The new "Star Wars" land is now open at Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios in Florida. Within minutes of opening, the wait time for the "Millennium Falcon: Smuggler's Run" ride was more than five hours long — so if that tells parents anything, it's that things will be pretty crowded in the new land for quite some time.
How to get in to Galaxy's Edge
Disney is controlling crowds through a timed entrance system: In the the My Disney Experience app, park guests are directed to join a "boarding group," which gives them a time to enter the Galaxy's Edge section of the park. (Note: If you've already made a reservation within the land — for lightsaber or droid making or for dining, you'll be permitted to enter one hour before your reservation without signing up for one of these time slots — a good reason to secure a reservation before you visit, but more on that later.)
Beyond Disney's crowd control methods, the 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 recently visited, it's worth it. Galaxy's Edge is one of the most immersive, breathtaking, 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 two days 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. 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 a unique 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.
Not only will having a reservation at one or more of these locations get you into Galaxy's Edge without signing up for a boarding group, but it will also ensure you're able to enjoy these experiences without crossing your fingers that there's room for you in the stand-by line.
Those three attractions are my picks for the ones you won't want to miss. 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.
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. 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.
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."
3. 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).
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!
4. 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.
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.
5. 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.
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.
6. 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 will be uploading some fantastic advice for parents visiting Galaxy's Edge, because they were each at the media preview of Batuu I attended!
7. 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.
8. 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.
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!
Pro tip: The Millennium Falcon ride is amazing, but it's last on my list because the interactive nature of the Galaxy's Edge experience is about so much more than one attraction (currently the only ride in that section of the park). If little ones can't handle the long wait times for Smuggler's Run, there's plenty to do without it.
Most of all, pace yourself and have fun!