ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It's perhaps an overused cliche, but true
nonetheless: I felt like a kid again when I walked into Star Wars: Galaxy's
The 14-acre area, positioned
in the northwest corner of Disneyland, is an immersive experience. The
land is set in Black Spire Outpost on the planet Batuu, and from the moment you
walk into the area, you feel removed from the rest of the park -- and, frankly,
Using a combination of spires, rock formations, foliage and
domed buildings, Disney has effectively cut off Galaxy's Edge from the outside
world. That's if you were even looking for the outside world -- it's easy to
lose yourself in Galaxy's Edge.
Galaxy's Edge will open Friday, May 31, with one main
attraction, Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. It features a re-creation of the
iconic ship, the first time a 100% complete version of the Falcon has ever been
built. I had the chance to ride the attraction twice.
Savi's Workshop, where guests build their own lightsabers. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada
The ride itself is good. Guests take controls of the iconic
spaceship as either pilot, gunner or engineer, and they perform the tasks
associated with each job. The mission is to assist a shady character, the
smuggler Hondo Ohnaka, with moving goods across the galaxy.
The action takes
place on the cockpit "windows," and no special glasses are required.
While I don't usually get motion sickness, some fellow riders said the back
seats (engineers and gunners) were easier on their stomachs than the pilot
chairs in front.
The attraction is reactive to each participant's
performance, and changes accordingly each time. Guests are graded on how well
they've done, and if you're using the Play Disney Parks app, it will record
your score -- this could come back to haunt you later if you do poorly.
I wasn't using the app when I rode the attraction, but my
dismal performances as first pilot then engineer were noted by cast members
after each trip on the ship. It was all in good fun.
I enjoyed the ride. It has rivals in the thrills department,
but stepping aboard the Millennium Falcon and spending time in the ship before
entering the cockpit was the stuff of my 10-year-old dreams (I saw the films in
theaters when they were re-released in the late 1990s). Flying the Falcon is an
The hilt of the lightsaber constructed by Travel Weekly's Jamie Biesiada. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada
Outside of the Millennium Falcon, a trip into Oga's Cantina
will also please Star Wars fans and newcomers alike. The lively space is visually
interesting and serves up a number of treats. I particularly enjoyed the DJ,
R-3X, the former droid pilot of "Star Tours" before the attraction
I had the chance to sample several dishes in Galaxy's Edge.
My favorite was the flavorful Felucian Garden Spread, plant-based kefta with
herb hummus, tomato cucumber relish and pita.
While Smugglers Run was a close second, my favorite thing to
do in Galaxy's Edge was building a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop ($200), one of
a number of retail locations with unique-to-the-land offerings.
I was impressed with build-your-own-droid at the Droid
Depot, but nothing topped creating the iconic weapon of the Jedi and Sith.
To build a lightsaber, participants choose one of four
styles. Once a group assembles, they are whisked into the building area quietly
to avoid notice of the First Order (villains were spotted in Black Spire
Outpost, hence the secrecy). There, the "Gatherers" guide them
through assembling their own lightsaber.
I won't spoil the ceremony, but it's a lot of fun. One of the
store's producers told me it differs based on the cast member who is the
Gatherer -- some inject more humor, some more nostalgia. The crowning moment
comes when guests finish assembling their lightsabers. The end product is far
from the plastic toy lightsabers I grew up with. It's metal and hefty.
Part of the Droid Depot, where builders pick the basic pieces of their droids. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada
The only problem: How to get the thing home? I shipped the
blade and case, while bringing the hilt in my carry-on.
It's easy to get lost in Black Spire Outpost, and that's a
good thing. The land was designed to encourage wandering and exploration. You have
to actively look for locations you want to find, and sometimes, you stumble across
something unexpected. I forgot to bring my map and got turned around a number
of times, but I enjoyed exploring every walkway (I'm still not sure I saw
That design was intentional. Kirstin Makela, an art director
with Walt Disney Imagineering, said Disneyland guests particularly love the
intimacy of the park. Disney wanted to re-create that feeling within Galaxy's
Edge, evoking streets and alleyways that can feel special to individual guests
as they explore the outpost.
Chris Beatty, executive creative director with Walt Disney
Imagineering, said the park's New Orleans Square was a particular inspiration
to Black Spire Outpost. The streets and corridors of Galaxy's Edge were largely
inspired by New Orleans Square and the relationships of space and buildings,
and how those passageways encourage discovery.
That's certainly true in Galaxy's Edge, where you can't help
but feel like you're a part of the Star Wars universe.