LOS ANGELES — Disneyland and California’s other major theme parks are reopening this spring, thanks to a drop in new coronavirus cases and the rollout of vaccines in the state.
The theme park experience at Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Knott’s Berry Farm won’t be exactly the same as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hugging costumed characters? Banned. Standing in a crowd to watch a parade or fireworks show? Nope. Eating calorie-laden snacks while waiting to jump on a stomach-churning ride? Forget it.
But many of those costumed characters, indulgent foods and beloved rides will still be there to enjoy, along with new safety protocols.
Here’s what you should know about visiting your favorite theme park:
Q. When do the parks reopen?
A. Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia reopened April 1, the first day allowed under state guidelines. Here’s a look at how things went in the earliest days: Six Flags Magic Mountain reopens: COVID-19 safety measures change even the bathrooms
Universal Studios Hollywood is scheduled to reopen Thursday to annual- and season-pass holders and Friday to the general public.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim plan to reopen April 30.
Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park announced it will reopen May 6 to season-pass holders and May 21 to the general public.
Q. When and how can I get tickets?
A. Six Flags Magic Mountain has begun selling tickets and season passes on its website. Universal Studios Hollywood has too.
Knott’s Berry Farm will begin selling tickets and taking reservations April 26.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure say those who are holding unused tickets from last year will be able to book admission to the parks starting Monday, and ticket sales for all other California residents will begin Thursday. Visitors need to buy an admission ticket before making a reservation. The Disney parks have a five-tier pricing system that charges more for days when demand is highest. A calendar with pricing tier designations will be posted online Friday.
Q. Who can buy tickets?
A. The state guidelines allow only California residents to visit the theme parks. When booking reservations, parkgoers must attest that they are from California.
Groups buying tickets together can include members of no more than three households.
Q. Will prices be the same as last year?
A. Six Flags Magic Mountain, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood have said ticket prices will remain about the same as last year’s prices.
Disneyland and Disney California Adventure discontinued their annual pass program in January and they continue to offer refunds to former pass holders.
Q. Will it be hard to score tickets?
A. Attendance will be limited because the state is requiring theme parks to operate below maximum capacity. How far below? That depends on restrictions based on the prevalence of the coronavirus in each park’s home county.
Los Angeles County (home to Universal Studios Hollywood and Six Flags Magic Mountain) and Orange County (home to the Disney parks and Knott’s Berry Farm) are now in the orange tier — the second-least restrictive — of the state’s four-color reopening roadmap. That caps attendance at 25% of maximum capacity.
If the counties reach the least restrictive tier, yellow, the caps on theme park attendance rise to 50% of maximum capacity.
That system is likely to change. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a goal of ending many restrictions and reopen California’s economy on June 15, assuming sufficient supply of COVID-19 vaccines and stable, low hospitalization numbers.
Q. Will all the rides and attractions be open?
A. Many will be open, but several will be closed — some for pandemic safety reasons and others for maintenance and upgrades.
At Disneyland, the Disneyland Monorail, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Sailing Ship Columbia are among those that will be shut. At Disney California Adventure, the Red Car Trolley and the Golden Zephyr will be closed.
Fireworks displays and parades, such as the Magic Happens parade at Disneyland, will also be temporarily canceled to avoid attracting crowds that violate physical distancing requirements.
At Universal Studios Hollywood, The Simpsons Ride, WaterWorld, DreamWorks Theatre and Despicable Me Minion Mayhem will be closed.
At Six Flags Magic Mountain, a steampunk-themed indoor acrobatic show and a bumper-car attraction are closed.
At all the major parks, opportunities to interact with costumed characters will be radically different. The characters will still be at Disneyland, Disney California Adventure and Universal Studios Hollywood but must stay at least six feet away from visitors. That means no handshakes or hugs with Mickey or Goofy.
Six Flags Magic Mountain has temporarily suspended having costumed characters in the park.
Q. Will there be any new or updated rides?
A. Yes. One of the Haunted Mansion's original portraits, "April to December," is returning.
Q. Will FastPass and MaxPass be available at Disneyland?
A. No, but one ride — Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — will require a virtual queuing system that uses the Disneyland app.
Q. What kind of health precautions will I see at the parks?
A. Visitors to all of the theme parks will be required to wear a mask or other face covering at all times, except when eating and drinking. No eating is allowed in the queues. Capacity will be limited in indoor dining areas.
At some parks, such as Six Flags Magic Mountain, Universal Studios Hollywood and Disneyland, your temperature will be taken as you enter.
All queues will be outdoors, and state guidelines require members of different households to stand at least six feet apart in queues and when seated in rides, even if they are part of a multi-household group that bought tickets together.
Ride operators will separate members of different households, leaving at least one seat or a row empty in between. In addition, some rides will be stopped occasionally to allow employees to wipe and sanitize the seats and the lap bars.
If you lose your mask on a ride, park employees are required to give you a replacement, under state protocols.
The pandemic protocols will be enforced by theme park employees, either by those who serve food or operate rides or by specially trained workers who patrol the parks in search of violators.