With the combination of entering Disneyland early and capacity limits, Frontierland was eerily empty when we first got there. (Photo by Leilani Poltorak)
Palisades Charter High School

Column: I went to Disneyland under COVID restrictions

Disneyland? During a pandemic? Were we crazy?

Well, perhaps. But with my entire family fully vaccinated and Disneyland open at 35% capacity, my parents and I decided to give it a try.

At 8 a.m. on June 5, we pulled into the Mickey & Friends parking structure an hour before the park was set to officially open. The traffic to get into the lot was where the similarities ended with any ordinary trip, though. Upon exiting the vehicle, everyone was masked up and spaced out on the escalators leading down. A winding path led to the temperature check station in front of the recent Pixar lot, opening up to several metal detectors for bag check. 

Since the trams from the lot to the parks aren’t running, everyone parked at the Mickey & Friends parking structure must walk the route of the trams. Trash cans and benches had been scattered along the edges of the path. Despite the formal opening time of 9 a.m., we were in the park by 8:30 a.m.

On the other side, Disneyland California Adventure boasted noticeably longer entry lines due to Avengers Campus, which had opened on June 4. 

We immediately headed to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, since I’m a huge “Star Wars” fan and have never set foot in the new area. As we walked over, we were startled by how empty the walkways were. Galaxy’s Edge, once extraordinarily crowded, had very few guests when we arrived.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is designed to be the planet of Batuu, with incredibly large buildings and facades to create immersion. (Photo by Leilani Poltorak)

The land is currently home to two rides: Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run and Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. The latter is only available for the virtual queue, where park-goers are able to join the line through the Disneyland app.

The 7 a.m. queue ran out of spots, but we were able to get a boarding group at the 12 p.m. queue. The new Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure in California Adventure also uses this same virtual queue system, while Indiana Jones Adventure employs it periodically throughout the day.

We went to Smuggler’s Run and were instantly allowed inside. To our surprise, there was no wait at all, and we made our way through the line and into the ride vehicle without stopping. The ride itself was absolutely mind-blowing, and despite doing very poorly on the video game aspect of the ride we had a spectacular time.

We were off the ride before 9, but the park had noticeably more people by then. If you’re planning on going to Disneyland, get there early and start at one of the rides that tend to get long waits.

All other lines lasted less than half an hour, with a couple of exceptions.

Haunted Mansion now has a second path leading down to the ride which skips the famous stretching room. A cast member stationed midway through the line either directs guests to the passage or leaves them to the regular line. Unfortunately, we weren’t randomly chosen for the passage, resulting in the wait being closer to 45 minutes than the promised 35. 

Every line at Disneyland is accompanied with “please wait here” distancing markers on the floor, spread out every six feet. Though I didn’t see these spacers strictly enforced or strictly followed, people still kept a fair distance from each other in line.

Fantasyland did feel a bit too crowded in the instances we passed through it, but Disneyland overall did a good job with distancing. Empty rows or an unused ride vehicle spaced out different parties, sometimes coupled with glass barriers. Signs reminding guests to stay six feet apart are stationed throughout the park.

Like all lines, the queue for Star Tours is entirely outside, with markers on the floor to distance guests. Once you get inside, it’s a nonstop walk to the ride. (Photo by Leilani Poltorak)

A system similar to the virtual queue is used for many restaurants, where guests order meals on the Disneyland app and select a pick-up time. Designated dining areas allow guests to momentarily take off their masks as they eat, so eating while walking is not permitted. Based on my experience, I’d say it’s best to order at least an hour before you plan to eat.

As I mentioned previously, Indiana Jones Adventure utilized a virtual queue system, but not throughout the entire day.

When checking the Disneyland app in the afternoon, we saw the ride listed as having a zero-minute wait. Of course, we speed-walked over there, and the cast members let us into the completely empty outdoor line. I was convinced I had been tricked somehow, but the zero minutes was not a lie.

In a stunning stroke of luck, we got on Indiana Jones Adventure with no wait at all. I didn’t get a chance to ask a cast member while at the park, but I assume we got to the ride right as virtual queue boarding groups ended and it opened back up to stand-by. Considering how the ride often has a wait time of two hours under normal conditions, this was likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

In the end, we managed to get on 14 different rides, despite riding Star Tours twice and leaving the park two hours before it closed. Disneyland will open up to out-of-state visitors on June 15 and will likely relax more of its restrictions then as well.