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First Look: What It’s Like to Visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland

Whenever Disney unveils something new, it’s a big deal. Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland’s new Star Wars-themed land, officially opened on Friday after more than three years of construction, and it’s literally the biggest thing that’s ever happened at the parks. At more than 14 acres, it’s their largest expansion yet.

And it feels that way, too: expansive—with wide walkways to comfortably accommodate lots of visitors—and intensely immersive. Any sense of being at Disneyland melts away, other than the feeling that you’ve arrived in an entirely different land. It’s the never-before-seen planet of Batuu (pronounced buh-too, kind of like a sneeze) that exists on, you guessed it, the galaxy’s edge.

[st_content_ad]This is a rugged outpost that serves as a byway for scoundrels, smugglers, and pirates on both sides of the Force. The hired hands that assist you here aren’t “cast members,” they’re “inhabitants.” Instead of “Hi,” they greet you with “Bright suns,” and instead of “dollars,” it’s “credits.” Everything is set in the current Star Wars trilogy, though there are abundant references all the way back to the original films.

The world that emerged from George Lucas’s imagination is meticulously brought to life here, with countless story-driven details that make this an authentic place with a long history—everything feels battle-worn and rough around the edges, but also on the cusp of grand adventure, featuring you as a key character. Other characters abound too, either trying to recruit little ones for the First Order (an intimidating Kylo Ren and his ilk), or obligingly posing for pictures (a tall, campy Chewbacca).

Kylo ren at star wars: galaxy's edge disneyland
Kylo Ren at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland

Galaxy’s Edge: What’s Open at Launch

Most of what Galaxy’s Edge will have to offer is open now, including its first thrill ride, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, whose designers visited Lucasfilm sets in England to ensure that they were constructing the ship faithfully. Waiting in line, you meet the charismatic pirate Hondo Ohnaka, portrayed by a highly realistic animatronic, and watch as Chewbacca loans him the famous starship.

You board as crew, in pre-assigned groups of six, and get assigned a role as either a pilot, a gunner, or an engineer. (If you don’t like the role you got, you can politely request another and be accommodated.) Then, it’s just about the most intense video game you’ve ever played, as the “ship” responds to your commands, smashing into meteors, enemies, and space debris if you don’t do your job well. There’s lots of screaming, yelling, and clapping involved. (Height requirement is 38 inches.)

Pilot the millennium falcon at star wars: galaxy's edge disneyland
Pilot the Millennium Falcon at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland

Step off to find yourself in an intergalactic shopping wonderland. The Market is a bazaar-like collection of merchants—Disney’s Imagineers traveled to Morocco and Turkey for inspiration, and it shows. You can buy a soldier’s ration kit based on the one Luke Skywalker had in The Empire Strikes Back, plus Jedi robes, Stormtrooper armor, and “pets” from around the galaxy. At Black Spire Outpost, there are “local” souvenirs, wisdom-holding kyber crystals, busts of famous Jedis, and First Order gear. At Savi’s Workshop, you can customize a lightsaber for $200.

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Food and beverage throughout Galaxy’s Edge is highly themed as well: There are five places to buy tasty goods, including Ronto Roasters, a meat stall; Docking Bay 7, whose entrees have names like Fried Endorian Tip-yip (chicken) and Smoked Kaadu Ribs; a stand selling delicious blue and green milk; and Oga’s Cantina, a full-on bar scene with a droid deejay and a robust cocktail list—the “Jedi Mind Trick” is built around Ketel One’s grapefruit-and-rose vodka.

Themed beverages at star wars: galaxy's edge disneyland

What’s Still to Come

Not much is known yet about Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the next thrill ride that will debut in Galaxy’s Edge. There are plenty of credible rumors swirling, however, including that its opening date will be in October or later. The official Disney statement on the Rise of the Resistance opening date is: “We are pushing the boundaries of innovation and technology with these signature attractions and will not open an attraction until it exceeds our expectations.” Other not-yet-confirmed information is that the height requirement will be 40 inches, that the full experience will be around 20 minutes long, and that it’ll be a trackless droid-guided adventure with intense battle scenes, plenty of twists, turns, and more than 300 animatronics.

How to Experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge

If you’re planning to stay at one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels, you can make your four-hour reservation to visit Galaxy’s Edge when you check into your hotel. If you’re not planning to stay at a Disney hotel, you’ll have to wait until after June 23 to enter Galaxy’s Edge, at which point no reservations will be necessary to get in, though Disneyland will implement a “virtual queueing system” to visit the new land—you’ll get a push notification when it’s your turn to enter the land, and access to Galaxy’s Edge will remain subject to capacity.

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Costumes aren’t allowed for Galaxy’s Edge guests over the age of 13, but “dressing in outfits inspired by favorite characters” is permitted.

Make sure to download two specific phone apps (both are free) before entering the park: the official Disneyland mobile app, which lets you check wait times, find characters, and mobile-order food; and the Play Disney Parks app, which lets you play interactive games while you wait in line, “hack” droids, translate “Aurebesh” into English, and scan containers to collect virtual items.

Most of all, let yourself slide into the role of being a visitor—and possibly even a hero—on another planet. Everyone else is playing along, and if you resist, you’ll be the silly one. Being here is all about fantasy, role-playing, and engaging with a larger story. Know that going into Galaxy’s Edge and happy, you will be.

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By Avital Andrews

Avital Andrews, SmarterTravel's editor-at-large, is a travel and lifestyle journalist who is also a contributing editor for AAA's Via magazine. Her stories have been among the 10 most emailed or viewed on the Los Angeles Times, Outside, Sierra, and SmarterTravel websites, and have also appeared in USA Today, HuffPost, Apple News, Business Insider, and many other nationwide outlets. Her travel book, sold at bookstores and on Amazon, is in its fourth edition, and her journalism gets national media attention, including from The New York Times, The Atlantic, Time, NPR, and MTV. She's currently working on her first children's book. Follow her on Twitter @avitalb.

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Ultimate Bucket List Experience: A round-the-world cruise that makes stops to experience Aurora Borealis, the Olympics opening ceremony, Borneo, Madagascar, the Jerusalem Festival of Light, the Bolivian salt flats, Kenya's Giraffe Manor, the Galapagos, the Maldives, Bora Bora, the Seychelles, and every Disney park. (That itinerary definitely exists, right?)

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