‘We have waited so long for this’: Disneyland reopens after 412 days

Disney’s California theme parks had been silent 412 days, except for Imagineers and crew working on new attractions and revamping some of the classics.

But Friday, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Park reopened at 8 a.m. local time with the first guests cheering, clapping and waving as they came through the gates. The Anaheim parks are only open to California residents at limited capacity for now.

Kate Fail of Los Angeles couldn’t hold back the tears, she was so happy to be back in Disneyland.

“Spending time with friends and just riding rides again” is what she most was looking forward to as she entered the park. First stop for Fail: Space Mountain.

Kevin Pryor, from Fountain Valley, California, and Brittany Roth, from Santa Ana, met at Disneyland just before the pandemic and have been dating since. They stopped at Town Square to kiss, re-enacting the famous photograph of a kiss between a sailor and nurse at the end of WWII. The kiss was symbolic of the park reopening as a victory over COVID-19, similar to the victory at the end of WWII, Pryor told the USA TODAY Network.

The morning started at 6:50 a.m. with the raising of the American and California flags by the Disneyland color guard at Town Square on Main Street.

Disneyland cast Members watch as Color Guard members raise the flag inside of Disneyland. (Photo: Harrison Hill/USA TODAY)

A select number of masked and distanced cast members attended and were welcomed by Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

“Wow. What a day,” Chapek said. “We have waited so long for this.”

The excitement and energy can be felt throughout, he said, then thanked cast members for all they do.

“We’re not just another place. We’re not just another theme park. We’re something special because of you,” Chapek said. “Now, let’s go make the magical memories that last a lifetime.”

In the final hours before opening, crews were watering plants and setting up kiosks. The Disneyland train began to circle the park about 7:15 a.m. Cast members lined Main Street USA, getting ready to greet guests as they come through the gates. 

Safety is key, as evidenced by the hand sanitizer stations every few feet and lines on the pavement, in shops and line queues reminding all to keep guests well distanced.

Added safety features also include plexiglass around cashier areas of kiosks. Because there is no indoor dining, there are more tables and chairs outdoors through the park where people can sit and eat. A reminder, too, that guests must be stationary when eating – no more snacking while walking around or waiting in line for rides.

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