Downtown Disney: The COVID-19 Travel Guide

Sixty-five years ago, in July 1955, American animator and filmmaker Walt Disney opened a small theme park in the quiet agricultural Los Angeles suburb of Anaheim, California. The park was an instant hit, with people flocking from all around the region, nation, and world to visit the park that would start it all. Sixty-five years later, in 2020, the Disneyland Resort - now a compact resort area encompassing two theme parks, three hotels, and a shopping district - was shaping up to celebrate its long legacy of entertaining Californians of all ages. However, the coronavirus pandemic that crippled the United States and global economies, and severely impacted millions of peoples' health, led to the immediate closure of all of the Walt Disney Company's theme parks, resorts, cruise line holdings, and other entertainment sectors across the globe. As Disney Parks around the world have begun to reopen all of their parks, resorts, and shopping centers over the past two months, the one resort that hasn't been cleared to reopen yet has been the original resort - Anaheim's Disneyland Resort.

Originally, in late June, the Walt Disney Company released reopening information with all of the United States' Disney-owned parks included. The plan included information on the phased reopening of the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, beginning with Disney Springs (the central shopping district), and continuing with the gradual reopening of resort hotels, and the theme parks in mid-July. Disneyland had also been included in this original plan, with the Downtown Disney District - the shopping district and main artery at Disneyland - reopening first on July 9, followed by both Disneyland Park and Disney's California Adventure on July 17, and two of Disneyland's hotels (Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel) on July 23. However, prior to the Independence Day holiday, the Governor of California - Gavin Newsom - stated that he would not release guidelines for amusement parks to reopen until a later date, suspending all of Disney's initial reopening hopes for their hometown resort, with the exception of the Downtown Disney District. Downtown Disney proceeded with its reopening plan on July 9, with Guests flooding into the shopping center at 10:00 that morning for the first time in almost four months.

With the coronavirus continuing to surge across the globe, and a rise in cases in California specifically, many have been worried about returning to the Disneyland Resort during the ongoing pandemic. Some have even claimed that Disneyland's reopening has been socially irresponsible. However, what precautions has Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products taken to ensure that Guests remain safe during their visit? Let's take a look!

Limited Capacity

If you've been to the Disneyland Resort before during the Californian summer, you know that the Resort can become overly crowded. However, given the current health circumstances, this is definitely not the case - at least for 2020! The Disneyland Resort has taken quite a few precautions that are extremely evident that have been designed to limit capacity throughout the District.

For one, Cast Members are consistently tracking how many Guests are in Downtown Disney. Cast Members throughout the property are seen constantly tracking on mobile devices how many Guests are within the confines of the shopping district. They are seen tapping on a capacity tracker every time a Guest enters the property from the security checkpoint, as well as every time a Guest exits through the Disneyland Hotel entryway. Additionally, Cast Members track and monitor how many Guests are in each individual store as well. Since reopening, World of Disney and D-Home, amongst a handful of other non-Disney shops have been seen with queues to enter the store. Cast Members have utilized virtual queues to limit the number of Guests in lines, including the use of a text to the Guest's mobile phone when a spot has opened for them in the store. This capacity tracking allows for the Resort to pause parking as they see fit, in order to limit the number of Guests within the Resort complex.

Editor's Note: Follow the Disneyland Today Twitter account (@DisneylandToday) for updates on parking and capacity limits at Downtown Disney!

Health Screenings, Face Masks & Enhanced Cleanings

Everyone knows that since the September 11th attacks, Disneyland has required a bag check and security check of some sort to enter the Disneyland property. However, COVID-19 has presented a new threat - one related to public health. For those wishing to enter the Downtown Disney District, you will be directed to park in the Simba Parking Lot (located adjacent to the Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel, on the southwest side of the property) and will walk to the Disneyland Hotel entrance to the District. Upon arrival, you will now go through a three-step entry process. The most critical step - and the only stage related to the pandemic - is the temperature screening. With the service provided by medical professionals from Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, you and your family will have a no-touch temperature screening performed to verify you do not read a temperature of 100.4 or higher. Those who do present a high temperature will be ushered aside to cool down before having a second temperature reading. Those who still read at a high temperature will be denied entry and may be asked to self-isolate prior to returning to the property.

Editor's Note: You will also go through a second security check prior to entry, as you will pass by a police dog. A Security Cast Member will then direct you to a bag check lane.

Additionally, a face mask is required for admittance to the Disneyland Resort. Face masks were made mandatory by an order from the Governor, and Disney has stepped up to the plate to enforce this protocol. Face masks must be worn at all times during your visit - from when you exit your vehicle to your return to your car. Masks - per Disney's most recent protocol revision - must not be a bandana or similar covering, may not have valves or holes, and must cover your mouth and nose fully. Masks may only be removed when seated at a table service restaurant, or when you are stationary and consuming food or drink. Unlike its Florida counterpart, the California Disney Resort does not have any "relaxation stations" to take your mask off. So be sure to come prepared to keep that mask on for as long as you can endure. Cast Members are also there to enforce the policy, so don't try to cheat the system!

Finally, advanced cleaning has been at the forefront of Disney's coronavirus reopening strategy. You are likely to see multiple staff members constantly wiping down high touch surfaces, sweeping up trash and debris, and tending to restroom facilities. The Cast Members really have been working hard to ensure your visit is as safe and sanitary as possible. For your own personal hygiene as well, there have been multiple portable handwashing basins and hand sanitization stations across the property. So make sure to keep those hands clean and thank a Cast Member for all of their hard work as well!

Editor's Note: For more information on the steps the Walt Disney Company has taken to protect you when visiting any of their global parks, check out the Tweet below from Disney Parks News.

Physical Distancing

In a place like Disneyland where crowds are second-nature and queues are extremely dense, physical distancing can seem like a foreign concept. However, the Resort has very well-adapted to the idea of physical distancing. When in line to enter. theWorld of Disney store, most families maintain at least six feet of spacing. Cast Members are very diligent at ensuring that Guests maintain this distancing at all times. Signage has been placed across the property, as well as ground markers, to encourage Guests to continue to practice social distancing. The Resort has done this all with its continued focus on a great Guest experience and with a touch of Disney magic.

Conclusion: Do the COVID-19 precautions take away from the magic?

Honestly, it could just be the excitement of being back at the Resort, but no. While a visit to the Disneyland Resort in July 2020 is not at all what a visit was like in the early part of the year, the precautions are just a small inconvenience compared to the magic you feel on-property. Wearing a face mask and having to keep six feet apart is a part of the "new normal" least in my opinion. However, being back around the neon lights of the shopping district, with instrumental Disney classics echoing off the walls and overpriced metal pins for sale makes the magic feel just as genuine as it did before the pandemic.

If you are overly concerned about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 right now, continue to follow your gut and avoid going. toa public place like Downtown Disney. Without any of the parks or hotels open, Downtown Disney could be a one or two-hour stop at most. However, if you are willing to take the risk or miss the magic and wonder of a Disney-owned property, the precautions the Resort has taken to protect its Cast Members and Guests are excellent and create a sense of ease throughout many who visit the property.

Final Notes: The Downtown Disney District - at time of posting - is open daily from 10am-8pm. Parking is currently free and only accessible at the Simba lot, off of Disney Way and Katella Avenue.


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©2020 by Nathan Hagihara. All rights reserved.