LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Last month Disney World opened its doors to a brand-new, immersive park experience: Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Here, visitors can realize their "Star Wars" fantasies over 14 acres of property.
The new land, which opened on Aug. 29 in Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida, is perhaps Disney's most ambitious park expansion thus far. It is also identical to the "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge" that opened four months ago (May 2019) at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.
The immersive expansion, with its Earth-toned, rustic-futuristic design, aims to re-create the look and feel of the series that has captivated fans since its 1977 premiere. The attraction also aims to make visitors feel like they've truly traveled to a galaxy far, far away.
At Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, you will explore the planet Batuu, a temperate, forested world that's nestled on the galaxy's outer rim. Batuu is home to a bustling spaceport called the Black Spire Outpost, a seedy little settlement where many live off the grid and the First Order routinely patrols. Just keep your eyes peeled, as the outpost is rumored to be a hotspot for some of the galaxy’s most notorious characters.
This isn't a location we've seen on screen, but it still feels familiar. Known for its many petrified trees, Batuu is divided into three sections: the resistance forest, First Order territory and a more metropolitan space that falls somewhere in between. It's the perfect destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in everything "Star Wars."
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Journey to Batuu
Disney is a master of creating immersive, fantastical experiences, and Galaxy's Edge is no exception. As soon as you walk through the entrance, a giant stone archway that leads you into Batuu, the typical theme-park background noise fades away and you're immediately transported to the "Star Wars" universe.
Now, for some exciting details!
Because Black Spire is a spaceport, that means (cue the inner squealing) there are spaceships — yes, as in multiple spaceships that guests will be able to not only look at but also board — including none other than the Millennium Falcon.
After arriving in Batuu, your journey will begin in the resistance forest. It's here that one of the land's two major attractions, Rise of the Resistance, is set to open later this year (Dec. 5 in Florida, Jan. 17 in California). The ride, billed as one of Disney's most ambitious undertakings, will put guests in the middle of a battle between the resistance and the First Order.
On this ride, passengers will be loaded onto a resistance troop-transport vehicle that will take them to meet up with other resistance fighters to take on Kylo Ren and the First Order. But things don't go quite as planned. Most of the specifics about the ride are still secret, as Disney likes to preserve the magic and keep the experience under wraps until opening, but the brief teaser the company released at D23 is enough to get us excited.
The teaser backs up what Disney Imagineers revealed at a special ticketed event last June: The ride will feature two, full-scale AT-AT, or all-terrain armored transport vehicles, that will be shooting at an eight-person ride vehicle driven by an R5 droid. This strays a bit from the films, in which Imperial ground forces used the giant, four-legged combat vehicles to mount attacks against the Rebellion.
As you explore the resistance forest, you will begin to feel like you're actually in a spaceport. Multiple spaceships sit on display throughout the land, and you may even spot Chewbacca working on Poe's X-wing fighter, ensuring it's in top shape for any potential run-ins with the First Order.
What tourist destination would be complete without a little shopping? On the other side of the forest is a bustling marketplace full of sights, sounds, and strange and interesting creatures.
Unique light fixtures and cloth drapes hang overhead as you walk through the market. Stall-like stores adorn the sides of the market, each with its own trinkets for you to buy using your credits (that's Batuu speak for money).
If you're in search of otherworldly creatures, be sure to pop into the creature stall. There, you can pick up a creepy-crawly, or perhaps furry friend to take home with you. This stall has it all, from Loth cat to tauntaun to porg and everything in between. Just make sure you watch out for those Kowakian monkey-lizards (Jabba's shoulder-perched sidekick in "Return of the Jedi").
If trinkets are more your style, visit the toy shop, where you can find handcrafted character dolls (I personally went home with a Kylo Ren doll), wooden figures, cantina instruments, and even Sabacc cards and chance cubes.
If you want to dress like a resident of the "Star Wars" universe, be sure to visit Black Spire Outfitters. Here, you'll find a variety of fashionable, yet practical styles for your trip through the cosmos.
Adjacent to the shops is a pit stop (or perhaps we should say spit stop) called Ronto's Roasters. Here, you will find refreshments as a droid spit-roasts some local delicacies (as seen in the image below) using a re-purposed pod-racing engine as a roaster.
To the spire
The marketplace borders the center of Black Spire Outpost, where travelers can find some of the land's greatest treasures. It’s also the home of one of the galaxy’s most legendary antiquities dealers: Dok Ondar. Over the years, Dok's amassed quite an impressive collection of antiques, which are on display in this cave-like store. And no matter your allegiance (be it to the resistance or the First Order), you will find the perfect artifact here, just look for the tallest Black Spire. The iconic landmark will guide you to Dok’s shop.
If Ronto's Roasters didn't satisfy your appetite, then Docking Bay 7 might be your best bet to find food in this galaxy far, far away. Just spot the cargo ship on the roof, and you'll know you're in the right place. Here, you can find all sorts of interesting grub, like a roasted Endorian Tip-Yip salad (which sounds exotic but is marinated chicken on a bed of mixed greens with roasted vegetables and quinoa).
Right outside of Docking Bay 7, in the heart of the Black Spire Outpost, sits the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy. If you're a huge "Star Wars" fan, you may get a bit emotional when you first spot the magnificent, perfect, full-scale movie replica of the Millenium Falcon.
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Tucked behind the famous freighter is the entrance to the land's second attraction, an interactive, video-game-style ride in which you can actually pilot the Falcon. Titled Millenium Falcon: Smuggler's Run, the ride also allows you to take the ship out for an actual mission. You'll need to channel your inner Han Solo to steal some cargo from the First Order and smuggle it back to Batuu.
Technically, you won’t actually be able to climb aboard the replica — it’s mainly used for photo ops — but you will feel like you have as you wander through an immersive queue line that’s made to look exactly like the famous freighter.
Flying the Falcon
It's hard to describe the emotion that the land as a whole and the Falcon in particular evoke. For me, as a lifelong "Star Wars" fan (and a huge fan of space and sci-fi in general), walking through the cargo hold of the Millenium Falcon felt surreal.
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The “ship” almost felt like it was alive, creaking and groaning as you walked through it. Crew members chatted over the loudspeakers, while certain systems powered up.
The pre-show instructions feature a well-known character throughout the “Star Wars” universe. Hondo Ohnaka, the charming space pirate first introduced in the animated series The Clone Wars, has made the jump from animated character to animatronic as the head of the smuggling operation on Batuu.
As you stand in the queue, Hondo will give you his sales pitch, hoping to recruit to you to take part in his scheme to steal shipments of coaxium — a valuable hyperfuel — from the First Order.
As you walk through the cargo hold to the main decks, you can see various workstations, and it really feels like you're on a spaceship. Walking through the Falcon's dirty-white, paneled airlock reminded me of boarding an airplane in real life — only way cooler.
Before you enter the cockpit, you can take a minute to sit at the iconic Dejarik chess, or holochess, table, where you'll be able to spot some really cool Easter eggs. The fun finds include the flight helmet and blaster shield Luke Skywalker used in the first film when Obi-Wan Kenobi was teaching the young man about the ways of the Force.
Eventually, you come the pièce-de-résistance: the cockpit. Sitting at the controls and hearing the Falcon power up to prepare for the mission really brought a glorious piece of my childhood to life.
As luck would have it, on my first trip aboard the Falcon I got the most coveted assignment: pilot. More specifically, right pilot. If you've seen any of the "Star Wars" films, you know that it takes two people to control the Falcon. Well, the same is true on this ride; the right pilot controls the up and down movements, and the left pilot controls the right and left. But more importantly, the right pilot gets to make the jump to hyperspace.
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The Falcon's two pilots are joined in the cockpit by a pair of gunners tasked with defending the ship, and a pair of engineers who keep the ship running during the mission. Piloting the Falcon is pretty stressful at first, but you eventually get the hang of it, and for me, the coolest part was pulling a silver lever that launched us into hyperspace.
During my first turn at the controls, I crashed into just about everything. This wasn't entirely my fault, as my co-pilot was trying (and failing) to help steer the massive ship. But the more times I rode the ride, the more fun I had. And if you're like me and you crash a lot, when you exit the ship, you can see the pretty cool-looking effects of your poor piloting: The lights on the ship flicker, and the accompanying sound effects indicate that the vessel needs repairs.
Depending on how well you do on your run in the Falcon, you'll either make a profit for your efforts or have to pay your boss, Hondo, credits to repair the ship. Regardless of the outcome, you'll probably be gushing about your flight for the rest of the day.
The thirst is real in the world of "Star Wars," as a number of scenes take place in cantinas across the galaxy. Even R2-D2 does a short stint as a bartender in "Return of the Jedi." So, naturally, no trip to Batuu would be complete without a stop in Oga's Cantina. Here, you will find a fun mix of libations and galactic tunes that will give you all the Mos Eisley feels but none of the treachery (if you follow the rules, of course).
The always bustling cantina is run by Oga Garra, who also happens to oversee the criminal enterprises on Batuu. Oga runs a tight ship, so remember: Each person can only order two drinks and must adhere to the 45-minute time limit per visit.
If you’re fortunate enough to travel with friends, you can sample a large part of the cantina's menu, and the cosmic concoctions will not disappoint. Many are similar to Earth-based cocktails, like margaritas and rum punch, only with a fun alien twist — because this is "Star Wars" after all.
One of the more popular beverage choices is the Fuzzy Tauntaun, but its mouth-tingling effects may not appeal to everyone. There are also plenty of nonalcoholic choices for adults who don't drink alcohol and any younglings you happen to have with you.
Got blue milk?
If you're looking for something a bit more classic "Star Wars," you'll want to hit up the milk stand. Here, you will find the iconic blue milk from the original trilogy, as well as the green milk featured in "The Last Jedi." Neither drink contains actual milk; rather, they're made from non-dairy coconut and rice milks, and each has its own distinct flavor profile. Both come in a frozen slushie form and you have the option to add alcohol (though the extra kick changes the consistency).
Stay on high alert as you wait for your drink, as the milk stand is located near First Order territory and you run the risk of bumping into storm troopers or even Kylo Ren himself.
Lightsabers and droids, oh my!
Now, what trip to Batuu would be complete without two of the most recognizable pieces of technology from the "Star Wars" saga: lightsabers and droids.
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Of all the things you can buy in the new land, lightsabers and droids are likely two of the most popular. And two key experiences at "Star Wars" land allow you to take your merch game one step further and build your own tech. In the Droid Depot, pieces of droids roll by on conveyor belts, so you can pick out parts and assemble your own mechanical companion. You can choose from a variety of units, such as R2s and BBs. Each droid is remote-controlled and comes with its own personality chip.
Perhaps nothing is more Star Wars than a lightsaber. The iconic laser sword featured throughout the franchise is the weapon of the Jedi. So what trip to Batuu would be complete without one? To build one you’ll need to seek out the gatherers. Acting as “keepers of the Force”, this group of men and women have dedicated their lives to passing on their knowledge of the Force and the ways of the Jedi.
Located in a scrapyard, the group hides its clandestine operation from the First Order by disguising it as a salvage business. Here the gatherers can amass the parts needed to construct lightsabers without raising suspicion.
To find this group, you'll have to locate them at Savi's Workshop. Look for a secret symbol — an ancient Jedi crest that resembles light emanating from a lightsaber — on the front of the shop. Once you find it, give the gatherers the secret phrase, and you’re in.
Once inside, you can assemble your own pile of scrap metal (they don't actually refer to them as lightsabers in the land) into a lightsaber. The experience will set you back 199.99 credits, but you can customize your saber's materials down to the hilt and blade color by choosing the kyber crystal that will power it.
Traveling off-world and visiting a new planet can cause some culture shock. It can be especially difficult because most things, if they're labeled at all, are written in Aurebesh, the writing system of the "Star Wars" universe. But at Disney's new "Star Wars" land, this is all part of the fun.
Disney has filled this new land with all sorts of crazy, incredible details, but you can take your experience one step further using your data pad (that's Batuu speak for cellphone). Just add the appropriate Disney apps, alongside a traveler's guide (map), which you can pick up upon arrival.
These tools will make your "Star Wars" experience that much more interactive and will help you to translate if you're not up to date on your Batuu speak.
And Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge visitors, be sure to document your travels by taking as many photo scans as you can — and may the Force be with you!
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Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.