Here Are All the Times Disney Theme Parks Have Closed
Disneyland opened in 1955, and Walt Disney World followed in 1971.
We’re talking about 115 years in business between the two parks, yet they’ve only closed a few times.
As I type this, the Happiest Place on Earth remains closed due to Coronavirus. But it’s not the first time the park couldn’t open.
Here are all the times Disney theme parks have closed, along with explanations about what happened.
In October of 1959, a rising Senator visited Disneyland for the first and possibly only time.
Disney’s management used to track visits of dignitaries to prove its societal impact.
To the best of their knowledge, this Senator from Massachusetts attended only that day, when he interacted with the President of Guinea among others.
Later, this man would become the 35th President of the United States…and die after less than three years in office.
I’m speaking of John F. Kennedy, whom a lone gunman (sorry, conspiracy theorists) assassinated on November 22nd, 1963.
Disneyland had already opened for the day, and news didn’t spread as fast in the 1960s. So, park officials didn’t close immediately.
However, Disneyland observed a day of mourning on November 23rd, the first time it ever closed for a full day.
A Yippie Protest
Nearly seven years would pass before Disney faced another crisis, although this one paled by comparison.
At the heart of Abbie Hoffman’s crusade, thousands of politically motivated hippies flocked to the Youth International Party.
For obvious reasons, critics and fans alike called these members of YIP by the catchy title of Yippies.
The party’s politics boiled down to “anti-everything.” They were anti-capitalist, anti-establishment, anti-imperialist, and anti-war.
Something they weren’t was well organized. A combination of ample dope and shiny distractions often caused Yippie gatherings to collapse in comical ways.
However, the Yippies did something that nobody at Disney found funny.
On August 6th, 1970, approximately 300 Yippies joined the other 30,000 guests at the Happiest Place on Earth.
The Yippies intended to capture Tom Sawyer Island, perhaps not understanding that it wasn’t a naval base.
On that strange day, stoners planted a foreign flag atop Tom Sawyer Island and then marched down Main Street, U.S.A.
At City Hall, they raised a “marijuana flag” and started fighting regular park guests unamused by their antics.
Disney had known of the proposed protest, as the morons had posted signs. So, Disneyland included a contingent of 100 police officers.
The situation degraded from there, causing park officials to close Disneyland.
The funniest part of this event involved the easy identification of Yippies.
Back in the 1960s, Disneyland discouraged guests with facial hair from entering.
Yippies were furrier than Chewbacca as a rule. They didn’t exactly blend in with the normies, making them easier to identify and arrest.
Disneyland sent 23 Yippies to jail that day.
Until 1999, hurricane warnings had never closed Walt Disney World. In fact, up until that point, nothing had.
As you know, much has changed over the past 20 years.
Storms have grown more severe in nature. Also, weather forecasting has improved dramatically…despite how it seems sometimes.
Plus, we have better means of communication now, allowing Disney to relay potential danger signs to upcoming park guests.
In short, when a hurricane lurks in the Atlantic Ocean, Disney reacts more aggressively. That wasn’t always the case, though.
In 1999, forecasts suggested that Hurricane Floyd would strike Central Florida hard.
Before then, Walt Disney World had closed early once for Hurricane Elena and opened late once due to Hurricane Erin.
However, Floyd threatened a different level of peril to locals.
So, Disney closed for the entire day on September 15th after closing early on September 14th.
Thankfully, the worst projections regarding Hurricane Floyd proved incorrect. The storm’s path veered away from Central Florida.
Sadly, The Bahamas absorbed the full fury of the hurricane, though.
I previously wrote an extended description of the events of 9/11.
On that date, Walt Disney World guests had already entered Magic Kingdom before a hijacker crashed a plane into one of the Twin Towers.
A few minutes later, another terrorist did the same at the other tower, causing the structure’s collapse.
Cast members learned of these tragic events only moments before guests did.
Almost immediately, park officials developed a sound plan to clear Magic Kingdom of guests. They gently guided visitors to the front of the park.
When I wrote this piece, several commenters mentioned that they were at Walt Disney World on that day, which must have been surreal.
If you’d ever like to tell your story, please get in contact with MickeyBlog, as we’d share it as part of the upcoming 20th-anniversary commemoration.
2020 broke records for its hurricane season, with the most named storms in history.
Before then, the worst hurricane season anyone could remember occurred in 2004.
That year, three different hurricanes threatened Walt Disney World, starting with Charley in August.
By the end of September, all three weather events had forced park modifications/cancellations.
For Charley, Disney closed the parks early at 1 p.m. the day of the event and then opened later the following day.
Only three weeks later, Frances proved more devastating in nature.
Walt Disney World closed on September 4th and 5th. That storm caused the first multi-day park closure ever for either American Disney park.
On September 26th, three weeks after Frances, Hurricane Jeanne would force yet another park closure.
So, Walt Disney World had closed for one full day ever until September of 2004.
Then, the parks closed for three days over three weeks.
Given Florida’s location, it’s frankly miraculous that hurricane season isn’t harder on the region.
Walt Disney World went 12 years between hurricane cancellations. The next one, Hurricane Matthew, occurred in 2016.
The parks closed early on October 6th and remained offline on October 7th before reopening on October 8th.
The most recent significant hurricane, at least for Central Florida, occurred in September of 2017.
Hurricane Irma forced Walt Disney World to close early on September 9th.
Then, the parks remained shut down on September 10th and September 11th.
On September 3rd, 2019, forecasts indicated that Hurricane Dorian might prove problematic to Central Florida.
So, park officials preemptively closed the parks early in anticipation of a severe weather event.
The hurricane absolutely devastated The Bahamas, but it mainly stayed parallel to Florida’s coast before weakening.
Disney still proceeded with caution, entertaining guests at the resorts instead.
You know the deal, so I won’t belabor the point.
In March of 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic threatened dramatic escalation in the United States.
Disney executives had no choice but to close both American parks along with Disneyland Paris.
The Disney parks in Asia closed at various points as well, sometimes more than once.
To date, Disneyland remains closed. So, a park that had never shut down for consecutive days before 2020 has been offline for nine months.
There’s a reason why none of us will miss 2020. It was the literal worst.