Star Wars Weekends are held May 15-17, May 22-24, May 29-31, June 5-7, and June 12-14 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World. This post covers when to visit, our tips for visiting, and more. Star Wars Weekends are geared towards all things Star Wars (from Episode 7: The Force Awakens, to Star Wars Rebels to merchandise like “Her Universe” to the animated TV show, Star Wars: The Clone Wars).
Celebrities who have played a part in the Star Wars expanded universe 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 reflects everything that occurs during Star Wars Weekends, including the character meals, potential tie-ins with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, as well as new strategy and tips. It also reviews the extensive changes that occurred last year. We attended Star Wars Weekends last year, and did everything that was new for last year.
UPDATE: Disney has announced that Star Wars Weekends will not be returning for 2016 during Season of the Force and while construction for Star Wars Land occurs. It’s unclear whether Star Wars Weekends will be back in 2017 or after Star Wars Land is completed.
With those housekeeping notes out of the way, let’s take a look at what Star Wars Weekends have to offer, whether they might be for you, and how to make the most of your time at the event. We’ll start with why you should visit, and then cover the best weekend for Star Wars Weekend, and move on to other strategy from there…
Why Visit During Star Wars Weekends?
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.
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–while still getting to enjoy the Disney Parks, and 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. We’ll cover this further in the “Tips” section below.
Suffice to say, Star Wars Weekends can be a lot of thing even if you can’t tell a Wookie from an Ewok. It’s just a fun atmosphere with a good kinetic energy in the park, if that makes any sense. Plus, waits are relatively normal for “normal” attractions and there are fireworks to end the day, so even if you do nothing Star Wars-related (or very little) you have nothing to lose. Win-win!
Which is the Best Time for Star Wars Weekends?
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.
We recommend the first weekend for a few reasons. First, it’s the best weather-wise, as summer heat and humidity can get bad in Florida by June. Second, it falls before many schools are out for the summer. Finally, you benefit in having Star Wars Weekends overlap with the last weekend of Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival that first weekend. Two special events in one trip can make for a lot of fun. The only downside is that Star Wars Weekends is usually busiest on that first weekend–but we don’t think this is enough of a “con” to outweigh those “pros.”
If you’re a huge Star Wars fan who is into the celebrities, you’ll probably want to wait for the official celebrity schedule to be released before deciding upon a weekend. Some celebrities are only in town for one weekend of the event.
Star Wars Weekends Tips
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 features the Storm Troopers at the park entrance.
The little skit they put on is hilarious, and not to be missed. It has changed in the past few years from being something from atop the turnstiles to actually inside the park last year. It remains to be seen how it will be handled this year. 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. Last year, 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.
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.
For the first time ever, Mark Hamill appeared at Star Wars Weekends last year. Celebrities have not been announced yet, but given that Disney will be wanting to hype The Force Awakens this year, we are betting that either he or another big name will be here. We anticipate demand for anyone in Episode 7 being so high that people will start lining up before the park closes the day before to obtain FastPasses if they sign autographs. At the very least, demand for the motorcade and talk show will be significantly higher than normal. Expect attendance to be significantly higher than normal, and waits for Star Wars events will certainly be much longer for any weekends slated to feature popular celebrities. (On the plus side, non-Star Wars attractions shouldn’t have longer than normal wait times–but you’ll still be dealing with high crowd levels.)
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.
Once, 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. Here are photos of some of the Disney and Star Wars characters you might see and be able to meet at Star Wars Weekends.
Another main attraction of the weekends is the daily Star Wars Legends of the Force 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, perhaps an hour and a half. 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 40 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. There are several shows held throughout the day in a large theater in the Backlot. We’ve seen several of these, including Behind the Force, Stars of the Saga, Obi-Wan and Beyond, An Ewok’s Tale – My Short Story, and Visit to the Maul.
We really enjoy these shows because they usually combine three things: behind the scenes presentations, humor, and some sort of demonstration. In the case of Obi-Wan and Beyond, the ‘demonstration’ is James Arnold Taylor showcasing his impressive range of vocal talent, which in itself is funny.
In Visit to the Maul, the demonstration is Ray Park’s impressive light saber action. In Ewok’s Tale, it’s Warwick Davis playing director and interacting with the audience, which is also incredibly funny. Actually, Ewok’s Tale is our favorite of these, so if you get a chance to go when Warwick Davis is visiting, definitely check out this show. We also consider Obi-Wan and Beyond to be a can’t miss, and this one is offered every weekend–at least as long as James Arnold Taylor is the host of Star Wars Weekends. People line up for these shows early for good seats, but the theater where these presentations take place is huge, so you can show up 5 minutes before showtime and typically still get a seat. It just won’t be a close seat.
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.
Each day used to conclude with Hyperspace Hoopla. If you didn’t go last year, it’s important to know that Hyperspace Hoopla has been retired, 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).
Now, each day of Star Wars Weekend concludes 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.
We saw the show for the first time at last year’s Star Wars Weekends, and it was absolutely amazing. The music and the pyro made it one of the best fireworks shows I’ve ever seen, and it really made me hope for an expanded Star Wars presence at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with this fireworks show running on a nightly basis. If you are visiting during Star Wars Weekends, DO NOT MISS THIS FIREWORKS SHOW!
Symphony in the Stars has a stage show element before the fireworks starts, so the most coveted spots are directly in front of the Sorcerers Hat, with a clear view of the stage. However, this “stage show” is nothing more than the introduction of a few characters, and only lasts about 5 minutes. Sarah watched the fireworks from here so she could see the stage show, while I watched from back near Disney & Co (the store about halfway up Hollywood Boulevard). She was in an incredibly crowded area, and due to the perspective, her view of the fireworks was not the best.
By contrast, I had a poor view of the character introductions on the stage (I could see them on the video screen above the stage), but I had an excellent view of the fireworks, and where I was standing was not crowded at all. I highly recommend standing farther back on Hollywood Boulevard, and not worrying about seeing the fireworks pre-show on the stage. It’s nothing special, anyway.
For another 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.) Another unique option, especially if you don’t have park tickets, is actually outside Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the walkway to Epcot, near the Friendship Boat dock. Our friends over at Disney Photography Blog have a post showing what the fireworks look like from that spot.
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.
Some of the special presentations also require waiting in line at least 30 minutes in advance of the presentation. 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) and another presentation we got in line right prior to it starting, 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). Note that the auditorium where these presentations are held is huge, so you likely will get into most shows without waiting a ton of time, it’s just a matter of whether you’ll need binoculars to see the presenter.
Star Wars Character Meals
Returning this year, Walt Disney World will offer Star Wars character meals during the 2015 Star Wars Weekends. Prices are quite steep, but if you would otherwise be waiting in line for these characters in the hot, Florida sun, this could save you a ton of time and potentially be worth the money. These meals are available May 4, 2015 through June 14, 2015 any day of the week.
There are two meal options. The “Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine” is a dinner at Hollywood and Vine and features Disney characters in Star Wars outfits. Featured characters are Jedi Mickey, Princess Leia Minnie, Ewok Chip ‘n’ Dale, Stormtrooper Donald, and Darth Goofy. This character meal costs $57.99 per adult and $34.99 per child age 3 to 9 (tax is included; gratuity is not). As a Fantasmic dining package, it costs $63.99 per adult and $38.99 per child age 3 to 9 (tax and gratuity are not included). Not the inclusion of tax in the former package but not the latter…tricky, Disney. Guests will receive a digital photo download of Ewok Chip ‘n’ Dale. The meal is served from 4:15 p.m. until park close daily.
The second Star Wars/Disney character meal is the “Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast.” Standard Star Wars characters for this meal, consisting of Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Boba Fett, Greedo and Jawas. In place of Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater’s standard sci-fi movie trailers, there will be Star Wars clips playing during the meal. This Star Wars character meal costs $49.99 per adult and $31.99 per child age 3 to 9 (tax is included; gratuity is not). Reservations for this meal are accepted from 8:00 am until noon.
We attended both of the new Star Wars Character Meals last year, and had a great time at both of them. We did find them overpriced, so it’s a bit concerning that they are even more expensive for 2015.
Check out our comprehensive review of Jedi Mickey’s Star Wars Dine at Hollywood & Vine. If you’d rather do breakfast with the Star Wars characters, read our Star Wars Dine-In Galactic Breakfast Review.
Despite the prices, these are sure to be incredibly popular, so if you want to book these meals, do so immediately. They are incredibly popular and availability is very limited.
That about covers it for what you need to know about Star Wars Weekends, and strategy for the event.
Overall, we think it’s a worthwhile event if you’re a Star Wars fan, frequent Walt Disney World guest looking for something new, or would already be visiting this time of year. The big downside to a May or June visit can be the weather and growing crowds, so keep that in mind before planning a dedicated trip for the event. 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!
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, where to buy Walt Disney World tickets to save money, which discounts to look for, and all the other ins and outs of a trip to Walt Disney World, all of which are covered extensively in our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.
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!