Not terribly long ago, in a theme park close to Orlando, Florida… Star Tours opened at Disney’s MGM Studios. That first Star Wars attraction made Disney World a fantastic place for fans to visit, and, with Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm in 2012, the presence of Star Wars has only grown at the theme parks. While Star Wars Land is still feels far, far away, there are plenty of things for fans of the Force to do at Walt Disney World. This Disney World Fan Guide will take you through everything there is to do for a Star Wars fan at WDW. From the must-do attractions and entertainment to the obscure diversions, this guide will help any Star Wars fan make the most of their time at Disney World.
First stop, lightspeed to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
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Star Wars at Hollywood Studios
Most of your Star Wars needs can be met at one theme park: Hollywood Studios. As home of the upcoming 14-acre immersive Star Wars-themed expansion, it makes sense that Disney has already added a galaxy of things to do at this park. This park is the place to go for Star Wars fans. Here is a run down of everything to do with Star Wars at Hollywood Studios, ranked from most essential to least.
1) Star Tours (Must Do)
Of course, the first place any Star Wars fan should go is to Star Tours, currently Disney World’s only Star Wars ride. This 3D motion simulator ride takes you on a 4 minute journey through the galaxy, where you’ll encounter iconic planets, familiar characters, and plenty of adventure. While the jaw-dropping visuals and the feel-like-you’re-actually-flying-through-space motion simulation make this a great thrill ride, what sets Star Tours apart is the sheer variety featured in this ride. Disney Imagineering has produced several different segments for each portion of the ride, and what will play is randomized for each ride. That means your journey on Star Tours could start with an encounter with Darth Vader before meeting up with the Millenium Falcon on Jakku, or you could evade some Stormtroopers before podracing on Tatooine. This makes Star Tours feel like the greatest hits of Star Wars on shuffle, and it’s no wonder why it’s one of my 10 favorite rides at Disney World.
Tip: Star Tours features four different segments, each with different potential sequences that can play. There are two different beginnings (escape from Darth Vader or escape from Stormtroopers), four different first planets (Jakku, Tatooine, Hoth, or Kashyyyk), four different hologram messages (from BB-8, Leia, Yoda, or Admiral Ackbar), and three different final planets (Death Star, Coruscant, or Naboo). In fall 2017, a new planet from The Last Jedi will join the rotation. Ride until you see every sequence.
Tip: While Star Tours usually has a pretty short wait time, the queue has a ton of different easter eggs and nods to both Star Wars and Disney Parks. Watch the luggage scanning droid closely for some of my favorite gags. Also, look out for Captain Rex in the queue, the pilot of the original iteration of Star Tours.
2) Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular (Must Do)
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is a nightly fireworks and projection show, and, well, it’s spectacular. Iconic scenes and imagery from all 8 Star Wars movies (including Rogue One) play on the canvas of the Chinese Theatre, accompanied by fireworks, laser effects, and John Williams’ stirring score. As much as I love the fireworks at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, I would take the Star Wars fireworks any day of the week. Beyond the subject matter, there are some can’t-miss effects in this show. Did you ever want to see what it would look like if Emperor Palpatine electrocuted a palm tree with force lightning? You didn’t before, but you do now.
Tip: Don’t stand too close or too far away for this show. The projections take up a very wide area, so you might miss a little bit if you’re too close to the Chinese Theater. However, once the street narrows, the buildings will block views of the fireworks. The spot where the above picture was taken is pretty much ideal, just past the projection buildings but not too close to the Chinese Theater.
Tip: Disney World offers a dessert party for this, although I’ve heard the VIP viewing area actually isn’t in the best spot, since it’s too close. Might be worth saving your money.
3) Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple (Must-See)
A wish of all children is to grow up to be a Jedi, like their father before them… or something like that. Set next to Star Tours, Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple lets padawans age 4-12 learn the ways of the Force and wield a lightsaber against some of the most legendary baddies in the galaxy.
If you have a young Star Wars fan in your group, move this up to number one and do whatever you can to make sure they can be part of the show. It will make for some great pictures and epic memories. Here is our guide on how to sign up for Jedi Training Academy at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
What if you’re over 12 years old? Can you still face off against Darth Vader? Sadly, no (I know, life’s not fair). But it is still incredibly entertaining to see kids in Jedi robes fight a Sith Lord, so it’s worth checking out at least once.
4) Star Wars Launch Bay
Located near Voyage of the Little Mermaid, Star Wars Launch Bay is part Star Wars museum, part meet and greet center. Here you can look at replicas of some famous ships and weapons, watch a short behind the scenes film, or meet with Chewbacca, Kylo-Ren, or BB-8.
Tip: Disney Visa Card Members have an exclusive meet and greet located at Star Wars Launch Bay. Just present your Disney Visa Card at the meet and greet spot (ask a Cast Member to point you in the right direction).
Tip: Want a unique experience? You can trade with Jawas! Look for the Cantina inside Star Wars Launch Bay Present them with something of value – pins, park maps, droid parts – and the Jawas will trade back something of comparable value.
5) March of the Resistance Stormtroopers
Throughout the day, lookout for Captain Phasma’s platoon of Stormtroopers. She leads her ranks from Star Wars Launch Bay and down Hollywood Boulevard several times during the day. This is a simple experience, but will definitely delight Star Wars fans.
6) Star Wars – A Galaxy Far, Far Away
This stage show performs several times a day in front of the Chinese Theater. Honestly, this show is mostly a display of amazing costumes and iconic characters. Clips from the movies play as different Star Wars characters come onto the stage. There’s not much of a story beyond that. There is a thrill of seeing these characters and costumes in the flesh, and there is a little bit of pyrotechnics, but other than that, there isn’t a lot to this show. Definitely worth checking out, but don’t plan your day around it.
7) Speeder Bike Photo Op
Just across from Tatooine Traders (the gift shop at the exit of Star Tours) is this photo op. Guests can pose on this bike like they’re racing through the Forest Moon of Endor.
8) Tatooine Traders (Gift Shop)
Merchandising! Merchandising! While this is hardly the only place to get Star Wars merchandise at Disney World, this is definitely the most elaborately themed Star Wars gift shop. Themed on the outside to be a dwelling on Tatooine, Traders features a build-your-own lightsaber station, a build-your-own toy droid station, and plenty of other shirts, toys, and memorabilia for your collection.
9) Star Wars – Path of the Jedi
This short film acts as a recap of the Star Wars saga. It was meant to stoke excitement for The Force Awakens (because that needed more hype), and while it’s well done, it’s a collection of scenes that Star Wars fans have probably already seen many, many times.
10) Backlot Express – Star Wars themed quick service food.
You can now get a Star Wars-themed quick-service meal near Star Tours, although this isn’t quite the immersive experience that we’re expecting from Star Wars land. The menu includes some Star Wars-inspired items like Dark Side Chicken and Waffles (i.e. Chicken nuggets and mini waffles with Darth Vader’s visage stamped on them) and Galactic Chicken Salad. What makes the chicken galactic? I’d rather not investigate.
The Star Wars Guided Tour at Hollywood Studios
Another item that I feel should be listed out on its own is the $121 Star Wars tour that Disney is now offering at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This 7 hour adventure includes:
- A screening of Path of the Jedi
- Star Wars: A Galaxy Far, Far Away stage show and March of the First Order viewing from a reserved viewing area
- Automatic enrollment for Jedi Training for tour guests between 4-12
- A ride on Star Tours
- A meal at Backlot Express
- Meet with Kylo Ren and Chewbacca (and probably BB-8, which was just added to Hollywood Studios)
- A tour through Star Wars Launch Bay
- Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular Dessert Party and viewing
- A personalized souvenir
Is this worth it? Honestly, most of this you could do on your own. None of these attractions have such crazy high demand that it really necessitates doing a tour, unless it’s during one of the busiest days of the year. In most cases, I’d advise against paying for the tour and just doing these activities on your own.
Disney Springs, the Resorts, and Special Events
While most of the Star Wars fun can be had at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there are a few other things for Star Wars fans to check out.
Star Wars Galactic Outpost – Disney Springs
Formerly D-Street, this shop has a great selection of fun Star Wars merchandise. Vinylmation, toys, shirts, pins, and more.
Club Obi Wan Coasters at Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs
Yes, I’m well aware that Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar is themed to Indiana Jones. While I know there is some crossover in fandom, you may not know that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom has a nod to another George Lucas property: Star Wars. The opening sequence takes place at a nightclub called Club Obi Wan, a reference to Obi Wan Kenobi. Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar features a selection of coasters from multiple Indiana Jones locations, including Club Obi Wan. A very obscure Star Wars nod, but a Star Wars nod nonetheless.
Outdoor Movies – Various Disney Resorts
Most Disney resorts have an outdoor movie screening at the beach or pool area. The lineup for this changes, but every now and then they will play a Star Wars movie. They were playing The Force Awakens at the pool at a Disney resort that I recently stayed at.
Star Wars Half Marathon – Dark Side – runDisney event every April
If you’re a fan of Star Wars and fitness, then you can’t miss the Star Wars Half Marathon. While Disneyland gets the light side, Disney World gets to get down with its bad self on the dark side. Run in a 5K, 10K, or half marathon during the weekend-long event. I ran this event at Disneyland, and it was enough to turn this non-running Star Wars fan into a fan of running as well.
Star Wars Special Events – Around Movie Premieres and Conventions
Be sure to pay attention around big Star Wars events, as Disney will throw some one-night-only parties. For the premiere of the Force Awakens, Disney sold tickets to the movie screening at Disney Springs and then an after-party at Hollywood Studios. During this year’s Star Wars Celebration convention, Disney threw a similar party at Hollywood Studios, this time featuring more celebrity guests and panels. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney continued to do these events around momentous Star Wars occasions, like the premiere of The Last Jedi this December.