If you are a Star Wars fan (and there’s a pretty good chance you are if you’re reading this) then it’s likely that at some point in your life you have dreamed of venturing into that galaxy far, far away. Perhaps you’ve imagined yourself locking laser swords with Darth Vader or riding shotgun with Han Solo in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. Maybe you’ve even pretended you’re really tall and covered in thick brown hair–it’s OK, we don’t judge around here.
While we sadly cannot ever make these fantasies a reality, there are a couple of ways we can come pretty close. One is by attending a Star Wars Celebration. The other method is to visit a Disney park.
Back in August, my wife Jen and I took our four-year-old son Sebastian to his first visit to Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was our second, having been there in 2008, but I knew that much had changed since The Mouse acquired the rights to all the Lucasfilm properties. Prior to the buyout, Star Wars had a minimal presence at Disney World; mainly at the Star Tours ride at Hollywood Studios. Nowadays that presence has tripled.
Here is a brief rundown of everything Star Wars myself and my family experienced at Disney World. For brevity, I’ll only tell about the parts of my vacation related to the topic. Nobody likes to be subjected to vacation stories.
Our first stop after checking into our hotel and napping (it was a thirteen hour drive and we were exhausted) was Disney Springs. Formerly known as Downtown Disney, this section is free to visit and anything free is anything for me! There isn’t much in the way of attractions, save for a Cirque du Soleil tent, a bowling alley, and something called Disney Quest (none of which are free), but there are a plethora of shops and restaurants if you’re the type that enjoys shopping. Most of the stuff you can buy in the parks are available there, so it’s a great destination for those that are in town but unable to visit the parks.
If you’ve been to Disney World before then you are probably aware of the collectible pins. Disney fanatics have an almost cultlike obsession with them, and many of the Disney employees (er, cast members) will trade their own to guests.
Also at Disney Springs is the World of Disney. If you can manage to avoid getting spit on by Stitch as you enter, you’ll find yourself surrounded by more Disney souvenirs than you (and your wallet) can handle. The Star Wars section is toward the center of the store. Here you can purchase character keychains.
So after a day at Magic Kingdom, followed with a trek into Universal Studios’ Islands of Adventure (The Jurassic Park ride will always be my favorite, but that new King Kong: Skull Island ride now comes pretty darn close. The waiting queue is one of the coolest, creepiest, most detailed things I’ve ever seen) we made it to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. My first business of the day–besides snagging a family photo-op with Donald and Daisy Duck–was to run to Star Wars Launch Bay.
Launch Bay is the crux of Disney’s Star Wars makeover, and it appeals to the type of fan that I am–the guy that loves meeting costumed characters and collecting memorabilia. There are meet and greet stations for Chewbacca and Kylo Ren, and while you’re waiting for your photos you can study the lightsabers on display, which include a few that have only been seen in animated form.
The store is chock full of items you cannot get anywhere else, including autographed photos and beautiful pieces of art. I may have drooled a bit on these oversized classic style action figures, but the $100+ price tags kept them out of my shopping cart.
There we discovered a Jedi Master and his Padawan training the latest generation of younglings in the ways of the Force.
Using their powers, they opened the door of the temple and unleashed Darth Vader. One by one they faced the Sith Lord, working as a team to send him back into the chasm from which he came.
Now feeling like we could take on anything, my clan ventured to the recently upgraded Star Tours ride. The new version uses sixteen different, randomly selected worlds, so you can ride many times and never have the same experience. In our adventure, we blasted through space with the Millennium Falcon to the junkyards of Jakku, and then ended up at a battle in orbit above Coruscant. I don’t know how we survived.
If your visit is limited and you have to cut out something, I would suggest Path of the Jedi. It is just clips from all seven films in an unremarkable theater. It’s nothing you haven’t experienced before. Move along. Use that time to see The Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular.
Truth be told, I may have had more fun on this trip than my four-year-old did. A dream is a wish your heart makes, and my heart just traveled through hyperspace to a land where evil Sith Lords share their ice cream cones with angelic, red trousered mice.
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