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On Galaxy’s Edge {Star Wars Disneyland}

Note: this blog contains many spoilers on Star Wars Land. So if you’re anticipating seeing it yourself for the first time in CA, or when it opens in Orlando, please do not read any further!

Like many children of the 80s, I was raised waging the battle between good and evil in a Galaxy far, far away. Those familiar opening chords as the words scroll by into fading blackness trigger in me the desire to roll my hair up in Princess Leia buns, grab my Lightsaber, and jump to lightspeed with a Wookie and a handsome, sarcastic Harrison Ford, um, Han Solo at my side. While I am not a total geek about Star Wars Trivia (sadly, I cannot ever even keep the story lines or names straight beyond the first three movies, or episodes 4-6? See, no idea), I absolutely anticipated the opening of Disney’s Star Wars Land when it was announced at the D23 Conference in 2015.

If you’ve read enough of my blog, you’ll see my admiration for Disney (the man, the innovation, the product, the theme parks) has come up now and again. Here’s a blog post on Disneyland for Adults I wrote a few months ago.

Even though my first visit to Disneyworld was as a 28 year old adult, I compare every theme park (before and after that) to the magic of Disney. Every time I visit any park, I am truly in awe of the attention to detail, the imagineering, the sheer genius that comes to life around every corner. Even the classic rides, with updates, are enough to transport me outside of real life and into whatever place Disney wants me to be instead. And this time, Disney wanted me to be in a Galaxy far, far away in the Black Spire Outpost on Planet Batuu. And I was.

Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is only partially completed in terms of attractions, with Smuggler’s Run just now opened with the land, and Rise of the Resistance set to open later this year (in Disneyland). Despite this, it was absolutely worth seeing now, and it’ll be worth doing again later. Disney’s typical attention to detail was evident, and you felt immediately like you were in an otherworldly destination. The cast were all in-character, the wares they were hawking were appropriately weird, and the Land’s architecture and detail-driven vignettes around every corner were plentiful. It didn’t feel crowded, which means there’s room (intentionally I am sure) for expansion, and I didn’t do everything (because, who can?) but here are some highlights and tips/tricks. And of course, browse the photos below. Armed only with my iPhone and the Snapseed app, I created some images that I think tell the story.

  1. Experience but reserve ahead: Yes, there is still a higher demand than supply for some of the offerings. Right now you can walk into Star Wars Land without a reservation, and no it’s not really crowded (strangely, but perhaps all the people are waiting for the second attraction to open?) but your best bet is still to make any reservations you can ahead.
    • Oga’s Cantina requires a reservation and they won’t even let you in to see it without one. Currently (as of 7/4/19) you can only call the morning of starting at 7am and make a same-day reservation. This reservation guarantees you a seat, a 2-drink maximum, and entry into Star Wars Land (should that become blocked). My advice is don’t chance it. Make a reservation at the Cantina first thing before you start your day. This was one of the experiences I wanted to do. The drinks are suuuuuper expensive (even for Disney) pre-mixed weird fruity mostly sweet concoctions but visually interesting and often with a flavor twist you don’t expect (and maybe don’t actually like). At the time of my visit there were no food offerings except $8 snack mix which I tried and it was, umm, interesting and uniquely themed for the land. There are a few beers and two wines available, but even the white wine was tinted with blue food dye. The inside of the Cantina is impressive and lives up to its description as a “bustling, intergalactic watering hole” and the music is a wacky Batuuan Planet mix, spun by DJ R-3X, that is interesting at first, but just gets more strange the longer you listen (think 80s punk meets techno). Worth doing, but one visit was enough for me.
    • Connect to the Force: you too can build a customized lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop, but you do have to make this reservation ahead. This isn’t just a “purchase and go” reservation, but an actual experience. I didn’t participate, but it’s definitely a high-demand piece of the land.
    • This is the Droid you’re looking for! Assemble your own Astromech Unit (kind of like Build a Bear for the Star Wars superfan) at the Droid Depot – yet another unique concept. Walk inside the store and watch people in the assembly line to get a feel for how it works before you commit, or walk away with one that is pre-built. At a price of $99, I decided I didn’t need a sidekick, but I was tempted by the $25,000 R2D2 for sale (yes, really. And according to the cast member manning the checkout counter, 4 of these babies had sold so far. Yikes.) (Note: at this time, “The Droid Depot experience is subject to availability and reservations may be required” but when I visited you didn’t need one).
  2. Taste. Try some of the more interesting food vendors. I had the Roasted Endorian Tip-yip Salad (Marinated Chicken, Mixed Greens, Roasted Seasonal Vegetables, Quinoa, and Pumpkin Seeds, tossed in Green Curry Ranch) at the Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo location. It was reeeaaaly tasty. And everything I saw coming out of the kitchen (both here and at all the food locations in Star Wars Land) truly looks otherworldy. This food is imagination run wild and really impressive in terms of keeping with the theme – name, taste, texture, visual interest all merge to create something you literally have never seen before. Highlighted items I didn’t try that didn’t appeal: the fruity popcorn and the smoothie-like coconut based frozen blue (and green) milk. Things I want to go back and try: everything from Docking Bay 7 and the Pita-wrapped meat (Hot Dog? Sausage?) from Ronto Roasters.
  3. Go by Night: Walk around by day, but go back at night. The land has a much different vibe once the sun goes down. I went back at 10:30 for the last 1.5 hours before closing, and there were hardly any people and the wait time for Smuggler’s Run was 30 minutes. Definitely worth the second pass.
  4. Buy, or Don’t: Even if you don’t buy anything, wander into all the merchants. There are some absolutely genius and superbly thematic items for sale for even the hardest to buy for Star Wars fan. I didn’t recognize really anything, but some of it was impressive. Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities was a particularly cool space with more than you can take in in one go. And bonus, you can probably buy something to wear for Halloween (for a price, of course) because much of the clothing for sale is themed to the land, and the movies.
  5. See: Spend some time just soaking in the magic. There are so, so, so many things to see in this land but hardly any signage (don’t worry, there’s an app for that – the Play Disney app allows you to interact with the entire land in various ways, from scanning and identifying merchants to finding secrets buried within the walls), so you do feel like you’re wandering around a planet where people live and work, and hide – because Batuu is “somewhere you’d go if you didn’t want to be found”, and the devil is in the details. Just watch out for the Storm Troopers – they’re actively recruiting.
  6. Ride: Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run
    • A few years ago I had the great fortune of visiting the newest Disney Theme Park in Shanghai when it first opened and got into the park in its test stage, riding some of the most innovative (technologically) rides Disney had created to-date. This park has room to grow from a land-mass standpoint, but what I experienced through riding their version of Pirates of the Caribbean was next-level stuff. It was so multi-dimensional and immersive that I literally could believe I had stepped onto the movie set. Since then I haven’t seen anything like it. Until I flew the Millennium Falcon.
      I was hesitant at first to try Smuggler’s Run out. See, I am also a huuuuuge Harry Potter fan, and when I first walked towards Hogwarts at Universal Orlando, I kind of teared up because it really was the movie come to life. But, then the comparisons began. It was tight, crowded, overpriced (ok, I guess that’s every theme park), with long and miserable wait times, and the attraction I most wanted to love (Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey) literally made me sick. Twice. I experienced the most awful vertigo the first time, and even with the improvements indicated in the California version, I still walked away feeling like I didn’t know which way was up for hours after. And the whole time I visited I kept thinking “man I wish Disney had gotten ahold of these rights. They would have done this better.” And flying the Millennium Falcon proved it.
      I won’t go into too much detail because words don’t do it justice, but Smuggler’s Run was everything you would expect from the power of Disney and more. The Audio Animatronic (Disney speak) Hondo Ohnaka who greets you is eerily real and had myself wondering if it was a costumed cast member. But no indeed. Just magic. The entire experience was like being in a live-action video game but also like being inside a Star Wars movie, but also like nothing I have ever experienced. I am not a gamer, and I am sure avid gamers might disagree, but this was virtual reality meets life-sized video games built for the masses. And I didn’t get vertigo after, because God bless them they (at Disney) figured it out in a way that Universal didn’t (yes I know it’s been a few years and technology improves and etc. etc. but still!).

And of course, you can find out so much more than I can tell you by visiting the link for Star Wars Land: https://disneyland.disney.go.com/destinations/disneyland/star-wars-galaxys-edge

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