Disneyland temporarily stopped selling daily tickets Friday when the Anaheim theme park reached capacity amid the busy winter holiday season.
The self-described “Happiest Place on Earth” temporarily reaches capacity a few times a year, usually during the peak tourist seasons in mid summer and around Christmas. Friday’s halt in daily ticket sales marks the first park-crowding incident since the May 31 opening of a $1-billion expansion to build Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in the northwest corner of the park.
The new land expanded the size of the park from 85 acres to nearly 100 acres. Disney representatives have never publicly disclosed the capacity of the park, but before the expansion opened, insiders said its limit was 80,000. Disney doesn’t release daily attendance figures, but longtime Walt Disney Imagineering director Kim Irvine revealed a few months ago that Disneyland attendance of 65,000 is a “normal” day.
The park issued a statement Friday, noting that Disney California Adventure, adjacent to Disneyland, remained opened Friday. Visitors with annual passes could still enter Disneyland, but guests with “park-hopper” tickets to visit both parks were allowed to visit only California Adventure until the crowding at Disneyland subsided.
“Visiting the Disneyland Resort during the holidays is a tradition for many people, and on high demand days like today, we do all we can to welcome as many guests as possible,” the statement said.
Wait times for the most popular rides, including Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and Space Mountain, ranged from 65 minutes to two hours Friday afternoon.
In addition to the 14-acre expansion, the park moved planters, widened sidewalks, banned extra-wide baby strollers and eliminated smoking areas to help accommodate the crush of people that were expected when Galaxy’s Edge opened.
Disneyland is the second-most visited theme park in the world behind Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Florida, according to an annual attendance study by the Los Angeles consulting firm Aecom and Themed Entertainment Assn., a trade group for theme park designers and producers. Disneyland drew 18.7 million visitors last year while the Magic Kingdom hosted 20.9 million visitors, both up 2% from the year before.
The park’s popularity has brought on crowding issues since opening day in 1955. But because the entire resort is hemmed on all sides by the Santa Ana Freeway and major thoroughfares, expanding has not been easy. To make space to build the Galaxy’s Edge expansion, the park demolished three attractions, a restaurant and several office buildings.
In 2016, Disney adopted demand pricing at Disneyland, California Adventure and its other U.S. theme parks to better control crowds, charging less on low-demand days and boosting gate prices on high-demand days.