Before delving into all of the changes, let’s preemptively address the inevitable questions by directing you to our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We’ve updated that with new info and more answers to questions readers that were frequently being asked by readers in the comments.
Additionally, it’s worth reiterating that even with the earlier official park hours, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is still quietly opening the park even earlier. On December 14, 2019, DHS opened shortly after 6:30 am, with a pretty large crowd outside the turnstiles before 6 am. The virtual queue was full before 7:45 am. More early opening speculation below–for now let’s cover what’s official…
From now until the end of the month, the official opening time for Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been moved forward to 7 am. The only exception to this is December 26-31, 2019. That’s the busiest week of the year, and on those dates DHS will open officially at 6 am.
These earlier openings will continue into the new year, with January 1-4, 2020 also seeing 7 am openings. After that, 8 am park openings occur through February 1, 2020. Don’t be surprised to see future dates also receive extended hours as we draw nearer to them and Disney has a chance to evaluate demand projections. This is true even in what’s traditionally (but not recently!) the doldrums of winter off-season.
To accommodate for these earlier official opening times, the Disney Skyliner gondolas will begin operations at 6:45 am and run until 10:30 pm. These hours are valid only for the next week (through December 21, 2019), but we’d expect them to continue, with even earlier times following for Christmas/New Year’s week. Along those lines, Minnie Vans will begin operating at 5 am.
As covered in the FAQ, our advice would be to use Uber or Lyft rather than relying on Disney transportation that early. For one thing, that Skyliner time is still not early enough of an arrival to DHS and Minnie Vans are overpriced. Buses will also be running, but they’re spotty and this is a scenario where time is of the essence. (No sense in putting in so much effort to get up that early only to have transportation be what fails you.) If you’re unfamiliar with ride-share services at WDW, see our Guide to Uber & Lyft at Walt Disney World.
Next up, Extra Magic Hours. The important thing to note up front here is that Walt Disney World hasn’t modified its policy that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will not be operating during EMH. With that said, Extra Magic Hours have been moved from mornings to evenings at DHS for the remainder of December 2019 through January 26, 2020.
This is becoming something of a sore subject for us. We were planning on doing morning Extra Magic Hours tomorrow, attempting to test out the logistics from Caribbean Beach (where we’re staying for the opening of Disney’s Riviera Resort to see how the new amenities ‘plus’ the CBR experience), but now that plan is pointless. The upside is more sleep…unless we end up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios regardless.
In addition to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, park hours have been extended around Walt Disney World for peak holiday dates (except at Epcot).
We’re not going to go through all of these–in large part because I’m not 100% sure of the before v. after–but we did notice new 8 am and 7 am opening times for Animal Kingdom on Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, respectively. (Extra Magic Hours at DAK have also been shifted earlier to accommodate.)
Magic Kingdom park hours have also been extended once again for select dates in December 2019 and sporadically throughout January 2020. It feels like this is the fourth time we’ve seen an update to hours for this month.
In addition to 7 am morning Extra Magic Hours for the week of Christmas (plus a 6 am general public opening on December 25), we now have some early openings and later closings in January 2020. These hours put the park roughly in line with historic averages, and underscore just why the preliminary calendar that’s released months in advance is totally unreliable boilerplate material.
Now for some commentary on the new hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. With the new 7 am official park opening time, we are not expecting even earlier unpublished openings. Expect those times to stay in the 6 am to 6:30 am range, which is the same as they were when Disney’s Hollywood Studios was opening officially at 9 am a week or so ago.
In our view, the primary (valid) complaint about Walt Disney World’s protocol for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was that the park was opening several hours prior to the published time. Even guests who performed their due diligence and did research could end up being shut out of the attraction.
While we obviously encourage people to read unofficial resources like this blog to get unbiased/insider tips and not just the company line, that should not be strictly necessary in order to experiencing a new marquee attraction that is being heavily marketed. Reliance on DisneyWorld.com or Cast Members at the resorts should be sufficient for something as basic as that, with blogs and fan sites providing hacks and tips for ‘above and beyond’ insight.
At the time, there was truly no perfect solution to that issue. As we’ve pointed out in other posts, opening week hype being what it is, if Walt Disney World announces the earlier time, diehards simply arrive even earlier…thus necessitating DHS to open the security perimeter and park itself to avoid safety concerns. In other words, the same problem would arise, but it’d move forward a couple hours even earlier.
Now that we’re outside the ‘opening diehard hype’ period and into the ‘peak holiday crowds’ season, it makes sense and is appropriate for Walt Disney World to communicate these early times to all guests to level the knowledge playing field, so to speak. At this point, there are only so many guests willing to get up at the crack of dawn, but at least by (mostly) communicating actual park hours, more guests are aware of the earlier hours and can get up that early, should they so choose.
The virtual queue and urgency of arriving early still isn’t being fully explained via official channels, but that’s par for the course. Walt Disney World also doesn’t fully convey the difficulty of scoring FastPass+ for Slinky Dog Dash, Avatar Flight of Passage, Frozen Ever After–or the difficulty of scoring ADRs for Be Our Guest Restaurant–when featuring all of those in marketing. That’s sort of the nature of the beast, though.
Ultimately, we’d expect the gap to continue closing between the unpublished opening time and the published opening time. We’ve seen this happen over the course of the last week, and we’d expect the same to occur this coming week and in both January and February 2020.
The one exception to this will be holiday weeks or peak season. As we noted above, guests crowding outside the turnstiles is a safety concern; you should expect Disney’s Hollywood Studios to open even earlier on any morning when crowd forecasts are higher (think Christmas to New Year’s Eve, Presidents Day weekend, etc).
When this hoopla and hype might die down? Well…Pandora has been open for a few years, and mornings are still pretty busy at Anima Kingdom. That’s for a ride based on Avatar–this is Star Wars, a more beloved franchise with a new movie about to be released. And Rise of the Resistance is better than Flight of Passage. On top of that, crowds are only likely to get worse, with other new additions and Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary around the corner. In other words, don’t think you can simply skip Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance on your upcoming WDW trip and have an easier experience next time. It’s going to be popular and hard to do for years to come.
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.
If you’ve arrived early for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, what was your experience like? If you have an upcoming Christmas or January/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!