Why this is the best time to visit Dis­ney­land

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Hugo Martin and Ben Pos­ton

LOS AN­GE­LES — Now may be the per­fect time to visit Dis­ney­land — as long as you have no in­ter­est in check­ing out the park’s Star Wars ex­pan­sion.

The open­ing of the much-an­tic­i­pated 14-acre Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge drew so many vis­i­tors since it opened May 31 that it sub­stan­tially re­duced wait times at all the other at­trac­tions in the Ana­heim theme park.

In the first week af­ter the Star Wars land opened, the wait at all the other park at­trac­tions de­clined to an av­er­age of about 14 min­utes, down 28% com­pared with an av­er­age of just un­der 20 min­utes in the week be­fore it opened, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by the Los An­ge­les Times based on wait times com­piled by the travel site Tour­ing Plans.

When com­pared with the first full week of June a year ear­lier, the drop in wait times was even more dra­matic, de­clin­ing 46% from an av­er­age of more than 26 min­utes, ac­cord­ing to the data.

De­pend­ing on the ride, Dis­ney­land fans could have saved more than half an hour of wait time by visit­ing the park when most of the crowds were tak­ing in the new Star Wars land.

For ex­am­ple, the av­er­age wait time for Splash Moun­tain was 53 min­utes dur­ing the first week of June 2018, ac­cord­ing to the Times anal­y­sis. Af­ter Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened, the av­er­age wait time for the flume ride dropped to just un­der 21 min­utes.

At Buzz Lightyear, an in­ter­ac­tive ride based on the 1995 an­i­mated film “Toy Story,” the av­er­age wait time was slightly more than 29 min­utes dur­ing the first week of June 2018 but dropped to just un­der 10 min­utes af­ter the open­ing of the Star Wars land.

At Space Moun­tain, the av­er­age wait time in the first week of June 2018 was about 64 min­utes but dropped to slightly un­der 45 min­utes in the week af­ter the Star Wars land opened.

Park vis­i­tors no­ticed the de­cline in wait times and be­gan tout­ing it on so­cial me­dia in the days af­ter the new ex­pan­sion opened.

The Times anal­y­sis was based on nearly 85,000 wait times posted on the Dis­ney­land web­site for each ride and col­lected by Tour­ing Plans. Dis­ney rep­re­sen­ta­tives noted that such data do not take into ac­count the wait times for vis­i­tors who use the vir­tual queue­ing sys­tem called FastPass, as well as the wait times for guests who board the rides through the “sin­gle rider” lines.

The drop in wait times was a happy side ef­fect to the over­whelm­ing fan ex­cite­ment over the open­ing of the $1 bil­lion Star Wars ex­pan­sion.

Dis­ney­land an­tic­i­pated so much de­mand that the park re­quired all vis­i­tors to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to have reser­va­tions dur­ing the first three weeks af­ter the open­ing that lim­ited them to a four-hour win­dow.

The park also adopted a plan, dubbed Pro­ject Star­dust, that sought to re­duce grid­lock and choke points by shrink­ing or elim­i­nat­ing tree and flower planters, mov­ing lines, ban­ning ex­tra-wide strollers and elim­i­nat­ing des­ig­nated smok­ing ar­eas, among other changes.

De­spite the reser­va­tion sys­tem at the Star Wars land, Dis­ney­land ex­ec­u­tives had to adopt a few crowd-con­trol fixes af­ter the open­ing to han­dle lines that grew up to two hours long to en­ter the land’s cantina and a shop where vis­i­tors can build a cus­tom lightsaber.

The drop in wait times at Dis­ney­land was ex­pected, said Martin Lewi­son, a theme park expert and busi­ness man­age­ment pro­fes­sor at Farm­ing­dale State Col­lege in New York.

When theme parks add new at­trac­tions or over­haul ag­ing rides, he said, fans flock to the lat­est ride, thus re­duc­ing the lines at older ex­ist­ing at­trac­tions.

“Any ma­jor new at­trac­tion is go­ing to draw people away from old fa­vorites,” he said. “That is the nature of things.”

Although the “Star Wars"-themed at­trac­tion prob­a­bly in­creased over­all at­ten­dance to the park, the open­ing of the 14-acre land also ex­panded the to­tal size of Dis­ney­land by about 20%, giv­ing the nor­mally crowded theme park ex­tra room to ab­sorb more vis­i­tors.

“Given that in­creased ca­pac­ity, con­tin­ued in­vest­ment in Dis­ney Cal­i­for­nia Ad­ven­ture, and a wide range of new prod­ucts and of­fer­ings, guests are en­joy­ing a great ex­pe­ri­ence through­out the Dis­ney­land Re­sort,” Dis­ney­land spokeswoma­n Liz Jaeger said.

The new land, the largest sin­gle ex­pan­sion since the open­ing of Dis­ney­land in 1955, is de­signed to re­sem­ble a re­mote set­tle­ment named Black Spire Out­post on the planet Batuu, oc­cu­pied by space out­laws, smug­glers and rebels bat­tling, or hid­ing from, the evil Em­pire.

HUGO MARTIN/LOS AN­GE­LES TIMES FILE PHO­TO­GRAPH

Open­ing day crowds wait in long lines on May 31 at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, a new area of Dis­ney­land in Ana­heim.

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