Was the Force With Disney for Opening Day of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge?
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The galaxy from far, far away has finally landed here on earth. After years of out-of-this-world anticipation, we lined up at Disneyland in the pre-dawn hours to be some of the first “normal” people to experience Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge on its official grand opening day.
I say normal in quotations because no one who lines up before the sun rises on the opening day of one of the most anticipated theme park expansions of all time can be described as normal in any traditional sense. No, these day-one visitors are the die-hard fans — and as a Jedi-loving child of the 1980s, I can safely (and proudly) be lumped into that group.
We’ve already seen the calm, orderly and immersive shots and tips from the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge media preview event, but here’s how things really went down on the 14-acre planet of Batuu when the gates opened to everyone with both a Disneyland ticket and a Star Wars Land reservation.
Pre-Dawn Line Up
The first reservation group for Galaxy’s Edge had a 8 a.m. — 12 p.m. window to visit the land, but Disney begins processing those with reservations two hours before it is time to enter, which meant 6 a.m. We got there a little before that as a buffer and there was already a healthy, excited but orderly crowd.
Visitors to the planet of Batuu were processed at the Star Wars Launch Bay in Tomorrowland. Wristbands were received and there was an opportunity to buy exclusive Galaxy’s Edge Day One merchandise with very strict maximum limits of one pin per person. (Or at least one of each item at this location — we later found more locations around the park that had most of the items.) T-shirts were $35 and selling as fast as cold beers during last call at a hot ballgame. This was a theme today. It didn’t seem to matter what things cost, folks were ready to buy. Some visitors had been saving up for this day for years and were (more than) ready to bring pieces of Star Wars into their homes back on earth.
Now that day one is behind us, getting in line for your wristband an hour before your time slot begins is likely more than sufficient.
The Wait is Over
After a couple hours of waiting for the official opening of Galaxy’s Edge around Disneyland’s Matterhorn ride, it was time to march to the edge of the galaxy. There were cheers, high-fives from Disney big wigs and lots of GoPros, smartphones and all other types of video and streaming happening all around. If Star Wars fans made up the largest percentage of visitors, Disney bloggers and Instagrammers made up the next most populated groups. Families came in a very distant third — I only saw one stroller in the entire first hour I was there, though more younglings arrived as the day went by.
Where to First?
The big debate after years of waiting for this day is where to first? Having no previous datapoints to draw on, a Galaxy’s Edge touring strategy was uncharted territory. Do you ride the Falcon first? Head to the Cantina? Make a lightsaber? Turns out, none of those were my first-stop destiny. I went where no one had gone before — to breakfast at Docking Bay 7.
When the line for Oga’s Cantina (the first place to ever sell alcohol to the public at Disneyland) was closed to additional guests as I tried to join, I temporarily aborted that mission and sampled just about everything on the breakfast menu in a virtually empty docking bay.
As for where you should head first … if you want to build a lightsaber, that should be your first stop. Today, it took two to three hours for many Jedi to make it through the line as small groups of 14 are taken at once. There were many times the line was so long it was not accepting new recruits. The line for building droids was not as bad, so that could be another solid first stop idea.
Otherwise, the best first order of business might simply be to enjoy the land and browse the shops while sipping a frozen blue milk (which is much better than the green). A quiet breakfast at Docking Bay 7 isn’t a bad idea, either.
How Long are the Lines at Galaxy’s Edge?
I fully expected to wait for hours to ride the one operational ride, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. However, I walked right on the ride. Twice. No need for those bathroom passes after all.
While I saw waits for the ride peak at 80 minutes on the first day, during the latter portion of the four-hour blocks to visit Galaxy’s Edge, the wait dropped to essentially zero just before the next group came in to overlap for an hour. The best time to ride may well be between the second and third hour of your four-hour block, but don’t wait later than that as the next group will have then arrived. Smugglers Run does have a single rider line that can be used to cut your delay when the line is longer.
The line for Oga’s Cantina was often around 45 minutes, but it moved faster than that for me once I was allowed in line. The problem is that line gets closed off when it gets “too long,” which probably isn’t a great strategy as people then just wait near the line in a less orderly fashion for the line to reopen.
While breakfast was a ghost town, the line for lunch at Docking Bay 7 wrapped outside the building and mobile orders needed to be placed 90 — 120 minutes in advance during the peak lunch rush, so plan ahead. I ate lunch around 11 a.m. and had only a 5 — 10 minute wait. By noon things were much worse.
The longest line, by far, was the line to build a lightsaber, so prioritize that if your Galaxy’s Edge dreams include spending $200 to own a piece of Star Wars.
The Highlights of Galaxy’s Edge
Oga’s Cantina was as good as I hoped it would be. Yes, the music from the 1977 Star Wars cantina scene inspires the soundtrack, the lighting and mood feel are spot-on and the effects and details within the cantina are top-notch. The droids mess up and get in trouble, there’s interactive elements and it’s a fun crowd.
Drinks go as high as $42 each (you keep the hand-painted mug), but there are drink options at much lower price points. But again, money (er, credits) were flowing as freely as the alcohol today at Galaxy’s Edge. I saw many, many groups of people order $200+ worth of drinks, primarily to sample them, take pictures and then keep the mugs.
Building lightsabers and droids looks really fun. I am a little more into experiences than finding room for more “stuff” in our already stuffed house, so I passed on these opportunities, but those who did it all reported having a blast. You get to customize basically everything, which is more than half the fun. Watching the brilliant lightsabers light up the park at night is spectacular.
The cast is top-notch. We knew the land itself would be physically impressive, and it is. But it is the cast that brings it to life. There are the usuals — stormtroopers, Resistance fighters, Chewbacca, Rey (who really sounded just like Rey) — but it’s not just the obvious characters who make the land what it is. Everyone from the man bussing tables in Docking Bay 7 to those handing out your piloting assignments in the Falcon ride own their role, know the back story of the land and are ready to talk to visitors of Batuu.
Last, but far from least, piloting the Falcon is a lot of fun. If you are lucky enough to be one of two people on the ship (of six) assigned to fly the Falcon, you are really flying the ship. My first turn on the ride was as an Engineer in the last of three rows and the ride was good, but not breathtaking in a way that you’d experience with something like Pandora: Flight of Passage. You have switches to flip, but that is as distracting as it is engaging. However, when I got a turn as the Pilot, everything changed. That was an interactive, exciting and memorable experience for a Star Wars fan like me. That said, I don’t think this ride will be the starring attraction of the land long-term.
It Can Feel Real
I saw people tear up when they saw a full-sized Millennium Falcon. There were children who legitimately got scared and hid from stormtroopers and other “bad guys” patrolling the land. I watched grown adults excitedly compare and describe their lightsabers and porgs. Much like in Universal Orlando’s Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge can feel real if you let it.
I was in “work mode” on this trip, so that magic didn’t happen for me. But, I see the potential and I saw it happening for some others.
Day one of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland is likely to go down in the history books as a success. The lines and codes worked. The land largely had the capacity for the capped number of visitors. Both the physical structure and the cast were clearly ready to bring this world to life even though the second ride wasn’t yet available. If you want it to feel like you have entered a galaxy far, far away, this land can do it. In fact, you may even forget you are at Disneyland while on Batuu. From the blaster marks on the walls, to the interactive app, full-scale ships and even themed bathrooms, Disney has spared no expense in making sure every detail is set for you to transport your mind.
Galaxy’s Edge is not perfect yet, and while some things will improve, others are not likely to change significantly. There’s not a ton of shade in Batuu during the heat of the day, so consider an early or late visit if you can. As an added perk, the first and last time slots of the day also have the advantage of having three unique hours for your group instead of overlapping both the first and last hour with other groups.
Not being able to even enter a line for some key experiences (such as building lightsabers or visiting Oga’s) at times is odd. Having a two-hour delay on mobile food ordering at lunch is bad. Only having one operational attraction isn’t great. The ride experience on Smugglers Run, while solid, truly is very different depending on your role, and you can’t guarantee what you get.
My advice: either go to Galaxy’s Edge now while everyone is excited and capacity is pretty tightly controlled until June 24 or wait until both rides (and potentially MaxPass) are operational much later in 2019. You will need a Disneyland hotel reservation to secure a reservation to the land before June 24, but the four hours that a hotel stay gives you are just the right amount to join the resistance, fly the Falcon, build some merch, drink blue milk and allow your imagination to take you as far away as you want to go.
Over the coming days and weeks, we will be creating guides to visiting Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, highlighting the best food in the land and more.
Plan your visit to Disneyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge:
- The 10 Best Disney Thrill Rides Around the World
- How to Use Points for Disney Tickets
- 9 Things Families Should Know Before Visiting Disneyland
- Where to Stay at Disneyland: On vs. Off-Property Hotel Comparisons
- Skip the Lines at Disneyland: 10 Line-Busting Tips for Less Waiting and More Playing
- How to Save Money Buying Discounted Disney Gift Cards
- Best Restaurants at Disneyland
- Save Money on Disney Resort Stays By Renting Points
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