Disneyland Update: Fantasyland Strategy, New Signs, Ducklings & Queens

We leave Disney California Adventure and head across the Esplanade for our first Summer 2019 Disneyland update. This is basically everything new in the park except Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…which isn’t much at all. Nevertheless, we have a lot of photos and touring advice that is potentially important.

First, in case you missed it, all of our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge coverage to date can be found here. I’m still really excited about all of this, but I realize many of you could not care less about Star Wars, so my current plan is to do one new Galaxy’s Edge post per week between now and the time the land opens in Walt Disney World. If you like theme parks, I really think you should care (remember: you can just think of it as Space Morocco), but obviously I can’t make you care.

Second, and also in case you missed it, Disneyland has not been nearly as busy as anticipated in the last couple of weeks, post-Galaxy’s Edge. We’ve covered this in a few posts, so I won’t rehash it here. Most notably (for future planning purposes), we offer some predictions in our Star Wars Land Crowds: What Happened & Will Happen? post…

Our last Disneyland update was only a few weeks ago, and that covers most of the big Project Stardust changes that culminated around the end of May.

Since then, not much has changed at Disneyland. (Well, aside from that whole “Star Wars Land” thing.) The biggest non-Star Wars projects were two restaurants getting new signs. However, operationally, we’ve seen some interesting trends…

Due to the low crowds post-Star Wars Land, we rope dropped Disneyland several times the last couple of weeks.

One thing I noticed with consistency is that everyone headed to Peter Pan’s Flight, causing that wait time to spike to 50-60 minutes shortly after rope drop. The photo above is from ~5 minutes after rope drop.

Even though we do a lot of it, part of me dislikes itineraries and rope drop strategy because there’s a certain flexibility that’s required when touring a theme park.

To be sure, in our Disneyland Park Opening Strategy & Rope Drop Tips post, we advise readers to do Peter Pan’s Flight first…but we also urge “riding the wave” and skipping anything with a long line.

That’s applicable here because this is the line for Alice in Wonderland at the same time.

For those unfamiliar with Disneyland, this is also a popular dark ride. More importantly, it’s a walk-on while Peter Pan’s Flight has a 50 minute wait. (When I got off the ride, there were only 4 people in line–it was still a 10 minute wait an hour later.)

On a tangentially related note, I don’t think Alice in Wonderland (the dark ride, not the movie) gets enough love.

The Diamond Celebration upgrades were wonderfully done, and this is just a classic. I’m not going to say it’s better than Peter Pan’s Flight…but I do think it has a slight edge on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to claim the #2 Disneyland dark ride spot.

Back to Peter Pan’s Flight, the attraction has been sporting about a 20 minute wait once the initial rope drop crowd cycles through, and a 30-40 minute wait in the late afternoon and evening.

The point here is that you need to zig when others zag. Since it doesn’t have FastPass and you can see the entire line is visible from outside the attraction, what you see is what you get with Peter Pan’s Flight. Don’t pull a Michael Scott and drive your car into a lake just because your GPS told you to–adjust your plans on the fly.

Aside from looping Alice in Wonderland, the other thing we did was simply wandered around Main Street.

The weekday rope drop crowd is almost entirely tourists who are trying to do as many rides as efficiently as possible. About 10-15 minutes after Disneyland opens, Main Street is a ghost town. (If it weren’t for that stupid marine layer, I could’ve had some great, totally empty photos of MSUSA!)

And since this is Disneyland, there are free roaming characters all over the place.

One morning, both Mary Poppins and Evil Queen were wandering around the hub, literally by themselves for a bit.

Be sure to watch all the way to the end, and with your sound on.

The number of cat and duckling photos and video I took at Disneyland the last couple of weeks is staggering.

I’m not sure if I have more photos like that, or of Galaxy’s Edge!

(Of course, my numbers in comparison to what’s on Sarah’s phone. If you follow her Instagram stories, you probably already know animal content is her specialty.)

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was also a perpetual walk-on, which gave me a chance to hone my blastin’ skills against sworn enemy of the Galactic Alliance, Guy Selga.

I never broke 900,000, which was pretty shameful. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike the Florida version, the Disneyland Buzz Lightyear requires actual skill, and it’s not possible to max out your score. Getting 999,999 is no achievement in the WDW version once you memorize the ‘gimme’ targets in each room. It’s a totally different ballgame at Disneyland.)

Continuing in Tomorrowland, the final signage is up for Alien Pizza Planet.

It’s…better than the temporary one, I guess? The food is the same, which is the larger problem.

On a related note, Hungry Bear Restaurant got a new sign, and it is glorious.

This mischievous bear was unveiled the day that Galaxy’s Edge opened, arguably overshadowing that Star Wars addition.

We also ate at Hungry Bear Restaurant and it was…forgettable?

This used to be among my favorite spots in Disneyland, but the menu had its best items removed. It’s time for another refresh.

One day, this was my first sight upon leave Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge around golden hour.

As I noted in our full Review of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge – A Land Like No Other, it’s a bit surreal returning to the rest of Disneyland after being in Galaxy’s Edge. However, the transitions are well done, and seeing sights like this make you appreciate the contrast.

That afternoon, I just wandered the Rivers of America a bit, taking it all in.

I’ve been so worried about how Galaxy’s Edge will change Disneyland forever–and still am–but at least for this reservation period, Disney managed it deftly.

Walt’s Park and Batuu peacefully coexist without either hurting the experience of the other. I really, really hope that remains true once June 24 hits.

I’ve never been more happy to be as wrong as I was about Galaxy’s Edge opening crowds. Now, I’d be ecstatic to be wrong again about crowds from July onward.

I do feel a bit guilty, though.

We had an exceptional time at Disneyland by ignoring our own advice and going for the grand opening while others who heeded those erroneous words of warning missed out.

In fairness, this is not what I expected. We seldom follow our own advice when it comes to crowds–rarely does it turn out like this.

For what it’s worth, you’ll also be able to find us at opening day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Walt Disney World. I’m 100% not expecting it to turn out like this, though. One way or the other, don’t say I didn’t warn you! 😉

It’s a small world looking absolutely fantastic this time of year.

Overall, I think the substance of the ride is superior in Walt Disney World, but you cannot beat this exterior queue, facade, and load area.

Accurate.

After seeing it repeatedly in person over the course of our time at Disneyland, the new Sleeping Beauty Castle color scheme grew on me.

Our New-Look Sleeping Beauty Castle post wasn’t exactly scathing to begin with, but I like it more now than I did when I wrote that.

A few of you have asked, and we’ll be doing several Disneyland hotel and restaurant review updates soon. We stayed in several hotels in an effort to expand our Disneyland Area Hotel Rankings & Reviews. We are so close to 50 hotels, an “accomplishment” of which I am oddly quite proud.

One that’ll be getting a serious bump (at least for the refurbished rooms–pictured above) is the HoJo. We also returned to the Fairfield Inn to update that review.

That’s an odd note to end on, but that’s all I’ve got at this point. Look for many more single-topic Disneyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge posts in the next few weeks!

If you’re preparing for a Disneyland trip, check out our other planning posts, including how to save money on Disneyland tickets, our Disney packing tips, tips for booking a hotel (off-site oron-site), where to dine, and a number of other things, check out our comprehensive Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide!

YOUR THOUGHTS

What do you think about all of the latest changes at Disneyland? Hyped on the new restaurant signage? Intrigued by crowd trends? Skeptical that the low crowds will continue into July? Do you agree or disagree with our assessments in this Disneyland update? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!


18 Responses to “Disneyland Update: Fantasyland Strategy, New Signs, Ducklings & Queens”
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