How Disneyland rides will change under COVID-19 state guidelines

Riding on Space Mountain, soaring on Dumbo the Flying Elephant or journeying into the Haunted Mansion will be a far different experience for Disneyland visitors in the age of coronavirus.

An in-depth set of state guidelines provide California theme parks with a roadmap for reopening rides and attractions following more than a year of coronavirus closures.

The COVID-19 health and safety mandates in California’s guidelines should be familiar to the state’s major theme park operators. Disney, Universal, SeaWorld, Six Flags, Legoland and Cedar Fair have already reopened theme parks across the United States where similar COVID-19 ride and attraction protocols have been implemented.

The 20-page COVID-19 amusement parks guidelines issued in October by the California Department of Public Health lay out new health and safety rules for roller coasters, thrill rides and other theme park attractions in the state. State officials have promised to issue a revised set of guidelines before theme parks begin reopening on April 1. Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will return on April 30.

The theme park guidelines cover a wide range of new rules for rides and attractions ranging from queue spacing and seating patterns to safety checks and cleaning protocols.

California theme park visitors will be required to wear face masks and maintain 6-foot social distancing in ride and attraction queues. Employees will monitor and enforce mask wearing and social distancing in the queues. Disneyland’s Guest Experience Team has been enforcing mask-wearing rules in Downtown Disney since the outdoor shopping mall reopened in July.

All attraction queues must be outdoors, according to the state guidelines. No indoor queueing will be permitted. Parks must install plexiglass dividers on queue switchbacks to maintain social distancing between visitors.

Walt Disney World’s four Florida theme parks have added plexiglass dividers in attraction queues and on ride vehicles to maintain social distancing between riders. Disneyland has installed more than 2,000 plexiglas barriers in visitor and employee areas in preparation for reopening.

Theme parks are encouraged to consider using a mobile app-based virtual ride queue system, according to the state guidelines. Disneyland used a virtual queue for Rise of the Resistance before the park closed in March 2020. Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida has updated the virtual queue system for Rise of the Resistance at the east coast version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.

Visitors must wear face masks on all rides and attractions under the California guidelines. Parks will have to close any rides that cause riders’ masks to fly off due to speed or other dynamics. Parks will be required to provide new masks to riders who lose their face coverings on a ride.

Under the guidelines, seating on rides and attractions will be by household group with riders from different households seated at least six feet apart. Seating patterns must be adjusted to maintain social distancing — either by boarding every other ride vehicle or row.

At Florida’s Magic Kingdom, rows have been left empty on It’s a Small World boats while every other ride vehicle on Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin has been left empty to maintain social distancing.

Pre-existing ride and attraction safety protocols will have to be maintained under California’s new guidelines — just with an additional focus on COVID-19 health and safety. Parks are encouraged to check rider height requirements from a safe distance and avoid contact with visitors. Employees must sanitize their hands after checking ride restraints or safety gates.

High-touch surfaces on rides like handrails, arm rests, lap bars, seatbelts and over-the-shoulder restraints must be regularly cleaned and disinfected. The same goes for ride controls, buttons, switches and dispatch panels frequently touched by employees. Six Flags Clean Teams with backpack disinfectant tanks and hand sprayers sanitize rides approximately every 30 minutes.

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