A Spoiler-Free Account of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, and Some Tips for Travellers to Black Spire Outpost
My in-laws live in Florida, so we decided to take a day when we were down visiting them to do Disney’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of Hollywood Studios. In short, it’s everything you might want from a Star Wars theme park experience. It’s immersive and fun and every detail has been thought through and implemented impeccably. If you have a chance to go, especially if you’re bringing a 7- and 10-year-old wearing Rey costumes, do.
Here are a bunch of thoughts on how the experience works that might be useful if you’re planning to go. I won’t describe much of the actual rides or events because there are story elements that I think work well if you’re surprised.
- Having everyone in your party sign up for a boarding group increases your chances of someone being able to log in faster.
- If you’re having connection problems getting into a Rise of the Resistance boarding group, find a cast member with an iPad to do it for you. Maybe even try to find one before 7:00 so you’re ready.
- Make reservations ahead of time for Droid Depot, Savi’s Workshop, and Oga’s Cantina if you want to do them.
- Eat all the food.
- Go back at night to see how it’s all lit up.
I didn’t get motion sick on either ride. Universal’s Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride (the Hogwarts one) made me feel very nauseated to the point where I was closing my eyes during it and felt out-of-sorts for over an hour afterward. It’s possible if you’re even more sensitive than I that Smuggler’s Run might get to you, but I think you’ll probably be fine. If you’re very worried, there’s an easy solution: be the gunner or engineer and you won’t be sitting up front by the cockpit’s front window (view screen). Another guest will certainly be happy to trade for a pilot’s card. But again, I was the pilot and didn’t feel sick.
My 7-year-old is very sensitive and got a little nervous during Ride of the Resistance but once the ride was over she was literally jumping for joy and thanking us for pushing her to come along. It has one small drop near the end that I’d rate as equal to or less than the one in Pirates of the Caribbean.
There are two proper rides in Galaxy’s Edge: Rise of the Resistance (the newer one, open now at Disney World and opening soon at Disneyland) and Smuggler’s Run. To ride Smuggler’s Run, you get in line and you wait. There is a single rider’s line that reportedly takes 30–45 minutes. If you are in a group that wants to ride together, you get in the regular line. We queued at 9:30 and were out of the ride at 1:00. It was a long wait. When we started the end of the line was all the way back to the entrance of the Toy Story area. Great ride. Long wait. Not much you can do to about it. We all sort of agreed it was worth it.
Update: As of mid-February you can now book FastPasses for Smuggler’s Run. Get these as soon as they open up for your visit because they’ll go quick.
Once the line eventually gets into the actual spaceport, you can use the Disney Play app to pass the time. There are little mini-games to do at different points along the queue. It’s really neat. If you use it heavily you might drain your battery by the end to the day. Taking along an extra pack or finding a charging station in the park might not be a bad idea.
There’s a bonus scene in an asteroid field you only get sometimes. My understanding is that it only plays if the ride system needs extra time to let the previous group disembark.
If you pay attention when you’re taking off/landing, you’ll notice that the Black Spire Outpost you see out the windows matches the real park. You can see Docking Bay 7, the marketplace, etc. And of course at night, it’s night. (This applies to Rise of the Resistance as well.)
Rise of the Resistance and Boarding Groups
(We went on January 2nd. This info might change as Disney hones the process and the rides stop being over capacity.)
The Galaxy’s Edge area is sort of a triangle. With the Smuggler’s Run queue snaking across two of its three sides, there’s no room for guests to line up for Rise of the Resistance. So, Disney has implemented a virtual queue system called boarding groups. Using the My Disney Experience app (or with the help of a park employee, called “cast members” by Disney), you sign up and are assigned a group number. They call 5–10 or so groups at a time via a board outside the ride and in the app. When your group comes up you have two hours to arrive at the ride, which gives you plenty of time to finish whatever you were doing.
When the ride opened last month, the app would let you join a group as soon as you activated your ticket for the day. People were lining up outside the park at 4:00 AM or earlier so they could be the first ones through the gates and get into an early group. Disney didn’t like that, so now boarding group signup starts at 7:00 AM for everyone.
The first shuttle from our hotel departed at 6:00 AM. We arrived at the park by 6:15 and not long after they started letting guests through the gates into the front area of the park. I can’t really judge how many people were there, but they easily numbered in the thousands, all trying to load the app at exactly 7:00 and join a boarding group. So naturally when I went in, Disney’s wi-fi was overloaded and AT&T wasn’t doing much better. At 7:04 we found a cast member who used an iPad to put us into board group 135. The app told us groups 128 and above would only be called if time permitted. Four minutes and we were already in danger of not getting to ride the new ride. (Turned out we were fine. 135 was called around 6:30 that evening. If the ride had broken down for a duration, we’d have been out of luck.) I’ve read on some days they get to 200 before closing.
So, a piece of advice: while you’re in the crowd waiting for 7:00 AM to strike, try to locate a cast member. I think they wear blue polo shirts. If you can’t get the app to work, have them put you in.
Everyone in your party is able to enroll your group. Ahead of time, have everyone sign into the app and make sure they see everyone else (and add them if not). This way you can all be trying to sign in together. (You can also make friends with people you’re waiting with and add them, but then you have to meet up with them later to actually ride.)
Also: When your boarding party is ready, you still have to wait in the line’s normal queue. It’s a well-done line experience with lots to look at and stuff to do in the app, but you’ll likely have 30–45 more minutes to wait.
On the whole I think the boarding group system is fine. There’s just no way to grapple with a situation where demand is so much greater than supply. More or less if you aren’t in the park at 7:00, you don’t get to ride. (You can get your group assignment and then leave the park, though, but your entire party needs to be physically present to enroll.) This sort of virtual queue means you can enjoy the rest of the park while you wait, and the two-hour window means you won’t have to change many of your plans once you’re called. You can finish your dinner, go to a show you’d already planned to see, and so on. Long term I’d like to see them handle it more like a FastPass where you can schedule your Rise ride ahead of time, but I think this is just what people will have to deal with for now.
The ride, once you get through, is incredible. I can’t believe some of the stuff in it.
Be a Batuu Native
Galaxy’s Edge is set in a town called Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu. This is an entirely new Star Wars location created just for the park. It appeared first on the Star Tours ride and is the setting of the Galaxy’s Edge: Black Spire novel and comic mini-series as well as the young adult novel A Crash of Fate. I sort of actively avoid non-movie and TV Star Wars tie-ins, but my curiosity led me to these. You’d can skip any of them, but I’d say Delilah Dawson’s Black Spire is the one to read. It outlines the storyline of the settlement leading up to the “present day” of the park, which is probably best pinned at during before/during Rise of Skywalker. Black Spire also introduces Resistance spy Vi Moradi, who you’ll see around the park occasionally hiding from the Stormtroopers and recruiting kids to help her do missions.
Children are allowed to wear costumes in the park, minus maybe masks. Adults are not supposed to, but they say you can wear universe-appropriate outfits made from real clothes. If you have a cool vest or scarf or something, go for it. They just don’t want you to be mistaken for a character or a cast member. They do sell nice robes and tunics and such if you want to dress like a Tatooine farmer.
Tip: Bring a locale-appropriate bag. A small canvas rucksack or leather messenger bag will look at home on Batuu and be good for holding snacks, water bottles, and whatever you buy in the park. Disney will also send merch back to your hotel for you or ship it home.
Cast members stay fairly consistently in character. They’ll tell you a $5.25 purchase will be “five point two five credits.” You can even “exchange your money” at the Droid Depot for Batuuan Spira (meaning, buy a refillable Disney gift card in the shape of a metal coin), which is fun and I recommend.
Black Spire Outpost has its own lingo, which you can read about here. The main ones to know: “Hello” is “Bright Suns” in the morning and “Rising Moons” in the evening. “Goodbye” is “Good Journey,” “’til the Spires,” or, more formally, “May the Spires Keep You.” You’ll usually get a good reaction from a cast member if you open with a local phrase.
Shops and Things to See
Take time and look through all the shops. Pay attention to all the details everywhere. On the walls, on the ceilings, the foot and droid tracks on the ground. Use the Play app to hack into antennae or make droids move.
As with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, all of the merchandise sold in the park is intended to be in-universe gear. There are no shirts that say “Star Wars” on them. Instead, you can get one that says “Black Spire Outpost” with a silhouette of the distinctive rock formations on it in the same way you might go to New York and buy a shirt with the city skyline.
Dok Ondor’s Den of Antiquities had a line out the door when I went by, but the line is only for people who want to buy legacy lightsabers (high end replicas of those carried by Obi-Wan, Luke, etc). This deterred me at first until I asked a cast member. If you want to buy something else or just look around, you can go in, and you should. There’s an animatronic Dok in his office overlooking the floor and all sorts of neat things hanging on the walls.
Go back at night if you can. Disney has done an amazing job of hiding the rest of the park from you when you’re in the Galaxy’s Edge area, so you just feel like you’re actually on Batuu in Black Spire Outpost. At night, all those rock formations are lit up.
There are a few add-on experiences you can do in the area. All will cost you money, of course. If you’re splurging, they’re well worth it.
You can make a reservation to build a droid online. The line to build one for people who didn’t have reservations was 80 minutes. With a reservation, we just walked right in. I recommend doing this one early in the day so you have your little droid buddy as a companion for the rest of the day if you’re buying the backpack (see below). Otherwise, do it later so you don’t have to carry it around (or send it to your room).
You can make either an R-series or a BB-series astromech. They have the parts to make replicas of R2-D2 and BB-8, but they also just sell pre-made versions of those characters for cheaper, so try to have some fun and make something with your own color scheme. Here are the different color options for R-series droids and here are the BB-series ones. It might help to look them over and think about it, but when you get there you have time to pick each one up and try out different variations and combinations. Here are two sites with good photos of the process and the store: one, two.
If you get an R-series droid you can also buy replacement color panels and decals for it along with blasters or rockets that light up and make sounds, tools (that don’t), and even a drink-serving tray (though to scale they’re smaller than shot glasses). The BBs don’t have any add-ons aside from the optional personality chip.
The droids themselves are very fun. I’d seen some complaints online about the BB droids being hard to control or their heads wobbling too much or falling off too often, but we found ours to be totally fine. BB Tip: When you put the head on, press the red button to have it rotate all the way around a few times. This will help make sure it catches all its magnets.
There’s a droid playground outside of the shop where you can practice with your new droid. It’s like an adorable dog park, but for kids crashing their droids into one-another. We also found it helped to get a little dirt on our BB to make her look more worn. The R-series droids, though, look a bit new a plastic-y to me. I’ve seen people online use acrylic washes to give them more weathering. Outside of the play area, Disney wants you to leave your droid in its box/bag so you don’t trip people.
We did not buy a little backpack Droid Baby Björn, but I think I’d recommend it. Thety’re $40, but when it’s over you have a little backpack with a cool logo on it you can use in the real world, so it’s not a totally useless single-serving purchase. The reason I say this is that as you walk around the park, your droid will sometimes react to your surroundings, or want to chirp at another droid. The reactions are even different based on whether you bought a $15 personality chip for your little guy. You can get a First Order chip, for example, that gives it a new sort of wicked voice. Then if it sees a Stormtrooper it might get excited, or it might sound unhappy when you’re near Resistance stuff. The droid comes in a neat box but having it strapped to your chest in the backpack means you really get to notice all the little interactions.
I’m not sure there’s a standby line for this, or how reliable it is. If you want to build your own lightsaber, you should make an appointment. When I first bought my tickets, it was all booked, but after reloading the page several times a day, one opened up, so if this happens to you, don’t lose heart! People change their plans and adjust their schedules all the time. Keep checking and I think there’s a good chance a slot will open up.
There are four types of lightsabers you can build: Peace and Justice, Protection and Defense, Elemental Nature, and Power and Control. Each family of saber has 96 variations, so in total there are 384 different possible lightsabers that can be made. You pick a saber category and then from its tray get to choose one of two emitters, two of four hilt bodies, one of two switches and one of two end caps. You also get to pick a crystal color which determines your saber’s color: blue, green, red, or purple. In Dok Ondor’s they also sell white, yellow, and maybe orange. This post has photos of all the “scrap” pieces you get to choose from, but if you don’t want the building experience spoiled, try to skim it. You could go in blind and just let the Force guide you. In the end you can have a badass looking Sith saber, something that looks like an ancient artifact, one that looks like it’s made out of old camera flashes, or even a samurai sword hilt with leather wraps and wood. It’s all super cool and the hilt pieces are metal so the finished product has a nice weight to it.
The will also happily offer to sell you a display stand for your hilt and a neat belt clip. You get a complimentary case with a strap to carry your new lightsaber around the park. The blade comes out so you can also clip your hilt to your belt around wear it around. All the sabers have either a d-ring to clip onto or a little wheel you slide onto the belt attachment.
This is the local bar. Again, make a reservation. They do have a standby line but when we went in for our 4:25 reservation they were telling people outside they were booked for the night.
You can bring in kids but there’s a good chance you’ll be standing at the bar. Very little kids won’t be able to see much and might be tired.
They have alcohol and non-acolholic drinks as well as a fun Jell-O-like dessert called “Oga Obsession” that has Poprocks-like things on it. If you have a non-drinker or kid with you, definitely have someone order the Carbon Freeze. It has dry ice in a special chamber at the bottom of the cup and poppers inside that jump around and fizz and it’s a lot of fun to look at and drink.
Eat All the Food
Disney’s app lets you make mobile orders a few hours before you’re ready to eat. (Like, when you’re waiting in line for a ride.) Then, when you’re actually at the restaurant, you just tap a button saying “I’m here” and they plate your food, letting you skip the ordering line. We never waited more than 5 minutes from the time we hit the button to when we had our orders.
The breakfast Ronto wrap was very good, as was the Tatooine Sunset, which was like a citrusy iced tea. Blue and Green milk taste like fruit smoothies. They were different but I’m not sure I preferred one to the other. Think of them sort of like if one’s Hawaiian Punch, the other is Tropical Punch, or something. Matt Singer’s article on the food is a good place to start to read more.
At Docking Bay 7, the main eatery, we had the Smoked Kaadu Ribs and the Fried Endorian Tip-Yip, as well as both desserts. Everything was delicious. There’s outdoor seating you night not notice immediately if the inside is full, but we found a table right away even on a tremendously crowded day.
Non-Galaxy’s Edge Star Wars Stuff
We didn’t have time to do Star Tours. I’d have liked to, but there wasn’t time and I was slightly worried about the motion sickness issue on that ride.
If you have kids under 12 with you, sign up for the Jedi training experience. You have to get a time slot once you’re in the park on the day. The signup area is to the left of the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular. I recommend enrolling first thing so they don’t fill up. I think doing the Jedi training actually helped give my 7-year-old a boost of confidence going into the Rise of the Resistance ride. She was a little worried it would be scary but after facing the Dark Side in her training she was psyched up.
I’ve been sort of up-and-down with Star Wars lately. Rise of Skywalker had things I liked about it and things I ddn’t and more things I wish it were instead. The Mandalorian was fantastic. Baby Yoda single-two-fingered-handedly got my younger daughter into the universe. The decision to make Galaxy’s Edge its own, brand new world, means that there’s nothing predetermined for your experience. What’s in there is only what you take with you. What you leave with is just fun, good memories, and very tired feet.
I’ve collected a bunch of links about Galaxy’s Edge here and photos of lightsabers people have built here. (You can’t really build a bad-looking saber. It’s an amazing design achievement that all the parts work harmoniously.)