Going to Disneyland this year? There are many changes to know about – enough to confuse even a veteran traveler like me! Even if you’ve been to the California theme parks before, these are the things you’ll want to know about before returning to Disneyland this year.
Going to Disneyland This Year – Updates for 2023
In the past, a spur-of-the-moment Disneyland vacation was the norm for many Southern Californians. I know my family has personally decided on a whim, “Hey, let’s go to Disneyland today!”
If you’re planning your first Disneyland vacation, the information you read needs to be freshly updated. Travel protocols are changing by the day! This article will be updated as needed with any relevant changes.
It’s very important to understand that during this current travel climate, Disneyland has had to flex with the times. This means, limiting the park capacity via advance ticket sales and park reservations. If you’re going to Disneyland this year, please read carefully through each section to know what to expect.
Discounted Disneyland Tickets
My travel partners at Get Away Today offer both discounted Disneyland tickets and Anaheim-area hotels to fit any budget! Many hotels include exclusive discounts like free parking, complimentary breakfast or even free nights, just for booking through Get Away Today.
Disneyland tickets purchased now are good through January 12th, 2024. Purchase your multi-day tickets through Get Away Today now.
When you’re ready to book your Disneyland vacation, my friends at Get Away Today are ready to help! Mention code REWRITTEN to receive an extra discount off your SoCal vacation package of two or more days.
Disneyland Reopening Day
I’ve been able to attend the parks multiple times since the theme park reopening and will continue to update this post with changes. This article is frequently refreshed with new and update information about going to Disneyland this year.
Where to Get Disneyland Tickets
- All Disneyland tickets are being sold online only – no tickets will be available for purchase at the front gates.
- Consider purchasing a multi-day park ticket from my trusted travel partner Get Away Today. They offer a discount lower than purchased through the Disneyland site.
- Multi-day tickets are still the much better value when compared to a single day ticket. One-day tickets will always be sold at full price, based on a tiered calendar (found on the Disneyland website). Weekend, popular dates and holidays will always be more expensive.
- Buy now to lock in the best pricing on Disneyland tickets before Disney raises the prices again! Multi-day Disneyland tickets purchased now expire on January 12, 2024 or within 13 days after first use. Single day tickets expire on December 30th, 2023.
- Guests 3+ are required to have a valid park ticket. If your child has not yet turned three years old, they may enter the park for free without needing a ticket or reservation.
- Do you have a ticket that expired during the Disneyland closure? Read more about how those Disneyland ticket expiration dates were extended.
Booking Disneyland Reservations
In addition to having valid tickets, every guest must have a separate reservation booking. Each individual guest with a park ticket must also have a day-of Disneyland parks reservation. This can only be done directly through the Disneyland website.
Here’s how to do this:
- Create a Disney account on the Disneyland website.
- Link your Disneyland tickets through the My Disneyland section.
- Click the “Theme Park Reservation System” section, then the “Make Park Reservations” button.
- Choose the day you’d like to reserve. You’ll need to reserve each day separately for all the tickets in your group.
- Disneyland will email a QR code that will also be added to the Disneyland app. Upon entry at the gates, each guest will need to show their park ticket as well as their separate reservation QR code.
Who Can Go to Disneyland?
The State of California highly recommends that all visitors be vaccinated. However Disneyland does not require guests to be vaccinated and proof is not needed for entry.
Safety Measures at Disneyland
Where does Disneyland stand on masking at this time? Located in Anaheim, Orange County, facial coverings are not currently required for fully vaccinated individuals. Guests do not need to show proof of vaccination and only need to self-attest that they are in compliance.
It is Disney’s suggestion that all unvaccinated guests aged 2+ wear proper face coverings while indoors (except when actively dining). However, this is up to each individual guest’s personal preference and not in enforcement.
READ MORE about the safety measures to look for in this article about Disney Parks reopening.
Disneyland Morning Strategy
As capacity begins to increase, Disneyland morning strategies including rope drop are more important than ever! There’s good reason to employ a plan. Arrive early to security lines, which are efficient. Guest’s bags are still checked manually.
Entry gates opened early, generally about 45 minutes before official park opening. During times of shortened hours, the extra time given here is an excellent way to maximize your time in the theme parks.
Park reservations are currently in use, but that doesn’t mean that crowd capacity is restricted. The parks are definitely getting busier and busier.
Certain areas (like Fantasyland and Adventureland) will feel more crowded than others. The large number of strollers, narrow walkways and distanced queues can make spaces fill up.
Ride Wait Times – Disney Genie+ at Disneyland
With the elimination of the former FASTPASS/Maxpass system, stand-by lines were the only option. Early on, as a result of the lower park capacity, ride wait times are lightened as well. However as crowds have increased, a line skipping system has been desperately needed.
Enter Disney Genie and the paid version, Disney Genie+. This app-based system incorporates the new Lightning Lane (aka: the old FASTPASS lines). I find Disney Genie+ to be an essential addition to any day at Disneyland on my recent visit.
My friend Leslie at Trips with Tykes has a deep dive into Disneyland’s Disney Genie+ that’s a must-read.
Don’t want to pay the extra cost for Disney Genie+? The free version offers suggestions that you might find helpful. But it’s better to just pay attention to estimated wait times on the “tip board” through the Disneyland app.
In my experience, the times on the app are often exaggerated. You may actually time spent less time in line than what’s stated on the ap.
What About These Disneyland Services?
City Hall – Still available for assistance, guests may check in via a QR code. The line at City Hall is often much longer than other guest relations spots. I recommend visiting the guest relations kiosks over City Hall when possible.
Rider Switch – Yes, ride swapping is still available and working as it always has.
Disability Access Service – Changes have recently been made to the DAS system since the reopening. Guests should now pre-register in advance of their visit. This takes place through a live video call when you’re still at home, using the DAS Advance pre-arrival planning service.
Once at the park, guests can conveniently receive DAS return times through the Disneyland mobile app. As a parent of a special needs child, these are exciting changes that will hopefully streamline the process before and during a vacation when going to Disneyland this year.
My friend Becca at This Crazy Adventure Called Life shares her tested tips about Disneyland’s Updated Disability Access Service.
Fuel Rod – These convenient portable phone charging stations are still located around the resort. The best value is to purchase a Fuel Rod ahead of your trip, then exchange them for a full charge inside the parks.
Strollers – Yes, Disneyland stroller rental is still open and operating. In addition, guests may bring their own personal strollers into the parks (using the regular guidelines).
Baby Care Centers – Both Disneyland and California Adventure baby care centers are open.
How to Get on Rise of the Resistance & Radiator Springs Racers
When Disneyland closed in 2020, the newly opened Rise of the Resistance inside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was the hottest ride in the park! And Radiator Springs Racers continues to be one of the hottest attractions, inside Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure.
Rise of the Resistance has eliminated the short-lived virtual queue system and switched to stand-by queue. Radiator Springs Racers also offers stand-by.
Don’t want to wait in a lengthy stand by line? Both attractions are available for individual Lightning Lane entry at an extra cost. The actual amount varies, dependent upon the day. But expect to pay between $15-25 per person, per ride, to skip the line.
Is Park Hopping Available at Disneyland?
Yes, guests holding a valid Park Hopper ticket are permitted to hop, but only after 11 am each day. When guests make their park reservation on the Disneyland website, you’ll be asked to choose which park you wish to start your day at.
Pay attention to which icon is available on the reservation calendar (Castle icon for Disneyland, or the Ferris wheel for California Adventure). Availability is dependent upon park capacity and park hopping is not guaranteed.
Since reopening, I’ve park hopped many times between the theme parks easily. Many guests arrive before the stated 11:00 am Park Hopping time. You’ll find guests lined up at not-yet-open entry gates.
As park capacity has increased, Park Hopping has become more of a challenge, with longer wait times. Consider waiting until later than 11:00 am to “hop” and avoid the lines in the esplanade to enter the opposite park.
What Disneyland Restaurants are Open?
At this time, all full-service restaurants are available for Advance Dining Reservations. Didn’t grab an reservation ahead of time? There’s still a chance you can dine. A scannable QR code located at each restaurant details what’s available. Most quick service locations are open but not all.
Disneyland Mobile Ordering vs. Walk-Up
Many of the quick service dining locations inside the Disneyland parks are encouraging mobile ordering. This time-saver has been a longtime favorite of mine.
Guests can simply order food via the Disneyland app at participating locations. Then click the, “I’m here” button and approach the mobile ordering window. Within a few minutes, your food is ready!
- Some quick service restaurants are ONLY using walk-up ordering without any mobile ordering available. Other locations are offering both. Signage is good outside each restaurant so be sure to stop and read to know what to expect.
- Gift cards can now be entered as a payment option for mobile ordering.
- Mobile ordering times can fill up quickly. If you know you want to purchase food from a certain location, plug in your order early in the day to grab a time slot. Don’t press the “I’m here” button until you’re ready to pick up within your chosen time frame. I usually order all my meals as soon as the park opens, scheduling throughout the day.
- The Starbucks locations inside the Disneyland parks do not have mobile ordering. The Starbucks are located inside Market House at Disneyland & Fiddler, Fifer and Practical Cafe inside Disney California Adventure. Walk-up will be the only way to purchase coffee and food here. For families looking for breakfast options, this is one not to forget. Just expect to wait in line.
- There are additional Starbucks locations inside Downtown Disney that do allow mobile ordering. Use the official Starbucks app (not the Disneyland app) to order ahead.
- Expect wait times for Avengers Campus dining, specifically Pym Test Kitchen, to be lengthy. Mobile orders may fill up early in the day.
- Breakfast options seems to be the most difficult meal to mobile order. Locations and options may be scarce for meals in the morning hours. Best to eat at the hotel or bring in breakfast foods, as many lunch options do not begin until the 10:30-11 am hours.
Full Service Dining at Disneyland
In the past, guests who wanted to book Advance Dining Reservations could plan on snagging them exactly 60 days out. No so, anymore. Restaurant reservations are currently trickling out. This makes it very difficult to plan meals for a trip.
Rather than stalking the Disneyland app to book ADR, try MouseDining. There’s a way to upgrade your account for additional features but for most people, their free program is adequate. Here’s how this system works:
- Open the MouseDisney website and search the restaurant you want to dine at.
- Add in your dates to see if a reservation is available.
- If everything is booked, simply set up an alert with more details including meal, preferred time, and party size.
- MouseDining will email you when a reservation comes available!
Snacks and Outside Food
Want a churro, pretzel or a bottled drink? Outdoor snack carts are open throughout the parks. Families can also bring in their own outside food to the parks. Mobile ordering times can be tricky to lock in later in the day. It’s important to have your own snacks for hungry kids.
Looking for more ways to save money on a Disneyland vacation? Consider the Disney Visa and earn rewards that can be applied to your next trip!
Lockers – All locker areas in both the parks and esplanade are available for daily storage.
How to See Disney Characters
Ready to hug Mickey and Minnie Mouse again? Personal, up-close character meet ‘n greets are happening again! Guests are ready to interact with their favorite characters, here’s how.
- Disney characters are located all over the theme parks. During regular park hours, guests can spot characters but finding them is the challenge. Locations and times of appearance are not always available on the Disneyland app. The exact name of each character that appears may not be known. For instance, at Pooh Corner, guests may find Tigger, Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh. But you won’t know which character is greeting until you show up at the location.
- Disney PhotoPass is available at some meet ‘n greet locations. Other spots, like inside Royal Hall at Fantasy Faire to see Disney princesses does not offer Photopass.
- Some rarely seen characters, including Tangled’s Flynn Rider and Miguel from Coco can be seen in the parks.
- Character dining has returned, some with a modified experience (see next section).
Disneyland Character Dining Changes
Character dining experiences are returning to Disneyland, with a few important modifications. I have been able to experience several of these character meals since Disneyland reopened.
In the past, Disneyland character dining was a must-do. Is it still a good option when going to Disneyland in 2023?
Depending upon the location, characters might not visit each table individually. There are still complimentary character dining buttons for each guest.
Character Dining Expectations at Disneyland
Here’s what to expect at each location-
Grand Californian Hotel – Storyteller’s Cafe – Mickey’s Tales of Adventure Breakfast – Breakfast favorites abound here, including Mickey waffles, chilaquiles, bagels and lox and additional upscale pastries and dishes. As in the past, the food here is a highlight. Guests may serve themselves at the open buffet. All seating is indoors and guests may remove masks while seated.
Characters parade through the dining room several times for each visit, about 5 minutes each time. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Chip ‘n Dale during our visit. They participate in a quick dance in the main lobby. Characters briefly stand near tables, stopping only briefly for a quick photo. The experience is extremely speedy.
Paradise Pier Hotel PCH Grill- Donald Duck’s Seaside Breakfast – no return date announced. It appears that this character dining experience will not return and is expected to be replaced with a new dining option.
Disneyland Hotel – Goofy’s Kitchen – this whimsical breakfast and dinner buffet has returned. Guests may take photographs in the kitchen area at the front of the restaurant. Chef Goofy has returned and a complimentary Photopass images is included with your meal.
Characters parade through the dining room several times for each visit, about 10 minutes each time. We saw Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Chip and Goofy during our visit. Characters briefly stand near tables, stopping only briefly for a quick photo. Expect another fast experience at this location.
Favorite dishes have returned, like PB & J Pizza, carved meats, salad bar, and soft serve frozen yogurt with toppings. Buffet is a combination of cast member served and self-serve. Seating is indoors only.
More Disneyland Character Dining Adjustments
Plaza Inn (inside Disneyland) – Minnie and Friends Breakfast in the Park – Each guest/party may stop to meet n’ greet with Minnie personally before sitting for the meal. A PhotoPass photographer is present and downloads of the images are currently complimentary.
Buffet is a combination of cast member served and self-serve. Seating is both indoors and outdoors. Traditional dishes are available, like Mickey & Minnie waffles, biscuits and gravy, bacon and fruit.
The character parade takes place both indoors and out through the dining room several times. We saw Minnie (only at the entrance), Pluto, Daisy, Tigger, Chip and one of the mice from Cinderella during our visit.
Characters here linger much longer to interact with guests, stopping for hugs and photos. Feel free to bring your Disney autograph album to this breakfast!
Grand Californian Hotel – Napa Rose – Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures – This upscale indoor dining experience is back. The 3-course meal remains, delivered personally to your table and served “family-style”, as before.
Is Disney PhotoPass Available?
Yes, Disney PhotoPass is still available for purchase at $19.99 per day. PhotoPass photographers are located at key points around the parks. The unlimited photo downloads will also include images taken on designated attractions.
The better option than purchasing the separate Disney PhotoPass add-on? Purchase a Disneyland ticket with Disney Genie+ already built in. Disney PhotoPass is included in the Disney Genie+ upgrade!
During the Disney100 celebrations, Disney PhotoPass on-ride images are included with the cost of a regular theme park ticket.
If you’re going to Disneyland this year it’s best to bring your own camera or fully charged smart phone to capture images. Disney PhotoPass photographers aren’t available in all locations (namely Royal Hall or at the Anna & Elsa meet ‘n greet).
What’s Not Available at Disneyland?
Most of the park is operating fully as before! Here are a few things that have recently returned to the theme parks:
Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – The makeover experience has returned and the shop is open for the purchase of princess dresses and accessories. Guests can also stop by the shop entrance to request a complimentary sprinkling of hair glitter by the “Fairy Godmother in Training”. Click over to find out how to recreate your own DIY Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.
The Silhouette Shop is reopened on Main Street for this highly collectible souvenir.
Disneyland fireworks spectaculars returned! If you want to avoid the heaviest crowds, steer clear of Main Street U.S.A. and Sleeping Beauty Castle. There is fireworks viewing with projections at various locations around the theme park including near it’s a small world.
World of Color returned at Disney California Adventure park. A virtual queue is in place for those who want a reserved standing room area. The popular dessert party is again booking reservations for guests who enjoy a reserved seat for the show.
Fantasmic! returned to Disneyland with evening shows on the Rivers of America.
What’s Closed at Disneyland
Limited Space and High Touch Attractions Locations – Pirates Lair on Tom Sawyer Island has reopened. However expect to see some caves closed because of the narrow indoor spaces and limited ventilation.
Certain Indoor Entertainment – Star Wars Launch Bay is not currently operating. However Turtle Talk with Crush, Mickey’s Philharmagic and the Enchanted Tiki Room (all indoor shows) are available. The Bakery Tour and Animation Building have reopened.
Shopping Changes at Disneyland
Merchandise mobile checkout is currently being tested within the Downtown Disney District. At World of Disney, guests can scan items and check out through the Disneyland mobile app.
Follow the steps on the app which includes a designated mobile checkout shopping bag, self-scanning, and paying through the app.
What’s New at Disneyland?
During the closure, Disneyland was still able to complete several of their projects. During my visits I’ve found the parks to look better than ever, with fresh coats of paint, gorgeous flowers and heightened cleaning. Here are few things to watch for:
Snow White’s Enchanted Wish – formerly called “Snow White’s Scary Adventures”, this attraction has been fleshed-out, with enhanced scenes and a more complete ending. Some of the scary aspect remains in regards to Evil Queen but Snow White has more parts and still receives her “happily ever after” in the end.
King Arthur’s Carrousel – beautifully refurbished with shining gold accents, purple shade cloth banners and bright lights. The view of the carrousel through Sleeping Beauty Castle is a can’t miss!
What’s New at Disney California Adventure?
Spotted new Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission BREAKOUT! is a trail of slime embedded into the concrete. This is an extension that stretches into the new Avengers Campus area.
Avengers Campus, a Marvel-themed land opened to guests on June 4th, 2021. This Marvel-theme land features a new attraction, WEB SLINGERS: A Spiderman Adventure.
I was there with my family on opening day and we ate at Pym Kitchen, a new quick service dining location. Read more about the details of this area, including ride virtual queue.
Which Disneyland Resort Hotels are Open?
All of the Disneyland resort hotels have reopened to overnight guests. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has reopened their private entry into the California Adventure theme park. The Disneyland Hotel also reopened after refurbishment.
While the hotel is open, some aspects of The Paradise Pier Hotel remain closed, including dining locations. The hotel is undergoing retheming into the Pixar Place Hotel.
This leaves many out-of-town travelers looking away from the Disneyland resort hotels and towards Good Neighbor hotels in the Anaheim area. Fortunately there are a great many nearby locations, many within walking distance of the front gates.
During my recent visit, I was able to tour 19 hotels in the Disneyland area. View the videos and details on each area including top amenities, location and rooms on these two Instagram Anaheim Hotels highlights.
Top Tips for Going to Disneyland This Year
For those guests who are not fully vaccinated, wearing a facial covering on & off all day can be a sweaty and uncomfortable experience. Pack multiple masks to switch out. My favorite has been the HaloMask which has a curved piece to keep fabric away from the nose and mouth for easier breathing.
Take advantage of the many designated dining areas as a place for a mask-break. I found myself feeling nauseated mid-day. I chalked it up to dehydration and took an extended break for a rest, water, snack and sunscreen reapplication. Be sure to work in plenty of breaks throughout the day.
Do the Disney Parks Still Feel Magical?
In a word: YES. While the current changes are different, they’re not all negative. In fact, some changes (like increased mobile ordering) are here to stay. Families who are waiting for Disneyland to return to what it was before might be out of luck. The newly adopted reservation system may be around for a while, as a way for Disney parks to monitor guest traffic.
This newly reopened Disneyland isn’t like it was. But the theme parks are getting back to a bit of pre-closure normalcy. And for those who are hardcore fans and touring experts, it’s a lot to get used to if you’re going to Disneyland this year.
But the trade-off is so worth it. For those who are ready to embrace the changes, these guests will be rewarded with gracious cast members and a Disney magic that will never disappear!