By Carlye Wisel
Updated: February 28, 2019

For fans who have waited a lifetime to board the Millennium Falcon or be ushered through a Star Destroyer by an army of Stormtroopers, let me tell you first-hand: it’s real, it’s happening, and it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Travel + Leisure was given a first look into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the forthcoming Star Wars-themed land opening at Disneyland Resort in summer 2019 and Walt Disney World Resort in fall 2019. As one of the first to walk the grounds, I can tell you how jaw-droppingly revolutionary it’s going to be once guests can finally step into a real Star Wars planet on the edge of the deep space.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Every bit of Black Spire Outpost, from an Ithorian shop owner to full-sized speeder ships to walkways covered in droid wheel “footprints,” lives up to the quality level of the films. When the Star Wars-themed land opens this summer in California and fall in Florida, you’ll not only feel what it’s like to wield a lightsaber and bring home a customized droid, but come face-to-face with the First Order, drink a blue milk, sip space-age cocktails in a cantina, see BB-8 in his full glory, and even pilot the Millennium Falcon — and that’s all without even leaving Disneyland or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

From R-series droids to Dagobah-inspired cocktails, here’s every crazy and exciting situation, souvenir, and Sith artifact you’ll encounter once Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Resort this summer and Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disney World Resort this fall:

You can live like you’re a Star Wars character.

You won’t see Luke or Leia wandering around, as Galaxy’s Edge is set within current time, but you can explore Galaxy's Edge as if you are them, building a real working droid from salvaged parts, attaching toy-sized creatures like Tauntauns to your shoulder, and hand-selecting a kyber crystal as you personalize a lightsaber. (I held one and they’re the real deal, complete with a hefty hilt base, spot-on sound effects, and glowing light from within a non-breakable plastic blade.) Pop your R-series droid into a backpack and watch as it reacts to things happening around you, or for a deeper level of interactivity, download the Play Disney Parks app which can translate languages, accomplish tasks, and interact with ships and screens throughout Galaxy’s Edge.

The Millennium Falcon is unbelievable in person.

Prepare to be blown away, because Han Solo’s beloved ship is built to size and jaw-droppingly accurate. Disney’s Imagineers knew seeing the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy for the first time would be a pivotal moment for anyone visiting Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, and each detail of the 100-foot-long ship comes through at multiple vantage points. Like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty Castle, you won’t see the Millennium Falcon from the entrance, but when it does reveal itself it’s bound to give you chills. Though breathtaking at a distance — there’s even an outlook perched above that’ll guarantee picture-perfect Instagrams — gazing at it from up close through windows of the Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run queue will tug at your heartstrings most.

Courtesy of Disney

And yes, you’ll get to pilot the ship.

Nothing compares to that first time the door slides open and you enter the Falcon’s cockpit, but it’s not the only part worth looking forward to. Disney developed a non-traditional queue for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run to provide an opportunity for budding Jedis to explore and take photos within the ship’s main guest quarters, saying “Chewie: we’re home” a dozen too many times and possibly taking in a quick game of Dejarik Holochess as well. (We’re told they’re “still perfecting” the hologram technology.)

Once it’s your turn to ride, you’ll enter the cockpit in groups of six where a time before you could pull a lever and launch into Hyperspace will be far in the past as you fly — really, truly fly — the Millennium Falcon as a pilot, gunner, or flight engineer. From bucket seats to paneled hallways, it all feels unfathomably real and identical to the somewhat reliable starship seen in so many Star Wars films. The Play Disney Parks app will even keep track of your performance on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run for outcomes that will have an effect on your “reputation” later on Batuu, so doing well is more important than usual. (Good thing a single rider line makes repeat attempts a breeze.)

This theme park planet is so much bigger than you’d expect.

Think of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge less like a new Disney theme park land and more like a park of its own. With winding pathways, unexpected turns, and sprawling greenery, it makes good use of its 14 acres; we walked for 90 minutes and I barely felt like I had a grasp on my surroundings, partly because the land is so chock full of experiences. Galaxy’s Edge is split into two sections — the woodsy Resistance Forest, where the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction is located, and Black Spire Outpost, the main trading port on planet Batuu — with worthy sights scattered throughout.

Instead of a main souvenir shop, there are a half-dozen individually themed locations, including a bustling souk modeled after markets in Marrakech and Istanbul with stalls selling creatures, toys, and otherworldly items. Same goes for food options, which will consist of a unique meat sandwich at the Ronto’s Roasters kiosk, quick-service meals at Docking Bay 7 Food and Cargo, space snacks at Kat Saka’s Kettle, and Blue Milk stand and libations with atypical bar bites at Oga’s Cantina — the first public location to sell alcohol inside Disneyland.

Courtesy of Disney

Every Star Wars item you’ve ever wanted to buy will be for sale. (Seriously.)

Consider yourself warned, because, well, we’re all about to go broke. Not only will an array of incredibly impressive merchandise be exclusive to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, but things you’ve never seen before — and never thought you would — will soon be sold at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

A C-3PO toy that complains if you pop his head off and reattach it the wrong way? They’ve got it. Squealing puffer pigs, Rathtars angrily coming to life, and mix-and-match Resistance costumes for kids and adults? Yes, yes, and yes. There will even be something for all budgets, from collectible “legacy lightsabers” of Shaak Ti, Ahsoka Tano, or Kylo Ren to Sith and Jedi holocrons and restraining bolt fridge magnets. From apparel indistinguishable from props used in the films to a toy droid of Star Tours captain-turned-cantina DJ R-3X that glides around and plays your music via smartphone, the merchandise we saw is revolutionary yet only a fifth of what will be offered, so dream big and start saving.

Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Even though Galaxy’s Edge is brand new, it’s inherently Star Wars.

The planet Batuu and its Black Spire Outpost may seem unfamiliar now, but details of this edge-of-the-Outer-Rim trading post that fell by the wayside will make sense once you step foot inside Galaxy’s Edge, which is rooted in the deepest level of Star Wars storytelling. Set amidst towering 130-foot trunks inspired by Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park, it nods to different civilizations who have occupied this rustic land over time, whose combination of foreign etchings, carved symbols, and colorful minerals bursting from aged rock immediately resonate as Star Wars.

The alien voices you’ll hear overhead are actual conversations, droids will communicate to each other — as well as between ones you’ll make yourself — and a stirring new soundtrack from John Williams will be used throughout the attractions and land. Since everything is “in theme,” Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities will be helmed by an audio-animatronic Ithorian and diners can eat Kaadu ribs within cargo crates as even small spaces are packed with galactic surprises, like a row of interactive droids or a Dianoga beast popping out from within a water fountain cistern.

Black Spire Outpost will also be littered with recognizable ships, like a land speeder similar to Luke’s in "A New Hope" or one from Rey’s home planet of Jakuu. Not only that, but you’ll be plopped right in the midst of conflict with the First Order’s recent arrival, so you won’t just see a brand new assault-style TIE Fighter — you’ll hear Stormtroopers accost townsfolk who come too close to it. Actions like these will actually happen throughout the day, bringing various factions of the land and its real-world ethos to life.

Courtesy of Disney

You’ll see familiar faces ... and then some.

Given that Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge pulls from all ends of the Star Wars universe, characters and creatures from animation, film, and publishing will all appear throughout the theme park land. Rides will feature life-like Audio-Animatronics of BB-8, Nien Nunb, and Hondo Ohnaka, who will be rendered outside of animation for the very first time, and appearances from Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, and Kylo Ren throughout the Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance attraction.

Stormtroopers will appear en mass within one attraction, but you’ll see space beings wherever you go, like a 12-foot taxidermied Wampa inside Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities, a droid “cooking” meat at Ronto Roasters, or a Loth-Cat lounging inside the marketplace’s Creature Stall. There won’t be any traditional meet-and-greets, but plans to let visitors mingle with local smugglers within Oga’s Cantina or interact with characters on the fly are more than likely. (Though expected to be an integral part of the land, droids and outer rim visitors are likely to roam the land for interactions later on, once opening crowds settle down.)

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