First off, if you just want to scroll past my experience at Galaxy’s Edge and just look at awesome photos, go ahead, no problem. However, if you are thinking about planning a trip there, then you might want to read on…
I have a strange question to start with, how much of a Disney fan are you? Unless the answer is massive, going to the Disneyland version of Galaxy’s Edge in California isn’t something you should be considering (Unless you happen to be reading this and live somewhere on the west coast of the USA).
Walt Disney World’s version is opening before the end of 2019, flights to Florida are generally cheaper than LA, hotel options are more varied, the Disney World resort is so much bigger AND THERE IS GOING TO BE A STAR WARS THEMED HOTEL! However, if the call of the original Disney Park that was overseen by Walt himself or the west coast of America is somewhere you want to visit, awesome, do it.
Now that is out of the way, let’s talk about something that happened a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…
Where to start? Well, I guess our (my girlfriend and me) trip started in Disneyland, staying in one of the partner hotels offsite for a few days before we transferred to the Paradise Pier Hotel onsite. At present, you can’t just walk into Galaxy’s Edge, you have to book in advance to get a reservation of a 4 hour period, which both sucks and is awesome. It sucks because the only way to get a reservation for sure is to book into a Disneyland hotel, which can be rather costly. It also sucks because you are technically limited to the amount of time you can have in there. However it is freaking awesome as it limits the number of people who can enter the park at any one time, so in theory, it shouldn’t feel overcrowded.
After a few successful days enjoying Disneyland, (just for reference Star Wars fans, the Star Tours ride has 60 potential variations) we woke up to change hotels. Once we checked into the Paradise Pier, dropped our bags off etc. We made our way to the Galaxy’s Edge reservation room. We were greeted by 3 excited staff, who were genuinely as excited for us to get into the park as we were to go! They weren’t just excited in that OTT Disney American way, they really were excited for us.
As someone who tries to avoid spoilers and experience things first hand, I had tried to avoid the “everything we know about Galaxy’s Edge” articles, because I knew I was going to be going and wanted to experience it firsthand. The staff explained to us some of the interesting things that would be happening. I was fully unaware that it was a cannon story being told in the park and that it was a fully immersive experience. If you have been to a Secret Cinema (https://www.secretcinema.org/) production, you know what I’m talking about, if you haven’t there was a handy guide with some of the essentials you needed to know. For example, the servers would not ask you for dollars, they would ask you for credits. There is a system of greetings, no “Good Morning” here, you will be greeted by someone saying “Bright Suns”. There are characters playing roles and they will interact with you according to the story being told. After the brief introduction, we started the process of confirming our reservations, we originally had Saturday morning (Day 2) 8am – Midday, the staff immediately said, “we can change that if you want? We have some space today…we have 5pm – 9pm…it is so beautiful at night!” Obviously the chance to get into the park on day one and see the first sunset was something we couldn’t turn down.
We started our day in Disney and spent most of it talking about how awesome it was that we were going to get in on the opening day and see the first sunset. When you see the photos, you will totally agree.
We had go to Tomorrowland’s “Star Wars: Launch Bay” to pick up our wristbands, you have to check in around 2 hours before your time slot. This was also the first chance to pick up exclusive and new merch. This could have been VERY expensive, but the tshirts weren’t to my taste, there was the usual “put Star Wars on everything” stuff and I try to not buy toys anymore, so I escaped the money spending. We did however buy some patches and a “day one” pins, because there was always the chance there would be something awesome in the park…we also rode Star Tours for the 4th time after leaving the Launch Bay, because…well it was there.
It was now after comfortably after 4pm, so we decided it was best to make our way down to the park…
We were told the entrance to the park was to the right of the Hungry Bear restaurant in Critter Country, and what was more confusing was that by this point we had walked passed the entrance to the park twice and hadn’t even noticed it was there! In classic Disney style, the path is hidden in plain view.
As you walk down the unassuming path something special starts to happen…
The features change, gone are the standard lights and they are replaced with something a little more futuristic. This is the beginning of the immersion of the park. Even in this staging, you stop feeling like you are in Disneyland and start to feel like you are somewhere else.
As we waited, the excitement from the crowd was palpable. I spoke to a few members of the 501st Legion (they all had patches and weren’t in full get up), they were just as excited as we were.
At this point, I’m just going to flood this with a whole bunch of images, as I don’t think I will find the words to do it justice…
I shit you not, this is pretty much the first 200 yards of the park!
The size, scale and attention to detail is astounding. It is Star Wars, done to the standard you would expect of a Disney parks experience. You don’t have to suspend your belief at any point, you truly feel like you are on a remote desert planet in the Star Wars universe.
I guess it is important to bring up the plot/setting of the park at this point, it is set on a planet called Batuu, this is the Black Spire Outpost and it is set between the events of The Last Jedi and Revenge of the Skywalker. Is this particularly important? Well, it depends on what you want to get out of the experience…
I would say there are 3 main ways to experience Galaxy’s Edge:
- Passively, walk around, stop of at the shops, take photos, eat and drink and obviously go on THE RIDE….
- Engage with it. You have the freedom to talk to the characters, find out more, maybe discover something fun, you can still do the same as above, but you might get a little more out of it.
- Commit to it. Thanks to the Disneyland “Play” app, you have the option of using your phone as a “datapad” to fully immerse yourself in the plot, playing a virtual scavenger hunt style game inside the park. Pick a side, hack into places, droids, ships, communication towers, gather more information about the outpost…
As a fans of the stories and expanded universe, we chose to commit to it and see what would happen…however, I don’t want to spoil too much of that experience for anyone planning on going. I will tell you something awesome though. When we arrived in the park, I heard the ships and stationary droids making noises and thought nothing of it, beyond that was a cool effect for atmosphere. It was only when we committed to the app and hacked into a droid that something happened. No joke, we hacked into the X-Wing and it launched a failed take off sequence, I’ll come back to this later, I promise
For all of you readers who are fans of Star Wars stuff, you are truly covered! There are so many ways to spend your “credits” in this park.
The shops that sell all manner of unique things, but each shop is specific to a particular thing. There is the Toydarian Toys, the Den of Antiquities…
There are two “shops”, I say shops as it hardly does it justice, I spoke to people who went into them and described them as experiences more than shops. The first is to build your own lightsaber and the second is to make a custom astromech droid.
Now, this is one of the points where I have a pseudo complaint, as much as these both looked like fantastic experiences as a spectator, I saw a card payment in the Lightsaber shop that exceeded $1000. I am sure it was a parent paying for their kids, but as you can imagine, these are not cheap and would have had to have been returned to the UK somehow…so I was happy to see it going on and get back to the scavenger hunt aspect of the experience.
The scavenger hunt meant, we were chasing a map, looking for small things, and making our way around the park slowly
Honestly, who would have thought scanning crates and solving puzzles would be one of the key features of this place?! Let alone a whole heap of fun!
Cue the next flood of images as we explored the park…
Good news! They have BLUE MILK!!!
It’s totally not blue milk. I’m not even sure what it was, let’s call it a creamy (I’m guessing non-dairy, as that is how soft serve is done in the park) slushy.
Now is the moment you’ve all waited for….The freakin’ Millennium Falcon!
This isn’t some scale model, this is a full size ship, and what is even more awesome, coming back to the immersive experience, this IS NOT A PASSIVE RIDE! YOU ARE PART OF IT AND ARE PART OF THE CREW IN THE COCKPIT!
I’m not going to go into the nuts and bolts because you deserve a chance to experience it as much as possible, but you go into the cockpit as a team of six, you are either a pilot, gunner or engineer and you have to do things during the ride.
Let’s just say, the 5 year old inside this 37 year old can’t explain to you how excited he was to sit in the pilot seat and have to pull the hyperdrive leaver of the Falcon! Honestly, high point of my life right there.
So, here is the only problem with being one of the first day groups, you kinda have to pick your experiences in the park. The key experiences are:
- Build your own Lightsaber
- Custom astromech droid
- Scavenger hunt with the app
- Millennium Falcon ride (Smuggler’s Run)
- Eat in the Cantina
Now you will immediately note that I haven’t mention the Cantina until now. When we first walked passed the queue, it was MASSIVE and the wait to get into the Cantina was an hour and a half! It is a fully functioning restaurant after all and we were in the park at dinner time.
Rather annoyingly, you weren’t even allowed to go in a walk around. I spoke to some of the staff at the hotel and various cast members around the park and they all said it was great to go in and eat there, but not something that was worth giving up half of your time in the park for.
We settled for the cafe/diner eating option
It was probably the best meal I had the whole time we were in Disneyland, but it would have been amazing to get into the Cantina.
If you have read this far, you are wondering where the night photos are…
And that is it!
Was it worth a 10,000 mile round trip? Oh hell yeah!
I can’t help but think there is something here for every type of Star Wars fan. From the new generation of fans all the way through to the Holy Trilogy die hards.
It is such a unique space, that give you the freedom to take it in however you see fit. We saw people just taking photos in front of ships and with characters, there were other people buried in their phones chasing the story, families making droids…
If I have the slightest complaint, and it is such a minimal thing, it is that you only really have time to take in two of the key experiences. If you decided you wanted to ride the Falcon and eat in the Cantina, with queueing time, you wouldn’t have much time left to do anything else. However, I imagine in due time the wristband and time slots will be abandoned and you could potentially spend a whole day in the park and there could be more added to it by then.
Overall, it was a special experience and one I couldn’t recommend enough for any Star Wars fan, but as I said at the start, if you aren’t a massive Disney fan or going to the west coast of America, wait for the Florida park to open and go there. You won’t regret it.
What can I say other than, from this pair of nerds….
May the Force be with you… Michael Partridge