Disneyland braces for new Star Wars Land to generate huge crowds

Wide strollers, children's push wagons and several smoking areas are getting nixed at Disneyland to help ease the crowding that is expected when the theme park opens its much-anticipated Star Wars Land in two months.

Walt Disney Co. has been a crowd-control pioneer dating back to Disneyland's earliest days. But the throngs keep getting bigger despite regular price increases, and resort managers must constantly devise new ways to safely squeeze more people into the same space.

The latest restrictions, which take effect May 1, join a series of policy changes and park upgrades at the Anaheim resort before an expected onrush of fans for the May 31 opening of the $1 billion Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge -- the biggest expansion in the park's history.

The 14-acre land, featuring two rides, four eateries, one space-themed cantina and five retail shops, is being replicated at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, with an Aug. 29 opening.

For the first three weeks after opening, only visitors with reservations will be allowed into the Star Wars land. Guests at the three resort hotels during those three weeks will automatically receive reservations.

Everyone else can make no-cost reservations online.

But many of the details for the opening of the land have yet to be unveiled, such as when the resort will begin to accept reservations and whether those reservations will be taken on the Disneyland website, on the Disneyland app or both. Disney representatives also declined to discuss the capacity of the new land.

After the first three weeks, Disneyland will employ a "virtual queueing" system, in which park goers will get a boarding pass and will be called to enter the land when there is enough room, representatives said. They offered no other details on how that system would work.

To ease pedestrian congestion, the park will ban strollers wider than 31 inches and prohibit the ubiquitous wagons that many parents use to push children through the resort. (The park already bans pull wagons.) The park currently allows strollers as wide as 36 inches.

Outside of the security screening areas, visitors will have some way to measure their strollers -- probably with lines painted on the sidewalk, 31 inches apart, park representatives said. If the strollers are too wide, the park rents strollers for $15 a day.

Four designated smoking areas will be removed at the resort to clear walkways and improve traffic flow, a move that will make both Disneyland and neighboring California Adventure Park smoke-free for the first time in resort history.

One smoking area, a collection of benches near Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, is located along one of three walkways that will serve as entrances into the new Star Wars land. The park has no other idle space where the smoking area can be moved, Theiler said.

Another smoking area in the California Adventure Park, near the Silly Symphony Swings, one in the esplanade between the two parks, and a fourth in the Downtown Disney shopping district will also be eliminated. Once all four smoking areas are removed, park visitors who want to smoke will have to either use the smoking areas near the three resort hotels or go to open areas beyond the security screeners near the edges of the resort.

Additionally, Disneyland resort will be increasing parking capacity by 50 percent with the construction of a new, 6,500-space parking structure, expected to be completed between late June and late July, and by opening 2,150 additional spaces in the Toy Story surface lot by late June.

The 6,500-space Pixar Pals parking structure is expected to open sometime between late June and late July, months ahead of the scheduled September opening of the new garage, according to Disneyland officials.

CNS contributed to this story.