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When we imagine the happiest place on earth, most would imagine extravagant rides and fun parades along with oversized turkey legs. Now, what if that all gets taken away from you? What does that leave you with and what remains of the “used to be” happiest place? We tend to wonder what life would be like when this pandemic is over and I bet Disney is wondering as well.

When this pandemic first hit the United States most businesses would never imagine the length of time of the shutdown and the financial impact they would have. This is especially true for Disney and their famous theme parks. Disneyland Anaheim and California Adventure closed on March 14, 2020, leaving many of us speechless and wondering when we could go back. This was answered on July 9, 2020, when Downtown Disney opened its shops. The plaza has reopened with newly added temperature and wellness screenings to enter downtown. These and other added precautions, such as mandatory mask wearing and six foot distancing signs are a clear step towards safe reopening. In December Disney would partially reopen California Adventure with the same guidelines.

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Over this past Valentine’s Day weekend my girlfriend and I decided to head to Anaheim and experience Downtown Disney and California Adventure. Once we got there and settled down into our hotel that was across from the park, the first thing we noticed was the number of people still heading into the downtown late. On Valentine’s day, we headed into the unknown that is Disney. Walking in, there is a long line of people socially distanced waiting to get wellness screens. There was an hour-long line just to get in the park. I would compare this feeling of getting in the park to the feeling of getting on a ride. 

Once we got checked in with the wellness center and got our temperature checked, we went past security and got checked there. Once the hassle of security and temperature checks is done you are finally greeted with an open entrance of California Adventure. The openness of the walkway is refreshing for Disney lovers, seeing the iconic blue gates with the red sign reading California Adventure. Seeing it sent shivers down my spine.

Being inside the park was a completely different feeling however because there are music and people everywhere. I felt as if I was eight years old coming into the park for the first time again. My girlfriend points out to me that there are signs with QR codes on them, this is a reservation QR that you scan to reserve a spot in line for a shop or restaurant. This keeps down the lines and wait times for most things in the park. You’ll also see many people taking pictures around the new picture set up for Disney Plus’s Tv show Wandavison. It allows you to immerse yourself like you were in the sitcom style tv show Wandavison.

Disney has done a great job at trying to preserve the family fun excitement that is Disneyland. The first place many think of when they hear magic on earth. What Disney is doing to try to stay afloat during this pandemic is outstanding. They continue to instill happiness and joy all the way from toddlers to adults. It also seems that they have no intentions of stopping the growth of downtown and California Adventure either.

While we were in the Star Wars docking bay shop, the cast member helping us said they are opening new shops around late February. While waiting for new shops, enjoy some fine dining at Jazz kitchen or even maybe stop by the World of Disney store. There are endless amounts of options to occupy your time. We had found that waiting for the World of Disney store killed the most time because the line was long and had lots of items to look at. It’s a great spot to look while waiting for dinner reservations or even waiting in queue for another store. 

Other notable things to go and explore while in the park and downtown are photo opportunities. There were many places to take pictures or sit and enjoy a view. One of my personal favorite spots was seeing the Cars Land sign and taking pictures of it from afar. However, this isn’t the only noticeable sight you can find. Other iconic spots are Stage 19 near the Monsters, Inc. ride and the Grizzly River Run waterfall. These are all little things we saw people enjoy while they were in the park. These spots along with the looks of downtown and Buena Vista street are beautiful at night.

While Downtown Disney and partial California Adventure is fun, rumors have emerged about The Disney Anaheim park reopening during the month of March upon approval from the city. When we had asked about this to a cast member no information was given to us because “it’s just speculation.” We can only hope that Disney will reopen soon to give many of us the magic, we all so desperately crave.

At the end of the day, my girlfriend and I enjoyed the wonderful and magical experience of Disney. I will address the obvious concern that “it’s not open” how good can it really be? Don’t let this stigma stop you from visiting this magic spot in Anaheim. The masks and six feet apart spots are different from what we are used to but it doesn’t fade the magic. This trip to Disneyland is one to remember and I encourage everyone to give it a chance. You might be surprised to find enjoyment and a new perspective on the happiest place on earth.

C.j Flores is a staff writer for The Express. Follow him @Cj_mcanfores.

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