Disneyland Resort After the Holidays: Downtime, Closures, and Finding the Magicby Lisa Stiglic, contributing writer
It's mid-January already, and the holiday magic has dissipated from our favorite Disney parks. Attractions have been shut down for maintenance, some are closed temporarily for holiday overlay removal, and over in Disney California Adventure, it seems the back half of the park is closed to make way for the newly themed area—Pixar Pier. Even with the blackout restrictions lifted on annual passholders, the Disneyland Resort may not seem very enticing this time of year.
Time to sprinkle the pixie dust around and share with you that this time of year is one of the best times to discover what the Disneyland Resort is all about.
Closures and Maintenance
In Disneyland, the closures are actually minimal with Main Street vehicles, Splash Mountain, and Dumbo the Flying Elephant all down for refurbishment. Both Haunted Mansion and "it's a small world" are temporarily closed for holiday overlay removal.
As I mentioned above, Disney California Adventure's Paradise Pier is getting an overhaul headlining your favorite Pixar characters including The Incredibles, and Joy and friends from Inside Out. Mickey's Fun Wheel, California Screamin', Games of the Boardwalk, Boardwalk Bazaar, Sideshow Shirts, Treasures in Paradise, Point Mugu Tattoo, Don Tomas Turkey Legs, Hot Dog Hut, Ariel's Grotto, Paradise Pier Ice Cream Company, and the ever popular Cove Bar are permanently gone but will reopen with the new theming sometime closer to summer. Also shut down in Disney California Adventure, but for maintenance purposes, are Redwood Creek Challenge Trail (for holiday overlay removal), and Grizzly River Run.
January is usually considered the start of the off-season due to the aforementioned closures and shorter park hours. The crowds are typically user-friendly after the influx of annual passholders who returned in early January after a two-week blackout period. Once everyone gets their Disney fill early in the month, then the crowds tend to be tolerable.
Also, the weather can be a factor for attendance. Southern California's rainy season is typically January and February, which can reflect crowd-free days at the Disneyland Resort. Even though this year's rainy season has yet to be seen, we do have our fingers crossed for some precipitation in the next few months.
So, what does this all mean? We have closures in both parks, shorter hours, and lesser crowds with some possible rain in the forecast. Translation: go to the Disneyland Resort and experience something new. Buy an autograph book and fill it with character autographs; find every Disneyland Resort penny press machine and start a collection; create your own hidden Mickey game; or take in a show you've never seen before. Of course, if the crowds are friendly and the queues are short for the popular attractions, it's a perfect time to go, go, go. If it's just not the same without some of the attractions available or you're missing the holiday experience, take in a few overlooked experiences found in both parks. You'll be glad you did.
Since the Main Street vehicles are down for the time being, explore Main Street by stepping back in history at The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. This Disneyland showcase is two-fold as it includes both a self-guided tour of Disneyland's evolution and an educational homage to our 16th president and Walt Disney's favorite, Abraham Lincoln.
Disney icon Donald Duck and entertainer Steve Martin (who worked in the magic shop on Main Street as a teen) co-host a video presentation showing Disneyland's progression through the years. Photo by Lisa Stiglic.
Next on the Main Street tour is a nostalgic throwback from the era of black and white animation—Main Street Cinema. This old-timey venue showcases six of the original Mickey Mouse black and white shorts, and is a great location to take a moment and relax if you need it. Plus, if that rain ever does fall, you're covered.
If you're one to hurry along Main Street to your Fastpass destination or to catch up with friends, you may have bypassed one of the more intriguing and certainly time-honored traditions at Disneyland Park—the Disney Legends windows. More than just names on the glass, these hand-painted tributes celebrate the past Disney inspirations who put their marks on the Walt Disney Company. From Elias Disney (Walt's father) to the Sherman Brothers (who wrote the Mary Poppins music), dozens of contributors over several decades can be found hidden above Main Street as well as other lands.
The tour of downtime Disneyland would not be complete without a trip to the castle, and I mean into the castle with the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walkthrough. This hard-to-find entrance is located inside Fantasyland just to the west of the moat entrance. Look for the canopy above the doorway and take your time enjoying Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip's story as they battle Maleficent with the force of true love.
Disney California Adventure
With a good portion of the park closed for retheming, Disney California Adventure may not seem as inviting for the next few months, but remember that Toy Story Mania, Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout!, and Soarin' Around the World are still open to guests. Take advantage of the downtime and your Fastpass options to go on these attractions as much as possible. If you're a Toy Story Mania fan like myself, read up on unlocking the secrets to get the big points on the targets (including triggering the monster screen on the aliens' ring toss). If you want to take the leisurely route and enjoy the park at a slower pace, head to Hollywood Land and the Disney Animation Building.
Visitors can view the animation creative process in the Animation Courtyard, learn to draw characters with the Animation Academy (check times to see which characters are highlighted that day); take an interactive tour throughout the Sorcerer's Workshop; and have a chat with the Finding Nemo characters in Turtle Talk with Crush. It's easy to spend a few hours in the building and again, a great cover if the rain finally does fall in Southern California this month... or year.
Many guests wait for January to come around to do as much as possible when they visit. It's a perfect time to explore and appreciate what the park has to offer outside of parades, coasters, and the holiday extravaganza. Here's hoping you have a fabulous adventure and take your umbrella (you know, just in case).