It is among the most popular movie franchises of all time. It appeals to multiple generations and is beloved by ardent and casual fans alike. Now, it has its own theme park land. Make that two theme park lands.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, located at Disneyland Park in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World in Florida, brings the galaxy far, far away to life here on Earth and invites visitors to experience their own Star Wars adventures. It is like stepping into the movies or interacting with your playset IRL.
The two lands are essentially identical and, at 14 acres each, represent Disney’s largest expansion devoted to a single creative property. Estimated to cost a cool $1 billion—that’s for each location—they are also likely the most expensive single-themed lands the company has created.
Galaxy’s Edge follows a trend that was largely started by Universal when it opened the first Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure in 2010. Instead of developing one movie-based attraction (such as Star Tours, Disney’s first Star Wars tie-in, which continue to blast passengers into a variety of intergalactic adventures at their current locations in Disneyland and Disney World), Universal built an entire, encompassing land where everything is dedicated to the story. You can't buy a King Kong, Minions, or generic Universal Orlando T-shirt, nor can you purchase a Coke or a slice of pizza in the Wizarding Worlds, because those items wouldn’t be for sale in Harry Potter’s “real” realm.
You can, however, pick up a Hogwarts robe, a wand, or a butterbeer.
The Layout of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Visitors are deeply immersed in the Star Wars mythology. The setting for Galaxy’s Edge is Black Spire Outpost, a trading port on the planet Batuu. Located on the outer reaches of the galaxy, the port had once been a thriving way station for crews to refuel and restock according to the backstory conjured by Walt Disney Imagineering and Lucasfilm. In the age of lightspeed travel, however, Black Spire Outpost has become less relevant, and is now populated mostly by rogues, scam artists, and other colorful, if shady characters.
Upon entering the land, visitors see fighter ships and other spacecraft tucked into alcoves and parked on elevated docking platforms. The sleek vehicles and the land’s other high-tech elements contrast sharply with the village’s ancient buildings, some of which appear to be decaying. (The visible cracks and other imperfections are also a contrast with Walt Disney’s original vision of Disneyland as an idealized environment.) Many of the structures feature domed roofs. The outpost’s architecture has a vague Middle Eastern vibe.
Impressive rockwork rings the land and helps to convey the illusion that it stretches for miles (even though a Dumbo ride and a Slinky Dog-themed coaster are just out of sight beyond the lands’ berms). Tree stumps that have petrified into spires give the outpost its name. The elegant spires climb high and punctuate the rockwork.
Disney employees who are cast as villagers wear a variety of mix-and-match garb rather than a one-look-fits-all standard costume. They are encouraged to interact with visitors and share their stories about living and working on Batuu as well as draw the guests in to the planet’s mysteries and tales. Adventure beckons throughout the land and inspires guests to explore and discover its secrets.
Galaxy’s Edge Rides
There are two major attractions awaiting you on Batuu. (Although it could be argued that the entire land is, in itself, an attraction.)
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run— Walking down a path just beyond the marketplace of Black Spire Outpost, visitors may be startled when they first catch a glimpse of the Millennium Falcon. The full-scale starship, perched some 30 feet in the air and spanning over 100 feet, is breathtaking. Part of our cultural currency, it only existed in the abstract until Galaxy’s Edge.
Not only do you get to see Han Solo’s legendary bucket of bolts, you get to pilot it. And by “pilot it,” we don’t mean that you’ll passively ride along on a pre-ordained journey. We mean that you'll, well, pilot the ship and actually control the experience.
Using highly sophisticated technology, including powerful gaming engines, Disney has designed an interactive motion simulator attraction. Guests enter the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon in groups of six consisting of two pilots, two gunners, and two engineers. With a gazillion buttons, levers, thrusters, and other gizmos at their disposal, they can make like Han Solo and Chewbacca. When the ride begins, the ship responds, in real time, to the actions of the crew. No two rides are ever the same.
Does the Falcon need to abruptly bank left to avoid crashing into another ship? The pilots had better bank left. Are enemies attacking the ship? The gunners need to return fire. Is the Falcon losing power because its shields have been breached? It’s up to the engineers to restore the systems.
After experiencing Smuggler’s Run, we believe that the pilots positions are the most coveted, followed by the engineers, and then the gunners. Specifically, the pilot sitting in the seat on the right side of the cockpit is the primo spot. In order to divide the duties, the pilot on the left controls the lateral movement of the ship, while the pilot on the right controls the vertical (and one other very cool function; see “Tips and Tricks” below). That's not the way any other ship in the real or fictional world works, and it can be clumsy to coordinate the piloting duties.
The pilots mostly determine the fate of the mission. It can be frustrating to be part of the crew, while the pilots mess everything up. It can also be frustrating to be one of the pilots and mess everything up. But, if you have even a modicum of gaming experience, piloting the ship can be a blast.
The engineers have access to loads of knobs and switches, many of which don’t seem to do anything. But if you follow the cues and press the right buttons, in the right sequence, at the precise moment, it can be a load of fun. And it can make you feel like an essential member of the crew.
The gunners, on the other hand, are reduced to pressing the same buttons over and over to initiate or return fire. It can be tedious and seem futile, especially if the pilots are taking the crew on an aimless joy ride. Even worse, the gunners have to keep looking to the left or right of the cockpit, where the controls are located. That takes their attention away from the action unfolding in front of them, which can be maddening.
According to Disney, passengers could choose to just passively sit there and enjoy the experience. The Imagineers designed the ride so that even the most incompetent crews—including those with members who don’t do anything—won’t completely destroy the ship (or themselves). They may be in for a slightly rough ride, but they will still get from point A to point B.
Getting to the cockpit is half the fun. Winding through the ship’s docking bay, the crew receives its mission orders from Hondo Ohnaka, a space pirate engaged in questionable import/export practices. Hondo is a next-gen animatronic figure that is eerily lifelike. Walking along a jet bridge, guests enter the main hold of the Falcon and get to hang for a few moments there to ogle its contents, including the holochess table. When they are summoned for their mission, crewmembers walk the Falcon’s familiar hallways en route to the cockpit.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance— Note that Disney World is planning to open this ride on December 5, 2019. The Disneyland version is scheduled to open on January 17, 2020.
The second attraction at Galaxy’s Edge will be epic, in length, ambition, and sheer wow factor. Using multiple ride systems, guests will experience Rise in a series of acts.
A ride aboard a spaceship will be intercepted by the First Order, which will use a tractor beam to transport the ship to a Star Destroyer. The size and scale of the show building will be massive. Stormtroopers will whisk the captured guests off to holding cells. But the Resistance will hatch a plan to rescue the prisoners, and the guests will end up ensnared in a battle between the forces of good and evil. For part of the attraction, visitors will board trackless ride vehicles and make their way under enormous—and enormously ornery—AT-AT walkers.
The timeframe of Galaxy’s Edge is the current Star Wars movie trilogy. During the Rise attraction, guests will encounter characters from the series, including Kylo Ren, Finn, Rey, BB8, and Poe Dameron (along with his red X-wing ship).
Food and Dining in Galaxy’s Edge
Disney has done an impressive job taking Earth-based items, combining them in unique and interesting ways, and introducing surprising tastes and textures to develop dishes and beverages that would seem to come from another galaxy. Some of them, such as Blue Milk, have been directly referenced in Star Wars movies or mythology. Others are Galaxy’s Edge originals, many of which have their own intriguing backstories.
As for Blue Milk, the frozen concoction, available at the Milk Stand, comes in green as well as blue hues. Despite the name, the drink is actually made from non-dairy products. While anticipation was high for the drink, it has received decidedly negative reviews. We were not wowed and found the beverage to be just okay. We’re not entirely sure what we expected Blue Milk to taste like, but we were surprised by its somewhat sweet and oddly fruity flavor.
The primary dining location is the quick-service restaurant, Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo. The slapdash eatery includes cargo crates and pods that have been repurposed into seating areas. Among the available items is Endorian TIp-Yip. It’s actually fired chicken (shh! Don’t tell anybody), but the meat is cut into oblong pieces so that it no longer resembles poultry (and presumably looks like tip-yip). Likewise, butchers have cut racks of pork ribs lengthwise so that the Smoked Kaadu Ribs served at Docking Bay 7 look otherworldly.
The sticky ribs, which are sweet and spicy, are served on blueberry cornbread.
Perhaps the most unusual place to nosh at Galaxy’s Edge is Ronto Roasters. It’s a BBQ joint unlike any found in Memphis, Austin, or any other city known for its smokehouses. The scene at the food stand, which is located at the front of the outpost’s marketplace, is wild. A droid turns meat on a spit fueled by a podracing engine that has been modified as barbecue smoker. (Fun fact: The ronto is a pack animal from the desert planet, Tatooine. JarJar Binks rode one onscreen.) You can purchase a Ronto Wrap, which features a delicious combination of smoked “ronto” (it’s really pork, but let’s keep that between us), a small sausage, and cabbage slaw that’s topped with a fiery “clutch sauce” (think Darth Vader’s Force grip) and tucked into pita bread.
The Modal Nodes, the band seen performing at the Mos Eisley Cantina in the original Star Wars film, do not have any gigs at Galaxy’s Edge. But you can hear DJ Rex, the droid last seen piloting the Starspeeder 3000 in the original Star Tours, spinning intergalactic tunes at Black Spire Outpost’s own watering hole, Oga’s Cantina. You can belly up to the bar and order interplanetary drinks, including cocktails (which represent the first time alcohol is being served at Disneyland Park) such as a Dagobah Slug Slinger and a smoke-spewing Bespin Fizz, brews like Bad Motivator IPA, a craft beer that is exclusive to Galaxy’s Edge, and non-alcoholic choices such as Jabba Juice and Carbon Freeze.
A future expansion of Galaxy’s Edge will likely include a full-service restaurant.
Galaxy’s Edge Merchandise
Many of the items for sale at Black Spire Outpost come with minimal or no packaging and look hand-crafted. In fact, you could handmake some of the items yourself.
If you want to try and wield the Force, you could head to Savi’s Workshop–Handbuilt Lightsabers and custom design your own lightsaber. You choose the hilt (which is made of metal and feels substantial) and the kyber crystal that will activate the device and give the blade its characteristic color. The shop, which limits the number of guests who can build lightsabers to small groups, is as much an attraction as an opportunity to purchase a souvenir. Note that Savi’s charges a cool $199.99 for the experience and the lightsaber.
Similarly, you could fashion your own R-series or BB-series droid at the Droid Depot. Assistants are on hand to help you choose the processing chips and other parts as well as assemble the units. These are not passive toys. The functional droids come with their own controllers and can interact with other droids and elements throughout Batuu. Each droid unit starts at $99.99. Custom accessories, such as personality chips, cost extra.
Be sure to visit Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities where the eponymous owner, an Ithorian, is on hand to oversee the shop. You could try to haggle with him over holocrons and other rare items, but you should know that he drives a hard bargain. The imposing Dok-Ondar, another stunning example of Disney’s animatronic prowess, literally talks out of the side of his mouth.
Other shops, which are housed in the marketplace’s stalls, include Toydarian Toymaker, Black Spire Outfitters, and First Order Cargo (where you can stock up on goods from the nefarious empire, if that’s your thing).
Tips and Tricks
- Disney has been trying to control overcrowding at Galaxy’s Edge. When it first opened at Disneyland, the park had an online reservation system that guests had to use in order to enter the land. That is no longer in effect, but both locations say that they could institute an in-park reservation system in order to access the land. Capacity has rarely been an issue to date, and, in most cases, you probably wouldn't need to make a reservation on the day that you visit. But that could change on a day-to-day, or even hour-to-hour basis. Check with the official Disneyland and Disney World sites for the latest information and know that you might need to make reservations for your visit once you enter the park. The bottom line is that admission to the Star Wars lands is included with admission to the parks, but entry is not guaranteed, especially during peak seasons.
- In order to accommodate the crowds it expects to descend on the two lands, Disney has indicated that it will not offer FastPass+ reservations at Disney World or Fastpass/MaxPass reservations at Disneyland for the two attractions at Galaxy's Edge. Expect long lines and wait times. When (and if) Disney does allow attraction reservations, be sure to take advantage of Disneyland’s Fastpass and its MaxPass programs as well as Disney World’s My Disney Experience and Fastpass+ programs.
- Consider using the single-rider lines at the attractions. It's likely you wouldn't be able to ride with your friends or family members, but you'd probably knock a fair amount of time off of your waits in the queues.
- To help keep you occupied during the inevitably long waits, consider downloading the Play Disney Parks app to your mobile phone. It's loaded with interactive games and experiences that will get you and your park buddies engaged with the attractions and the lands.
- More than just helping to pass the time while waiting in line, the Play Disney Parks app has special features developed for Galaxy’s Edge that would allow you to explore the lands on a deep level. For example, the app includes a hacking tool to download intel from the data banks of droids on Batuu. You could also decode symbols engraved into stone walls, locate and tune into transmissions broadcast in the lands, and scan cargo and other items to determine what’s stored inside.
- While lines for Smuggler's Run have generally not been wildly long, it can be very difficult to get into Oga’s Cantina, which has limited capacity (and high demand). At first, gaining admission was a free-for-all and led to long lines at the door. Now, guests need to make advance reservations for the popular pub either online or through the parks’ mobile apps. The parks only allow same-day reservations, which are released at 7 a.m. If you really want to belly up to Oga’s bar (and you should, it’s great), set your alarm and make reservations early on the day you want to visit.
- Similarly, capacity at Savi's Workshop – Handbuilt Lightsabers is limited, and demand is high. As with Oga’s Cantina, you are strongly advised to make advance reservations, which you can only do starting at 7 a.m. on the day you plan to visit.
- Make the leap to lightspeed. If you get one of the coveted pilot’s seats for Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, opt for the seat on the right side of the cockpit. That pilot gets to engage the thrusters and make the jump to hyperdrive. Then hang on tightly!
- You could try to barter to get your desired crew position for Smuggler’s Run. The attraction’s cast members randomly distribute cards to each crew’s six guests, indicating their position. You could either try to sweet talk the cast member to give you the position you want, or you could try to cut a deal with one of the other crew members to exchange positions. You’ll have to move quickly, however. You only have a few moments from when the cards are distributed until you enter the cockpit to begin the mission.
- Take advantage of the Mobile Food and Beverage Ordering services offered at both Disneyland and at Disney World to preorder and pay for your meals at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo.