'Sup?! Tad here, the resident family thrill-seeker and videographer. I'm always keeping up with the latest hoppenings at Disneyland Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood (check out what opened during previous years)! Despite being temporarily closed until April 2021, both Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood still completed frogciting ride refurbishments and created special events to keep things fresh. Plus Avengers Campus finally opened for new recruits in June 2021 at Disney California Adventure, and The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash brought your favorite furry friends from the franchise to Universal Studios Hollywood.
As you plan an upcoming trip, reference this guide so you don't miss out on experiencing something new, especially if it's been a while since your last visit. Then, hop over to our what's coming to the Southern California theme parks post so you can get the scoop on 2022 hoppenings.
What Opened at Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood in 2021
Snow White's Enchanted Wish — opened April 30, 2021 — This classic Fantasyland dark ride, which has been around since Disneyland Park opened, recently got a makeover. Snow White's Scary Adventures underwent a major refurbishment just before Disneyland temporarily closed and was ready to reopen with a new name and enhanced — or should we say "enchanted" — storyline. It now has all-new scenes with new music, state-of-the-art audio and visual technology, LED black lighting, laser projections and a new animation system. Look to see Snow White dancing with the Seven Dwarfs, and take a whiff — is that fresh apple pie?
Take a virtual ride with us on Snow White's Enchanted Wish:
Snow White is now getting the "happily ever after" she deserves. We are hoppy to see that one of our favorite Disneyland scary rides is a little more fun for younger children and will be sticking around to delight many more generations to come. Don't worry! You can still see the witch on the ride and the evil queen still peers out the window above the entrance. As you may know, Disney World removed Snow White’s Scary Adventures dark ride in 2012 (although Disney World guests get to enjoy the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train coaster instead).
More chances to access Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance — reopened April 30, 2021 — This new ride in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was open for about eight weeks when Disneyland closed for the pandemic, so it is still a brand-new ride to the majority of guests now that Disneyland reopened. Step inside an epic battle between the Resistance and the First Order, with appearances by Storm Troopers, AT-AT Walkers and Kylo Ren.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is now operating with a standby line. People who wish to skip the line may pay a per person fee to use the Lightning Lane. Find out more in our guide to Disney Genie.
Haunted Mansion Refurbishment — opened April 30, 2021 — As Disneyland temporarily closed in March 2020, the Haunted Mansion was undergoing a refurbishment. It's time to "hurry baaack" to the Haunted Mansion. Look for some new hair-raising horticulture and new "tales" of tragedy in the pet cemetery outside (take a whiff near the skunk!). The spirits have done some redecorating in the portrait hall that they are dying to show you. As you approach your Doom Buggy loading area, look for the return of the "April to December" portrait. (We wonder where that Haunted Mansion original has been hanging around.) Watch the woman age before your eyes. Look for some new magical enhancements throughout the ride (especially in the graveyard) when you visit the 999 happy haunts' abode.
Adult Drinks at Blue Bayou — reopened May 27, 2021 — Diners at Blue Bayou restaurant in New Orleans Square may now order beer, wine and limited cocktails. Wait. What?! This news comes as a shock as Disneyland has had a strict policy against serving alcohol in Disneyland Park (outside of the exclusive private Club 33). Oga's Cantina in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge was the first bar to serve adult drinks, but guests are visiting Batuu and it's like they are on another planet anyway, right? But this brings drinks into the original theme park.
According to the OC Register: "Disneyland made the decision to add alcohol to the Blue Bayou menu after the park’s food and beverage team received thousands of requests over the years from international travelers and young adult visitors for more beer, wine and cocktail options at the restaurant."
Mommy Frog is chiming in. She says that after the year we've been through, a Hurricane cocktail or the sparkling wine with dessert package sounded pretty good to her. The competition for reservations is fierce. For kids like me and adults who do not drink, Blue Bayou has nonalcoholic seasonal varieties of the New Orleans Square mint julep and Louisiana lemonade. Yum! I prefer mine with a glow cube to set the right mood.
Jungle Cruise Encounters New Adventures — opened July 16, 2021 — The Jungle Cruise has some "gnu" adventures. The skippers and their "dry humor" already play a significant role in the ride experience. New additions to this classic attraction at both Disneyland and Disney World feature skippers out in the habitat with sinking boats taken over by chimpanzees and the skippers interacting with ... err, escaping from ... wildlife. As it turns out, the rhino still gets the point in the end. But that's not the "hull" story.
Disney Merriest Nites — select nights in November and December 2021 — A new, separately ticketed nighttime holiday party kicked off at Disneyland Park. Will it become a regular seasonal add-on to Disneyland Holiday Time? We don't know just yet, but we hope it grows in the future. Disney Merriest Nights at Disneyland took place on five select nights during November and December: Nov. 11, Nov. 16, Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Dec. 9, 2021. Tickets went on sale Sept. 14, 2021, both online and through the Disneyland app, and sold out quickly.
The event granted guests exclusive access to select attractions and entertainment from 8 p.m. to midnight. (Party guests were able to enter the park as early as 5 p.m. with no need for a theme park reservation.) In particular, Haunted Mansion Holiday, "it's a small world" Holiday and a special viewing of A Christmas Fantasy parade were available! For more details, hop over to our guide!
Plaza Point Holiday Shoppe — opened Oct. 21, 2021 — Speaking of the holidays, an all-new, year-round holiday store opened on Main Street, U.S.A. The photo shops in both parks have been moved to a new Photo Concierge just outside Disneyland's gates at the old Newsstand location. The Victorian-era Plaza Point Holiday Shoppe replaces the Photo Supply Co. in Disneyland Park. You can purchase Christmas decor year-round with Lunar New Year and Halloween overlays. The shop celebrates diversity and inclusion, representing holidays and seasons such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Lunar New Year, spring, Easter, fall and Halloween. Displays reflect seasonal holidays from around the world.
Disney California Adventure Park
Avengers Headquarters — exterior opened June 4, 2021 — The iconic Avengers Headquarters building opened when Avengers Campus opened, but the ride it houses will come at a later date. In the meantime, lift your eyes to the rooftops to spy Avengers and the Quinjet parked up there. The Avengers have heard reports that a villain called the Taskmaster is planning to break into the Avengers command center. Black Widow, Iron Man, Captain America, Captain Marvel and others greet new recruits and keep an eye out for threats. Should the Taskmaster and his crew appear, the Super Heroes are ready to spring into action. Watch for a confrontation that takes place all over the building, including the rooftop!
This building is the future entrance to a brand-new “E-Ticket” attraction (opening at a later date) that puts you right in the middle of the action. Step aboard a Quinjet and fly along with the Avengers to Wakanda and places beyond. Team up with the Avengers and fight alongside them to save the world in a battle against powerful villains. Do you have what it takes to defeat them? The brand-new ride technology is unlike anything you've seen before!
Avengers Campus — opened June 4, 2021 — A new Super Hero–themed land called Avengers Campus is now accepting recruits. You see, the Stark Expo in Hong Kong was attacked by the forces of Hydra, so that inspired the Avengers to set up new and unique headquarters around the planet to recruit and train the next generation of heroes. This new land was originally supposed to open in July 2020, but its opening was delayed until June 4, 2021.
Avengers Campus features Spider-Man and the Avengers, including members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Black Widow, Ant-Man and the Wasp, Thor, Loki, Black Panther, the Dora Milaje and Iron Man! Did you read that right? Iron Man!
Keep your eyes to the skies. What's most exciting is that a "struntronic" Spider-Man leaps and flips through the air over the rooftops and then a real live Spider-Man climbs down a wall to greet guests. It's toadally cool! Spider-Man swings through Avengers Campus in a redesigned Spidey-suit.
WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure — opened June 4, 2021 — An immersive, interactive ride-through attraction opened with the new land. WEB is an attraction-based organization (founded by Tony Stark). This is home to the new Spider-Man experience and is the first Disney ride to feature Spider-Man. Have you always secretly wished you could sling webs from your own wrist just like Spider-Man? Here’s your chance (thanks to immersive technology)! Attend an open house at WEB, where the inventors invite you to take a test drive of the WEB Slinger vehicle.
You can sling webs and help weave a web to trap Peter Parker's Spider-Bots. The bots are usually helpful, but it seems they have some bugs of their own and have gotten stuck in replication mode. Can you harness your own superpowers to save the campus from chaos? This ride has no height requirement and is appropriate for all ages. Take a look at Tad's video on our YouTube channel.
Speaking of Spider-Bots, both the robots and all-new WEB merchandise are now available at Downtown Disney and in the park at WEB Suppliers, Campus Supply Pod and Stage 17.
This ride was only accessible via a virtual queue but uses a standby line now. Guests who wish to skip the line may pay a fee to use the Lightning Lane.
Pym Test Kitchen — opened June 4, 2021 — You may be familiar with how Ant-Man and The Wasp can use subatomic “Pym Particles” to alter their size and mass, grow or shrink. Just wait until you see this eatery, where the foods are enhanced with Pym Particles. The foods may be shrunken down (with red particles) or grown (with blue particles) to a larger size!
Enjoy massive meals, tiny treats and shareable bites at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Being that the quick-service restaurant was built in an old lab facility, you can enjoy decor that includes giant soda cans and condiment bottles, and read the menu off massive cell phones! I am hoppin' excited to see the menus. I have a question though. Can I shrink my vegetables but expand my dessert (while keeping the calories and nutritional content the same, of course)? This location uses Mobile Order. Pick-up windows are released on a rolling basis throughout the day. For all of the delicious details, hop over to our super guide to Avengers Campus food.
PYM Tasting Lab — opened June 4, 2021 — This quick-service lounge serves adult beverages and snacks. The oversized beer can next door to The Pym Tasting Lab may clue you in to what kinds of beverages are available at this location. The Pym Tasting Lab is brewing up cocktail experiments, craft beers with unique beer taps that fill glasses from the bottom up and Snack Molecules.
The Sanctum — opened June 4, 2021 — In the late 1940s, a Stark Industries complex was built on a remote location near Los Angeles. There had long been rumors about unexplainable energies and events that took place. Now, Tony Stark has invited Doctor Strange to this Avengers Campus to teach recruits about the mystic arts. Doctor Strange has suspended the cloaking spells surrounding the area, revealing the Sanctum to the world! Wait, has it been hidden at Disney California Adventure this whole time?
See ancient ruins that have been hidden for centuries. Learn from Doctor Strange about an ancient battle that threatened to tear a hole in the fabric of time and reality and how that battle led to the creation of the Orb of Cagliostro. You'll want to visit at night when the Orb is known to be especially active. When it's dark, you might see the Sanctum flowing with magical energy!
You get to experience Doctor Strange demonstrating his mystical abilities, and he opens your eyes to the mysteries of the multiverse.
WEB Suppliers — opened June 4, 2021 — No doubt after riding WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure, you're going to want to get your very own Spider-Bot robot sidekick along with at-home kits to build webs and other accessories. Don't froget your Avengers swag and souvenirs at this shop!
"Coco" scene added to Mickey's PhilharMagic — debuted July 17, 2021 — A new scene made its debut in Mickey's PhilharMagic with "Un Poco Loco." The score is unique to Mickey's PhilharMagic and combines animation from both Pixar and Disney (with Donald Duck).
Magic Key Terrace — opened Aug. 25, 2021 — Members of the new Magic Key pass program have a new (OK, repurposed) bar and lounge for them and their guests to enjoy. The Magic Key Terrace (formerly Alfresco Tasting Terrace) is located above the Mendocino Terrace and offers rare views of the theme park from above. You must be with a Magic Key holder to visit. The menu offers tasty bites and drinks that are themed after early Disney California Adventure attractions (as well as beer and wine). The tadpoles love the nonalcoholic Heimlich Chew Chew Juice.
A Touch of Disney — select days March 18 through April 19, 2021 — Disney California Adventure Park opened its gates for a limited-time, limited-capacity, ticketed experience this past spring. A Touch of Disney allowed you to access the Disney California Adventure theme park for dining and entertainment, including your favorite characters AND your favorite theme park snacks. Rides remained closed. To see what hoppened during the sold-out event, hop over to our full event guide.
Pele Soccer — opened Dec. 15, 2021 — A new shop that sells soccer gear as well as club and national team jerseys, which can be customized with names and numbers, opened near Disney Home and Sprinkles.
Lovepop — opened Dec. 22, 2021 — This shop sells laser-cut, 3-D pop-up greeting cards, paper art and gifts. The intricate paper cuts are a modern take on kirigami, allowing the items to pop open into shaped designs. The location is near Disney Home and Sprinkles.
Tenaya Stone Spa — opened Sept. 16, 2021— The all-new spa opened at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. This tranquil space is inspired by the spirit of nature and California's heritage.
Disney Genie, Genie+ and Lightning Lane — launched Dec. 8, 2022 — In August 2021, Disney announced big changes to come to Disneyland Resort. New planning features are available in the Disneyland app using the Disney Genie feature to plan itineraries and manage your day in the park. The free FASTPASS system with paper tickets and kiosks is no more. MaxPass, the paid service, has been replaced by Genie+. Genie+ is a new paid service per ticket per day that allows guests to make ride selections in the app to shorten wait times by allowing guests to use the Lighting Lane. Like MaxPass, it includes PhotoPass downloads. Unlike MaxPass, it does not include the highest-demand ride — Radiator Springs Racers.
While standby lines and virtual queue rides remain free, there is a pay-to-skip the line add-on option for individual attractions that guests may purchase (individually or with Genie+) for up to two rides per day for either virtual queue rides or Radiator Springs Racers (which are not included in Genie+).
Universal Studios Hollywood
A Taste of Universal — select days March 12 through April 4, 2021 — A limited-time, separately ticketed event got us into the closed theme park for food, photos and a little wizarding magic. Rides and shows remained closed. Hop over to our Taste of Universal and Universal Studios Hollywood reopening post for all of the yummy details. The lands of the Upper Lot were open, with fan-favorite foods available. Adult tickets included five tastings and child tickets included three tastings. The event was held Fridays through Sundays from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Secret Life of Pets: Off the Leash — opened April 16, 2021 — If you’ve always felt like a puppy inside, then your imaginary tail must be wagging because an all-new immersive ride based on the "The Secret Life of Pets" movie series has arrived at the Upper Lot near Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem. The adventure includes star pets from the movies and gives you and other riders the chance to take on the role of stray puppies in search of a family.
Once you enter the incredibly themed queue, you'll come to realize from the other pets that you're a puppy in need of a home. The other pets are worried about you, so they work together to get you to a pet adoption event so you can find a family of your own. You'll weave in and out of New York apartments with talking pets in the queue and eventually hop in a cardboard box vehicle to get to the event. You'll encounter hyper-realistic media as you move through bustling New York City streets toward the pet adoption event and the ultimate hoppy ending: fur-ever homes. Your fellow animal pals help guide you toward their destination. You'll need to get groomed along the way so your new family cannot help but want to bring you home. What a treat! This ride opened when Universal Studios Hollywood reopened April 16, 2021. The ride exits into the new Pet Store, where you can adopt your own furry plush friend. This ride has a Virtual Line at times.
New Ending to Jurassic World — The Ride! — opened April 16, 2021 — This ride has evolved with an all-new ending! Watch as the lifelike Indominus rex lunges from the bushes and goes to battle with Tyrannosaurus rex ... and you're in the middle of it.
What a year! Thanks for hopping down memory lane with me to look at what opened at Disneyland and Universal in 2021.