ANAHEIM, Calif. — The instrumental sound of The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World" plays over a loudspeaker.
The smell of churros and popcorn wafts in the air. A family is taking photos next to the bronze Storyteller's statue of the 1920s era Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.
For the first time in more than a year, a Disney theme park is open in Anaheim. However, the environment is different. The coronavirus pandemic shut down the park last year, and now as it slowly reopens following state guidelines, its effects are evident.
The major rides and attractions are closed. The employees and visitors are wearing face masks and face shields. There are sections of Disney California Adventure that are off-limits.
On Thursday, Disney kicked off the Touch of Disney, a food, beverage, and shopping event at Disney California Adventure. The sold-out $75-a-head event lets visitors walk around Disney California Adventure, and eat well-known – and missed – food and drink beverage items from around the Disneyland Resort.
Missing Disney's world-famous Dole Whip? You can order that item at the Adorable Snowman Frosted Treats stall at the Pixar Pier. The gigantic turkey leg – a staple at Disneyland – is found at the Poultry Palace, also at the Pixar Pier. The Smoke Jumper's Grill has the half Monte Cristo sandwich from the Blue Bayou.
The event runs from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday to Monday through April 19.
The event also serves a larger purpose: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure will reopen with rides, but with restrictions, on April 30. While Downtown Disney has been open since mid-July, the Touch of Disney event gives newly rehired or out-of-furlough Disney cast members a chance to warm up and get back into the swing of things.
Spectrum News attended the opening day. If you were able to secure tickets, here are some words of advice:
If you weren't able to secure a ticket online, then there is no use in attending.
The ticket booths at the esplanade between the Disneyland and Disney California Adventure main entrance are closed.
The Downtown Disney restaurant and shopping strip remain open.
There is no tram service available. Parking is at the main Mickey and Friends parking lot. Visitors will have to walk out of the parking structure through a temperature screening and security checkpoint before entering the Disney California Adventure gates. Wheelchairs, if needed, are available to rent at the parking structure and inside the park.
The walk from the security gate to the esplanade is about 10 to 15 minutes. Then you'll be walking most of the time inside the theme park.
It would help if you also prepared for lines. There is a line to get into stores, a line for food and beverage, and lines to play games.
Then eventually you'll have to walk back to your car. Bring comfortable shoes and a fitness tracker. There's a lot of walking ahead.
As part of the ticket, visitors can receive unlimited digital downloads of their photos from the event.
There are five PhotoPass photographers spread out in certain landmark areas of the park. You can find them on the map.
One thing to note, unlike pre-COVID times where you can hand the photographer or a nearby cast member your phone to take your photo, cast members are prohibited from touching and taking a picture with your phone.
Another note: you cannot take off your mask while you are being photographed. Visitors must wear masks at all times except when actively eating or drinking and in a stationary position.
So wear a nice mask. It will be in all of your photos.
Additionally, there are plenty of socially distanced photo opportunities with characters and scenes. Joy from Inside Out can be found at the Pixar Pier, a puppet of Miguel from Coco is at the Paradise Gardens Park, and there's a Wanda Vision setup in Hollywood Land.
If you haven't done so yet, download the Disneyland app to your phone. The app allows you to find the specific food you want, order it and pay for your meals (except alcohol) ahead of time. Just go there at the chosen time and pick it up.
Mobile ordering is a great way for you and your family to enjoy walking around the park rather than spending it in a line.
Cash is accepted in some locations, but contactless payment is being encouraged.
Unlike other ticketed food festivals where the ticket includes a choice of five menu items to choose from anywhere, Touch of Disney ticket-goers only receive a $25 dining card that is good for purchasing food and non-alcoholic beverage.
The cost of the food and beverages varies. The Pepperoni Pizza Egg Rolls cost $7. In contrast, the price of a corn dog at Award Weiners is about $10. There are items more than $10. Anything spent over $25 must come out of your pocket.
Make table reservations ahead of time (on the Disney app), especially for the Lamplight Lounge and Carthay Circle Lounge, the two most popular dine-in and alfresco dining restaurants. There are walk-up reservations available, but you either have to come early to reserve a spot or show up and get lucky.
Aside from the food and drinks, visitors can also entertain themselves at the Pixar Pier.
The Games of Pixar, a collection of Boardwalk-style games, is open and it is free.
There are four available games where participants have a chance to win a Bulls-Eye stuffed horse or Wall-E plush toy.
Some games limit the number of participants and have plexiglass dividers in between each competitor.
Disney released a lot of new merchandise.
There is a new clothing collection from The Mandalorian, the new movie Raya, and other classic Disney merchandise at various stores around Disney California Adventure.