New Rides, Special Holiday Events, and Expansions Happening at Disneyland and California Adventure This Year
2020 marks Disneyland’s 65th anniversary and if we know anything about Disney, it’s that they love to celebrate birthdays. Remember the castle cake monstrosity of ’96? We try to forget. I’m sure they will commemorate Disneyland’s birthday with some kind of special entertainment! Or at least some themed snacks.
While 2019 brought us the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the roaring 20s won’t provide anything quite as epic. However, there are still plenty of things to look forward to this year.
One thing is for certain, we’ll see a big expansion open in California Adventure and some new additions to Disneyland. We’ll also be treated to the opening of two new hotels within walking distance of Disneyland!
Be sure to check out my post Everything New Coming to Disneyland in 2019 so you don’t miss any of the new updates from last year. At the end of this post, I’ll cover returning events and future attractions coming soon to Disneyland!
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What’s the best time to visit Disneyland in 2020?
But first, let me answer this age-old question. There is no true “slow season” and every day is a busy day at Disneyland. I promise it will help if you go into the parks expecting crowds and long waits. Especially since Star Wars land is officially open and phase two of the land opens on January 17th.
I do have some tips that you can consider so you’re not experiencing busier than normal crowds.
When to Avoid Visiting Disneyland in 2020
Opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (Phase Two):
The new attraction, Rise of the Resistance opens on January 17th. It’s safe to say the parks will be packed that week and probably a couple of weeks after that.
Any 3-day weekend or national holidays will be busy. I don’t advise visiting during Thanksgiving, the week of Christmas, or on New Years. It’s the busiest time of year and they sometimes reach max capacity. The week after Thanksgiving or the first week of December has lower crowd levels and you still get to experience the Christmas magic.
It’s best to visit during the middle of the week if you can. Weekends see increased crowds due to the local Annual Passholders and folks visiting with their kids.
Mid-March to Mid-April tends to see more crowds because of school breaks too.
When to Consider Visiting Disneyland in 2020
As I said, weekends are busier than weekdays so it’s better to plan around this. Disneyland sees fewer crowds between Monday-Thursday during most months.
Slower than Normal Times of the Year:
The first week of March, the last week of April through May, the last two weeks of August into September, the first two weeks of November, the last week of November, and the first half of December.
Everything New Coming to Disneyland in 2020
Rise of the Resistance (January 17th)
Last year, we welcomed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. This is a huge addition to Disneyland and Disney World. The first phase opened with the attraction Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run as well as all the themed restaurants and gift shops.
This next phase opens with an even bigger attraction: Rise of the Resistance. This ride puts you in the middle of the ongoing war between The First Order and Resistance. It uses a combination of dark ride elements, walk-through atmosphere, a trackless car, and a drop ride system to take you through the story. It’s the most technologically advanced and incredible ride that Disney has ever created.
This new ride opened in Disney World last month and now we get to experience it in California! There are no MaxPasses available for this ride and guests will have to use the virtual queue process that was implemented in Disney World.
Rise of the Resistance Boarding Process for Disneyland
- Get to Disneyland’s main entrance EARLY. (At least 1-2 hours before the park actually opens.)
- Enter the park and open your Disneyland app. (The virtual queue won’t be available to book until the park is officially open during the published park hours.)
- Request to join a boarding group in the app. (Do this immediately after the park officially opens. Watch the clock!)
Magic Happens Parade (February 28th)
I’m stoked to see this new and truly DISNEY parade. This new show will have floats featuring classic Disney films like Sleeping Beauty. Disney’s hinting that there will be some extra magic that changes Aurora’s gown from pink to blue! An effect that will surely satisfy cosplayers everywhere. It will also feature our new heroes like Moana and Coco!
With a new song composed by the incredibly talented Todrick Hall, this show is sure to be heartwarming and nostalgic. I’m thinking it will be similar to Disney World’s Festival of Fantasy, which also displays our favorite classic films and music.
Snow White’s Scary Adventures Reimagining (Re-opening Around July)
Snow White hasn’t seen a face-lift since 1983. I think now is a good time to show this attraction some love. Imagineers plan to enhance the classic dark ride with a new animation system, LED/black lights, new music, and laser projections. They’re even adding a new scene from the movie! The attraction is closed now and is projected to open around Disneyland’s birthday in July.
This renovation reminds me of the Alice in Wonderland refurbishment they did a while ago. It was just enough to give the ride a polish without taking away from the original attraction. The exterior will also get a refresher which will be a nice enhancement to Fantasyland!
I’m just glad they’re not removing it completely. The technology inside classic rides like Mr. Toad and Alice in Wonderland may be outdated, but they’re filled to the brim with childhood nostalgia. I’m excited to see future improvements!
New Tomorrowland Entrance
This may seem like a dull update, but it’s going to improve the crowd flow at Disneyland vastly. In the last few years, Imagineers have been working to expand the walkways around the castle hub. The purpose is to control the increase of crowds that were expected for the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The wider entrance to Tomorrowland will help guide guests to different parts of the park after the fireworks and parades are over. And it looks snazzy!
Everything New Coming to California Adventure in 2020
Avengers Campus (Phase One: Summer 2020)
Ok, time for the good stuff! The Avengers Campus is a new superhero land that is coming to California Adventure sometime this summer. It’s also opening in two phases where the main attraction will open around 2022 or 2023. I’ve listed everything opening this year.
Worldwide Engineering Brigade (WEB)
This is the only ride opening in Avengers Campus this year. It’s a Spider-Man experience where guests sit in a “web-slinger” vehicle that simulates the feeling of slinging webs through the city. You’ll encounter classic villains like Doc Ock and help Spider-Man collect his missing Spider Bots. (I’m getting similar vibes to The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man in Universal Studios Orlando.)
Pym Test Kitchen
“The Wasp uses “Pym Particles” to grow and shrink just about anything!” This is a quick-service restaurant inspired by Ant-Man and will feature experimental dishes and drinks.
When the restaurant was first announced it was supposed to be a micro-brewery. (Get it? Ant-Man? Micro?) That would’ve been super cute. But, I’m sure California Adventure needs more food than booze at this point.
Avengers Meet ‘n’ Greets
The Marvel characters that roam California Adventure will now be centralized to the Avenger Campus. It seems like they’re adding some characters to the mix too! On campus, you can meet Black Widow, Ant-Man, The Wasp, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Super Heroes from Wakanda and Asgard, and Iron Man.
(P.S. Any Ant-Man/Paul Rudd look-alikes can feel free to DM me.)
Disney After Dark Series
It seems that Disney’s after-hour events are becoming more popular every year! The Disney After Dark series started a couple of years ago and they’ve added even more nights this year.
This year, they’re offering four themed nights where guests have the opportunity to visit Disneyland or California Adventure after the park closes for day visitors. These events tend to have fewer crowds and special themed enhancements and entertainment. This is a special-ticket event which means it’s a separate cost from a regular park pass.
Below are the four Disney After Dark events for 2020.
80s Nite (January 29 – Disneyland)
Last year we got 90s nite and now it’s time for the 80s! (What’s next? Y2K nite?) The throwback night will have a live VJ in Fantasyland who plays 80s music and music videos. You also get the treat of enjoying 80s themed food, special firework display, and photo ops. Disney allows (even encourages) costumes. Break out the Aquanet! Disney characters will be dressed in their 80s best too!
Sweethearts’ Nite (February 12th and 13th – Disneyland)
The cutest event of the year! This night is valentine themed with opportunities to meet some of your favorite Disney couples. Much like 80s nite, there will be a dance party that will feature love songs and a “royal ball” theme. Valentine sweets and love story photo ops will be available too.
PIXAR Nite (March 5th – California Adventure)
Now this I can get behind! I would absolutely love to dance with the Incredibles and hang out with all the other Pixar peeps. And who doesn’t want an excuse to dress up as Mike Wasowski? The photo opportunities for a Pixar themed night are sure to be amazing!
Villains Nite (April 30th – California Adventure)
Holding a Villians Nite in April feels a little weird. I imagine it’s being held in April to get more people into the parks during a slower season. Although, it’s nice that we have another opportunity to meet the bad folks of Disney outside of Halloween time! The party will be similar to the other three. You’ll experience a villainous DJ, themed food, and photo ops.
Two New Hotels Coming to Anaheim
In addition to the Disneyland attractions and refurbishments, Anaheim is getting two new hotels. The JW Marriott and Westin Anaheim Resort will be AAA Four-Diamond resorts within walking distance to Disneyland.
I do wish they would add a few more value resorts in the area and steer away from the deluxe category. Most families visiting the parks are in the middle class and prioritize budget over luxury. For more budget-friendly options and links to discounted rates head to my article: The Best Disneyland Good Neighbor Hotels for an Adults-Only Vacation
What else is new at Disneyland?
Tenaya Stone Spa (Spring 2020)
Tenaya will take the place of Mandara Spa at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. I was a frequent visitor to Mandara Spa, but I’m happy to see that the spa is getting a makeover. The space was quite small and didn’t measure up to the amazing spa experiences in Disney World. This new spa experience will be a must-do for all grown-ups!
Returning Events at Disneyland and California Adventure
Lunar New Year (January 17-February 9)
Returning for the third year in a row! This adorable event features Chinese-inspired cuisine, decorations, and entertainment. And we’re in luck because it’s the Year of the Mouse! That means plenty of photo opportunities with Mickey and Minnie dressed in culturally-inspired Chinese garb. You also might see appearances from characters in past Lunar events like Pluto (Year of the Dog) and The Three Little Pigs (Year of the Pig).
You’ll also get to enjoy Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession parade starring Mulan and Mushu, a special Lunar pre-show at World of Color, and performances by Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese entertainers.
California Food & Wine Festival (February 28-April 21)
California has some of the best food and wine the world has to offer. It’s natural that Disney takes advantage of this! Small kiosks are set up around Pacific Wharf and each one has a California-inspired theme. There are also cooking demonstrations, mixology classes, and wine seminars held by famous Chefs and Sommeliers. Be sure to try the Frushi! It’s a dessert sushi roll made with fruit, coconut rice, and a sweet creamy sauce.
This is a similar event to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival in Disney World. Albeit on a much smaller scale.
Oogie Boogie Bash
This is a special-ticket Halloween event that premiered in California Adventure last year. It’s Disneyland’s response to Disney World’s epic Halloween party. While the entertainment doesn’t measure up to Orlando, it does offer you a chance to go trick or treating in Disneyland! There’s also special food, drinks, merchandise, and Halloween themed overlays on some attractions. (The Nightmare Before Christmas theme is every Hot Topic fan’s dream come true.) To read more about it, head my article Halloweentime at Disneyland here.
Festival of Holidays (Sometime Between the First Week of November – First Week of January)
This is my favorite event of the year! California Adventure makes an effort to represent holidays and cultures other than Christmas during Festival of Holidays. The food kiosks serve cozy dishes and cocktails like Warm Bourbon Cider (so yummy!), braised pork Belly adobo, fried turkey sliders, and holiday tamales. The entertainment features musicians and artists performing various holiday tunes. The Disney ¡Viva Navidad! street party starring The Three Caballeros is also a real treat. And don’t forget to meet Santa at Redwood Creek Trail!
Christmastime at Disneyland
There’s really nothing more magical than Disneyland than during the holidays. I mean, it snows on Main Street! Even the grumpiest Grinch can’t deny how magical that is. At this time, the parks are covered in decorations, the Grand Californian Hotel features an enormous gingerbread house, there’s a special Christmas parade, Disney characters are dressed in their holiday best, and there are a ton of holiday treats everywhere you go.
The most famous treats are the hand-pulled candy canes available at The Candy Palace on Main Street. These are offered in limited numbers every morning so you have to get to the park before it opens. Once the gates are open, you head straight to Candy Palace to get in line.
And FYI, decorations usually start going up around the second week of November.
For more tips on planning your Christmas vacation head to my article: Everything You Need to Know About Christmas at Disneyland.
Coming Soon to Disneyland & California Adventure
Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (2022)
I’m very excited about this new attraction! Can you believe this is the first ride starring Mickey and Minnie at any Disney theme park? The concept is that guests are watching a Mickey cartoon short when they get sucked into the cartoon and become a part of the action. It will be a dark ride with 2 ½ D effects (3D without the glasses). I’m so happy to see Toontown get a new attraction. It hasn’t seen any big updates in many years. This ride will open in Disney World’s Hollywood Studios this spring if you’re itching to experience it.
Big Avenger Attraction (Name TBA – 2022/2023)
This e-ticket attraction (a.k.a very cool ride) will put guests on a Quinjet where you fly alongside Avengers and save the world. It’s sure to be epic! Hopefully, the technology will rival Rise of the Resistance. This will open in Phase Two of the Avengers Campus.
Disneyland is having a low-key year. This can be a good thing! We might see the crowds and anxiety soften a bit now that Star Wars and Pixar Pier is officially open. Also, since you made it to the end, I have two gifts for you!
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