Disneyland fans: Go now before you’re ‘forced’ out

A Millennium Falcon ride factors into Disneyland’s forthcoming Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge project.

In summer 2019, Disneyland adds one of the single biggest expansions in its 63-year history: Galaxy’s Edge, an immersive 14-acre area themed to the Star Wars franchise. Here you can pilot the Millennium Falcon on a mission whose outcome is determined by your performance; plunge into the midst of a fight between the First Order and the Resistance; interact with aliens and robots; drink adult beverages in a Mos Eisley-style cantina; and much more. Disney is promising nothing short of an evolutionary leap in theme park storytelling: to shoot past the ceiling established by Universal several years back with the creation of its Harry Potter attractions in Orlando and Universal City. (Not to be outmaneuvered, another Galaxy’s Edge will open at Florida's Walt Disney World in fall 2019.) Disneyland, as we’ve known it, will be forever changed.

And that’s kind of a problem for those of us who like to take a random weekend, drive the 265-odd miles to Anaheim and enjoy Walt Disney’s original theme park. As befits something so unprecedented, Galaxy’s Edge is expected to draw crowds that stagger the imagination. (I’d like to go, despite what I’m about to tell you.) Disneyland’s maximum capacity will be reportedly capped at 80,000 people after Galaxy's Edge opens; the neighboring Disney California Adventure, with fewer attractions than Disneyland, is probably half that. Both parks routinely max out on peak days—and it’s safe to assume that the Disneyland Resort is in for quite a few of those peak days, if not peak weeks and months.

The point is this: If you’d like to have a nice Disneyland weekend anytime next year, you need to go before Galaxy’s Edge opens. If you miss the window, you may not be able to get a foot in the castle without five families stomping across it for at least a year.

Let’s do some simple math. According to Disney, the daily capacity of the Millennium Falcon attraction, “Smuggler’s Run,” will be 28,000 guests daily—assuming the ride doesn’t shut down at random times, as new attractions often do. Even if Disneyland draws a paltry 40,000 people, not everyone’s going to be able to help Chewie punch it. And that’s kinda the good news: In speaking to attractions industry publication Blooloop, Bill Zanetti, an Orlando-based industry expert, predicted that opening-day crowds for Galaxy’s Edge could reach 200,000. That will neatly overwhelm Disneyland’s 10,000-capacity parking structure (and the 6,500-space garage Disney is feverishly building to supplement it) and all of the resort’s satellite lots.

Assuming you manage to park, you’ll have three or more interminably long waits ahead: one to actually get into Disneyland; one to get into the Galaxy’s Edge area, which is sprawling but not infinite; and then another lengthy queue for one of those attractions (assuming they're up and running). Meanwhile, the rest of Disneyland will be jammed tight; the overflow crowds will pack every attraction, every restaurant, every bathroom and walkway. Disney is in the process of widening park thoroughfares and finding other solutions to increase capacity, but it won’t be enough, at least not for a while.

It won’t be the worst thing if you miss the opening of Galaxy's Edge by a few months, if it means you’re actually able to get into Disneyland and enjoy it. I’m going in February, though I’m reluctant to tell you exactly when. I’m sure you understand.

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