Return to Disneyland

 Hello Happy Place

After over a year separated, we finally made our way back to the happiest place on earth! Read on for the full magical rundown of our return to Disneyland!

Reunited and it feels so good

There aren't enough words to express how amazing it was to make our return to our happiest place. Pre-pandemic we used to take full advantage of our Disneyland Annual Passes (now Legacy Passes) and visit Disneyland about once a month. When the parks closed in March 2020, it definitely hit hard. The whole closure made me realize just how much the parks meant on so many levels. I'd grow to miss the little things like the smells of Plaza Inn fried chicken, the sounds of music playing down Main Street or just the simple magic of the atmosphere the parks always seems to bring. So when Disneyland announced they were reopening, it became that glimmer of light at the end of this long pandemic tunnel. When we stepped through those gates once again on May 12th, 2021, it was truly the utmost joy to be back in the magic.

Modified magic

While there was never a doubt that Disneyland would reopen eventually, we knew it would return with some modified magic. We knew that the parks would be a bit different than what we used to know before, but exactly how different would the happiest place be?  Here's a little breakdown on all the modified magic the parks now bring from our personal experience:


Something we were truly excited about besides being back at the parks was the limited capacity (25%!!!) and California residents only guidelines. The idea of being back at our happy place with low crowds was so appealing. Reopening day and the week or so after there were reports and posts about how "empty" the parks were. Most rides were virtual walk ons with no wait and how guests had the park all to themselves! What a dream right?

Well unfortunately for us, about a week before our return (2 weeks after reopening) a slew of new Disneyland reservation days opened up and it seemed that maybe the initial reopening weren't actually operating at a full 25% and instead something lower like 10-15% capacity. Our suspicions were right when different sources and a few other Cast Member friends confirmed that capacity was increased just a few days shy before our return and the parks and were operating at a full 25%. 

As a true Disney fan, I'd take the full 25% over a crowded, shoulder to shoulder 100% capacity day (remember those?!) any day! I will say that on the days we were at the parks, there were a lot of people and it almost felt like a regular pre-covid day in some more congested parts of the park like Fantasyland or the notorious clog between Pirates and Haunted Mansion. But despite this, we were still able to find empty pockets of the park which was nice. Wait times were also really nice with nothing going over 30 minutes for attractions which is alway a bonus. Overall, it was pleasant and made for a wonderful return to Disneyland experience!

I'll cherish the time we had with the limited capacity of the parks. I don't know what crowd levels will be like in the future or whenever we decide to visit again, but thankful for the ability to return to the magic regardless! 

**At the time of publishing this post, the parks have already increased capacity to a full 35% and will most likely increase even more after California's ultimate "reopening" on June 15th. From live updates from friends and IG reports online, it seems like the parks are definitely busier now with larger crowds and more wait times. My tip would be to visit soon if you're able, as to take advantage of any form of limited capacity that may remain. As of 5/26/21, it was announced that out of state visitors could return starting June 15th.**


So how would attractions work in the newly reopened park era? Thankfully, smoothly! There's no FastPass for rides but we found it wasn't an issue since most attractions were only a 10-30min wait **Again, this has already changed drastically with more capacity and will continue to do so with capacity continued to be increased.** Two of the most popular park rides, Rise of the Resistance and Indiana Jones utilized a virtual queue to help ease the wait times and line crowding. All attraction queues were also kept outside, so lines looked like they were crazy, but in reality it was only because of social distancing. There were social distancing markers set up clearly for all attractions, so we appreciated this safety measure. We also enjoyed how on most attractions each party was given their own ride vehicles or portion the ride vehicle. For example, on It's a Small World every party, got their own boat! The only ride where we encountered mixing of different groups was Rise of the Resistance. There were plexiglass barriers between the first and second row.

For any parents wondering if the usual single rider queues were in effect or if rider swap was still available, no and yes. No single rider lines were open at the time, but rider swap is still in effect. Just ask the Cast Member at the front of the ride entrance that you'd like to utilize the rider swap!


We LOVE our meet & greets with Disney pals at the parks. It's become one of our most cherished traditions and something our little guy absolutely loves and looks forward too. So we weren't sure how this beloved experience would be in the post-covid park times. Thankfully, Disney did their best to make sure meeting your favorite pals was easy and just as magical! Characters were all kept at a distance, but they would meet in some unique and fun locations. It honestly made for memorable interactions even though we were all physically apart. For example, Mickey and pals meet either in Toontown at their homes or at the Main Street train station. You might catch Mickey saying hello from his porch. You can catch Donald "fishing" off of his boat. Your favorite princesses are set up over in the Royal Theatre, and you might even catch a glimpse of an evil queen from a nearby balcony. Pooh and Pals greet over by It's a Small World in the area and other unique and classic characters are set up all around the park.

I really loved how the modified meet and greets were set up. Since there's no autographs to be signed and it's not a traditional format, there's no long lines and at some locations like Main Street station you get to see multiple characters at once!, Although it was different from what we were so used to from before and we miss our big hugs from our pals, it was still as magical as can be!


One of the best parts about Disney? The FOOD! Almost all of your Disney eats favorites are still around the park, but we did notice that there were significantly less food cart offerings. While you'll still find your favorite Mickey pretzel or ice cream bar, you may have to do a little digging on the Disneyland App map to find them. We did locate Mickey pretzels and turkey legs at the wagon cart by Big Thunder though... just in case inquiring Disney foodie minds wanted to know! 

In regards to that Disneyland App, the biggest change we noticed in regards to food was the use of mobile ordering. Most locations are trying to go cashless to minimize contact, so certain dining locations only accept orders via the Disneyland app's mobile ordering service. It's actually pretty easy and convenient to use, just tap on the restaurant you want to order from, see if they offer mobile ordering and then create your order. If mobile ordering isn't your thing, there's still a few locations that offer the traditional stand-by ordering.

**Tip: Some of the more popular locations like the Mint Julep Bar or Tropical Hideaway for Dole Whips rack up serious waits for mobile order return times. If you know you want a snack from these places, order ahead to ensure you won't have to wait hours to pick up your favorite snack.**

Safety Measures

I have to give all the amazing Cast Members at Disneyland a major bravo for creating a safe return to the parks. Some of the top questions I received after our visit was "how safe did you feel? How was mask compliance? What safety measures were in place?". To put it in the easiest terms, YES we felt safe, YES mask compliance was nearly perfect. And YES there were a ton of great safety measures put in place!

Disneyland has always implemented amazing safety guidelines from all the times we visited Downtown Disney or for the DCA Touch of Disney event. So there was never a doubt that the same standards would be put in place for the parks reopening as well. In regards to safety measures there were plentiful sanitizer or standalone hand washing stations in place around the park. We'd be able to sanitize before/after each attraction and there were plenty of areas spaced apart to sit, eat and relax for a mask break. Social distancing protocols were also put in place for everything like waiting in line for rides and for the most part, all guests were respectful and abiding by the rules. 

As far as mask compliance, all masks have to be worn properly at all times. The only time they can be removed is while stationary or seated in designated areas. We never found an issue find a shady or comfy spot to take a break in, but if you're someone who likes to snack on the go or take lots of water breaks, this may be a more difficult adjustment. We also appreciated Cast Member efforts in reminding any guests who were wearing their masks improperly or eating while moving to correct their mask wearing.

**Safety Tip: At the time this post was published, California still had social distancing and mask mandates in place. After June 15th when the state reopens many safety mandates like mask wearing outdoors, social distancing and such may be modified. For the most up to date safety rules in place at the parks head to**

Helpful Tips:

Here's a few other things that we learned along the way during our recent return to Disneyland that might be helpful to anyone planning their own return visit to the happiest place:

- Download the official Disneyland app, almost everything you'll do will be done on the Disneyland App. If you already have the app, make sure that you're using the latest latest version, as well. Having the app will definitely make your return to the parks experience an easier and happy one. You can link your tickets, access your PhotoPass photos if you choose to utilize the option and mobile order your snacks and food and other informational things like wait times, navigation around the parks and more!

- Bring an external battery charger. This goes hand in hand with the having the app! Since you'll most likely be using your phone more often for little things like mobile ordering or checking wait times, having an external battery charger can help keep your phone fully charged.

- Make a game plan! Gone are the days of visiting the parks casually, especially if you're a former Annual Pass holder. You'll want to make every minute of your park visit count, so be sure to plan ahead with what you really want to see, do, ride and eat. 

- When it comes to mobile ordering, if there's a particular snack or place you'd like to eat at and you have an idea of when you'd like to enjoy, place your mobile order ahead of time. For example, we ordered at our Dole Whops at 9am for the afternoon pick up at 3pm so that we wouldn't have to wait. We were noticing on the app that More popular snacks have longer wait times. 

- Shop early! The lines for shops on Main Street were nonexistent throughout the day, but upon closing they had lines out the door.

- Soak in the atmosphere of the newly reopened parks. Enjoy all those little moments that were withheld with the parks being closed for over a year. I loved just getting to sit and look at the castle or out on Main Street. These just a renewed sense of appreciation for it all.

Overall Experience 

A huge question that was on our mind before our visit was how the parks would truly look in these changing times. Would the magic still be there? Would the experience be the same? Well I can honestly say that although modified, we still had the most magical time! 

There was never a doubt that Disneyland would make its comeback once again. Although different than what we knew from before in some ways, we're so incredibly thankful that Disneyland's gates have reopened again for guests and that the parks are bringing all the magic and happiness to everyone once again! 💜🏰

**Full disclaimer that as of June 15th, California intends to fully reopen with social distancing and mask mandates being modified. I don't know what this means for the parks after that point, but keep your eyes peeled to the official Disneyland website and Disney Parks Blog for all the latest updates and info!**

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