By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2019, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Implications of the Partial Opening of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios August 29th



By Dave Shute

“Capacity for the parks, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and its experiences is limited. Access to the park, land and experiences may be restricted or unavailable depending on guest demand and other factors.” —The Disney Parks Blog 

STAR WARS: GALAXY’S EDGE TO OPEN AUGUST 29TH

On March 7, 2019 Disney announced that the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge land would partially open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on August 29th. Both the August date and the partial opening were shockers.

The “partial” opening means that on that date, only one of the two rides being built here—Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run—will be available. The second ride, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, will open “later this year.” FastPass+ will be not “initially” be available for the ride, and the land will be open “during normal park operating hours…[and] will be available during Extra Magic Hours at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.”

The Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge will also open earlier than projected, also will have a partial opening with just Smuggler’s Run, and has different, more stringent operating and access restrictions than Disney World’s version has.

This post is about the implications of this early and partial open for guests before the land is fully open.

Here’s some of what I said nine months ago  about the full opening of Galaxy’s Edge:

Galaxy’s Edge itself will be crushed with those interested in the Star Wars setting and its Millennium Falcon and battle rides for quite some time. I expect longer hours, daily Extra Magic Hours, and the use of FastPass+ or some other mechanism to restrict access to the actual land, not just the rides, but there will still be more demand to visit the land than capacity to serve it.

I get about enough capacity for every visitor to the park to see just one of the Star Wars rides on an average day. If more than half of park visitors want to see both of them, lines will skyrocket, and some of the Star-Wars aimed folks will balk at waits for those rides and go elsewhere in the park. And since I expect a fair proportion of the dedicated Star Wars visitors to not be interested in equal measure in the new capacity at the Toy Story Land rides or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway (update–this is delayed until 2020), the result will be heavy lines at the rides most popular for adults—Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and Star Tours.

Everyone seems to think that the opening of a major land (or ride) has immediate spillover effects on the other parks. That simply has not been the case for Florida parks.

–When Disney’s Animal Kingdom opened, attendance at the other three parks remained flat for the next two and a half years.

–When Hogsmeade opened at Islands of Adventure, Universal Studios remained flat for two and a half years

–When Diagon Alley opened at Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure saw no increase the year it opened, and went up only 8% the next year

–When Pandora opened, the attendance in the other three Disney World parks remained flat

So my forecast for the impact of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge open on the rest of the parks, based on the historical record: very little.

Now we need to be clear here—no one actually knows what will happen, not even Disney. Part of the value of the partial opening is to create more information about what will happen during a “lower attractiveness” phase, when most of the infrastructure (like all the new roadways, the new bus stop, and the Disney Skyliner) and alternatives (like Slinky Dog Dash and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway) are in place, but the partial nature of the opening creates a Galaxy’s Edge that is less compelling to visit (at least for some.)

CROWDS WILL BE BAD—BUT NOT MAYBE AS BAD AS YOU THINK

The late August opening, the partial opening, and the earlier partial open at Disneyland will all play a part in moderating crowds to levels below what some might fear—especially after Labor Day and before October 6.

THE LATE AUGUST OPENING WILL LIMIT FAMILY VISITS FRAMED AROUND STAR WARS

I am still working on 2019 back to school dates, but my material so far—covering 11.3 million kids in about 200 school districts, with another 4 million kids yet to have their calendars announced–suggests that in the summer of 2019, as usual about 70% of US schoolkids will be already in school by the late August time the land opens—and 100% of kids will be back in school by the end of its first full week.

Disney World is loaded with non-family visitors, especially during the Food & Wine season—which I expect to kick off on August 30—but it is still predominantly a family destination. Kids in many jurisdictions can be pulled out of school, but this is hardest early in the semester.

As a result, while the Labor Day weekend will likely be the busiest such in Disney World history, I don’t foresee a lot of families to be adding trips in later September specifically to experience Star Wars, and I expect many who already booked September with the express hope of avoiding the opening to cancel. Galaxy’s Edge itself will be a hot mess, but the rest of the Studios and Disney World should be OK.

Things will change beginning around October 6, which is when the “fall break” season begins and many kids start getting school breaks ranging from three days around Columbus Day to two full weeks. Unless the second ride is open by then, things will settle out from this by later October.

THE PARTIAL OPENING WILL DISSUADE SOME FROM BOOKING UNTIL THE FULL LAND OPENS

Only one of the two rides will be operating at opening day. Much—perhaps all except its table service venue—of the rest of the land’s offerings will be open then too. So, depending on how much you value “the rest of the land,” something between 50% and 80% of the quality of the experience will be available to those whose visits come before the opening of the second ride.

So those whose money or time budgets allow only one visit in the near term to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will defer their vacations until they can experience both rides. Thus, while Galaxy’s Edge will be a mess, it will not be as much of a mess as it would have been had the land entirely opened on 8/29.

THE EARLIER DISNEYLAND OPENING WILL DRAW OFF SOME HARD CORE FANS

Disneyland will be opening its version early as well, at the end of May, and although this is not confirmed, I also expect that its full offering (that is, including the second ride) will be open much earlier than the second ride is open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios–and likely even before August 29.

What this means is that until both versions are fully operational, all the incentives are for the hard-core Star Wars fan to go to California.

Now don’t get me wrong here—all of the basement bedrooms in Orlando will be empty starting August 29th. But the Disney World Star Wars fan boy crowd will not be as heavy after Labor Day as you might think.

CALIFORNIA MESSES, AND THE ABSENCE OF FASTPASS+, WILL PUT OFF MANY VISITORS, BUT EMH WILL HELP

The Disneyland version will open on May 31, and despite all the additional restrictions on access there, I expect that many visitors will not get the message, and that we will immediately hear many horror stories—traffic jams, full parking garages, park closures and extremely long waits. This will come largely from it being open first, and secondarily from the already high attendance and less forgiving infrastructure at Disneyland.

These stories will cause some to cancel their Disney World vacations, and dissuade others from spending much time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Veteran Disney World visitors may also be put off by the absence of FastPass+ access to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. Access to the land and to the ride(s) here will be rationed–at least initially–the old fashioned way, by willingness to wait. FastPass+ will come to these rides someday, and at least some will delay their visit until that happens.

I do expect substantial Extra Magic Hour offerings, something like what we saw at Pandora–a couple of hours every morning and evening before and after something like either a 9a to 9p or 8a to 10p regular operating day (the shorter “regular” day provides more practical EMH opportunities).

Over time, many of the daily EMH time slots will be converted into extra-cost times to visit (“Early Morning Magic” and “Disney After Hours”), but I think that will happen after things have settled down a bit, possibly not even until 2020.

Daily morning EMH, if it happens, will keep those staying in settings not eligible for EMH from successfully employing the classic “rope drop” strategies—as the land will already be full when they are let in. So even without FastPass+ at 60 days, those staying on site, who can do EMH, will have an advantage at Galaxy’s Edge.

By the way, Galaxy’s Edge and Hollywood Studios will be particularly crammed on days Magic Kingdom closes early for parties. See this for the party schedule through October.

Also by the way, the best hotels to stay in for those who want to see Galaxy’s Edge are those that let you get to Disney’s Hollywood Studios without going on the roads—the Epcot resorts, from which you can take a boat or walk, and the Disney Skyliner Resorts (Caribbean Beach, Pop Century, Art of Animation, and, after it opens, Disney’s Riviera Resort) from which you can take a gondola to the park.

Kelly, the long-time travel agent partner of this site, can help you book your Disney World vacation–whether to avoid or participate in the opening of Galaxy’s Edge! Contact her using the form below:

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29 comments

1 Kelly B - Destinations In Florida { 03.10.19 at 1:21 pm }

Great article Dave. I think you are spot on with your predictions. If anyone is planning on traveling this year, now is the time to book. Availability is very limited. I’m also starting to take names for those who are planning a 2020 vacation. We normally see those prices released around mid-June. But this year has been a bit different with release dates, so contact me now to be ready to book as soon as the 2020 prices are released. (KellyB@DestinationsInFlorida.com or 980-429-4499)

2 Lauri { 03.10.19 at 1:39 pm }

I am freaking out because it was supposed to be the first trip for my husband, 15 month old, and I from September 1st- 7th SPECIFICALLY to avoid crowds and Galaxy’s edge. Are we better off rescheduling to early May or will we be okay to keep our reservation? We were planning to skip Hollywood Studios, but am anticipating spillover into Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Epcot.

3 Dave { 03.10.19 at 3:26 pm }

Lauri, as I note in the post, I think the rest of the parks will be fine. But no one knows for sure, and you eliminate the risk if you shift to May.

4 Christina { 03.10.19 at 4:49 pm }

Hi Dave! We were planning a Labor Day week trip to Disney in hopes to avoid the rush of the fall projected Star Wars opening. Now… I’m wondering if we would avoid higher crowds by choosing a mid to later August trip. What are your thoughts? We went the week after Thanksgiving this past year and we still have PTSD from the crowd levels. Does the Starwars opening influence crowd levels overall?

5 Dave { 03.11.19 at 9:04 am }

Christina, HS will be a wreck through Labor Day, and perhaps for longer, but the rest of the parks will probably be OK. However, no one really knows for sure, so an earlier visit will reduce the risk. Note that crowds in early August can be rougher, so the later in the month your visit–so long as it ends before 8/29–the better.

6 Eric { 03.11.19 at 4:49 pm }

Hi Dave. Much to my dismay, I also planned our trip to AVOID crowds. We are going from Aug 25-31. Of course, I had planned HS for the 29th (had my ADR’s booked!). I swapped our Wed & Thu so now we are going to HS on the 28th and AK on the 29th. Aside from lack of ADR’s available, crisis might be adverted. Do you remember what crowds were like at the “other” parks the week of Pandora’s opening?

7 Dave { 03.12.19 at 7:25 am }

Eric, I checked Touringplan’s historical crowd calendar and didn’t see any impact on the other parks of note.

8 Aisha { 03.11.19 at 5:09 pm }

Hi Dave,
We are planning a trip to WDW 9/4 – 9/11, and will be staying at a Disney Resort. We arrive early afternoon the first day, and leave mid afternoon on the last. We are traveling with about 12 family members altogether. Mom, brothers family, and my own. The plan is to purchase an 8 day ticket, and were wondering if you could suggest give suggestions for which parks to visit on which days, given we have 6 full days and 2 half days on the ends of our trip. We are debating the Park Hopper also for some members who are on their 2nd visit and have a teen that may want to see different attractions. Does this make sense to do? Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance! Btw, we are psyched to experience even a part the new SW Land!

9 Dave { 03.12.19 at 7:31 am }

Hi Aisha, Disney’s calendars for your period aren’t fully out yet–ping me back in four days OK? But in the meantime:

–The hopper may be a good call for the 2nd visit group.
–For the first visit group; my advice will vary depending on the ages of the kids in it–let me know that ok? Also take a look at this and give me sense of the parks you’d wish to see. IN general, with seven effective days and kids 8 or older I’d advise a day and a half at each of AK and Epcot, 2-3 days at MK, and 1-2 days at HS (depending o your interest in Star Wars and tolerance for waits)

10 Aisha { 03.12.19 at 9:02 am }

Will do! In the meantime, the ages are 15, 14, 9, 7, 6, 5, and 3. Thanks so very much!

11 Aisha { 03.12.19 at 9:06 am }

To clarify, this will be the 2nd visit for my children, the 14, 9, and 6 year old. Their first vist was in ’16, so my 6 year remembers very little. Ok, pinging you back in 4 days! Thanks!

12 Aisha { 03.15.19 at 8:08 pm }

Hello Again Dave!

Now that the calendar has updated to include our travel dates of 9/4 -9/11 I’m hoping you can give me some guidance on what parks to visit on each day of our visit. On Wed. 9/4, after our early afternoon arrival to our Disney resort, we should be ready to head out to parks by 3pm. I was thinking MK for this day because of the late hours, but would like to know your thoughts. We will have 6 full days in between and then the final Morning of our trip, 9/11, we will have until around 2pm to hang in the parks before we need to head back to the resort and prepare for the trip home. There are 12 of us traveling together: My husband, myself, and our 6, 9, and 14 year old (our 2nd visit). My mother, my brother, his wife and their children ages 3, 5, 7, and 15 (all 1st time visitors). We are definitely interested in seeing all 4 parks including HS as my family are Star Wars fans, even if we are bummed about the crowds. Hoping to visit MK no less than twice for sure. AK maybe twice. Epcot at least once (however, I now realize that on our first visit we missed most of world showcase only making it between Mexico and China in world showcase east). So, I’m not really sure how much time should be allocated to experience the rest. We were planning to purchase the 8 day base ticket, with my family possibly upgrading to park hopper. I like your suggestions for the amount of park days to allot for each park! If you could help us make a wise choice about the order in which to spend them I’d be so grateful! Sorry, I know this post was a bit redundant. I just thought it might be helpful to have all the info in one spot.

Thanks so much!
Aisha

13 Dave { 03.17.19 at 8:23 am }

Hi Aisha! Your thoughts on why to go to MK on 9/4 are similar to those of everyone else, so all will go there, and it will be a mob scene! See this.

So here’s my thoughts
9/4 avoid MK
9/5 avoid Epcot
9/6 avoid MK and Epcot
9/7 avoid all, but MK is probably the best choice
9/8 avoid HS
9/9 avoid MK and AK
9/10 avoid Epcot
9/11 avoid MK

The best HS days will likely be the days MK is open late– 9/9 and 9/11.

14 Jane { 03.12.19 at 7:19 pm }

Implications for Thanksgiving week 2019? As far as I know this is the first big holiday that most people have off after the opening of the land. I can’t really change my plans without a lot of difficulty….did T weeks in 2014 and 2015 and had little trouble with crowds. But I was hoping to avoid SW altogether.

15 Dave { 03.14.19 at 7:11 am }

Jane, you might see a point or so of crowding outside HS, and of course mob scenes in Galaxy’s Edge, likely overflowing to the more adult-attracting rides in the rest of the park. But with good FastPass+ choices and good daily plans, you should be fine!

16 Jeff { 03.12.19 at 8:15 pm }

I am so fired up for this!!
I’ve been a Disney fanatic all my life, and a Star Wars fanatic since the first one was released 40+ years ago.
I’m hoping to avoid the total madness, but am perfectly willing to dive right into it if needed.
Will be visiting Galaxy’s Edge @ DLR in late September, and WDW’s version in late May 2020.
CAN’T WAIT!! BRING IT ON!!!

17 Dave { 03.14.19 at 7:11 am }

Cool, Jeff!

18 Jill { 03.13.19 at 10:19 am }

Hi Dave,
We finally took your advice and made a reservation for the Poly Aug 24-30, 2019. The last day of Free Dining I made a reservation for Yacht Club, too, just in case my husband wasn’t on board as he loves Ecpot resorts. Girls and I were super excited about it until announcement of Star Wars land. Now I feel like we should stay at the Yacht Club so we can walk to HS. My one daughter loves Star Wars but was beyond excited about the Poly. She wants to spend every moment in Magic Kingdom! We’ve been to Disney 5 times and have stayed at the Ecpot resorts 3 times. My daughters are 16 & 17. My husband is not looking forward to the lines at HS so not sure if it would be just me and the girls going to HS. I’m worried we’d need to be in line at 4 am or earlier. Thanks for any any advice.

Help me, Dave, you’re my only hope.

19 Dave { 03.14.19 at 7:19 am }

Jill, first I think staying at YC is a great idea. Second, I have no real help on the 4a point other than saying that if WDW offers daily morning EMH (as I expect it to) that will help a bit.

20 Carrie { 03.13.19 at 2:21 pm }

Hi Dave!
So our trip is 8/29/19-9/4/19 and I had our HS day for that Sunday . In your opinion would it be better to move our HS day to the following Tues. ? I know you said labor day weekend is going to be insane which makes me worry for my whole trip now.
Thank you for all your advice!

21 Dave { 03.14.19 at 7:21 am }

Carrie, Tuesday (or even Monday,as a lot of folk there for the weekend travel home on Monday) will likely be a little better than Sunday…

22 Ashley { 03.13.19 at 5:58 pm }

We booked our trip for 8/28-9/8 with the intention of avoiding the crazy Star Wars crowds, but since we aren’t able to go any earlier and I’m a huge Star Wars fan we decided to roll with it. Unfortunately, I booked all of our dining just days before the big announcement. We have an early breakfast booked at H&V on 8/31 (Sat) – for the purpose of enrolling my kids in Jedi Academy – and dinner at Sci-Fi. Our other HS day was suppose to be 9/3 (Tues) – with a Fantasmic dining package at Mama Melrose’s. We have two days planned “off” with plans to go to the waterparks, 9/1 & 9/5. We also have park hopper tickets.

With all that said, would you suggest trying to rearrange plans so that we completely avoid HS on that Saturday? Or maybe keep the reservations and then hop to another park/go to the waterpark and do HS on 9/5 (Thurs)?

23 Dave { 03.14.19 at 7:25 am }

Ashley, most of me wants to say OMG yes avoid HS on Saturday. But the rest says that you can probably have an OK day (with wise FastPass+) on everything except Galaxy’s Edge on Saturday, and get a sense that day of what GE will lake on Thursday from being around the place…

24 Mike { 04.30.19 at 11:16 pm }

I will be at a Disney for first time with my two kids 8 and 5 from 8/29 thru 9/1. I was planning HS for Sunday 9/1 as there is Disney extra hours opening at 8am. My kids are interested in Toy Story land. We are not planning galaxy edge. My question is should we even go to HS on Sunday 9/1 or should we avoid because of heavy crowds? Also what time should I show up at HS if they open at 8am?

25 Dave { 05.01.19 at 12:21 pm }

Mike, it is generally best to avoid parks on their morning EMH days. The “why” of that is here.

I also expect major changes in HS’s operating hours, opening times, and EMH offering to be announced later this year that will almost 100% affect your dates. I would avoid HS your dates entirely. There’s much more to see at WDW than you have time for, and you will have no trouble filling your time at MK and AK in particular

26 Mike { 05.01.19 at 1:56 pm }

Dave thanks for your feedback much appreciated. So we should avoid HS during our 8/29-9/1 trip to Disney? Where would you recommend we go as a family with an 8 and 5 year old for Sunday 9/1? Epcot? SeaWorld? Universal? As of right now our plans are Thursday 8/29 MK and Friday 8/30 AK. We would like to plan something for kids Sunday 9/1.

27 Dave { 05.02.19 at 12:23 pm }

Mike, I would. Each of the other three parks takes more than a day–see this–so I would do another MK day.

28 cassandra { 06.06.19 at 8:27 am }

HI there! We have had a trip booked from 9/22-9/29 for about 6 months now. We picked that week hoping to miss the opening of star wars and get the lower crowds. My kids are 5/6 and this will be their first visit as well as my husbands. We are planning to only visit the parks on the week days and have two days planned for MK . Any suggestions on what we might encounter crowd wise? I would reschedule this trip but my fear is that the second half of star wars will open and I’ll be back in the same boat. Thanks!

29 Dave { 06.10.19 at 10:49 am }

Hi Cassandra! First, I’m so sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you. Day job demands…

What I expect is massive crowds in Galaxy’s Edge, and also in the more thrill-type other rides at HS–Slinky Dog, Tower of Terror, and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster. I don’t see much spillover effects on the other parks, basically, because about as many people will cancel for just the reasons you are thinking about.

If I am wrong, it will be worse, not better. The merit of cancelling is that when you re-book you will have a lot more knowledge of what’s going on. If I were going to cancel, I would aim my re-book for early May, as that’s a tough time to take kids out of school, and far enough out to have real visibility into what you will be facing.

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