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Disneyland Is Open — Here’s Everything You Need To Know About SoCal Theme Park Reopenings

The Pixar Pier arch, with Mickey Mouse balloons in front of the ferris wheel at Disneyland.
A view of Pixar Pier at Disneyland Park on March 12, 2021 in Anaheim. Disneyland plans to reopen on April 30.
(Christian Thompson
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Walt Disney World Resorts via Getty Images)
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Theme parks are back. And the biggest one of all reopened Friday, April 30, with Disneyland and California Adventure making their return.

Here’s everything you need to know about SoCal’s biggest theme parks and their reopenings — whether you’re planning a visit, or just want to know how the pandemic is changing these experiences and what your theme park fan friends are about to encounter.

California Theme Park COVID-19 Protocols

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THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDE
Guests attend Universal Studios Hollywood grand reopening media day at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 15, 2021 in Universal City.
(Amy Sussman
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Getty Images)

Local theme park fans, you’re in luck: attendance at local parks is currently limited to California residents only. This was initially a state requirement, but updated guidance that went into effect last week allows theme parks to sell to out-of-state visitors.

Theme parks in the Greater L.A. area are planning to keep attendance to Californians despite the updated guidance, at least for now. However, SeaWorld in San Diego has already started offering tickets to out-of-state residents.

You’ll need to limit the size of your group. While you can visit theme parks with friends, if you’re buying tickets together, your group has to be limited to members of no more than three households.

The Path To Full Reopening

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Los Angeles has moved to the yellow tier of the state's reopening guidelines, indicating minimal spread of COVID-19. That means that L.A. County theme parks, like Universal Studios and Magic Mountain, can increase their capacity to 35% of the pre-pandemic times.

But Orange County — including Disneyland — remains in the orange tier, indicating that moderate spread of the coronavirus continues. In this tier, attendance at theme parks remains limited to 25% of each park’s maximum capacity, with indoor spaces limited to a maximum of 25% of what each of those spaces could normally hold.

And things will continue to change, with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to fully reopen the state and lift COVID-19 protocols on June 15. That goes into effect if there’s enough vaccine supply for Californians 16 years and older, and hospitalization rates remain low. The state is expected to meet both those conditions.

Protocols You'll See When You Arrive

THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDE
Guests attend Universal Studios Hollywood grand reopening media day at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 15, 2021 in Universal City.
(Amy Sussman/Getty Images
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Getty Images)
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Other limitations expected to be enforced at the parks include face coverings (for both guests and staff), health screenings, some attractions being shut down, changes in the ways lines work to allow for social distancing, and more. Those health screenings may include asking you to reschedule if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 recently, as well as taking your temperature.

And all the lines will be outside in order to prevent indoor spread of COVID-19, so stock up on even more sunscreen than usual before heading to any park. Stopping the rides for extra sanitation, as well as new loading procedures and allowing fewer people on each ride will likely also be upping wait times.

On the rides themselves, members of different households will be separated from each other, with at least one seat or empty row in between.

Several parks have also noted that they’ve added more hand sanitization stations throughout the property, though COVID-19 spread in the air is still the biggest area of concern.

And while the state has started to lift restrictions requiring masks while outside, you still need one when in medium- or large-scale gatherings — which includes theme parks, even if you’re vaccinated. But there are specified areas in the parks where you can remove your mask, including while seated in an area designated for eating and drinking. But you won’t be allowed to eat while in line.

See the full list of California COVID-19 protocols for theme parks here.

Let’s look at the individual parks more specifically — Disneyland/California Adventure, Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, and Universal Studios Hollywood:

Disneyland/California Adventure

How To Buy Tickets/Make A Reservation

To get into Disneyland, you’ll need not just a ticket, but also a reservation for the particular day and park that you want to visit. Disneyland reservations are sold out for the first week of reopening, but you can still get a reservation for California Adventure — or hold your horses until Mother’s Day, May 9, which still had Disneyland reservations as of press time.

But dates later in the month and into June are already selling out with the park facing reduced capacity — though not as reduced as previously expected, thanks to the state increasing the percentage of the overall capacity that is allowed at theme parks in various reopening tiers.

What You Need To Bring

  • The Disneyland App on your smartphone is going to be the easiest way to make your way through Disney parks right now, thanks to the efforts to make more experiences as contactless as possible. You’ll be able to scan tickets, check wait times, order food and drinks, and make dining reservations from within the app.
  • Along with having that ticket and reservation, you’ll also need proof of California residency, such as a driver’s license.
  • Face coverings.

What To Expect When You Get There

First off, you'll need to plan for less time in the park. For the first couple of weeks, they're only open until 7 p.m., (extending to 9 p.m. on May 15). So you won't get to see Sleeping Beauty Castle lit up at night quite yet — but you can check it out in the above video, which was released ahead of the grand reopening.

While getting the chance to take a photo and hug Mickey and friends is one of the big draws at Disney, particularly for younger fans, that won’t be happening right now. The characters will be around, but safely social distanced — though you can still take a selfie with them in the background.

You’ll also be waiting in more lines, as the FastPass/MaxPass options fans may be used to — which let you schedule a time to ride in advance — won’t be available upon reopening.

Another way the experience is different: even if you buy a Park Hopper ticket, you’re not allowed to switch between Disneyland and California Adventure until after 1 p.m. It’s all part of the efforts to manage both capacity and other pandemic protocols.

Which Attractions Are Open/Closed?

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File: Details of the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge media preview at Disneyland on May 29, 2019.
(Amy Sussman
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Getty Images)

  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: This is Disneyland’s newest, most prominent marquee attraction at the moment. Even before the pandemic, there was already a virtual queue system in place — and that remains. Maybe it won’t be quite as painful with reduced capacities, but expect this one to still be in-demand and harder than you would like to board. The virtual queue opens at 7 a.m. daily, through the app.
  • Disneyland has updated several of its attractions during this prolonged downtime, so you’ll be able to enjoy an updated Haunted Mansion ride, as well as a revamped Snow White ride, which used to have a scary ending, but the new version focuses on the happily ever after.

Attractions that are closed at Disneyland, either due to the pandemic or for refurbishments, include:

  • Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (renovations)
  • Chip ‘n Dale Treehouse
  • Davy Crockett’s Explorer Canoes
  • The Disneyland Monorail
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Goofy’s Playhouse
  • Jungle Cruise (Being updated to remove negative depictions of native people)
  • Main Street Cinema
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds (renovations)
  • Mickey and the Magical Map show
  • Sailing Ship Columbia
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats

And those closed at California Adventure:

  • Frozen Live show
  • The Golden Zephyr
  • Grizzly River Run (renovations)
  • The Red Car Trolley
  • All fireworks displays, parades and other nighttime shows are also canceled due to the crowds they draw, which could make social distancing difficult. However, the park is working around that with events such as surprise character appearances for short periods of time.

And there are some new attractions set to open June 4. That’s when Disney will be opening Avengers Campus, the Marvel-themed land that was originally scheduled to open … last summer.

You can read more about Disneyland's most memorable rides here.

Knott’s Berry Farm/Soak City Waterpark

THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDE
File: (L-R) Alexander Garfin, Francesca Capaldi, Hadley Belle Miller, Noah Schnapp and Marleik Mar Mar Walker attend "The Peanuts Movie" cast photocall at Knott's Berry Farm on Oct. 31, 2015 in Buena Park.
(Jerod Harris
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Getty Images for Knott's Berry Farm)

How To Buy Tickets/Make A Reservation

Knott’s Berry Farm isn’t reopening just yet. They’re set to hold their grand reopening on May 21. Season pass holders are able to visit earlier, though, with previews opening up for them on May 6.

You’ll need both a ticket and a reservation to visit.

However, Knott's has been open just a bit since March 5, holding a scaled-down version of their annual Boysenberry Festival. It included boysenberry-inspired foods, drinks and treats, before ending May 2 ahead of the park reopening for pass holders.

Tickets and reservations for Soak City open Monday, May 10 at 10 a.m.

What You Need To Bring

  • Proof of California residency.
  • Mobile tickets on your phone, printed tickets, or a season pass.
  • Face coverings.
  • Contactless payment methods other than cash — Knott’s recommends credit cards or devices with Apple Pay or Google Pay. At the Knott’s parking toll booth, you’ll either need to show proof of parking payment in advance, or you’ll need a cashless payment method when you arrive.
  • The park recommends that at least one member of your group have the park’s mobile app on their phone, as well as enabling location services. That will allow them to send real-time updates while you’re there.

What To Expect When You Get There

You’ll need to wear face coverings throughout the park, other than in the “RelaxZone” or while eating/drinking in a designated dining area.

The park announced that their water park, Knott's Soak City, will reopen on May 29. It will require reservations and have capacity restrictions, just like Knott's Berry Farm. But you’ll be able to remove your mask while waiting in lines for Soak City attractions, or while you’re in a water attraction or pool.

Soak City will also open early for Gold and Platinum season pass holders on May 22 and 23. The Soak City summer season runs through Sept. 12.

Which Attractions Are Open/Closed?

This year marks the park’s 100th anniversary, which they’ll be celebrating all summer long — and that includes new things to see and do. But the park also has yet to announce which attractions may be closed due to COVID-19 protocols, but they promise you'll be able to see in the Knott's app once you arrive at the park.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDE
Visitors wearing face masks ride The New Revolution roller coaster at the theme park Six Flags Magic Mountain on the day of the park's re-opening, April 1, 2021, in Valencia. Six Flags Magic Mountain was the first theme park to re-open in Los Angeles County after closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.
(Valerie Macon
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AFP via Getty Images)

How To Buy Tickets/Make A Reservation

Our rollercoaster-heavy theme park on the northern side of the Greater L.A. area reopened the first day theme parks were allowed to reopen, April 1. You can buy tickets and make a reservation here.

Six Flags is also strongly encouraging visitors to purchase parking in advance to help minimize transactions onsite.

Before you show up, the park is also providing a “guest on-boarding program” including emails, documentation and videos to help you prepare and know what to expect.

What You Need To Bring

  • Proof of California residency.
  • Tickets.
  • Face coverings.
  • Contactless payment method, which includes credit cards. Only card and mobile payments will be accepted throughout the park. However, guests will have an option on-site to convert cash to a pre-paid Visa debit card.

What To Expect When You Get There

Unlike some other parks, Six Flags isn’t holding appearances with costumed characters at this time.

Which Attractions Are Open/Closed?

Attractions that are closed include:

  • A bumper-car attraction
  • A steampunk-themed indoor acrobatic show

Universal Studios Hollywood

THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDE
An employee is seen at Universal Studios Hollywood grand reopening media day at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 15, 2021 in Universal City.
(Amy Sussman
/
Getty Images)

How To Buy Tickets/Make A Reservation

Universal Studios reopened in mid-April. Like the other parks, they’re requiring both tickets and a reservation — though reservations are currently only required through May 16.

What You Need To Bring

  • Proof of California residency.
  • Tickets.
  • Face coverings.
  • Contactless payment method, which includes credit cards.
  • Like the rest, guests are encouraged to download the Universal Studios Hollywood app before arriving.

What To Expect When You Get There

  • Like Disneyland, Universal characters will still be out and about — but they’ll be social distancing, so no hugs or up-close photos.

Which Attractions Are Open/Closed?

Universal Studios had been set to premiere a brand new attraction just before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the park, focused around the Secret Life of Pets. Now the ride is ready for you to become a virtual animal through the attraction’s motion-capture technology.

Attractions that are closed include:

  • Despicable Me Minion Mayhem
  • Dreamworks Theatre featuring Kung Fu Panda
  • DinoPlay
  • Special Effects Show
  • WaterWorld

The Simpsons Ride was initially closed when the park reopened, but the attraction was recently made available once again.

Updated May 5, 2021 at 12:58 PM PDT
This story has been updated with details about the Knott's Soak City reopening, which were announced on Wednesday, May 5, 2021.
Updated May 4, 2021 at 2:29 PM PDT
This story has been updated with information about Los Angeles County moving to the yellow reopening tier, while Orange County remains in the orange tier.