Disney California Adventure and Disneyland ride refurbishments occur throughout the year, with attraction closure calendars published months in advance to provide advanced notice for planning purposes. This post offers a schedule of closures for 2021 at Disneyland Resort.
While no one wants attraction closures during their visit, they are a necessary part of keeping Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in good condition, as routine maintenance, safety upgrades, and attraction improvements are all done during scheduled ride closures. Usually, there are only a handful of simultaneous closed rides, plus new attractions being built.
Having an idea of which attractions are closed at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure is important, but we recommend consulting our 2021 Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide for more comprehensive info. That covers everything from saving money on park tickets and hotels to where to eat, when to visit, and more…
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 visit to Disneyland Resort and it’s not listed below, it’s likely a temporary closure that will last a few hours. Check with nearby Cast Members to confirm.
Below is a schedule of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure refurbishments, when the closure starts, and when the refurbishment will conclude. To the extent that specific dates are not yet listed, those will be updated once Disneyland Resort provides precise start and/or end dates. The following day will be when the attraction is scheduled to reopen.
- Disney California Adventure
- Red Car Trolley – Return Date Unknown (Likely Summer 2021)
- Paint the Night Parade – Return Date Unknown
- Grizzly River Run – TBD
- King Arthur Carrousel – TBD
- Mark Twain Riverboat – TBD
Now, a few notes about the above refurbishments. Really, about the only thing we know about the pre-closure refurbishments is that the transformation of Snow White’s Scary Adventures to Snow White’s Enchanted Wish is finished. The classic Fantasyland dark ride will have new scenes and an actual ending.
All other refurbishments listed above are pretty common. We’d anticipate more being added whenever a reopening date is set. Disneyland is notorious for changing its refurbishment schedules, adding or canceling planned downtimes weeks or days in advance. While this practice is still relatively uncommon in the grand scheme of things, it’s worth pointing out because it does happen.
Now, here’s a bit of our philosophy concerning refurbishments, with the specific example of the recent multi-year Disneyland Railroad refurbishment used to illustrate…
Thoughts on Refurbishments
Nobody likes a favorite attraction to be refurbished during their vacation. It means missing out and potentially not being able to experience the ride for another year or longer, depending upon the frequency of your visits to Disneyland. A couple of years ago, the Disneyland Railroad closed for an extended refurbishment due to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge construction.
At first, we were really disappointed. This might seem like an odd attraction to lament the closure of, but as Southern Californians with Disneyland Annual Passes, this was an absolute favorite of ours. We rode regularly when we wanted to rest our feet, or simply a break from the crowds. With the exception of maybe ‘it’s a small world’, we did Disneyland Railroad more than any other attraction.
However, that initial disappointment pretty quickly gave way to excitement. We began thinking about ways Disneyland Railroad could be plussed, improving the experience for years to come. Disney had already announced that some changes would be made (as the track needed to be re-routed), and we were excited for the prospect of new show scenes or other visuals.
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. 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 Disneyland 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.
Disneyland Railroad works as a good example here…in large part because it did receive significant changes and enhancements. (Arguably, the Rivers of America suffered due to being condensed, but that’s another topic for another day–we cover all aspects of this in our New-Look Grand Circle Tour of Disneyland post.)
The point extends to other attractions that have seen similar plussings, but also have more of a problem with effects breaking. Take Indiana Jones Adventure, for example. This is a ride that seems to get a refurbishment about every other year (sometimes more frequently) and we’d argue that it could probably use more regular maintenance than that.
If you are a long-term fan, would you rather experience Indiana Jones Adventure every single visit with 75% of the effects working, or every single visit minus one or two with 95% of the effects working? For me, the answer to that is easy. I’ll take a superior long term experience every time.
Beyond that, there’s the much more compelling justification for regular refurbishments: they are essential for the safety of attractions. While we may 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. Likewise, years of neglect at Disneyland Paris have led to incidents of injury that could be attributed to a lack of maintenance. In both cases, this has been addressed, and maintenance has improved considerably.
This is not meant to scare anyone or provoke an emotional reaction. 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 Four 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 Nunis-ian interpretation of the Four Keys, show is an important consideration, and it should always be 100%. This is a nice goal to strive for, but the practical reality is that 100% show quality is an unworkably high threshold sometimes.
In my estimation, this is a good example of balancing guest interests with show quality. Get the effects working that are easily fixable, and find other ways to address effects that are frequently breaking. We’re not talking about safety here, just random effects. Indiana Jones Adventure has had a number of effects disabled or replaced over the years because they were unreliable.
Guests are understandably concerned when it appears an inordinate number of attractions are closing during their vacation, especially out of state visitors. Trips to California 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.
With that said, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure ought to be publishing their routine refurbishment schedules several months in advance, allowing guests to plan around closures. Disney plans maintenance well in advance, and this info should be passed along to guests. For the most part, it is.
Obviously, unplanned maintenance can occur, which takes rides out of commission for hours or even days at the last minute. This is an unavoidable part of sophisticated theme park attractions, and there’s no real way to “plan around” this. It just is what it is.
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 Disneyland and Disney California Adventure attractions with show quality issues aren’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.
The end result of that thinking is a duct-tapped approach to attraction maintenance, with whatever work that can be done overnight accomplished, and two parks full of attractions with half their effects broken. First-timers would be left wondering why there was so much hype about Disneyland in the first place, as so many components of rides simply don’t work. If you’re reading this as a lifelong fan, well…maybe you wouldn’t have become a lifelong fan if this were actually Disneyland’s modus operandi.
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
Any questions about the current refurbishments at Disneyland Resort? 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!”? 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!