When Walt Disney imagined Disneyland, he pictured it as a “family park where parents and children could have fun together.”
That idea really only lasted a few years, because the opening of Matterhorn Bobsleds in 1959 brought along with it the first height restriction.
Still, Disneyland Park, and to a lesser extent Disney California Adventure, have always been thought of as places families could enjoy, especially when compared to their Six Flags and Cedar Fair counterparts.
Some recent and upcoming changes have me wondering though…is Disneyland becoming too adult?
Before we even discuss the changes coming to the theme parks, let’s talk about what’s happening in Downtown Disney.
On the west end of Downtown Disney, kid favorite Rainforest Café and somewhat-affordable Earl of Sandwich have disappeared in favor of a new luxury 4-diamond hotel. The demise of the businesses in that area is more a matter of location than that of some nefarious plot to get rid of family-friendly restaurants. Still, that’s two fewer family dining options.
What’s happening in the heart of Downtown Disney is a little more troublesome. Both Build-a-Bear Workshop and Ridemakerz closed last fall to make way for new eateries.
Build-a-Bear was, of course, the mall favorite store where young guests could stuff and dress their own new teddy bear. Ridermakerz let kids choose and build their own remote control cars.
Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer does feature signature milkshakes, but they appear to be high end shakes that may or may not appeal to kids. Ballast Point will also have food, but is a regional beer maker and will feature an onsite brewery and tasting room…not exactly kid-friendly.
The news is not much better at Disney California Adventure.
Ariel’s Grotto, with its princess-themed character meals, has closed to make way for the Lamplight Lounge. The character restaurant was never as popular as its upstairs neighbor, the Cove Bar, so it only made sense to expand the lounge food downstairs. Lamplight does have a kids menu, including a PB&J Roll, but it won’t be nearly as kid-friendly as Ariel’s.
When California Adventure opened in 2001, one of the major complaints was that there wasn’t enough for younger guests to do, so Disney quickly rolled out A Bug’s Land in 2002. The land featured four new small attractions, with only one of them having a height restriction.
We learned in March, however, that the bugs will go away later this year as the area becomes a new super hero…can’t say “Marvel”…themed land.
The rumor is that Flik’s Flyers will be repurposed as an Inside Out attraction on Pixar Pier, but that is still a large chunk of kid-friendly attractions disappearing in favor of Marvel. At this point, we don’t know what kind of attractions we’ll see in the new land.
At Disneyland Park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens next year with two new highly-themed attractions. Both of which are sure to feature height restrictions. Still, Disneyland is in great shape, with less than 25% of its attractions having a height requirement, compared to more than 50% across the esplanade at California Adventure.
While I may think the Disneyland Resort is becoming too adult, I might be alone on my soapbox as hotels are full and theme parks are packed. Just watch Disneyland’s Twitter feeds each the weekend as they announce parking garage closures due to capacity.
Still, I would love to see more family-friendly attractions. I just don’t know where. With Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge eating up backstage space, Disneyland Park is FULL. There is no room to expand, so any new attractions will probably be replacements for existing attractions.
At California Adventure, the only major expansion pad is behind Guardians of the Galaxy-Mission: BREAKOUT!, which will surely be used as part of the new super hero area at some point.
There is some hope at Pixar Pier, with the addition of the Inside Out attraction and a bit of room behind the land for expansion. There could be a long wait for anything new though.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens in 2019, the super hero land is set for 2020, and the new luxury hotel debuts in 2021. Also during that time, Tomorrowland may need some attention with Star Tours: The Adventures Continue and Star Wars Launch Bay being orphaned across the park from Galaxy’s Edge.
Unfortunately, that leaves little time or budget to bring on any new family-friendly attractions at the Disneyland Resort in the near future.
I love all the new attractions that are on the way and I’m excited to see what’s in store for the Disneyland Resort in the future, but I still have to wonder…has the resort strayed too far from Walt’s original vision?
Additional images: Disney