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Big Thunder Ranch

Big Thunder Ranch is a small petting zoo housing farm animals and a recreation of an old-fashioned homestead. In the area you and your children can interact with some non-animatronic animals such as cows, goats, and pigs. Sometimes you can even see one of Disneyland's working draft horses taking a break from pulling streetcars down Main Street.

General Information - Hide Section
  • Location: At the far back end of Frontierland, beyond Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Right before the entrance to Fantasyland.
  • Date Opened: Originally opened June 27, 1986 and closed in February 1996. Reopened April 2004.
  • # of Ride Units: None, this is a self-guided walkthrough attraction.
  • Ride Capacity: No specific limit.
  • Restraint Method: None
  • Ticket Rating: A Ticket
  • Ride Photo: No
  • Sponsor: Brawny
 
Time Commitment Information - Hide Section
  • Open/Close: Big Thunder Ranch generally does not open until noon and will close before dusk so that the animals can be put away for the night. Frequently on low attendance days Big Thunder Ranch will not open at all.
  • Wait Times: The attraction is lightly visited, even on pretty crowded days so generally there is no problem with lines for the individual pens.
  • Length of Ride: Self-guided.
  • FastPass: No
  • Single Rider: No
  • Queue Description: None.
Access Information - Hide Section
  • Health Restriction: Other than animal phobias and allergies, should be none.
  • Ride Access: The common areas of Big Thunder Ranch are ECV and wheelchair accessible, including the homestead. Individual animal pens, however, generally are not and even those that are have uneven dirt surfaces.
  • Wheelchair Transfer: Not necessary for common areas. Some animal pens require leaving a wheelchair or ECV and walking.
  • Service Animals: Yes, but not in the petting pens.
  • Audio: There is no audio for this attraction.
  • Weight and Size Issues: None.
Parenting Information - Hide Section
  • Height Restriction: No
  • Child Swap: No
  • Other Issues: Unless your child is uncomfortable with certain animals there should be none. Parents should keep in mind that while these are domesticated animals they can still react in unexpected ways to the abuses young children tend to heap on animals. Sanitizing hand wash is provided at the exit to Big Thunder Ranch and you should wash your children's hands (and your own) thoroughly if you've been in contact with any of the animals.
History and Trivia - Hide Section
  • At this location: This patch of land has been in use at Disneyland as far back as 1960 when it was part of Mine Train Through Nature's Wonderland (which itself was an expansion of Rainbow Caverns Mine Train). When that attraction closed on January 2, 1977, to make way for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad it began almost a decade of disuse for the area.
  • This Attraction's history: Big Thunder Ranch opened on July 27, 1986, as part of a larger complex containing not only the petting zoo but also Big Thunder Ranch BBQ and a stage for performances. Big Thunder Ranch housed pretty much the same types of farm animals as you find there now but the most famous resident was Mickey Moo, a cow with a "hidden Mickey" on her side. In February 1996, construction began on Festival Arena in the area behind Big Thunder Ranch (the arena was being built to house "Festival of Fools" a stage show based on the Disney movie Hunchback of Notre Dame. The petting zoo area was needed as an entrance/exit for the theater and closed, though Big Thunder Ranch BBQ would continue operation for several more years. After the Festival of Fools show concluded its run the area was closed off and unused until 2004 when the petting zoo was quickly revived as a promotional tie-in to that year's animated movie, Home on the Range. Initially the area was labelled as "Little Patch of Heaven" after the farm in the movie, the homestead was made up to look like the farmhouse, and posters of the movie's characters were on display. Eventually that tie-in was removed and the area returned to being just "Big Thunder Ranch," a petting zoo.

    In November 2005, Big Thunder Ranch became the home of two new semi-famous residents. Every year at Thanksgiving, the President of the United States "pardons" a turkey from the dinner table. Normally the turkey then lives out its life at an East Coast farm but in 2005 both Yam, the pardoned turkey, and a backup by the name of Marshmallow were shipped off to Disneyland to live out their lives at Big Thunder Ranch. Unfortunately, in the spring of 2006, Marshmallow took ill and passed away and Yam had passed away as well by September.
  • Other Trivia:
    • The coach: The front entryway of Big Thunder Ranch has been used as a chance to show off some Disney history since it reopened. Initially there was an stagecoach out there that had been used in the stagecoach rides available during the earliest days of Frontierland. Recently, there has been an old surrey parked there instead. This surrey was one of the originals pulled down Main Street by horses back in the 1950s and 1960s.


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