A virtually empty Disneyland with no lines may soon become a reality. As theme parks gear up for reopening in April after a year-long shutdown, big crowds and long waits will become a thing of the past — at least for a while — as places like Disneyland grapple with restrictions and limited capacity.
Disneyland is expected to reopen with a number of restrictions in place, including no indoor dining and in-state visitors only. The biggest restriction upon reopening will be the park’s maximum capacity, which will initially be limited to just 15%. So what exactly does that look like?
A “Ghost Town” Reopening
A Disneyland at only 15% capacity would peg the park as a “Ghost Town” on the Disneyland Crowd Calendar, when attendance is as its lowest levels. This means that the park will feel much like a rainy day during the off-season once it reopens, with almost non-existent crowds and barely any lines.
“Ghost Town” days at Disneyland had become increasingly rare even before the park closure last March, as promotions, new attractions, and a popular (and now cancelled) annual pass program boosted attendance to record levels in recent years. A 15% cap is unprecedented for Disneyland, and would make the park the least crowded it has been in decades.
Big groups of crowds are also distinctly banned from theme parks upon reopening, according to the new guidelines. Only small groups, a max of 10 people or 3 household groups with no intergroup mixing, will be permitted. For Disneyland, this means that attractions and shows (like fireworks, Fantasmic!, and World of Color) will not be coming back right away. Last summer, Disney had confirmed that any attractions that draw large crowds would “return at a later date.”
Long Lines Banned
So, just how long will the lines be when Disneyland reopens? Perhaps a better question might be, “will there be any lines at all?”
At 15% capacity, Disneyland typically sees very minimal (if any) wait times for many attractions, including the most popular rides. The average wait for Space Mountain? Around 10 minutes. Pirates of the Caribbean? Just 5 minutes long. For many rides, there usually isn’t even a line and guests get the ultra-rare “walk-on” experience.
Disneyland Average Wait Times (15% capacity):
- Autopia: 5min
- Big Thunder Mountain: 10min
- Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters: 5min
- Haunted Mansion: 13min
- Indiana Jones Adventure: 15min
- Jungle Cruise: 5min
- Matterhorn Bobsleds: 10min
- Peter Pan’s Flight: 15min
- Pirates of the Caribbean: 5min
- Space Mountain: 10min
- Splash Mountain: 5min
- Star Tours: 5min
- “it’s a small world”: 5min
Upon reopening, Disneyland will be required to follow stricter indoor capacity guidelines as well, which will impact the park’s many indoor attractions. Along with the park-wide 15% max capacity, indoor capacity will also be capped at 15% with time restrictions. This means that indoor rides like Indiana Jones Adventure and Haunted Mansion won’t be running anywhere near their full operating capacity for both the line and ride portions of the attraction. Disney will almost certainly opt for more virtual lines rather than physical ones, at least initially, with reservation systems like Fastpass/MaxPass to curb long lines from forming at the parks.
Oh, and those lines at the ticket booths by the entrance? Those are gone too, as only online ticket sales will be permitted following the reopening.
How Long Will It Last?
Don’t expect the light crowds and short lines to last forever, though. While restrictions will be very tight at the start, the guidelines will progressively loosen up as conditions in the county get better.
When the county moves from the red to orange tier level, theme parks can increase the max capacity from 15% to 25%. That’s still like a “Ghost Town” day at Disneyland, but not as empty as, say, a rainy day. Perhaps more significant, however, will the upped capacity of indoor attractions (25%) and the removal of the “small groups only” restriction. Indoor dining can return at this level as well, along with in-park ticket sales. At the lowest yellow tier, the park capacity is again increased to 35%, which is still very low attendance-wise, but Disneyland will at least start to look more normal again. The guidelines currently call for indoor capacity to be capped at 25% even in the yellow tier, so wait times are still anticipated to be minimal.
Even after all the guidelines are lifted, the cancellation of Disneyland’s popular annual pass program is expected to have a major impact on overall attendance moving forward. Annual passholders made up a significant portion of guests to the parks, especially from locals. The absence of an AP program — or the eventual relaunch and rebuilding of a new one — should help keeps crowds to a minimum for the time being. Disney says new membership offerings will soon be announced, but it’s still unclear what they will look like.
What do you think of Disneyland’s reopening plans? Are you planning on visiting Disneyland after it reopens? What do you think the crowds and line will be like? Be sure to let us know in the comments below!