Planning a summer vacation to the Happiest Place on Earth? Disneyland is ever-changing, and every season brings something new. This 2019 year has more new attractions, shows, parades, and everything else that will make any Disneyland vacation special and memorable. From the continued expansion of Pixar Pier to the big reveal of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (FINALLY!) at lot has been in major flux the last few months. Following all the Disneyland news lately may feel like drinking from a firehose, so this post breaks it all down. Find out what you really need to know about what’s new at Disneyland this spring and summer 2019.
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If you are planning a spring or summer visit of your own, make sure you read to the end to find out how to save big on your vacations with Trips With Tykes partner Get Away Today. There are ticket specials and deals galore going on right now.
Now on with what’s new at Disneyland this spring and summer….
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
I won’t bury the lede – what everyone wants to talk about right now is the biggest Disney news of the decade – Star Wars Land! Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge finally opened on May 31, 2019 after years of anticipation. This major expansion has brought the universe of Star Wars to life on the planet of Batuu in a settlement called Black Spire Outpost. I was there on opening day and have a ton of detailed coverage for readers who want to devour it all:
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Tips & Touring Strategies from Opening Day at Disneyland
- Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland: Video Tour & First Look Photos
- What Disney Got Right (and Wrong) with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
The May 31 opening day was surprisingly quite a bit earlier than many of us expected. The reason the land could open early is that it opened with only one of the two attractions planned for the land. Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is open for business, but guests wishing to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will have to wait a bit. Rumors are swirling that the opening of the second ride may not be until well into the fall.
Guests wishing to visit between opening date and June 23, 2019 have to have a special reservation time to enter the land. There is no FASTPASS or MaxPass option for now. All guests were able to participate in a public lottery for these reservations earlier in May that sold out in less than two hours! So it goes without saying that the land is in extraordinarily high demand.
But all hope is not lost any of you reading this and visiting Disneyland during this reservation period, even if you don’t have reservations yet. Guests staying in Disney on-property hotels (Disney’s Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel) will be guaranteed a reservation time during their stay. If there is ever a time to splurge on an on-property Disneyland hotel, this is it! (Check out my Grand Californian vs. Disneyland Hotel comparison guide to help you in your hotel booking decisions.)
Starting on June 24, Disneyland will move to a virtual queuing system to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
In addition to the ride, what everyone has been buzzing about are the unique food and merchandise offerings. Meals are decidedly not the usual theme park fare, with plenty of veggies and grilled meats in a way that is slightly reminiscent of Satu’li Canteen in Pandora: The World of Avatar. The point is to transport guests to the planet of Batuu with a menu that would actually be served there. Disneyland has released foodie guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for an even more in-depth look, and I rated the best and worst food in Galaxy’s Edge in an article on The Points Guy.
The merchandise is undoubtedly next level awesomeness (and I’m not even a merch fan!). With build-your-own droid and select-your-own lightsaber choices, even casual Star Wars fans had better start saving for a visit. Each of these merchandise purchasing opportunities are experiences and attractions unto themselves, so plan for them to take some line and for serious queues, particularly for the lightsabers at Savi’s Workshop.
How are crowds? Only time will tell. The reservation times have undoubtedly cut down on some of the overcrowding and have kept the line for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run to a more reasonable length for now. But things will change again once the reservation period ends.
Pixar Pier Expansion
Pixar Pier has been opening in stages, starting last summer with the opening of the Incredicoaster and the Pixar-Pal-A-Round. And in April of this year, another ride was added to the waterfront.
Jessie’s Critter Carousel — a re-theming of Triton’s Carousel — opened with new whimsical animals to ride on. This attraction has been a fantastic ride addition to the area for toddlers and preschoolers, who have not has as much to do in Disney California Adventure since the closing of A Bug’s Land in September 2018.
The photo opp of this area is undoubtedly the giant Jessie out front, a worthy partner to the giant Woody that stands outside of the entrance to Toy Story Land in Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios.
Of course, Pixar Pier is not yet done. Not yet announced is exactly when the Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind (a retheming of Flik’s Flyers from A Bug’s Land) will be opening, adding another kid-friendly attraction to round out the land. Disney recently told us opening date will be “this summer” and testing has been happening lately, so watch this space for continued updates!
New Annual Pass Offering: Disney Flex Passport
Disneyland surprised us all with the announcement this May of a new annual pass option clearly directed at controlling crowds at peak times.
The Disney Flex Passport is a brand new option and became available for purchase beginning May 21, 2019. I bought one myself just 10 days later so I guess I’m a early adopter (or at least a guinea pig for all of you!).
Priced at $599, it’s the second-cheapest annual pass Disneyland offers (the cheapest — the $399 Southern California Select Passport — is only available to residents from a limited number of SoCal zip codes).
The Flex Passport doesn’t have very many blockout days and it has quite a few weekdays that are automatically available for passholders to enter (called “good to go” days). How it will control crowds is due to a large number of intermediate days when passholders can only enter the parks with a reservation. These reservations-required days are generally weekends year round as well as the entire peak summer season.
Reservations can be made up to 30 days in advance on the Disneyland app or website. There will be penalties for no-shows but passholders can also cancel up until 11:59 pm the night before their reservation with no penalty. And passholders will be further limited to making 2 reservations within a 30 day period. Disney will be able to limit the number of reservations available and better control the flow of guests on busier days.
The buzz thus far is pretty positive about this new annual pass, but where the rubber will meet the road is how hard the reservation times are to obtain. I’ll certainly have first-hand reports and a review in the coming months. If you are considering purchasing any kind of annual pass, be sure to check out this Disneyland annual pass guide for even more of a breakdown.
World of Color Has Returned
World of Color has been much-missed, but it finally made its glorious return to Disney California Adventure in February 2019. If you’ve never seen it before, the show includes video and light projections displayed on spurting fountains of water and mist, all set to a familiar Disney soundtrack. It’s really pretty breathtaking, even if you aren’t much of a fan of evening shows.
To secure the best viewing areas for World of Color, you’ll probably want to book a dining package. They are expensive, but a lot of guests really care about having a great view for this show. I think they are well worth it if you fall within that camp.
There are also plenty of decent reserve viewing areas if you simply grab a FASTPASS. These passes used only to be distributed near Ariel’s Undersea Adventure every morning but Disney recently made them digitally available as well with MaxPass (note: Fantasmic! in Disneyland park is also digitally available with MaxPass). These FASTPASSes are not tied to the other attraction FASTPASSes in the park, so they won’t affect your eligibility for reserving rides. Guests not using MaxPass really do need to grab FASTPASSes now even earlier because MaxPass users have a jump on you!
To get the best spots in the World of Color reserve viewing areas, you’ll want to arrive up to an hour in advance of the show. But there are a lot of spaces with good vantage points. On my last trip, I arrived to my viewing area only minutes before the show started and still was able to see all of it, admittedly from a bit of a side perspective.
Downtown Disney Transformation
Downtown Disney has been under construction in a major way for quite a long time, and now all those construction walls have finally yielded some amazing results. Multiple new storefronts and experiences have opened in Downtown Disney in the last several months including:
Pop-Up Disney: A Mickey Celebration
Instagram loving Disney fans – this is the place for you! Disney recently opened a museum of sorts, filled with colorful backdrops for taking the perfect Disney selfie. It’s a pricey experience at $30 per person during the daytime on weekdays and $38 on evenings and weekends.
Pop-Up Disney is a limited time offering, closing date TBD. Check out a full Pop Up Disney review from This Fairytale Life.
Ballast Point is a very popular Southern California craft brewery. This restaurant features an enormous selection of beer as well as higher-end pub fare like burgers and fish tacos.
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes
The most anticipated opening of the year in Downtown Disney finally happened with the addition of Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes. Black Tap has diner style food but is best known for its over-the-top “Crazy Shakes” — expensive and highly-Instagrammable concoctions big enough to feed an entire family. Some shakes are topped with an entire slice of cake and others with cookies or a churro. Dieters beware.
Black Tap has been very popular thus far so expect long lines well into the summer. The restaurant has to-go window for somewhat faster service. Check out The Happiest Blog on Earth for a full Black Tap review for even more details.
Other New Attractions & Offerings To Look Out For
While not as big as the major events and expansions like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pixar Pier, Disneyland has lots of smaller new offerings and updates all the time. This spring and summer, look for the following too:
- A Brand New Look for Sleeping Beauty Castle. The castle has been under construction all spring, and Disney surprised us all with a much deeper and darker blue! I have to admit I was a skeptic from the photos but I fell in love after seeing it in person!
- Disneyland Forever Fireworks Return. After the Get Your Ears On Celebration closed along with Mickey’s Mix Magic, the Disneyland Forever Fireworks from the 60th anniversary returned on June 7, 2019.
- Tale of the Lion King. Also on June 7, a new live Lion King show debuted at Disney California Adventure. The show is outdoors and a bit smaller than the Festival of the Lion King that plays at a number of Disney parks, but is an entirely original retelling that looks very compelling.
- Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures. A new character meal debuted this spring — Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures at Napa Rose in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. At $125 per person ages 3+, this is the most expensive character meal at Disneyland by far. But it is also a much more involved experience with storytelling, gifts, and a truly over-the-top menu. I dining there on May 30, so look for my full report in my Disneyland Character Meal Guide coming soon!
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic. This classic 3D movie that has played in Disney parks around the world has come to Disneyland. Find it in Hollywood Land in Disney California Adventure. (Insider tip: The theater is a great place to beat the heat on hot summer days.)
- Tropical Hideaway. In case you missed it in 2018 (it opened just a week before Christmas so very possible!), Tropical Hideaway is Disneyland park’s hottest new quick service restaurant. Located in Adventureland near Jungle Cruise, the restaurant serves a variety of Dole Whip flavors and bao buns.
- Whitewater Snacks. This quick service restaurant in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa reopened in February. The new menu is getting rave reviews, definitely making it more of a destination rather than only a place to grab a bite for breakfast before DCA Extra Magic Hour.
- Tangaroa Terrace. Not to be outdone, the Disneyland Hotel’s quick service restaurant got a serious overhaul as well. The seating area is larger and more open, and there’s even a window just for Dole Whips (with rum, if you prefer!).
- Disneyland Hotel Pool Reopening. In late May, the Monorail Pool finally went back into business after some renovations earlier this spring.
- Designer Ears. The headband Minnie ear craze may have started with rose gold and millennial pink, but it has officially reached a fever pitch. At $27.99, ears were always a more affordable souvenir for sure. But no longer! Now designers are getting in on the action for some very pricey unique offerings coming out in phases all summer long.
- Online Booking for Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique. No need to call to make a reservation for this princess makeover experience anymore – it’s bookable in the Disneyland app and on the Disney website now. Like dining, availability opens 60 days in advance.
- Soarin’ Over California Returns. The original is back! While Soarin’ Around the World in Disney California Adventure was a worthy upgrade, you can now experience the California local flying fun again for a limited time engagement this summer.
Summer Disneyland Vacation & Ticket Deals!
With all that is new, there really is no bad time to go this spring and summer to Disneyland. But I want to make sure you are getting the best deal whenever you are going! There are some steals right now for Disneyland vacations, and you’ll save even more booking them through my trusted partner, Get Away Today. Get Away Today offers tons of extra little perks to clients and has in-depth Disneyland travel experience so you won’t be led astray by a travel agent who doesn’t really know the resort.
Right now, the best ticket deal is the 5th Day Free ticket which is good every day from now until the end of 2019.
Remember also to book your Disneyland Resort hotel through Get Away Today. Get Away Today has availability on many days when Disney’s direct booking site does not! Guests at the three Disney resort hotels get guaranteed reservations to enter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge from May 31-June 23, 2019.
If you are booking a vacation package with a least 2 tickets and 2 nights of hotel, use the code TYKES10 for an additional $10 off.
Already Gone for the Season!
(Editor’s note June 17, 2019: The following events below are complete for 2019, but I’ve kept descriptions below to help you in planning for 2020.)
Disneyland Food and Wine Festival at Disney California Adventure
The Food & Wine Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World has been a favorite for more than two decades, but its time in California has been fairly short. It returned in 2016 after many years on hiatus, expanded substantially in 2017 and 2018, just keeps growing for even more culinary adventures in 2019! The event ran this year from March 1, 2019 until April 23, 2019.
Hosted in Disney California Adventure, the event this year featured celebrity chef demonstrations, 14 marketplaces for food and drinks, and lots of surprises. For the kids, they could enjoy the foodie fun by taking part in kid cooking classes with Chef Goofy.
I attended the opening weekend of Food and Wine in both 2018 and 2019 – be sure to check out my recently updated guide to Disneyland’s Food & Wine Festival for lots of insider tips and photos of the amazing food.
Get Your Ears On – A Mickey and Minnie Celebration!
Disneyland traditionally has a spring and summer themed celebration (last year’s was Pixar Fest), but the fun started even earlier this year with the Get Your Ears On Celebration. Launched in January 2019, this special event embraces and celebrates all things Mickey and Minnie on Mickey’s 90th anniversary year. There are special parades and shows, limited time food and treats, character meet and greets, and new merchandise.
The versions of Mickey and Minnie used in much of the theming are the ones from the new cartoon shorts (the same that will be featured in Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway opening in Walt Disney World in 2020 and Disneyland in 2022). The celebration’s mood is in keeping with the high energy whimsical nature of these characters and is sure to capture the attention of your kids.
This celebration officially will have its last day on June 6, 2019 — not long after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens. Here are the key highlights for the celebration while there’s still time:
Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
This parade debuted at Disneyland in 2011, but had been on hiatus the last few years in favor of Paint the Night, the Main Street Electrical Parade, and the Pixar Play Parade. It’s back and with several new additions.
The parade’s bright colors and upbeat theme are in perfect keeping with the Get Your Ears on Celebration. Disney fans of all stripes will find a float or character that appeals to them, as the parade features everything from multiple princesses to the Jungle Book to Mary Poppins. Mickey’s Soundsational Parade usually runs twice per day at 3:30 and 6:00 pm, but always check the Disneyland app or showtimes guide to be sure on the date of your visit.
Mickey’s Mix Magic
Disneyland has also launched a brand new evening show in Disneyland Park as part of the Get Your Ears On Celebration. The show uses projection technology on the castle, along the storefronts of Main Street USA, on its a small world, and on the Rivers of America to surround guests in multiple locations with the full experience. Fireworks run as part of the show on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights, weather permitting.
The soundtrack is highly danceable and the show includes a number of fan cartoon favorites, from Coco to Haunted Mansion to lots of Mickey and Minnie. I got to see the show multiple times this spring and I must say that it is super-high energy and just pure fun. Did I dance in the street and not care who was looking at me? Yes! You will too!
Mickey and Minnie Food & Merchandise
What’s a celebration without lots of fun food and merchandise? There is a special menu at multiple restaurants throughout the park during the Get Your Ears on Celebration. The merchandise is extra cute as well, with the stylized Mickey and Minnie characters featured prominently along with bright primary colors.