Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens soon at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. This guide details what we know, with speculative tips for visiting, avoiding crowds, and basic info about Star Wars Land in both California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (Last updated May 2, 2019.)
For starters, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge has not yet even started soft openings or paid previews, so this is obviously not a comprehensive planning guide for Star Wars Land. However, we’ve been inundated by questions and requests for planning recommendations for Galaxy’s Edge. There’s also been a slow drip of info about the new land, which is spread over multiple posts.
Accordingly, we’re going to consolidate a lot of the confirmed Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge details here. We’ll also offer planning tips to the best extent we can based upon past precedent. This is hardly Disney’s first rodeo in unveiling blockbuster new lands, and we’ve learned a lot from our opening day, month, and year experiences with Cars Land, Pandora – World of Avatar, Toy Story Land, and more.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is on a scale like few things before it. This is in terms of hype, ambition, and Disney’s crowd control strategies on both coasts, which are already underway. Walt Disney World and Disneyland management are taking visible measures to prepare for a huge influx of crowds. Internal planning suggests Disney is concerned about Star Wars land crowds, even if the marketing belies this.
Now for some basics about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge…
Star Wars Land Info
Officially known as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, this new land is the largest settlement on the planet Batuu, set in the remote village of Black Spire Outpost, which is an infamous stop for traders, adventurers, and smugglers traveling around the Outer Rim and Wild Space.
Got all of that? Of course not. Everyone is just calling it Star Wars Land, just as Wizarding World of Harry Potter is simply “Harry Potter Land” or Pandora – World of Avatar is called “Avatar Land” by most guests. This is all mildly amusing, as I remember it being a small controversy that Cars Land would defy Disney naming conventions by not being Carsland.
Back in my day, Disney theme park lands and attractions used clear and concise names, and avoided convoluted syntax that served no discernible purpose and would be ignored by most of the general public. But I digress…
Here are quick descriptions of the major attractions, dining, and shopping in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge so you’ll know what we’re talking about as we continue this Star Wars Land Guide.
While there are “only” two attractions in Star Wars Land, these are two blockbuster rides. Both of them are among the most ambitious and expensive that Imagineering has ever created, and will leave a lasting impression. Unfortunately, the main attraction, Rise of the Resistance, has encountered difficulties on both coasts that are likely to delay its opening several months.
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run – An interactive motion simulator attraction where 6 guests are grouped together, given roles, and put in control of the Millennium Falcon. This collaborative ride promises to be somewhat skill-based, with your team’s performance reflected in the attraction itself and the appearance of the ship as you exit. Think Mission: Space meets Star Tours meets Toy Story Mania–all on steroids.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance – A lengthy hybrid walk-through and trackless dark ride with a mixed media presentation including projections, Audio Animatronics, and a variety of physical effects. The attraction will put guests into the middle of a battle between the First Order (including Stormtroopers) and the Resistance, and feature an eight-seat ride vehicle known as a First Order Fleet Transport. This is the flagship attraction in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and we really don’t know what to expect from it, but Pirates of the Caribbean: Battle for the Sunken Treasure and Mystic Manor have set our expectations very high.
In terms of dining, the options in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge are surprisingly limited, with only a bar and a counter service restaurant, neither of which seem to be that large. Right now, the Lucasfilm Story Group and Imagineering are zealously guarding the thematic integrity of Star Wars, both inside and outside the land.
Another “big deal” and something we think is fascinating is that Coca-Cola will be sold in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, in special on-theme packaging. There was speculation that Disney might go the Wizarding World of Harry Potter route and only feature specialty drinks, but that’s not happening.
As might be evident from our Shanghai Disneyland Serves Pepsi article, we are oddly fascinated with soda sponsorships in the Disney Parks. This is a big-money partnership for Disney, but selling only (more expensive) novelty drinks would’ve also been a boon to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Oga’s Cantina – Limited capacity bar serving alcoholic beverages (yes, even atDisneyland), mocktails and other drinks, including Blue Milk. Oga’s Cantina will mostly be standing room only, with restrictions on how long guests can linger likely to be enforced. Captain Rex, a former Starspeeder 3000 pilot of Star Tours fame, will play DJ at Oga’s Cantina.
Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo – The main dining option in Star Wars Land, this counter service restaurant will offer indoor and outdoor seating, themed to a working hangar bay. Menus have not yet been released, but as with other recent new dining options, we’d expect the cuisine to be ambitious and inventive for at least the first 1-2 years the land is open.
Milk Stand – This small drink stall will serve frosty confections, including blue milk and green milk. The vendors at this quirky stall offer travelers an invigorating, refreshing drink that’s a favorite among the locals. Expect a signature snack or two in addition to the green and blue milk.
Kat Saka’s Kettle – Serving specialty popcorn known as Outpost Mix, this small food stall will be run by grain merchant Kat Saka, and is unlikely to serve much else besides popcorn and bottled drinks.
Ronto Roasters – This exotic meat stall will serve savory grilled sausage and roasted pork wrap. Former smelter droid 8D-J8 will be the cook, using a recycled pod-racing engine to roast meats at this dining stand.
Black Spire Outpost has number of small vendors in a street markets, inspired by those in Marrakesh, Morocco. These intimate shops will be part retail and part show, with a variety of props and colorful backstory, with a proprietor from the Star Wars universe running each.
Savi’s Workshop: Handbuilt Lightsabers – A group known as the “Gatherers” welcomes guests into their covert workshop stocked with unusual parts, whimsical pieces, and miscellaneous memorabilia collected from the far reaches of the galaxy. Under their guidance, you can construct one-of-a-kind lightsabers and bring it to life through the power of kyber crystals. Expect this to have a strong “show” component, a la Ollivanders interactive wands in Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Creature Stall – This exotic shop offers a glimpse into cages and crates filled with hard-to-find species from across the galaxy. Bina, the stall’s proprieter, scours star systems to keep this storefront stocked with unique companions for her customers, including porgs, tauntauns, rathtars, and more.
Black Spire Outfitters – This local apparel shop features an eclectic selection of stylish, functional clothing suitable for a variety of occasions and worlds.
Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities – Hidden inside the den is a rotating collection of unique treasures that include jewelry, ancient tools, rare kyber crystals, statues, and even a collection of famous lightsabers. The eclectic assortment of goods comes from many different planets and eras.
First Order Cargo – The First Order has recently arrived in Black Spire Outpost at Docking Bay 9, where they’ve set up a temporary post next to their shuttle to win the hearts and minds of the locals…and to sell gear to those who want to show support for the First Order.
Resistance Supply – Rendezvous with Resistance allies in a forested area near the ancient ruins. Here, members of the Resistance have set up a secret makeshift post where guests can join the cause to defeat the First Order…and buy Resistance merchandise to show their support.
Droid Depot – A build-your-own-droid workshop stocked with stacks of parts, chips, manuals, and other tech items useful for constructing droids, one of the galaxy’s most indispensable sidekicks. Pick from the popular BB-series or R-series unit, then begin designing, building and activating a droid.
The Jewels of Bith – Accessories, trinkets, and other treasures will be sold in this street stall.
Toydarian Toymaker – This humble, jumbled shop contains all manner of artisanal playthings and collectibles handmade by the busy toymaker, Zabaka the Toydarian. Her fantastical storefront is cluttered with crates of toymaking supplies and other unique works in progress.
Star Wars Land is located in the back of the parks at both Disneyland in California and Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. The lands are nearly identical on each coast, with only minor differences in layout and orientation. Substantively, the lands are 100% the same, and cosmetically, they are 99% the same. As such, the specifics about Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge apply equally to both versions.
Where the differences lie is in terms of opening and operations. Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will open to the general public on May 31, 2019, while Walt Disney World’s version will debut a couple months later on August 29, 2019. However, it will open in phases, with Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run plus all dining and retail opening first, followed by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance at a later date.
Planning Tips & Logistics for Visiting Star Wars Land
On both coasts, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is going to upend conventional park touring, and is likely to have a far-reaching impact on every aspect of visiting the parks. There will be a ripple effect felt pretty much everywhere from transportation to bag check to the turnstiles–and that’s all before you’ve entered Disneyland or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
We recently had the chance to go behind the construction wall in Grand Avenue and into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge as part of a tour of Star Wars Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I was struck by how enveloping the environment is, with rock spires, outpost buildings, and environmental details in every direction.
The tour only covered part of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but in what I could see of the land itself, the rock-work appears to be mostly done, and the finished results look incredible. On the other hand, a lot of work remains to be done on the building facades and other architectural details. Nothing that can’t be finished in ~3 months, but still a lot.
No photos were allowed on the tour, but here’s a look at the current progress from Slinky Dog Dash as of May 1, 2019:
We had a chance to ask questions about Galaxy’s Edge…but none of mine about operations could be answered at this time. Personally, I don’t expect any specific details on how access to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will work until well after June 23, 2019, which is the date that Disneyland stops doing reservations. For Walt Disney World, I’d bet on a timed entry “boarding pass” system that guests can book via the My Disney Experience app to be the primary form of entry.
With that said, California and Florida each have their own unique logistical issues, so we’re going to discuss these separately. After we cover the distinctions between each coast, we’ll discuss strategy that’s applicable to both coasts.
At Disneyland, expect pure chaos. Disneyland is now 60+ years old, and its infrastructure was all built in a different area when crowd levels were dramatically different. To say the entire resort is unsuited for the influx of guests would be putting it mildly.
To make matters worse, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is debuting before most lower tiers of Annual Passes are blocked out due to its opening date being pushed forward. These lower tiers are the APs that many (most?) Southern Californians have. Originally, the land was slated (per internal calendars) to open in late June, which would’ve been a savvy move.
The good news is that Disneyland will have a reservation system for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge through (at least) June 23, 2019, which is shortly after Deluxe Annual Passes are blocked out. Guests with hotel reservations at the three Disneyland Resort hotels will be guaranteed one time slot per reservation.
Realistically, there will be far more demand for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge than there is capacity, meaning those free reservations will “sell out” quickly, leaving many visitors to Disneyland Resort totally shut out of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Even after the reservations system ends, Disneyland has indicated that there will likely be a timed entry “boarding pass” system that guests can book via the Disneyland app.
Moreover, while the goal is to keep locals who can’t score reservations away (and that’s a smart idea), the practical reality is that many guests won’t know about the reservation system until they arrive, or will know about it but assume they can line up anyway. Significantly larger than normal crowds will descend upon Disneyland between May 31 and the end of 2019.
Just getting into the park once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens will involve several potential layers of congestion: traffic, parking, tram lines, bag check lines, and turnstile lines. Do not underestimate the lines or congestion in any of these scenarios.
While Disneyland is much more compact than Walt Disney World, its crowd flow infrastructure outside the parks is noticeably worse, and this has become a more pronounced problem in the last couple of years. All of these friction points can be significant and stress inducing, and you eliminate 3 of them just by staying at a hotel within walking distance.
As such, we would highly recommend booking either an official Disneyland Resort hotel or a hotel on Harbor Boulevard if you plan on visiting Disneyland for the first couple months that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is open. Our Disneyland Area Hotel Reviews & Rankings covers our top ~50 hotels in the area, including numerous within a 15 minute walk of the parks.
It’s too early to speculate as to just how long it’ll take to get past each obstacle outside the park and inside Disneyland. Our tentative plan is to allow 90 minutes for walking over, getting through bag check, and into the park–and that’s with reservations. If we had to drive and park, we’d give another 90 minutes for getting off I-5 (plus the actual drive time), parked, and walking over to the parks. (We wouldn’t even mess with the trams.)
This probably paints a pretty bleak picture of what to expect at Disneyland once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens, but we’re simply trying to prepare you for the worst and properly crouch your expectations. Disney management is well aware of the potential for debilitating congestion, and Project Stardust seeks to minimize that to the greatest extent possible.
However, there’s only so much that can be done. Unless you live in Southern California, are a diehard Star Wars fan who must experience the land when it first debuts, or are willing to wait until January/February 2020 to visit, we’d encourage you to give serious consideration to traveling to Florida to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge there. The crowds and congestion should be much more manageable.
Walt Disney World Strategy
While you’ll have to wait a bit longer for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to open at Walt Disney World, the good news is that Disney’s Hollywood Studios is far better positioned to handle the onslaught of crowds. Don’t get us wrong, the park will be very busy, but it’s unlikely you’ll spend hours upon end just trying to get into the park on a “normal” day.
What is likely is that DHS will hit capacity with some degree of regularity in its first week of operations, and sporadically between October and December. The natural inclination is to expect September to be the busiest month of 2019 due to it being closest to the grand opening, but our expectation is that mid-October through December will see the brunt of the crowds.
Traffic and parking certainly won’t be as bad in Florida as in Southern California. Nevertheless, if you have the financial means, we’d recommend staying at a Crescent Lake Resort (BoardWalk, Yacht & Beach Club, or Swan & Dolphin) and walking to Disney’s Hollywood Studios rather than taking a boat there.
We’re taking a different approach, staying at Pop Century for the opening day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, with the hope that the Disney Skyliner gondola will be operating by then. We think this is a potentially savvy approach for budget-conscious travelers.
A couple of things about that: 1) Walt Disney World hasn’t confirmed that the Skyliner will be running by the end of August, even though we expect it will; and, 2) there’s no guarantee the Skyliner will be more efficient that bus transportation. The resorts along the Skyliner route are all enormous, and how efficiently the gondolas will operate remains to be seen.
Our plan, and the course of action we’d recommend irrespective of where you stay, for the first couple weeks of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge (and perhaps beyond) is to plan as if the land is opening two hours earlier than the published time. That means if Extra Magic Hours are scheduled to start at 7 a.m., you should be heading out of your hotel room by around 4:15 a.m.
This might sound extreme, but you’ll beat the crowds on the transportation system (which always operates earlier than announced), at bag check, and at the turnstiles. You’ll also be in a good position to take advantage of Disney’s Hollywood Studios opening earlier than the schedule states, which is almost a sure thing.
At present, Walt Disney World will not use a reservation system for entering Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Instead, there will be a standby line to enter the land, which we expect will pretty much consume the entirety of Grand Avenue. (This could change as the opening date draws nearer if Walt Disney World management gets cold feet about allowing this to be a free-for-all. The My Disney Experience app could easily accommodate for a FastPass+ style timed entry system.)
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge will be included in morning Extra Magic Hours for Walt Disney World resort hotel guests, and this is a huge win. Seriously, the significance of this cannot be overstated. For both the debuts of Pandora and Toy Story Land, morning Extra Magic Hours provided the best and easiest opportunity to experience those lands.
While we’d expect Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to be busier during morning EMH than those lands, we’d also expect even earlier ‘unannounced’ opening times to help with crowds. Probably through at least 2020, access to morning Extra Magic Hours will alone justify the premium pricing of staying on-site.
In terms of strategy and touring info applicable to both coasts, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run will be the only attraction operating at first, and it won’t be utilizing FastPass, MaxPass, or FastPass+ (again, at first).
This is almost certainly a matter of capacity, as a virtual queue means you’re effectively two places at once, and Disney wants to fit as many guests as physically possible into Star Wars Land. (There is likely to be a renewed interest in Star Tours: the Adventures Continue, which is outside Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on both coasts. We’d suggest getting a FastPass for that if you’re interested in experiencing it with a manageable wait.)
While the natural impulse will be to run immediately to Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run, we’d instead suggest starting at Oga’s Cantina if you’re interested in experiencing what’s likely to be the best themed bar Imagineering has ever built, or Savi’s Workshop if you want to purchase a Handbuilt Lightsaber. Our rationale for this is simple: capacity.
Even though it’s likely to have multi-hour waits during peak times, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run will have a healthy hourly capacity of 1,800 to 2,000 guests. By contrast, Oga’s Cantina is rumored to have a capacity of around 100 guests. Even though it’s standing room only, people tend to linger in bars, meaning the hourly capacity is maybe 300 people. Same goes for lightsaber shop.
It’s likely there will be far less demand for Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop, and also that the balking point will be lower (meaning that if guests are quoted a 180 minute wait for a bar, they’re more likely to turn away, whereas they’d queue up for an attraction). However, based upon anticipated capacity numbers alone, we think the smart approach is starting with the bar or lightsaber building, and then doing Smuggler’s Run.
However, so much remains to be seen and is impossible to know until Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is actually open and we saw initial guest patterns. We’ll be on hand for opening day and thereafter at Disneyland, and will update the speculative tips in this guide with concrete info and analysis that we observe while inside Star Wars Land. It’s going to be a wild ride, but hopefully with smart planning, Galaxy’s Edge will be a satisfying experience that is worth the wait.
What are your pre-opening thoughts, tips, strategy, etc. for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Will you be visiting in the first few weeks or months that Star Wars Land is open? Disneyland or Walt Disney World? Any questions? We love hearing from readers, so please share any other thoughts or questions you have in the comments below!