Readers ask: Surprising your child with a Disney trip? Plus more

August 19, 2016, 11:02 AM · Let's open the virtual mailbag and answer some questions from Theme Park Insider readers. If you'd like to submit a question to a future mailbag column, just email us at


First off, let me say I am a big fan of your site. As someone who used to vacation at Disney World once a year growing up, and spent a year working on the college program at Splash Mountain, I say without a doubt that you have the best (and most reliable) website dedicated to theme parks and definitely understand how they really work and what makes them great. Your site is truly a pleasure to read.

Now, my wife and I traveling to Hong Kong Disneyland next month, and I have found that news in general/details on upcoming attractions at park are quite scarce. I know they announced that they began ride testing for the Iron Man Experience in May, but as far as I can see they have not released any further information regarding an opening date... Are you aware of any info about when they are planning to open the ride? Any chance for next month? Maybe a soft opening?

Also we were bummed to discover that Paint the Night is also going offline there as of 5 September (which from what I understand is the same time as in California). The website says it will be closed for a Special Event, is there any chance they are expanding their Halloween party into September?

Thanks for taking the time to read my email. I truly appreciate it.

All good things,

Thank you for the kind words Colin! Hong Kong's been Disney's smallest resort ever since it opened, and with Shanghai Disneyland commanding so much attention in its opening year, Hong Kong seems to have fallen into deeper obscurity among fans. Which is too bad, because it remains the one-and-only home of the beloved Mystic Manor and many of us can't wait to see Disney's first Marvel-themed ride... even if it appears to be another version of Star Tours.

We reached out to Hong Kong Disneyland for some information, but, of course — given that they're Disney and we're Theme Park Insider — no one responded. And even WDI sources seem to be uncharacteristically silent about what's happening with Iron Man. (The recent layoffs and buyouts certainly have helped, uh, encourage everyone who stayed at WDI to lie low.) The only hint we've gotten is a Hong Kong newspaper's interview with Disney's Marvel VP for brand development in Asia, in which the ride is tipped now to open "late this year." If I were betting on this, I'd wager that means after the Halloween event concludes, so maybe in November.

As you mentioned, Paint the Night is closing for a seasonal refurb on Sept. 6, mostly because of the Haunted Halloween event that takes over the park in October, but the park is extending the downtime into September because... well, why not save a few bucks by not running a parade during a traditionally slow month? Especially with the park's 10th anniversary celebration ending then. As far as we've been able to gather from sources in Hong Kong, the schedule remains the same for Haunted Halloween this year: Fridays through Sundays in October. Have a great trip, and be sure to post a report on the Discussion Board when you get back!

Surprising the kid to a 5 day Disneyland trip any ideas on the revel? Going to tell them the day of. Thanks can't wait to hear the ideas. - Matt

This is tough question to answer because it depends so much on the personality of your child. I'll assume that your child likes surprises, given that you're writing for advice on this. I know that I would have hated a last-minute reveal when I was young — but I was a little control freak who wanted to participate in every aspect of planning our family's vacations instead of having stuff sprung on me at the last minute. Which is why it surprised exactly no one in my family when I became a travel writer as a grown-up.

The key for any parent, though, is that no matter what you do, if you want your child to be enthusiastic about the reveal, you have to be enthusiastic about it. If you're having fun, your child will pick up on that, and amplify it. You mentioned telling them the day of the trip. You can play this two ways: telling them first thing in the morning, or just heading out and letting the destination reveal itself along the way. The second, passive/aggressive, approach works for some families, but I'd vote for the first-thing-in-the-morning reveal. Dress up in your Disneybounding best, fire up the Mickey waffle iron, decorate the kitchen with whatever Disney stuff you have, and make it a Disneyland-themed breakfast to kick off the day. Then do the reveal right after they've eaten something. (If you don't have a Mickey waffle maker, you can make a three-circle Mickey-head pancake with no special equipment.)

Just make sure that you are exuding giddy excitement from the moment you child wakes up, and do what you can to make that excitement contagious. Have fun with it! (And I'd love to hear what other readers have done with this, in the comments.)

What in the heck is happening to Star Tours? I feel like not a [single] soul wants to talk about this right now. When I say Star Tours, I mean the one on both U.S. coasts.

Also, what are your thoughts on what could happen on that land where the bus terminals now sit at Disneyland currently?

Thank you,

The big question that many Disney fans are asking — but that no one seems to believing anything about right now — is what happens to Star Tours when Star Wars Land opens? After all, it seems not to make sense to have a one-off Star Wars-themed attraction located in another land in the same park as a whole Star Wars-themed land.

Everything we've heard from inside Disney is that the company intends to leave Star Tours as it is... at least for the moment. But that might be more punting a decision down the field than any intentional long-term strategy. Star Tours always has occupied a weird place in the Star Wars universe. Heck, in the newest version, your vehicle might be detained by Darth Vader, then blast off to the wrecked Star Destroyer on Jakku, which was supposed to have crashed there more than a year after Vader died during the Battle of Endor.

If I were running Disney, I'd actually want Star Tours elsewhere in the park for at least a year or two after the land opened to help draw Star Wars fans out of the land and into the rest of the park. After that, though, the ride would seem to be an easy target for an overlay into any other IP that the company wished to promote. But I think that's 2020-21 at the earliest.

As for the transportation plaza at Disneyland, this Q&A from my colleagues at the Orange County Register fills in some of the detail that was lacking in Disneyland's planning application for the Eastern Gateway project. Ultimately, though, Disney's trying to create a northern expansion pad for Disney California Adventure, which will expand into some of that space.

What will be in that expansion space? It's all speculation at this point. Disney's not to the place where it is drafting blueprints, hiring contractors, or filing planning requests for the project — all the stuff in the development process when things move from rumor to reality.

Thanks to everyone for writing in, and keep your questions coming to!

Replies (11)

August 20, 2016 at 4:36 AM · It would make sense for disneyland to get rid of star tours once the Star Wars land has opened otherwise it just wouldn't make sense having two star wars themed attractions on opposite sides of the park. I would presume that disney will overlay star tours with the new iron man experience opening up at Hong Kong as they both look to be the same ride system. However this would not work at hollywood studios because of the marvel disney/universal issue. However what if disney were to make star tours into a guardians of the galaxy simulator as hollywood studios is moving more to an ip based park.
August 19, 2016 at 1:01 PM · I don't care if it makes sense or not; I and others love the current version of Star Tours. The only excuse to get rid of it would be to replace it with something better.
August 19, 2016 at 1:07 PM · We had a thread on Disboards about surprising kids with a Disney vacation. It does depend on the kid, because some people noted that their kids were upset at the news. Some kids just don't take sudden change well, even if it's good news.
August 19, 2016 at 1:44 PM · Additional info on Iron Man at HKDL: when I was over there in June, I had a talk with a few Tomorrowland cast members. They mentioned that tests and a possible soft opening could start in August/September. So I would definitely check it out if I were you, Colin!
August 19, 2016 at 3:20 PM · When I was 5 we were going on a family holiday to Queensland (Australia's equivalent of Florida - sort of). We got to the airport and my dad went to check in and get tickets. He came back with a grim look on his face and said "I'm sorry guys, there's been a problem and we can't go to Queensland." 3 sad kid faces followed. Then came "So we're going to Disneyland instead."

That was a pretty cool way of springing it on us.

August 19, 2016 at 4:19 PM · Still a fan- Star Tours sounds like just the cause you and your social media buddies can take up to directly affect the Disney Executive's decisions!
August 19, 2016 at 11:11 PM · Who the hell was talking to you, Barry? They haven't even made a decision yet, so I don't know what you're babbling about.
August 20, 2016 at 9:39 AM · I'm against unusual surprises and many times they backfire and especially if they expect this again. This should be an one time thing. What if they don't like it? Or if they rather do something else and you think Disneyland is what they want. Some boys rather see WWF fake wrestling. Maybe surprise them with VIP seats to World of Color or Frozen. A little less ambitious, but have a bigger bang.
August 20, 2016 at 9:13 PM · When my sons were ages 10 & 9, my wife and I surprised them with a WDW vacation. We had stayed at a hotel near the airport under the guise of wanting to get up early to go to the local amusement park. The next morning we broke the news that we were not going to the local place and going to WDW! While I was expecting screams of joy, I was instead treated to stunned silence. The older boy then accused us of fibbing to them, but when we showed them the tickets, the shouting began! It only got louder when we told them that we were also flying to Orlando, and that we would be there in a matter of hours.
My boys are grown, but they have a little sister that hasn't been to WDW yet. However, she knows that we will go in a couple of years, and with her I will let her in on the planning.
August 21, 2016 at 7:51 AM · I think they will eventually move Star Tours over to the new land at Disneyland.

Say what you will about DHS, at least they are building the ride AROUND the current Star Tours. That is good planning!

August 22, 2016 at 9:53 AM · I have often heard people say that Star Tours should be moved to SWL when it opens, but I wonder if that is practical. Remember, this is an enormous motion simulator, big enough for 40 people, and it’s set in pretty deep in order to support the weight. IIRC, cargo helicopters had drop in the pieces when it was originally built as they were so large. I imagine it would be an expensive and difficult job to move the attraction to SWL. This is also somewhat elderly technology; would Disney want that in its cutting edge new land? Given its age, would Disney go the expense and trouble of moving it? I tend to think not when it can stay and just be re-themed.

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