One of my favorite annual events at Walt Disney World is Star Wars Weekends at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Star Wars Weekends takes place Fridays through Sundays from mid-May to mid-June and has only expanded over the years.
Today fellow fans of the force can get autographs and photos with Star Wars characters and celebrities, watch the Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade and the Symphony in the Stars fireworks display, take in the Stars of the Saga Star Wars Celebrity Talk Show, and, for the kids, participate in the Padawan Mind Challenge and Jedi Training Academy.
There’s also Star Wars themed dining and shopping and even more events for the major fans! Clearly, Star Wars Weekends is true to its name as you need weekends to do it all; but what if, like me, you really don’t want to spend hours in line or have to live by your times guide. What if you just want to check out the event? Sure there are touring plans that work great, but is it actually possible to enjoy a day at Star Wars Weekends by flying casual? Last week, I decided to find out and went to the event on a whim with no plan, no FastPass+, and absolutely no agenda. As it turns out, I was still able to see and do quite a bit. So for today, I’m going to share with you Padawans how I had A Star Wars Weekends Experience Without a Plan.
I Visited on a Friday – I decided to check out the event on a Friday; and as Friday is still a work day, I found that the crowds and wait times weren’t quite as bad as what I could have experienced on a Saturday or Sunday. For example, The Great Movie Ride had only a 30 minute wait time on Friday while on Sunday, the posted wait time on My Disney Experience was 60 minutes.
I Explored the Streets of America – During Star Wars Weekends, you will find long, lengthy lines for characters all throughout the park. Usually if there’s a character that I particularly want to meet, I use the app to find out where they will be and when; but when I decided to see what I could do at the event with no plan or hassle, I discovered that the Streets of America at Hollywood Studios had several Star Wars characters just walking around with no lines or waits at all! I encountered Stormtroopers ordering guests to move along as they headed down the street, Tusken Raiders fascinated with a family’s stroller and a woman’s shopping bag, and the incredibly creepy Aurra Sing. They would stop for photos, albeit grudgingly, and let’s just say the Tusken Raiders didn’t focus very well.
I Discovered Entertainment on the Main Event Stage – Right in front of the Chinese Theater at Hollywood Studios is the event stage: and all throughout the day, things ere happening up there. I watched humorous Stormtroopers guard the stage and interact with guests. Later on, I stumbled upon the Jedi Trivia Trials, where Ashley Eckstein, R2-D2, and C-3PO hosted a trivia competition between a family of Star Wars fans and Imperial Officers of the Empire! The great thing was that I able to walk right up and watch.
I Went to the Darth’s Mall – The place to see the best Star Wars souvenir selection during most visits to Hollywood Studios is Tatooine Traders, the store connected to Star Tours – The Adventures Continue. But during Star Wars Weekends, the small store is crammed full and you may feel like you’re in the Death Star’s trash compactor. This is probably why Disney offers a special event shopping location known as Darth’s Mall.
This year, Darth’s Mall is at the end of the Streets of America and in an area that was once the Backlot Tour. It had three different sections and was where guests could find limited edition and exclusive event merch. Fortunately, it was open throughout the day and so I dropped by in the afternoon and didn’t have to wait in line at all! But once inside, I discovered that it was really crowded! Still, I was able to get one of the first released t-shirts for the upcoming Star Wars film, The Force Awakens! Then, in order to avoid aggressive negotiations, I headed straight to the cashiers. There wasn’t a crowd there at all and I discovered that the t-shirts, some exclusive Annual Passholders merchandise, and event pins are displayed on the wall behind the counters and Cast Members were more than happy to show me what I asked for without having to fight the crowds.
I Discovered an Overlooked Spot for Legends of the Force: Star Wars Celebrity Motorcade – At 11:00 AM, a motorcade of Star Wars celebrities, Disney characters dressed as Star Wars characters, and 501st Legion of Stormtroopers paraded down Hollywood Boulevard. Guests claim their spots along the parade route early, but in years past I discovered a way to snag yourself a great view of the parade at the last minute. If possible, position yourself as close as you can to the left side of the stage. It may seem like a poor choice, especially since you can only see the stage from the side and a portion of the street, but usually the celebrities cars and characters pass right in front of this space on their way to the stage. It’s one of the best places on the parade route to get close-up photos!
I Found Alternative Locations to Get Star Wars Treats – Hollywood Studios has special cupcakes and cocktails for Star Wars Weekends this year, such as drinks themed after Star Wars planets topped with light-up Millenium Falcon or Death Star shaped cubes. During my visit, it seemed that most guests were grabbing their drinks inside Tusken Fridge Raiders at Darth’s Mall — and boy, was there a line! But I later discovered that many locations around Hollywood Studios were selling these refreshments with little to no line at all. They were even being served at the Brown Derby Lounge, but my personal favorite Star Wars Weekends treats were the cupcakes!
The park is selling cupcakes themed after Yoda, Darth Vader, and Jabba the Hut! The Yoda cupcake is chocolate with Hazelnut icing, the Darth Vader cupcake is chocolate and peanut butter flavored, and the Jabba cupcake is vanilla, but died green, with buttercream icing. Once again, there was a line for these treats at Darth’s Mall, but I got a Jabba the Hut Cupcake at Starring Rolls for no wait at all. He looked gross but was actually delicious! I also saw more of these cupcakes in the case at the Trolley Car Café, which also had no wait on Friday afternoon. After a sugar fix from one of these guys, I felt strong enough to pull the ears off a gundark and was ready to explore more of Star Wars Weekends.
I Appreciated the Galactic Garb – If you have been to Star Wars Weekends before, you know that part of the fun is dressing up. Most guests in the park sport Star Wars t-shirts and costumes ranging from last year’s Halloween to elaborate designs of their own creation! During my Star Wars Weekends experience, I had a blast checking out my fellow guests’ creative costumes and some are even willing to pose for a picture if you ask! It’s something you will only see at Star Wars Weekends and can be enjoyed without a plan or schedule.
I Took Some Character Photos – As I’ve said, the lines were really long to meet with characters and so, while the characters were in between meeting with kids and fans, I tried to snap a few photos from a distance. Some turned out really well; and even though I wasn’t in them myself, it was still cool to get those pics to remember the day. Also, as I walked through the park, I would occasionally pass a character either on their way to the backstage area or to their character spot; and even though they usually didn’t stop for a picture, they sometimes posed or waved on their way. It was so cool to look up and suddenly see Kit Fisto or Mace Windu! Tip: Always have your camera ready at Star Wars Weekends.
As a huge Star Wars fan, I love the number of things to do and see at Star Wars Weekends, but it was also definitely a fun experience to see what could be done at one of my favorite events without following a schedule or having a plan. I was delighted with how much I was able to see with just winging it, and it was a stress-free experience too, even with the hordes of fans. So if you’re intimidated by all of the Star Wars Weekends activities, vacationing at the last minute, or even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan yourself, know that you too can still enjoy that galaxy far far away; but remember, the last day for 2015 Star Wars Weekends is June 14th!