Four mornings in a row, thousands of guests have lined up on the stoop of the Happiest Place on Earth to make a reservation for a date with destiny. But for many, arriving before the sun did not mean gaining access to what may very well be Disney’s best-ever attraction. Today’s Disneyland Update takes you to the stars, explains what happened on the opening weekend of Rise of the Resistance, and what tips and tricks we’ve learned to help you avoid the mistakes that thousands of others have made. Plus, news, construction updates and more from the Disneyland Resort.
Today’s update is so big that we’ve had to split it in two. You’ll find our coverage of the opening weekend of the Lunar New Year and Marvel Land construction HERE.
Rise of the Resistance Lands with a Bang
After years of anticipation and months of delays, Rise of the Resistance is finally open to the public! On Friday, January 17th, thousands of guests lined up in the wee hours of the morning in the hopes of experiencing Disney’s newest E-Ticket attraction. An attraction so big that perhaps we should start calling it an “F-Ticket.” Shortly after Disneyland opened its gates, Main Street U.S.A became a jam-packed holding pen for those trying to secure the coveted “boarding pass” needed to ride the newest addition to Galaxy’s Edge.
The dust from the opening weekend has settled and it is time to assess the impact Rise of the Resistance has had on the Resort. Did it bring in the record crowds Disney had hoped for? Does the high-tech attraction live up to the massive amount of hype that surrounds it? Are there tips for making sure you can secure a spot to ride? Let’s find out . . .
The First Rise
Even though arriving early does NOT increase the chance of obtaining a boarding pass, enthusiastic fans began to gather in front of the Disneyland turnstiles in the early hours of Friday morning. By 5am, the lines at the front gate had completely clogged the Esplanade and it looked like Rise of the Resistance was poised to cause a serious disturbance in the Force.
The main gates to Disneyland opened a few minutes before the clock struck 6am and guests flooded onto Main Street to wait until the official park opening time of 8am. Unfortunately, most food and merchandise locations remained closed and unable to serve the thousands of hungry guests looking for a place to eat.
Starbucks was the only location open and had a line so long that most guests couldn’t find the end of it. It was a missed opportunity for Disney to sell Rise of the Resistance merchandise and breakfast foods.
Boarding Passes Open
Promptly at 8am, the “Join boarding pass option” became available on the official Disneyland Parks app. Within 20 seconds, all primary boarding groups (1-81) were gone. The servers were able to handle the massive amount of traffic, but many guests were unable to snag a boarding pass. Cheers could be heard all over Main Street from those who had success, while others frantically refreshed their app in the hopes that there were still some available.
This boarding pass system is technically not a “lottery,” but it might as well be with how unpredictable the process is. One moment guests were being assigned boarding groups 12-20 and just a second later, others were seeing numbers as high as 140 show up on their apps. It’s fast and furious and those who are slow, or confused, about the process will get left out in the cold . . . literally.
Unfortunately, because more guests are showing up at the crack of dawn every day than can be accommodated, the system is problematic. All spots are claimed within the first minute of park opening. There is no option for those who can’t arrive early, and even for those who do arrive by 8am, there is no guarantee that your early morning and long wait will result in a ride.
Overall, this system has added a bit of sanity to what could have been an outrageous line for a highly anticipated new attraction. But we do think that a few small changes could help level out crowds throughout the resort and resolve the early morning boom and bust. Rather than having all passes distributed at park opening, we believe they should be divvied out throughout the day – perhaps at 8am, noon, and 5pm. That would allow guests to pick a time that works best for them, better distribute guests, and resolve situations where guests receive a boarding group which requires them to wait all day (and possibly still not get in at all). Boarding groups beyond 81 could be opened up later in the day if as available.
We don’t believe that Fastpass would be a viable option at this point as the frequent downtime of this attraction makes the specific return time of the Fastpass system a problem. We encourage Disney to experiment a bit with the virtual queuing system as it is a very interesting idea with lots of potential.
How would you like to see access to Rise of the Resistance managed? Just let guests line up and wait for hours? Fastpass only? Fastpass with standby? Boarding Passes as currently offered? Some variation of the above? Or perhaps boarding groups scheduled online (as was done for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge). Let us know in the comments below.
3 . . . 2. . . 1. . . Rise!
Shortly after boarding passes were distributed, guests made their way over to Galaxy’s Edge. Even though no boarding groups had been called yet, the area was mobbed. The area in front of the Rise of the Resistance, all the way to the Marketplace, was packed. It was a rare sight to see in an area of the land that has been mostly uncrowded since Galaxy’s Edge opened last June.
Guests were annoyed to find the ride wouldn’t begin loading until later due to D23 filming at the attraction. Boarding groups began to be called at 8:50am and moved pretty quickly as the day progressed. Aside from 1.5 hours of downtime, the ride was able to remain operational for most of the day. In addition to the 81 groups that Disney tries their best to accommodate each day, they were able to serve up to boarding group 114! Pretty good for a first day.
But what about those who didn’t obtain a boarding pass, did they clog up the park? Well, if they decided to hang out around the park, the wait times sure didn’t show it. By 11am, the park had returned to a normal crowd level and felt like just another Friday at the Resort. This surely wasn’t what Disney was expecting for the grand opening of a new attraction, and ultimately it shows just how many annual pass holders make up the everyday attendance. With no shot of experiencing the ride, passholders left the park in droves! Tourists seem to have avoided the Resort, likely because of the threat of huge crowds, even though this is a 3-day holiday weekend and discounted locals tickets are available.
The same turn of events happened on Saturday and again on Sunday —busy morning followed by a relatively uncrowded day. The ride proved to be even more reliable on Saturday, experiencing only one major breakdown all day, allowing Disney to call more of the groups above 81.
The same couldn’t be said on Sunday with windows of downtime reaching up to 2 hours or more several times throughout the day. All new attractions suffer maintenance issues (it famously took Indy years to settle into a smooth operation) but problems will eventually be sorted out and the ride will become more stable as the days go by.
Is Rise of the Resistance Worth the Trouble?
Yes! Rise of the Resistance is a fantastic new addition to Disney’s attraction library and will continue to be a primary draw for years to come. It is an amazing feat of storytelling and technology that combine to create one of the best adventure rides that Imagineering has ever attempted. The boarding pass system is not easy (or fun) to deal with, but it is a necessary evil if you wish to experience this ride in the early days.
Tips We Have Learned
Having braved the opening weekend rush, we have a few tips to share with you on how to set yourself up for success when attempting to gain access to a boarding pass:
- Don’t arrive too early: Anything before 6:30am is too early. There is no guaranteed parking before that time, and arriving early doesn’t help your chances of getting a boarding pass anyway. All you need to do is arrive before the official opening time of the park (8am this past weekend).
- Move away from the crowds: Once the ropes have been dropped around the hub, try to make your way into the park and away from others before the boarding groups unlock at park opening. We found it easier to get into the “boarding group” section of the app when you are not sharing wi-fi access points with other guests. Many will stay on Main Street and not move around, but doing so could cause them to be sharing an overloaded wi-fi access point and might slow down their connection. We secured boarding passes on both Friday and Saturday while standing on the parade route between Tea Cups and Matterhorn Bobsleds.
- Check your internet speed: Connect to the Disneyland park wifi and run a speed test on the device you will be using to get a boarding pass. After, disconnect from the wi-fi and run a speed test on your cellular connection (download a speed test app or try Speedtest.net). On Friday we used the Wi-fi and got boarding group 76, while on Saturday we used cellular and got boarding group 7. There is a good chance that it was just random luck, but we can’t ignore that the faster connection speed came alongside a much lower boarding group on the second attempt. We’ll keep experimenting, please let us know your experience as well.
- Find a clock that counts down seconds: At 7:59 we had the app open to the boarding group page, and a second device had a clock counting down with a “seconds” hand showing. When the time was 7:59:59, we hit the refresh button and ensured that the app was mid-refresh when the clock struck 8am. We then hit the “join boarding group” button and had success. Every second counts, literally.
- Have your group ready: This is incredibly important. If you want your entire party to be in the same boarding group, only allow one person in your party to arrange your spot. If multiple members of your group all attempt to get a boarding pass, they will most likely end up in different groups! Along those lines, make sure that all members of your party are already linked to the account of the person who is organizing the boarding group!
We have a whole article about how to obtain a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance. Learn it, live it, share it:
Spoiler alert! Our video team created a cinematic ride footage video of Rise of the Resistance, and it’s gorgeous. If you’re looking to stay spoiler-free, then keep on reading onto the next section. Otherwise, enjoy this beautiful coverage of the new attraction!
With so much happening with Rise of the Resistance at Disneyland and Lunar New Year in California Adventure, it’s hard to imagine there’s even more stuff going on in the parks. But that’s why we put these Disneyland Updates together. Here’s the rest of what’s going on in the park right now.
The construction projects continue in Tomorrowland, but some projects are taking longer than others. Plus, there’s a new cupholder that’s driving people wild.
Since the removal of the French Fry rocks at the entrance to Tomorrowland a few months ago, the empty space has been retained with an enclosed grass garden. In a couple of months, that whole space will be revitalized and transformed into a welcoming mountain of spires and flowers. For the time being, there have been no changes since the fence went up. The project is supposed to be completed sometime in spring 2020.
Just beyond the Tomorrowland signs are the refurbished silver walls. The wall nearest Star Tours has been finished for a few weeks.
Once this side gets landscaping to fill in the empty dirt and hide the lights, it’ll be picture perfect once again.
However, the wall across the way isn’t quite ready. The Buzz Lightyear wall remains behind scrims. When taking a closer look through the scrim, it’s still an empty wall. The new tiles haven’t been installed. We’re curious what the holdup is for this project; it’s taken several months already.
The project with the most obvious progress is the Space Mountain emergency exit staircase. The stairs are taking shape and rails have been installed. It looks like construction here could wrap up relatively quickly.
Plastic Food Holder Craze Continues
Last week, there was a new Millennium Falcon popcorn/french fry bucket that Star Wars fans have been coveting. Now there’s a new drink holder of Kylo Ren’s ship that people are clamoring over as well. You can purchase this at Galactic Grill for $18.49 with a soft drink, or around the land at various coffee/frozen lemonade stands for slightly more.
Are you one of the folks who enjoys collecting these plastic popcorn holders, cups, and holders?
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
We already covered the brand-new attraction in Galaxy’s Edge at the top of this Update. But that’s not the only thing that’s new this week in Star Wars land. The opening of Rise also brought new foods and merchandise to the land. Adventurous travelers looking for a meal or a drink now have a few more items to choose from from the planet of Batuu.
You can now enjoy a Toydaria Swirl at the Milk Stand, which is a different take on the land’s Green Milk. It includes mango jelly and swirls of chili seasoning.
The other new offerings include Black Spire Hot Chocolate (a hot chocolate with purple whipped cream that’s available at Docking Bay 7 and Ronto Roasters) and Galma Garlic Puffed Cheese Crisps (crispy garlic and cheese chips available at Kat Saka’s Kettle and any of the droid vending carts).
There were also a handful of new merchandise items and apparel to celebrate the opening of Rise of the Resistance.
And for the Galaxy’s Edge achievement hunters on the Play Disney Parks app, there are exclusive trading pins sold at Little Green Men Store Command in Tomorrowland and Westward Ho Trading Company in Frontierland. The three corresponding achievements are “Black Spire Explorer” (use the Datapad in Play Disney Parks for the first time), “Flight of the Falcon” (ride Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run), and “Hero of the Resistance” (ride Rise of the Resistance).
For more info about the new foods and the full rundown about the merchandise, check out the article below.
There are several refurbishments planned and underway for some of the attractions around the Resort.
Currently Under Refurbishment:
- Red Car Trolley: April 1st, 2019-Summer 2020
- Jamba Juice: November 4th, 2019-Spring 2020
- Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge & 1901: January 6th-30th
- Mark Twain Riverboat: January 7th-31st
- Snow White’s Scary Adventures: January 7th-Summer 2020
The classic Fantasyland attraction has gained a set of construction walls around the perimeter that extends well into the walkway.
After the refurb is done, it’ll be a much happier story with a new ending. If you’re curious about what’s being changed, check out the article below.
- Haunted Mansion Refurbishment: January 21st-Spring 2020
Starting tomorrow, the Haunted Mansion will be packing away its holiday overlay until it returns in the fall.
- The Bakery Tour: January 21st-February 11th
- Grizzly River Run: January 21st-February 13th
- Rushin’ River Outfitters: January 21st-February 13th
- King Arthur Carrousel: Starting January 21st-TBD
- Sailing Ship Columbia: February 3rd-6th
- Jessie’s Critter Carousel– starting February 24th
Indiana Jones Adventure: Spring 2020-TBD
Small World Reopens
The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed is ready to take passengers again. The attraction reopened on the 17th, coinciding with the opening of Star Wars land’s Rise of the Resistance.
Are you ready to get that earworm of a song stuck in your head again?
Now that Rise is open, there have been some updates to a couple of the parking lots/garages to handle expected changes.
Mickey & Friends
Toy Story Security Tents, Bus Stops and Restrooms
In anticipation of increased parking levels with the opening of Rise of the Resistance, the Toy Story lot has gained some new features.
There are now restrooms you can use before heading into the parks for the day.
Additionally, there is a security screening tent at the Toy Story lot. This simplifies the process by getting screened before entering a shuttle to the parks, saving a lot of time.
Also, there are new shuttle stops to take guests into the parks. I hope that these updates will prove to be useful for guests.
This and That
Here are a couple of the smaller things changes from around the Resort this week.
No More Neon Rings at Downtown Disney
Now that the holidays are over and done with, the neon hoops hanging from tree limbs in Downtown Disney have been removed. Instead, the trees are now wrapped with twinkling lights. It’s a much more elegant look than the Glo-Lite display for the holidays.
Tenaya Spa at Grand Californian Hotel
The new spa at the Grand Cal has new construction walls around the entrance. Tenaya Stone Spa is the replacement for Mandara Spa, which closed in July of last year. The California-inspired spa is set to open sometime in spring this year.
Leftovers are Still In, Right?
This last trip, we saw a couple things leftover from the holidays and from before that even. In front of the Opera House, the churro cart was still selling its holiday churros and peppermint candy bottle-topper.
And you can still find the Birthday Hat Mickey from the Get Your Ears celebration from last year at several locations around the park.
Vintage Popcorn Boxes
There are new vintage-inspired popcorn boxes floating around the Resort on ODV carts. These popcorn boxes are facsimiles of the original design when the park opened in 1955! A few years ago there was a porcelain collectible of these boxes, but it’s good to see that this classic design in the parks. What do you think?
MiceChat Anniversary & Gumball Rally
MiceChat/MiceAge is turning 17 years young and we will be celebrating with a weekend of celebrities and events at the Disneyland Resort February 7th through 9th, 2020. The main event is the Gumball Rally, which is a race through Disneyland to see who can ride the most attractions in a single day. It’s absolutely the most fun you’ll ever have in the parks.
Join over 500 of your fellow Disney fans to see who’s got the best strategy for riding the attractions. Compete in teams of 2 to 4 individuals and have the time of your lives.
Disneyland’s Southern California Resident Ticket Deal is Back!
3-Day Disneyland Resort tickets for travel now through May 21, 2020 are available at a $106 savings on each adult ticket and $86 savings on any child (ages 3-9) ticket! It is only valid for residents who live in ZIP codes 90000-93599. Residency will be verified at time of booking and government photo ID is required to use the tickets at the parks.
Here’s the best part . . . we have them cheaper and can be combined with hotel discounts and an additional $10 off using the “micechat” discount code (on 3 night stays) – Shop the SoCal Resident Special HERE
Not a SoCal resident? Our partners at Get Away Today help you save money on Disney theme park tickets and travel packages. For Discounted theme park tickets and travel packages to Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Universal, Knott’s Berry Farm and other family vacation destinations, always start HERE: Get Away Today (When calling, mention MiceChat so you get your special rates and deals!).
Let’s Hear From You
Were you one of the lucky people to ride Rise of the Resistance on opening day? If you didn’t visit the Disneyland Resort for the opening of Galaxy’s Edge last year or for the opening of Rise, when do you think you’ll be planning your next trip? Will you be shooting to visit once Marvel land opens to experience it all in one fell swoop? Let us know in the comments.
To read the DCA Update for the opening weekend of Lunar New Year and Avengers Campus construction updates, click HERE.