Inside Galaxy’s Edge, Disney’s New Star Wars-Themed Land
A rush of sights, sounds and tastes – not to mention a thrill ride – makes this Disney planet a must-visit.
Star Wars fans have long dreamed of traveling to a galaxy far, far away—one where they could experience The Force by participating in epic sky battles, interacting with popular characters and tasting out-of-this-world food and drinks. This summer that dream came true when Disney opened Galaxy’s Edge, a Star Wars-themed land, 42 years after the first movie opened in theaters.
Although Galaxy’s Edge is the largest, most immersive Star Wars experience that Walt Disney World has offered guests, it is by no means the first. Over the years, Star Wars’ enduring popularity has prompted everything from attractions and weekend festivals to evening parties and entertainment at Hollywood Studios. The park still boasts its Star Tours ride, Jedi Training Academy, Star Wars Launch Bay, Tatooine Traders gift shop and A Galactic Spectacular fireworks.
But to step into Galaxy’s Edge is to enter a new realm of the Star Wars saga. Guests find themselves on the planet Batuu, which is along the Outer Rim of the galaxy and is home to Black Spire Outpost. Because of its isolation, the story goes, the outpost has become a destination for smugglers and traders trying to avoid the First Order.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
The centerpiece of Galaxy’s Edge is Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. For the first time, the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy” has been fully constructed—and it’s 100 feet long. Who can resist taking a selfie with that iconic ship in the background? The ride queue is full of Instagram-worthy photos, too, especially the famous room where Chewbacca and C-3PO played chess. Guests can re-create the scene at the table, and the buttons and switches behind them actually work. Disney’s Imagineers have painstakingly re-created this area of the ship, right down to the lighted XO details of the spot where Han Solo and Princess Leia kissed for the first time.
The attraction’s back story is that Chewie has landed the ship on Batuu for repairs. In exchange, space pirate Hondo Ohnaka plans to use the Falcon with guests as his flight crews to retrieve shipments of valuable, possibly illegal, coaxium hyperfuel. Each crew consists of two pilots, two gunners and two engineers. The pilots control the movements of the ship, so those with gaming experience—or at least steady hands—are more likely to keep the ship from crashing while giving the rest of the crew a smoother ride. Gunners shoot anything and everything, and the engineers repair the ship with special controls. Although the performance of each crew member does affect the outcome of the mission, the experience doesn’t end if your ship crashes, so enjoy the ride. This one feels a lot less like a motion simulator than Star Tours. It feels real, and that is what makes it worth the wait for both Star Wars fans and other visitors alike.
Bringing Batuu to Life
Disney has gone to great lengths to ensure that guests don’t feel as if they are in just another section of Hollywood Studios, but on another planet when they enter Galaxy’s Edge. The sight lines are controlled; there are very few places where a visitor can see other parts of the park. Ambient noise has been planned with more than 300 soundscapes, such as a galactic radio station airing a pod race, the roar of a First Order ship taking off and a Wookiee losing a game of holochess. There is even a new score composed by John Williams for the attraction. Cast members have their own personal stories to share and greet guests in the native language with “Bright suns!” and other key phrases.
Star Wars characters appear throughout Batuu for more spontaneous interactions than the usual Disney World meet-and-greets. Don’t be surprised to see Kylo Ren; Stormtroopers; Vi Moradi, the rebel spy; R2D2; Chewbacca; or Rey. Everything that occurs on Batuu takes place between the movies Episode 8: The Last Jedi and before Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker. However, Galaxy’s Edge is considered a flexible “stage” that can be adapted to future stories.
Would any trip to a new location be complete without sampling the local cuisine? On Batuu, the main location for food is Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, a counter-service restaurant with a “farm to table” feel that might be found in rural communities. Specialties are Smoked Kaadu Ribs, Fried Endorian Tip-yip (crispy chicken) and Yobshrimp Noodle Salad. For dessert, there’s the Batuu-bon and Oi-oi Puff.
Ronto Roasters is known for its large pod-racing engine that fires up a barbecue pit. This stall sells the Ronto Wrap, a roasted pork and grilled sausage sandwich, sweet or spicy Nuna Turkey Jerky and the Tatooine Sunset specialty drink.
When it comes to adult beverages, though, Oga’s Cantina is the place to go. Even if you don’t want a foamy Fuzzy Tauntaun or a fruity Carbon Freeze, make time to stop in here because it truly feels as if you are stepping into a Star Wars movie. The quirky former Starspeeder 3000 pilot droid from the original Star Tours attraction, DJ R-3X, is the cantina’s DJ and his music and commentary are entertaining. (His upbeat and fun music has been released for listening outside Batuu on Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.) The drink menu, which includes quite a few nonalcoholic beverages, is extensive. There are only a few snack options. Try the Batuu Bits, which are crisps with spiced chermoula dip.
Star Wars superfans will be excited about the Milk Stand, which sells both blue and green milk drinks. Both are frozen concoctions that taste more like fruity slushees than actual milk. Adults can opt to add rum to the blue milk and tequila to the green milk.
Finally, Kat Saka’s Kettle in the marketplace offers popcorn with a unique, spicy flavor, as well as the now well-known Coca Cola, Diet Coke and Sprite orbs. (Yes, the final word is that TSA will allow guests to bring thermal detonator drinks on planes leaving Orlando.)
Selling Star Wars
Galaxy’s Edge does, of course, sell Star Wars merchandise. Shoppers can visit the open-air marketplace to purchase unusual gifts, such as Dejarik (chess) and other games from the Star Wars movies, Kowakian Monkey-Lizards and Batuuan cooling fans. But the really unique purchases are designed as experiences. Take Savi’s Workshop, where customized lightsabers can be built. Each small group is ushered into a covert workshop by Gatherers, who guide the construction process. Guests are part of a ceremony that links the new owners to generations of greats before them. Then they choose parts from among four themes (peace and justice, power and control, elemental nature, protection and defense) and 120,000 combinations to create their perfect weapons. Finally, they bring them to life through the power of kyber crystals. The lightsabers come with a hefty price tag, though: about $200 apiece.
Those with lighter wallets might opt to visit the Droid Depot, where they can create a custom droid in either the BB-series or the R-series for about $100. Droid parts pass by on conveyor belts, allowing guests to choose what they will use at their stations. Customers finish up by naming and activating their droids, which means they can be controlled remotely and will interact with certain elements within Black Spire Outpost.
Star Wars on the Horizon
Move over, Avatar’s Flight of Passage. There’s is a new attraction opening Dec. 5 that is being billed as the most technologically advanced to date at Disney World. Rise of the Resistance is a multi-platform ride that takes recruits for the Resistance on a secret mission. They will experience life-size AT-AT walkers and a Star Destroyer hangar bay, both of which are massive. (I was able to step inside the ride during a media preview, and the scale of the hangar was just breathtaking.) The attraction itself introduces technology that will make guests feel as if they are falling from space to land on Batuu.
Meanwhile, Disney World will expand its Star Wars footprint with a new hotel called Star Wars: Galactic Cruiser. It’s being built next to Hollywood Studios, and Disney is touting that guests will be able to stay immersed in the Star Wars story for their two-night, three-day stays. The hotel will operate much like a cruise ship with everything included, and cast members will be in character at the hotel. Even the windows will have space views so as to not interrupt the story. The cruiser “docks” at Galaxy’s Edge for a day if guests choose to explore the land. Otherwise, entertainment, food and more will be offered in the hotel. No opening date or prices have been announced for Galactic Cruiser.
Disney World has successfully designed an area for guests to live out their individual Star Wars stories with the choices they make and the interactions they have on Batuu. A visit to Galaxy’s Edge means less sadness when an era ends—as it will after the last movie in the third trilogy is released in December—because guests can return to the Star Wars story and beloved characters long after the movies have finished.
Galaxy’s Edge Hometown Tourist Tips
- Currently there is no FastPass option for the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run ride. However, if you are by yourself or are willing to split up your party, you can try the single rider line. It does move more quickly than the main queue, but be aware that single riders can’t choose their seats. So, if you want to be a pilot, you’ll most likely need to line up with most of your fellow Star Wars fans.
- Oga’s Cantina is not to be missed! It truly feels as if you are stepping into the Star Wars story. The watering hole is small by Disney standards with limited seating, so its capacity can be reached quickly. Your best bet to ensure you get to experience this smugglers’ haven is to make a reservation through the My Disney Experience website or app. Reservations can be made up to 180 days before your visit, and children are welcome. Travelers partaking in adult beverages will need to show ID. Another advantage to making a reservation is that it guarantees you access to Galaxy’s Edge if the land itself reaches capacity and Disney has to control admissions.
- Everyone wants to take a photo with the “fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.” To get all of the Millennium Falcon in your image, step to the overlook area outside Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo.
- Unlike many other Disney rides, there’s no gift shop after you debark the Milennium Falcon ride. Instead, most of the merchandise can be found in the marketplace, and the inventory does not include Mickey Mouse-branded items. Instead, it’s all Stars Wars, and there are many unusual items. Don’t skip Toydarian Toymaker, which sells Dejarik, the chess game that Chewbacca and C-3PO play on the Millennium Falcon, as well as Cards of Sabacc and Chance Cubes.
- You can fit in with the Batuu natives if you can master a few key phrases in their language: Bright Suns means Good Morning or Good Day; Rising Moons: Good Evening; ‘Til the Spires: Farewell; Refreshers: Bathrooms; Hydrators: Water fountains; Credits: Money; Data pad: Smartphone —K.F.
Disney World Turning 50
The excitement of new attractions and entertainment continues in a big way over the next two years, as Disney World marks its 50th anniversary in 2021. The biggest projects include:
- Epcot: Future World at the front of the park is being reimagined as different lands: World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. They join World Showcase, which is where the country pavilions are located. Two new attractions will open, as well. Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind! is an indoor roller coaster at the front of the park, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be fit into the France pavilion.
- Magic Kingdom: Tomorrowland will be getting its own version of TRON Lightcycle Power Run, which debuted at Shanghai Disneyland and is a fan favorite for its light technology combined with a thrill ride.
- Hollywood Studios: Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway will replace The Great Movie Ride and will be based on the Mickey Mouse series on Disney Channel. It will be the first Mickey Mouse-themed ride at any Disney theme park. Guests will virtually burst through the movie screen and join the characters and their pals on a wacky adventure.
- Disney Springs: A new Cirque du Soleil show debuts on April 17, 2020, with preview performances beginning March 20. Tickets already are on sale for the show that will be based on the art of animation. —K.F.
Disney Hometown Tourist Tips
- The parks open earlier than the published time, so arrive at least 30 minutes early to walk to areas where the most popular rides are or get those coveted photos with fewer crowds in the background. You also can stay in parks past the posted closing time to shop and take photos. That time is when the attractions shut down.
- Staying hydrated in sunny Florida is a must, and kiosks and counter-service restaurants will provide ice water for free when you ask. Drink it on the spot or fill up a reusable water bottle.
- Disney World is the most liberal of the local theme parks when it comes to bringing in outside food. The main exclusions are alcohol and glass containers. Packing your lunch and snacks can save big bucks and time in food queues. Families can put soft-sided coolers in strollers, wear a backpack cooler or rent a locker for the day.
- Most people know you can book dining reservations online 180 days before the first day of your trip, but did you know it’s better to do so online than by phone? The website opens at 6 a.m., and the phones are answered starting at 7 a.m.
- Although Disney says dining reservations must be canceled 24 hours in advance to avoid the penalty charge of $10 per person, it’s really midnight the day prior. If you cannot commit to a reservation ahead of time, check if the restaurant is listed on Open Table, which does not charge for cancellations.
- FastPasses are free at Disney World, and each guest can book three per day in advance. After the third FastPass is used, the guest can book another for whatever is available. Do this as soon as your MagicBand is scanned at the third attraction and you are waiting in line.
- Guests attending one of the parties, such as Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, can enter Magic Kingdom as early as 4 p.m. Party events don’t begin until 7 p.m., but that time is valuable for rides, dining, shopping and more.
- You can meet Disney characters without going into the parks. The deluxe resorts all have character meals open to the public. It’s rare to be seated without a reservation so you still will need to plan ahead, but if you don’t want to spring for park admission, this is an option.
- Disney resort guests are discouraged from visiting the pools at hotels where they are not staying, but they are invited to participate in other activities at each hotel. One notable experience worth the travel time is Chip ’n Dale’s Campfire Singalong at Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground. Guests here will get an evening’s entertainment (for little to no cost) that includes singing classics with a banjo performer, toasting marshmallows and watching a movie under the stars.
There’s an App for That
Whether you’re a local planning a staycation or a one-day visit, the My Disney Experience app can be used to plan out every minute or for spur-of-the-moment decisions.
Some of the most popular uses:
- Book FastPasses as much as 60 days prior or on the same day in the park.
- Make, cancel or change dining reservations.
- Use Mobile Ordering to order and pay for your meal and skip a long line.
- View your PhotoPass photos and make sure you got that must-have image.
- Check into your Disney resort.
- See current wait times for attractions.
Another app, the Play Disney Parks app, is more fun than functional. This app helps guests interact with their surroundings and also offers games, trivia, music and more to keep them busy while waiting. Galaxy’s Edge is the first large-scale construction in a Disney park in which the app was considered during the planning and building. It can be used to play a multiplayer game with others on Batuu who make choices that align them with the First Order or The Resistance. Some choices will trigger physical changes throughout Galaxy’s Edge, and the game is offered multiple times a day. The app also allows individuals to perform tasks to collect credits. —K.F.