All along Disney World leadership has said that Galaxy’s Edge would allow guests to “live their very own Star Wars story…” boy, were they right.
Let’s go back to the beginning, over two years ago, when Bob Iger first announced that a Star Wars themed land would be coming to both Disney World and Disneyland. (His announcement always makes me think of the scene in the movie Contact where SR Hadden says “Why buy one when you can buy two for twice the price.”) At the time I was not a Star Wars fan (gasp!). The only movie I had ever seen from the franchise was The Force Awakens and I had no intention of ever watching the others. But then the announcement of Galaxy’s Edge came and I was intrigued by a new land being added to one of my favorite places. Months later we traveled to Disney World and were overwhelmed by the amount of Star Wars that was in the parks- there was no way to avoid it. When we got home from that trip and my little brother decided he wanted to have a movie night I suggested The very first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, suddenly curious as to what this massive fandom was all about. Three days later I had watched all of the originals, The Force Awakens (again), and Rogue One. I was hooked.
I know, I know, I’m late to the game, but now that I’m here Star Wars has become such a big part of my life. Disney often gets bashed for their acquirement of Lucasfilm and with it, Star Wars, but if it weren’t for Disney there would be a whole generation, myself included, that have never seen Star Wars and never got to live alongside of the new characters of Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, and BB-8. So thank you, Disney, for continuing the story of Star Wars and taking it a step further by immersing the fans into the story.
In short, Galaxy’s Edge is the reason I became such a big Star Wars fan so getting to finally experience the land for myself was incredible.
My first time traveling to the planet of Batuu was back in September of 2019, only six days after the land had officially opened in Walt Disney World. We had planned our September trip months before the opening date was announced, but when I found out it would be open when we’d be there I screamed out of excitement and then called everyone I knew to tell them the good news. A week before our Disney trip, Hurricane Dorian was projected to move directly over the Orlando area within just a few hours of our arrival. We missed the hurricane by one day and arrived to a low-crowd Disney World due to resort cancellations and trip postponements. So far we’re off to a good start.
On our first full day in Disney I woke up at 3:30 a.m. to do my hair like Rey’s in the iconic three bun hairstyle and caught a bus at 4:00 a.m. Disney had extended the bus hours due to the opening of Galaxy’s Edge so there we were, on the first bus of the morning to the park. We were the first ones to arrive at Hollywood Studios but were quickly followed by others hoping to get a glimpse of the land. Thanks to our early morning start we were at the front of the pack and had a perfect view of the official park opening.
Since Galaxy’s Edge was less than a week into its opening, we received a special stormtrooper march into the land with music and a Batuu greeting from all of the planets inhabitants. Starting at the Chinese Theater and wrapping around to the main entrance of Galaxy’s Edge, stormtroopers escorted guests through the land, all the way to the back of Black Spire Outpost for the grand reveal of the life-size Millennium Falcon. Without even realizing it the line for the park opening became the line for the Millennium Falcon ride, Smugglers Run.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
Because we were the first ones in line for the park we walked right onto the Falcon without a wait. While in the preshow room with Hondo explaining our mission, a little kid in front of us had said to his mom, “I want to be pilot.” Pilot is the coveted position on this ride since you get to control the motion of the Falcon and basically the overall success or failure of the mission. Also, the pilot gets to jump to light speed. Well little did that kid know I had called the pilot position two years earlier, making sure my dad and brother wouldn’t try to steal the honor from me. “I’m the pilot, kid” was my response with a 100% serious attitude. Needless to say, the kid didn’t mention wanting to be pilot again.
In the next room we were assigned our positions and I, thankfully, received left pilot aka the person who gets to jump to light speed and live out their Millennium Falcon dreams to the fullest. (The other family got on a different ship so I’m sure he got to be pilot too. See, everyone’s happy.) After a quick explanation of the positions we were led into the Falcon and given some time to explore the ship.
To be honest, I feel like I was looking forward to this part of the ride more than the ride itself. Getting to sit at the holochess table and walk around the interior of the Falcon was an incredible moment.
After a few minutes of exploring the Falcon, your color group will be called and you will get to step into the cockpit of the ship and experience that actual ride aspect of the experience. The ride itself is a simulator where the screen makes it appear as if you’re flying in the Falcon. All of the buttons, switches, and levers in the cockpit do something or make some kind of noise so have some fun before the ride starts and press a few!
The most impressive part of the ride for me was the control that sent us flying into hyperspace. If you want to have the honor of doing this you’ll need the left pilot position. The space that you’re in for the ride simulator is practically a replica of the beloved ship from the movies save for the new arrangement of seats. Months later when I went to see The Rise of Skywalker in theaters and watched the scene where Poe light speed skips, all I could focus on was the control for the jumps and how it was the exact same lever I had pulled when flying the ship.
While on the ride you can tell its a simulator but it’s the closest thing we have to flying the Falcon, so definitely spend the time waiting in line to experience it. I liked the look of the cockpit and getting to tour the ship more than the actual ride experience but I think this is a great ride for kids and kids at heart who have always dreamed of flying the Falcon. At the end of the ride you will receive stats on how your crew did explaining any damage that occurred to the Falcon thanks to the successes or failures of the pilots as well as how much coaxium was obtained. If your mission was a failure, you’ll walk out of the cockpit into a slightly damaged Falcon with flickering lights and nervous announcements from Hondo’s crew. We enjoyed a successful mission much better than a failed one since it was a less turbulent flying experience.
Black Spire Outpost
So the gist of Galaxy’s Edge is that you’re on the planet Batuu in Black Spire Outpost which has become a secret Resistance base. Throughout the land you’ll encounter Resistance heroes like Rey & Chewie and also some of the First Order including stormtroopers and Kylo Ren himself, who are in search of members of the Resistance. Galaxy’s Edge takes place between the movies The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker so everything that happened in Episode IX has not happened here yet.
Within the land there are multiple shopping & dining locations, including a place to sip some blue milk, a cantina, droid depot where you build your own little friend, and a place where you can pick up some scrap metal (this is where you can custom build a $200 lightsaber). There’s also plenty of places that are there for the photo ops like the multiple ships stationed throughout the land and a special “droid wall” for the Disney fans that are all about finding the perfect wall of Disney to snap a selfie.
Galaxy’s Edge is the most immersive land Disney has ever created and, thanks to its test run called “Pandora,” it actually feels like you’ve been transported to a galaxy far, far away. The theming of the land is spot on with the feel of your favorite Star Wars movie and its really up to you how much or how little of a Star Wars experience you want to have while here. During my second visit to Batuu in January of 2020 I invested some credits into an authentic Rey ensemble and found that the cast members in Galaxy’s Edge and throughout the park go out of their way to recognize guests who dress the part. “We’re so glad to have you join us this morning, Rey.” was just one of the comments I received while showcasing Rey’s vest and iconic hairstyle. (I’m 25 and love that I can still dress up in Disney World!)
The eats in Galaxy’s Edge are quite different than anything you’ll find elsewhere on Disney property. There is, of course, the blue and green milk available for purchase as well as some dishes and snacks that look like they’re straight out of Coruscant. While my dad and brother really enjoyed the blue milk I thought it had a floral taste and is not something I’d get again. The outpost popcorn mix from the land though was something I went back and bought again because of how much I liked it. It’s a sweet and spicy mix of popcorn that is blueberry lemon and chili lime flavored. The drinks here are more expensive than other locations in the park because of their special theming: The water and soda bottles available in Galaxy’s Edge are written in the Star Wars language of Aurebesh and the coke products come in the shape of a thermal detonator. These beverage containers certainly make for a fun souvenir and I brought my Dasani water bottle back home with me because of its unique look. The lines for the food stands and quick service locations in Galaxy’s Edge can get pretty long so I would recommend mobile ordering before hand.
The shopping in Black Spire Outpost in unique in that many of the items in the little shops cannot be found anywhere else in Disney theme parks. The Rey top and vest I got? Only available in Galaxy’s Edge. While strolling the shops you’ll feel like you’re at an iconic Star Wars market with the same merchandise that your favorite character may have stumbled upon. If you’re a Star Wars fan, be prepared to drop some credits on some souvenirs to take back with you…
Perhaps the best spots in Galaxy’s Edge though are the theming aspects that are there simply to add to the experience. Of course the Millennium Falcon takes the cake for best theming piece but there are also some other ships, such as x-wings, that you can find while wandering around. The characters and their shenanigans also add to the story that is Galaxy’s Edge. If you have some time to just observe the characters and follow them around for a bit you may find yourself meandering in and out of shops and food stalls with Chewie and Rey to get away from First Order stormtroopers.
Perhaps the best time to visit Galaxy’s Edge though is at night when the sun goes down at the illumination of the planet comes alive. This is the time you’ll want to head over to the Falcon for some great photo ops. Also, Oga’s Cantina (which I’ll be talking about in just a few sentences) is the place to be at this time. Yes, yes, I know you’ve been in Galaxy’s Edge since 7 a.m. but make sure to come back to see it when its dark out- you will not be disappointed!
Ah, the cantina. This inconspicuous spot is tucked away between the Falcon and the First Order Tie Echelon in the back of the land. As of right now you still need to book your reservation for the cantina well in advance (we’re talking 180 days!) if you want to partake in the upbeat bar atmosphere with a space twist. Most of the cantina is standing room only and there is a two drink limit per person to ensure a quick guest turn over. Be prepared to drop some serious credits at this place as most of the alcoholic mixed drinks range from $15-$18 and the two snack options are around $11 each. There’s also an $80 beer flight option with souvenir glasses if you’re into that sort of thing (which I’m sure I’ll eventually buy…).
While far from the most budget friendly option in the parks, I feel like everyone has to experience the cantina at least once. The atmosphere is just like what you’d see in a Star Wars movie with music, chatter among guests, crazy looking drinks and food, and fun bartenders. RX, the DJ droid, plays some great cantina music, and make sure to stick around for the drinking song where bartenders encourage pounding on the bar & tables, swinging drinks in the air, and yelling “Ay!” (Think Hofbrauhaus but Star Wars themed.)
The drinks and snacks here are very different than anything you’ll find off planet. My first time at the cantina I had the Bespin Fizz which incorporated dry ice to make the drink bubble and fizz. The second time I came I got the Fuzzy Tauntaun which has a lip-numbing foam (you read that right: lip-numbing) that makes your lips and tongue numb, similar to the sensation when eating pop rocks. Overall, this place is a must do! Remember, reservations can be booked up to 180 days in advance and should be booked this far out in order to ensure you’ll be able to experience it!
Savi’s Workshop: Custom lightsaber building
Sorry Disney, but I’m not about to pay $200 to build a lightsaber. Thankfully my little brother did and I was able to experience it with him. 🙂 Ok, so when we say “custom lightsaber building” we don’t just mean you get to pick some pieces, put them together, and call it a lightsaber. Much like with everything in Disney this is a whole experience. In total you’ll spend about 25 minutes building your very authentic, very heavy lightsaber that is certainly not toy quality and more like a “keep out of reach of children” sacred piece. Before you begin the experience you have to choose which style hilt you want to create. There’s the silver and gold color scheme of Peace & Justice, black & silver Sith color of Power & Control, Elemental Nature inspired designs, and Protection & Defense which is more of an old world jedi looking saber. In a group of about 20 people you’ll be taken into a room and learn about some history on the jedi and their lightsaber colors. After explaining each of the colors you’ll be prompted to choose between a blue, green, red, or purple kyber crystal that will be the color of your lightsaber. The cool thing about the kyber crystal is that you can build your saber with the color you choose and then also purchase extra colors that, when added to the saber, will change the blades color. So if you decide to build a green lightsaber you can remove that kyber crystal at any time and replace it with another color. Also, each color has its own sound effects. While green will sound like the swift movements of Luke’s saber, red will sound more like the unstable conditions of Vader’s or Kylo Ren’s.
After choosing your kyber crystal you can begin building the saber with multiple choices of each piece available. Once everyone has completed the build process of the hilt, you get to what I thought was the fun part. Your saber is put into a chamber where the blade will be added which is a clear, very sturdy tube that looks like glass. Once all sabers have been placed into the chamber the blades are attached and guests are then encouraged to power on their sabers for the first time. All at once the room is illuminated with red, blue, green, and purple sabers, and the dream of building a lightsaber just like the jedi has come true for all guests in attendance.
One of the best parts of our lightsaber building experience was the other guests in the room with us. My brother was the only kid in the room as everyone else was fulfilling a dream from their childhood when the original movies came out. When the sabers turned on and everyone saw the colors of the blades for the first time, one man in the room yelled, “I love this more than my wife!” which I’m convinced may have been the truth.
Just like with Oga’s Cantina you can book reservations up to 180 days in advance with this experience. Droid Depot, where you can create your very own R2 or BB unit, also takes reservations but is half the price of the lightsaber experience. I would say if you absolutely need a genuine lightsaber at home then do this. The experience was really cool and something you’re not going to get anywhere else.
Rise of the Resistance
And finally, perhaps the best part of Galaxy’s Edge and most immersive experience Disney has ever created, Rise of the Resistance.
When we traveled to Galaxy’s Edge our first time back in September of 2019, Rise of the Resistance (ROTR for short) was still a few months away from opening. This was the main attraction of Galaxy’s Edge and promised to be the best ride system ever developed, finally bring a trackless ride sequence to the US. In total the ride experience of ROTR is about 18 minutes in length and takes you on a journey into a First Order star destroyer that includes up close encounters with Kylo Ren. The technology for the ride is unparalleled and Disney prepared themselves for the flocks of fans that wanted to ride it by devising a way to cut down on wait times (making sure they don’t have an 8 hour wait like they did when Flight of Passage opened in AK a few years earlier…).
Since its opening in December of 2019 Disney has used a boarding pass system where passes can be requested at 7:00 a.m by using the My Disney Experience app. Guests who want to join a boarding group must be in the park by 7, make sure their entire group is there with them, and then use the app to join a group. You will then receive a screen that tells you your boarding group number and what groups they are currently boarding on the ride. All boarding passes for the day have been getting snagged within the first two minutes of park opening, so if you want to ride ROTR make sure you get to the park by 6:30 a.m. at the latest to allow time for security and magic band scans. Even a month after the rides opening we experienced very, very heavy crowds! The nice thing about the boarding pass system though is that it doesn’t matter if you’re first into the park- there’s no running for the line when the park opens, you simply go onto your app (right at 7!) and join a boarding group.
Our first time trying to get a group I was so nervous that we wouldn’t get a spot. I had researched how to guarantee you get a boarding pass and still worried that with the extreme crowds that day our early morning wake up may have been for nothing.
Some tips that I picked up that worked for us though were: 1.) Use your phones data- Disney wifi can be slow, especially when thousands of guests are on it at the same time. 2.) Don’t run to the entrance of Galaxy’s Edge and request a group, instead stay on Hollywood Boulevard where the crowds aren’t so crazy. 3.) Research what the process of requesting a boarding pass is like! It’s a three step process and a few seconds can make a big difference.
Luckily we were able to get group 17 out of 144 that day so we got on the ride at about 9 a.m. and didn’t have that long of a wait. There were two other days of our trip that we woke up early and requested a group; Those times we got group 17 (again) and group 76.
The app will alert you to when your boarding group has been called and then you have an hour to return to the ride. While we were there the return window was two hours which gave us the flexibility to go to other parks while waiting for our group to be called (which you can do) but now it’s a bit trickier with only an hour…
Once you check in at the ride the fun begins. 🙂 Since it’s a boarding pass system there was practically no line for us any of the times we rode. The queue is very long though to accommodate for when they get rid of the boarding passes, so be prepared to meander your way through the Resistance base before getting to the actual ride.
While I’m not going to spoil everything on the ride, I’ll give some of the highlights and the general overview. The ride starts with a holo message from Rey, welcoming us new recruits to the cause. After the message wraps up you are ushered outside to where Poe’s X-wing is situated and directed into a transport ship. When you get into the transport you are going to want to move all the way across towards what looks like another door which will take you to the next part of the ride: Don’t do that! Try to be the last one into the transport because the door you just came in is the door you’re going to go out. If you’re the closest one to this door you’ll have the best view of what comes next.
Anyways, before we jump to that, while in the transport it will feel like you’re moving through space, lifting off from Battu and getting a great view of the departure from the front and back window screens. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately), your transport is intercepted by the First Order and you’re taken into a star destroyer for capture.
This is the part where you’ll be glad to have stood by the door you entered into the transport: The door opens to reveal a life-size replica of a Star Destroyer with stormtroopers at the ready and First Order captains and generals there to lead you to processing. You have a minute or two to take in the fact that you’re in a freaking Star Wars movie, captured on a star destroyer before you have to leave the incredible scene and separate into groups for capture.
The First Order will spend some time pestering you about how you got captured, if you can remember what color your standing on, and other comments that are sure to make you question if you really have somehow just entered into Episode IX…
Once the processing is over you’ll be lead to your holding cell where Kylo Ren makes his first appearance. After a few minutes of waiting in the room, suddenly convinced that this is no longer just a ride and you’re literally trapped in First Order cell, the Resistance breaks you out and hurries you into an escape vehicle driven by a droid just a lovable at BB-8.
Led by a trackless ride system, your vehicle zips through the star destroyer, dodging stormtroopers, AT-AT’s, and Ren’s multiple force attempts with a few other surprises along the way. The ride is so different in that it takes you not just along a seemingly random track, but also up and down to different levels and eventually transitions into an escape transport which quickly drops you into space (think Tower of Terror drop, just more subtle) and flies you back to Batuu for a safe return to the Resistance base.
After all of that- 18 minutes of a ride that is, in a way, three different rides in one- you’re officially welcomed in as a member of the Resistance!
This ride is so different and more advanced than anything else out there and even a non-Star Wars fan is sure to enjoy this ride. Because there are multiple parts of the ride and a few different places where you switch between vehicles and points in the story, it really does feel like you’ve been transported into the world of Star Wars.
Overall, Galaxy’s Edge is a complete success in my book. Disney has obviously put thought into every. single. thing that makes up the land and has kept the interests of Star Wars fans, young and old, in mind. The ride technology in both Smugglers Run and ROTR is beyond anything I could have imagined which makes me wonder how Disney tops this. I have two more trips to Disney planned for this year and because of Galaxy’s Edge I cannot wait to spend a majority of my time in Hollywood Studios. Thank you, Disney, for creating a place where I can live out my very own Star Wars story. I can’t wait to visit the planet of Batuu again very soon.