Current and Upcoming Disney Parks and Resorts Refurbishments
Disney theme parks are always under construction. This constant need for improvement represents a nod to the company’s heritage, as Walt Disney himself invented the concept of plussing. He wanted his parks to improve whenever possible, and his successors have maintained that philosophy. Here’s a list of the Disney theme parks and Disney Vacation Club (DVC) resorts currently undergoing renovations.
At Magic Kingdom, two rides are closed right now. Soon, another ride will receive updates, while another attraction will shut down very briefly.
The primary refurbishment right now involves the Walt Disney World Railroad system that crisscrosses the park. Disney had to stop the railroad and lay new tracks, as the old ones interfered with plans for the reimagined Tomorrowland. Tron Lightcycle Power Run needed that space for its tracks.
Thankfully, Disney has made substantial progress in recent days. Observers have spotted new tracks that show the railway’s future path. Walt Disney World Railroad hasn’t operated since December of 2018 and probably won’t for several more months.
However, guests can still examine the vintage train at its current location, the Fantasyland station. Disney encourages guests to look around the train’s interior and take pictures. Cast members are even stationed here to answer questions about the Walt Disney World Railroad.
The other significant closure at the moment is Splash Mountain. The Frontierland attraction needed some repairs, and Imagineers usually address these issues during the winter months. Disney stopped it early in 2020, right after the holiday season. The good news is that it’ll return on February 28th.
Meanwhile, the other beloved Fantasyland ride, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, will undergo refurbishments. The schedule calls for maintenance from May 4th through May 21st. Just before that, Swiss Family Treehouse at Adventureland will briefly close from April 27th to May 4th.
Beyond these changes, Magic Kingdom’s mostly business as usual. Please be aware that Tomorrowland has a bit of disruption due to the Tron construction, though.
This theme park will remain under construction for the foreseeable future. Disney officials have boldly decided to redesign the core of Epcot, modernizing it for the rest of the 21st century. Even the most diehard Epcot fans—and I’m one of them—understand that the move is long overdue. However, it will disrupt park visits for a while now.
This past week witnessed more dramatic changes, as Electric Umbrella and Pin Central finally closed for good. Disney had announced both last year but kept them open as long as physically possible. Other places like Mouse Gear have temporarily relocated, and the Taste Track kiosk will become a burger joint for a while.
The most significant changes at Epcot involve the pathways. Temporary walls are up in a lot of places, causing confusion for guests. The routes that you’ve taken throughout your life might not be available right now. However, some new options will make you hope that they’re permanent. For example, you can walk from Spaceship Earth to Coral Reef in about 60 seconds, thanks to a newly opened path.
Epcot has also recently shut down Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. Disney’s DuckTales World Showcase Adventure will replace it soon. The other big news of the moment is that Test Track remains under refurbishment. It’s scheduled to re-open on February 27th. So, we’re only talking about a few more days of downtime.
Otherwise, everyone’s waiting for the most depressing refurbishment to begin. Spaceship Earth will close at some undetermined point in the near future. At that time, it will reportedly remain out of operation for 18-24 months, as Disney redesigns the ride.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom
The changes at the other two Walt Disney World parks are minimal. Hollywood Studios will close down one of its shows this week.
Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away operates for the last time on February 22nd. Disney needs the space for Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, which will begin cast member previews on that day. The prevailing belief is that all Star Wars shows and interactive experiences will transition to Black Spire Outpost. So, hosting this one at the Chinese Theatre doesn’t make much sense anyway.
Beyond this one change and the impending arrival of an anchor attraction, Hollywood Studios looks the way that it’s going to look for a while. With Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge running smoothly, Disney’s almost completed the dramatic overhaul of the park. Give Imagineers credit. They nailed the reboot.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Kali River Rapids is still in the midst of its annual refurbishment. Like Splash Mountain, it regularly goes down for repair in the winter months. It’s the season when people don’t enjoy wet rides as much anyway. So, the timing is optimal.
Kali River Rapids generally gets a few small repairs during its maintenance phase. Some of its Imagineering tricks have proven mercurial over the years. Disney fanatics know that the best time to ride it is right after the refurb when everything’s (hopefully) working again. The scheduled 2020 return date is March 21st, so plan accordingly.
Along these lines, I’m going to throw in one other update. Disney only keeps one of the water parks open during winter. At the moment, Blizzard Beach hosts guests while Typhoon Lagoon is down for maintenance. The plan is for the second water park to return on March 29th.
At the Happiest Place on Earth, two dramatic overhauls are underway. Snow White’s Scary Adventures is closed through the summer, when it’s expected to return with a more upbeat final scene. This attraction opened with the park in 1955 and has always emphasized the spooky side. So, most people are curious about the promised Happily Ever After ending. We’ll know more in a few months.
Haunted Mansion, one of Disney’s most iconic rides, closed in January. It’s expected to receive an extensive update and a fair amount of plussing. Interestingly, Disney’s filed some permits with the city of Anaheim that suggest new technologies at work. Disney has suggested a spring return, which means that we’re only two or three months away from examining the changes.
Two other beloved Disney attractions recently underwent repairs. The Mark Twain Riverboat closed from January 7th to February 6th, but it’s back in operation now.
Meanwhile, King Arthur Carrousel closed for a series of touch ups. The OC Register has published a story about how seriously cast members take the honor of working on Disneyland’s oldest attraction. It should be back on May 21st, and you should ride it since the carousel’s a part of theme park history.
Disney California Adventure
The colossal news at Disney California Adventure (DCA) involves the upcoming arrival of Avengers Campus. For now, the park changes are modest, though. Like its East Coast peers, Grizzly River Run was down for the winter but just re-opened on February 17th, a bit ahead of schedule.
The Red Car Trolley has broken a lot of hearts recently. DCA shut it down last April with the expectation that it would return at the start of 2020. That hasn’t happened, and some reports suggest that it may not be back AT ALL in 2020. Let’s all hope that’s just an oversight on the scheduling sheet. I expect it to return around the same time as Avengers Campus. If it doesn’t, that’s when I’ll worry.
About DVC Refurbishments
For DVC members, the other topic of note involves room and hotel refurbishments. As you know, Disney varies between soft goods and hard goods renovations. Soft goods include updating items like curtains, bedding, and carpeting.
Hard goods exchanges are more significant, as Disney changes the furniture and redesigns the rooms. Obviously, hard goods refurbs require a lot more work. The results speak for themselves, though. During the most recent DVC Condo Association Meeting, a Disney executive indicated that customer satisfaction results improved in 12 out of 13 categories after its refurb.
Current and Future DVC Refurbishments
Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa is amid a hard goods refurb. Imagineers literally tore some rooms down to the drywall, and the change is dynamic.
During a recent visit, my party stayed in one of the updated rooms while our friends were booked in a studio of the old style. The five members of our group universally agreed that the new version is better. Disney has indicated that Saratoga Springs will need until 2021 to complete the current changes.
At the Condo Association Meeting, DVC revealed the refurbishment schedule, which includes six additional properties beyond Saratoga Springs. We can expect soft goods improvements at:
- Aulani, Disney Vacation Club Villas (this year)
- Disney’s Beach Club Villas (in 2022)
- Disney’s Polynesian Villas & Bungalows (in 2022)
- Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (in 2021)
Disney will make wholesale changes in a hard goods refurbishment at:
- Boulder Ridge Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge (this year)
- Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort (2022)
The current DVC program requires that resorts receive soft goods refurbs every 7 years. Hard goods renovations occur every 14 years. So, your DVC purchase guarantees that you’ll always have something fresh and new at your resort every few years.