Your Visit to Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Will Be Much Better if You Know These Things First
When Disney announced the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge expansion for two of its theme parks—Disneyland in California and Disney's Hollywood Studios in Florida—the entertainment giant was trying something never before attempted. Previous "lands" based on popular movies, such as the ones from the Harry Potter films at Universal and Disney's own Cars Land, were fairly faithful reproductions of settings direct from the screen. But Disney's Star Wars addition would be its own creation, a unique destination called Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, which had never been seen in films before. Designed with meticulous input from Lucasfilm to ensure everything fit in with the franchise's universe (literally), Galaxy's Edge is more like the set of a play that no one has seen yet. That means that some of the most original features are hiding in plain sight—and that this is the world's first theme park land that could benefit from having a user handbook. To really dig into the full achievement of the place, come prepared with this foreknowledge.
Pictured: The rocky outcroppings of Black Spire as seen from under the full-size Millennium Falcon spaceship.
Plenty of your fellow visitors will prove themselves to be deep into Star Wars lore—like, scary deep. But what if you don't know much? It's not really a problem. The nearest nerd will fill you in on the fine details, but all you really need to grasp is that Black Spire is a remote, mostly forgotten hideaway where scoundrels and smugglers thrive. There is an oppressive regime (the First Order), whose agents drop by occasionally to beat the bushes for a band of rebels (the Resistance) that hides out around these parts. As for characters, you won't meet the bigwigs like Han Solo and Princess Leia. Although it's not immediately evident, the day you're visiting Batuu takes place some time after the events depicted in 2017's The Last Jedi. You will see a couple of characters from the new batch of films, including rebel Rey (pictured) and sulky arch-baddie Kylo Ren. Both of them are introduced in 2015's The Force Awakens. If you had to see only one Star Wars movie to get your bearings at Galaxy's Edge, that would be the one.
They don't tell you this when you buy your ticket, but there's a lot to do in this land that you need your smartphone to access. Of course, here they call it a "datapad," but more on that in a minute. Before you leave home, make sure you've got plenty of battery power (bring a power pack if you can), and download the free Play Disney Parks app. That's a different app from the park's main one, which shows waiting times and the like. When you're physically in Galaxy's Edge, the many Star Wars–specific features of Play Disney Parks spring to life. When you're not in the land, the app opens games for you to play while you're bored in line at other Disney rides.
In a planning blunder, this bar is not big enough for all the people who want to go in, so there are crowd-management measures in place. Rreservations open for Oga's Cantina on Disneyland's app and website. Do not delay. Make your reservation. (A $10 deposit is required, so create a profile with a credit card before you begin.) Once you're in, you get a maximum of two drinks and 45 minutes.
Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a ride in which six people sit in a mockup of the cockpit of Han Solo's ship. Using highly believable but non-nauseating flight simulator technology, the ride lets you pilot the ship on a mission under the direction of Hondo Ohnaka, a smuggler. You hear him—and sometimes see him on little cockpit screens—tell you when to steer, shoot, and punch buttons. Do well for a high score; crash into everything to be engulfed by virtual flames. Each row has its own function: Pilots, in front, control lateral movement (left seat) as well as up-and-down movement and initiation of warp speed (right-hand seat). In the middle seats, gunners push illuminated buttons on cue to fire guns and harpoons. Third-row engineers have the least to do, pushing buttons now and then to "repair" the ship, however that works. Ride attendants assign roles indiscriminately, but your group can always swap places before boarding. Pick an engineer's seat if you're terrible at video games and want to do more watching than button-banging. Pilots, on the other hand, have nonstop duties and the best view. The pilot on the right gets to pull the lever to send the ship into hyperspace, so that's the coolest yet most demanding spot.
What does all this mean for planning purposes? Assign roles judiciously according to the personalities in your group. There may be those among you who get upset that they didn't try all three jobs because you didn't ride three times. Give the whiner the right-hand pilot's seat if you're in an appeasing mood—or take that spot for yourself and pretend you never read this. In this photo, Dad is hogging the best seat. Thanks, Dad. We'll remember this.
If the wait time for Smugglers Run is daunting—or if you're with someone who is dying to try a different cockpit role but the rest of the group isn't—split up and use the entrance for single riders. You won't ride together, but the line moves at a pretty good clip because each cockpit takes six people, so an extra seat-filler or two is often necessary. (Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure and Test Track at Epcot also have fast-moving single-rider lines for the same reason, and at those, wait times are usually a fifth to a quarter of the standard wait.) The single-rider doorway is all the way to the left of the entrances into the silo beside the Millennium Falcon.
Eager passengers smash the ride's cockpit buttons so hard that as part of the ride's standard operation procedure, at least one of the multiple cockpits is getting its buttons replaced on any given day. But the post-flight Purell is up to you.
One of the bummers of Star Wars Land (as Galaxy's Edge is often called) is that one of its coolest attractions, a dark and unmarked hideout where you can build your own lightsaber—customized down to the color and optional rancor's tooth on the hilt—is only for visitors who cough up extra money. You can't even get past the door of Savi's Workshop for the 10-minute hands-on show unless you have ponied up at least $200 to the Disney gods first. Reservations open daily at 7am on the Disneyland app and the Disneyland website, and they go fast. You have to pay that $200 up front, so make sure you have a credit card linked to your profile already. Granted, the "weapons" that customers come away with are substantial, handsome, and undeniably cool. We have seen grown men get misty over them. But being locked out of such a sublime experience results in a lot of upset children pestering their parents to pay up. Maybe that's the point.
Now on to the uses of your smartphone—sorry, datapad. There are no signs explaining this aspect of Galaxy's Edge, so let me lay the groundwork for you before you go. Maybe the last thing you want to do in a place as transporting as Galaxy's Edge is stare at the phone you already spend too much time on, but do it anyway. The Play Disney Parks app can do four main things: hack, scan, translate, and tune. This photo is what hacking looks like. Whenever you see an illuminated surveillance panel like this (and they're all over the land), stand near it and a line-drawing puzzle appears on your phone. You can choose to "deactivate" the panel for the Resistance or put it back online for the First Order. Or collect both types of points to be a "Scoundrel" and wreak a little mischief. Eventually, a side dominates, a winner is declared via the app, and the game (insiders call it "Outpost Control") starts again.
Many signs throughout Galaxy's Edge are written in Aurebesh, an alien language that was devised by those Star Wars storytelling wizards. Using the Translate feature, you can hold your phone up to the writing and see what it says. Most of the time, you'll just find out which shop you're standing in front of, but the tech (as seen in this screen shot) is fun. You can also translate things letter by letter using the app, which is useful for reading name tags. Don't worry: The restroom signs are in English. So are the menus.
If you're paying attention (and you really need to while you're here, because everything was built with intention), you'll sometimes run across little QR codes on the sides of crates and cargo. Look closely and you'll see one on the brown, horizontal chest at the bottom left of this image. Use the app's Scan function to find out what's inside. Or use the Tune function to triangulate the reception of radio transmissions—over time, you'll collect lots of bits of information, ship schematics, and star maps that begin to build a backstory going on behind the scenes. At the bottom of the screen, Jobs asks you to go on a mini scavenger hunt (the Map will help) to add more items to your roster. Keep building that profile and keep the app open when you do things like riding rides and approaching droids, because as your "reputation" emerges and your portfolio grows, there's the chance that something or someone in Black Spire Outpost will interact with you directly, citing the things you've learned and done. (At least, that's what Disney used to say. I have yet to actually witness it happening.)
Dollars don't work in space. Here, items are priced in credits. Luckily, the exchange rate of U.S. dollars to credits is 1:1 and always will be. Vendors still take dollars, of course, and credit cards are swiped at wallet-lightening speed. You can use the local currency, though: Batuuan Spira. Head into the Droid Depot shop to trade a minimum of $100 for one of these, a weathered-looking metal "credit medallion." In actuality, this token is a gift card that debits purchases from your prepaid account. In the unlikely event that you don't blow your mortgage on galactic souvenirs, you can still drain it at any Disney theme park or resort, even on food and drinks. Once the token is empty, you can either keep it or reload it with more money. That makes this souvenir something of a no-brainer—and a great way to keep kids within a souvenir budget.
Each of the 1,400 or so "cast members" on staff has a backstory, and they don't break character, not even after money changes hands and they ask if you want a "transcription" (receipt). Not even when you ask directions to the bathroom ("refresher"). Asking if you're allegiant to the Resistance or to the First Order is pretty much the "what's your major?" of Black Spire Outpost. Keep your app open and chat up the locals—it's part of the drama here. Kylo Ren is always surly, so don't take it personally. But also don't tell him "May the Force be with you," because that's a Jedi thing and he's Mr. First Order.
Most of the clerks' costumes come from a wardrobe of mix-and-match elements, so rather than having one standard costume, everyone has his or her own look. (Except for the stormtroopers. Their fashion is eternal.) You, however, are more limited in your choice of clothing. Although the Marketplace sells flowing Jedi robes for $125, people older than 14 may not wear them in the park because they obstruct security's view of your waistline. That's why true cosplay is out. Still, "bounding," or the art of wearing normal clothing inspired by characters you like (as these women are doing), is embraced.