The Essential Guide to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland
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After years of anticipation, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened as Disney’s newest themed land on May 31 at Disneyland. No expense was sparred creating this immersive land in Disneyland Park. Guests can now pilot the Millennium Falcon, build their own lightsaber or come face-to-face with Kylo Ren and Chewbacca. On June 24, the land had a second opening of sorts as the reservations-only period ended and all guests of Disneyland park can now enter, subject to capacity.
TPG attended the media preview to get a first look at Galaxy’s Edge and also entered the park as a visitor in the land on opening day to test out all the best crowd-avoidance strategies. We have also been monitoring all the changes Disney has been making since then as it works out the kinks that such an ambitious opening inevitably brings. There have been quite a few surprises and curve balls in the process that nearly no one predicted. If you are planning a visit to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, here is everything you need to know before you go.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Basics
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a new themed land within Disneyland Park. A nearly identical equivalent is also coming Aug. 29 to Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. The land brings to life a settlement called Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, roughly set in the time of the current movie trilogy, Episodes VII–IX.
The land in Disneyland has three entrances: near Fantasyland, in Frontierland behind Big Thunder Mountain and via Critter Country past the Hungry Bear Restaurant. It is made up of three areas: a First Order headquarters closest to Fantasyland, a central town and marketplace, and a Resistance encampment closest to Critter Country.
Overview of Rides, Shows and Character Meet-and-Greets
Currently, Galaxy’s Edge has a single ride — Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. A second, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, is scheduled to open on Jan. 17, 2020 in Disneyland (Dec. 5 at Disney World).
Although rides will certainly be a draw for theme park guests, the land is much more about immersion in the world of Star Wars, much like The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal’s theme parks. Just as guests can select their own wand at The Wizarding World, Galaxy’s Edge visitors can build their own lightsaber or droid. Guests can further explore secret features of the land and interact with it by using the Play Disney Parks app on their smartphone or tablet.
Galaxy’s Edge doesn’t have traditional Disney character meet-and-greets or official shows, but familiar faces are all over Batuu. Guests can run into Rey, Kylo Ren, Stormtroopers, Chewbacca and others, all going about their business as visitors to the planet. There is even a new character created just for the land, a Resistance spy named Vi Moradi, who enlists guests to assist her in her missions to infiltrate the First Order’s headquarters.
Who Will Enjoy Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
Disneyland is best known as a destination for family travelers, but Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a land that might just be more for parents than kids. Star Wars is a franchise that perhaps means most to Gen-Xers who grew up with the original trilogy. Although the newest trilogy has captured a new generation of fans, the land feels like a playground for the original fans who are now adults.
That said, children — especially tweens and teens who love Star Wars — will love seeing a land inspired by the movies come to life. But Gen-Xers who have little ones of their own now need to know that the land currently lacks offerings for toddlers and preschoolers. Additionally, many of the experiences are premium ones that families may find out of their budget when multiplied by three, four or more participants.
When to Visit to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
With a land this new and this popular, everyone has been predicting an absolute crush of crowds. Believe it or not, all the predictions thus far have been very wrong. But there is a good reason for that. Disney worked incredibly hard to control crowds (particularly through annual passholder and cast member blockouts) to make the guest experience in opening weeks more pleasant. It worked. In fact, some might say it worked a little too well.
For the first three weeks the land was open, there was a reservation system in place to control crowds. On June 24, the reservations period ended and the land became open to any guest in Disneyland Park. Disneyland implemented a virtual queue system in the Disneyland app to meter capacity, assigning guests to “boarding groups” to keep the land from being overwhelmed.
But to the surprise of everyone, the virtual queuing has not been necessary on many days. Posted wait times for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run have hovered regularly around 45 – 60 minutes, often shorter than the (still reasonable) wait times for Radiator Springs Racers or Hyperspace Mountain. It probably goes without saying that now is the time for anyone with the ability to plan a last minute trip to Galaxy’s Edge to go!
That said, it is safe to say that low crowds will likely not continue indefinitely. Disney has already lifted some of the cast member blockouts this summer and released a summer ticket deal that allows annual pass holders to bring up to three friends and purchase a 1-day park hopper tickets for them for just $99. Both will surely boost attendance. Until annual pass holder blockouts are fully lifted at the end of summer, however, crowds are likely to be reasonable in Galaxy’s Edge. Deluxe Annual Passes are blocked out in Disneyland through Aug. 18, so plan a trip before these pass holders can return if you can.
There will almost certainly be another high surge in demand for Galaxy’s Edge when the second attraction, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, opens in January.
Admission and How to Save
To get into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, guests need a ticket for Disneyland Park (or Disney’s Hollywood Studios once the equivalent land opens at Walt Disney World).
There are two parks at the Disneyland Resort: Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure. Galaxy’s Edge is located entirely in Disneyland Park. That means that if you only want to visit Galaxy’s Edge, you won’t need to pay extra for the “park hopper” admission option.
Use Discounted Disney Gift Cards on Single Day Tickets: If you are going to Disneyland for just a single day visit, there are no ticket discounts available unless you happen to know an annual pass holder who can snag the bring-a-friend summer deal for you. The best strategy you can use to decrease costs is to purchase Disney gift cards at a discount. Then, purchase your single day (non-hopper) ticket on Disney’s website or at the park gate ticket booths using those discounted gift cards.
Purchase Multiday Discount Tickets from an Authorized Ticket Broker: For longer Disneyland vacations, it’s possible to snag discounts on multiday park tickets. Authorized ticket brokers like Undercover Tourist offer a variety of deals throughout the year. Charges from these brokers tend to code as travel with most credit cards as well.
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Highlights
If you are going to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, these attractions and experiences are most worth your time.
The Land Itself: The scenery and setting of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a highlight unto itself. Be sure to make time to look up and just to explore and admire the land. Poke your head in the shops, especially the main marketplace and Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities where Easter eggs abound. Look for Hidden Mickeys made with blaster fire or walk in the tracks of droids. The Play Disney Parks app has been popular with some guests to help unlock secrets of the land and increase interactivity.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: As the only ride in the land at this time, Smugglers Run is certainly a must-do for anyone tall enough (38-inch height minimum required). Guests on the ride go on a smuggling mission in the Millennium Falcon, actually taking the controls. The queue is one of Disney’s best and the ride itself offers moderate thrills most similar to Star Tours. While Disney cast members won’t guarantee you a specific seat on the ride, do your best to position yourself to pilot the Falcon. The left pilot seat responsible for controlling left and right movement is arguably the best. The right pilot is responsible for pulling the lever to activate light speed, so many fans will enjoy that as well.
Oga’s Cantina: Even casual Star Wars fans are likely to recall the scene in the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope. Oga’s Cantina captures that same intergalactic watering hole vibe. It’s also the first place in Disneyland Park to serve alcohol. While kids are allowed and there are nonalcoholic drink choices aplenty, its probably not a good fit for families with young kids due to the lack of seating.
Savi’s Workshop: Visitors to Batuu can visit this secret unmarked location to make their own lightsabers. Part show and part shop, Savi’s is the must-do experience for the Star Wars superfan. But it comes at a price: $200 plus tax. While demand has leveled off a bit since the land first opened, you should still prioritize making a reservation if you want to build a saber.
Droid Depot: If a lightsaber is a bit out of your budget, a droid is a little more budget-friendly souvenir. The build-your-own droid experience at Droid Depot is $100 plus tax. Additional upgrades, like a personality chip for your droid to interact with the land, are available. No reservations are required.
The Food. Traditional theme park food has no place on Batuu, where burgers and pizza are truly a galaxy away. Menu items like “tip-yip” or blue milk are much more common. To be sure, Disney got adventurous (and maybe sometimes a bit too adventurous?) with the food on Batuu. Be sure not to miss TPG‘s guide to the best and worst food and drinks in Galaxy’s Edge for more details.
How to Minimize Lines
With a theme park land this epic and newsworthy, what most guests are worried about is lines and rightfully so. Many of the usual line-busting tips at Disneyland don’t apply to Galaxy’s Edge. There are currently no attractions that offer FastPass. Figuring out the best Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge touring strategy is a complex and ever-changing puzzle.
Lines for the entrance into the land: Since June 24 when the land has been open to the public, Disney has indicated that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge may reach capacity. When it does (and that has only happened on opening day thus far), Disney implements a virtual queue to prevent guest from having to stand in a physical line.
How does this queue work? Guests who wish to enter Galaxy’s Edge simply go into the Disneyland app. If the land is full, they are prompted to “Join Boarding Group” with an estimated return time indicated on the screen. When the Boarding Group is eligible to enter, guests receive a push notification to the phone (just be sure to enable push notifications for the Disneyland app first). Guests then have up to 2 hours to enter the land.
Lines for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run: Once guests are in the land, the choke point thus far has really not been Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, as many feared. Wait times for the ride haven’t increased that significantly since the land has been open to all guests. In fact, they have averaged about 45 minutes, which is highly reasonable for any moderately popular thrill ride at a Disney park.
Because the wait times continue to be a moving target, the best strategy is simply to use the Disneyland app on the day of your visit to find a reasonable wait. If you see a wait time of 30 minutes or under, get in line. Unless you are at the very front of the rope drop group, it likely doesn’t make sense for now to ride the Falcon first thing in the morning. That is when wait times are often artificially high because everyone rushes to ride it first.
Finally, if you have ridden the attraction before, consider using the single rider line to reduce wait times for additional rides. You won’t get to see the interactive queue and likely won’t get to pilot, but you can get in a few more rides that way.
Lines for Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop: Currently, the choke points in Galaxy’s Edge are Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop. Both of these experiences are very low capacity, so they simply can’t handle the demand, though demand for Savi’s seems to be getting a bit more under control as many die-hard fans have now constructed their sabers.
As of June 24, Disney implemented a new reservations system for Oga’s Cantina and Savi’s Workshop. Reservation times are now available within 14 days of visiting on the Disneyland website. Guests do not need to have entered the park to book a time. Reservations times go quickly, so book right away if either of these experiences are a must-do. If you get a reservation for one of these experiences, you are guaranteed admission into the land even if the virtual queue is in operation.
Lines for Food: The other lines that guests will experience in Galaxy’s Edge are those for food. It’s so easy to save time on those, however, by making use of mobile ordering in the Disneyland app. Three of the five food service locations in Galaxy’s Edge offer mobile ordering: Docking Bay 7, Ronto Roasters and Milk Stand.
Many other guests are making use of mobile ordering as well, making return times to pick up food sometimes as much as an hour later. For that reason, it’s vital to watch the app and be ready to lock in a mobile order return time before you are hungry!
Where to Stay
If you are planning a galactic voyage to Batuu, there are a number of nearby hotels at every price point. For hotel recommendations, be sure not to miss TPG‘s guide to the best points-friendly hotels near Disneyland.
During the reservations only period, there was a real incentive to stay in one of the three on-property Disneyland hotels: Disney’s Grand Californian, the Disneyland Hotel, or Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel. All guests of these hotels were guaranteed one four-hour reservation into the land. Now that the reservation period has ended, there are no special Galaxy’s Edge perks for on-property guests. In fact, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is not even currently open for Extra Magic Hour, the early entry perk that hotel guests are given.
Related: Use promo code TPG10 to price Disneyland vacations via Getaway Today.
If you are concerned about crowds, you might want to stay at a hotel within walking distance of the Downtown Disney security entrance. The Harbor Boulevard security entrance into the Disneyland esplanade (the side on which most off-property hotels are located) tends to have the longest lines. Options on the Downtown Disney side include the three on-property Disney hotels as well as more budget-friendly options like Best Western Stovall’s Inn. A new Westin property is under construction near that entrance as well, targeted for an August 2020 opening.
A nice points-friendly option within walking distance to the Harbor Boulevard entrance is the Fairfield Inn Anaheim, that is bookable for 35,000 Marriott points per night, or you can use the up to 35,000-point Marriott award provided annually with both the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card or the Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card.
For more information relevant to planning your visit to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and the Disneyland Resort, check out these related stories:
- Opening Day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland
- A First Look at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- Where to Stay at Disneyland: On vs. Off-Property Hotel Comparisons
- Skip the Lines at Disneyland: 10 Line-Busting Tips for Less Waiting and More Playing
- How to Save Money Buying Discounted Disney Gift Cards
- Best Restaurants at Disneyland
- Save Money on Disney Resort Stays By Renting Points
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland is an epic Disney achievement likely to draw crowds for years to come. But the operations and logistics of the land are changing very quickly. Guests will need to adopt new strategies as Disney makes tweaks and additions to this land. Of course, TPG plans to keep you updated as things change!
Featured image by author.
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