneyland visitor reacts to being back inside the park after it reopened Friday, April 30, 2021 after a 13-month closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Disneyland has returned after a yearlong coronavirus closure with a rethemed Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, updated Haunted Mansion and refreshed King Arthur Carrousel to the delight of die-hard fans who waited hours to snag tickets for the reopening of the Anaheim theme park.

Fans anxious to ride the wildly popular Rise of the Resistance attraction and the soon-to-change Splash Mountain log flume had their wish granted when Disneyland finally swung open the gates just after 8 a.m. Friday, ending a 412-day closure forced by the COVID-19 pandemic that began in March 2020.

Tears were flowing as visitors walked down Main Street U.S.A. at 8 a.m. to the familiar announcement of “Hello and welcome to Disneyland.”

Disneyland cast members lined Main Street USA to wave, applaud and cheer as visitors returned to the park first time in more than a year.

The Mickey and Friends and Pixar Pals parking structures opened at 6 a.m. and visitors walked to the theme parks along the tram route instead of hopping aboard the parking lot trams due to COVID-19 health and safety measures. Disneyland visitors were greeted by a new arrival procedure. Temperature screenings took place inside the Pixar Pals parking structure prior to the security checkpoint. Inside the park, COVID-19 health and safety reminders were visible everywhere.

Around 6:45 a.m., Disneyland held a flag raising ceremony in Town Square as anxious fans waited outside for the park to reopen for the first time in a year. Disney CEO Bob Chapek thanked employees for their work in preparing the Anaheim theme parks to welcome back visitors. “We’re not just another place. We’re not just another theme park,” Chapek said. “We’re something special.”

EARLY ARRIVALS

By 5:45 a.m., hundreds of fans were in line at the Harbor Boulevard entrance waiting for security to open and to get in line at the park entrances.

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David Bellamy showed up at 10:30 p.m. Thursday to be the first in line for Disneyland at the Harbor Boulevard gate. Disneyland security asked his party to leave an hour later. He went back to his hotel to sleep for an hour and was back out across the street at IHOP with the other faithful at 2 a.m. Disney security waved the group over at 4 a.m. to get in line again.

“I don’t take no for an answer,” said Bellamy, 41, of Hemet. “I’m stressing out. I’m trying to pack it all into one day. I’ll take it. Just to be back in the park. It’s been 13 months.”

Austria Jovel was operating on 3 hours sleep. She planned to take a nap on It’s a Small World if necessary. “The die-hard fans are the ones here super early,” said Jovel, 29, of San Bernardino. “We all know each other. It’s like a community.”

Ryan Young was feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness as he waited for the park to open at the Harbor gates. “I want to be the first one in and the last one out,” said Young, 15, of Victorville. “I know I’m going to cry when I walk through the gates.”

David Quintanilla was feeling a little overwhelmed as he waited for the parks to open. “This is a historic event,” said Quintanilla, 42, of Roseville. “Hopefully it won’t ever happen again. It’s one of those ‘I was there then’ moments.” Returning to Disneyland after the 412-day closure has a sense of coming home for Quintanilla. “It’s poetic in a way,” Quintanilla said as the sun began to rise. “Disneyland was one of the first things to close and the last to reopen. It feels like we’re finally turning a corner.”

Disneyland and DCA began soft opening previews for employees on Tuesday, April 27. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel returned on Thursday, April 29. Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel and the Disneyland Hotel will reopen at a later date. The Downtown Disney outdoor shopping mall reopened in July. DCA returned for A Touch of Disney food festival in March.

State officials recently allowed fully vaccinated out-of-state visitors at California theme parks, but Disneyland has decided to continue limiting admissions to California residents for now. Visitors had to make advance reservations due to limited capacity protocols instituted by state officials. Eager fans who logged onto the Disneyland website on April 15 waited hours in a virtual queue for the privilege of purchasing tickets and making advance reservations.

California officials allowed theme parks to reopen beginning April 1. The tourist destinations lost billions and were forced to lay off tens of thousands of employees amid the pandemic. Disneyland and DCA are among the last theme parks to reopen in Southern California. Local competitors Six Flags Magic Mountain and Legoland California reopened on April 1. SeaWorld San Diego returned with rides and coasters on April 12. Universal Studios Hollywood reopened to passholders on April 15. Knott’s Berry Farm will be the last Southern California theme park to return to full operations on May 6 for passholders and May 21 for the general public. Disneyland and DCA will be required to limit theme park attendance and indoor attractions at 25% capacity under state reopening guidelines.

The updated Snow White’s Enchanted Wish, Haunted Mansion and King Arthur Carrousel are joined by returning favorites like Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, Indiana Jones Adventure, Space Mountain and Pirates of the Caribbean.

More than half the rides and attractions at Disneyland and DCA reopened with the others returning at a later date due to government restrictions and attendance capacity limitations. Some rides and attractions — including the Disneyland Monorail, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln — were shuttered for coronavirus-related reasons and will reopen at a later date.

Disney has suspended parades, fireworks shows and nighttime spectaculars at Disneyland and DCA that draw large crowds. The casts of “Frozen Live” and “Mickey and the Magical Map” have been laid off — leaving both theaters dark with the return of the parks. The new Avengers Campus themed land will open June 4 at Disney California Adventure.

Disneyland is following the now-familiar “new normal” of COVID-19 health and safety protocols with limited capacity, required masks, temperature screenings, social distancing, enhanced sanitization and contactless payments. Masks are required on rides, in queues and during character photo opportunities. Masks can be removed to eat and drink in designated outdoor dining areas.

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