This Walt Disney World ride refurbishment calendar lists the closure schedule for this Christmas and 2024 at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios & Animal Kingdom. Attractions close for routine maintenance, safety upgrades, improvements, and reimaginings. (Updated November 8, 2023.)
While no one wants attraction downtime during their trip to Walt Disney World, refurbishments are necessary to keep the rides looking good (and safe!) for future visitors. Usually, there are only a handful of simultaneous closures, plus new attractions being built. Note that the list below includes several refurbishments that have either been scheduled last-minute, extended, or are longer than normal.
If you’re visiting Walt Disney World between now and December 2023, the good news is that the refurbishment schedule is relatively light for the heart of the holiday seasons. Here’s a rundown of what to expect the next few months in terms of attraction closures at Walt Disney World…
There’s also a lot of construction occurring, albeit not nearly as much as even a few years ago. However, that massively understates the current closures and impact of construction on visitors to Walt Disney World throughout the remainder of the year. Speaking of which, if you’re looking for opening dates rather than closures (and reopenings) to existing attractions, see the Disney Parks Project Timeline for 2023-2024. That covers both the official opening dates, plus our predictions about what’ll likely be delayed.
At Epcot in particular, the refurbishment list is deceptive, as colossal changes have begun that aren’t fully reflected on the list below. There are walls up around much of the front of Epcot, with bypasses in place that lead guests past the center of the park. These have recently slightly shrunk in size thanks to a new path between Spaceship Earth and Moana’s Journey of Water, but they won’t be gone entirely until December.
Here is the current schedule of Walt Disney World refurbishments to attractions, when the closure starts, and when the refurbishment will conclude, updated as of November 8, 2023:
It’s Tough to Be a Bug – Closure Date TBD
Primeval Whirl – Permanently Closed & Demolished
There are no current or upcoming closures at Animal Kingdom on the calendar, but a Zootopia Tree of Life Showis replacing It’s Tough to Be a Bug at some point in the future–likely sometime in 2024.
What else is next for Animal Kingdom is unclear. Primeval Whirl permanently closed and the company has confirmed that what’s currently Dino-Rama is the next big expansion site at Walt Disney World. They’ve also officially announced that the replacement will be the Tropical Americas at Animal Kingdom.
What’s still not 100% confirmed is what this area will feature. Walt Disney World has teased Encanto and Indiana Jones concepts that are supposedly just “under consideration.” It’s our understanding that they’re a done deal, but other recent official projects have been cancelled even after construction started.
Enchantment Fireworks – Permanently Ended
Festival of Fantasy Parade – November 12, 2023; possibly December 3-20; December 21-31, 2023
Happily Ever After Fireworks – Not shown December 21-31, 2023
Haunted Mansion – Possibly in November 2023
Splash Mountain – Permanently Closed
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure – Opening in Late 2024
TRON Lightcycle Run – Now Open!
Let’s start with entertainment. Both Festival of Fantasy parade and the Happily Ever After fireworks do not appear on the schedule for the peak holiday week around Christmas and New Year’s Eve–they return January 1, 2024. The entertainment going dark December 21-31 is most likely correct, and would be replaced by Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade and holiday fireworks.
Less certain is the Festival of Fantasy downtime on November 12, 2023. It’s likely that this is for the ABC 2023 Christmas Day Parade Filming at Walt Disney World; in which case, it will again be replaced by the Christmas parade. Far less clear is whether Festival of Fantasy actually won’t perform December 3-20. It’s not currently on the schedule for those dates, but this is likely a calendar error. We’ll keep you posted.
Haunted Mansion shut its doors in early August for a “routine refurbishment” to prep for the installation of Hatbox Ghost. During that 3-day closure, scrims went up where the cult-classic character and a few other scenes were refreshed. It’s expected that work installing Hatbox Ghost will largely occur in the graveyard shift, concealed from daytime guest view by the scrim. It’s thus possible no further closure will be required–that Hatbox Ghost will quietly materialize some dreadful day in November 2023. It’s also possible another closure will occur early that month
For reference, Hatbox Ghost was added to Disneyland as part of a 4-day closure back in May 2015. That was also after a ton of prep-work was done during the annual Haunted Mansion Holiday removal closure, during which time a scrim went up and the attraction returned to normal operations for the next couple of months.
Construction walls are up around Chick-A-Pin Hill and construction workers can be observed on and around the attraction working on the overhaul. The transformation timeline is an aggressive one, and but Tiana’s Bayou Adventure has made significant progress in the last several months. At this point, it could open in Summer 2024 or be delayed until 2025. That’s a huge range of possibilities, but we’ve heard rumors that it’s ahead of schedule…while also acknowledging that most recent Walt Disney World projects have been behind, rather than opening early. We shall see.
EPCOT Forever – Last performance on December 4, 2023
Harmonious – Permanently Ended
Luminous: The Symphony of Us – Debuts on December 5, 2023
Moana’s Journey of Water – Now open!
World Celebration – Opens in December 2023
No material changes to report at EPCOT. Moana’s Journey of Water officially opened in the middle of last month after soft opening for a few weeks and previews for a couple months. The new attraction smell has already worn off, and crowds for it are now manageable, with the virtual queue not currently in use.
Work in the middle of World Showcase Lagoon continues on the next permanent nighttime spectacular that will debut at the end of Disney100. That new show is Luminous: The Symphony of Us, and it’ll debut on December 5, 2023. In the meantime, the interim EPCOT Forever has returned for the third time in as many years, and will end again on December 4.
Don’t let the lack of ride closures fool you into thinking EPCOT is in great shape. To the contrary, the core of the park is still a sea of construction walls with a giant dirt pit in the middle. Things have improved with the opening of Creations Shop, Club Cool, and Connections Cafe & Eatery.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Jedi Training Academy: Trials of the Temple – Permanently Ended
Star Wars: Galactic Spectacular – Permanently Ended
Voyage of the Little Mermaid – Currently Closed
Nothing significant to report at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. There’s a bit of construction occurring along Grand Avenue in Muppet Courtyard for a minor mystery project, but that’s it.
Outside Theme Parks
Typhoon Lagoon Water Park – Closed until Spring 2024
Blizzard Beach Water Park – Open for Winter
Disney Skyliner Gondolas – Closures in mid-to-late January 2024
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Resort – Permanently Closed
Other than that, Typhoon Lagoon has closed and Blizzard Beach has reopened for the winter season. This is a standard seasonal closure, and happens every single year due to a lack of demand during the colder time of year. The big question is whether both will operate simultaneously in Spring or Summer 2024.
Otherwise, the attraction closures above are pretty straight-forward. To the extent that specific dates are not yet listed, those will be updated once Walt Disney World provides precise start and/or end dates.
In addition to scheduled attraction refurbs, unscheduled downtime can also occur during a visit. This usually only occurs for a few hours at a time, so if you find an attraction is closed during your vacation and it’s not listed below, it’s likely a temporary closure that will last (at most) for a few hours. Check with nearby Cast Members to confirm.
For resort work, please see our 2023-2024 Walt Disney World Hotel Construction & Refurbishments. If you are worried that any of resort hotel renovations will impact your stay, here’s a general rule to keep in mind: room refurbishments rarely impact hotel stays. These occur in specific clusters, and you’ll rarely notice the work being done.
Now, here’s a bit of my philosophy concerning refurbishments…
General Thoughts on Refurbishments
When news comes out about any refurbishment, my immediate reaction is always, “this is great–it means they’re actually doing something to the attraction!” My mind races with the possibilities of how attractions could be improved or plussed by Walt Disney Imagineering. Even though we might miss it on our next Walt Disney World visit, I’m always excited.
In reading feedback from others, I’ve discovered this perspective puts me in the minority. Others online fume about this, and how it would alter or impact their vacation plans. The saying “vacation ruined” has attained near-meme status among some fans, and that felt apt for some of the complaints. I can understand the perspective. Assessing the scope of the refurbishment in advance, scheduling liberal refurbishment dates, and opening early (under-promising and over-delivering) is always preferable to the alternative.
I can also understand that there’s other pent-up frustration at play here, ranging from radio-silence on projects to Walt Disney World’s tardiness in releasing park hours while expecting guests to plan several months in advance. Neither of these moves by Disney, among others, are defensible. At best, this communication is poor guest service. At worst, it’s demonstrative of a contemptible attitude towards guests.
However, I remain of the mindset that this refurbishment extension–and other current refurbishments–is potentially a good thing. Among the most vocal fans upset about the extension are those who are like me: guests who visit Walt Disney World at least every-other year. We are playing the ‘long’ fandom game.
From my perspective, investing in the long-term quality of an attraction is far more important than the temporary satisfaction I’ll get out of riding it on my next visit. I get excited when thinking about ways rides could be plussed, improving the experience for years to come. This is why it always perplexes me when regulars contend that their vacation will be ruined because their favorite attraction will be closed.
If it’s your favorite attraction and you’re active in the Disney fan community, that means you’ve been to Walt Disney World before and probably will visit again. It would thus stand to reason that you would want something you love to get the TLC it deserves, and continue to improve.
DINOSAUR works as a good example here. This attraction used to be called Countdown to Extinction (“CTX”) before an ill-advised movie tie-in was added. During that era, DINOSAUR had a litany of additional effects, many of its AAs had greater functionality, and the attraction was, as a whole, more impressive.
If you are a long-term fan, would you rather experience DINOSAUR every single year with 66% of the effects working, or every single year minus one with 95% of the effects working? For me, the answer to that is easy. I’ll take a superior long term experience every time. (That this is even a legitimate question for long-time fans speaks to the ‘instant gratification’ nature of things today, but that’s well beyond the scope of this post.)
Beyond that, there’s the much more compelling justification for regular refurbishments: they are essential for the safety of attractions. While we think of these attractions as all fun and games that offer a safe sense of exhilaration, that’s when they are properly maintained.
It’s unpleasant to think about, but there have been several preventable deaths in the history of Disney’s parks. During a dark era of Disneyland history, improper maintenance was the cause of death on Big Thunder Mountain (thankfully, Paul Pressler’s reign of terror is over). Years of neglect at Disneyland Paris have led to incidents of injury that could be attributed to a lack of maintenance (again, this has been addressed).
This is not meant to scare anyone or provoke an emotional reaction; the fact is that Disney’s worldwide safety record is sterling as compared to other park operators. It’s still important to remember that these fun, ‘magical’ places also exist in the real world and use a lot of potentially dangerous elements if safety is not viewed as key. (Or, in Disney’s case, one of the “Five Keys.”)
When it comes to maintenance that is not essential to the safe operation of an attraction, we are left to contemplate what amount of show quality should be accepted. If following a strict Nunisian practitioner of the Four Keys, show is another paramount consideration, and it should always be 100%. This is nice corporate propaganda, but I think the practical reality is that 100% is an unworkably high threshold in many circumstances.
I think we have seen this play out with Expedition Everest. Fans joke about the “Disco Yeti” and lament the fact that this jaw-dropping Audio Animatronics figure has not worked in nearly a decade. There are numerous theories as to why the Yeti hasn’t been fixed; what each of these share is that there are large-scale problems and no quick fixes.
Fixing the Yeti will require a closure of at least 6 months, and be quite expensive. The working Yeti is truly a magnificent sight to behold (and one most of you probably haven’t seen in A-mode unless you rode over a decade ago), but the attraction is still impressive with the Disco Yeti. At this point, it’s likely that Disney has determined the closure would take too long, cost too much, and the improvement would not be worth the investment.
There’s also the reality that Animal Kingdom is lacking in rides. Even after the opening of Pandora – World of Avatar, the park still is heavy on shows and animal exhibits and light on rides. Taking one of the park’s flagship rides down for 6 months to a year to fix one Audio Animatronics figure that guests see for 1-2 seconds might not be worth the sacrifice.
As a staunch proponent of show quality, I have a difficult time accepting the same argument for any attraction in Magic Kingdom, a park with a veritable “mountain range” and diverse slate of other attractions. In fact, the same goes for every castle park. These parks have enough attractions to pick up the slack if 1-2 attractions have to be taken offline simultaneously without ruining any vacations.
Guests are understandably concerned when it appears an inordinate number of attractions are closing during their vacation. Walt Disney World vacations are not cheap and are often once in a lifetime experiences. First-timers certainly do not want to miss out on experiences about which they’ve read extensive hype.
However, the problem with a “not during my vacation” attitude like this is that it’s always going to be someone’s (or tens of thousands of someones) vacation. If attractions with show quality issues don’t close for refurbishments for fear of some guests during a time-limited window missing out, all guests in perpetuity are going to have a lesser experience.
Running an attraction with broken effects is only going to compound problems, and eventually a single broken effect will turn into myriad broken effects. Imagine this scenario park-wide, played out to its natural consequences. That’s not exactly what I’d call the “Disney Difference.”
Again, DINOSAUR is a good example here. If it’s your first visit and you experience DINOSAUR with 66% of the effects working, you won’t know what you’re missing. Riding it will, no doubt, be superior to not riding it. However, I’m guessing your satisfaction rating of the attraction wouldn’t be nearly as high, and you might question why so many people love the attraction, and why Disney was lazy with so much empty, dark space. (Or, perhaps you won’t: if you only ever eat dog food, you won’t know what you’re missing in a nice steak.)
The thing is, if Disney would not close DINOSAUR during your vacation so you don’t miss out on it, chances are that they would extend the same “courtesy” for other guests, and it would be standard operating procedure to never close anything during anyone’s vacation.
The end result of this would be a park full of “66% attractions” and first-timers would be left wondering why there was so much hype about Walt Disney World, in the first place. If you’re reading this as a lifelong fan, consider the possibility that you wouldn’t have become a lifelong fan if this were actually Disney’s modus operandi. (In fact, I’d argue that Walt Disney World is trending in this direction, dragging its feet on several necessary refurbishments, with the inaction being predicated upon short term guest satisfaction or cost-savings.)
This might sound like we’re applying ‘heavy’ Rawlsian theory to the lighthearted topic of theme parks, but philosophy isn’t worth a damn if it can’t be applied to theme parks. 😉
A lot of this might seem like an effort to absolve Disney of blame when it comes to refurbishments, but this is not the case. Disney has brought a lot of the guest unrest concerning refurbishments upon itself. The first issue is that Disney has numerous parks that have opened in the last two decades with incomplete slates of attractions, making it difficult to justify taking attractions offline for refurbishment. So step one, a wholly impractical step at this point, would be to open theme parks that are complete on day one.
Failing that, Disney could avoid a lot of the guest backlash concerning refurbishments if they would schedule more 3-4 day refurbishments of attractions to proactively address problems with preventative maintenance. Although this would not totally negate the need for extended refurbishments, it would improve show quality across the board and help avoid a lot of situations where attractions have to abruptly close because they are in dire need of maintenance. Moreover, a 3-4 day refurbishment is shorter than the duration of most vacations, allowing tourists to effectively plan around the refurbishment.
In this case, both parties planning ahead would prevent those “vacation ruined!” complaints. Don’t worry, Disney, we fans are resilient: we’ll still find something else to complain about. 😉
Joking aside, I realize that’s a tough line to draw between an excusable refurbishment and a frustratingly irritating one. Even if you subscribe to the some degree of the ‘philosophy’ I’m advancing, there is no bright-line rule. It’s still going to amount to a value judgment about what should ‘trigger’ a need for refurbishment, how many attractions should be down simultaneously across Walt Disney World, and what times of year are ideal for which refurbishments.
Any questions about the current refurbishments at Walt Disney World? What do you think about refurbishments at the Disney Parks? Are you more concerned about an improved long-term experience, or do you think “not during my vacation!”? Where do you draw the line? Any other factors you think are worth considering? As mentioned, we think this is a conversation, so please share your ‘refurbishment philosophy’, or any other thoughts or questions you have, in the comments!