By Carlye Wisel
May 30, 2019
Credit: Courtesy of Disney

When Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge officially opens to guests Friday, it will launch an entirely new theme park experience for fans of Disneyland.

Disneyland’s biggest-ever land expansion was built with the intention of feeling inherently Star Wars despite being completely new — which was readily accomplished. Though you’ve never seen these weathered stone buildings or repurposed metal fixtures on-screen before, the overall design and clashing materials feel familiar. Details, like blaster marks in the stone walls, a smelter droid roasting meat on a spit, or drink coasters which, when translated from Aurebesh, denote Oga’s Cantina as a place for “food, drink, and music”, emphasize it as well.

Still, you won’t find Leia Organa or "The Empire Strikes Back"-era Luke Skywalker roaming around here, as Disneyland’s new Star Wars-themed land takes place within the timeline of sequel trilogy films like "The Last Jedi," but references characters and happenings from across the galaxy.

Credit: Courtesy of Disney

Galaxy’s Edge is immersive, yes, but perhaps more so in that Disneyland itself feels like a distant thought. Here, gleeful children spinning on Dumbo or thrill-seekers shrieking from a rollicking ride on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad are in another world entirely. Creatures lurk from within shops — all of which have no signage — and those with doors open automatically, like a spaceship.

Batuu, the far-off and somewhat forgotten planet where this Star Wars theme park land is located, also encourages exploration. There are limited signs and no clear directions as winding paths almost encourage you to take the long way and make discoveries of your own. Turn the corner and happen upon starspeeders, a pack of droids — or even a brand-new First Order TIE Fighter, introduced here for the very first time.

Credit: Courtesy of Disney

Fans who have waited their entire life to see Millennium Falcon will surely be bowled over, but there’s much more in store than taking a selfie behind the Holochess table or sucking down a blue milk — though those are two perfectly good options.

The food is going to be polarizing.

It’s space grub, after all, but much of Docking Bay 7 Food & Cargo’s menu is healthier than standard theme park food. The snacks are equally galactic: popcorn comes sweet and spicy, while grab-and-go snacks like turkey jerky and Ronto Wraps bring pork-wrapped sausage pita sandwiches to Disneyland in lieu of corn dogs and hot dogs. If you’re concerned about what your kids will like, play it safe with the Tip-Yip — a breaded chicken breast that plays more like a big, juicy chicken nugget — and hit the desserts at Docking Bay 7 or grab one of the many juice concoctions sold throughout the land for a sweet treat.

Credit: Courtesy of Disney

Disney fans who know nothing about Star Wars will still have fun...

Peel away the layers of Rogue One references, Sith Order merchandise, and First Order gameplay within the Play Disney Parks app and you’ve got a brand-new theme park land that somehow feels centuries old. Years of work went into making those stone walkways feel worn-in and worlds away from Disneyland, which can be enjoyed on any level. You may not know what a loth cat is, but seeing one up close within the creature shop — and hearing a plush souvenir versions growl as you pet it — will be delightful nonetheless. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself emotionally attached to the stories and situations throughout the land, even if your prior knowledge is minimal.

...but Star Wars fans will be rewarded for their dedication.

The entirety of Galaxy’s Edge references the full realm of Star Wars animated shows and blockbuster films, particularly within merchandise shops, where a spray fan or toy instrument to one person is a personal moisture vaporator or cantina band kloo horn to an obsessive. You can even translate Aurebesh everywhere from the walls to cocktail boards at Oga’s Cantina, letting superfans unveil the hidden messages and secret discoveries that regular guests will breeze right by.

The merchandise is incredible.

Submit to the power of the Force now because there’s no way you’ll make it out of here without buying something. From seemingly hand-crafted C-3PO figurines to squealing Porg puppets and tiny Jedi food capsules, it’s enticing for even the most pedestrian of Star Wars fan. Don’t miss Creature Stall and Toydarian Toymaker in the marketplace, where the most terrifying beings within the Star Wars galaxy like Wampas, Stormtroopers, and Darth Vader himself have been turned cute and cuddly. There are even direct parallels between other popular Disney Parks merchandise, like droid headbands and wearable Kowakian monkeys that play off mouse ear headbands and Pandora’s controllable banshees, so start saving your money (or setting your limits) now.

Credit: Courtesy of Disney

You can go all in on being a Jedi or opting for the dark side.

We don't mean just by buying a few t-shirts or wristbands — though those are for sale, too. Fancy yourself a member of the Sith Order? Customize your own Power & Control-style lightsaber at Savi’s Workshop, where your red kyber crystal can be swapped inside a Sith holocron, sold around the corner at Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities for $49.99. Fans who are all in on the current Star Wars sequel trilogy and its resistance warriors can pick up a flight suit identical to Poe Dameron’s or show their allegiance in smaller ways, like replicas of Rose Tico’s false-front Alliance insignia ring. And, by using the interactive Play Disney Parks app, guests can choose to complete virtual tasks for either galactic force, siding with the First Order or Resistance on activities throughout Galaxy’s Edge.

Whatever you do, plan your visit prior to going.

With reservation systems in place at Disneyland and 6 a.m. entry for select guests at Walt Disney World, you’ll want to make arrival plans. (Both processes only last for a limited time, so be sure you’re up to date on current procedures.) It will be busy, yes, but you won’t complain as much as C-3PO, as Disneyland has systems in place to combat any chaos. Make your trip even easier by arriving extra early and download the Disneyland (or Walt Disney World) apps as well as the Play Disney Parks app in advance. If you want to dress like your favorite character, be sure to check Disneyland’s clothing rules as well — generally, only children under the age of 14 can wear costumes, but some items sold within the land like tunics and lightsaber hilt belts make the cut.

Entry procedures are guaranteed to change throughout the year — especially with a second ride, Rise of the Resistance, debuting later this year — so keep checking back to Travel + Leisure for all future details.