This recaps Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’s first week of operations at Disneyland, picking up where our Opening Day Ride Report left off and offering further crowd predictions, best & worst days to visit between now and March 2020, thoughts about our recent trip to Disneyland & DCA, and more.
Basically, it’s an anecdotal post that fills in the gaps between the aforementioned opening day experiences and what we cover in our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Disneyland Strategy Guide (which is our “essential” post for the whole process). Hopefully this trip recap will be helpful and/or interesting in its own right.
Before we delve into our anecdotal experiences, one thing that’s worth discussing is the disparity between weekday and weekend crowds right now. As you might’ve noticed in our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Disneyland Strategy Guide, we strongly recommend visiting on a weekday. A few readers commented that this conflicts with conventional wisdom about the best and worst days to visit Disneyland.
However, our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance strategy does not conflict with the recommendations made in our 2020 Disneyland Crowd Calendars. We specifically predicted that weekdays will be far better than weekends for doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance while this virtual queue system is in use. That could be for a few weeks or the entire year; we tend to believe it’ll be used for a while.
Our expectation was that most locals would confine their visits to the weekends and holidays when they’re off work and can arrive early. If locals have no chance of riding Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance with a late arrival, they’ll shift those visits to weekends…which will be packed.
This is exactly the trend that has emerged through the first two weekends of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Conventional wisdom has been that the best days to visit Disneyland are when Annual Passholders are blocked out, particularly the Southern California Select AP.
Normally, this is because the number of blocked out APs more than offsets the non-local AP weekend crowd and tourists. Consequently, Saturdays and Sundays have been good times to visit during some months of the year.
There have always been plenty of exceptions to this, especially as the tourist demographic has increased in the years since Cars Land opened. One such time has been during the doldrums of the winter off-season, which remains an especially light time for tourism to California.
Unlike Walt Disney World that can use discounts to lure visitors to Florida, Disneyland Resort is more beholden to local travel trends. Quite simply, fewer tourists travel to California during the chillier winter months.
This means that the guest demographic skews more local than normal in the winter. This is exacerbated by the Southern California resident ticket deals, which target locals who are not Annual Passholders.
These guests visit by incredibly disproportionate numbers on weekends when they’re off work. Unlike the “drop in after work” AP crowd, these non-regulars want the most bang for their buck in terms of park time, and that’s what weekends offer.
Throw in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and the requirement that guests be inside Disneyland by park opening time in order to ride, and crowds are strongly skewing towards weekends.
In short, Saturday and Sunday are packed. Meanwhile, weekdays remain relatively uncrowded, typical of this time of year at Disneyland. If you look at our January 2020 and February 2020 Disneyland Crowd Calendars, this is exactly what we predicted–all of our best dates are weekdays and all worst dates are weekends and holidays.
There is absolutely zero reason to believe this will change until Spring Break and Easter. Sure, some locals will try to take advantage of the lower crowd levels and easier odds of doing Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance on weekdays, but most people can’t just spontaneously take off work or skip school. Ditto out of town tourists–most can’t just book a last-minute weekday getaway on such short notice.
If you can book a last-minute trip to California during non-holiday weekdays between now and March 14, 2020 (see our March 2020 Disneyland Crowd Calendar for more on that month), you should be rewarded with relatively low crowds. If your trip is anything like our visit, it should be delightful.
Speaking of which, our experience in both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure after the MLK Day holiday was wonderful. Crowds were low and we got pretty much everything we wanted done with MaxPass. (It’s included with our APs, but I’d pay out of pocket for it–so much better than FastPass+ for the more spontaneous way we do things.)
We also were able to do World of Color a couple of times; it was pretty easy to grab last minute spots in the front row thanks to the cold weather. I love the “Hurry Home” Lunar New Year pre-show; it has a great score and packs a nice punch. I really wish World of Color had more tags or a rotating segment–I miss the old World of Color TRON: Legacy Encore.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has sort of been all over the place. The above graph (courtesy of thrill-data.com) shows its boarding group progression throughout the day. Most notably, opening time is pretty much always after 9 am and its closing time is around 9 pm. This has been true even on days when the park hours are 8 am to midnight.
Thus far, Disneyland’s Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance has not had nearly the success as Disney’s Hollywood Studios in getting through back-up boarding groups. We experienced a couple of days with multiple end-of-day breakdowns at Disneyland that caused backups in the queue and resulted in the attraction struggling to get past boarding group 80. It seems like finishing at boarding group 100 is about the average (+/- 10 groups). The highest its ever reached is boarding group 122.
This is the big reason why our strategy guide stresses a fast finger approach to scoring as low of a boarding group as possible. Not just because backup boarding groups are less of a sure thing, but also because we’ve witnessed primary groups called in quicker succession in the evening hours, leading to longer lines.
If you get stuck in a longer line, the obvious downside is a longer wait. However, the bigger concern is increased exposure to a breakdown. If Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance breaks down while you’re in the queue, you have to wait it out or not do the attraction at all. Readmits are only distributed if you’ve reached the show scene segments.
It seemed like Rise of the Resistance was consistently breaking down at certain times–like every day right around 11 am and 7 pm. In hindsight, that’s probably coincidence. Regardless, hopefully the uptime increases, operations start to become smoother, and Rise of the Resistance starts to get through more backup boarding groups per day.
One thing we have noticed is that it’s seldom breaking down in the first 90 minutes that it’s operating–which is also when wait times are shortest. Another reason to put maximum effort into scoring a low boarding group. Obviously, part of it is luck, but that strategy will put you in the better position to “get lucky.”
As previously noted, we didn’t do Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance every single day that we were in California. This was both because we didn’t want to be greedy about it, but also selfishly because we don’t want this spellbinding attraction to lose its luster for us by overdoing it.
Our goals were researching the best practices for scoring a low number boarding pass, ride downtime, boarding group efficiency, and how crowds were elsewhere in Disneyland & Disney California Adventure. None of that required repeated rides. Also, riding more would’ve really cut into our rigorous eating schedule.
Beyond the fact that we “had” to eat several new menu items for the sake of research, several of our favorite attractions are in the California parks. (About the only thing that disappointed was ‘it’s a small world.’ It was looking rough after the refurbishment, which is probably because it was rushed to come back up before Haunted Mansion went down.) We also just love wandering around the parks–they’re so pleasant.
We also had a lot on the agenda outside Disneyland Resort. We spent days in Laguna Beach and Los Angeles, ate at some of our favorite restaurants (plus new-to-us spots), attended a filming of Jimmy Kimmel Live, and visited friends near Pasadena.
Ultimately, it was a great trip out to California–the third consecutive exceptional experience we’ve had at Disneyland Resort. Between Project Stardust improving the guest experience both inside and outside the parks, and lower crowds than anticipated post-Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, we once again enthusiastically recommend visiting Disneyland.
We’d anticipate bigger crowds this year as a result of those who postponed visits and the justified hype over Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, but it should still be a better overall experience than those couple of years after the Diamond Celebration. We already can’t wait to go back!
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 Disneyland Vacation Planning Guide.
Are you planning on visiting Disneyland in the next few months now that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is open? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment of crowds over the course of the last week-plus at Disneyland? Have any predictions for how things will continue going forward? Any anecdotal experiences with Rise of the Resistance (or Disneyland in general) that you care to share? 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.