Big Thunder Ranch

Oct 24, 2015 | Disneyland, Disneyland Resort

When Disney announced a few months ago that Big Thunder Ranch in Frontierland would soon close down, I had to make at least one visit before it disappeared completely because I didn’t have any clear memories there. In a lifetime of Disneyland visits, I don’t remember ever having the barbecue or spending time with the goats. Perhaps I did them when I was too young to remember, but I had to make at least one memory before it’s gone.

Southern California had an incredibly hot September, and the Friday my boyfriend and I went to visit Big Thunder Ranch was no exception. It was the kind of day where you could feel the heat beating down on your head, so our only focus was on taking it easy and exploring the ranch. I was glad to sit in the shade with an ice-cold drink and having to think about nothing but enjoying good food and listening to great performances.

We arrived for a late lunch, and because there were no crowds or wait, we allowed ourselves to linger over our meal and perhaps had one more bucket of ribs than was good for us. It was delicious and quite worth the food coma.

After lunch, we explored the rest of Big Thunder Ranch, petted the goats and visited with the other animals. It was quite a charming area and I found myself wishing I had more memories of this place from when I was younger and could have suspended my disbelief appreciated the immersion into the “Old West” even more.

Nevertheless, I understand why it’s an area that Disney would sacrifice for something flashy and new like Star Wars Land. While full of wonderful details and maybe even some educational value, Big Thunder Ranch isn’t exactly the type of attraction that gets today’s kids (or even adults, really) with their micro-attention spans.

While there is a good argument that audiences aren’t engaged in this old-fashioned sort of “edutainment” in a place like Disneyland, Yesterland posted an article about the return of the California mission dioramas at nearby Knott’s Berry Farm, so there are still those out there who appreciate this sort of slow-paced attraction with perhaps more education than entertainment value.

But progress can’t and shouldn’t be stopped if it means real improvement. I think Frontierland is a treasure, and there is still plenty to enjoy.

Change is an inevitable part of Disneyland, so I appreciate it even more when my favorite things do remain, like Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.

I haven’t visited it since the Halloween decorations have been put up because most of my park visits since then have been in the later hours, but I’m hoping to visit it at least once more before it’s gone for good. Even if that doesn’t happen, I’m glad I got to see experience it before that whole section of the park is changed forever.

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