December 28-30, 2019
When Disney bought Star Wars from George Lucas, I was excited. Super excited. I like what they’d done with Marvel, and they were integrating Marvel properties when and where they could at the parks. And since they already had Star Wars in the parks, I knew we’d get more. And eventually, yes. Disney announced the obvious, that new Star Wars themed lands would be coming in the next few painfully long years to both Hollywood Studios and Disneyland to cover both the east and west coast parks. I’d been excited for the parks to open ever since.
And now here it was. The parks had opened their new lands, and the piece de resistance of the parks, Rise of the Resistance, would open in Florida first. Several of my friends went to the lands soon after they opened, but I’d wanted to wait for Rise before heading to Batuu.
My sister and her family moved to Orlando nearly a decade ago and I’ve visited during December now three years in a row, hitting up parks whilst there. In 2017 I went to SeaWorld & the Fun Spots for the first time. In 2018 I spent two days at Universal as there had been so much added in the nearly 10 years I’d visited. But this year, I only had one park on my agenda. I knew it would be super crowded. Typically I would never think of visiting a Disney World park during one of the busiest times of the year. But since my only goal was to ride the two new Star Wars themed rides and spend time exploring the new land, I wasn’t as concerned about the long waits that I knew would greet me at the park.
I had waffled on whether I wanted to go or not, and in fact a few days before I had planned to leave, I came down with a cold. But on Friday December 27 I was feeling a little better so I left work, packed up, and headed to Savannah GA for the nite after a 4 hour drive with a stop at Culvers in Charlotte for Dinner. Traffic moved well and eventually I made it to the motel.
Early on Saturday morning I checked out and headed another 4 hours south, getting to my sister’s place around 11 AM. After getting settled my nephew came over and we went to Red Robin, where my niece met up with us for lunch. Saturday was mostly spent hanging out at my sister’s place, with a little bit of time spent having a drink in down town Sanford with my nephew; we went to a Belgium restaurant and had a meat & cheese tray and I had Vikings Blood mead. The mead was great, and I need to find a bottle closer to home. Later that evening my brother in law came home and we ordered pizza and watched Logan Lucky, since they all liked it, but I’d yet to see it. It was pretty funny.
On Sunday we were very lazy again. My brother in law had a previous engagement so my sister and I had a late breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and hung out for a while. That evening my nephew came back over and when my brother in law got home we met up with some friends for drinks and dinner. I knew that it would make things easier in the morning if I went down on Sunday evening to get a new magic band instead of having to get one or swap out for a card at the park in the morning, so after dinner I drove to Disney Springs and got a new white Magic Band. I wanted a grey one like my V1, but they didn’t have any close and I didn’t want to spend much time here. I was out and back to my sisters and in bed around 11 PM.
Monday morning came early. I knew I should have left earlier. What I wasn’t aware of was that picking my niece up meant it was 25 minutes to her place then 30 minutes from there to the park. I left just after 5 and texted my niece to let her know I was on the way. She texted back asking of her husband could join, which of course he could, and then I made my way to pick them up. Arriving at the park I was thankful that our parking was covered under my niece’s annual pass. We headed through the entrance and were able to park fairly close to the park’s entrance. We huffed it up to the front of the park and scanned our Magic Bands to get in and immediately got on to get a boarding pass for Rise of the Resistance…only to find out we were in group 138. And any boarding pass after 120 was considered ‘standby’. Really? Was there really a chance I wouldn’t get to ride the ride I specifically waited for to open? Ugh. Frustrating, but whatever.
I’d looked at some websites tracking RotR groups and timing and what not and so I knew that the standby started after about 120, but I also knew that on most days they were getting up to 160ish groups, and had even gotten up to 190 (as they had the 2 previous days), so I wasn’t super worried, but there was cause for concern if the ride went down enough during the day.
But I wasn’t going to let that ruin my day. If I didn’t get to ride, I’d be back soon enough to visit my family and try again. And we had reservations at Oga’s Cantina at 6:15, which we were late for, so we hurried back to Galaxy’s Edge.
Getting to the entrance it looked…somewhat menacing. It was a somewhat Imperial-esq (Imperial from the Star Wars universe) ‘gate’ and a very Star Wars-esq tunnel that hides everything behind it. It really is like going into another park as opposed to just a different area of Hollywood Studios, much like Universal has done for the Harry Potter lands. And even though it was still nite time, arriving on Batuu was still an experience. I was glad it was still dark because I didn’t know if we’d make it to nite time in Batuu later.
I was in awe of the land. It looked so authentic and there was so much detail. I recorded video and took photos all the way to the Cantina. Although I wasn’t super interested in this experience prior to going, I was looking forward to having a quick breakfast and trying some blue milk.
Oga’s is currently by reservation only, with 90% standing room once inside. We waited in line after checking in and then were eventually led into the cantina. It. Was. Amazing. Great atmosphere, very authentic looking. We were actually seated with a couple and another family that were finishing up. I ordered some overnight oats and blue milk with a cookie. Just sitting in here was a neat experience. We were told to go in, order, finish and pay, and THEN we were free to wander inside and take photos, so that’s what we did after having drinks and food. Even though it was early, everyone was excited to just be there.
As we left Oga’s we exited into daylight as we wandered around Batuu a bit more. We could have gotten in line for Smuggler’s Run, but I kind of wanted to wait and ride later if and when we were called to RotR, which I estimated a boarding time of around 5 or 6 PM. It was going to be a multi-hour wait regardless.
We headed over to ride something else instead, heading to the single rider line for Rock n’ Rollercoaster. This took about an hour, which was less than the 90 minutes the stand by line was posted at (and would end up being closer to 2 hours had we waited in stand by). Although I wouldn’t mind a re-theme of the ride, I really like Rock n’ Rollercoaster. Maybe its because I’ve ridden the Premier spaghetti bowl coasters so much (and I do love them), but even with the over the shoulder restraints, I think I may like the Vekoma version a tad bit better. I like launching into the sea serpent then flying around in the dark on the twisted track. And even the corkscrew near the end isn’t uncomfortable, and actually pretty fun.
While I wouldn’t normally have waited this long, today was a different kind of day, and even with an hour wait, it didn’t seem like it since I had Kaitlyn and Kadin with me to talk to. After exiting we headed over towards the front of the park and discussed food options for second breakfast (well, technically third breakfast, but who’s REALLY counting?). Someone suggested the Brown Derby. We headed over to see how long the wait was and were told 10 minutes to be seated inside. I got a Jack & Coke to tide me over. Pretty soon, though, we were seated. And we were the only people inside, able to watch them prepare for opening. I’d never eaten at Brown Derby, and the food was really good, I had the shrimp and grits.
After Br3akfast we needed a quick stop at the restroom. As Kadin and I were waiting, the Dark Lords of the Sith, accompanied by Boba Fett, Rey, and Chewie, with many storm troopers. After they passed by, I realized they were likely heading to the stage in front of the Chinese Theater, which was, obviously, Star Wars themed. So we hurried over to watch. And, while kinda cool, it was mostly just repackaged IP with some live action re-enactments, something Disney has been all to eager to throw together and call it a show. But whatever.
After the show we watched the Dark Lords of the Sith, et. al walk back to…wherever…as we made our way to our first FastPass of the morning and one of my favorite attractions in any park anywhere-Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. With an over 2 hour wait we waltzed right in and to the pre-show room. Then we made our way to an elevator in the ‘boiler room’. I can’t talk enough about how much I love this ride. So much airtime, and the effects still feel very fresh and current.
Kaitlyn wanted Starbucks after Tower of Terror so we headed over for them to get in line while I sat on the curb across the street. Eventually they came out with my double espresso (with a shot of mocha) and we were on our way. I had a FastPass for Toy Story Midway Mania and that was our next stop. I guess I didn’t realize that they moved the entrance when they added a second track and made Toy Story Land. And while I adore the ride, I don’t think it’s worth a long wait. So I’m glad we were able to walk right on. I think I got the lowest score (and the sorest arm) but It was fun.
At this point we had some important decisions to make. Our boarding group was looking more and more likely to be called. It was kind of a no brainer, with hours long waits for everything, to just go ahead and get a new coaster credit, because the line wasn’t likely to get shorter (spoiler alert-it never did). And so we got in the enormously long line for Slinky Dog Dash, which Started around the entrance to the Land. Two. And. A. Half. Hours. I hadn’t waited in a line for a ride that long in a very long time. And to be honest, this one wasn’t necessarily worth the wait, but it wasn’t like there was much else to do at the park. We did have fun playing Disney games in their app during the wait, though. And we had water. But eventually we were sitting near the front of the train, ready to go.
Slinky Dog Dash (404…I think?)-The train is super comfy. The first launch was fun and the twists up to the first drop and hop were really great. As was the theming. And then you hit the helix, a brake, and the second super fun themed second launch up and over a hill, then around and several hops to the end.
It had been about 7 hours since br3akfast, though I did have a chocolate covered Mickey ice cream while in line for Slinky Dog, so we headed over to the counter service burger joint near Star Tours for lunch (dinner? both? Sure!). They had a couple of Star Wars themed shows with the young Jedi as we sat and ate and watched.
I checked the status on our boarding group and…It was around 15 groups away. Then it was getting lower by the minute. So we headed back to Batuu. Once arriving in the area we hit up a restroom and did some window shopping while waiting. Then, nearly 11 hours later, our boarding group was available to ride. This was what I came for. I was super excited. I’d waited for them to be finished and wanted to ride the new rides for so long, and now here we were. Heading over we were allowed in to the queue. Everything past this point was amazing.
Rise of the Resistance-I will first start off my spoiler laden review by saying that this was the most amazing and most themed attraction Disney has ever built. Words really don’t do it justice. Video doesn’t do it justice. It was too amazing. The outside and first portion of the queue was themed to Battu, with foliage, a waterfall, and then you enter a cave after winding around. They did so good about making this look like it’d been there for a long time. It took just over 20 minutes in the highly themed queue to get in to the first pre-show room where you’re first greeted by BB-8. Eventually Rey’s hologram glistens into existence and this is the best hologram effect I’d ever seen. Not sure if it was a Pepper’s Ghost projection or what, but it looked 100% authentic. Rey converses with some other characters, including Poe and Nein Numb on a video screen and you get the gist of the mission. You’re being evacuated from the planet.
After a couple of minutes you’re rushed outside to the super themed launch bay for the escape vessel. This is basically another ‘pre-show’, but also a fully fledged simulator. You take off and there are windows to look out on the front and back of the transport. At the end you’re tractor into a Star Destroyer. The next moment literally took everyone’s breath away (and I’ve ready several reviews online that said the same thing).
The door opened and an Imperial guard come in to take you to interrogation. Then your’e lead into the Star Destroyer’s landing bay. And it. Was. Breathtaking. It was super quiet. The room was massive, and there are a ton of Storm Troopers standing there, with a Tie Fighter docked up on the wall and the massive openness of ‘space’ ahead of you. It looked real, it was amazing, and it was perfectly executed. My niece then told me to follow her as we headed into another corridor and into the area where we would be split up in to groups in a sort of ‘processing area’.
As you enter the L shaped hallway, there are several more Imperial Guards telling you what to do and where to go, and two more Storm Trooper animatronics overlooking the whole process. Finally a guard comes over and eventually leads you into the interrogation room. In the Interrogation room you’re first addressed by Hux from a balcony above (which definitely looked like a Peppers Ghost effect, much like the Aerosmith effect on RnRC). Then Kylo Ren shows up and threatens you.
After Hux and Kylo Ren depart you’re saved by some rebels on board who cut through the wall and load you into the ride vehicles where you’re addressed by Finn. We boarded and after a quick briefing, we were off. The actual dark ride portion, the climax, if you will, was over 5 minutes long. The entire attraction is about 15-20 minutes excluding the initial queuing. And when the ride starts, it doesn’t let up.
First you’re droids are trying to lead us out to safety but then something goes wrong and some Storm Troopers realize we’re the prisoners so we head back the other way and into an AT-AT storage room. After an unsuccessful escape attempt some cars enter an elevator up, while others have a different experience. We went up. It was what I wanted and it was great.
Then you head into the command room where Hux and Kylo are (in animatronic form). After a quick escape again you’re heading through hallways and then in to another lift just as Kylo Ren drops down and then ‘drops’ on top of the lift, with his light saber cutting through the roof. I was excited to see how this effect worked. It was far simpler than I imagined, but very effective. Next was another jaw dropping moment as you’re in the blaster room with gigantic blasters shooting out in to ‘space’ at other rebel ships. This was another breath taking scene.
As you’re trying to escape, Kylo catches up to you and uses the force just as a ship blasts into the star destroyer, making your escape onto another transport ship possible. You’re dropped a few feet down and then the simulator flies you through space and back to Batuu. It was dark outside, and the inside simulation matched up with it. Seriously, every attention to detail was paid. Then you head out into the landing bay, with more effects and animatronics before departing.
Rise of the Resistance has to be, as of my writing this, the ultimate Disney ride of any kind, and one of the best, if not the best, attraction ever created. It has everything. Attention to detail, great animatronics, holographic effects as both holograms and for use as actual ‘people’. The dark ride was very well done and super fun. I didn’t know what Disney was going to do to pull this off when it was announced, but they did. And more. And I left impressed, wanting more, and I cannot wait to ride it again.
We had planned on going to see the Indy stunt show because in all of my previous visits, I’d yet to watch it. Alas, it was not meant to be again. I had wanted to video a complete walk through of Galaxy’s Edge, but I also now was energized to ride more, and Smuggler’s Run was still a 90 minute wait, and it wasn’t even 6 PM yet. We got in line near Oga’s and Kaitlyn went to get provisions, this time in the form of green milk (and tequila) for me. It was pretty good. And Disney is, in my experience, never light on their pours. While in line we made friends with the family in front of us that had had an excited day prior when one of their sons fell in line for Passage of Flight and sprained his ankle, so he was in a wheel chair. I told them about how to get a boarding pass the next day for RotR and told them about getting one of the disability passes for the family and how they worked. I hope it worked out for them.
This line at least got us up close and personal with the Falcon. And just as we were about to enter the queue proper (and just before we noticed there was a single rider line that we could have taken advantage of…grumble), we saw Rey walking around the ship. Once again, the queue was very well themed. And after our 90 minute wait, we were in the pre-show room.
Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run-The pre-show is some random scavenger dude that is referenced and talks over the intercom in the queue. It’s an animatronic and he tells you all about what you’re getting ready to do. It was well done once again. Then you’re lead into the halls of the galaxy’s most famous ship (hey, it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, even if Disney thought, much like midiclorians, that we needed to see this not actually happen on film).
Before I knew what was happening, we were given our assignments, and I got engineer. I really wanted Pilot, and you can ask for it, but I was handed a card and the person walked away. My niece and nephew in law went back and spoke to her and asked if I could get a Pilot assignment in stead, which was very sweet of them, and before long, I was a Pilot. Once you’re in the highly authentic looking cock pit, you’re given instructions. This one is far more simulator, which I’m usually not a fan of, but at least it wasn’t 3D.
So we flew around, and I jumped us to hyperspace (twice!) and we were able to do…something. I’m not honestly sure what and it doesn’t really matter. The ride was a lot of fun and it was cool piloting the Falcon from my youth.
After the ride we walked back out and for a brief second I thought of seeing how long the single rider line would be, but Kaitlyn and Kadin we exhausted and I was tired. All I really wanted to do was take a few pictures and head back to my sister’s house. So that’s what we did.
I dropped off the still newly weds at their condo and headed back to my sister’s place. My brother in law had to go out on an assignment and was gone most of the evening, but my sister and I watched Mr. Robot (she was trying to catch up) and talked before finally heading to bed. The next morning I woke up and headed north to be home for new years eve to avoid the traffic.
So my final thoughts on Galaxy’s Edge are that it is amazing and I can’t wait to go back, especially when it isn’t a 17 hour wait for every ride. I love it, and I will spend more time in that section of the park on my next visit. There is so much to do and so many things I want to buy. I may need to have a $3-500 shopping budget just for Star Wars Land stuff. Hollywood Studios, though, still isn’t a full day park. Even with Star Wars. Its come a long way, and I hope that the new ride in the Chinese Theater is a hit. But they need one more E-Ticket attraction out in the regular park and 1-2 smaller family thrill rides.