Guest Author: Curious George
These tips are based on previous experiences with Star Wars Weekends (SWW). It is possible now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise that the 2013 festivities may be different, as very few details have been released.
- If you don’t love Star Wars or are not interested in the Star Wars characters and special events, go to another park. Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) will be very busy.
- If at all possible, go on a Friday to avoid the “worst” of the crowds. However don’t think it won’t be crowded on Friday!
- In 2012, on the Saturday of opening weekend the DHS parking lot was full before noon and cars were being forced to park at EPCOT. My guess is those star destroyers take up a lot of parking spaces. If you are staying at a Disney resort, you may want to consider using their transportation, since you might end up bussing in anyway. Typically transportation starts an hour before park opening but last year there were no boats running until about 7:30 (not sure about busses, I was given incorrect information by my resort staff). No point getting up earlier than you need to!
- You have to have a plan to do the Kessel run in under 12 parsecs. You will need more than one day if you want to do everything. There are special lectures, autograph signings, lots of Star Wars characters for photos, a special parade, and Hyperspace Hoopla in addition to all the other things you can normally do at DHS. I spent a whole day just getting photos with all the characters.
- If you want autographs from any of the celebrities, you have to go very early to line up. Ask a cast member to be sure you are in the right line. This would be before Disney transportation arrives so you would need to drive to the park. The exact arrival time would vary depending on who the star is and how desirable that autograph may be, so I don’t want to offer a timing suggestion and be wrong. They distribute a limited number of Fastpass tickets for autographs. If you just want to see them and snap a photo, they will all be in the special parade, which is usually around noon.
- The park will usually open at 8 am. They have stormtroopers over the turnstiles and they can be pretty funny. Take a moment and wait for one of their routines. Last year they did not hold people for an 8 am rope drop. I was allowed into the park about 7:45. However, unless you really want souvenirs, there aren’t really any special Star Wars things to do until after 9-9:30 am when the characters start greeting.
- Character greeting locations will be shown on the park map but you need to walk around to see who is where. You will only know if it is a good guy or a bad guy based on the Empire or Rebellion logos on the map. Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy in their Galactic best will all do autographs at the same location. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get through their line and they do about 20 minute shifts, so who is greeting when you get in line may not be who you see by the time you get to the front of the line. It is important for children (and some adults) to be prepared for that to avoid disappointment. I just kept getting back in line until I had them all! You can also meet Darth Vadar, Darth Maul, Boba and Jango Fett, Chewbacca, Queen Amidala, Anakin, Luke and Leia, and various Jedis. In addition to those meet and greet locations, there will be characters walking around (sand people, jawas, stormtroopers, bounty hunters, etc…). There are a lot of character opportunities but lines can be very long. Darth Vadar and Chewbacca were typically over an hour. They have nice backdrops set up, but I found that the Cast Members did not frame the photos in a way so the backdrops worked well. I could always see the edge or the angle was bad. So if proper framing is important to you, take a photo yourself. You can also see the characters in the parade and at Hyperspace Hoopla in the evening.
- If you are using Photopass, be sure to keep an eye out for a photographer holding a lightsaber. They will do a “magic shot” where a character is digitally added, so be sure to ask for it.
- Speaking of souvenirs, the galactic center for shopping is “Darth’s Maul”, located back by Tower of Terror. This is where all the limited edition merchandise is, including pins and if you want anything limited edition you have to wait in line. A very long line. Last year, the cast member told me that the line was about 20 minutes so I thought, not bad (there was a limited edition iPhone cover I really wanted). Well that was 20 minutes outside the tent, before nearly another 2 hours inside the tent! (I know, I’m crazy, I kept thinking, I’ve already waited this long…). The line moves very slowly. R2-D2 and C-3PO were doing photo ops inside the tent, which was cool. And you can get to them without waiting in the merchandise line. Other items like T-shirts can be found in other stores in the park so you only need to go to the tent if you want limited edition merchandise. Or, if you did not want anything limited edition (like a $1700 suit of stormtrooper armor), they were allowing people into a shorter line.
- Arrive early for the afternoon parade. In 2012, on opening day I was there 45 minutes ahead and the street was full. By the start of the parade it was 5-6 people deep. So if you really want to be able to see, you need to stake a spot early on the main street. However, be aware there is very little shade and it can be really hot waiting for the parade to start. All the characters, celebrities and the 501st stormtrooper squadron will be there. It’s pretty impressive. This means there will be no meet and greets happening during the time the parade is on since everyone is in the parade. Everyone will get on the stage in front of the hat at the end of the parade, so ideally, you want to be as close to the hat as possible when staking your spot.
- If you survive to the end of the day, there is an event called the Hyperspace Hoopla that took place last year on a stage in front of the Sorcerer’s Hat. This is “do not miss” entertainment! They did a “Dancing with the Star Wars Stars” dance off, between the good guys and the bad guys. It was hilarious. YouTube it if you want to see what it is about, but I recommend you just go and enjoy yourself. The music selection was perfect! As with everything for Star Wars Weekends, arrive early. I arrived about 75 minutes prior to show time and was 10-12 rows back from the stage. The crowds for this are huge. By show time the crowds were half way up the street. I have no idea what people could see from that far back. I really do hope they move it to a more appropriate venue like the Beauty and the Beast or Indiana Jones stages so everyone can get a seat and see well.
So in short, prioritize your activities or plan several days if you want to see it all! Have fun and may the Force be with you!
The Relocated Tourist is sponsored by “Magical Mouse Plans Travel“