ANAHEIM, California (AP) — The trip to Disneyland was a special vacation for a four-year-old girl and her three cousins from Mexico — one that her parents couldn’t wait to take. It was a short freeway drive for a pair of former high school sweethearts who headed over to the theme park whenever they could get a few hours away.
Both groups were among the thousands of visitors who crammed rides, treats and fun into the final rainy hours the self-proclaimed Happiest Place on Earth remained open before shutting for more than two weeks starting on Saturday to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Andrea Vizcarra, 39, said she understood the resort’s decision to close and hoped it would help with the illness. But that doesn’t make it easier on her family, who spent $5,000 so a group of them could make the trip from Mexico City. They will get reimbursed for time missed in the theme park but not the cost of airline tickets and hotels, where they are now cooped up with four young kids and little idea where to take them.
“We don’t have anywhere to go,” she said, hugging her daughter, who was dressed as Rapunzel. “We told them to make the most of today because there’s not much left to do after that.”
Disneyland fans normally can bank on the park being open regardless of what’s going on in the world around it. The park closed only a handful of times in 65 years and never for more than a day, said Jason Schultz, supervisory archivist at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and unofficial Disneyland historian who wrote “Jason’s Disneyland Almanac.” The last closure was after the 9/11 terror attacks.
A Disneyland spokesperson declined to comment about previous closures or the park’s final day before it closed temporarily.
Walt Disney Co. announced the closure of Disneyland on Thursday, shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s news conference on his executive order recommending against any “nonessential” gatherings of more than 250 people. Universal Studios Hollywood and other theme parks also announced closures.
Florida’s Disney World plans to shutter on Monday.
Life in the final hours before the closure carried on as usual with families checking mobile phones for the shortest wait times — just five minutes for the classic “It’s a Small World” and 10 minutes to meet Minnie Mouse — and restless toddlers begging to break free from strollers. Visitors snapped up bubble-blowing souvenirs and sequined Minnie Mouse ears and plastic ponchos to stay dry on the unusually rainy Southern California day.
There were limited outward signs of the virus — a woman using a bleach wipe on a table, conversations about the health crisis as people waited in lines for rides. But there were no warnings at the entrance about coronavirus or reminders to create “social space” with other patrons. Signs in restrooms urged visitors to wash their hands for 20 seconds but they didn’t reference the virus.
There are no documented coronavirus cases from Disneyland.
The closure throws a wrench in his routine, but Sean Cyphers of Burbank, California, said he still thought it was a good idea. With so many people flocking to Disneyland from out of town and overseas, Cyphers, 47, said he thought it could help limit the spread of the illness.
He and his wife, Stephanie, who were high school sweethearts, have annual passes and go there to relax. Already, they have visited 20 times this year. They savored the last few hours of daylight in the park on Friday, watching people on Main Street and eating popcorn.
“This is our time to not worry about responsibilities, bills, taxes, everything that goes on in the world,” he said.
Ivan Moore, 46, of Chandler, Arizona, wound up at the theme park with his family after a memorial service for his cousin was cancelled in Northern California because of concerns about gathering elders in the family together as the virus spread.
He already had time off of work so the family headed to Disneyland with plans to visit Galaxy’s Edge, the new Star Wars attraction. Moore commended the resort for making the move to protect the most vulnerable.
“You’ve got a pandemic going on. Whether or not it’s going to spread faster or not doesn’t matter — this helps,” he said.