Star Wars Weekends 2014 will occur May 16-18, May 23-25, May 30-June 1, June 6-8, and June 13-15, 2014 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World! Star Wars Weekends are geared towards all things Star Wars (including the animated TV show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Celebrities are in attendance, there’s a special parade, shows, and every day ends with fireworks! It’s a lot of fun whether you’re a hardcore Star Wars fan or just a fan of fun (we fall into the latter camp).
If you’ve been to Walt Disney World countless times (and it’s probably not a bad assumption that you have if you’re reading this blog), you might be looking for ways to see the place a-new. One way to to find new experiences is to visit during a seasonal festival or weekend event. One such weekend event is Star Wars Weekends, held in May and June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
This post has been updated for 2014 to reflect changes to Star Wars Weekends, including the ‘retirement’ of Hyperspace Hoopla and the addition of the Symphony in the Stars fireworks, as well as new strategy and tips.
If you haven’t visited multiple times and are planning a trip to Walt Disney World, make sure to check out our Disney Tips & Tricks page for a lot of helpful tips to outsmart the masses. Also check out our dining reviews to find the best restaurants and our trip planning posts to figure out what to pack, which tickets to buy, which discounts to look for, and all the other ins and outs of a trip to Walt Disney World, including the “10 Steps to Planning a Walt Disney World trip!”
If you’re more concerned with seeing photos of Star Wars Weekends to get a visual idea of what it’s like, check out our pages containing hundreds of photos from past Star Wars Weekends. If you’ve already made up your mind that you want to visit during Star Wars Weekends but don’t know which one to plan your trip around, consider the first weekend. It’s not significantly busier, and you benefit in having Star Wars Weekends overlap with Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival that first weekend. Two special events in one trip can make for a lot of fun!
If you’re thinking, “I have no interest in being in a crowd of Trekkies dressed up as Chewbaccas,” fear not. Sarah and I are not big Star Wars fans, either, but we have had an absolute blast during Star Wars Weekends. We’ve now been multiple times, and hope to do Star Wars Weekends again in 2014.
Much like the name implies, Star Wars Weekends take place over Friday, Saturday, and Sundays–so no wacky schedules based on the Klingon Astro Calendar or anything like that. Although the Studios can get a little crowded during these events with Star Wars fans (and, I suppose, some Trekkies who end up in the wrong place) the energy these fans bring to the park is palpable. While events like Star Wars Celebration have no allure for me, Star Wars Weekends give me a chance to see those hardcore fans in their finest fan-made attire–and some of these costumes are quite impressive–without having to endure the geek-dom of the other events. No knock at geeky fan events, after all, we attend countless geeky Disney events and count ourselves as geeks. Much like Justin Timberlake brought back sexy, I think that wretched movie, Napoleon Dynamite, actually brought geeky back.
In addition to this guest “experience,” there are a lot of actors who portrayed characters in the Star Wars movies in attendance for autograph signings and for the daily parade. Mind you, unless you’re a huge Star Wars fan, most of these actors’ names won’t ring a bell. However, if you are a fan of the films, meeting these actors can be pretty cool. Just be warned, if you want anything signed, you will want to arrive to the park hours before it opens to wait in line to be guaranteed a meeting with them.
Disney uses a FastPass system for celebrity autographs during Star Wars Weekends. Each guest is allowed one such FastPass (per day–they are free), and how late you can show up and still get a FastPass depends upon the popularity of the celebrity you want to meet. We aren’t particularly interested in meeting Star Wars celebrities, so this is something we’ve never done. Based on what we’ve heard from friends, Ray Park is the most ‘in-demand’ celebrity, and if you want a FastPass for him, you should plan on showing up around 6 am. If you arrive late or want to meet more than one celebrity, standby is available, too. Obviously, it behooves you to get the FastPass for the most popular celebrity and rarest (so if they are popular but appear at every Star Wars Weekend, they aren’t going to be as in-demand for FastPasses) and do standby for less-popular and more common ones. StudiosCentral has a good summary of how this system works.
This tips are based upon our Star Wars Weekends visits, and what we’ve learned works and doesn’t work based on our experiences. Regardless of whether you want these actors to sign anything, you should arrive at Disney’s Hollywood Studios prior to park opening, as one of the coolest experiences of the weekend is “Storming the Park,” which is guarded from on high by the Storm Troopers. The little skit they put on is hilarious, and not to be missed. It may seem like something minor and not worth arriving early to experience, but trust me, you will be thankful you dragged yourself out of bed early. Plus, you will need the time to experience as much as you possibly can in the day.
If you want autographs, arriving to Disney’s Hollywood Studios by 6 am is probably a good idea. If you don’t want autographs, you can sleep a little longer, but we still recommend arriving about an hour before the official park opening, which will usually be 8 am during Star Wars Weekends. This is because the turnstiles often open earlier than the official open time during Star Wars Weekends due to the crowds. In 2012, we got in the park at around 7:30 am, immediately got Toy Story Mania FastPasses, and then rode Toy Story Mania with only about a 5 minute wait. From there, we also quickly did Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster. Finishing the “Big 3″ at Disney’s Hollywood Studios before the Star Wars Weekends events even kick off will be huge, as there is a lot of waiting in lines for character photos and to secure show and parade seats that will likely prevent you from doing attractions AND experiencing all of the Star Wars Weekend festivities.
One of my favorite times of year to meet characters is at Star Wars Weekends. No, not because these character meetings are held outdoors during the most unbearable heat of the year, in some of the longest lines of the year, but because of the Disney characters’ costumes! These costumes are really cool, as are some of the backdrops for the meet and greets. Definitely plan on spending some serious time in line for these. I would recommend doing these in late afternoon as the lines aren’t so bad.
In 2012, we made the mistake of lining up first thing in the morning for Jedi Mickey (who rotates with a slew of other Disney characters). The lines ended up being shorter for him later in the day. Instead, we should have lined up for Darth Vader, who consistently had a line over an hour(!) later in the day. These character lines can be brutal, so if you’re not a fan of meeting characters, you’ll save a lot of time during Star Wars Weekends. If you do want to meet these characters, be prepared for long waits.
Another main attraction of the weekends is the daily Star Wars Motorcade. This motorcade is cool for the costumes that you’ll see, but it’s a bit short (as is the parade route–making it tough to get good spots). We recommend staking out a spot an hour before this motorcade if you want an unobstructed view. If you don’t mind having a few heads in your way, you don’t need to claim a spot quite as early, but still get to the motorcade area at least 20 minutes in advance (even that is cutting it close).
There are various other events throughout the day, typically including a question and answer seminar and a trivia contest (called the Padawan Mind Challenge in past years) for kids. The exact names and details of these events change from year-to-year. One non-event that has become somewhat of an event is the purchase of merchandise. If you plan on buying anything unique to Star Wars Weekends, I highly recommend doing this early. Lines will get long, and limited edition items will sell out.
Prior to 2014, each day used to conclude with Hyperspace Hoopla. Hyperspace Hoopla has been retired for 2014, replaced with the “Symphony in the Stars” fireworks. Hyperspace Hoopla was a hilarious, snarky, and well-orchestrated show. I run out of adjectives just trying to describe it. It was rife with pop culture references, a real hoot overall. I’m actually a bit surprised that Lucasfilm has allowed such an irreverent show (although maybe that’s why it was stopped).
For the first time in 2014, each day of Star Wars Weekend will conclude with “Symphony in the Stars” Fireworks show at 9:45 pm. This show debuted with the special “May the Fourth be With You” Limited Time Magic Event, and was so well-received that they’re doing it every night this year!
While we expect the fireworks to be a bit smaller in scale during Star Wars Weekends since it’s going to be multiple nights instead of just one, we have heard rave reviews about this show. We love the other fireworks shows that Disney’s Hollywood Studios puts on, and expect the same out of Symphony in the Stars.
Expect heavy crowds directly in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat stage and all down Sunset Boulevard, but these are the best views of the show. For a great view with lower crowds, head over to Echo Lake, right in front of 50s Prime Time Cafe. (The above photo was taken from this location.)
Crowds are typically bad at Star Wars Weekend, with especially long lines for Star Tours: the Adventures Continue, and also for all of the special meet & greets. As a general rule I wouldn’t recommend doing Jedi Training Academy or Star Tours during Star Wars Weekends if you can experience them other times during the week. Jedi Training Academy has a better energy during Star Wars Weekends, but it’s just not worth the crowds. If someone in your party does want to do Jedi Training Academy, make sure to head to the sign-up first thing in the morning.
The special presentations also require waiting in line at least 30 minutes in advance of the presentation, with 45 minutes to an hour being the safer bet. We were able to get in two of the presentations last year after getting in line about 30 minutes before they started (the lines usually form in the MuppetVision 3D overflow queue or in areas around there–ask a Cast Member if you’re not sure what the lines you see are for), but our seats were not the greatest. If you want good spots for these shows, you’re going to have to pick and choose which matter most to you, and line up about an hour in advance for those ones (this will likely prevent you from seeing them all in a single day due to timing).
If you’ve been to Walt Disney World more times than you can count, but have never visited the Studios during Star Wars Weekends, you owe it to yourself to plan a trip down during May or June to experience The Force, Disney-style. Even if you’re not a hardcore Star Wars fan, you’re sure to have a good time!
Have you visited during Star Wars Weekends? Do you think it’s worth braving the crowds to experience these special event weekends? Do you want to visit during Star Wars Weekends? Please share your thoughts in the comments!