When I told friends and family I would attend the opening of Disneyland’s new Star Wars land, Galaxy’s Edge, they tended to reply one of three ways: Tell me what blue milk tastes like! Grab me a lightsaber! Have fun waiting forever in lines!
For months, I dreamt about digging into the lands treats, lore, and fancy new ride, Smuggler’s Run, but the more I heard about the park, the more I feared everybody would be right. How could Disney control crowds in Star Wars land when its Avatar-themed sibling at Disney World still saw lines upwards of six hours?
Disney must have learned some big lessons from Pandora’s opening, because on opening day, Galaxy’s Edge wasn’t just comfortable, it felt at times less crowded than the rest of Disneyland on peak hours. Sometimes, like when we exited through Batuu’s shady forest, passing an oddly ignored full-sized X-Wing, it was downright serene.
Credit Disneyland’s reservation system and some top-notch people management from the Galaxy’s Edge staff.
From opening day through June 23, guests looking to enter Galaxy’s Edge will need a Disneyland ticket along with official reservations. Disney Parks offered a no-purchase system, though those reservations have been fully claimed. During this window, all hotel guests who purchase a ticket to the park are also given one reservation per person during their stay. Reservations last four hours, with new large groups entering and exiting throughout the day.
When we entered the park, we were instructed to wait on our first line of the day. At the Tomorrowland building once known for the Carousel of Progress, we joined a long, angular line drawn onto the pavement in tape. The queue looked intimidating, but before one of us could buy the others coffee, we’d already reached the front. This was a recurring trend. Big lines moved quickly.
We were told to arrive outside the entrance to Galaxy’s Edge no more than 15 minutes before our time slot. So we did just that, arriving at 10:45. Again, we found a huge, intimidating crowd, this one not confined by a line. Though squeezed together, everybody was in an ecstatic mood. For 15 minutes, we chatted with strangers about Disney history, Star Wars lore, and the cute costumes they’d bought or made for their kids, who waited patiently beside them.
No one sprinted when the doors opened because what they found inside the park required their attention. Dozens of folks peeled from the crowd to take photos of a life-size A-Wing. Others scooted to the various merch stalls. A few stopped just to buy a Coke or water with the custom Aurebesh logos.
Of course, many guests hurried to Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. But to get there, they were diverted by the cast around the land’s periphery. Rather than flood the bazaar, boutique shops, and restaurants in the center of the park, the people who wanted to get to the ride were kept on the wide, uncrowded walkways that looped all the way around Batuu and culminated, perfectly, just outside the ride.
On opening day, the wait to climb inside the Millennium Falcon rarely spiked over one hour, and we saw the wait time dip to as low as 30 minutes. I overheard a number of folks bragging that they’d rode Smuggler’s Run twice, and were considering a third go. Maybe the ride is efficient. Maybe the reservations meant fewer potential riders. Maybe guests had other things to do. Whatever the case, I was never concerned about fitting the ride into my four-hour window at the land.
The only two lines that seemed to cause a stir were at Savi’s Workshop and Oga’s Cantina. Savi’s is where guests can build their own custom lightsaber as part of a unique retail performance. Only fourteen guests build their lightsabers per show, so the line was unsurprising. Oga’s Cantina is the one place in Disneyland where an adult can buy an alcoholic drink. Maybe people really needed a space cocktail. Or maybe they wanted to see the cantina’s DJ, a revised animatronic R-3X, the deep-cut Star Wars character previously seen at Star Tours before that ride was updated.
With an hour left in my time at the park (cast members could tell me time frame by the color of my wrist band) I was told I couldn’t line up for a drink at Oga’s. I wouldn’t have time to wait in line, order a stiff drink, and enjoy myself before I had to make way for the next round of guests.
Nobody likes to be told they can’t have what they want, especially when what they want is time with DJ R-3X. But I respected the policy, knowing this was the deal that allowed Disney Parks to balance the number of folks who want to see this new land with the land’s limited amount of space.
Throughout the day, the crowds in Galaxy’s Edge ebbed and flowed. Just as crowds began to feel unwieldy, a group’s time would expire and they’d exit the land. Suddenly, I could take a photo without anybody in my way. Or really anywhere near me. Gradually, the crowds built back up. And again, a group would leave and suddenly the place would feel oddly empty.
Galaxy’s Edge is unique in that the land itself feels like a ride. As my colleague Charlie Hall writes in his impressions of the first day, the land is full of things to see, games to play, and characters to meet. I think the land works because Disney Parks treats visiting the land as they would any other ride, controlling the number and the pace of guests who move through it with a precision that allows the space to feel not like a crowded theme park, but a trade planet on the outer reaches of the galaxy.
On opening day, Galaxy’s Edge delivered on its promise. And that’s because while there were crowds, the land never felt crowded.