Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the biggest Disney theme park upgrade in years. The first of the twin lands will open at Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California, on May 31, while the second will open at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, on Aug. 29.
Here’s what we know about Galaxy’s Edge, including the latest on rides, dining, and an unusual Star Wars-themed hotel. We also have need-to-know info on special restrictions that will apply when the lands open. Finally, we’ve got a few tips from an experienced travel agent on planning your own visit to a galaxy far, far away.
Coming in at 14 acres each, both versions of Galaxy’s Edge represent the largest ever single-theme addition to the Disney parks. Toy Story Land, which opened in Florida in 2018, was significantly smaller, at just 11 acres. That massive footprint has presented some interesting logistical challenges.
In California, access roads and highways hem in Disneyland on all sides. So Disney built Galaxy’s Edge into a thin strip of real estate in the northwest corner of the park, pressed up against Disneyland Drive on one side and the famous Tom Sawyer Island on the other. To reduce sight lines, engineers dug down to place the main level somewhat below that of the rest of the park.
In Florida, where Disney has several ZIP codes’ worth of swampland at its disposal, finding room for Galaxy’s Edge was much less of an issue. The new area is bolted onto the massive, 135-acre Hollywood Studios theme park, formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios, down in the southwest corner. It occupies some of the space that was previously dedicated to the Studio Backlot Tour, which shut down in 2014.
Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run
On opening day, each Galaxy’s Edge land will only have one of its two new attractions in operation. It’s called called Millenium Falcon: Smugglers Run, and it promises to be a highlight for Star Wars fans of any age.
The first proper trailer for the ride shows a simulated cockpit with room for six, including four captain’s chairs and two of the larger, high-backed chairs with aggressively curved headrests seen in the movies. The action appears outside the cockpit canopy. Expect some kind of elaborate projection onto a conical area just in front of the cockpit, similar to what they use to shoot the modern films.
It’s an interactive experience. Participants each get a role, including pilot, gunner, and flight engineer. As the ride progresses, the individual controls all around the cockpit dashboards light up. Early reports compare it to the hit mobile game Spaceteam, a kind of electronic party game that thrives on good communication.
Oddly enough, one of the most exciting parts of Smugglers Run might be the queue. First, fans will have a close encounter with an animatronic pirate named Hondo Ohnaka, made popular by appearances in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. Inside the costume will be one of the most sophisticated robots that Disney Imagineers have ever assembled.
Then, just before guests get access to the cockpit, they’ll have time to lounge around in the crew cabin of the Millennium Falcon itself, complete with its iconic holographic gaming table.
Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
The second new attraction at Galaxy’s Edge has been called the centerpiece of the entire land. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance puts guests between the Resistance and the First Order in an experience that Disney calls “one of the most epic attraction experiences we have ever built.”
We originally thought that Rise of the Resistance would feel more like a long tram ride, something akin to It’s a Small World. New details show that it’s a lot more than that.
The ride enlists attendees as Resistance recruits. The journey begins when they board a transport shuttle, similar to the one seen carrying General Leia Organa into the Battle on Takodana in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As the ride progresses, the First Order captures guests and brings them aboard a Star Destroyer. At that point, they’re treated to a space battle raging outside a large hangar bay, complete with at least one life-sized TIE fighter in the foreground.
From there, the ride itself is still a bit of a mystery. Travel + Leisure describes it as four rides in one, with guests transitioning from Resistance control and into the custody of the First Order. That will mean boarding multiple vehicles, encountering various enemies, and walking through “the halls of a Star Destroyer as if they were truly a Resistance fighter taken captive.” At one point, a small tram will carry guests between two hulking AT-AT walkers in the style of the vehicles featured in the Battle of Hoth. The Los Angeles Times says that the experience will include special effects “such as laser fire that results in some authentic-looking explosions.”
Taken as a whole, Rise of the Resistance sounds like an attempt to take the very best live-action experiences that Disney has to offer — the iconic Jungle Cruise, the legendary Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and more traditional rides — and mash them up together into something unique. But Disney says the experience won’t open up until later in 2019.
An immersive experience
According to Disney’s marketing, the hallmark of Galaxy’s Edge will be interactivity. Expect the park to be littered with Disney staff in costume, including First Order stormtroopers on patrol and members of the Resistance holed up in a secluded wood nearby. How exactly that immersion will feel alongside the lines for character meet-and-greets with Chewbacca, C-3PO, and the rest of the costumed cast is anyone’s guess.
So excited to finally be sharing with the world the cast costumes I designed for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, the new lands opening at Disneyland and Walt Disney World! Cast costumes are worn by employees working in our stores, restaurants, attractions, and a variety of other roles. pic.twitter.com/nYZh6H1WPh— Joe Kucharski (@TyrannyOfStyle) February 27, 2019
There will be plenty of opportunities for shopping, of course. Aerial photos show multiple new facilities being built at both parks. You can expect to find lots of items for sale at Galaxy’s Edge that simply can’t be found anywhere else.
One of the more special shops is the Droid Depot, where guests build their own custom BB or R2 units from parts traveling by on a conveyor belt. Once assembled, the droid will be able to interact with electronic hotspots around the park.
Another store, Savi’s Workshop, has guests designing and building their own lightsabers under the tutelage of Resistance sympathizers and Jedi historians known as the Gatherers. The experience will be limited to only 14 builders and their families at a time, and will include unique special effects.
Early reports claim that these aren’t the bulky plastic lightsabers that were previously sold in parks. Instead, this is a completely new, metal design with a detachable blade, lighting, and sound effects. Entertainment Weekly says they’ll start at $109 for the hilt, and another $49 for the detachable blade.
Other new shops include Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities. Part retail establishment, part museum, the Den is presided over by a long-necked animatronic Ithorian. There’s also the Toydarian Toymaker, which sells plushies and musical instruments, while the Creature Stall offers everything from cuddly porgs to miniature rathtars. There are also several stores selling high-end Star Wars outfits for the whole family, themed for both members of the Resistance and followers of the First Order.
Finally, Disney will offer a custom version of its free in-park mobile app, with functions like “hack,” “scan,” “translate,” and “tune,” that will allow guests to connect with droids and other features all around the park. While it will serve as a vehicle for delivering backstory, it will also factor into a light alternate-reality game played throughout the park. According to Entertainment Weekly, guests will be able to tinker with certain locations through the app, flipping them between the control of the Resistance and the First Order over a period of time before a winner is declared and the game starts over again.
Any trip to a Disney theme park, whatever the duration of your stay, requires taking on plenty of provisions. Dining options at Galaxy’s Edge have been kept under wraps until very recently. You can read more about the individual menu items on offer, including the details of a frosty riff on Luke Skywalker’s blue milk from A New Hope and The Last Jedi, over at our sister site Eater.
Here’s what we know about the Star Wars-themed facilities themselves.
Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo
Near the heart of Galaxy’s Edge is a counter-service restaurant called Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo. Also known as a quick-service restaurant in the Disney vernacular, it’s basically a high-end cafeteria.
In the fiction of Galaxy’s Edge, Docking Bay 7 is a hotspot for multiple food vendors. But the big man on campus is Strono Tuggs, aka Cookie. He’s best known as the chef at Maz Kanata’s castle before it was leveled during The Force Awakens. His Sienar-Chall Utilipede-Transport ship — essentially an intergalactic food truck with a giant triangular rudder — is parked on the roof and easily visible throughout the park. He’ll be serving themed meals with ingredients from all over the Star Wars galaxy.
An open-air stall near the Galaxy’s Edge marketplace is called Ronto Roasters. The proprietor, Bakkar, is a big sports fan, so all of its spit-roasted meats are cooked below a massive podracing engine. Concept art makes it look like it just fell off young Anakin’s ride in The Phantom Menace.
While you can easily find an adult beverage at Hollywood Studios in Florida, Disneyland in California remains a dry facility. That makes Oga’s Cantina, which will serve alcoholic beverages at both resorts, a bit of an oddity. Fans can sidle in for a thematic tipple just about any time of the day, but drinks must be consumed within the friendly confines of Galaxy’s Edge.
The decor is reportedly inspired by the Mos Eisley cantina in A New Hope, complete with a long bar with various bubbling tubs as a backdrop. There is limited seating at the edge of the space, with most customers served while inside the walk-in facility.
Galaxy’s Edge hotel
As revealed in July 2017, Galaxy’s Edge in Orlando will also include a fully immersive Star Wars-themed hotel. While not actually inside the park, it’s still incredibly close, located just across the highway on the south side of Hollywood Studios.
Disney says that the facility will be the first of its kind, offering fans Westworld-esque levels of immersion. Upon arrival, guests can take a side in the battle between the First Order and the Resistance, then dress up and live out their spacefaring fantasies. Fans from Coaster Kings have even uncovered blueprints of the hotel’s first floor, which features areas labeled as “Brig,” “Engineering,” and “Dojo.” Those locations are expected to tie into the elaborate role-playing hosted inside.
Unlike other more recent, more massive additions to the Disney hotel inventory in Orlando, the Galaxy’s Edge facility is expected to be much smaller, at only two stories tall. The same set of blueprints shows only 32 standard “cabins” and two larger first-class rooms on the first floor. That means the hotel could have fewer than 70 rooms.
Planning your trip
Galaxy’s Edge in Anaheim is expected to be the single most popular destination in all of the Disney parks when it opens in May. When its twin goes live in Orlando in August, the situation isn’t expected to improve. Geography works to keep the parks’ respective clientele fairly exclusive of one another. Both will be packed for a long time to come.
If you’re planning to attend the opening in Disneyland, there are official guidelines that you need to be aware of. From the Disney website:
To visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park between May 31, 2019 and June 23, 2019, Guests will need valid theme park admission and will be required to make a no-cost reservation, subject to availability, to access the land. Guests staying at 1 of the 3 Disneyland Resort hotels during these dates will receive a designated reservation to access Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge during their visit (one reservation per registered Guest); valid theme park admission is required.
Beginning June 24, 2019, a separate reservation for the land will no longer be required. Information on how to make a reservation and details about the reservations will be available at a later date.
The notice goes on to make it clear that capacity is limited, and even those with valid passes may not get in if the place fills up. That restriction applies to annual pass holders as well.
Similar notices have been posted for Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World in Florida, although you should likely expect things to change after the opening in California.
To get a feeling for what opening day might be like, Polygon reached out to Laura Moll, a senior travel agent at Moments of Magic Travel. Not only is she an independent contractor of an authorized Disney vacation planner, she’s also a fan of the parks herself.
“I was there for opening day of Pandora,” Moll told Polygon, referring to the Avatar-themed park that opened at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in May 2017. “I can tell you that they had lines set up for queues to get into that actual land. If I recall, we waited about three and a half hours, even though we were there at park opening to get in that line.”
In her experience, the key to getting into a new land on opening day — and during the weeks if not months that come after — will be arriving at the park as early as possible. For folks planning a trip to Disneyland, that means you should be thinking about booking your hotel room right now.
“For Disneyland, you want to make sure that you are planning 60 days in advance, typically,” Moll said. “If you have a specific [hotel] in mind, then I would not delay.”
According to Moll, the goal when traveling to Anaheim should be to book a hotel as close to Disneyland as possible. Unlike Disney World, which runs on a sophisticated RFID-based system, Disneyland is a slightly more traditional facility, and operates on a first-come, first-served basis with very few exceptions.
For folks planning a vacation to Orlando, Moll recommends that you try to stay in a Disney hotel — or “on property,” as it’s called — if you can swing it. That will help make your trip into Hollywood Studios just a bit shorter.
As a bonus, those who stay on property also get access to something called “Magic Hours.” During Magic Hours, guests have additional access to the parks either before or after they open. My family and I have stayed on property several times, and Magic Hours were the highlight of each of our trips.
Be advised that Magic Hours are generally announced only a few days ahead of time. They also happen seemingly at random, or at least through some kind of arcane scheduling known only to folks behind the scenes at Disney. Even if you stay on property, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have Magic Hours access to Galaxy’s Edge during your stay. It’s not even clear if they’ll be offered at all.
Speaking from experience, understand that booking a Disney vacation can be extremely intimidating. It’s expensive, for one. But there are also a lot of steps in the process. Miss the dining reservation window, for instance, and you might be stuck eating Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream bars for dinner in order to make it to your last ride of the day.
There are tons of Disney fan sites and communities willing to give first-timers a hand in navigating the complexities of the online booking systems. Or you can call Disney yourself and book your vacation with a Disney-badged agent. There are also travel agents like Moll, many of whom don’t actually charge a premium for their services.
“There are many benefits to working with a travel agent from an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner agency,” Moll said. “Our services are completely complimentary. We hide our knowledge and experience to secure the best travel options, pricing, and experiences for our guests. Our goal is to keep the entire process very simple.”
Expect more updates to our explainer throughout the summer and beyond.
Update (March 21): We’ve edited this article to include the very latest information, including opening dates for Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Disney World.