Theme parks are slowly whirring back to life around the world, and now we know when the most storied one of all plans on reopening. Disney has put forth a proposal for a phased reopening of Disneyland, and it all hinges around a major date in its history. If approved by local officials and the state of California, Disneyland would reopen on July 17, 2020—exactly 65 years to the day when it originally opened.
Expect a similar staggered reopening and some of the same precautions that’ll be in place at Walt Disney World, which reopens in Florida a week earlier. That includes a significantly limited capacity that will be governed by a new reservation system, and an emphasis on physical distancing between guests. Parades, fireworks and other special shows—which require large gatherings of people in relatively tight confines—are off until further notice, and character meet and greets will also be scrapped for the time being. Disney hasn’t shared any information yet about temperature checks before entrance or a mandatory mask policy, but based on the procedures in place at Disney World, you can probably expect those, too.
The proposal has both Disneyland and the neighboring Disney California Adventure park reopening on July 17. Advanced reservations would be needed to enter either park. Downtown Disney, the shopping area next door, would reopen earlier, on July 9, whereas two of the resort’s hotels, the Grand Californian and Paradise Pier Hotel, would reopen on July 23. No proposed opening date for the Disneyland Hotel has been released yet.
Disneyland is largely considered a locals park, at least in comparison to Walt Disney World. Much of its customer base comes from Southern California, and less tourists travel in to stay there than with Disney World, so it’s not that weird that the parks would open almost a week before any of the resort’s hotels. That’s especially true if Disney plans to give annual passholders the priority when it comes to reservations, which is what they’re doing with Disney World. If you’re an out-of-towner hoping for the full Disneyland experience, you’ll probably miss out on the anniversary—which is fine. Locals should have first dibs, not just on returning to the parks, but when it comes to celebrating the park’s latest birthday. July 17 is always a big day at Disneyland, and when you add in that it’s the first day it’ll be open in three months, and also has limited capacity, a reservation for that day will no doubt be a hot ticket.
Of course, it’s entirely reasonable to question if it’s time to reopen places like theme parks yet. Medical experts have long warned of a second peak in coronavirus cases if lockdown measures are relaxed too early, and at least a dozen states are still seeing cases increase, including California. It feels like we haven’t beaten the virus so much as we’ve just collectively decided to ignore it—whether that’s the safe and smart thing to do, or not. With the right precautions, I have no doubt that theme parks can be relatively safe, and definitely safer than other businesses like movie theaters and gyms. And as a theme park fan, I can’t wait to return to them—I was at Disney World the week before the quarantine happened, and would definitely have been back since then if the park hadn’t closed. With Disney losing tens of millions every day its theme parks are closed, it’s not hard to see why they’d want to reopen as soon as officials let them, even if it means enforcing policies that greatly reduce the money they would’ve made if they were open for regular business. Hopefully COVID-19 cases have plateaued and don’t shoot up even more as businesses continue to reopen, but until a vaccine is available it’s natural to be worried about large gatherings of people in any context—even if it’s in the Happiest Place on Earth.