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What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen

by Mommy Frog on May 28, 2020 1 San Diego

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-People in Masks in Front of Universal Studios GlobeHoppin' news! The San Diego Zoo and Safari park have reopened. Universal CityWalk has partially reopened. And the Downtown Disney District at Disneyland reopened, kicking off the first phase in the Disneyland Resort reopening. Parts of LEGOLAND, SeaWorld and Knott's Berry Farm have also reopened for select days for food and Halloween events (but not for rides). The California governor will soon issue the theme park reopening guidelines. We're sharing all the details we do know so that you'll know what to expect when the California theme parks reopen.

If you are anything like us frogs, you’re wondering when the Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego theme parks, zoos and aquariums will fully reopen and what they may be like after the closures due to COVID-19. We've ordered our themed character masks and are hopping to get back to the parks we love so much. But we can all agree that things will be a little different for some time. We want to have fun, but we want to stay safe and keep others safe too.

What can we expect from these new procedures to keep us all healthy? The policies may vary per theme park and even by city. We've gathered the latest information for each park so you know what to expect when the California theme parks reopen and what measures are in place to keep park guests and employees safe and healthy during this time.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Women in Disney Masks in Front of Closed Disneyland GatesFirst of all, as the theme parks plan for reopening, you can stay up-to-date on resort reopening status with our COVID-19 information for theme parks and hotels (and ski resorts) in the U.S. But what can you expect when the theme parks reopen in terms of safety guidelines, crowds and social distancing? We are looking at the policies and procedures that are planned for the Orlando theme parks as they give us a glimpse into what to expect when the California theme parks reopen. Keep in mind that the California theme park policies may differ from the ones in Orlando and may vary based on the park and the regulations of that county or city.

We’ve broken this list down by general region and resort. Keep in mind that if you are a person of advanced age or someone with medical conditions that put you at a higher risk for complications with COVID-19, you might want to delay your trip until 2021. We have more tips on staying healthy in the theme parks that are always a good idea for everyone to follow, but especially worth considering in this time of uncertainty.

Greater Los Angeles Area Theme Parks and Aquariums

Here's a look at what to expect when these Los Angeles County and Orange County theme parks reopen. You may notice that many of the parks, zoos and aquariums share a lot of the new health and safety guidelines and protocols. But you will see that there are a few differences. Some locations are opening in phases. Some require a reservation (or date and time) to visit, while others are first-come, first -served.

Disneyland Resort

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen - Small World with Space Between Passengers

Disneyland Resort began a phased reopening in July with the opening of Downtown Disney. The reopening of the theme parks and hotels remains postponed. Here is what we expect in the phased Disneyland reopening:

July 9 — The Downtown Disney District reopened.

Delayed — Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, Disney's Paradise Pier The Disney Vacation Club Villas at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa remain closed for now. (The Disneyland Hotel was already set reopen at a later date.) You can modify an existing reservation or make a new reservation for hotel stays during the closure.

Delayed — Both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will reopen at a later date pending government approval.

One of the biggest changes we may see is the new park reservation system. To comply with governmental requirements and promote physical distancing, Disneyland will manage attendance through a new theme park reservation system. The system is the same as the Disney World reservation system. It will require all guests — including Annual Passholders (APs) — to get an advance reservation for park entry. More news to come on that, so keep hopping back for details. In the meantime, Disneyland has paused new ticket sales and AP sales or renewals. Park admission is not guaranteed.

The Disneyland site offers regular updates on what to expect with the California theme parks as it continually evaluates this fluid situation. Once Disneyland Resort reopens, the parks, hotels, restaurants and other locations may be limited in capacity. Disneyland is following the guidelines from the health experts, the Centers for Disease Control and the California state government. Disneyland has added a COVID-19 Warning to its site.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Hand Washing Station at Downtown DisneyAlso, the Disney Parks Chief Medical Officer, Pam Hymel, released more plans and ideas Disney is exploring in regard to reopening the resorts, parks and stores in a message about Disney Parks from Chief Medical Officer Dr. Pamela Hymel. This, along with the procedures presented for the Disney World reopening, gives us an idea of the plans and considerations for the U.S. Disney parks.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Plexiglass Partitions in Place at Disney California AdventureEven though the following information is subject to change as the situation evolves, here's a quick look at what what to expect when the California theme parks reopen.

  • Phased reopening: Expect a gradual reopening and/or partial reopening of certain locations. Retail and dining locations n Downtown Disney reopened prior to theme parks.
  • Capacity measures: Advance reservations through a new theme park reservation system are required to visit the parks during the phased reopening.
  • Physical distancing measures: Disney has implemented physical distancing guidelines based on guidance from health authorities and government. Technology may aid in these efforts, such as the Play Disney Parks App, mobile ordering and virtual queues. The parks have increased education and signage to direct guests on social distancing. The parks will temporarily suspend fireworks, parades and entertainment that allows crowds to gather. Expect signage to remind guests to stay 6 feet apart from other parties and physical barriers, such as plexiglass, in areas that are more difficult to practice physical distancing.
  • Limited-contact enhancements: Disneyland is encouraging cashless transactions and will reduce interactions between cast members and guests through the use of technology and other measures. You can expect contactless payments and expanded mobile ordering in the Disneyland app, Apple Pay and more. Plexiglass partitions add separation at park entrances, shops and restaurants. Expect temporary closures of play areas.
  • Cleanliness and sanitization: You'll see increased cleaning and disinfection around the resort, especially for high-contact areas. Hand-washing stations and hand sanitizer is available throughout the resort.
  • Masks and Temperature Screenings: All cast members and park guests undergo temperature screenings and are required to wear facial coverings. The coverings must cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face. The covering must be secured with ties or ear loops. Gaiter-syle coverings, open-chin triangle bandanas, and face coverings that contain valves, mesh material or holes of any kind are not allowed. Guests may remove masks to eat or drink when stationary. Signs and cast members will remind guests to follow the social distancing guidelines and wear a facial covering. Children under 2 are not required to wear face coverings.
  • Cast training: Disneyland is providing new training and reinforcement to emphasize a strong culture of health and safety amongst our cast members.

Once Disneyland is closer to reopening, Disneyland will share more specific details on what to expect in terms of security changes, temperature checks, face masks, virtual queues and new restrictions on rides and crowds.

Universal Studios Hollywood

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-People in Masks Walking to CityWalk

Universal CityWalk has partially reopened (with free self parking). We are still hoping for news of the theme park reopening. Universal Orlando reopened June 5.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Floor MarkingsUniversal Studios Hollywood will comply with health and state/local government guidelines for when California theme parks reopen. You can expect the following at CityWalk and Universal Studios Hollywood:

  • Temperature screenings of employees and guests (temperature of 100.4 or greater will not be admitted).
  • All team members undergo temperature checks and wear face coverings
  • All team members participate in extensive training
  • Face masks are required of guests and must cover the nose and mouth.
  • Guests can remove the facial covering when they eat in designated eating areas in which the seating is arranged to allow for physical distancing.
  • Hand-washing/hand-sanitizing stations
  • Guests required to use hand sanitizer before boarding rides
  • Increased sanitization in the park
  • Limited capacity
  • Physical distancing guidelines throughout entertainment venues, restaurants and shops
  • Floor markings note where to stand
  • Ride policies for social distancing and disinfecting
  • New restrictions
  • Temporary closure  of interactive play areas
  • Temporary closure of single sider lines
  • Increase in virtual queues
  • Use of the Universal Studios Hollywood app for contact-free features
  • People who have a disability that prevents them from wearing a facial covering should contact Guest Realtions abut the use of a face shield. A face shield is not allowed on some attractions.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Masks for Sale at UniversalIf you froget to bring a backup and lose your mask or get it wet, you can purchase a Universal-themed mask. We saw some fun styles at the Universal Studios Hollywood souvenir shop at CityWalk.

Knott’s Berry Farm

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Safety Sign with roller Coasters in the BackgroundKnott's Berry Farm will employ the same basic health and safety protocols that you will find across the other California theme parks. While the theme park does not yet have a reopening date, we love how Knott's is giving guests a taste of the theme park with some open-air dining and shopping events inside the closed park. The Knott's Berry Farm Hotel reopened Aug. 21.

Knott's has been hosting various food events inside the theme park this summer and fall. This fall, on select days, guests can get attend the Taste of Fall-O-Ween inside the closed theme park. Rides are not open for these food events, but that does not seem to stop the foodies and theme park lovers from coming to get a taste of the fun.

Guests purchase a tasting card in advance to be able to enter the open-air food events. Hungry for the details? Hop over to our Knott's Berry Farm reopening post.

We hopped by the Taste of Calico in July just to be near some of our favorite roller coasters and try to the tasty foods. Knott's offered entertainment, music and even some of the Knott's "residents" such as the working blacksmith. We saw great mask compliance, a lot of physical distancing space and plenty of large picnic tables and other seating for enjoying the food. It was nice to be near our favorite roller coasters even if we couldn't go on them. We enjoyed the magic show, western entertainment, DJ and visiting the blacksmith, all within new guidelines to remind us of what we have to look forward to in the new normal.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Guest in mask hold foodOutside the park, select locations in the California Marketplace are open daily. Mrs.Knott's Chicken Dinner Restaurant is open. Since indoor dining is closed in California, the restaurant has blocked off traffic in front of the restaurant and added outdoor tables for a more picnic atmosphere. You can also enjoy the Mrs. Knott's Chicken-to-Go Restaurant, Farm Bakery and the Knott's Berry Market. They have added marks on the floor to show where to stand for social distancing, have a roped queue and have added plexiglass and hand sanitizers in front of registers. Guests use scanners to do a supervised, touchless self-checkout. All payment is electronic — no cash for now — and restrooms are closed.

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Employee in mask and behind plexiglass at park entranceDuring the Knott's Berry Farm reopening, you can expect the following policies and procedures:

  • Face coverings required
  • Face coverings can be removed in a designated RelaxZone or when seated at a table for dining.
  • Temperature checks with walk-through thermal scanners: If anyone in the party has a temperature of 100.4 or higher, an employee will manually check and if it's still too high the party will not be admitted.
  • Employees undergo health screenings, symptom checks and temperature checks.
  • Employees undergo additional training.
  • The park has added a number of hand sanitizing stations. Guests are encouraged to wash hands frequently.
  • Contactless forms of payments are recommended. Guests do a supervised self checkout and self bagging in stores.
  • Look for ground markings in stores and restaurants for physical distancing and directional foot traffic.
  • Plexiglass separates guests from associates.
  • Capacity is limited in the park.
  • Capacity in stores is limited to 50%.
  • Frequently touched surfaces are disinfected daily and sanitized frequently.
  • New ride policies in place regarding social distancing and sanitation.
  • Traffic is monitored in restrooms.

Six Flags Magic Mountain

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen - Roller Coaster with Empty Row

Some Six Flags parks around the country are opening sooner than others due to varying state guidelines. Even though some Six Flags parks have already reopened their parks and and water parks, Six Flags Magic Mountain is not one of them. Hurricane Harbor at Magic Mountain remains closed throughout the 2020 season. Magic Mountain theme park has not yet announced an opening date.

A message on the Six Flags website states that all visitors — including pass holders and members — must make advance reservations for a specific day and time period via the online reservations system to visit the park. Having staggered entrance times can avoid overcrowding at the entrance.

Anyone with a ticket can make a reservation. All ticket holders will use this reservations system, including season pass holders. Guests will also pre-pay for parking. Reservations can be canceled but not transferred. Guests may also order masks and other merchandise if desired. The reservation system will go online for each Six Flags park shortly before operations resume, and only members and season pass holders will be granted access during an initial period. After a set period of time, the system will open up to other ticket holders.

When the Six Flags parks reopen, the park will operate with reduced attendance, social distancing, virtual queues, mobile ordering, cashless transactions and constant sanitization. Guests will find hand-washing and hand-sanitizing stations throughout the parks and at the entrance and exits of rides. To promote social distancing, Six Flags will limit the number of riders in lines and boarding rides. Markers painted on the ground will show riders where to stand. Guests can expect to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. Guests can take mask breaks in Mask Break Zones located throughout the park. The parks will operate at a percentage of normal capacity and ramp back up based on local guidelines.

Aquarium of the Pacific

The Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific reopened June 14 (for outdoor exhibits). As with the the theme parks and zoos, you can expect similar safety guidelines at the aquarium. In order to maintain social distancing, the aquarium has introduced timed ticketing. Visitors need to select a date and time upon purchase. Psst... we frogs love a good deal, so it's no secret that you can purchase discount Aquarium of the Pacific tickets through Undercover Tourist. You can select the date and entry time before you check out. If you already hold an unused ticket, you can make a free reservation on the aquarium site.

Here's a look at the new health and safety guidelines:

  • All guests 2 and over must wear a face covering.
  • If you froget your mask or lose it, you can purchase on-site.
  • Parties are limited to groups of 6 and fewer.
  • One family per elevator.
  • No re-entry.
  • No storage of items.
  • Numerous hand-sanitizing stations are located near touch areas and throughout the aquarium.
  • Staff has increased sanitation of touched surfaces throughout the day.
  • All visitors will undergo a temperature check. Those with a temperature of 100.4 or greater (and their party) will not be admitted.
  • Visitors experiencing symptoms such as sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, fever, or recent loss taste or smell are asked to visit another time.
  • Visitors should practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet from other parties and staff.
  • Everyone must follow all posted signs and directions from the staff stationed throughout the Aquarium in regard to social distancing, traffic flow, closed areas and other safety protocols.

You can also expect that some areas will be closed and some programs are on hiatus. Closed areas include the Ocean Theater, Northern Pacific Touch lab, Horseshoe Crab touch lab, and Shark Lagoon children’s play area. Shows, mascot appearances, animal meet-and-greets and behind-the-scenes tours have temporarily suspended to prevent gatherings.

San Diego Zoos and Theme Parks

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen - San Diego Zoo Entrance

The San Diego Tourism Authority produced a San Diego Attraction Reopening Health and Safety Plan. The plan incorporates the sanitation strategies and protocols for the following attractions:

The document is considered a living document and is subject to change. It will be updated to incorporate changing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as mandates from federal, state and local government agencies. The theme park protocols for health and safety in San Diego theme parks pretty much match what you can expect when all the California theme parks reopen. Here are the following:

Employee Screenings and Protection:

  • Mandatory health and safety COVID-19 training for all employees.
  • Wellness checks for employees prior to the start of the workday.
  • Employee temperature checks using contactless infrared thermometers.
  • Employees are required to wear protective face masks.

Entrance and Security Checkpoints:

  • Reduced attendance capacity to ensure adequate social distancing.
  • Maintain 6 feet minimum distance at ticket booths, security queues, inspection tables and park entrances.
  • Hand sanitizer stations at ticket booth windows and park entrances.
  • Visitors are asked to open their own bags for security inspections to minimize contact.
  • All visitors required to wear protective face masks.

Social Distancing:

  • Display signage throughout parks that state new health and safety guidelines.
  • Install markers and signs throughout park to maintain social distancing.
  • Manage pedestrian flow by implementing one-way traffic on narrow pathways.
  • Modify photo opportunities with costumed characters to maintain 6 feet minimum distance.

Sanitization and Disinfection:

  • Add hand-washing stations throughout the park.
  • Reduce restroom capacity to maximize social distancing.
  • Maintain 6 feet minimum distance in restrooms.
  • Assign employees to frequently sanitize restrooms.

Rides and Attractions:

  • Add hand sanitizers to each ride entrance and exit.
  • Install markers throughout rides and queues to maintain 6 feet minimum distance.
  • Instruct riders to wait in family groups in attraction queues.
  • Stagger seating on each ride.
  • Clean and disinfect ride vehicles, queue railings and touch points on a frequent basis.

Dining Safety:

  • Maintain 6-feet distancing between groups in restaurants.
  • Use contactless or single-use menus as well as contactless payments to limit hand-to-hand interactions.
  • Serve more premade or prepackaged food and snacks.
  • Reduce unnecessary contact during food delivery.
  • Limit touch points such as closing condiment stations.
  • Install plexiglass shields at food stations and cashiers to reduce close interactions.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect door handles, counters and common areas.

Specific San Diego Theme Park and Zoo Reopening Information

San Diego Zoo 

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-New Signage and ground markers at Safari Park EntranceThe San Diego Zoo and San Diego Safari Park have roared back to life. They reopened June 20. You can expect limited hours and on-ground capacity during the reopening period. Admission is first-come, first served, and the zoo is asking visitors to purchase San Diego Zoo and Safari Park tickets and tours in advance. Arrive early in the day for the shortest wait to get in.

The San Diego Zoo has put measures in place to protect not only employees and guests but also the animals who live in the zoos. We do not yet know how COVID-19 affects other mammals. In an excess of caution, the San Diego Zoo Global is adding heightened biosecurity measure in place to protect all mammals (including people). You can expect the following changes when visiting the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park:

  • All guests 2 and up and employees must wear face coverings (except when dining).
  • No indoor dining.
  • All chairs and tables disinfected after each use.
  • Markings on ground note where to stand in lines and in front of exhibits.
  • Increased signage of health and safety information.
  • Additional portable sinks and hand sanitizer units.
  • People are to maintain social distancing from other groups.
  • Purchase admission tickets online in advance.
  • Purchase tickets for tours, safaris, and other premium experiences before arrival.
  • Capacity is limited to less than half of the usual number of guests.
  • Capacity is limited in gift shops.
  • Parking lot capacity controlled.
  • Admission is first-come, first-served. As guests exit, waiting guests can enter.
  • Touch-free entry.
  • At the Zoo, guests visit a Welcome Tent to answer health screening questions.
  • At the Safari Park, guests answer health questions from the car upon arrival to parking lot.
  • Employees use MyMedCor App for symptom screening and undergo temperature checks.
  • No animal feedings with guests.
  • Shows are canceled temporarily.
  • No buses, Skyfari or Africa Tram
  • Closed indoor spaces, interactive space and narrow paths
  • Caravans and Safaris are limited to household groups only, and Plexiglass separates guests from guides and drivers.

LEGOLAND California Reopening

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Kids Wearing Masks in Front of LEGOLANDIt looks like the LEGOLAND California Resort is hoping to reopen the theme park soon (pending government approval). The SEA LIFE Aquarium reopened in September and The LEGOLAND hotels and The Big Shop have reopened as well. Hotel guests, people with annual passes and parties up to four people who purchase up to $25 of merchandise at The Big Shop can explore Miniland U.S.A. inside the park. During October weekends, guests can celebrate Halloween in Miniland.

All guests ages 2 and up must wear face coverings. Exceptions can be made for people with a medical note and the hard of hearing. All guests undergo a non-invasive temperature check and health screening before entering the theme park. Play areas will be closed. The resort has gone cashless, and guests must pass health and temperature checks. Hop over to our post on the LEGOLAND California reopening for reopening dates and the latest news, including some Halloween fun!

SeaWorld San Diego Reopening

What to Expect When the California Theme Parks Reopen-Sea World EntranceWhile we do not have a date for SeaWorld San Diego, the Orlando SeaWorld parks opened June 11. We do have some splashing good news through! SeaWorld San Diego has been approved to reopen as a zoo and aquarium! That means animal-focused areas of the marine park have reopened. The rides and attractions will remain closed a little longer until theme parks  cleared to reopen. Hop over to our SeaWorld San Diego reopening post for the latest dates, news and details about the Halloween Spooktacular in October.

SeaWorld San Diego (and Orlando) have reservation-based visits. Guests can expect the above measures for the reopening of all the San Diego parks along with temperature checks for employees and guests, modifications to animal exhibits and closures of interactive play areas. Animal feeding is not available and shows will have more spacing so that guests can socially distance themselves. Single rider lines are being closed in Orlando. Guests can expect contactless interactions from park entry to shops and restaurants.

Hopfully this gives you a sense of what to expect when the California theme parks reopen and how you can enjoy some of the parks before they fully reopen. We expect this situation to continue to evolve, so be sure to keep hopping back for the latest updates. For park closure and reopening dates, hop over to our post on COVID-19 Information for Theme Parks and Hotels.

Related: Planning a Vacation in an Uncertain Time

Related: How to Share the Disappointment of a Trip Postponed with Your Kids and Keep the Magic Alive

Hoppy planning!

Keep hopping, Mommy Frog!
View Comments
<<  Newer Posts | Older Posts  >>
May 28, 2020 at 9:25 p.m. Chris Says...

Disneyland and Knott's are not Los Angeles theme parks, they are Orange County theme parks. While Universal Studios resides in L.A. County, they technically aren't a Los Angeles theme park either, they are their own city.

And the other major park not listed here is Magic Mountain, which is located in Valencia, which is also in Los Angeles county, but still is not a Los Angeles theme park.

The only Los Angeles theme park or zoo I can think of is the LA Zoo.

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