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How California's Full Reopening Affects Disneyland And Other SoCal Theme Parks

The Pixar Pier arch, with Mickey Mouse balloons in front of the ferris wheel at Disney's California Adventure.
A view of Pixar Pier at California Adventure on March 12, 2021 in Anaheim.
(Christian Thompson
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Walt Disney World Resorts via Getty Images)
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As of June 15, California is fully reopen. What does that mean for Southern California theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios?

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's Full Reopening

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)
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California's tiered reopening system is officially over, though some health restrictions remain. COVID-19 remains a threat, albeit a smaller one — particularly for the vaccinated — than it was last year and this past winter.

Theme parks were previously restricted to 35% capacity, but are now legally allowed to operate at full capacity. If you're vaccinated, they can let you take off your mask both indoors and outdoors. And you don't have to limit the size of your group anymore.

Of course, our theme parks haven't always moved in lockstep with what the state has allowed, and it appears that many theme parks will continue to have their own restrictions in place for the time being. Here's what you need to know about the restrictions that remain in place legally, as well as those being used at individual Southern California parks.

Protocols You'll See When You Arrive, And Those You Won't Anymore

THEME PARK REOPENING GUIDE
Guests attend Universal Studios Hollywood grand reopening media day at Universal Studios Hollywood on April 15, 2021 in Universal City.
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Current California Occupational Safety and Health regulations mean that many employees still need to wear masks, though those regulations are being re-evaluated at a June 17 meeting. You can read more about Cal/OSHA's COVID-19 safety rules here. But the parks don't have to require health screenings, can reopen attractions that didn't allow for COVID-19 safety, and aren't required to enforce social distancing.

Of course, many of the state's restrictions remain in place if you're not vaccinated. This includes the need to wear a mask unless you're in a designated area for eating and/or drinking.

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

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What Full Reopening Looks Like At Disneyland

Disneyland released its own long-awaited update on what full reopening looks like on Monday, June 14. Among the changes, while out-of-state visitors were already being allowed at some parks, now Disneyland is officially welcoming them.

Part of this full reopening is Disney employees getting out of the enforcement game. They'll no longer be policing your social distancing, allowing visitors to make their own determinations for their own safety. They're also no longer doing temperature checks. You don't need to wear a face covering either inside or outside, if you're vaccinated. You'll still need to if you aren't vaccinated. You'll also need to wear masks, vaccinated or not, when taking the bus from the Toy Story parking lot.

How will Disney know who's vaxxed and who's not? For now, they're relying on the honor system, with visitors required to self-attest before being admitted. That means the vaccinated have to say that they're vaccinated, while everyone will have to attest that they are aware of the state's recommendation that all visitors be either vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test before visiting.

The Downtown Disney shopping district is also open, as are several of Disney's hotels, with the Disneyland Hotel itself set to reopen on June 2. But they all still have reduced capacity as well.

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How To Buy Tickets/Make A Reservation

To get into Disneyland, you’ll still need not just a ticket, but also a reservation. Some capacity limits remain, but the park is opting not to publicize specific capacities at the moment. Getting a reservation may be easier as capacity increases, but the timing also lines up with one of the park's most popular times of year, so there will still likely be high demand to visit the parks.

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.
  • Printouts of tickets/reservations if you don't want to use the app.
  • Face coverings if you aren't vaccinated — and probably worth bringing one even if you are, both in the event you're in a situation that makes you uncomfortable or if you end up needing to ride a bus or other transit at the park where masks are required.

What To Expect When You Get There

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 still isn't happening. The characters are around, but they remain socially distanced — so your selfies will have to just include them in the background.

You’ll 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. They also aren't utilizing single rider lines at the moment.

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.

The parks are slowly starting to expand their hours as we move into the summer season, open until 9 p.m. now and moving to as late as 10 p.m. in July.

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)

  • Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure: The Avengers Campus area is now open at California Adventure, and this Spider-Man-themed ride is the premier attraction in the new land. And like Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, this ride will be utilizing a virtual queue system. The virtual queue opens early each day through the app, so be quick on the draw if you want any hope of getting on this ride. The ride itself is designed like a video game, where you get to shoot rogue robots with Spidey's help. You can even get your hands on other weapons, such as Iron Man's repulsor rays — for the additional cost of purchasing them in the nearby shop.
  • Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance: This is still one of Disneyland’s newest, most prominent marquee attraction at the moment. Even before the pandemic, there was already a virtual queue system in place, which remains. Expect this one to still be in-demand and harder than you would like to board.
  • Disneyland has updated several of its attractions during its 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 Disney Gallery
  • The Disneyland Monorail
  • The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
  • Donald's Boat
  • Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage
  • Frontierland Shootin' Exposition
  • Goofy’s Playhouse
  • Jungle Cruise (Being updated to remove negative depictions of native people)
  • Main Street Cinema
  • Matterhorn Bobsleds (renovations)
  • Mickey and Minnie's houses
  • Mickey and the Magical Map show
  • Pirate's Lair on Tom Sawyer Island
  • Sailing Ship Columbia
  • Sleeping Beauty Castle walkthrough
  • Star Wars Launch Bay
  • Storybook Land Canal Boats

And those closed at California Adventure:

  • The Bakery Tour
  • Mickey's PhilharMagic (renovations)
  • The Red Car Trolley
  • Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (renovations)
  • Soarin' Over California
  • Walt Disney Imagineering Blue Sky Cellar

All fireworks displays, parades and other nighttime shows are also canceled due to the crowds they draw, which could make social distancing difficult. BUT! Those fireworks shows are coming back this summer, with the first Disneyland fireworks show returning — appropriately enough — on the Fourth of July.

The parks have also been working around social distancing concerns with events such as surprise character appearances for short periods of time. The casts of their live theatrical shows, including the popular Frozen show, were also laid off early in the pandemic.

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

Knott’s Berry Farm/Soak City Waterpark

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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)

What Full Reopening Looks Like At Knott's Berry Farm/Soak City Waterpark

Overall capacity restrictions remain in place, with full capacity not set to resume until a later date. However, the capacity restrictions for individual rides have been lifted.

Vaccinated guests don't need to wear masks, but will be required to attest that they've been vaccinated. Meanwhile, the unvaccinated will have to continue wearing masks when indoors. The park is no longer conducting temperature checks on guests.

How To Buy Tickets/Make A Reservation

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

What You Need To Bring

  • Mobile tickets on your phone, printed tickets, or a season pass.
  • Face coverings, required if you're not vaccinated (but handy even if you are)
  • 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.

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. While almost everything has reopened, their large indoor theatrical shows are among the things you won't be able to see this summer.

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)

What Full Reopening Looks Like At Six Flags Magic Mountain

Magic Mountain is among the parks where you no longer need a reservation. They've also stopped temperature screenings and won't require social distancing.

How To Buy Tickets/NOT 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 here.

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

What You Need To Bring

  • Tickets.
  • Face coverings if you're not vaccinated
  • Contactless payment method, which includes credit cards. 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

Six Flags is bringing back costumed characters experiences, so get ready to get your meet-and-greet on.

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)

What Full Reopening Looks Like At Universal Studios Hollywood

The park is back to full capacity, both on the rides themselves and for overall attendance. It's following state guidelines, but isn't instituting significant restrictions beyond what is required by the state.

Masks are only required for guests who aren't fully vaccinated, but the park is still encouraging everyone to wear masks while indoors.

How To Buy Tickets/NOT Make A Reservation

Universal Studios reopened in mid-April. You can buy a ticket here — like Six Flags, you no longer need a reservation to visit.

What You Need To Bring

  • Tickets.
  • Face coverings if you're unvaccinated.
  • 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

It should be business as usual, though there's one bonus happening from June 18-24: a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination site. They're offering both the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

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:

  • Special Effects Show
  • Ollivanders

Several other rides and shows were initially closed when the park reopened, but are open once again. Most importantly, you'll be able to spend your summer checking out the WaterWorld live stunt show.

Updated June 15, 2021 at 5:09 PM PDT
This story has been updated with information about what theme park guidelines are with the June 15, 2021 full reopening of California's economy.
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.