How to visit Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney with kids

Yes, it's crowded. Yes, it's hot. Here's why we loved it, and some tips to make the most of your visit.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Terri Peters

The new "Star Wars" land at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Florida has been open since August 2019, and with the addition of the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction in December 2019, the area is complete, at least for now. While crowds have lessened since Galaxy's Edge first opened, there's still a lot for travelers to know about navigating the landscape of planet Batuu.

While Disney once controlled crowds through a timed entrance system, guests of Hollywood Studios can now enter Galaxy's Edge whenever they want, without having to check in with a cast member. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have a plan in place when you visit.

My family and I recently spent two days exploring Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge. Here are our tips for getting the most out of your experience on Batuu.Terri Peters

The real key to enjoying your time at the Black Spire Outpost is a bit of advance prep work and a lot of patience. As a mom who has visited Batuu more than once since its opening, it's worth it. Galaxy's Edge is one of the most immersive, fun experiences I've seen at Disney World — and I visit a lot, both as an annual pass holder with my family and for media previews.

My family of four recently spent time on Batuu, where the planet's three suns (read: 90-degree blazing Florida heat) and overwhelming amount of things to take in left us exhausted. On this visit, we experienced the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge attraction for the first time, and were blown away.

When we returned home, sweaty and ready for early bedtimes, we all agreed the crowds, heat and chaos were a small price to pay for the experience.

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your time at Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

1. Make those reservations

Does your kid want to build a lightsaber? Are they dying to create a customized droid? Are mom and dad looking forward to grabbing a drink at Oga's Cantina?

You'll need a reservation for that.

If your family builds a customized droid in Galaxy's Edge, the creation interacts with the entire planet of Batuu, coming to life when you pass certain panels, buildings and towers.Terri Peters

Having a reservation for the parts of Batuu that are important to your family will ensure you're able to enjoy these experiences without crossing your fingers that there's room for you in the stand-by line.

From the lightsaber building experience, which my husband described as "like a yoga and meditation session where you also get to build a lightsaber" to the cantina, where my kids drank virgin fuzzy navels from porg mugs while a droid DJ played music, reservations are key on planet Batuu, and can be made up to 180 days in advance using the My Disney Experience app.

At Oga's Cantina, my kids loved the Cliff Dweller, a mix of fruit juices and ginger ale served in a porg mug. I chose a more adult libation, the Outer Rim, the bar's take on an intergalactic margarita.Terri Peters

Pro tip: Those porg mugs? They'll cost you $35 if you take them home, but kids can enjoy the drink and leave the cup behind for only $6.

2. Understand how to secure a spot on both of the rides

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run, a fast-paced smuggling mission where you ride in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, has transitioned to Disney's fast pass system, meaning you can book a time slot to climb on board in advance of your visit. But don't worry, there's also a stand-by line if you aren't able to secure a reservation — just be prepared to wait in line for a few hours during busy times.

The newest addition to the area, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, requires guests to be at the park prior to its opening, then to hop into the My Disney Experience App when opening time arrives to attempt to get into a "boarding group." We've seen reports of people lining up hours before Hollywood Studios opens to secure a spot, so keep an eye on what others report on social media prior to your visit so you can plan accordingly. Within minutes of the park opening, boarding groups for the day fill up and you're out of luck. There's also no stand-by line for the attraction at this time, so it's boarding group or bust.

If you see this sign at the Hollywood Studios entrance, there's no room to ride Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance that day.Terri Peters

Pro tip: When boarding groups are filled, Hollywood Studios will place signs throughout the park entrance area letting guests know. And, the same information will be reflected in the My Disney Experience app.

3. Interact with cast members and characters

While I always find Disney employees delightful, the "cast members" working inside Galaxy's Edge take it to the next level. Everyone you encounter on Batuu, from the ride attendants to the shop workers, think they live on the planet. They've never heard of Earth, and one gasped when I mentioned Build-A-Bear Workshop, saying, "You build creatures on your planet?"

Another approached my daughter, saying, "If you see Vi, tell her to ignite the spark; she'll know what you mean."

When my daughter ran into the character Vi Moradi, a resistance spy and main character in Galaxy's Edge who roams the streets of Batuu avoiding members of the First Order, she relayed the message.

Vi's face lit up with a smile.

"Light the fire!" she exclaimed, much to my daughter's delight.

Just another day in Batuu: Kylo Ren checks in with my daughter about her allegiance to the First Order while a storm trooper looks on.Terri Peters

We were also teasingly trolled by Storm Troopers who check guests' allegiance to the First Order, and my daughter was approached by a First Order Officer unhappy about the R2-D2 headband she was wearing, calling it an "unregistered droid."

4. Engage with the Play Disney Parks app

The Play Disney Parks mobile app has been around for a while now, allowing guests to play games and earn rewards. In Galaxy's Edge, the app developers have truly helped make the entire land come alive.

Once inside Batuu, you can search for jobs to complete for characters like Rose Tico, and message back and forth with them as you complete your tasks. Through the app guests can intercept communications, hack into droids and control panels and show their devotion to the First Order or the Resistance (your choice).

The Play Disney Parks mobile app gets a galactic makeover on Batuu, where guests can hack into droids, complete jobs for Star Wars characters and more.Terri Peters

My kids loved moving through the app and leveling up; the more they explore and participate, the deeper their story within the land grows, making them excited for future visits. (Clever, Disney!)

Pro tip: My 11-year-old son helped me — and a few other adults — learn to use the app. If it looks overwhelming to parents, know that kids will figure it out just fine and teach you a thing or two!

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5. Don't worry: It's not just for "Star Wars" fans

My daughter doesn't like "Star Wars" and I had never watched a single film until this year, leaving my knowledge a bit limited. On the other hand, my husband and son are huge fans of the franchise.

Whichever end of the spectrum your family falls on, it won't matter. Batuu is an interactive experience filled with things to do, characters to meet and ways to explore. My daughter fell in love with the droids, and watching her face light up when she activated her lightsaber was a highlight of the trip.

My typically anti-Star-Wars daughter, 9, lost herself in the magic of building a lightsaber at Savi's Workshop.Terri Peters

The magic won't work miracles, though: When I asked her later if she'd watch "The Force Awakens" with me now, she still refused, even after a really amazing character interaction with Rey.

6. Invest in Memory Maker

For photo opportunities on Batuu, Disney's Photo Pass service offers some new features. In addition to "magic shots" where TIE fighters fly overhead in the background or porgs appear in the photo, guests can pose for two new types of images: Super Zoom and Tiny World.

The Super Zoom photo captures your family's photo, then zooms out to give a complete view of Black Spire Outpost before zooming back in on your group. For the Tiny World image, you're captured standing in the middle of Batuu in a shot that's round like a planet.

My family's "Tiny World" photo at Galaxy's Edge.Terri Peters

Pro tip (from my husband): "Even if they only purchase Photo Pass for the day they're in Galaxy's Edge, the money is worth it for the photos they take there." That's big praise from my often anti-photo other half.

7. Do your homework in advance

Whenever my family travels to a theme park, we spend time watching YouTube videos about the specific things we'll be doing on our trip. Not only is this a great way to get excited about your trip together as a family, it also helps identify what everyone most wants to experience during the visit. Some of our family's favorite YouTube channels are TheTimTracker and TPMVids.

When you're scrolling through your phone over your morning coffee, it pays to visit blogs that write about Disney for parents. Sites like WDW Prep School and Disneylists.com offer valuable tips and knowledge for parents who may otherwise have no idea where to start.

Pro tip: I know these content creators have uploaded some fantastic advice for parents visiting Galaxy's Edge, because they were each at the media previews of Batuu I've attended!

8. Immerse yourself in Batuu before you go

You won't find Batuu in a "Star Wars" film, but the planet exists on the written page. Authors and illustrators have been hard at work creating books that tell stories within Galaxy's Edge, and reading them in advance is a great pre-visit activity.

Delilah Dawson tells a story of the secret history of Batuu in her book "Black Spire," while Zoraida Cordova's "A Crash of Fate" is a young adult novel that tells the story of two friends who grew up together in Batuu then reunited. There's also a series of Galaxy's Edge comic books, giving all types of readers a way to get excited about the land before they arrive.

9. Know your roles on Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run

With a team of six guests on this fast-paced ride aboard the Millennium Falcon, make sure everyone in your party understands their job before they buckle their seatbelts. The attraction moves fast and when the ride starts, each person in your group will want a grasp of their "job" so they fully enjoy the experience.

Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run is a fast-paced, bumpy adventure. It's helpful to know your role (pilot, gunner or engineer) before you board, but when in doubt, hit the buttons that light up around you.Terri Peters

Hondo Ohnaka, a smuggling space pirate and star of the attraction, will explain the roles during the ride pre-show, but don't be afraid to ask cast members questions if there's confusion. And, when in doubt, tell kids to just hit the buttons that light up around their seat and they'll be fine!

10. Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance is worth the wait

The latest addition to Galaxy's Edge, Rise of the Resistance, may be difficult to get into, but if you're lucky enough to snag a boarding group, you'll see it's well worth the hassle.

This isn't your typical three-minute Disney ride: It took my family about 25 minutes to make it through the experience. Expect to board several different space crafts, find yourself outside on planet Batuu a few times and feel like you're face-to-face with characters like Kylo Ren, Finn, a fleet of stormtroopers and more. There are explosions, light-sabers and blast-offs through the galaxy: Everything you'd want from a "Star Wars" attraction and plenty of time to take it all in.

May the force be with you and your family as you navigate Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge!Terri Peters

Pro tip: The rides in Galaxy's Edge are amazing, but they're last on my list because the interactive nature of the experience is about so much more than one attraction. If little ones can't handle the long wait times for Smuggler's Run, or you can't snag a boarding group for Rise of the Resistance, there's plenty to do without it.

Most of all, pace yourself and have fun!