We return to Hollywood Studios for another attempt at experiencing Walt Disney World’s most popular new attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. This time with a twist: we attempt to Park Hop between DHS and Epcot while making strategic use of FastPass+ for the most efficient day possible.
In last week’s Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Recent Rockiness & 8 am Opening Ride Report, we indicated this would be our next move. Crowds have worsened in the mornings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, thanks to a mix of the later openings, increased awareness of protocol for the ride, and a general spike in attendance. (See our new Peak Crowds in Winter “Off-Season” at Walt Disney World for more.)
To compound matters, it’s the start of the Presidents’ Day long weekend crowds at Walt Disney World. (Expect today through Tuesday to be among the busiest days ever at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.) As such, we figured it would be a good day to test a more strategic approach to experiencing as much as possible in Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, instead of simply sharing photos of the crowds…
Arrival and entering the park was really easy. After a slight backup at the Disney’s Hollywood Studios parking toll booths, everything was smooth sailing. We got to bag check at 7:40 am and were inside the turnstiles by 7:45 am. I’m not sure what time they opened the park, but there was absolutely no line by 7:45 am.
From there, I made a quick loop of the park to get crowd photos (spoiler: it was busy) before heading over to Animation Courtyard to join a huge crowd of other guests lined up for Toy Story Land. We were reasonably far back, but still under the Voyage of the Little Mermaid marquee, so my expectation was a ~30-40 minute wait for Slinky Dog Dash or 10 minutes for Toy Story Mania.
The night before visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we made some speculative FastPass+ reservations in Epcot. Our plan was to try for a low boarding group, do a couple of Toy Story Land attractions, maybe something on Sunset Boulevard if time allowed, then Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance before bouncing to Epcot.
We had also dabbled with the idea of waiting until 50 seconds seconds after park opening, and intentionally grabbing a higher numbered boarding group then. Theoretically, this would allow us to do some rope drop attractions at DHS, bounce to Epcot, and return to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and more once the crowds had cleared out in the evening.
You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? I couldn’t get the boarding group module in the My Disney Experience app to work at all, and Sarah scored boarding group 43 before 8:00:10 am. Since she already had a boarding group, I kept refreshing to see how long it’d take for my app to work. (If I were alone, I would’ve closed and reopened it.)
MDX finally worked for me right as the clock hit 8:01 am, at which point the virtual queue for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was already into the backup boarding groups. (I’m not totally certain, but I think the backup groups started around 8:00:50 am.) Backup boarding groups were fully distributed before 8:03 am.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m very happy that we were able to snag a primary boarding group, but it sort of threw a monkey wrench into the two options I had already mapped out in my head. A lower or higher number would’ve been ideal–we were sort of in no man’s land. That’s the nature of the beast, though, and is probably a better end result for a more spontaneous strategy.
As we began the slow march towards Toy Story Land, it became abundantly clear that we had underestimated the size of the crowd in front of us. We previously hadn’t been able to see the front of the line/mass of people, but it had obviously extended beyond where we thought.
The line for Slinky Dog Dash began well beyond Walt Disney Presents, and while it was stacked outside the queue at this point, it was still very long. Neither of us liked the potential gamble here, so we opted for Toy Story Mania instead.
That queue was also spilling back deeper into the land, and it easily would’ve been a 30 minute wait for Toy Story Mania at that point, too. Rather than cutting our losses, we opted for the ultimate consolation prize: Alien Swirling Saucers. No wait!
This presented literally no strategic advantage. It was truly a “make myself feel better about the situation by accomplishing something–anything” type of thing. It didn’t help that Sarah did not ride because the attraction makes her nauseous…nor did she cheer me on from the sideline.
Nevertheless, my great work spinning around with aliens left me revitalized and ready to pivot our day. We checked wait times at Epcot and noticed they were still very manageable. Previously, we wanted to avoid rope dropping Epcot since it was an Extra Magic Hours morning and we’d be behind that crowd.
However, that crowd was still smaller than the one at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We headed out to the car to grab my camera bag and some snacks, and then began the walk over to Epcot.
On the way, I modified our FastPass+ reservations, moving them forward to earlier times. I also managed to snag Frozen Ever After for mid-afternoon. Given that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance still hadn’t started operating for the day, I figured there was a reasonable chance we’d be able to ride.
It’s worth noting that when I booked this Frozen Ever After FastPass+ reservation (~10 minutes before official park opening time) there were multiple other times available. A strong refresh game will help if you’re trying to replicate this strategy and aren’t having as much initial success.
In retrospect, the best approach of all would’ve been to enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios at ~7:30 am, immediately leave for morning Extra Magic Hours at Epcot, trying to score a boarding pass for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in the comparatively uncrowded International Gateway area.
UPDATE: To answer questions we’re already receiving in the comments, yes it is possible to leave Disney’s Hollywood Studios and still get a boarding pass. We’ve done it. The only question is whether you can tap into Epcot before joining the virtual queue. I don’t know the answer to this (yet) because it wasn’t even possible to do this until very recently.
I do know that it’s possible to enter Disneyland, then enter DCA, and join a boarding group. Obviously, Disneyland is not Walt Disney World. We will test this strategy in the next week or two and see whether it works. (If you’ve already done it, please let us know!)
For anyone staying on-site, this would’ve been the perfect strategy. Even if you didn’t enter Epcot until ~8:15 am, you still could’ve run the table on headliners.
Frozen Ever After twice and Soarin’ Around the World once before 9 am would’ve been totally possible. (I’m guessing some people did exactly this, which would explain the Frozen Ever After FP+ cancellations/availability.)
As we approached Future World, we received a notification that boarding for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance had been delayed.
This both vindicated our decision to Park Hop, but also underscored the reality that flexibility is key–the plan I had mapped out ahead of time simply wouldn’t have worked.
We didn’t get to Soarin’ Around the World until about 9:10 am, but it was still a near walk-on at this point. We lucked out with front row, dead-center seats resulting in global icons that were not bent!
As we left there, we noticed Awesome Planet was starting in zero minutes. This was not a strategically savvy move, but we did it anyway.
From there, it was onto Spaceship Earth to use our FastPass for that.
We finished that and bounced over to Mission: Space, doing the less intense orbit above earth. Sarah can’t do the orange version, which was convenient here because the green one had no wait.
Next up was our Living with the Land FastPass+ reservation, which came in handy because the wait time had ballooned to 30 minutes. (It was a walk-on when we did Awesome Planet, which wouldn’t have any wait all day.)
At this point, we were pretty hungry. The plan was to eat lunch at Sunshine Seasons, but in wandering around there, nothing looked particularly appealing.
With most of the high-priority attractions in Epcot knocked out and still a few hours until our Frozen Ever After FastPass, we looked at My Disney Experience for same-day table service availability. The first thing I saw was Beaches & Cream 20 minutes from then. More or less exactly how long it’d take to walk there. Perfect.
We had been putting off trying the reimagined Beaches & Cream, but this was the perfect chance to get that out of the way. We’ll have a full review soon, but the meal was a (very) pleasant surprise…until dessert.
That was our fault, though, as we took a gamble on something not in Beaches & Cream’s wheelhouse. If we had ordered a tried and true favorite, it would’ve been a great meal from start to finish. Moving on…
Back in Epcot, we still had a couple of hours to kill until Frozen Ever After.
Although the goal was to demonstrate an “efficient” day in Epcot, our normal afternoon in the park is pretty much just enjoying World Showcase and entertainment. We did the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along for the first time, watched Mariachi Cobre, did Gran Fiesta Tour, Canada Far & Wide, and wandered around.
We also enjoyed a bunch of the Epcot International Festival of the Arts offerings, several of which we hadn’t done before because we usually visit in the evenings after some of this stuff ends. (See if you can spot the hidden Sarah above!)
While Disney’s Hollywood Studios was packed and chaotic, Epcot was actually fairly chill for most of the day. So long as you don’t go in the evenings or weekends, Epcot is definitely your best option crowd-wise, right now.
Frozen Ever After was our final stop, and we knocked that out and shortly thereafter our boarding group for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance was called.
In retrospect, we could’ve done things more efficiently first thing in the morning, but this day in Epcot went swimmingly in the end.
We took the Skyliner back to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and went inside to get a quick feel for crowds (and some more pictures). Judging by the huge numbers of guests exiting versus very few entering, it was immediately clear the park was getting less busy.
Inside, this was even more obvious, as visible crowds and wait times had both dropped precipitously (and would continue to drop later in the afternoon). We had other obligations, so we didn’t stick around. However, it seemed highly likely we could’ve successfully used a modified version of our Half-Day Disney’s Hollywood Studios Itinerary.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance would’ve been the big wildcard–we didn’t do it, but it appears that it broke down again shortly after we left and then began calling boarding groups in quick succession in a scramble just to get through the primary boarding groups.
Suffice to say, yesterday was another rough one for the ride.
There are a few takeaways here, most of which are fairly upbeat. First, entering DHS on an Extra Magic Hours morning at Epcot and immediately leaving for International Gateway is a top-notch strategy.
With that approach, you could probably make all of your FastPass+ reservations for midday at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and do everything in short order at Epcot via the standby lines. We already have a hotel reservation and will be testing this approach once Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway opens.
Second, if you’re willing to be flexible and spontaneous, you can still leverage the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance virtual queue to your advantage.
Again, think of this as a “bonus” FastPass+ (minus the fixed return time) that doesn’t need to be in the same park as your other FastPasses.
A lot of people have expressed anxiety in the comments to our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance reports, and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to inspire.
If you are an obsessive, compulsive planner, this might throw you for a loop. The solution is to adopt a more go-with-the-flow attitude, modifying your schedule on the fly as necessary. (As our day demonstrates, this is totally possible.)
Third, Park Hopper tickets are almost essential if you’re trying to do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We’ve said that before, but we’ll reiterate here.
Being able to bounce between DHS and Epcot is huge.
Finally, if you have Park Hopper tickets and try for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance on both your Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios days (as demonstrated here, that’s totally feasible), your chances of experiencing the attraction at least once are nearly 100%.
There are some horror stories about people not getting to experience Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and that has (we think) caused a disproportionate negative reaction to the virtual queue. Our goal with all of these posts approaching the attraction from all angles isn’t to scare you–it’s to prepare you.
Each time we’ve done these rope drop mornings at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, we’ve showed up no earlier than 30 minutes before park opening. Every single time, we could’ve done Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance while also getting plenty of other things done. All planned day-of.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance absolutely does require strategy and knowledge, but once you have that, there’s really no sense freaking out about this. If you give yourselves two days to experience it and arrive shortly before park opening with a solid plan-of-attack, you’re virtually guaranteed success. Being willing and able to spontaneously pivot will definitely help minimize headaches with the new Walt Disney World blockbuster.
Still have unanswered questions about the attraction? Read our Ride Guide & FAQ for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, which covers everything you need to know. If you’re planning on visiting the new land, you’ll also want to read our Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Guide. 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.
Have you tried Park Hopping between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot after scoring a Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance boarding pass? What was your approach? Have you done morning Extra Magic Hours at Epcot after joining the virtual queue? If you’ve done RotR in the last week, what time did you arrive, which boarding group did you receive, and when was your return time? Do you agree or disagree with our 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!