Disneyland & California Adventure Can Reopen in April

Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and other large amusement & theme parks will be able to open with rides and attractions next month if Orange County improves to the red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening rules. In this post, we’ll detail the revised restrictions and limitations, plus the sudden change of policy from California officials.

This reopening change was announced in a Friday afternoon press conference on March 5, as Dr. Mark Ghaly of the Health and Human Service Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly, announced that California counties in the Red Tier would be allowed to reopen theme parks at 15% capacity and sports venues at 20% capacity on April 1, 2021. This means that in addition to Disneyland Resort, Knott’s Berry Farm and Angel Stadium could also reopen.

Under the current rules, in effect until April 1, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure could not reopen until Orange County reaches the yellow tier. Those rules were met with intense backlash, derided as an unworkable standard by Disney, Anaheim, and other state lawmakers. For our part, we’ve repeatedly stressed in When Will Disneyland Reopen? that the onerous yellow tier rules likely would be voluntarily rescinded or overhauled with California’s case numbers improving dramatically. Now, that day has come…but Disney isn’t out of the woods quite yet.

In addition to California’s key metrics improving, the effort to recall Governor Newsom has gained momentum and a new assembly bill that proposed accelerating theme park openings had bipartisan support. The Anaheim City Council to support the bill, as did the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

All things considered, it thus makes sense that California is loosening its reopening rules. Now that the United States is turning the corner and vaccinations are ramping up dramatically, it just makes sense. Moreover, it’s a savvy move for Newsom to get out ahead of public opinion and advance now-popular policies on his own with a modified reopening plan.

Anyway, here are the new reopening rules for amusement and theme parks:

Purple Tier – Closed

Red Tier

  • Max 15%
  • Small Groups – Max 10 people or 3 household groups with no intergroup mixing
  • Indoor capacity max 15% with time restrictions
  • No indoor dining
  • Weekly worker testing program
  • In-state visitors only, check for current CDPH Travel Advisory in effect
  • Online ticket purchases only

Orange Tier

  • Max 25%
  • Indoor capacity max 25% with time restrictions
  • Weekly worker testing program
  • With other modifications
  • In-state visitors only, check for current CDPH Travel Advisory in effect

Yellow Tier

  • Max 35%
  • Indoor capacity max 25% with time restrictions
  • Weekly worker testing program
  • With other modifications
  • In-state visitors only, check for current CDPH Travel Advisory in effect

NOTE: These rules are copied verbatim from California’s official documentation (see below) so if there’s something that doesn’t make sense or looks incomplete–such as what “with other modifications” means–that’s on them.

During the press conference, Ghaly explained that theme parks can only accept visitors from within the state of California so long as the statewide travel advisory remains in place.

Since online reservations are required, theme park operators will be able to determine where people are coming from to restrict access because theme parks are required to have people make reservations online prior to their visits.

As we reported previously, Orange County remains in the most-restrictive purple tier of California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy reopening plan, but has made significant strides towards the red tier.

These numbers are updated every Tuesday, and for this week’s update, Orange County barely missed qualifying for the red tier. Literally by a fraction of a percentage point on one metric. Positivity rate and health equity both already qualify—it’s just new cases per day per 100K. Once the county qualifies, it would need to maintain its metrics for 2 weeks before actually entering the red tier.

Between dramatic weekly improvements and thanks to another loosening of the reopening rules, Orange County should be able to hit the red tier with ease in the very near future. Orange County health officials have said they anticipate entering the red tier by March 16, 2021.

After that, it should be 3 weeks before the county qualifies for the orange tier–so April 6, 2021. In all likelihood, Disneyland will reopen once the county is in the orange tier–or will hit that milestone shortly thereafter.

Those tiers and accompanying dates are more or less a sure thing unless California further relaxes its rules or the state suffers a setback or surprise spike in cases. One thing that’s more speculative on our part concerns the in-state limitation on guests.

Right now, this appears to be one component of the reopening rules for amusement and theme parks to keep those consistent with California’s existing travel restrictions. It’s worth noting that California had no such quarantine or travel advisory until November 13 of last year–right as cases started to spike.

Our expectation is that the state will lift this travel advisory sooner rather than later. It could possibly be gone by the start of April, but if not, almost certainly by Memorial Day weekend when California’s summer tourism season begins. Expect it to be lifted for theme parks, irrespective of tier status, when it’s lifted for the state as a whole.

Even prior to this, theme park operators were aware that revised reopening rules were on the horizon. Six Flags Magic Mountain publicly announced their park would reopen in “Spring 2021” (internally, the target date we’ve heard is May 22, 2021). Down the road from Disneyland in Buena Park, Knott’s Berry Farm is holding a job fair on March 13, 2021 and plans to hire 1,700 employees for the 2021 season.

However, it’s likely even the parks themselves were caught flatfooted by this news. Especially given the aforementioned target dates and that Disneyland literally just yesterday began sales for the hard ticket “A Touch of Disney” food event through April 19 at Disney California Adventure. Presumably, those April event dates will now be cancelled or DCA just won’t open until April 20, 2021.

In response to the news, Disney Parks & Resorts PR issued the above statement.

The vague nature of that statement further reinforces the notion that this caught Disneyland Resort leadership by surprise. (At least for once in this dreadful reopening saga it was the good kind of surprise!)

A bit of an aside, but this date and news isn’t coming totally out of left field. It might just seem that way to Disneyland fans who don’t also follow baseball.

The rules announced coincide with Major League Baseball’s opening day. The San Diego Padres, Los Angeles Angels, and Oakland Athletics all have home games scheduled for April 1, 2021. The Los Angeles Dodgers are scheduled to play their home opener on April 9, 2021. In terms of California places we cannot wait to visit again, Disneyland is #1 and Dodger Stadium is #2.

Ultimately, there’s still a lot to figure out in terms of logistics to get Disneyland and Disney California Adventure operational in only a few short weeks. This includes but is not limited to ironing out agreements with unions, calling back Cast Members, re-training said CMs on attractions that haven’t operated with guests (they’ve been cycling throughout the closure) for a full year, placing food & beverage orders, and more.

Accordingly, just because Disneyland and Disney California Adventure can reopen on April 1, 2021 does not mean the parks will. Keep in mind that Florida was willing to allow Walt Disney World to reopen much earlier than they actually did last summer (in fact, Universal did open about a month earlier than the Disney parks), so that’s not exactly unprecedented. Of course, the circumstances are dramatically different here, especially as Disneyland previously planned on reopening ~9 months ago. Regardless, we’ll keep you posted as to an official reopening date once Disney makes an announcement!

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!


Do you think Disneyland Resort will reopen on April 1, 2021, or do you anticipate that it’ll take longer to get everything ready to roll? Think Disneyland will wait until “A Touch of Disney” has concluded to reopen with rides, or will they just cancel that event? Excited and optimistic about this news, or think it’s (still) premature? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!

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