Food events, hotel reopenings, massive shopping lines, and general good news have fans wanting to know when Disneyland will reopen. We have news for you on all of that today. The new Star Wars store is commanding waits longer than most theme park attractions, we look at why that’s not good news. And not to worry, we have lots of photos for you today, as well as a VERY hopeful look forward.
WHEN Will Disneyland Reopen?
The drumbeat of fans wanting to know when the Disneyland Resort theme parks will reopen has increased to a fever pitch since Disneyland announced the return of a food festival at California Adventure and infections state-wide began to plummet. While there is absolutely no way for us to predict the exact date Disneyland will reopen (even they have to wait for state guidance), there is some very encouraging news which could lead to some positive changes sooner rather than later if everything stacks up just right.
As a reminder, California has a 4 tier roadmap to reopening. Different activities are allowed at each level and in varying degrees of capacity. Orange County (where Disneyland is located) is currently in the most restrictive Purple tier.
To get to the Red Tier, Orange County will need to achieve a case rate of less than 7 per 100,000 residents and a Health Equity Quartile rate of less than 8% (the Equity Quartile reflects the positivity rates in lower-income and minority neighborhood which tend to be harder hit, including Anaheim!). So, how long will it be until Orange County reaches the Red Tier? Not long!
Orange County has made exceptional progress in the last week (the stats below from Orange Health Authority were as of Sunday, February 28th):
- Adjusted Daily Case Rate – The 7 day average case rate per 100,000 residents is now 11.9 cases – down from 20.7 just last week. (STILL PURPLE)
- Test Positivity Rate – is just 5.4% – down from 7.8% the week earlier. (RED)
- Health Equality Quartile Positivity Rate – is now 7%, down from 10.7% the week earlier. (RED)
Orange County officials believe the area will reach all of the metrics required for the Red Tier this week. However, the county will need to maintain those stats for two full weeks before actually being moved by the state to the Red tier. So, we could just be a couple of weeks away from the big move from Purple to Red.
Although the Red Tier may sound restrictive, it actually allows for most businesses to reopen at some level of capacity. Shops currently at 25% capacity (as all of Downtown Disney currently is) would be able to bump their attendance to 50%. Aquariums, zoos, and museums could reopen indoor exhibits (at 25% capacity). And restaurants and movie theaters would also be allowed to resume indoor seating (at 25% capacity).
At those levels, it would be much more profitable for Disneyland to reopen additional allowed activities, such as shopping and dinning throughout both parks. But theme parks aren’t allowed to operate rides and attractions in the Red tier, even though at 25% capacity Disneyland could ensure that guests would spend far less time next to a stranger in an attraction queue (via the use of virtual queues and social distancing) than anyone sitting for 2 hours in a movie theater or an hour in a restaurant.
In fact, major theme parks aren’t allowed to operate even in the Orange Tier— they are restricted to the final Yellow Tier. This is a standard that we feel is very hard for the state to justify since at that level, life will pretty much have returned to normal, and almost every other type of business (with the exception of indoor concerts, conventions, and indoor sporting events) will have long since reopened in the Red and Orange tiers. So, it’s no surprise that theme parks and many state legislators are pushing for theme parks to be able to reopen at a limited capacity, and with safety measures in place, in the Orange Tier (State Assembly Bill 420). The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has voiced their support of the Bill as well, which could help it gain traction with legislators who don’t have theme parks in their districts.
We still think there are many activities which could safely be allowed even in the Red Tier in addition to the shops and restaurants, such as outdoor rides with outdoor queues (for example Tea Cups, Carrousel, The Jungle Cruise, Rivers of America attractions, Astro Orbitor, Autopia, Railroad, Golden Zephyr, Pal-A-Round, Jumpin’ Jellyfish, Goofy’s Sky School, Incredicoaster, etc.). All of those attractions are completely outdoors. If park capacity can be limited to 25%, queue lengths kept short, and parties separated by 6 or more feet, how is that different than visiting a neighborhood park, shopping mall, restaurant, zoo, museum, or other activity allowed in the Red Tier?
University of California Irvine professor of population health and disease prevention, Andrew Noymer, expects life in the area to be “close to normal as soon as sometime in May,” he told The Atlantic last week. “Barring some variant that is just really crazy, I expect the summer to be a lot like the summer of 2019.”
So, we do think that as the most vulnerable groups (the ones most likely to end up in the hospital) get vaccinated, and ICU capacity recovers, there will be sufficient reason for the state to reconsider the current tier structure and when certain excluded businesses, such as theme parks, are allowed to reopen with safety measures in place.
To us, Orange Tier seems like a safe and fair compromise, perhaps with travel restrictions in place (visits only from those who reside within the state) until the Yellow Tier, when a wider group of guests would be allowed. And when could we reach the Orange Tier? At the current rate of inoculations and virus decline in the region, that could happen as soon as sometime in April.
For now, Disney is doing what it can to promote vaccinations and safety awareness. Their Toy Story parking lot continues to be used as a mass vaccination site, and their Incredibles safety campaign has been updated and placed on billboards, banners, and buses throughout the region.
New Disneyland Food & Beverage Event Info
This will be a stressful week for many Disneyland Resort fans. Tickets for the Touch of Disney food event will go on sale March 4th. With extremely limited capacity, tickets are expected to sell out fast. Even at the high cost of $75 per person, there’s so much pent-up demand to see the parks again that many fans are likely going to want to buy at least one ticket, with some likely wanting to visit as often as they can afford.
Much of California Adventure will be open for this event (but no rides), including Cars Land, Pixar Pier, Paradise Pier, Buena Vista Street, Grizzly Peak, and the parade route. In addition to 6 Food & Wine Marketplace booths, a variety of restaurants (including Carthay Circle, Lamplight Lounge), quick-serve windows (such as Smokejumpers, Cocina Cucamonga, and other spots), and outdoor vending will also be available throughout the park. Shops beyond Buena Vista Street will also reopen, including Bing Bongs on Pixar Pier. For the first time since the parks closed last March, characters will also be seen in the park (from a safe distance).
The $75 fee for the event includes parking and a $25 food and beverage credit. While we all could have probably seen that high price (or even higher) coming, it did cause quite a reaction in the fan community (mostly negative). Meanwhile, Knott’s Berry Farm’s Boysenberry Festival returns this coming Friday at a cost of $45 (including 5 food or beverage options and almost the entire park reopened with the exception of attractions).
Both the Disney and Knott’s events are VERY similar in what they offer. But Knott’s has been holding an ever-expanding series of events since July of last year, and has had time to grow the events to more than 30 booths, most shops, entertainment experiences, and expanded hours— all for just $45 (which is $5 more than their previous event)
That has us wondering how you will spend your theme park dollars until the parks reopen with rides. Please comment below and take or little poll:
Downtown Disney & Buena Vista Street News
Buena Vista Street Closing for Regular Shopping
Attention Buena Vista Street Shoppers, you’ll need a ticket to shop after March 15th. Buena Vista Street is closing on the 15th to prepare for becoming part of the Touch of Disney food event which launches on the 18th.
So, if you’d like to see Buena Vista Street one more time (without having to pay for it), best head over to the resort before the 15th.
Crowds inside the park feel about what they have been lately. But lines to actually get into the shops felt a bit longer.
Some additional seating and shade umbrellas have been added, likely to accommodate guests for the upcoming food event.
The same generic Mickey and Minnie themed treats that have been offered off and on since Marceline’s and Trolley Treats reopened have returned following the end of special Valentine’s Day items.
If you fear missing out . . . almost everything on Buena Vista Street is offered elsewhere in Downtown Disney. For example, Marceline’s offers almost the exact mix of items we found at Trolley Treats.
Carthay Circle Virtual Check-in
There’s a new way to check in at Carthay Circle for your reservation. Guests can now scan a QR code at the front of the park to check reservation status or make a reservation (if one is still available). Since Lamplight Lounge is soon to return for A Touch of Disney, this will help guests know if spots are available without needing to queue up to speak with a host.
We shared previously that there are often times when the restaurant looks like it’s not even open, even when reservations were fully booked. It’s likely that they are trying to do their best to offer guests a chance to fill all those no-show seats.
Extension of Legacy Passholder Discounts
There were some long lines to get into Downtown Disney last week as guests not only tried to get into the new Star Wars store, but also to use that special 30% Legacy Passholder discount before it expired last week. Many didn’t get the memo that the discount was extended. Note that you can continue to use the 30% discount through March 11th (Monday through Thursday). Regular discounts continue on other days.
The discount is good on most items in the Disney-owned stores.
Star Wars: Return of the Four Hour Wait
If you tried to visit the new Star Wars Trading Post only to find out that the line was too long or already closed for the day, you aren’t alone. Waits have been hovering in the 4-hour range and require being added to the virtual queue.
We checked in at 10:45 AM on Saturday, less than an hour after Downtown Disney opened for the day, and it was over 4 hours and 10 minutes before we received our text message that we could return to the store. We then waited in a queue outside the store for another 20 minutes before we could actually enter! That’s a LONG wait.
This consistently long wait creates a couple of problems for all guests of Downtown Disney. First, the virtual queue typically fills completely by 3 or 4pm, and you have to be on-site to add yourself to the queue. So lots of folks make the trip to the resort, wait in line to enter, just to find out that the store they want to visit is full. Secondly, since you have to be on-site to add yourself to the queue, a four-hour wait means you are just wandering around Downtown Disney trying to find something to do while other guests are forced to wait out in the parking lot in a never-ending line whether or not they also want to visit the store.
It’s a real problem that could be resolved by letting guests book their visit in advance from home (and perhaps charge a no-show fee like Disney does with dining reservations).
And why are guests willing to wait so long? Well, it’s a pretty cool store. . . and it’s new . . .
The other new/old store in Downtown Disney is the returning Wonderground Gallery. While it has a new mix and is a very welcome return, waits to get in here are a much more reasonable length (just 20 minutes when we visited on Saturday).
A Grand Reopening on the Way
It’s a tiny reopening, but an important step forward. The Disney Vacation Club villas at the Grand Californian Hotel will be reopening in May. While some may question why you’d want to stay at the hotel if the theme parks are closed, there’s actually quite a bit open at the Disneyland Resort (shops, restaurants, a food festival) and restaurants, shops, beaches, museums, gardens, zoos, etc. in the surrounding areas that make this hotel a good option for some. And, by the time May rolls around, we have a feeling that a lot more will be open.
Lockdown 365: What Will Your First Disneyland Meal Be?
It’s hard to believe, but we’re quickly approaching a full year of Disneyland being closed. And while Beuna Vista Street gave us a little taste of our beloved parks, and the upcoming A Touch of Disney food event brings it even closer to the real deal, it just isn’t the same. While Disneyland has been closed, we’ve been engaging the MiceChat Facebook group every week to help keep the spark of Disney magic alive for when the eventual happy day arrives. This week, as we inch ever closer towards moving up one Tier closer to reopening, we asked our readers what would be the first meal they’d eat at Disneyland once it reopens. We got some interesting responses, and it’s certainly making us hungry! Let’s take a look . . .
Some of our readers would head straight to the sweetest parts of the park. Those readers are truly after my own heart.
For a more traditional first meal return, something savory and filling would also be a great option. I don’t know about you, but I’d give just about anything to enjoy some famous Plaza Inn chicken right about now. Going buffeteria-style is a bit more upscale than eating a chimichanga or a turkey leg!
And you can’t forget about the most out-there food in the galaxy (or at least at Disneyland), all the odds and ends from around Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!
And then there’s the true foodies of Disneyland, the ones that have been waiting to return to the various full-service restaurants around the resort. I don’t know if I could sit still long enough for a complete meal with so much of Disneyland to see again, so y’all are stronger than I am!
Thank you to everyone who shared a photo with us this week! We’re still in shock that it’s been nearly a year and all of you are still surprising us with more and more photos every week. We’re excited to next week’s photo challenge with you, so please be sure to keep checking in on the MiceChat Facebook group.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: Our thanks to Logan Collins for his assistance assembling, watermarking, and writing our reader photo section)
This & That
We’re not done quite yet. Here are a few other stories that we don’t want you to miss.
Joe Rohde Goes Galactic
We should all have aspirations to reach for the stars, but former Imagineer Joe Rohde is taking a literal approach to that mindset. This week, he shared the news that he has accepted the inaugural position of Experience Architect at Virgin Galactic. Although Joe recently retired after 40 years at The Walt Disney Company, he’s not done creating experiences just yet. That said, Joe isn’t the first former Disney employee to head over to Virgin Galactic— the current CEO, Micheal Coleglazier, was once the president of the Disneyland Resort! And this new opportunity isn’t just happenstance for Joe, particularly because Coleglazier mentioned that “As soon as [he] joined Virgin Galactic, [he] knew there was one person [Virgin Galactic] just had to work with to help shape the incredible experience we are developing – and that person was Joe Rohde.” So, congrats Joe on the new gig!
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Disneyland Secret Spaces: The Dream Suite
If you’ve been with MiceChat since the early forum days, you might recall seeing an in-depth writeup about a lucky MiceChat reader who got to stay in the Disneyland Dream Suite. Well, for the majority of you who missed out, you’re in luck: Joe Flowers has recapped his experience with an extremely detailed look into what makes the Dream Suite about Pirates of the Caribbean so special. With several 360º photos of the rooms, it’s as close as you can get to being there yourself! Take a few minutes and transport yourself into one of Disneyland’s most secret spaces in the article below.
A Gift For The Whole Family!
(Discount Theme Park Tickets and Travel Packages)
It’s time to give the family something to look forward to. Our travel partners at Get Away Today are here to help you with that by planning a future theme park vacation. There are all sorts of new theme park ticket and travel deals, including a 2 free days offer at Walt Disney World, hotel discounts, ticket deals to various theme parks: More details and to get a quote (HERE)
NEW VACATION SAVINGS PLAN WITH PERKS!!! Want to start saving for a big family vacation but aren’t sure where or when you’ll be ready to go? Get Away Today has created a plan which rewards you for saving up for your trip now. Place as little as $200 down and get free travel protection, travel credits, and more! Learn more and start saving now HERE!
Let’s Hear From You
And with that, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached the end of today’s Disneyland Update! With the tremendous decrease in cases of infection, increasing vaccine distribution, and hopeful comments from health experts, when do you expect SoCal’s theme parks to reopen? Which theme park food event are you more likely to attend, DCA’s A Touch of Disney or Knott’s A Taste of Boysenberry Festival? What do you think of Joe Rohde’s new outerspace gig? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
More Theme Park Reading
Still need more? We’ve got you covered. Here’s more of the latest happenings around the theme park world.