It was Memorial Day 2021, and on this special day I got to spend some time at the happiest place on Earth… Disneyland, California. With all the pomp and circumstance of any baseball opening day, this holiday had excited park goers lining up before the gates opened.
Immediately I noticed that parking wasn’t too bad. Of course, it’s still the COVID-era and capacity was reduced to 25%, but getting in wasn’t as challenging as I remembered. There was a line to screen everyone coming in, but that was a very simple and painless process. Then I noticed there were no trams, oh no! Everyone checking in had to walk down that proverbial yellow brick road to the Emerald City that is Disneyland.
As I reached the gates, the sights and sounds of park goers started to kick in, and despite a walk to get in, the enthusiasm had not been diminished by anyone who took the trek. Immediately we were all greeted by smiling and obviously very cheerful Disney cast members that were very happy to be working, but also full of joy to see everyone coming to the park. Sure enough, as I looked around there were children and adults dressed as their favorite Disney characters, including Jedi Masters and Stormtroopers. There were even a few Buzz Lightyears and Woodys in the crowd.
As soon as we walked in, we saw some of our favorite characters high atop the terrace at the entrance. As the guys from Sparks sang it, we saw “Mickey Mouse and to his right was Minnie Mouse.”
Park goers were all like children, thrilled to see Goofy, Donald, Chip and Dale, and even Cruella greeted the cheering fans. After so much time being away from these characters, I could see grown men and women with a stare of amazement almost as if they were children again. I guess that’s the wonder and magic that Walt left us.
The day started off overcast, but quickly the skies opened up to a nice clear blue with a very comfortable temperature of 76 with a light breeze. As we walked down Main Street, I observed that despite the COVID signs and people wearing masks as far as the eye could see, it really was the Disney we all grew up with. Main Street was sparkling like a shiny new penny, and the statue of Walt and Mickey greeted fans as always with Cinderella’s castle as the majestic silhouette behind them. It really was such a picturesque day.
As for what I was there to do, I first wanted to scope out the rides. We tried Space Mountain right off the bat, and my jaw dropped when I saw the size of the line. With the number of people there, I thought it would be a two-hour wait at minimum. Luckily, it turned out to be a deceiving sight. The park had re-routed the lines so a majority of the time would be spent outside. After about 30 minutes, we were in the structure and once in, it was about five minutes to the ride itself. Once we were buckled in, it was as if we never left; the ride was electrifying as ever.
We walked around and most of the rides were the same way, deceptively long lines that didn’t take as long as we thought. We tried Big Thunder Mountain, Pirates, and Haunted Mansion before trying rides like Peter Pan. Most of the larger attractions were open (Raiders, Galaxy’s Edge and Rise of the Resistance), but there were a few closed attractions like the Jungle Cruise (for extensive reimagining) and the Matterhorn (for refurbishment).
I’m not sure if it was because I was really hungry, or the food was really good, or both, but the restaurants put out great meals. Be warned though, while most places were open, some were not, so seating was at a premium. Bring your patience with your appetite in order to find a table. Then again, there were plenty of designated dining areas throughout the park, so you just gotta scope it out before you pick your place to order food.
As I was waiting for our food, I spoke with Nancy Williams, 33 from Westminster. She was there with her boyfriend and she remarked on how she normally doesn’t like crowds or hearing kids yelling about anything. She said, “Not sure what it is, but I don’t mind the crowd so much today, I really missed this place.”
Diane Robertson, 59 from Orange said, “I don’t care about going on every single ride, that doesn’t matter so much to me…. I just love coming here. This place has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, I just feel at home whenever I’m here. I’m so happy it’s open again.”
Thomas Castaneda, 39 from Whittier said, “My kids get so worked up over coming here. They love the Disney characters, but they go nuts over Star Wars land. Those rides are simply unreal. It makes me happy to see them so happy.”
The overall sentiment from park goers was a resounding thumbs-up experience.
As we all know, COVID-19 stats adversely impacted all of us, causing the closure of the park for over a year. But at this moment, our numbers are drastically better with vaccinations making a positive difference. In early May, Governor Gavin Newsom set June 15th as the date to further re-open the state and the economy. Of course, there are some restrictions, but overall, that’s the date life may look more normal than it has in some time. For the moment, park goers have to wear masks, but can remove them to eat in designated areas throughout the park. You can’t hug, kiss or shake hands with characters, but you can still see them making appearances.
For now, Disneyland and California Adventure are operating at 25% capacity, but this will change. The crowds will come back and life will be normal again – and the lines may not be this quick when this happens!
Even with the protocol procedures and park changes, it was definitely a great Memorial Day at Disneyland.
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