Seasons greetings from the first week that all of Batuu is open! YES, the Star Wars-themed Galaxy's Edge is finally complete in both California and Florida and I couldn't be more thrilled about it. The long-anticipated Rise of the Resistance ride is available to guests on both coasts now, but don't expect to be wandering into this attraction like a bounty hunter dropping into a far-off watering hole, no. Read on for how to actually make your way onto this new Star Wars ride, as well as everything else there is to do at the parks and a lil' bit of kooky news:
JOIN THE RESISTANCE... IF YOU CAN
Forget the Stormtrooper room or what it's like to be inside a Star Destroyer, because the Rise of the Resistance quick-draw is all anyone's been able to discuss since Friday morning. With no standby line or Fastpasses offered, guests are required to nab a "boarding group" in the morning via the Disneyland App to physically get on the ride that day. This virtual queue system has been in place in Florida since Rise debuted there in mid-December, so it's old news for Orlando folk, but at Disneyland, where the attraction officially opened a few days ago, getting your tush into that hot seat is a spectacle of its own.
You've read my yapping about this ride for months at this point so you know I'm a major fan — it! is! very! good! — but forgo the ride-through videos and spoiler-laden reviews because the only thing you actually need to prepare for at this point is how to get on this thing.
In short, you have to be inside the park before it opens, phone open, ready to tap the app's front page to snag a number. Lower is better, as higher numbers are often jettisoned as backup groups and aren't necessarily going to be called. (In the aim of not putting my foot in my mouth, I'll mention the process at Disney's Hollywood Studios differs ever-so-slightly. If you're planning a trip there and curious how to get on board, I recommend these play-by-plays from Undercover Tourist or Disney Tourist Blog. Read them sooner than later, since you'll want to loosely plan your day to accommodate an undetermined return time.)
The main tips coming out of the fold from Disneyland's debut (beyond my cheat sheet above) is that it might be better to stay off Disney WiFi while booking, and that you should try for a boarding pass away from crowds of people so you're not competing for service. If you've scanned into Disneyland you can even leave and hang elsewhere; just make sure your tickets are linked to friends and ready to go before the clock strikes at opening hour. You'll have to move quickly since lower numbers, which are practically guaranteed to get on the ride, go immediately and groups in total are snapped up within just a minute or two each day.
This boarding group system has been discussed extensively among fans as we try to exert control over a process that inherently is just luck, but personally I think this is the absolute best solution — for Disneyland at least. Florida's a trickier nut to crack; guests at Disney World right now have been required to plan their lunches and dinners and roller coasters and shows since last July with no knowledge of a boarding pass system that will render their day malleable and not meticulously planned, which is the way of life down at Walt Disney World.
I appreciate the randomness that gives everyone a fair crack (so long as they enter the park before it officially opens), but also feel bad for non-locals, like my friends who flew down for one day this weekend and whose boarding pass never got called due to technical difficulties slowing down the ride's operation.
Either way, the boarding group distribution has been working nearly flawlessly on the app, nobody has to camp out at 4 a.m. and no vacation days are wasted standing in 10-hour lines. In my book, that's an absolute win. So long as you get inside the park before it opens, you have the same odds as anyone else. It's fair, organized, it favors nobody and the adrenaline is pretty powerful. It's easy to feel defeated by the lottery system, but I'm more focused on its virtues and its cause: that Disney's newest ride is so good, everyone is desperate to get on board
May the virtual queue force be with you all.
DEATH TO THE OFFSEASON
We've all joked that there's really no "offseason" at the theme parks any longer, but good lord, January's banner events may be driving that point home more than expected. If you happen to be interested in things like sports or books or crossfit or coffee or whatever normal human adults are into, basically theme parks — Walt Disney World in particular — used to follow a schedule you'd expect: busy as heck in the summer and over school holidays, but not so much so during months like January, February, and September when school's back in session and crowds are minimal.
That's... all gone now, and saying that at the start of 2020 would feel like spewing lies if I didn't remember a crystal-clear Labor Day weekend a few years back with boiling hot temps but crazy-low crowds, since these parks are popping every single day now.
I'm not here to talk about crowd calendars, though. I'm here to talk about more important things like PARADES and PIGS and FISH. Yes, the easy-breezy line-free bonanza of yesteryear has been eroding for a few years now, due to a symbiotic park promotion and guest interest in seasonal festivals that all but guarantees something special is happening at the parks on a regular basis. This month, it's EPCOT's fourth annual International Festival of the Arts, a park-wide celebration of artistic mediums (and food) with artwork (and food) and plentiful souvenirs for sale (and food) and worthy entertainment (and loads of food).
On the other coast, Disneyland's Lunar New Year is in full swing with crowds diving in wholeheartedly, as lines three-dozen deep for spirit jerseys and shrimp dumplings and the three little pigs filled the parks. My friends and I ate our way through nearly the entire menu of festival eats — pleased to report the whole fried fish still slaps, it's incredible, eat it you maniacs! — but it's a surprise and a joy that so much is going on in the wee early weeks of winter when it could easily be a ghost town.
I mean, it's mid-January, the truest of off-seasons, and there's so much to discuss with y'all that I have to save most of it for next week's column. (Universal Studios Hollywood's great Lunar New Year celebration debuts this coming week; I'll fill you in this time next Tuesday.) We may never see the emptiness of years past hit the parks, but hey, a special party nearly every time I visit is far superior to none at all.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
[audible screams of joy from my desk]
I can't believe this is real — Disneyland brought back recreations of the vintage popcorn boxes they used to sell in the early days and are just selling them at a food cart like it's normal and not the dopest food packaging I've ever seen! This throwback dream is SO cool and I LOVE this shift and I never thought anything could inspire me to spend even MORE of my money on popcorn at the parks but here we are! BIG FAN OF THIS CHANGE please make everything look like the early days Disneyland, I beg of you!
LINKS! LINKS! LINKS!
- I love this special monthly series of souvenirs themed to different Disney rides. (First up: Space Mountain!)
- Did you know Walt Disney Animation was doing such extensive work in VR? And made a Frozen VR short?! Very cool.
- I'm so sorry but the comment on this blog post is...so funny.
- IS THIS WHAT HAPPENS AT DISNEYLAND WHEN EVERYONE GOES HOME FOR THE NIGHT?!?!
- This week's D23 Inside Disney Podcast is a video version that was shot UP IN THE SPIRES of Galaxy's Edge, prepare to be extremely jealous!!!
- Duffy & Friends continue their expansion towards world domination.
- Into real serious Epcot nostalgia? This one's for you.
- Pink's daughter is the coolest kid at Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, hands down.
- VERY into there being more Mickey and Minnie ears like this.
- Twitter hates this shirt and therefore it must be mine :)
- Is there anything Bioreconstruct can't photograph!?