Before Star Wars Land Construction Begins, Don’t Miss These Attractions

Star Wars Land has taken over Disneyland. Get on board or just be ready to tolerate it all for the next several years. The 14 acre, 2 attraction and cantina expansion will be years in the making and will cause more than a few headaches. Like Cars Land (only 12 acres, in comparison), this will take some work and some sacrifice.

Let’s take a look at what you need to visit prior to it leaving for good or going on hiatus during the construction. Don’t miss these things before they’re gone:

Gone Forever:

Big Thunder Ranch – January 11, 2016

Long lived as the seasonal gathering for Disneyland, this area will be used for Star Wars Land. It’s that weird place tucked back in the back of Disneyland where the goats are and the pardoned Thanksgiving turkey lands.

I’ve been told my cast members that the goats will go home in pairs or threes to suitable accommodations within the Disney family – meaning, the cast members get to take them home. This makes me SO happy and I love that they thought of the buddy system since the guys are so used to constant harassment interaction from children. It will be good to have a friend nearby during the life transition.

The other animals on-site will be placed with Disney cast members, too. The horses will be now housed off site and will be put on trailers to arrive for their 4 hour shifts down Main Street. The location off site is close by, so it won’t be a huge change for them because they are already put on trailers to arrive to the parks from the current ranch north of the park. So, it’s not like they’ll be barreling down the 5 on their way to work. Disney appears to be doing everything they can to make this transition as easy as possible for the animals.

Why This Matters: The ranch provided an oddly placed petting zoo in the midst of princesses. It brought a rustic, salt-of-the-earth feel to the park, mostly because of the livestocks’ fantastic handlers. There was something oddly charming, I thought, in that you could pay $100 to walk in the park and still find a petting zoo. Luckily, the goats will be headed to their new homes “together”. That makes me smile, regardless of the sad farewell.


Big Thunder Ranch BBQ – January 11, 2016

I spent my 40th birthday here, so don’t even start with me on nostalgia and being sad to let this go. Just kidding.

But, the BBQ joint will be leaving permanently to make room for Star Wars Land. This restaurant will close permanently on January 11, 2016.

Why This Matters: BTRBBQ was a staple for many guests when they visited. I was surprised to learn this in my research, as it is out of my budget. However, people LOVE this place. And, family style dining is hard to find anywhere around these parts, so parting ways with BTRBBQ will be difficult. Until then, please pass the corn.


Closing Temporarily – for about 1.5 years, if not more, beginning January 11, 2016:

Rivers of America, which includes:

Mark Twain Riverboat – No river? No boats. Also, rumor has it that the waters will be drained at least half way during construction. Why, Disneyland? (I’m guessing they’re rerouting the rivers to accommodate the new land.)

Sailing Ship Columbia –  Same with Mark Twain. You can’t sail a ship on shallow waters.

Davy Crockett Canoes – These don’t hold a lot of interest for me because 1. I’m awkward and would probably turn the boat over, 2. Why would I want to propel myself through an amusement park ride after I paid so much to get into a park that does such for me?, and 3. Well, unlike most, I probably have a dress on.

Pirates Lair Tom Sawyer Island – As with the waters, the island will be shut down temporarily. During those months, I’ll do my best to find Bob Iger and convince him that Pirates Lair is no replacement for the Tom Sawyer Island that we grew up with and love.

Why These Things Matter: The water and the raft ride over and the boats that filled those waters always provided a relief for guests on busy days. Without these options, the land-locked park will feel even more crowded.


Disneyland Railroad Stations – all 4 – no train will run until further notice. Here is where you’re going to get me. I was just walking through the park today and without agenda, took notice of the sounds around me. As I paid for something, I recall telling the cast member, “Can you believe the trains will be gone for so long?” She understood. What will likely resonate with me – and time will tell – is the silence the park will hold without the trains running constantly. This is what I fear most……..a quiet park. The Disneyland Railroad is the heartbeat of our nostalgic Disneyland. It should stop none of you from visiting, but for regulars, this will be an adjustment.

Fantasmic! – The show that started all shows is taking a break. You will have to find your own battle between good and evil during this time because Mickey will not be able to do it for you. He’ll be back, though. And, so will that dragon.

Why These Things Matter: When I think about these two drastically different parts of the park, one thing comes to mind: They are classics. So, without them, the park will feel different. The schedule for the night will feel different. I can handle all of that, especially with Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever as a distraction, but it will be an adjustment.


Not Related to Star Wars Land:

Aladdin, the fantastic Broadway quality show will end its 12 year run on January 11, 2016. It will be replaced with a Frozen Musical. I don’t know how quickly the new show will launch, but Aladdin is gone for good on January 11.

Why This Matters: This show was a HUGE hit and was consistently good. Everyone is sad to see it go. But, it’s time for a change.

All of the closures and refurbishment times are subject to change, of course, as Disney changes its schedule. I’ll keep this site updated as much as possible. You can also review my list of refurbishments.

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  1. I know a finish date for Star Wars land has not been released, but are there any rumored dates yet? I know everything will be down for about a year for current attractions, those that are not leaving permanently, just curious because my fiance and I are planning our honeymoon there and are looking at a Sept/Oct 2017 date. Would be nice for things to be up and running and a nice surprise if Star Wars land was open (which I know is a HUGE stretch).

  2. I grew up 20 minutes or so from Disneyland witnessed the rise of the Matterhorn, so I’ve seen a lot of changes. Not crazy about shortening the of the Rivers of America. Whenever I go home for a visit I go to Disneyland; I never knew you could get neverending bbq at Big Thunder Ranch! Will there be anywhere else at there that you can find bbq? (Hoping to come there this April.)

  3. I will be on Disneyland on January 9th, 10th and 11th. Will the atractions already be closed on January 11th or is that going to be the last day they run?

  4. Will there be downtime between the Aladdin and Frozen show change? We are first time DL visitors planning for February 2016. The trains make me so sad :-(. Can’t believe we will miss Fantasmic too! Ugh…

  5. My fiance and I were planning on Disney for our honeymoon, January 17th-20th. With all the closures I’m afraid that the park won’t feel right and we won’t have as good of a time. Am I panicking for nothing or are my fears justified? We’ve never been so it won’t be the fact that we are missing old things we loved, more that construction is noisy and messy and gets in the way and will take away the magic.

    • I don’t think you’ll really find it to be that much of a distraction. Disneyland is good at maintaining the magic, regardless of changes. Plus, Star Wars Land will be in the back of the park, so it won’t be an eye sore throughout the park.

      Likely, on your first visit, you wouldn’t even venture over to Tom Sawyer Island, so that’s not a huge loss. The boats are lovely, but you can live without them. The only thing I would be truly sad about is the train closure. But, I still think you’ll have a fantastic time. There is SO MUCH more to do.

  6. I’m SOOOOO bummed about Aladdin! Each show was made fresh/current by the Genie and his adlibs. I loved all of the pop culture references!

    As an annual passholder who tolerates Frozen (5 year old daughter) and doesn’t enjoy Star Wars, each update from Disney makes me wonder what else will be changed.

    Thanks for listening!
    Frustrated in Fantasyland

  7. Duly noted, one and all! As a first timer (well, aside from a half day or so on a cruise stop), I want to make sure I see and do it all, since I know so much will be different and/or gone if (WHEN!) I get to return. Except for the canoes… don’t think I would survive that. But I’ll take pictures!! 🙂

    • Jeanne, I would totally fall out of the canoes and take everyone down with me if I tried today. I have done them before, but now I know my limits. And, I know that avoiding lawsuits is smarter than fighting them.