'Greatest feeling ever' after Disneyland finally reopens

Anaheim, United States: Fans sporting Mickey Mouse ears waited in line as Disneyland in California reopened on Friday, more than 400 days since the pandemic forced the self-proclaimed "Happiest Place on Earth" to close for the first time.

"It is the greatest feeling ever!" said Momi Young-Wilkins, a 55-year-old mother as she brought her children to the world-famous park near Los Angeles.

"I promised my daughters we would be back here on opening day, and I made it happen."

IMAGE COURTESY OF DISNEY RESORT VIA TWITTER

Disneyland Park, the world's second-most visited theme park, and its sister Disney California Adventure Park have been closed the longest of all the Mouse House's global parks, due to California's harsh winter Covid spike and strict restrictions.

The vast resort flung open its gates Friday to the delight of many of its most ardent devotees, with the Golden State now boasting the nation's lowest per capita infection rate.

Carla and Jasmine, sisters aged 23 and 17, who asked not to be identified by their last names, used to come "pretty much every day" before the pandemic.

COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF DISNEYLAND RESORT VIA TWITTER

"We would go after school, after work, and just go on rides, even if it was for a couple of hours," said Carla, as they eagerly waited to re-enter.

"We've been excited for this opening day... it's very exciting and emotional!"

Within the park, capacity is limited at 25%, and only California residents with reservations are allowed to join in groups of three households.

The park was almost sold out for the next seven weeks as of Friday morning. Just a few spaces are available in May and June, and they include special tickets that include admission to Disney California Adventure.

COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF DISNEYLAND RESORT VIA TWITTER

Face masks are required, temperatures are tested prior to entry, and Disneyland's popular parades and "nighttime spectaculars" have been put on hold to avoid crowding.

Staff dressed in Disney costumes, referred to as "cast members" in theme park jargon, were on hand Friday to wave from a safe distance and "pop up posing in the background of selfies," according to an official press release.

'Honeymoon' 

One resort hotel reopened Thursday with plexiglass walls at the front desk and socially separated check-in queues, with the others to follow in a staggered reopening beginning Sunday.

The long closure was used to make some "wonderful changes," including additions to the Snow White's Enchanted Wish, King Arthur Carrousel, and Haunted Mansion attractions. Disneyland president Ken Potrock called the park's reopening Friday a "very, very big deal."

In June, Disney California Adventure will launch a Marvel superhero-themed Avengers Campus.

The first seven weeks of Disneyland Park are already sold out.

COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF DISNEYLAND RESORT VIA TWITTER

Some rides, such as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and the resort's monorail, remain closed due to pandemic safety concerns, while others, such as the Jungle Cruise, are closed for repairs and improvements.

The park holds special significance for Young-Wilkins, who told AFP she wanted to set a new personal record by riding an attraction themed after the movie "Cars" 50 times in a row.

"I came here on my honeymoon, I came here and got pregnant right inside this park," she said.

"And my daughter's been coming here for 17 years since she was born -- so it's like a family memory."

Since June 2018, her adolescent daughter had visited Disneyland over 300 times, according to Young-Wilkins.

"We always feel like this is the happiest place for our family to be."

COVER IMAGE COURTESY OF SHOP DISNEY VIA TWITTER

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