I am just about the biggest Star Wars geek you will ever meet and I live near Orlando, Florida, so it might surprise you to learn that last weekend was my first Star Wars Weekend ever! It might also surprise you that I was not even remotely prepared for the crowds I encountered, despite having visited nearly all the Orlando theme parks before. What follows is a survival guide should you decide to take the Star Wars pilgrimage to this must-see event.
This wasn’t possible for us. We had two different groups of out-of-town company visiting us this past month, so we bought so many multi-day, multi-park passes for part of our family! (I could go to all the parks… homework.) Our trip to Hollywood Studios for the Star Wars Weekend was also delayed by a day due to our guests’ travel delays, so we couldn’t even buy my ticket and my daughter’s ticket ahead of time. This made it impossible to sign up for Disney’s Fast Pass. Fast Pass is absolutely essential for a Star Wars Weekend. Lines are incredibly long, and character and autograph lines are even longer. If you want an autograph,
pick the one you want the most and sign up ahead of time with Fast Pass… [Correction: for autographs, Fast Passes are distributed in the morning and cannot be reserved in advance] and still plan on spending some significant time in line. Decide what rides or events are musts for you and schedule Fast Passes for those as well.
As you can see from this picture of Indiana Jones with my kids, Florida heat really makes you sweat! Bring you own water bottles, preferably like the one I am wearing in the picture with R2D2 below which has an over-the-shoulder carry strap. Squeezing through crowded places is much easier if your water bottle is hanging off a strap down the small of your back.
This one is really important. Places where you can sit down and eat exist but are often crowded with a multi-hour wait time. Either plan this wait into your schedule or adjust your expectations for dinner or lunch to a tasty but expensive hotdog from a street vendor.
Time to Wander
Make sure you reserve a block of time to just wander around the park, people watch, and shop in the various stores. The Star Wars Weekend has several Star Wars specific stores and they are not to be missed! There is some really unique Star Wars paraphernalia that you won’t find anywhere else, so be prepared to spend some time and money. As you walk around, you also get to see some pretty amazing costumes and t-shirts that other people wear into the park. My favorite by far: a pregnant women was wearing a t-shirt with the picture of the Death Star on her belly with the words “that’s no moon.” That one is nearly impossible to beat! As we walked aimlessly around the park, we ran into some Storm Troopers, some of Andy’s green plastic soldiers, R2D2 and his handlers (yes, he is that important), and last but not least Chewbacca and an Ewok walking to an autograph session. My daughter got a wave from a Wookiee; how cool is that?!
Some of the special Star Wars shows are only on for a weekend or two at a time. I highly recommend you pick at least one unique show with a Star Wars celebrity and go see it during your trip. We were lucky enough to be there while Warwick Davis (Wicket from ROTJ) was there.
Of course, my wife and daughter recognized him more as the character Porridge from Doctor Who–the episode “Nightmare in Silver” where he played an emperor in disguise. You could tell Warwick Davis truly enjoyed being there because he really hammed it up when picking volunteers from the audience and then improvising and playing off the misspoken lines during the show… a true class act!
Last but not least, in the words of Master Yoda, “you must learn patience.” For the most part you are there with some really great Star Wars geeks just like yourself, and nearly everyone is courteous. For those that aren’t, there are Wookiees walking around that have been known to pull people’s arms out of their sockets… just sayin’.