ANAHEIM, Calif. – Disneyland reopened to excited visitors Friday after an unprecedented 13-month closure in what tourism officials hope is a sign of the state's rebound from the pandemic.
The reopening came just four months after the country's most populous state was struggling to combat a surge in novel coronavirus hospitalizations that packed patients into outdoor tents and killed hundreds of people each day.
Some visitors cheered and screamed with happiness as they entered Disneyland.
“Not having it for over a year was really kind of hard for us, and so it's just really nice to be able to come back,” said Jaki Montanez, 27, who drove 340 miles from Modesto, California, for the occasion.
The day began with Disney officials and park employees wearing face coverings gathered in the park's town square for the morning flag-raising ceremony.
Disney CEO Bob Chapek thanked the color guard for raising the flag daily throughout the 412-day closure and asked employees to “bring the magic back” for visitors about to enter the park.
“We're not just another place. We're not just another theme park. We're something special, and we're something special because of all of you, because you bring magic to the world,” he said.
For now, the park is allowing only in-state visitors and is operating at limited capacity. The park now has hand-sanitizing stations and signs reminding visitors to keep their distance and wear masks. Benches are marked as “designated dining areas” where visitors can remove face coverings to eat.
Many visitors had gathered outside Disneyland since the previous night.
The news comes as California boasts the country's lowest rate of confirmed coronavirus infections and more than half of the population eligible for vaccination has received at least one dose.