Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is now open at Disneyland and debuts soon at Walt Disney World. This guide details what we know, with tips for visiting, avoiding crowds, and info about Star Wars Land in both California and Hollywood Studios. (Last updated July 24, 2019.)
Our Why Are Star Wars Land Crowds So Low? covers what we got wrong crowd-wise about the Disneyland debut, and offers some predictions about crowd control measures Disney’s Hollywood Studios might take (and should take) for the debut of the new land.
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.
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. Read our Millennium Falcon Smugglers Run Review for more feedback on the attraction.
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, counter service restaurant, and snack stalls. There is no table service restaurant, although that might be added later. 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.
Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo – The main dining option in Star Wars Land, this counter service restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, themed to a working hangar bay. We’ve eaten everything on the menu, which we found to be ambitious and inventive–stay tuned for a full review.
Ronto Roasters – This exotic meat stall serves the glorious Ronto Wrap (breakfast version pictured above). Former smelter droid 8D-J8 is cook, using a recycled pod-racing engine to roast meats at this dining stand.
Milk Stand – This small drink stall serves 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 is run by grain merchant Kat Saka, and is unlikely to serve much else besides popcorn and bottled drinks.
Black Spire Outpost has number of small vendors in a street markets, inspired by those in Marrakesh, Morocco. These intimate shops are part retail and part show, with a variety of props and colorful backstory, with a proprietor from the Star Wars universe running each.
In addition to the shops listed below, a variety of stores outside the land, including those in Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and Downtown Disney carry limited edition Star Wars merchandise. Read more about that and more in our Star Wars Land Merchandise Pricing & Locationspost.
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.
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.
The Jewels of Bith – Accessories, trinkets, and other treasures are 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 is now open, while Walt Disney World’s version debuts a couple months later on August 29, 2019. However, it opens in phases, with Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run plus all dining and retail opening first, followed by Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance in late 2019 for WDW and early 2020 for Disneyland.
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.
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.
Walt Disney World Strategy
You’ll have to wait a bit longer for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to open at Walt Disney World. It’s likely 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.
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.
This is especially true during the New Extra, Extra Magic Hours at Disney World that will debut this fall and feature Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Without question, arriving super early on these mornings will be the best way to experience Star Wars Land with minimal crowds. Here’s hoping Extra, Extra Magic Hours will be extended to November and December when attendance is projected to be really high!
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 has a healthy hourly capacity of 1,800 to 2,000 guests. By contrast, Oga’s Cantina has a capacity of around 150 guests. Even though it’s standing room only, people tend to linger in bars, meaning the hourly capacity is around 300 people. Savi’s capacity is even lower, but its $200 price point means lower demand.
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.
At Disneyland, a timed entry “boarding pass” system that guests can book via the Disneyland app or in-park kiosks is currently being used. As we note in our Star Wars Land ‘Boarding Pass’ Virtual Queue post, we expect high demand for these boarding passes during busier times of the year.
However, as of July 2019, the crowds still have not materialized for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and the boarding pass is seldom being utilized. This could change once Annual Passholder blockouts are lifted in the fall, or during the busier Halloween and Christmas seasons. As of right now, crowds are not nearly as bad as predicted.
If you’re planning a trip from October through December 2019, werecommend 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.
This will save you time over having to drive. You’ll still have to walk over, get through bag check, and into the park–but that won’t take nearly as long as parking on busy days. If we had to drive and park, that adds additional time getting off I-5 (plus the actual drive time), parking, and walking over to the parks or taking the trams.
We’ll be back at California’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in mid-August, and will also be on hand for opening day and thereafter at Walt Disney World. We will continue to update the tips in this guide with info and analysis that we observe while inside Star Wars Land. It’s going to be a wild ride, but with smart planning, Galaxy’s Edge will be a satisfying experience that is worth the wait.
What are your 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!