I’m starting to feel like Bill Murray (except not as cool) in Groundhog Day, as each week brings news that Walt Disney World is changing things up and extending the park hours at Hollywood Studios (and sometimes elsewhere) due to Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. This time, they’ve added hours for January 2020, with Februrary 2020 having shifted Extra Magic Hours.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. Crowds have spiked and demand is actually growing for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance rather than subsiding (more on this in our commentary section below). As this blockbuster attraction continues to garner rave reviews from critics and guests alike, the ride’s popularity is unlikely to wane any time in the coming days, weeks, or months.
For its part, Walt Disney World has been pretty diligent about extending park hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but is taking an incremental approach, only adding hours when it becomes clear demand is there. Hence this Groundhog Day situation. They don’t want a repeat of last fall’s Extra, Extra Magic Hours fiasco, but I think at this point it’s patently obvious that’s not going to happen…
Before delving into this update, we’ll offer the boilerplate reminder that most questions you have are likely answered by our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We continue to update that as circumstances dictate, so please read that before asking a question in the comments below.
Irrespective of the operating hours, that ride guide and answers to frequently asked questions will ensure you a place in the virtual queue…so long as you’re willing to get up bright and early while on vacation and trudge over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios!
To recap on recent park hours extensions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we had the belated Christmas gift of 6 am openings all of last week, with those ending at the start of January 2020.
Earlier openings continued into the new year, thanks to extended park hours for January 1-11, 2020. As a result, these dates have 7 am openings. Although it now seems “late” by comparison, park opening hours were moved to 8 am through February 1, 2020.
The latest change has moved forward the opening of Disney’s Hollywood Studios to 7 am for more dates: January 17-20, 2020 and January 24-26, 2020. The first set of extended dates coincides with the long MLK Weekend holiday, while the second set of dates is Pro Bowl Weekend, which is being held in Orlando, Florida.
Additionally, park closing has been extended from 9 pm until 10 pm through this weekend (January 4, 2020). It’s possible if not probable that park closing time will be extended for subsequent dates due to WDW Marathon Weekend and the other events/holidays listed above. (For how these and other events will impact crowds, see our January 2020 at Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar & Info post.)
Next up, we have more changes to Extra Magic Hours. Previously, Walt Disney World shifted December and January 2020 Extra Magic Hours from mornings to evenings. Now, the same thing is happening with February 2020 dates: Extra Magic Hours will now be at night on February 2, 9, 16, and 23.
It probably got lost in the holiday shuffle, but we recently published a post with Strategy for Evening Extra Magic Hours at Hollywood Studios (Post-Star Wars Rise of Resistance). Obviously I’m biased, but I think this is good advice that will hold true in the future. It’s worth a quick read/skim.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Crowds Commentary
In our previous update (“More 2020 DHS Hours Extended for Star Wars Rise of Resistance“), we offered some commentary on the latest developments of…let’s call it the Rise (of the Resistance) & Shine Pre-Dawn Cattle Call. Many of you found that interesting and shared your own experiences (thank you!!!), so we thought we’d do the same here.
Suffice to say, Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been bonkers for the last few days. We anticipated a slight reprieve after New Year’s Eve and that did not happen. I can’t offer a definitive explanation for this, but here’s my leading theory: it’s locals. Well, locals and the holiday hangover crowd.
In the past, we’ve stressed how the boarding pass and virtual queue system for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance primarily favors tourists, at least on weekdays. This is because most locals have 9-5 jobs, and coming after work to queue up is not an option.
That’s not the case right now. Plenty of people are still off of work and, more importantly, both Orange County and Osceola County School Districts are on winter break until January 7, 2020. Many of these same locals have been on break for the last several weeks, but many (most?) of them are Annual Passholders who would’ve been blocked out…or simply busy hosting family for the holidays.
If this is accurate (and I really can’t think of a better explanation), expect things to only get worse this weekend. Most Walt Disney World Annual Passholders were blocked out until January 3, 2020. We weren’t in Disney’s Hollywood Studios this morning, but reports on social media made it sound pretty bad. With tomorrow being a weekend and dates that are unblocked and the final few days before school is back in session, you can count on Saturday and Sunday being particularly packed.
The other trend we’ve noticed lately is guests becoming more savvy when it comes to other attractions at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. For a while, wait times throughout the park didn’t spike right away–and that’s still true, in large part.
However, gone are the mornings of doing Toy Story Land’s headliners repeatedly with no wait. You should still be able to experience the trio with minimal wait if you’re efficient about getting back there, but you won’t be able to loop Slinky Dog Dash. This shouldn’t be a huge surprise; this always happens as guest flow gets into a groove with new attractions.
For those of you heading to Walt Disney World in the very near future trying to choose the best date to do the Rise (of the Resistance) & Shine Pre-Dawn Cattle Call, our pick would be January 7 or 8, 2020. On these dates, local schools will be back in session and most of the New Year’s crowd will have gone home. Dates closer to the weekend will start seeing elevated crowds (again) because of the Walt Disney World Marathon, so those mid-week days should be the sweet spot.
Of course, this is barring downtime on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, assuming our theory is correct, and [insert additional caveats you can think of here]. As with forecasting Walt Disney World crowds, this early morning stuff with Rise of the Resistance is more art than it is science. Pack your patience, be prepared to roll with the punches, and you should be fine. It’s a great attraction that is well worth jumping through a few hoops to experience!
If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. This covers a range of topics from basics about the land and its location, to strategically choosing a hotel for your stay, recommended strategy for the land, and how to beat the crowds. It’s a good primer for this huge addition. As for planning the rest of your trip, we have a thorough Walt Disney World Planning Guide.
Think local schools are to blame for the early January 2020 spike in crowds for rope drop at DHS? If you’ve arrived early for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, what was your experience like? If you have an upcoming January or February 2020 trip, do you plan on arriving to Disney’s Hollywood Studios super early? Do you agree or disagree with our advice and assessment? 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!