Disney100: There hasn't been a better time for a Disneyland California visit in years

Feb 8 2023, 11:39 pm

Let’s face it, a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth for most people living outside of Southern California typically doesn’t happen too often.

A visit to Disneyland Resort in Anaheim is a rare, once-in-a-life privilege for some, while for others it can be a special visit every few years or even an annual pilgrimage — for both kids, and big kids at heart.

Disneyland Resort — encompassing the two theme parks of the world’s original Disneyland Park and the comparatively newer Disney California Adventure Park — is a magical experience year-round, regardless of when you visit.

But throughout 2023, there will be an extra shine to Disneyland Resort — akin to an extra layer of icing on an already frosting-covered cake, covered with 100 birthday candles, and even more happiness and magic.

There are new offerings and special programs to be found at Disneyland Resort this year, but we are not talking about the annual Halloween and Christmas seasonal periods.

Disneyland Resort has been designated as the physical heart of the global celebration of “Disney100” — the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company, which saw its beginnings in 1923 when Walt Disney and his brother Roy established the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio.

Such major anniversary celebrations at the Disney theme parks do not happen often, and they are typically dedicated to celebrating the milestones of the theme parks.

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Disney100 sign at Disneyland Resort. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

“Disney100” overlaps with the tail end of Walt Disney World Resort’s 18-month-long “50th Anniversary Celebration,” marking the significant birthday of Magic Kingdom Park in Florida.

The last anniversary celebration period at Disneyland Resort happened over an 18-month period between 2015 and 2016 when the resort marked the “Diamond Celebration,” the 60th birthday of Disneyland Park, with extensive new programming. And before that, there was the epic “The Happiest Homecoming On Earth” between 2005 and 2006 for Disneyland Park’s 50th anniversary.

“Disney100” is the largest celebration period for Disneyland Resort since the “Diamond Celebration,” and it is likely the only major anniversary celebration at this resort for years to come, until Disneyland Park marks its 75th anniversary in 2030. Major celebrations in 2025 for the park’s 70th anniversary, so soon after “Disney100,” are highly unlikely.

For these reasons, with “Disney100” officially underway as of January 27, there hasn’t been a better time for a trip to Disneyland Resort in years. And the celebrations will continue all year, with even more special moments planned closer to October 16, when Disney marks its centennial.

With all that said, what exactly makes “Disney100” so much more magical?

Mickey & Minnieā€™s Runaway Railway

After 68 years, Disneyland Resort finally has a ride attraction that celebrates the mouse that started it all.

The brand new Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opened on January 27, as part of the “Disney100” offerings. The whimsical ride takes guests into the world of Mickey Mouse cartoons when Mickey and Minnie’s plans for a “perfect picnic” literally go off the rails.

“You never know exactly where your vehicle is going to go, and guests on one train are going to see themselves rearranging in every scene, and that allows us to make it a very chaotic, fun adventure for everyone,” Jonathan Friday, a senior creative director at Walt Disney Imagineering, told Daily Hive during a recent press event at Disneyland Resort.

The ride is located within Disneyland Park’s Toontown, which will fully reopen on March 8 following an extensive redevelopment that expands and reimagines the land.

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Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Disneyland. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

“Wondrous Journeys” nighttime spectacular

As major components of the “Disney100” celebration, two brand-new nighttime spectaculars also made their debut in late January.

The most significant of the spectaculars is “Wondrous Journeys,” which pays homage to the work of all 62 animated films made by Walt Disney Animation Studios to date — a love letter celebrating the Walt Disney Company’s origins as an animation house.

Disney Imagineers closely collaborated with Walt Disney Animation Studios to create a kaleidoscope of animated projections on the castle, Main Street, and other areas of Disneyland Park. The thoughtful projections unravel the story of the “journey of the artist, the journey of the studio through the journey of our characters, and therefore us,” according to Jordan Peterson, a show director for Disney Live Entertainment.

“Wondrous Journeys” runs nightly with projections, and with the great enhancement of fireworks only on select nights, typically weekends. So far, “Wondrous Journeys” has been highly received, and regarded as one of the best fireworks shows at Disneyland Park in years.

Also, expect Baymax, the giant inflated robot from 2014’s Big Hero 6, literally streak across the sky on his rockets.

“World Of Color — ONE” nighttime spectacular

The other new nighttime spectacular created in time for “Disney100” can be found at Disney California Adventure Park.

The lagoon’s nighttime spectacular at Paradise Bay has been a staple of the resort for over a decade.

This new version of “World Of Color,” called “World Of Color — ONE,” is the first Disneyland Resort nighttime spectacular to feature music and moments from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation, and Star Wars and Marvel films.

The theme of “ONE” celebrates the difference makers through the characters of Disney’s properties, with a dazzling array of water fountain jets, lights, and projections illuminating a story of empowerment.

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World of Color – ONE at Disney California Adventure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

“Magic Happens” parade

The “Magic Happens” parade is returning after a years-long hiatus, but it is practically new. It originally premiered in late February 2020, with its initial run lasting for just two weeks before the onset of the pandemic.

Mickey Mouse and his friends will lead the energetic procession throughout Disneyland Park, featuring nine floats created as “pieces of moving art” and over 90 performers, including more than two dozen Disney and Pixar characters.

This parade will make its comeback during “Disney100” starting on February 24.

Everything you’ve missed over the years

Major new ride attractions have been added to Disney’s domestic theme park resorts in California and Florida every single year since 2016, and even more experiences are in the pipeline over the coming years.

Odds are you probably haven’t experienced some of the many additions made over the years — not just Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

The newest and largest attraction to be added to Disneyland Park in recent years is an entire Star Wars-themed land: “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.” Its two rides, set within the environment of an outpost on the planet of Batuu, are now some of the most high-demand attractions at this theme park, especially the Rise of the Resistance ride, which uses a suite of the latest amusement and immersive technologies to simulate the rescue of a Resistance crew and their battle against the First Order. This land first opened in 2019.

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Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Over at Disney California Adventure Park, an entire land dedicated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, simply named as “Avengers Campus,” opened in 2021. If you previously enjoyed the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, it has been given the new skin of Guardians of the Galaxy ā€“ Mission: Breakout!

And just next door, It’s Tough To Be A Bug! is now the Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure ride featuring a cameo of Tom Holland.

Perhaps you haven’t been to Disneyland Resort in many years — in this case, even “Cars Land” and its exhilarating signature ride, Radiator Springs Racers, could be “new” for you. It opened a decade ago when Disney California Adventure Park underwent a retheming, but this car race, through the same mountains featured in the Pixar film, remains one of the most popular rides at the resort, using the same ride technology as Test TrackĀ at Epcot in Walt Disney World Resort.

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Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure at Disney California Adventure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure at Disney California Adventure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

Experiencing all of the various rides, attractions, and experiences now found at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort can be made easier and more convenient by using the optional shorter “Lightning Lane” queue, available through the 2021-launched premium Genie+ service on the resort app. It is essentially an expansion and upgrade of the previous paid “MaxPass” offering, now made the default option for skipping long standby (regular) ride queues and completely replacing the previous free “FastPass.”

The Genie+ add-on to each Disneyland Resort pass starts at US$25.00 per day, with prices fluctuating depending on the day.

The initial rollout of Genie+ and its “Lightning Lane” was met with some controversy and criticism amongst Disney fans, but guests have reportedly warmed up to the service as of late.

Guests can repeatedly use Genie+ to book a ride using the “Lightning Lane” throughout the day, with the next booking possible after they arrive at the queue entrance within their assigned one-hour window. Ample flexibility is offered: Using a MagicBand+ or another pass product, guests can tap into the lane up to five minutes early before their scheduled window, and there is also a grace period of up to 15 minutes later after the window ends.

As soon as guests tap into the lane, right after the queue entrance’s sensor lights up green, they can use Genie+ to book their next ride using the short queue. There are no added fees to use this lane, apart from the required individual ride fees for the high-demand rides of Rise of the ResistanceĀ and Radiator Springs Racers. The first “Lightning Lane” booking of the day can be made as soon as guests tap into the park entrance.

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Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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Pym Test Kitchen restaurant at Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

In order to properly experience the great number of experiences found at Disneyland Resort, a multi-day park pass of three or four days to visit both theme parks is highly optimal, especially if you don’t want a frantic “Amazing Race” experience in the Happiest Place On Earth. A bare minimum of two days is likely needed to experience most of each park’s major offerings, and the two different full-scale nighttime spectaculars on select back-to-back nights.

During the press event recently attended by Daily Hive, across both parks using “Lightning Lane,” we were able to experience as many as 15 different rides over the course of a busy peak day.

Genie+ also doubles as a day planner and advisor, and the app even enables scheduled mobile checkout for select food and beverage services, providing yet another opportunity to avoid long lines.

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Buena Vista Street at Disney California Adventure. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

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