Disneyland Resort Update: Castle Closed, Beer Open, and Refurbland Returns

Disneyland Resort, Anaheim, CA

Welcome to the first DLR update of the year! We’re now six months away from the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and also 0 months away from the off-season maintenance and busy work that doesn’t really occur in the off-season because there really is no off-season anymore. Ready for this week’s latest at Disneyland, California Adventure, and Downtown Disney? Read on…

Pixar’s Pinocchio Pal-A-Round and Fox and Friends and Friends and Associates Parking Structure featuring Marvel Motorpool and Star Wars Shuttle Stops and Other Acquired Licenses aka the Cleo Structure

Just because we passed through the holidays doesn’t mean construction took a break. The new parking structure adjacent to Mickey and Friends continues to move forward… mainly because it has to. If “Star Wars” Land opens without this thing ready to go, the Resort is going to be hit with so much congestion that it’ll make the 24-hour days look like child’s play.

Well, maybe not that bad, but parking infrastructure has already been lacking at Disney for a while, so the new structure is sorely needed just to avoid the Mickey and Friends shutdowns that already happen on busy days when guests (mainly Annual Passholders) flood the park just to visit.

Fortunately, the structure of the structure is getting there. The north side has been built up to the sixth and top floor for a while, and the south side is up to the fifth. The escalator promenade also continues to progress, with a pair of escalators installed. There’s still no progress on the bridge that’s supposed to span Magic Way and connect into the Downtown Disney parking lot, but hopefully, that can be done relatively quickly. In the meantime, the crews just keep pressing forward.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

This year’s most anticipated debut continues to move along too. And while most of the progress is hidden from public, non-aerial eyes, there’s been one positive development: those isolated rock towers that looked like cake pops a few weeks ago have filled out, with the plaster rockwork progressing down to roof level. Though there will be plenty of gaps on the backside of the rockwork that will be visible to people outside the park, it’s good to know that the towers will at least look somewhat whole.

Also, if you didn’t notice it, you can explore an aerial view of Galaxy’s Edge from last year on Google Maps. It’s not the latest view, but it provides a nice idea of how the interior layout is shaping up.

Ballast Point Opening

Big news is booze news at the Disneyland Resort. Ballast Point officially opens today! There was a media event last Friday, and the restaurant has been soft open since the weekend, but today is big official premiere! Early reports have been positive, as the menu and wide selection of beers have been a nice hit. The service seems to be pretty speedy, and the ambiance is great too, with lots of nautical touches both realistic and mythical. Our friend, Heather, from Disney Food Blog, even had a chance to take her family to sample the eats and gave this new flagship class establishment high marks!

One drawback for some people might be the prices, which are set at a resort premium. Even compared to SoCal typical gastropub prices, a lot of the items seem a couple dollars more expensive than elsewhere. It’s the same issue as with Splitsville, in my opinion. On the other hand, there does appear to be a great selection of craft beers, include some experimental brews available only at this location. And though the focus is on adult potables, there is a kid’s menu and a welcoming ambiance that makes retains a family-friendly atmosphere. This is not an environment devoted solely to drinking—although booze is definitely an important facet!


As January rolls around, it’s time for the Disney attractions to go through their annual refurbishments and maintenance projects. Some rides, like the Haunted Mansion, have gone down to switch back to regular season mode. Others, like Grizzly River Run, are receiving their yearly checkup and TLC.

The biggest project, however—one that will last a few months—is the long overdue refurbishment of the Sleeping Beauty Castle. The castle has retained its decorative toppers at its turrets and towers for four years now, since the 60th Anniversary makeover. During this time, Mother Nature has certainly thrown its fair share of elements, and with Galaxy’s Edge’s upcoming debut ushering in a new era for Walt Disney’s Original Magic Kingdom, it’s a good time to get the castle spick and span again.

Unfortunately for out-of-town guests visiting the park for the next few months, it means that photo you want in from of the castle isn’t going to look that great, since a certain former Westcoaster special guest writer has built a wall around the park’s central icon. And he’s making you pay for it! But we’ll get to that in the final section of this update.

Marvel Land

In California Adventure, that other Disney IP expansion is going on. I keep on missing it during the daytime, so you get dim shots of bits of building progress over the work walls. Don’t worry. The former Bug’s Land won’t reopen until next year, so there’s plenty of time to observe more notable progress.

Pixar Pier Construction

Meanwhile, Pixar Pier still technically isn’t complete, and it won’t be until later this year when Jessie’s Critter Carousel and the Inside Out: Emotional Whirlwind attractions are complete. Right now, the former is making more progress than the latter. Although the former also has a much greater head start than the latter. Also, it looks like they’re working on World of Color again. Hopefully, they can get that back online before the summer—perhaps with a new version of the show even—to help offset crowds escaping Disneyland after Galaxy’s Edge opens.

Lingering Christmas

For those of you who like Christmas, just because The Holidays at the Disneyland Resort® are over doesn’t mean Christmas is gone. There is still evidence of the holidays in certain areas of both parks, if you look for them in the right places.

…But mainly Small World, Frontierland, and Grizzly Peak.

Mickey & Minnie Celebration Upcoming

This past November was Mickey and Minnie Mouse’s 90th birthdays, and to celebration, the Disneyland Resort is launching a promotional celebration that will feature specialty food, souvenirs, plus a not-quite-fireworks show/dance/projections party at night. Hmmm… a local, long-standing theme park creating an even in January to honor its most beloved characters? Sounds like someone noticed what Knott’s did last year with its Peanuts Celebration. Regardless, for the Mickey & Minnie Celebration, banners and merchandise have already shown up around the Disneyland Resort, and the artwork and style does look pretty adorable. It’s pretty much the kawaii style in which Disney has animated Mickey and friends in their most recent cartoons.

Also coming as part of the Celebration is a new nighttime entertainment show at Disneyland Park. Taking place concurrently on Main Street, in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, along the Rivers of America, and by the Small World viewing promenade, Mickey’s Mix Magic will bring a collection of remixed songs from Disney’s extensive animated motion pictures to nighttime splendor, partnering them with projections, lasers, and even a few fireworks (on weekends only, it appears). It isn’t a proper fireworks show. Instead, it’s a pared down version of what Disney has been doing with its recent full fireworks shows—adding viewing areas to increase capacity for their nighttime entertainment (even if people on Main Street and The Hub are the only ones who see the full effect of the show). The projection show will debut this Friday.

On top of that, Mickey’s Soundsational Parade will return next Friday, with a new lead float to kick things off.

Murder Crows

I also wanted to take this time to remind you that this is the time of year when blackbirds cluster on the bare winter trees around the Resort during the dusk hours, looking all menacing and haunting, then scatter into the air like a Hitchcock movie. Are they a murder of crows, or murder crows?

Ticket Prices

Finally, to pay for the Sleeping Beauty Castle border wall, and as you not doubt saw on your Facebook feed last week, the Disneyland Resort has once again raised its prices. This should be of no surprise to people who’ve been paying attention for the past two decades. Prices have gone up every year (and on at least one occasion, twice a year), and a single day admission has more than tripled since the year 2000. More recently, Disney has been doing its price hikes about every 11 months or so.

Single Park, Single Day Passes for adults have changed as follows:

  • “Low Demand” Days: $97 -> $104 (7% increase)

  • “Regular Demand” Days: $117 -> $129 (10% increase)

  • “Peak Demand” Days: $135 -> $149 (10% increase)

For park hopper, add $50 to the single park price. This part has not changed in price. But it does mean a single day adults park hopper ticket in the summer will now cost nearly $200, which can definitely be very difficult to stomach.

Annual Passports have gone up as well:

  • Southern California Select: $369 -> $399 (8% increase)

  • Deluxe: $729 -> $799 (10% increase)

  • Signature: $999 -> $1149 (15% increase)

  • Signature Plus: $1149 -> $1399 (13% increase)

  • Premiere: $1579 -> $1999 (27% increase)

In addition, parking has gone up from $20 to $25 per car (25% increase), while a single day Max Pass has increased from $10 to $15 (50% increase) and an Annual Pass Max Pass add-on is up from $75 to $100 (33% increase).

These are steep, no doubt (remember when the Premiere pass first came out, and it was $749 to go to all parks in both California and Florida Resorts?), but they’re about in line with most recent price hikes. They may even be lower in certain scenarios. Last year, Disney did away with its Annual Passholder renewal discounts, which had been $20 off for the SoCal passes, $40 off for Deluxe, and $60 off for Signature and above. For me, this mean going from my previous $799 (for which I had paid $739) in 2017 for my Signature Pass all the way to the full 2018 price of $999—a 35% increase! In comparison, 15% seems a relief!

That said, I’m by no means downplaying yet another increase in the cost to visit the Happiest Place on Earth. Although Disneyland isn’t an entitlement, it is a place that many people dream of visiting, and the fact that a single day’s visit for a family of four will cost $1000 for tickets, food, and maybe a small amount of souvenirs, but excluding transportation (and lodging, if applicable) is kind of crazy. Not so much if you look at it from the metric of back in the day, when a family might save up for a trip that was literally once in a lifetime. But we view Disney as more accessible these days, and it stings to place such a hefty price tag for a day’s happiness.

For Southern California residents, there is relief. Right now through May 23rd, locals can purchase a three day, one park per day ticket for only $179, or pay $234 for the park hopper version. They can be used at any time from now through May 23rd, except for April 14-22. That’s significant savings over even the regular three-consecutive day pass available to the general public.

It should also be mentioned that these price hikes continue for two primary reasons:

  1. The parks continue to be packed, mostly from the local AP population, so the pricing is an attempt to control this volume.

  2. People continue to pay despite the increase. They still find value in visiting Disneyland and California Adventure, despite their costs. It’s capitalism. The market can bear the hikes, so Disney will continue to do so.

With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge coming this year, the demand doesn’t figure to drop anytime soon. In fact, while I’m not surprised and can’t really complain at the price changes from earlier this month, I worry that Disney may do another increase in June, just before the new land opens. Disney increased prices twice in one year just a few years ago, so the move would not be unprecedented.

And to be honest, a day’s visit to the local Disney parks still does offer a pretty good value compared to many local entertainment options, with only movies now falling below Disney on a “cost per hour” basis. Lets take a $199 single day parkhopper ticket. Assume the average guest with this ticket spends a “full day” at the parks. That can be up to 16 hours for someone arriving at rope drop and then closing out the park, but we’ll assume 12 for a more conservative average. That gives us a cost of a little more than $16.50/hour of entertainment. Compare that to other options:

  • A movie ticket costs anywhere from $12 - $16 a person at a standard theater, which is $6 - $8 an hour assuming an average 2-hour movie. But if you want to compare apples to apples, to match up with Disney’s premium product, a luxury theater chain should be used. Those are around $25 a ticket, which is $12.50 an hour. That’s less than Disney, but not by much.

  • If you want to go to a concert? Well, even a somewhat known artist at a small venue will run a person $50 for a show where, factoring the openers, one might get 3 hours of music at most. That’s $16.67/hour. But want to go to a show featuring a famous, high demand artist? Tickets are $100 - $200 or more depending on the seats. That’s at least double our Disney per hour price.

  • Want to go to a sporting event? The cheapest ticket I pulled up to the next Lakers home game was just under $200. That’s for the nose bleed section. It’s much more for closer seats. For a game that typically lasts around 3 hours or so, that’s $66/hour minimum.

  • How about skiing? Big Bear offers single day adult lift tickets for about $80.50 when purchased in advance and online. A typical full day there can be up to 7.5 hours, so the resulting $10.75/hour is cheaper than Disney—although it goes up if you have to do ski/snowboard rental and other gear. Of course, making the argument of premiere attraction vs premiere attraction, most snow sports folks will say that Big Bear is definitely not among the best around. A better comparison of a top tier destination might be Mammoth Mountain, which is just under $130 for a peak day lift ticket when purchased in advance online (it’s $159 day off in person!). Mammoth is also open 7.5 hours on a full day, so the math there works out to $17.33/hour. More than Disney.

And if you were to take a single day non-park hopper, or if you were to increase the number of hours spent at the park, then the price for Disney goes even lower.

All of which is to say that, yes, Disney is expensive. But recreation in general is expensive, and comparatively speaking, Disney does still offer a pretty good value, if you compare like for like. And while it definitely sucks that they keep on raising prices well beyond the rate of inflation, leaving a sour tastes in the mouths of fans who remember that Walt Disney said “Disneyland is your land” (but perhaps taking that a bit too literally), this is the reality of things.

I’ve gone through my own times of bitching and moaning in the past, especially since my pass typically gets among the highest percentage increases. And I recognize that there will probably come a day where I won’t be able to afford an annual pass for myself. But at that point, either I make adjustments to my personal finances, or I give up the pass and put that money toward other use. It will be bittersweet, but I no longer find merit in complaining about these types of things.

You, however, are the internet reader, so if you want to complain, or if you have reactions to this closing dissertation, feel free to chime in below in the comments sections! Agree with them or not, I’m always interested in seeing different reactions.

MOO-lah! Er… bah! (?)

Architect. Photographer. Disney nerd. Haunt enthusiast. Travel bugged. Concert fiend. Asian.