Unless you've been living under a rock, you have probably noticed by now that Star Wars and Disney go hand in hand. Since the conglomerate purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 we have not only received a new Star Wars film, with many more to come, but there has been a massive increase in merchandise including books, clothing, collectibles, events, concerts, and current/upcoming theme park inclusions.
Wait a minute. Did you say theme park inclusions?
Why, yes I did.
The average person who doesn't visit the Disney Parks or follow news regarding them might not be aware of what is currently going on. At the moment, there are massive construction projects underway at both locations to create brand new, official Star Wars lands. The upcoming land in California will be located at the Disneyland Resort while the land in Florida will be at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World.
At the 2015 D23 Expo in Anaheim, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced the new Star Wars lands and released some concept art for what Disney Imagineers are basing these areas on. There's no guarantee that the lands will look exactly like the concept art, but we can dream.
That all looks awesome, but what about now?
Well, I recently returned home from a trip to Disneyland in California and I experienced the current Disney Parks promotion, Season of the Force. If you can brave the crowds, and the wait times for rides, you can experience a lot of really fun things. Basically what the folks at Disney have done to tide us over until the new lands open in approximately 2019 is create an immersive Star Wars experience located in Disneyland's Tomorrowland area. With this article, I will walk you through exactly what Season of the Force has to offer. I will also include some fun little things you find along the way.
6. Galactic Grill
Hungry for some Star Wars themed food? Well, the Galactic Grill is your spot to find anything from a "Cheese-3PO" burger to a First Order specialty burger. Basically all Disney has done with the existing eatery is give their food Star Wars themed names, but it is always fun to grab a BB-8 shaped rice krispie treat. Not to mention you can get a frozen lemonade in a BB-8 "droid sipper" cup.
5. Jedi Training: Trials of the Temple
Right next to the Galactic Grill, you can be treated to a Jedi Training Academy show. That is, if you get there early enough. With this show you can see Jedi and Sith in action with lightsaber duels as well as Jedi Masters training young Padowans to use the Force. Unfortunately, adults can't participate as Padowan learners. If you have younglings between the ages of 4-12 who want to be trained by the Jedi, it's best to get there as early as possible to sign up.
If you do have younglings to sign up, be sure to have your camera ready to capture the fun and arrive at least 30 minutes prior to the show you signed up for. Your Padowan will be dressed up as a Jedi, given a lightsaber, and taught the full ways of the Force!
4. Star Wars: Path of the Jedi
If you're looking for some air conditioning, or simply just a place to rest your feet for a while, rest assured that there is always room for you in Tomorrowland's Magic Eye Theater. The former home for attractions such as Honey, I Shrunk the Audience and Captain EO, it is currently hosting Star Wars: Path of the Jedi. Although it is nothing more than a rehashing of existing Star Wars footage, the show is a decent enough representation of exactly what the Jedi are and what their mission is. Not to mention that the Magic Eye is an interactive, 4D theater equipped with motion simulation, smell, and moisture capabilities. If you're a Star Wars fan, you will thoroughly enjoy Path of the Jedi.
3. Star Wars Launch Bay
Want more Star Wars but a little less crowded? Seek out the Star Wars Launch Bay exhibit located in the old Innoventions building. This event contains Star Wars props, costume displays, merchandise (naturally), and character meet and greets.
As far as the actual exhibit goes, you walk into an immersive area with Star Wars costume displays from both the original trilogy and The Force Awakens. In addition to the awesome props and costumes, there are character meet and greets. If you feel like standing in a quick moving line you have the chance to meet Kylo Ren, Boba Fett, or Chewbacca. My family and I did the meet and greet with Kylo Ren and it was a lot of fun! It's very interactive and you get a decent amount of time with the characters, so it's far from a rip-off. Don't worry, it's not a waste of time.
2. Star Tours: The Adventures Continue 3D
Tomorrowland is the ideal location for a promotion like this as it already contains the Star Wars themed ride, Star Tours, that has existed inside Disneyland since 1992. Although it briefly closed in 2010 for 3D upgrades, the ride is as popular as ever and serves as the perfect companion for these temporary upgrades brought by Season of the Force.
The premise of Star Tours is that you're on board a galactic tour ship that is suddenly ambushed by the Empire because you're holding a Rebel spy. With the upgrades that were brought in when the ride re-opened, you have the opportunity to visit a different destination each time you ride. For my fellow Star Wars nerds, you might be bothered by original scenes being mixed together with prequel scenes, and now a new scene from The Force Awakens, but it is still a fun experience. It has a great indoor queue, too.
1. Hyperspace Mountain
Space Mountain has existed in Disneyland since 1977. The dark coaster has operated with minor upgrades in the 30+ years since it has been up and running, minus a full track replacement in 2003 and the Halloween themed "Ghost Galaxy" renovation it's gone through since 2009. However, Season of the Force has brought us a brand new experience which transforms the dark roller coaster into a blast through the Star Wars galaxy.
I am pretty terrified of roller coasters and have never been a big fan of Space Mountain, but I decided to go on Hyperspace Mountain to see what it was like. It is essentially the same ride as the original Space Mountain, but it contains new film imagery, a brand new Star Wars audio track, and laser blasters. If you're a fan of coasters, and can handle an average 85 minute wait, this is the experience for you. Any advice I can give anyone wanting to ride is to use the FastPass system to significantly cut down your wait time.
Pack some extra spending money because the Star Trader store in Tomorrowland is pretty much exclusively Star Wars merchandise. You can even build your own lightsabers.You're automatically looped into the Star Trader after you exit the ride vehicles on Star Tours, so it's a guarantee if you've been on the ride. If you choose to visit the store prior to riding Star Tours, it's located just past the outdoor line queue. You can't miss it.
Overall, I enjoyed my time at Disneyland and specifically enjoyed experiencing Season of the Force. I managed to enjoy even with 80+ degree weather and massive Spring Break crowds. My advice to anyone whose interest has peaked with these rather generous Star Wars offerings is to do your research before you go. Download the MouseWait and/or Disneyland app to monitor wait times, watch out for holidays, and make sure you wear comfortable shoes. Disneyland also just introduced demand pricing, so be sure to look at the ticket pricing calendar to see which days are considered value, regular, or peak pricing days.
Most importantly, just have fun! Don't let the long wait times and crowds get to your head. They will be there pretty much no matter when you visit.