Disneyland Resort has announced a few fairly big changes to the California parks aimed at improving the guest experience and value for money in Late 2023 and 2024. This post shares details of the deals, changes, and perks, as well as potential motivations for the moves, and more.
Personally, I don’t think today’s lineup of news is nearly as positive. From my perspective, it’s a bigger deal for what it ‘represents,’ which is that Disneyland is cognizant of the need to improve guest satisfaction and value for money. Given the tone and angle of this news, it would seem that’s especially true with families. Let’s dig in…
Beginning October 24, 2023, guests can purchase a child’s ticket (valid only for children ages 3-9) to Disneyland Resort theme parks for as low as $50 per child, per day with a special kids’ ticket offer. Guests will be able to choose from 1, 2 or 3-Day Park tickets, with upgrades such as Park Hopper tickets or Disney Genie+ service also available to add on. These limited-time child tickets are a great value, and will be valid for use between January 8, 2024 through March 10, 2024. This ticket will have no blockout dates, and appears that it’ll be valid for both weekdays and weekends!
These special offer tickets will expire 13 days after the first day of use or on March 10, 2024, whichever occurs first. To enter a park, both a theme park reservation and a valid ticket for the same park on the same date are required. Theme park reservations for Kids’ Special Offer Ticket holders are limited in number and subject to the availability of park reservations allocated to the Kids’ Special Offer Tickets as determined by Disney and theme park capacity.
Reservation availability for Kids’ Special Offer Ticket holders is not guaranteed for any date, and reservations may be difficult to get for any particular date, especially as the ticket expiration date approaches. To ensure best availability, make reservations early. On any given date, park reservations may be available for general theme park tickets even though park reservations allocated to the Kids’ Special Offer Tickets are fully reserved. Kids’ Special Offer Ticket holders are not entitled to any reservations Disney makes available to others. Subject to restrictions and change or cancellation without notice. Sales may be paused from time to time or terminated at any time.
Speaking of park reservations, guests purchasing or holding theme park tickets will be able to view the theme park reservation calendar and book visits for dates up to 180 days in advance starting later in October 2023. This will help you have greater visibility into the theme park ticket options at a variety of price points on the calendar for the days you’d like to visit, including select days with tickets priced at $104 per day.
There aren’t any of these days this month or in December 2023, but there are a scattering of $104 days in November 2023 before Thanksgiving, as well as throughout January 2024. It’s likely we’ll also see more $104 dates in February (outside of Presidents’ Day and Ski Week) and maybe in early March 2024–before Spring Break arrives in full force.
Personally, this is non-news in my view. Park reservations for Disneyland and Disney California Adventure have become much easier to book, with it being very rare for dates on the regular ticket calendars to fill up more than a few weeks in advance. I can’t recall the last time anything was gone over a month in advance, but Thanksgiving and Christmas could buck that trend. So really, this gives the illusion of greater convenience or whatever, but changes very little in reality.
Nevertheless, I know how Disney planners are and there’s undeniably value in peace of mind. If I were planning a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Disneyland a year in advance from halfway around the United States or even another country, I might feel similarly. So I’m not pooh-poohing this change, either.
I do worry about Disneyland extending its reservation windows too much, (artificially) raising the stakes, and turning the planning process into Walt Disney World 2.0, though. The California parks are better enjoyed in a more laid back manner, and should stay that way. But I digress.
Another change is coming to the Genie+ service, as Disneyland is adding two family-friendly attractions to the bundle. First, the Little Mermaid dark ride at Disney California Adventure will join Genie+ in November 2023.
Second, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will switch from an Individual Lightning Lane to a regular Genie+ Lightning Lane sometime “soon.” Disneyland offers no indication as to when–it could be this month, next month, or sometime in December.
I don’t exactly love the idea of the Little Mermaid dark ride adding a Lightning Lane, especially after seeing what it’s done to Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue. Hopefully, this being higher capacity will mean it won’t have the same issues as there.
With that said, this will offer only illusory value to the Genie+ service, as skipping the line was not necessary here in the first place. A Lightning Lane here is a solution in search of a problem. It’ll only be “necessary” after the fact, when standby wait times increase due to the Lightning Lane. It’ll also be interesting to see the logistics of the Lightning Lane and standby line, merge point, and so forth.
On the other hand, moving Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway to Genie+ is a great move…well, for casual tourists who buy the line-skipping bundle! It’ll add more value for money to Genie+ and removes an unnecessary Individual Lightning Lane that offered poor value for money and was typically an immediate return (for a reason!).
As someone who does not buy Genie+ at Disneyland, I selfishly wouldn’t mind it retaining the Individual Lightning Lane. Sales for that were really slow, so the standby line moved at a pretty brisk pace (posted wait times have been incredibly overinflated for months). With Genie+ added, I can only assume actual standby wait times for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway are about to worsen.
Everything you need to know, including ride priorities, where it’s NOT necessary to buy Genie+ or Lightning Lanes, and much more is covered in our Guide to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Disneyland and DCA. (If you’re wondering why we haven’t done many updates on Genie+ at Disneyland Resort, it’s not because we don’t use it…it’s because there isn’t much to say. The system works just as well now as it did last year. Aside from ride roster changes and price increases, nothing ‘newsworthy’ has happened.)
Finally, as an extra bonus for Magic Key Annual Passholders, Disneyland is introducing “Magic Key Extras Unlocked.” According to the company, this is a new and “easy way to discover all the cool extras and experiences that are part of the Magic Key community!”
Disneyland reports that it’ll be rolling out Magic Key Extras Unlocked soon, and it’ll include a preview of a festive Disney PhotoPass Magic Shot and complimentary holiday tote bag coming in November (while supplies last), and a new Magic Key popcorn bucket – with $1.75 refills for a limited time – available for purchase starting in January (while supplies last).
To learn more, visit the magic Key Extras Unlocked section on Disneyland.com or the Magic Key portal on the Disneyland app. Whether you’re a frequent Disneyland Resort visitor or you’re planning for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, there are so many ways you can choose to customize and prioritize your picks and preferences.
No Magic Keys are currently available for purchase, but perhaps that will change post-price increase. (Not being available won’t stop Disney from raising prices on them, if that’s the plan.) I wouldn’t necessarily count on that, especially heading into the heart of the holidays, as Disneyland is likely to be pretty consistently busy between October and mid-January 2024.
Due to California’s slower reopening than Florida, pent-up demand at Disneyland has lagged Walt Disney World. But if the latter is any indication, Disneyland is likewise going to hit a wall in early 2024, and will need to pull its own “levers” to entice back locals and tourists. Resuming Magic Key sales and offer more AP appreciation is probably one way of achieving that.
Ultimately, it’ll be interesting to see what happens in 2024 with revenge travel clearly fizzling out. Disneyland is likely on a similar trajectory as Walt Disney World has been for the last ~6 months, albeit with different demographics. Nevertheless, if the Florida parks are any indication, we’re going to see more discounts and improvements to the guest experience to lure back disillusioned fans. The big difference is that Disneyland only has 3 on-site hotels and a lot more locals that don’t need or want resorts, so more will necessarily have to happen with the in-park experience.
I’ve said it before, but my money is on entertainment. Unless guest satisfaction on it was really bad (doubtful), bringing back Rogers: The Musical in 2024 is obvious. It also seems probable that Wondrous Journeys will return, but I could see Disney withholding that until summer and bringing back something else this winter (please no Mickey Mix Magic!). Beyond the obvious, my personal wish list would be topped by Paint the Night and the new scenes added to a reimagined Fantasmic. I also would love to see Remember…Dreams Come True again, and another cultural event at Disney California Adventure.
What do you think of these changes at Disneyland? Will these positively impact your visits to the parks? Even if they will not benefit you, personally, do you applaud these as incremental steps in the right direction? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!