What’s New & Next at Disneyland for 2021
New rides, restaurants, lands, hotels, parades and other entertainment are coming soon to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure in 2021 and beyond. This includes info on what’s new and next, opening dates, construction progress, expansion plans, and more. We also cover the importance of each and whether you should wait to visit until they’re open.
We used to cover this in our 2021 Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide. However, that’s already pretty long and we figured we could cover everything new and coming soon better via a separate post. Of course, what’s “new” is in the eye of the beholder. If you are an Annual Passholder, much of what we discuss here is old news. By contrast, if you’re a first-timer, everything is brand new. We tend to take a middle ground approach, treating everything in the last year or so as new.
For starters, there’s construction. Actually, there isn’t a whole lot of visible construction at Disneyland right now and we don’t foresee much on the horizon, either. Between the Diamond Celebration and opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, there were was a ton of construction, much of it being part of Project Stardust…
Project Stardust was (is?) a concerted effort to enhance the guest experience, beautify the park, and improve crowd flow in Disneyland. It resulted in the removal of clutter, widening of walkways, plus aesthetic changes like the new Adventureland entrance and new-look Sleeping Beauty Castle.
In large part, Project Stardust was a realization that the crowds brought during the Diamond Celebration would become the “new normal” post-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and for which Disneyland’s 60-plus year old infrastructure was inadequate. Most of it wrapped up when Galaxy’s Edge opened, but it’s not entirely finished.
The most noticeable Project Stardust construction project at this point is the beautification of Tomorrowland, which is a Band-Aid in lieu of a wholesale redo that the land desperately needs. With so much else happening around Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, this is (somewhat) understandable.
In any case, the Tomorrowland aesthetic refresh and the Avengers Campus project in DCA are about the only construction that impacts guests. This is a far cry from the ubiquitous construction walls throughout Disneyland and Disney California Adventure only a couple years ago.
Now let’s move on to what’s new and what’s next at Disneyland Resort, and near the resort in Anaheim…
Magic Happens Parade – Disneyland debuted the new Magic Happens daytime parade about two weeks before the park closed (we never got to see it). The parade features an energetic score including music from Frozen 2 and other films, and a new theme song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall.
This parade is led by Mickey Mouse, and will feature Coco, Moana, Frozen, and other characters–including ones that aren’t as frequently represented in Disneyland entertainment. It’s unclear whether the Magic Happens Parade will return right when Disneyland reopens, as its performers have been laid off.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge – The largest addition to Disneyland in several decades (literally), Star Wars land occupies a massive portion of Disneyland, and feels almost like a separate park. While the initial reaction was mixed and didn’t drive attendance in the way expected, we are big fans of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
It’s not perfect, but it’s an incredibly ambitious land unlike anything else at Disneyland.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – This is the best new attraction in decades, and one of Imagineering’s best-ever accomplishments.
Due to a combination of sky-high demand, glowing reviews, and reliability issues, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has used a virtual queue and boarding pass system on both coasts. It can be frustrating, but it’s well worth the wait!
Pixar Pier – Most of Pixar Pier opened a couple of years ago as a makeover of Paradise Pier. The Pixar rebranding was (and is) half-baked in a number of ways, thematically incoherent, and not really offering anything new of substance. The one bright spot is Lamplight Lounge, which is a refresh of Cove Bar.
Last year, Jessie’s Critter Carousel and Inside Out Emotion Whirlwind both opened in Pixar Pier. These are both overlays of previous attractions at Disney California Adventure, so not really net gains.
Downtown Disney Revitalization – On a more exciting note than Pixar Pier, Downtown Disney has seen a revitalization, with a slew of new restaurants and retail opening in the last couple of year. Standouts include Salt & Straw (the best ice cream at Disneyland Resort) and Black Tap Craft Burgers & Shakes.
While Downtown Disney did suffer a setback and misstep with the premature closing of several venues for Disneyland’s cancelled luxury hotel project, the gains more than offset the loses.
Grand Californian Refresh – We’d stop short of calling it a reimagining, but the Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa has seen a slew of upgrades in the last couple of years. Last year, the brand-new GCH Craftsman Bar opened to rave reviews (including ours) and the new-look GCH Craftsman Grill debuted an exceptional new menu. Additionally, Disney Princess Breakfast Adventures started at Napa Rose.
Other enhancements were made around the lobby and elsewhere, with work in progress on a new spa (which technically should be in the ‘coming soon’ section, I guess). Finally, the guest rooms were entirely redesigned, something we cover in our Photo & Video Tour: New Rooms at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel post.
JW Marriott, Anaheim Resort – The first of two new AAA Four-Diamond hotels opening in Anaheim last year and this year, joining the Grand Californian and Disneyland Hotel as the city’s only other luxury hotels with the same rating.
Located at the Anaheim GardenWalk, the JW Marriott Anaheim Resort has a convenient location within walking distance of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. After years of stagnation, GardenWalk is now and up and coming dining, entertainment, and shopping complex (Disney should’ve bought it when they had the chance). This luxury hotel is a Marriott Bonvoy Category 7 property.
What’s Coming in 2021
Avengers Campus – This Marvel-themed land is the “big” construction project at Disney California Adventure, with the first phase debuting in Summer 2021. Avengers Campus will open with Worldwide Engineering Brigade, an interactive attraction featuring Spider-Man. It’ll also have Pym Test Kitchen, a restaurant with small and large food (I guess?).
Avengers Campus will also offer a variety of character meet & greets, including Black Widow, Ant-Man and The Wasp, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Super Heroes from Wakanda and Asgard, and Iron Man. The flagship attraction of Avengers Campus will debut in phase 2. We think DCA still needs a lot more than this to hold its own with the iconic park across the esplanade, but hopefully Avengers Campus will exceed our expectations.
Snow White’s Enchanted Wish -The iconic Fantasyland attraction, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, has been updated inside and out and work on the overhaul is now finished. It’ll debut with the park whenever Disneyland reopens.
New scenes including a vignette showing Snow White in a beautiful forest setting waking up from her deep sleep. A new finale will also be added, featuring Snow White as she’s reunited with her animal friends and a shimmering castle is visible in the distance.
To our knowledge, this is the only scheduled refurbishment that will result in substantive attraction upgrades. To see what other closures are on the horizon, consult our 2021 Disneyland Refurbishment Calendar.
Westin Anaheim Resort – If you’ve noticed cranes and other equipment behind Pixar Pier and wondered if Disney California Adventure was expanding, we have bad news for you…the Westin Anaheim is the project you’ve seen. If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy member or fan of luxury hotels, we have some good news for you…the Westin Anaheim is the project you’ve seen!
Yhe Westin Anaheim Resort takes over the former grounds of the Anabella Hotel adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center and within a short walk of Downtown Disney. This newly-constructed property is fairly massive, with 618 guest rooms aimed at appealing to conventioneers and tourists alike. The Westin Anaheim will be the city’s fourth AAA Four-Diamond hotel, and will be a Marriott Bonvoy Category 5 hotel.
Coming in 2022 and Beyond!
Disneyland Hotel DVC – Disney will be building a 350-room Disney Vacation Club tower as part of Disneyland Hotel to debut in 2023 or 2024.
The new 12-story Disneyland Hotel DVC tower would be located between Goofy’s Kitchen and the Frontierland Tower. The DVC villas building will somewhat mirror the existing 1955 design of the other Disneyland Hotel towers. Those are styled after Adventureland, Fantasyland, and Frontierland.
Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway – In 2023, Disneyland will open the first major Mickey Mouse attraction as an expansion to Toontown (since this is a backstage expansion, construction doesn’t impact guests). Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway puts guests inside the wacky and unpredictable world of Disney Channel’s “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts.
Guests board a train with Goofy as the engineer and jump into the cartoon world with a zany, out-of-control adventure. Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will use state-of-the-art technologies and dazzling visual effects to transform the cartoon world into an incredible and immersive multidimensional experience. This same ride debuted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios last year, and it’ll be a cute addition to Toontown.
Avengers Campus Phase 2 – In a move reminiscent of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the flagship attraction of Avengers Campus won’t open in the same year as the rest of the land. In the Avenger’s Campus’ subsequent expansion several years from now, the Avengers Headquarters will debut.
This will be the entrance to a brand-new E-Ticket attraction where guests will step on board a Quinjet and fly alongside the Avengers in an epic adventure to Wakanda and beyond. Guests will team up alongside the Avengers in a battle to save the world from one of the most powerful villains they have ever faced.
There’s no official indication as to when Avengers Headquarters will open, but our suspicion is late 2023 or sometime in 2024. (If the project is not cancelled.) Construction on this attraction has yet to begin, and Disney has indicated that Imagineers are still conceiving of an all-new innovative ride system for this Avengers E-Ticket. As we’ve noted before, Disney’s phase two projects have a propensity to get cancelled…
If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site or on-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!
Which additions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are you most excited to experience? Are you delaying your next trip to maximize seeing ‘new stuff’ or moving it forward to see these new attractions, lands, and restaurants? Anything you’re not looking forward to? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
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