Beginning on January 11, 2016, big changes will begin at the Disneyland Resort. In the past, Disneyland has hosted the “Year of a Million Dreams,” and 2016 (in my opinion) will be the “Year of a Lot of Closures.” Refurbishments are normal and necessary for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure to remain safe and visually pleasing. Annual refurbishments provide resort staff the opportunity to fix or tune up attractions, paint, add enhancements, change menus and much more. (Click here to learn more about refurbishments.)
In 2016, regular resort refurbishments will continue as they normally do, but so will big closures–both temporary and permanent–that will change the landscape of Disneyland forever. The two big projects include the building of a new Star Wars-themed land (click here for more information) and the premiere of a new Broadway-style stage show in the Hyperion Theater in Disney California Adventure. All of the construction and changes will begin January 11, which means January 10 is the last day to enjoy many Disneyland Resort favorites. In no particular order, here are the ten things you MUST do at Disneyland before January 11.
Take a goat selfie at Big Thunder Ranch: Of all of the changes coming to the Disneyland Resort, this is the one that really cuts me the deepest. To make way for Star Wars land, Big Thunder Ranch will be closing. CLOSING. This means NO MORE GOATS. And, no, according to Cast Members at the Resort, there will not be a new location for the goats and other animals (i.e. Spanish burros); they will all be going home with Circle D Cast Members (Circle D is the ranch/corral fascility where the animals currently reside). Most of these Cast Members live on or have access to horse property, which means the animals will stay with caregivers they already know and who already love them. My heart is broken because Disneyland’s animals provide my city slickers with the opportunity to meet and interact with animals they would never have access to in our regular lives–animals that are as safe as they come handled by the most compassionate caretakers around.
Eat at Big Thunder Barbeque: We’ve written an entire post on this in the past (click here for our article), but it is important for us to mention again that Big Thunder Barbecue is simply delicious and a wonderful family-style meal. Yes, we know it’s a bit pricey, but keep these four things in mind while considering a reservation:
- Children under 3 eat for free.
- Lunch is less expensive than dinner.
- Schedule a late lunch and you might only need a small snack at dinner time.
- Annual passholders get a discount with their pass.
Take in an Aladdin show (or two… or three): Yes. The Aladdin show in Disney California Adventure is ending after a very long run. The show is AMAZING and the way the Genie keeps his jokes fresh is nothing short of genius. The show is being replaced by a Frozen stage show. While I understand the need to change out shows and keep things fresh, I really wish they would have chosen an animated move that is a bit more gender neutral.
Take a full circle tour of the Magic Kingdom aboard the Disneyland Railroad: For our family, the Disneyland Railroad is more than an attraction, it is transportation. We visit the park with my parents and the kids a lot, and it is nice to hop on the train to get from place to place. Another reason I love the Disneyland Railroad is that I’ve always thought it is the first thing people should ride on their first visit to Disneyland as it is a nice overview of the park and provides first timers with a broad overview / orientation of what is in the park.
The Disneyland Railroad closure is temporary and will reopen at a later date. Although we do not have a date for when it will reopen, my best guess would be about a year.
Explore Tom Sawyer Island: Oh, the island! We’ve had some great times there. My kids love exploring its caves and discovering the treasure at the back of the island. The island is another temporary closure due to the construction of Star Wars land and will likely be at least a year like the other temporary closures. I really recommend seeing the island before it closes just in case they make changes to it.
See Fantasmic!: Fantasmic! is my all-time favorite show at the Disneyland Resort. Period. If you haven’t seen it, you need to. At this time, it is slated to come back once river traffic reopens, but it wouldn’t hurt to take in a show before it closes… because it is totally awesome.
Ride the Mark Twain Riverboat: The Mark Twain Riverboat is another of our family favorites because sometimes you just need some moments of peace and tranquility while at Disneyland. When you get there, make your trip extra special and ask the Cast Member at the dock if you can ride in the wheelhouse. Those lucky enough to get to ride up top get to ring the bell and blow the whistle. (Of course leave that honor to the kiddos… even though you are dying to do it too.) This is another temporary closure.
Ride the Sailing Ship Columbia: If you have a child who loves pirates, you must get in one last ride aboard the Sailing Ship Columbia before it temporarily closes for the construction of Star Wars land. And… don’t forget that you and the kiddos can go below deck. Children LOVE exploring the crew’s quarters.
Explore the log cabin at Big Thunder Ranch: Our family has had some great memories exploring the log cabin at Big Thunder Ranch, and I have to say I am pretty bummed out to see this peaceful, beautiful spot go away. This is a particularly cherished spot for families with toddlers becuase it is rarely crowded and provides little ones a place to toddle away from the crowds… in the shade.
Here is my family’s favorite memory of the cabin. Trust me when I tell you it is worth watching for the end. It will give you a giggle. It will be missed when it closes (forever) with the closure of Big Thunder Ranch.
Paddle a canoe: This one may be a bit more difficult to do if there is bad weather or you visit on a day when the park is not too busy, as the Davy Crocket Explorer Canoes do not operate in inclement weather or when attendance is low. If you have kids who can sit still for about 10 minutes, I highly recommend getting out on the Rivers of America for one last paddle until the attraction reopens in a year or so.
So there you have it: the ten things I think you MUST do at the Disneyland Resort before all of the big changes begin on January 11. Which ones will you be crossing off your list?