Heading to Disneyland for the new Star Wars ride?
You don't need to use The Force or Jedi mind tricks to score a spot in line for the new Rise of the Resistance ride at Disneyland, but you do need a game plan, some fast fingers... and be somewhat of a morning person.
My family just spent a few days at the park earlier this month and found out firsthand that getting on the ride is no easy task. We got there 15 minutes after the park opened on a Monday and saw the tickets were already gone. We asked and got a chuckle back: "Oh you have to be here WAY earlier for that..."
We found that with incredible demand for the new attraction and somewhat limited spots available, Disneyland has some very specific crowd-management procedures in place for fans to obtain access to what they term as a "boarding group." You can't just show up to the park in the morning thinking you'll just wait in a long line and get on that ride, it takes some planning.
To-Do List BEFORE You Enter The Park
- Download the official Disneyland app on your phone. As of now (during this peak demand time), this is the ONLY realistic way to obtain a boarding group spot. There is no standby line to wait in, no spot to camp out, no "Fast Pass" to run and grab like the old days trying to get on Radiator Springs Racers when it came out. If you don't get a boarding group assigned via the app, you're not going on the ride. You'll have to create a free Disney account if you haven't already. Allow time to sign up and go through the verification process if you need a new account.
- You must link your Disneyland park ticket inside the app. There is a button inside the app titled "My Tickets" to add in your ticket. Again, doing this before your first day will help save you crucial moments later - but if you're getting tickets at the park, allow extra time for these steps. You can either scan the bar code or type in the number manually. Bonus to doing this: Now you have a valid copy of your ticket on your phone that can be used to enter the park and obtain Fast Passes and the like.
- Repeat Step 2 for everyone in your party. You can add multiple people's park tickets on to your Disney account on your phone. This links together your party and will be critical if you want to go on this ride with your family and/or friends. Pro tip: Everyone in your party can link your group's tickets on their own accounts too. For example, I could put my wife and my two kids on my phone; my wife could add me and the two kids on her phone; kids could add us on their phones, etc. So all four of us had phones each with our four tickets linked in the app. As you'll see, this can increase your odds of getting on.
So by now hopefully you have the app loaded on your phone with all of your party's park tickets linked together.
To-Do List AT The Park
Boarding groups begin getting assigned the moment (and I mean *moment*) the park officially opens. But the gates into the main park open earlier. These times vary depending on the day and the park's hours so be sure to research this crucial piece of information ahead of time. For us, we went on midweek days where the park officially "opened" at 9 a.m. but the main gates opened at 8:15 a.m. when you can get scanned in and go inside the park gates. That's important because to be eligible to claim a boarding group you must:
- Have your entire party's tickets scanned into the park and
- Be physically inside the main park's gates.*
That means you have to allow enough time for:
- The crush of people arriving early for parking and shuttles and the ensuing traffic
- The HUGE lines at the outer security check points for bags and metal detectors and
- The next HUGE lines to actually get your park tickets scanned to enter the main gate. (Note that if this is your first time using the park tickets, the attendant will take a photo of you which adds a little more time to the process).
I'd say conservatively budget at least 30-45 minutes for those two lines. We failed twice to budget enough time and lost out by seconds. (My wife says we hit the security line at 8:27 a.m. on a Wednesday and got in the park at 9:01) If you have to purchase your tickets at the park get there at the earliest possible time.
*NOTE: You must be inside the main Disneyland park gate. Being inside California Adventure will not count. You can technically also enter via the monorail station in Downtown Disney BUT that gate does not open early - only at park open time and as you'll see, unless you are No. 1 in line there it'll be too late - and even being No. 1 in line may not be enough if the ticket scanner is slow or opens even moments after the hour. Seconds will count! Don’t risk it, go to the main gate.
OK we made it in the park, now what?
Hopefully by the time you reach this step you are through the gates, your app has all your tickets linked, and you still have at least a few minutes before park open time hits. Have everyone in your party open up the Disneyland app and there is a button that is clearly marked for Rise of Resistance that says "Find Out More".
Click that and you'll find two new buttons at the bottom that will say "My Status" and "Join Boarding Group".
The "Join Boarding Group" will be greyed out until the moment the park officially opens. You can click on "My Status" which will go to an essentially blank page for now but also has a button to "Join a boarding group" that is greyed out.
The one time we were successful, I kept jockeying back and forth between these two screens until the time hit. Right at park open, such as 9:00:00, the "Join a boarding group" button will go active and this is when you HIT THE BUTTON AS FAST AS YOU CAN. It will come up with another screen confirming everyone in your party - hopefully everyone is there - and just accept as quickly as possible.
If you were successful, you'll be assigned a boarding group number - lower the better. I got in seconds after 9 a.m. and was assigned group 38 which...was already about half of the groups for the day. It goes that fast. Someone next to us got in seconds later and was assigned 87 which is marginal to whether it will go.
Hopefully you let out a sign of relief and smile at the anticipation of going on an amazing ride!
Other tidbits to know:
* This process and sell-out happens VERY, VERY quickly. By our count, all boarding groups seemed to be full for the day within 30-60 SECONDS of becoming available. By 1 minute or so after park open, you're pretty much out of luck if you're not in. Hopefully this will eventually ease as the initial popularity crush wanes, but I suspect it'll be this way for a long while.
* You only need one boarding pass for your entire group provided you've linked their tickets on your app - one gets in; you all get in. And everyone in your group can attempt to join a boarding group on their own phone - this is where the advantage comes in for linking all your tickets on each other's phones. But you can all only join one boarding group. The app is smart enough to know if one in your group gets in, it'll reject anyone else in your group's attempt at getting a spot - but that's OK, it means you're all in and you owe the lucky one with the fastest fingers a Mickey ice cream bar for snagging the spot.
* The app runs off official time - which is what your cell phone uses - so you can count it down on your phone or cellular-connected watch: The button lights up available at EXACTLY 9:00 and 0 seconds (or whatever park time open is.)
* Twice we ran into an issue where we did not budget enough time for the lines and we got scanned into the park seconds after the link went live. We also found there is a slight delay between when your ticket gets scanned by the ticket scanner and when its acknowledged by the app that you are in the park. It's only like 5-10 seconds but it was enough that the app did not catch the final two people in my group came into the park when I tried to claim a spot at the buzzer and thus it only saw 2 of my 4 as eligible to go. This is not an issue if you enter the park by more than 20-30 seconds before launch time, but just FYI... and don't cut it that close.
* Speaking of which, there is no inherent advantage for getting assigned a boarding spot by being in the park at, for example, 8:15:01 versus 8:59:59 for a 9 a.m. open time. The app doesn't care how long you've been waiting for the button to go live so long as you are there - the family that arrived at 8:59 has the same chance as the 8:15 family. So you don't have to be there super early, just... don't be late.
Yay! I got assigned a boarding group! Now what?
While you are off bragging to your entire Instagram followers, the app will keep a running tally of what boarding groups are eligible to get in line for the ride, starting with 1 through 9 at park open and climbing from there. (There are also reader boards in the park with current boarding group status). You don't have to remain in the park now to stay in this virtual queue. Once you have a number you are free to move about and even leave the park.
Once your boarding group is called, if you have notifications for the Disneyland app turned on, your phone will buzz or chime and tell you your number is up (in a good way!). Then you have two hours to make it over to the ride. Your whole group needs to arrive together and an attendant will scan your tickets to prove your eligibility and then...you go into the line. Now it's like a regular Disneyland experience, winding through the line area that of course they've dressed up into a magical Star Wars feel.
The lines apparently get longer as the day progresses, so if you got a higher boarding group number, it'll come up later in the day and likely have a longer wait in the ride's line itself. Bottom line here: The earlier you can get on the ride, the better. Our line wait time was about 30 mins around noon.
Some notes about the boarding numbers:
* If you're assigned a boarding group lower than 70 - that's really good and then you are essentially reserved on the ride. Once you get into the 70s and 80s, it starts getting dicey. The app will tell you an estimated number each day that they think they will for sure get through, with boarding groups higher than that number only called if they can move through the earlier groups fast enough.
For our midweek dates when the park was open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., this number was usually somewhere between 72 and 78 though they made it into the 80s and even low 90s one day. I heard on the longer park hour days like on the weekends they can get much farther like past 100 but I wasn't there to see for sure. But just be prepared that if you have a high number nearing or past 100, you may still end up out of luck.
What about the ride itself? Is it worth this hassle?
In a word: Yes. At least I think so. The ride is unlike anything you will have experienced in an amusement park before. I hadn't looked up anything about it, wanting to be totally surprised and it was epic. There are several YouTube videos out there now that show what happens and if you want to see it first, I've provided some links but won't spoil it here.
What I will say is the ride is a several-minute long experience covering multiple phases. If you are any kind of Star Wars fan you will be beyond giddy and even if you don't know what a Kylo Ren is, it's still an incredible ride.
Star Wars Land: More than Just Rise of the Resistance
Of course, Disneyland has created an entire new Star Wars land and experience. The first ride to open -- Smuggler's Run, where you get to pilot or help fly the Millennium Falcon, is also incredible, and the lines are more manageable. For now, this is a traditional "show up and stand in line" ride with no Fast Pass yet. Standby times in the midweek were around 35-50 minutes but if you want to go quicker, they do offer a "Single Rider" line where you can't be guaranteed going with a group or friend, but the waits are usually about half as long. (Pro tip: Several Disneyland and California Adventure attractions now offer this "Single Rider" option, including Space Mountain, Indiana Jones, Radiator Springs Racers, Incredi-coaster and the Matterhorn. It's a way for the ride attendants to fill single seats due to odd-numbered parties and will shorten those line waits if you don't mind sitting next to a stranger on the ride. And yes, you don't have to be single to join the line. It's not a dating feature, it just means you're going solo with no guarantee of sitting next to your family/friend.)
Caveat here for Smuggler's Run Single Riders: This ride you get assigned one of three tasks in groups of six: Two pilots that actually fly the Falcon (really! Like you're at the controls of the simulator), two run the guns and the other two are engineers that keep the ship running. The pilot jobs are by far the most exciting and most popular...and we've found are mostly assigned to those who waited in the full standby line.
Those who single rider their way in usually get assigned as the 5th or 6th crew member per mission and through our own experiences, noticed you will mostly get the engineering job or maybe gunner, but rarely pilot as a single rider unless the group you get assigned to doesn't have anyone who wants to fly the thing.
I would suggest waiting out the full line at least once or round up 6 in your group and go through multiple times so you can guarantee a spot as a pilot. The beauty of this ride is the ride is dependent on the skills of your group; get a pilot who doesn't grasp the controls and you're in for a very bumpy ride. Get good pilots with skillful gunners and set a high score.
When not saving the galaxy, you can grab a drink inside Oga's Cantina and actually build your own working Droid at the Droid Depot, or build a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop. If you're a super geek, download the Play Disney Parks App and Star Wars land becomes truly interactive.
Just watch for the passing Storm Troopers - they're everywhere. Kylo Ren also has been spotted around those parts at times. (That's this guy, in case you didn't know. )
*Click the picture above to hear Scott Sistek on KOMO News 1000/FM 97.7 with this story*