In this Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance report & strategy guide, we share our firsthand experiences with the virtual queue, what time boarding groups are running out, when Disney’s Hollywood Studios has been opening each morning, crowds, and more. (This is also spoiler-free, which means a bunch of random Galaxy’s Edge and Christmas photos, but nothing from inside the new ride.)
Basically, this is like a mix of a Walt Disney World trip report (but pretty much only the DHS parts) and a recap of our experiences with the operational quirks of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. It should help you develop some strategy and properly prepare to experience what we called not not Walt Disney World’s best attraction in our spoiler-free Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Ride Review.
Paramount to this is the boarding pass system. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you’ll want to start by reading our Virtual Queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance Strategy, Tips & Info. That covers everything you need to know, and is essential knowledge if you want to do the attraction. We were blindsided by this on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’s opening day, although in hindsight, we probably should’ve expected it…
Prior to the opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, there were daily communications via blog posts and videos preparing guests for all of Disney’s crowd control measures and to mitigate disappointment. None of that was even remotely necessary, and the slow start of Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge was in large part attributed to over-communication, which spooked guests who feared a “crowdpocalypse” situation.
Consequently, Disney’s approach with Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Florida has since been one of minimal communication. The virtual queue for the land itself was revealed only a couple of days before the grand opening of Galaxy’s Edge, and that was done quietly with in-room fliers. Few other practical details were provided in advance, much to the ire of planners.
Extra, Extra Magic Hours were the main thing that was announced far in advance. Those were unveiled in the spring, long before Disneyland’s version of Galaxy’s Edge opened. We were surprised to see the reaction to these as primarily negative, and we’ve commented several times that it’s highly likely Walt Disney World regrets offering ExEMH. We loved them, but they’re something that never would’ve happened had Disney held off on the announcement until after Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Disneyland.
So it was thus no surprise that no early hours were announced for the debut of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at Walt Disney World. Why already explained the why of that in our Walt Disney World Park Hours Extended for Star Wars: Rise of Resistance Opening & Beyond post, and anyone who read that knew there was no way Disney’s Hollywood Studios was actually going to open at 8 am. Suffice to say, the goal was to not scare crowds away by signaling that they were expecting insanity.
Thinking, third time’s the charm, we were expecting insanity. Not necessarily because everyone would be waiting for Rise of the Resistance. Because it’s the Christmas season, so Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be busy regardless. With that in mind, we planned on being there at 6 am on opening morning.
Given that we were burned on opening morning of Galaxy’s Edge by the Skyliner not yet being operational, we didn’t want a repeat of that. We also didn’t want to be burned by buses not starting early enough or taking an Uber and encountering a huge traffic jam. As such, we stayed at Beach Club and walked over. (Next time, we’ll stay somewhere cheaper and Uber–it’s such a waste of an expensive hotel stay.)
There was no line at bag check or the turnstiles when we arrived to Disney’s Hollywood Studios at 6 am. While we enjoy being part of opening day fanfare, our approach to these things aims for balance. Getting to the park at 3 am might put you at the front of the pack and mean less waiting in the attraction’s line, but the trade-off is that you’re going to sleep less and wait for security and the turnstiles to open. We’re fine being ~2,000 people further behind in line if it means 2 more hours of sleep.
After breezing into the park, we were surprised to be handed a flier for the virtual queue for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. We joined it immediately, and were assigned to boarding group 33. We then headed to where everyone was being held, waited 20 minutes or so, and started making the slow trudge to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Immediately upon entering the land, the first ten groups were called. At this point, we didn’t really know what to do. Because of the limited use of the virtual queue, we had almost no experience with boarding group pacing. We thus wandered around Galaxy’s Edge for about 30 minutes, getting a feel for how quickly subsequent groups would be called.
I was already a fan of the virtual queue. It gave me a chance to take dawn and sunrise photos of Galaxy’s Edge, eat breakfast, and use the restrooms. (I feared having a 4-hour wait in line, in which case those 2 cups of coffee I drank to start the day would’ve been a fatal error.)
After maybe 30 minutes or so, we saw a friend who got to the park at 2:45 am and was one of the first guests to board Rise of the Resistance. We informed us that it had broken down while he was on it, and he was given a paper re-entry pass.
At that point, we realized it was going to be a long morning, so we headed off to Toy Story Land and other areas of Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
I continued taking sunrise photos, we did a couple of other attractions, and then just sat around Echo Lake for a while. The atmosphere there during the day isn’t nearly as good as it is during the evening, but at least few other guests were around and the entire area was open. The stupid dessert party closing off most of the waterfront has put a serious damper on Echo Lake Christmas at night.
Not much of interest happened until ~10:50 am, at which point our boarding group was called. Had we stood in a physical line, this would’ve been about a ~5 hour wait (assuming the queue wasn’t dumped when the ride broke down) with no other attractions experienced, and at least one pants-wetting incident. Thanks to the virtual queue, we did several other attractions, ate breakfast, and chilled at Echo Lake. Most significantly, and I cannot stress this enough, I did not wet my pants. Not even once.
I think we waited in line for Rise of the Resistance around 20 minutes, although I’m not entirely sure because I was preoccupied looking at stuff and taking photos. As we’ve already shared, our ride experience was superb. After our ride ended, we–as the kids of the early 1900s say–got the hell out of Dodge, leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios just as the crowds were peaking.
Flash forward to yesterday. We arrived shortly after 7 am and had the same smooth experience with security, the turnstiles, and the virtual queue. This time, we got boarding group 51.
After doing a few attractions, we saw reports on social media that Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance had broken down for the second time of the day. Between that and crowds starting to get noticeably worse, we decided to walk over to Epcot.
Our group was finally called at 3 pm, and we were back inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios just before 5 pm. We did Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, and my opinion of it remains very, very high even on the subsequent ride-through. (At the very least, it’s Walt Disney World’s best new attraction since the 1990s.)
Following that, we did a lap of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and then returned to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge for the 6:30 pm stage and drone show.
This was our first time seeing the drones (I had tried from outside the park but didn’t see them two nights prior) and I’m glad we did, but they were not impressive.
The stage show was a nice (albeit brief) atmospheric addition, too. Galaxy’s Edge could really benefit from more entertainment, but I’d prefer more on the ground interactions with guests rather than this kind of scripted thing.
Let’s turn to some strategy. For now, showing up to Disney’s Hollywood Studios well before official park opening but after the unscheduled park opening (when that’ll be is uncertain, anyway), is probably the best approach.
This will give you time to do pretty much everything at DHS before your boarding group is called, and potentially walk over to Epcot or do a table service lunch at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the meantime.
If you’re planning a visit to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the next few weeks, it’s worth knowing that on non-Extra Magic Hours mornings, the park has been quietly opening prior to published time each of the last three days, but with that time inching a tad later every morning. Boarding groups via the virtual queue were gone by (roughly) 8:30 am on 12/5, 8:15 am on 12/6, and 9 am on 12/7.
The virtual queue filling earlier the second morning is likely attributable to too many boarding passes being distributed the first day, not an increase in demand. Boarding groups being gone later on 12/7 is despite a spread in knowledge and the first weekend (meaning more locals) of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
Tomorrow’s EMH at DHS were just extended and now run from 6 to 8 am, but remember, Extra Magic Hours don’t include Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance (something Walt Disney World reminded guests of in the alert about the earlier start time). Our guess is that, at minimum, the virtual queue will open at 6 am.
If Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is done with overnight testing and adjusting, we also wouldn’t be surprised if it quietly opened during EMH. Even though Walt Disney World is saying otherwise, this could be a case of “underpromise, overdeliver” or at least managing guest expectations in case the ride is down early. We’ll know for sure after tomorrow, and will report back with planning advice for those of you wanting to take advantage of future Extra Magic Hours morning at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
That wraps up our Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance opening days report and planning advice. What follows on the second page is commentary that’s totally skippable if all you care about is strategy and objective info. Basically, Page 2 offers our assessment of the virtual queue, its winners and losers, etc. We also discuss Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance’s reliability and uptime, and how we wish Walt Disney World would have delayed this attraction until 2020. A bit of ranting and a rambling defense of the virtual queue, essentially.